Friday 7 August 2020

Short Observations

  1. Short idea (94): Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, according to Lord Acton. In our day, with our microscopic focus on human motivation, we might look at it even more cynically. Human nature is already corrupt, but most humans don't have the power to act it out. Fear keeps most of us in check. Give us power, and we let go. Give us absolute power, and look out. — On the other hand, we know there are other, more positive forces working in us, and, in some of us, they hold sway no matter what.

  2. Short idea (49):
    1) Psychological Suffering = Suffering.

    2) Psychological Suffering + Unconsciousness = Suffering x 2 (or possibly x 3).
    3) Psychological Suffering + Consciousness + Time + Quiet + X + ? = Peace + Calmness.

  3. Short idea (1): In psychology, as in war (and as in life in general) there are no experts. Some psychologists have a lot more experience than others. These are the wily veterans, more familiar with the up's and down's of "the battlefield" than the greenhorns — but they are not expert in the way people who use Microsoft Word or tie bow ties or dice vegetables or solve calculus problems can become expert.

  4. Short idea (160): What we believe is different from what we think we believe.

  5. Short idea (85): To the young, old age and death seem as unreal as a dream. To the old and dying, youth and life feel no different than last night's dreams.

  6. Short idea (99): The Imagination usually does not come clothed in the words "I am your Imagination at work here." Usually it comes with words like: "So and so is trying to hurt me!" or "What a wonderful thing this is!" or "He is a prince of a man!" or "She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen!"

  7. Short idea (27): Some psychologists such as James and Jung have distinguished between Active Thinking and Passive Thinking. Active Thinking is work, because it requires an expenditure of energy over time. And, like any work, it can exhaust.

  8. Short idea (153): There are many reasons to have censorship in movies. For example, it can be awful to see abuse and killing in films, and many would like a censor to keep these things out of what we and our children see. One reason not to censor is that films are an expression of the psyche and soul of a people. In this way they are like dreams, and like dreams, they probably have a balancing function. If you could censor dreams, the individual might become unbalanced. Also, films can be used to monitor what is going on in the collective psyche. This monitoring can give sensitive people a window into the future of a nation, into what is about to happen, and it gives some time to prepare. Censoring, whatever its value, takes away this mirror.

  9. Short idea (103): A house can make sounds like those of a living creature. Some people, especially at night mistake these sounds for the sounds of living creatures entering their houses.

  10. Short idea (29): When a person withdraws from the world as much as she or he can, what's left is Psychology, that is, the psyche.

  11. Short idea (119): We all feel filled with Energy sometimes, bursting with Energy; at other times listless and sluggish and filled with inertia. This feeling of Energy has a psychological label: Libido (sometimes "Libido" is used to refer to all psychological energy, sometimes only to sexual energy). If we look at objects in the physical world we can often see what fills them with energy. For example, a moving object hits one that is still, and the second objects moves, filled with the energy transferred from the first object. It is not so easy to see what fills us with the feeling of Energy or takes away the feeling. If we do see what does, it is difficult to understand how this can happen. For example, how can bad news make us feel all the Energy draining from us? We may be able to picture how a virus could take the wind out of our sails, but how can hearing bad news do it?

  12. Short idea (162): To our Sense of Time, a moment can seem a lifetime, and a lifetime can seem a moment.

  13. Short idea (62): The average person in the United State knows about as much about Arab countries as he or she knows about the planets Jupiter or Neptune. It is probably vice versa also.

  14. Short idea (180): If there are deep truths and generalizations about the best ways to live, each person must find them him or herself.

  15. Short idea (61): The Jewish people, as a people, suffer from PTSD. This doesn't mean that every individual Jewish person has PTSD.

  16. Short idea (45): There is physical abuse, intellectual abuse, religious abuse, emotional abuse, and abuse where one person browbeats and tyrannizes another person with tastes or values. Physical abuse is probably the most painful. (I say probably.)

  17. Short idea (69): Sensations are like the sounds of the individual instruments in an orchestra; Feelings are like the sound of the whole orchestra. A Sensation is like a moving picture of an individual leaf on a tree moving in the wind; A Feeling is like a moving picture of all the leaves (and the whole tree) moving in the wind.

  18. Short idea (63): We make decisions all day long, but only a few are made consciously. Decisions pile up. Over the years we have piles and piles of them lying around. One day we turn around and look at them. It can be a shock, like looking in the mirror and seeing that your hair has turned white. You've looked in the mirror every day but never quite saw yourself this way. However, in peering at the sum of what you've chosen, you aren't seeing how you now appear, but who you now are.

  19. Short idea (80): Smoking and being a jerk are similar in many ways. They are both addictions that are hard to kick. Still, each can be given up by a simple choice even if this is only after years of denying there is a problem in the face of everyone else saying there is. The choice often comes after some "revelation" that the behavior is not good for oneself or for loved ones. And, like all addictions, there is a period of withdrawal and maybe of back falling and of longing to return to the old, easier way. — Being a jerk, I think, is rooted deeper in the personality and requires more than a change in behavior to understand and uproot completely.

  20. Short idea (16): Everything you experience is real, but not everything is real in the same way:  Some things are useful and substantial and important to you; others are dangerous; others are pale reflections, elusive and amorphous and hard to describe and maybe fleeting and unrepeatable and useless; others mislead you like a delusion that comes into the head while lying in bed on a long Winter's night.

  21. Short idea (120): If you think brain activities underlie all our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, and so on, here is a paradox: I can influence your brain (say through my words to you), and you can influence mine, but it seems impossible for me to influence my own brain or for you to influence yours. Why? Because if you think you are doing something to influence your own brain (maybe telling yourself happy words to make your brain have a different chemistry), it is your brain making you want to do the thing in the first place, it is your brain that lies behind your actually doing it, and it is your brain that causes you to be aware you are doing it. Similarly, if a man is strong enough and big enough, maybe he could lift any human being on earth, but he could never lift himself.

  22. Short idea (19): Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Emily Dickinson were opposites: De Saint-Exupéry never had a home; Dickinson never left hers.

  23. Short idea (143): Anger is like a storm: You can't prevent or stop or control it, but you can do your best to weather it and keep down the damage.

