Category Archives: psychoanalytic articles

Montaigne and the Double Meaning of Meditation

montaigne - Dali 1947

   Montaigne portrait – Dali 1947

Meditation is a rich and powerful method of study for anyone who knows how to examine his mind, and to employ it vigorously. I would rather shape my soul than furnish it. There is no exercise that is either feeble or more strenuous, according to the nature of the mind concerned, than that of conversing with one’s own thoughts. The greatest men make it their vocation, “those for whom to live is to think.   – Montaigne

“Meditation,” here, is taken to mean “cerebration,” vigorous thinking — the same practice John Dewey addressed so eloquently a few centuries later in How We Think. This conflation, at first glance, seems rather antithetical to today’s notion of meditation — a practice often mistakenly interpreted by non-practitioners as non-thinking, an emptying of one’s mind, a cultivation of cognitive passivity. In reality, however, meditation requires an active, mindful presence, a bearing witness to one’s inner experience as it unfolds. In that regard, despite the semantic evolution of the word itself, Montaigne’s actual practice of meditation was very much aligned with the modern concept and thus centuries ahead of his time, as were a great deal of his views.

           from: http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/05/montaigne-on-meditation/

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On Loss and Mourning….

Kew gardens

Excellent read…well worth the time to absorb…

EXCERPT:  In The Long Goodbye(public library), her magnificent memoir of grieving her mother’s death, Meghan O’Rourke crafts a masterwork of remembrance and reflection woven of extraordinary emotional intelligence. A poet, essayist, literary critic, and one of the youngest editors the New Yorker has ever had, she tells a story that is deeply personal in its details yet richly resonant in its larger humanity, making tangible the messy and often ineffable complexities that anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows all too intimately, all too anguishingly. What makes her writing — her mind, really — particularly enchanting is that she brings to this paralyzingly difficult subject a poet’s emotional precision, an essayist’s intellectual expansiveness, and a voracious reader’s gift for apt, exquisitely placed allusions to such luminaries of language and life as Whitman, Longfellow, Tennyson, Swift, and Dickinson (“the supreme poet of grief”).

LINK:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/06/09/meghan-o-rourke-the-long-goodbye/

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On the Capacity to be Alone In the Presence of Another…

I’ve written about this concept by DW Winnicott on past posts – ‘the capacity to be alone in the presence of another’ –  one that underlies many aspects of our developmental journey – our capacity for solitude, for good reading and attention, love in relationships, and self respect, inter alia…

   This excerpt is from a write up that details an interview with Adam Phillips on this topic. Both links are included below: 

PHILLIPS: That idea was one of Winnicott’s most radical, because what he was saying was that solitude was prior to the wish to transgress. That there’s something deeply important about the early experience of being in the presence of somebody without being impinged upon by their demands, and without them needing you to make a demand on them. And that this creates a space internally into which one can be absorbed. In order to be absorbed one has to feel sufficiently safe, as though there is some shield, or somebody guarding you against dangers such that you can “forget yourself ” and absorb yourself, in a book, say. Or, for the child, in a game. It must be one of the precursors of reading, I suppose. I think for Winnicott it would be the definition of a good relationship if, in the relationship, you would be free to be absorbed in something else.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/06/09/adam-phillips-paul-holdengraber-interview/

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6286/the-art-of-nonfiction-no-7-adam-phillips

Enjoy.

 

image

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On education, certainty, and purpose…

potter
…from A Liberal Decalogue — a vision for responsibilities of a teacher, in which Russell touches on a number of recurring themes from pickings past — the purpose of educationthe value of uncertainty, the importance of critical thinking, the gift of intelligent criticism

The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

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Trauma and Children

dumbledore

 

Here’s a short article I wrote for the local paper…

Trauma and Children – Do we always recognize the effect on children and adolescents? 

Much of what we know about trauma and how it affects our children is based on the work of mental health professionals that have focused on adults, including the large amounts of research done on PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  My early work with children that had experienced domestic violence in the home was during a time when very little was known about the effects or the proper treatment to help these children or their mothers.  However, new developmental research, mostly in the past two decades, have concentrated on children and adolescents that experience domestic violence in the home, school violence, physical and sexual abuse, emergency medical care, and car accidents.  The fear, the anxiety, and the sense of helplessness that accompanies such events often results in dramatic reactions and behavioral changes in the child.

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines ‘trauma’ as a threat of injury, death, or an event that is experienced by the child as threatening the physical integrity of self or other personcausing fear, terror, or helplessness.  The behavioral changes may include separation anxiety in the child, sadness or anger that was not observed prior to the event, sleep disturbances, or difficulties in the ability to focus or concentrate – often causing problems in the home or in school.  Oftentimes, because the family may be suffering, or because of cultural or ethic factors, parents may not be able to make sense of the behaviors or notice if the changes are slight and gradual. The children may not show immediate effects to the event, for example to a dog bite or a car crash. In the case of sexual abuse, the parents may not know right away of its occurrence – and so the signs or symptoms exhibited will not be understood by the parents.