  24. Short idea (182): Relaxation is not a "Yes" or "No" thing; it's not that we are either relaxed or not. Relaxation and Tension are two poles of a continuum with an innumerable number of possible positions. There are  degrees of relaxation and degrees of tension.

  25. Short idea (188): It seems to me that there is a third option when confronted with an unpleasant situation besides Fight or Flight. There is also Assessment. Assessment includes Stopping, Waiting, Observation, Feeling, Thinking, and Imagining.

  26. Short idea (40): If you want to examine worms or Sumerian clay tablets or other galaxies or the species of human beings in any one of its many aspects, there is a department in some college where you can go. But if you want to examine your own mind and study it, where is the college that has such a department?

  27. Short idea (11): An interesting thought a violent schizophrenic patient told me many years ago: "I like to think that everyone has the same amount of suffering they have to experience in their lives. For some it is spread out, and, for others, most of it comes all at once, but we all have the same amount of suffering."

  28. Short idea (186): Seeing is a power. Seeing "below the surface" is a great power.

  29. Short idea (133): If a person's goal is power, then winning feels good (even if he or she is seriously wounded in the process). However, if a person's goal is to be good, then winning will feel bad (as well as good), because it brings with it responsibilities (that is, responsibilities to the ones who have lost to you).

  30. Short idea (86): When good people become bad, they often become very very bad, and when bad people become good, they often become very very good.

  31. Short idea (159): Almost everything that is happening has never been imagined by anyone.

  32. Short idea (135): It is correct to say that, at any moment, we have five senses (some say six or seven) that are functioning to get information about the environment in which we live. It is equally true that, at any moment, we have one overall sensibility or sensorium which we can, if we want, analyze into sights and sounds and tastes and feelings which we can label as inside us or outside.

  33. Short idea (175): Anger is a way of holding things at arm's length, of isolating oneself from what you are angry at. We know the negative sides of this distancing for oneself and for others, but a positive function is that it seems to be a necessary step in thinking; it is pre-condition of observing and analyzing.

  34. Short idea (6): The way humans are built we can not see the back of our heads directly, no matter what we do.  We can get around this, if we want, by setting up a few mirrors or by asking others to look and tell us what they see. We also can't see the "back sides" of our own personalities. If we want to get around this we can look at our dreams (which reflect the sides of ourselves we can't see) or ask people how we look to them.

  35. Short idea (81): I was raised in an environment where it was considered a problem if a child preferred being alone. It was understood as a fear of others, and the child was encouraged to overcome the shyness and "be more social" and "try to make friends." Preferring to be alone was seen as an escape from others, from the natural inclination to be with others. But it also happens that being with others can be an escape from being with ones own thoughts and feelings and the figures that appear in ones dreams and fantasies. Not everything frightening lies without. Not everything good lies without.

  36. Short idea (166): Do animals have religious experiences (that is, numinous experiences, experiences of the sacred)? Do they have a sense of sacred space, sacred objects, and so on? — This is another way of asking if there is a religious instinct.

  37. Short idea (92): "God is in the Heavens." If you are thinking about God, and you are thinking of Him in the Heavens, you are doing this in one of two ways: 1) you are outside under the sky, actually looking up into the sky, and picturing Him up in the sky. Or, 2) you are inside, picturing Him, picturing the sky, and picturing Him in this pictured sky. For 1) you have to be outside, with eyes open, looking up at the sky. For 2), you can be inside, sitting in an easy chair, eyes closed, imagining the sky with God in it. There is such a big difference between 1) and 2) that I think people who think about God in the heavens in the second way may not be able to picture Him in the heavens the first way.

  38. Short idea (156): Many people would be just as sad if there were only one religion as if there were only one type of food or one type of tree or one type of person.

  39. Short idea (144): One type of injury, like a cramp, can be helped by exercising it and by not giving in to it. Another type, like certain sprains, require the opposite. These require immobilization and no movement and are dependent on time to heal. It may be that sometimes these never heal; the best you can hope for here is to learn to compensate, to learn what movements to avoid aggravating the injury. There are also these same two types of psychological wounds and the same two types of psychological healing.

  40. Short idea (140): Usually people see myths as attempts to explain and understand processes in nature such as the cycle of day and night. Even if true sometimes, at other times they may be attempts to explain or describe and stay conscious of internal processes and cycles such as the cycle of emotions (from elation to depression). Inner and outer are both pieces of nature and the same processes and cycles are found in both. So an outer cycle can be used to bring attention to a parallel process that goes on inside.

  41. Short idea (7): Feelings do not come labeled. Often we don't know what we are feeling and have to wait to find out. Other people may see and tell us. Or we may notice the effect of what we just said on someone and realize we must have been angry. Or we may get a call from a doctor we saw last week and realize all the feelings we have had in our body was nervousness. Or we may never find out. We may feel the feeling but not know what it is. And soon we may forget we are feeling anything. People can go their whole lives feeling tense, never relaxing, and never knowing it.

  42. Short idea (123): The ongoing argument between Creationists and Evolutionists assumes either we are descendants from the apes or we have not evolved from apes. There is a third possibility: that we are apes.

  43. Short idea (198): To argue that evil doesn't exist because all it is, is the absence of good (privatio bono) is parallel to arguing that death doesn't exist because all it is, is the absence of life.

  44. Short idea (58): The call to psychology (to know yourself) is: "Stop! ... Stop more! ... Stop everything! ... Stop completely! ... Stop now!" — When everything stops, one's self comes into view (like it or not).

  45. Short idea (139): I am sympathetic with those who speak of an inner and an outer world, but this way of speaking leads to needless complications. I think it is less confusing to say there are two ways to experience the world: inner and outer. — There is an inner way of experiencing something and an outer way.

  46. Short idea (51): There may be a difference between what you think you value, what you want to value, what you tell others you value, what values you act in accordance with even though they are not your own, and what you value. It may not be until you are an old man or woman and have seen yourself react in many different situations that you become conscious whether you value this more than that or that more than this, when it comes right down to it. Sometimes it is only in extreme and unusual situations that we see what is really and truly important to us. What you value is connected with how you choose to behave, not just with how you picture yourself.

  47. Short idea (44): I think everybody has been abused by someone or other, to some degree or other, in some way or other, at some time or other. I think everybody has abused someone or other, to some degree or other, in some way or other, at some time or other. Abuse is not everything and everywhere, but it is part of life.

  48. Short idea (83): Without feeling disrespectful in any way, it is useful for a psychologist to think of the impulse to spiritual beliefs as an instinct. If it is, it is as deep rooted as the impulse to eat and the impulse to sex. Some ascetics have tried to cut their eating down to a bare minimum. Other ascetics have tried to eradicate all traces of their sexuality. Ascetics of a different kind try to eradicate all spiritual impulses in themselves. On the other extreme, some dissolute people brag they give into all impulses to eat or to engage in sex. Others, of a different type, are proud they believe in the reality of every visionary experience of every person who reports them ("If a person feels there's a ghost in their house, sure, there must be one"). — Extreme positions with respect to spiritual realities are similar to extreme positions with respect to the other instincts. They have their places in the history of the world and in the history of each individual's life, but, for most people, in the end, they are impossible or near impossible to sustain. It usually doesn't work to give into them all or to try to get rid of them all.

  49. Short idea (155): In every good marriage, at some point, the wife gives her husband an ultimatum. It can come in different forms, but, however presented, in tears or in anger, deep down, it is an ultimatum. If this ultimatum comes from the wife having reached her limits and not from a power complex, and if it is based on just and valid premises, and if the husband sees this and thinks he has been wrong and changes, either in actions or intentions or both, then the marriage can grow into a good one. Otherwise, not. Until then it is a baby marriage, naive and untested. 

  50. Short idea (124): Even old wise men can have delusions, even many delusions.

  51. Short idea (157): You can't trust anyone completely or count on anyone completely — not even yourself. This can be a hard fact to swallow and adjust to.

  52. Short idea (78): There are two psychological states, A (withdrawn) and B (involved). One's self = A + B. It is only while in A that a person can learn about A, about B, and, therefore, about A + B. While in B there is too much activity, and so no time to look at B. Yet to know about oneself it is not enough to know only A. A has to look out at B and examine it as well. — Further, no one can be in A and B at the same time. It is probably impossible to be good without knowing oneself, which requires A. It is impossible to be good while in A. A good person must act in B based on what is learned in A.

  53. Short idea (122): Computers have been compared to brains and spoken of as brains, but the brain has different parts. It seems to me that computers can be correctly compared with the higher cortical brain, the part considered to be responsible for logical thinking, the type of thinking used to solve complex mathematical problems. But computers do not have lower brains, the part of the brain connected with need and want and drive and emotion and passion. Because of this, computers can't be irrational; they can generate random series of numbers, and they can make mistakes, but this is different from being irrational. To be irrational you have to have interests, and you have to have passions that make you act irrationally by going against your interests. Computers don't have interests, so they can't act irrationally. If a computer could be given a lower brain, such a computer would be much more human.

  54. Short idea (64): I see the human Imagination as a step forward in evolution. It is a tool for learning new things, for acquiring new inspirations and intuitions, and for testing new behaviors without ever having to get out of bed. On the other hand, it is fragile and extremely fallible and must be handled very very carefully. It is too easy to fall into it, thinking it is reality.

  55. Short idea (170): Asthma, emphysema, and COPD are physical problems, but there is also a psychological side which is experienced as dissatisfaction and desperation in the deepest, most central, most personal spot in the ego. 

  56. Short idea (18): What can be done in a minute? – Here are some things: certain complete conversations, brushing of teeth, driving about 1/4 mile on a dirt road, feeding a dog, ...

  57. Short idea (108): There are people who object to religion with their intellects; the ideas of religion don't seem rational to them; they strike them as superstitions. But there are other parts of a person's psyche that can have a negative reaction to religion. A person's emotions and feelings may be jarred by one or more religious practices, or a religious practice can jar a person's value system. Even a person's imagination can rebel against religion: it is possible to have one's own images of how the world was created and so on. I think the body too can react negatively to some thing or things in a religion. If all these parts of a person object all together, the person is, for all practical purposes, no longer involved in the religion in any deep way. The person will have to turn elsewhere for answers to the deepest questions.

  58. Short idea (52): There is a difference between a decision you make inside your head while lying in bed and one your whole body makes after it gets up.

  59. Short idea (141): People in cities understand daytime (and light) and its subtleties more than nighttime (and darkness) and its subtleties.

  60. Short idea (194): Mania and Anxiety can be seen as forms of increased psychological Energy (Libido), that is, excitement. Each can be taken as the opposite of Relaxation.

  61. Short idea (181): Whatever else is true about Empathy, it requires at least two psychological functions, feeling and imagination (and not just feeling). You have to be able to imagine what it is like to be going through what another is going through, and then you have to be able to respond with the same feeling you would have responded if you were going through it.

  62. Short idea (154): Good Action along with periods of Silence and Aloneness can be a shield, a refuge, and a hospital for a weary, lost, bloody soul.

  63. Short idea (117): Whatever journey each one of us is on we can't slow it down, but we can't speed it up either.

  64. Short idea (172): Linear (or active) Thinking is a chain or line of thought in which we use thoughts to solve a problem. Associative (or passive) Thinking is a line or chain or thoughts linked together by previous associations. Both Linear and Associative are step by step processes with each link in the chain, each point on the line, connected to the previous one by an understandable connection. There is another type of thought that we might call Archetypal in which an idea "pops into ones head," and it seems completely unconnected with any previous thought. It "came out of no where," as it were, "out of the blue." If, on examining a new archetypal thought, it does seem connected with ones previous thoughts at all, it seems more as if it is an observation or commentary or insight about the line of thought that came before. It may seem as if it came from outside oneself, almost as if it was the point of view of another, often more intelligent and wiser, person.

  65. Short idea (128): I was informed of a dream of someone's patient after the election of Pope Francis I. The dream proposed a riddle: "What do Tiger Woods and Pope Francis I have in common?" And the answer was also given in the dream: "They both breathe the same air and eat fish from the same oceans." I thought this dream was worth reporting.