Further, the responses of children and adolescents will vary, depending on the child’s age, their developmental level, and of course, previous exposure to the threat or traumatic experience.  That is, if the threat or event is chronic – as in domestic violence in the home – or is  acute, happening now – for example, a bad car crash.  Some estimates (from psychological studies) suggest that 2/3 of children up to age 16 have experienced or been exposed to trauma, or the threat of trauma.  Up to nearly 5 million children have been exposed to or experienced trauma – many from abuse, both sexual and physical – and violence in the home.

As the diagnostic criteria have recently been more adequately studied, we can understand the apparent increase in disorders of anxiety in children, including the increase in diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder. (PTSD is a sub-category of anxiety diagnosis).  Intrusive thoughts or memories related to the trauma will interfere with the child’s thinking, as well as their ability to focus.  As the experience is far outside the realm of normal experience, the child’s normal mechanisms for adapting to the environment or situation may fail him or her, leaving them feeling more vulnerable.  The child or the adolescent cannot make sense of the experience as it does not conform to their usual experience, and thus cannot adapt and master the thoughts and emotions that are occurring to them.

Different professionals will have different perspectives on what constitutes trauma, and how best to approach it therapeutically. There are not sufficient studies to support the effectiveness of any one therapeutic approach yet, though cognitive behavioral therapy is perhaps seen by many as the most effective. The need for what is referred to as ‘evidence based treatment’ continues – treatment that has been shown to be effective for children, adolescents, and adults – based on reliable and valid research.

What has been shown to be effective is that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is the key to success.  The safe, secure, and trusting relationship between the therapist and child, the parents, and the school personnel – all of whom can support the strengths and resources of the child or adolescent ­ needs to be fostered.  Coping skills must be identified and strengthened – and these can be supported through psychotherapy or counseling, individual help through tutoring (giving child individual attention), stress reduction exercises, such as mindfulness activities or meditation, and fostering leisure activities.

It is also important to establish and maintain the structure and routines of everyday life, with meals and school or extracurricular activities as good ways to provide the necessary structure.  Finally, it is important to engage the community, letting school or church personnel know of the event or experience, as well as others that have contact with the child, so that their child’s behavior is understood in the proper context by the teachers or counselors. These suggestions will help foster a support network for the child or adolescent – with trusted and safe adults.

More information on trauma is available through the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association.  Please also feel free to email me with questions or comments on the subject.

Rudy Oldeschulte, M.A., J.D. is a Del Rio psychotherapist, specializing in individual  psychotherapy and parent guidance.  He has served on the faculty of the University of  Arizona College of Medicine and the British Association of Psychotherapists. Post- graduate training and education was done in London and at the University of Michigan.

            Email address is: roldeschulte@gmail.com and his website is: www.rudyoldeschulte.com

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On creativity….

image

 From Maria Popova in Brain Pickings…

…Indeed, this notion of “surprised amusement” becomes central to Bruner’s conception of creativity, which he defines with succinct elegance:

An act that produces effective surprise [is] the hallmark of the creative enterprise.

…It is essential, here to distinguish between creativity and originality. In a sentiment that brings to mind Twain’s famous assertion that plagiarism is the seed of creative work, Alexander Graham Bell’s conviction that “our most original compositions are composed exclusively of expressions derived from others,” and Henry Miller’s poetic debunking of the originality illusion, Bruner cautions:

The road to banality is paved with creative intentions. Surprise is not easily defined. It is the unexpected that strikes one with wonder or astonishment. What is curious about effective surprise is that it need not be rare or infrequent or bizarre and is often none of these things. Effective surprises … seem rather to have the quality of obviousness about them when they occur, producing a shock of recognition following which there is no longer astonishment….

…Metaphorical effectiveness is also manifested by “connecting domains of experience that were before apart,” but what distinguishes it from the formal kind is that the mechanisms of connectedness come for the realm of art rather than science and logic — the kind of connectedness that Carl Jung described as “visionary,” in contrast to the merely psychological. (Metaphorical thinking, after all, is at the developmental root of human imagination.) While we are wired to make sense of the world via categorization, “metaphoric combination leaps beyond systematic placement, explores connections that before were unsuspected.”

Read the article in Brain Pickings:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/04/21/jerome-bruner-on-knowing-left-hand-creativity/  

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History and personal meaning…

    Annaandfather

 History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable “truth” about past events and their meaning. The unending quest of historians for understanding the past—that is, “revisionism”—is what makes history vital and meaningful.

President’s column,Perspectives, September 2003

(From review of  Taylor, E. (2009). The Mystery of Personality: A History of Psychodynamic Theories. New York: Springer. By Rudy Oldeschulte, 2010)

 

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