  66. Short idea (121): There is an intoxication from alcohol or drugs, but there is also intoxication from ideas or ideals, or from beauty or love or success or power, or even from danger or food or sex. Some intoxication contains inspirations leading to wonderful things; others contain dangerous, even deadly, seductive delusions. However, whatever the content or cause, intoxication, in itself, can be a dangerous state for the person intoxicated and for those around him or her. It can turn into mania which can lead to exhaustion, ranting and raving, and other dangerous behaviors. (Jung called the danger "inflation.") Since the need for intoxication seems to be one of our basic needs, it must be indulged in with circumspection and in the right time and place. I think, perhaps, it is natural to spend about one seventh of our time in some inspired state. I get this from the idea of the Sabbath: From a psychological angle, I see the law to set one day a week (and no more) aside to be with the Lord as recognizing the human need for intoxication and as setting some boundaries to limit it.

  67. Short idea (9): "Going along with others" versus "Getting along with others."

  68. Short idea (152): An introspective exercise I did made me think that thinking is a branch of the imagination and that reason is a branch of thinking. However, it is just as possible that thinking and fantasy are offspring of the same parent (maybe the need to grasp the future). Or that they both come from the same root or need. Or that they are two forms of the same thing.

  69. Short idea (134): Just as there are people who are stronger than me and people who are smarter than me and people who have more money than I do, there are also people who are morally better than me. And the same goes for you.

  70. Short idea (76): To give in to impulses or to resist them? Everything depends on learning which to give into and when.

  71. Short idea (84): If we make an analogy between the Imagination, Sensation, Need, and Thinking on the one hand and four rivers on the other, then there is a place where the rivers merge with each other and eventually form an ocean. Or, we can start with the idea of an ocean and picture the Imagination, Sensation, Need, and Thinking as four rivers that separate and flow out of it. — Without the ocean and its rivers we would all be dead. On the other hand, people often get swept away and drown in one of them. It's naive to forget the dangers of the rivers and the ocean and equally naive (and even fanatically suicidal) to try to get rid of them.

  72. Short idea (34): If you rely on people being unreliable, you won't get as angry as if you assume everybody is reliable. (But many people really are reliable much of the time.)

  73. Short idea (203): Psychology has set up its store at the intersection of Reality and Imagination, at the corner of the Literal and the Metaphorical — there in that fire pit, in that cauldron.

  74. Short idea (179): It is only when it feels that all is lost that the self can emerge.

  75. Short idea (12): A human relation is like a weaving or a web; it can be torn or broken, and then it needs to be mended which involves work.

  76. Short idea (191): There are certain moments when we can become aware of the intimate connection between the Mind and the Body and the World around us. One is when we take an in breath. Another is when we feel our heart beat. Another is when we have a sexual response. Another is when we get furious. And another is when we feel an intense pain. Another is when we see or hear. And so on.

  77. Short idea (2): Take anything on the earth or in the heavens or in the seas: There is someone who could become interested in learning about it. Whether it is a rainbow or the rhyming system of certain poems or ancient Sumerian palaces or how to fix a toilet or the mating habits of Sumatran elephants or the cost of pine nuts from China or the composition of dust or how children learn to spell. So it is no wonder that there are some people who are interested in learning about themselves.

  78. Short idea (148): We all have good tendencies, and we all have bad tendencies. We all have saintly tendencies, and we all have evil tendencies. We all even have godly tendencies, and we all even have demonic tendencies. A tendency we have that isn't always good and can be evil or even demonic is to think we are being good or saintly or even godly when we are being bad or evil or even demonic.

  79. Short idea (202): It is not necessary to have a philosophy of fear, anxiety, depression, and terror, but it is necessary to have a philosophy of the place of fear, anxiety, depression, and terror.

  80. Short idea (149): Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time thinking about the psychology of Anxiety. If I had to sum up my thoughts at this point in time about what is Anxiety I would say: Anxiety = Future. 

  81. Short idea (8): Everybody has to be inside sometimes and outside sometimes. There is a door that separates the inside from the outside. Some walk easily, back and forth, through the door. Others have to be dragged in and/or out, screaming. And, for others, the door is jammed, and, to get them in and out, a wall has to be broken down.

  82. Short idea (13): There is a difference between the mind, the psyche, and the self. Mind has to do with thinking and imagination. Psyche includes the mind. And the self includes the psyche.

  83. Short idea (118): Psychotherapists learn quickly that people who appear good are almost never as good as they appear, and people who appear bad are rarely ever as bad as they appear.

  84. Short idea (184): For those interested in experience, there are at least two variables to consider. First is the variety of experience, and this is achieved by living fully. The second is the nature of any individual experience, and this is understood through introspection and meditation.

  85. Short idea (75): In the following I use a flute as an example, but I could have used any thing: It is difficult to stay clear about the difference between the sound of a flute (gotten from hearing), the sight of a flute (gotten from vision), the feel of a flute (gotten from touch), the memory of the sound or sight of a flute, the image or sound of a flute in ones imagination, the idea or concept of a flute (from thinking), the desire to own a flute or see a flute or hear a flute, and a flute.

  86. Short idea (100): People change all the time, like it or not. But there is much argument about whether or not "people can really change," change their personalities. Does psychotherapy lead to real and deep and profound changes or only some more or less temporary and more or less superficial changes of behavior? Psychological observation shows there is such a thing as a complete transformation of the personality. This is not the same thing as willing yourself to change your behavior or deciding not to focus on yourself so much or anything on this level. And it is not the belief that you have changed or a dream or fantasy that you are a new person. It involves a complete and total metamorphosis of the way we think, the way we feel about things, the content of our fantasy life, and a re-valuing of all our values (to use Nietzsche's term). It takes time. Some people say it feels as if they are being reborn.

  87. Short Idea (24): There is the god of the Jews, the god of the Arabs, the god of the Christians (the son of the Jewish god), the gods of the Babylonians, and the like. Each people has its god. Is there a god that is the god of all peoples?

  88. Short idea (72): For many people, one of the most difficult things, psychologically, is to accept the feeling of uncertainty.

  89. Short idea (4): In the night: the eyes close, the outer recedes (but does not disappear completely), and the inner comes to the fore. In the morning: the eyes open, the inner recedes (but does not disappear completely), the outer comes to the front. The inner and the outer are in a relation, and, together, they make a whole.

  90. Short idea (36): Devastating experiences make a person feel closer to those who have been through similar experiences and distant and separate from those who haven't. Losing a child separates a person from most other people; losing an old parent makes one feel part of the natural flow.

  91. Short idea (71): First come the explorers, then the map makers. Each child is an unexplored continent (or world or universe). A person who becomes interested in self-discovery and wants it to be useful has to become both explorer and map-maker.

  92. Short idea (47): Some experiences are too painful to remember. This doesn't mean they're gone.

    The first snow covers the grass.

    Soon we forget the grass.

    But it's still there.

  93. Short idea (197): Things we like and enjoy can be bad for us, including some people we like and enjoy.

  94. Short idea (32): I have developed a method for thinking about minor problems. I withdraw into myself, and wait for a clear and illuminating impression to come. Of all the clear and illuminating ideas I have had, I estimate about 15% have been useful to me or to others. “Clear and Illuminating” is not the same as “True and Useful.”

  95. Short idea (10): In every conversation there are things unstated and un-statable. In every thought process there is something unthinkable. There are things we aren't grasping, can't grasp, and never will be able to grasp — no matter how confident and optimistic we are feeling at any particular moment.

  96. Short idea (60): Success can serve as an anesthetic for the suffering that comes from peering into the deeper levels of reality.

  97. Short idea (189): We tend to believe "he was a good man": 1. If he was polite to us and 2. if he gave us things or helped us. If he was difficult with others it does not make as great and deep and lasting an impression on us as how he was with us.

  98. Short idea (21): Everything passes including the awareness that everything passes.

  99. Short idea (55): Learning and Knowledge are not always good. It depends on what people learn and what they do with the knowledge.

  100. Short idea (112): It is an interesting psychological hypothesis (not a theological hypothesis) that the search for God involves the search for the self (finding God involves finding oneself). It would go the other way too: The search for the self would be, deep down, also a search for what people call, "God." This doesn't mean, necessarily that God = Self, just that the search for one might turn out to involve (or even be) the search for the other.

  101. Short idea (31): Having a positive First Impression of something is different from judging it to be Good. You can often tell immediately if you like something. If you begin not to like it after a week or a month, you say, “It turned out to be no Good in spite of my early impressions." Whether or not something's Good for the whole world may take a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand or even a hundred thousand years to tell. If something turns out to be Bad, then it was just a Fad. A fad can last for a hundred thousand years.

  102. Short idea (28): Regarding the psychology of Place: the most important thing is Where you are and Where you're not. Here versus There.

  103. Short idea (77): "If only I had listened to her (or him)!" is a thought I have had many times. But I have also had the opposite thought: "I shouldn't have listened to her (or him)! I should have listened to myself!" Based on this, sometimes I should listen to others, and sometimes I should listen to myself. It would be nice to have a rule to tell when to do one and when to do the other, but I haven't found one.

  104. Short Idea (41): If Moses had decided never to come down from Mt. Sinai and to stay forever with the Lord, we might not have learned we shouldn't steal or kill or disrespect our parents.

  105. Short idea (125): There is obviously a world of difference between having $20 as all the money you have in the world and having $200 million in your banks. A person with $20 is very very different from someone with $200 million. There is at least one way, however, they are identical: They both have to count and watch and hold and spend wisely and spend well if they want to be responsible and good. The $20-aire has to count and watch and hold on to his or her pennies and spend them wisely and well; the $200 millionaire has to count and watch and spend wisely and well and hold on to his or her 10's of thousands, but both have to count and watch and spend wisely and well.

  106. Short idea (137): A tentative psychological idea: There are two kinds of people: those who are too anxious and those who aren't anxious enough. A person is either one or the other. If a person could choose his or her type with respect to how they worry, they would have to choose between being a worry wart or a naive babe in the woods. It must be added that people often don't worry about the things they should be worrying about.

  107. Short idea (114): Frederich Nietzsche famously said, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." This is now the title of a popular country song in the United States. Hard to believe, but true. The irony is that the beautiful and inspiring idea that has come into the minds of so many people who are suffering was not true of Nietzsche himself; he got weaker and weaker over time. 

  108. Short idea (106): Everyone has two sides to one degree or another. There is the normal, sane side and the wild, crazy side. People feel good when they manage to let out the wild, crazy side in a normal, sane way. They feel bad if they never are able to let it out or if it bursts out in a wild and crazy way.

  109. Short idea (132): Every family struggles with psychological problems to some degree (just as every family struggles with physical or economic problems to some degree). It is a matter of degree.

  110. Short idea (111) : There are four kinds of hurts. Hurts administered by an enemy, hurts administered by a friend, hurts administered by ourselves, and imaginary hurts. Each requires a different kind of response. 

  111. Short idea (38): For many, the things they are most proud of when they are doing them are the very same things they are most ashamed of when they reflect on them later.

  112. Short idea (168): You can make two columns — one for all the things in life that are fun and one for all the things in life that are just work. For many people, as you get older and older, activities that were in the first column when you were younger have to be moved over to the second column. Towards the end of life, activities that were fun or so easy that they were barely noticed, like breathing or walking, can become labor and even labored.

  113. Short idea (147): It is easy to have bad motives and to try to cover them over with warm smiles and expressions of care and concern and with promises to always be helpful. So it is possible to be doing very bad things and to appear like an angel. We all fall for this. It is also possible to be doing very good things and not to care at all about how you look. You can be so involved in doing this good thing that you forget about others around you, and they can think you are selfish and self-centered and short-tempered and bad. We all make the mistake, at times, of thinking people are being bad when they are really being very good.

  114. Short idea (35): Elephants are so big many people have trouble imagining they are emotionally vulnerable and sensitive and can feel fear, let alone dread and terror and agony.

  115. Short idea (201): We can injure ourselves while we are sleeping

  116. Short idea (151): Last week there was a video on the Internet from Australia that was receiving a lot of hits. It was of a life and death struggle between a pond python and a crocodile. The fight lasted over four hours. The python won and wound up eating the crocodile. I think that unless a person knows what it must have felt to have been the croc and what it must have felt like to be the python, he or she is lacking a significant chunk of self-knowledge.

  117. Short idea (145): One image of love that comes down to us from ancient times is of a cute little chubby infant, Cupid, shooting one of his tiny arrows into someone's heart. This image appears In paintings and on greeting cards and in T.V. advertisements selling gifts for happy lovers. But the image of Cupid shooting an arrow into an heart must have had different meaning for the ancients. We don't use bows and arrows for hunting or warfare, but they did. To be shot in the heart with an arrow would not have been thought by them to be a wonderful, happy experience.

  118. Short idea (93): To explore the idea of experience, it is useful, for a few minutes, to pretend that the following idea is true, even if it is false: Every experience you have is part of your body. Every sound you hear is part of your body. If you are driving a car and look out and see green grass and green and brown trees — and whatever you are currently looking at — this is all part of your body. Under this view, your body has different layers, to use an imperfect word. There is the visual layer, the sound layer, the skin layer, the muscle layer, the inner organ layers, the heart layer, the lung layer, and so on. Each embodies it's own unique type of experience. The central part of this idea is that there is a layer of sights and and a layer of sounds that are each part of your body but are experienced as outside of it — as outside the skin and what is inside the skin.

  119. Short idea (50): If you think nobody in the world cares about you, you have to be willing to look closely at the possibility that you don't care about anybody in the world. There is also the possibility that you are absorbed in a waking nightmare (in which nobody cares about you) and that you're not aware it's just a nightmare.

  120. Short idea (74): If you watch an horror movie and get anxious, and even feel some fear, this is real anxiety and real fear, but it is caused by events in the movie. What percent of all the anxiety and fear a person feels in life is caused by events in inner "movies"?

  121. Short idea (70): There are unknown events going on inside and outside our bodies that, at this very moment, are shaping our futures.

  122. Short idea (169): Regarding which mattress is the most comfortable: When you are tense and troubled, no mattress feels comfortable.

  123. Short idea (37): The trouble in describing the deeper levels of the psyche objectively is that there is a tendency either 1) to water them down (because the experiences are so dramatic you don't want to sound crazy) or 2) to over-dramatize them (in a desperate attempt to express how surprising and remarkable they feel) or 3) to fall under their spell and become subject to their ways of viewing things and of speaking (which is to give up all attempts at objectivity).

  124. Short idea (82): Certainly it can be cowardly to run away from someone you are afraid of. The psychologist recognizes that it can be just as cowardly to run away from someone in a dream you are afraid of.

  125. Short idea (90) : Dying is not death. It is an experience (or ongoing experiences) within life. It often involves a long series of "Goodbye's."

  126. Short idea (107): I think psychology could (and should) be a meeting ground for all religions, a common ground. The deepest religious experiences are experiences, vague perceptions of the deepest levels of our psyches, and can, I think, be taken as psychological perceptions. Here are five explanatory points: 1) Religious dogma is not the same as living religious experience. 2) My view implies that no religion has exclusive access to reality; each is a different window into reality. 3) Religion should not feel in competition with science or with other religions; they are all searching for reality. 4) Religion is not "primitive superstition" but an attempt to express truths that are difficult to express in ordinary language. 5) Religion should be viewed as bringing to light new areas for scientific research; it should not feel pushed into standing against science in order to defend the objective territory it knows it has found and knows it has been exploring for millennia, often heroically.

  127. Short idea (95): Every experience has a "tail," which is to say that a piece of every experience lingers on after the experience is over. For example, the experience of being in a severe thunder storm lingers after the storm is gone. The alertness, the feelings of fear and/or awe, etc. Tails can last a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, days, weeks, months, years, and even for a whole life-time. As you get older you accumulate more and more of these permanent tails, and all new experiences you have are filtered through them. The thicker the web of old tails, the less of each new experience will get through, and, gradually, new experiences will all come to feel pretty much the same, have the same flavor, as it were. Experience will become stale.

  128. Short idea (158): I can think of 5 roots of anxiety: Ignorance, Knowledge, Cowardice, Attachment, and Chemical Interactions.

  129. Short idea (173): Some mythic stories can be understood, among other things, as attempts to present psychological states of mind that are difficult (or even impossible) to describe or present in ordinary language. An example is an American Indian story that tells about a man who was picked up off the ground and blown far away from his home by a great wind. When he landed he became a great healer. The whole story is one big metaphor.

  130. Short idea (161): Memory is a skill.

  131. Short idea (192): There are two political parties in the United States. Younger members of each party are sure they are right and members of the other party are wrong and maybe even evil. Older politicians may feel this but become more practical and are willing to compromise in order to get anything done. But there is a third position: Neither party is completely right but that each expresses a part of the truth. Compromise is not a process where good makes a deal with evil to get at least some good. Rather it is a struggle that leads, if it works, to incorporating the goodness and truths of both parties into a higher, more complete good and truth. This struggle can take centuries.

  132. Short idea (26): The Israelites thought it was a miracle when the Red Sea closed over the Egyptian army. But, when the Egyptians back home heard the story, they would not have thought it was a miracle. The escape of the hare is a miracle to the hare but a curse to the fox and his family. Current day Israelis and Egyptians hear the story with different ears.

  133. Short idea (98): In colleges in the U.S. we are trained to see Imagination and the Intellect as inherently at war. I think it is more useful, and probably more accurate, to focus on the possibility of them cooperating and on what they have in common. After all, they are part of the same organism and probably developed with the same goal, that is, the adaptation of the organism. I think they have a common source, and images are part of thinking. The two are like two gangling beasts who are married and who are constantly stumbling over each other and who often get into conflicts but who, deep down, still love each other, or, at least, should learn to get along.

  134. Short idea (167): Speaking as a psychotherapist, I guess that some school shootings and work-place shootings are irrational, incorrect, misguided, illegitimate, and immoral attempts to gain power, respect, and dignity.

  135. Short idea (171): Derived from my own introspection and understanding of Freud's and Jung's dream theories: If you are heavily caught up in the external world and intent on succeeding and feeling you have a good chance of succeeding, then Freud's theory applies. If you are withdrawn from the world or are pursuing private and personal goals, then Jung's applies. For Freud, dreams reminded you of your inner goals that were overshadowed by you concentration on externals. For Jung, archetypal dreams drew you into deeper and deeper places in yourself and in the world as it appears to you when you feel alone. 

  136. Short idea (196): Every person on earth, I would guess, is, by nature: 1) remarkable, 2) ordinary, and 3) inferior. Through work a fourth state can, if things go well, can be added, and this fourth state can be positive or negative depending on which direction the person exerts his or her energy.

  137. Short idea (68): It is very important to Adapt. But to what? Definitely to other people, to the forces of nature, and so on. But also to our feelings, our thoughts, our pains, and to figures that appear in dreams and fantasies. What stands in the way of Adaptation? One thing is the denial of the existence of an experience, or, after recognizing its existence, the denial of its importance or significance.

  138. Short idea (110): There are two ideas of psychological strength: first, if someone is anxious and tense, and they turn away from their psychological pain and push on to meet their obligations, this is considered, by one camp, to be psychological strength. The other idea is that, if someone is anxious and tense, and they turn inward towards their pain and face it and explore it and come to terms with it, that is considered, by the other camp, to be psychologically brave and strong. Often a husband will have one idea and a wife the other. It is not difficult to think of the conflicts that can arise from this configuration.

  139. Short idea (57): "Seek the truth," they say, but is that enough? Mustn't we then catch a glimpse of it, and then aim towards it and try to grasp it, and then learn to hold on to it and then to handle it and to clarify it and refine it and absorb it and digest it, and also to carve it into something beautiful and useful to ourselves and others?

  140. Short idea (126): Here is a powerful idea I heard that I think is an exaggeration with some little truth in it, though you may have a different opinion: All suffering that remains unconscious becomes a physical illness. If the suffering is the private suffering of one individual, the individual will get a physical illness. If it is the suffering of a country, people all over the country will get sick. If the unconscious suffering is of all the people in the world, people all over the whole world will get sick. If the unconscious suffering is deep enough, painful enough, and unconscious enough, the resulting physical sickness is a fatal one.

  141. Short idea (199): Many people are running towards something and also running away from something, and they feel they will die if they stop running. Sometimes they are right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes they will die if they keep running.

  142. Short idea (87): If you cut off the head of a worm, the body goes on for a long time. It's pretty much the same with people. If you cut out our ability to think (maybe by some violent emotion), we can still eat and drink — and vote.

  143. Short idea (67): Some people believe there is a Secret to Life that will enable them to handle any problem if they can find it and learn it. Some who believe there is such a Secret think they can learn it in school; others think they can learn it from a wise person; and others think they can find it in themselves, but they all believe that such a Secret exists somewhere and that they can find it. Others think the belief in such a Secret to Life is just a wish and a fantasy.

  144. Short idea (185): Hypothesis: Believing in a life after death is as instinctual as eating or breathing. No matter how silly the idea seems to our thinking, no matter how irrational, no matter how vague or self-contradictory, deep down we it is still there. It's as impossible to hold off the opposite belief too long as it is to hold your breath too long. You can hold it at bay for a while with your rational mind, but, as soon as you relax, the belief in a life after death, for yourself and others, grabs hold again.

  145. Short idea (116): From a psychological point of view there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands of religions besides the five or six major religions. If religion can be compared to vessels on an ocean, the major religions are like giant ocean liners — like the Queen Mary or the aircraft carriers. The smaller religions are like lifeboats or submarines or tugboats or schooners or houseboats or barges or ferries or fishing boats or rowboats. Some religions are one man (or one woman) boats, big enough for one person only. Of these one man boats, some people make their own which is not easy. Psychologists often see patients who are struggling to make such a one man kayak or canoe. I suppose the ideal is to set out and swim free, without any boat, but that feels almost — almost — unfathomable, inconceivable; at least it is sink or swim.

  146. Short idea (105): In some ways, Heisenberg's ideas can be applied to consciousness: when we try to "observe" our own conscious experiences, the act of trying to observe them changes them or even destroys them. The reason this happens is different from why, according to Heisenberg, our attempts to observe sub-atomic particles change them. Speaking metaphorically, we are embedded in our conscious experiences, absorbed in them. In order to inspect them, we have to pull out of them, and this pulling out, this distancing ourselves from them, is part of what changes or destroys them.

  147. Short idea (177): It is continuously amazing to me how people can feel they are the greatest, when everyone else can see they are jackasses or fools. To be fair we have to include ourselves in this evaluation and be aware that we also, at the exact moment we feel we are at our best. are often being selfish and stupid and blind and weak. Just because a person feels good and thinks they are good doesn't mean they are. It is sobering to see what we are really.

  148. Short idea (200): Perhaps the most seductive things in the world are words — including the words that come into your head. 

  149. Short idea (3): "Everybody is a moon, with a dark side never to be seen by others." — Mark Twain. This was true when Mark Twain was alive, but now psychology gives us ways of seeing the dark sides of ourselves and others — if and when we want to.

  150. Short idea (53): If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it is worth a million thoughts and feelings. If words are cheap, then ideas and feelings are worth next to nothing. If actions speak louder than words, then they drown out thoughts and feelings altogether.

  151. Short idea (130): "2 plus 2 = 4" may express an eternal truth, but adding 2 plus 2 is a mental operation that takes place in particular people at particular places and times. Thinking is an activity that uses up time, and it always occurs in a particular place. Thinking can be done out-loud or to oneself, with others or alone, while awake or while dreaming. Like all other activities, we think for reasons, and these reasons can be more or less conscious. And we can think too much or too little, and in a useful way or in a way that causes trouble for ourselves and/or others.

  152. Short idea (39): We can find ourselves in unfamiliar territory such as in another state or a foreign country, but we can also find ourselves in an unfamiliar inner state of mind. There are unfamiliar thoughts and feelings and images and impulses and dreams.

  153. Short idea (17): An agitated, angry moment; an ecstatic, happy feeling; an itch in the right knee; a dream of a red fox walking in the snow; a thought of tomorrow's barbecue — all are made of the same "stuff." There is a common denominator.

  154. Short idea (54): Being decisive is not always good. With some people it's better if they never make up their minds. If you're getting ready to do something bad, we pray you will waiver.

  155. Short idea (187): In my experience everyone is bad. In my experience everyone is good. In my experience, when focusing on the bad of a person, the person is experienced as all bad and when focusing on the good of a person, the person is experienced as all good. In my experience, when focusing on the reality of a person, the whole person, the good and bad of a person recede into the background as natural properties inherent in everyone.

  156. Short idea (33): Everybody is normal. Some people are also abnormal. – This is a paradoxical way to put it, but I can't think of a clearer way. Implications: Abnormal people will begin to seem normal if you get to know them, and normal people may turn out to be abnormal. – You can use the same formula for “ordinary” and “extra-ordinary”: Everybody is ordinary; Some are also extra-ordinary; etc.

  157. Short idea (131): To a vast degree, the world is not what we think or imagine or perceive or expect or want it to be.

  158. Short idea (150): Following his quadruple bypass heart surgery, former president, Bill Clinton, was interviewed by Diane Sawyer on October 28, 2004 for her program, Primetime Live. President Clinton spoke about his changed values with respect to the political "game," and he added, "I thought, you know, you've been given an unknown but substantial amount of extra time. And you should give it back. So, that's what I'm going to try to do.” On the one hand, it is nice that he has had some sort of conversion to wanting to devote his life to helping people. On the other hand, it would be nice to think of all presidents, including him, as being devoted to this during their presidencies.

  159. Short idea (46): An abusive episode is like a tornado. Once it passes there is a calm just like on any other day. The only sign of what happened is what is left behind. — The weather is normal 99.9% of the time. Then along comes a tornado and kills a lot of people.

  160. Short idea (190): Knowledge and Power: 
    The Intellect thinks: "Knowledge is power."
    The Imagination, when it experiences Self-Knowledge in itself or in others, thinks: "Super-Power!"
    When the Imagination experiences Consciousness, it thinks: "Magic" or "God-like" or even "All-Powerful" ("Omnipotent") and "All-Knowing" ("Omniscient").
    [This observations grew out my wife, Adelle Hersh's, thought that it is both a blessing and responsibility to have self-knowledge.]

  161. Short idea (96): The logic and geometry of experiences is different from the logic and geometry necessary to get through everyday life in public. Here is an experiment in introspection the reader can do to see what I mean: Focus on a sensation deep within your body. Now focus on one on the surface of your skin. Now focus on a visual sensation somewhere outside your body. Now focus on a far away sound, as far away as possible. Now try to focus on outer space, space past our Milky Way galaxy, the furthest part of space there is. Now ask yourself where this last experience took place. I think you will find that the experience of outer space, if you had it at all, was a combination of thoughts and images within your own head. So, typical of the laws of logic and geometry for experiences, outer space was outside your body, beyond sights you were seeing and sounds you were hearing, but, at the same time, it was inside your head. — If you want to explore your own experiences, you have to get used to this kind of twist.

  162. Short idea (165): Two Provisional (and condensed) Definitions: 1) Humility = Self-Knowledge + Knowledge of the Future. 2) Arrogance = Ignorance. Axiom: The more self-knowledge you have and the more knowledge of the future you have, the greater humility you have.

  163. Short idea (73): There's a difference between accepting, liking, and, maybe, loving yourself, which is a wonderful thing, and being in love with yourself and worshipping yourself which is, at best, immature.

  164. Short idea (183): People say "Relax!" but this assumes that it is in our power to relax. A Jewish prayer says, "Grant us Peace, Thy Most Precious Gift, Oh Thou Eternal Source of Peace" (Union Prayer Book II). If we think of the word "peace" as being an ancient word for what we now call "relaxation," the prayer implies that we can not relax, that we can not choose to relax, that we can not do something to make ourselves relax. It is not up to us. At this point in my life, I would say I agree, though with some reservation. 

  165. Short idea (20): The same door can look different from inside and from outside depending, in part, on our moods. However it looks at any given moment, it is important that it be well balanced, with oiled hinges, and with a strong lock.

  166. Short idea (79): Of all the reasons a man climbs mountains, two stand out. The first is to test his endurance, skill, and tenacity and to compare his achievements with those of others. The second is to gain new vistas, to leave the ordinary and enter a new and higher realm, and to achieve a lofty spiritual experience. It is possible to climb for both reasons, and even at the same time.

  167. Short idea (102): Everyone has two sides, but only one side comes out and shows at a time. Some people show one side more than the other, and other people show the other side more often. But all people have both sides.

  168. Short idea (113): From a developmental point of view, I think that Sensation must have been the first adaptive psychological function to appear (every living cell senses — as do human infants). Imagination assumes Sensation and builds on it, and I think it must have been the second function to appear (dogs dream). Thinking assumes Imagination and Sensation and integrates them into itself, and, I think, it must have been the third of the functions to appear (language is needed for thinking; infants don't yet have language). Reflection, Evaluating, Moral and Ethical Reflection, and Planning integrate Sensation, Imagination, and Thinking, and I think it is the fourth function to arise and probably does not arise in everyone. Wisdom couldn't develop without being able to build on the previous four functions and there would also have to be character traits present such as courage. And, if there is any psychological function further along than Wisdom, perhaps some Unifying function, it would develop, if at all, only after everything else was in place and functioning.

  169. Short idea (91): There's a parallel between the passion of sex and and the passion of anger. I think almost every human being in the world would agree that there should be some limitation and restraint on the expression of sexual impulses and angry impulses (both for themselves and for others). It would be impossible for all humans to agree on just where the lines should be drawn, but pretend we all could agree. Pretend we all went to a big conference and could all agree that people, from now on, can express their sexual and angry impulses up to a certain boundary line but no further, that certain sexual and angry behaviors are totally unacceptable. Then, we might also agree that, as long as people do not step over the lines, everyone is free to express their sexual and angry impulses any way they see fit in accordance with their own individual styles. The points I am making are: 1) every human being has sexual and angry impulses; 2) every human being has to limit them; 3) every human being needs to express them in some way; 4) and people have just as much variation in their preferred ways of controlling and expressing their anger as they do in their preferred ways of controlling and expressing their loving feelings.

  170. Short idea (142): It is helpful for psychologists to think of some families as cults. The leader (often the father) is experienced as God and his wishes are experienced as divine law. Conflicts can develop when family cult law conflicts with civil law. In such cases, families are mini-religions.

  171. Short idea (136): The eyes and ears are extra-sensitive parts of the skin and sights and sounds can be thought of as feelings received through touch. At the same time, the less specialized areas of the skin can be thought of as relatively insensitive eyes and ears that receive sights and sounds through touch. — If this isn't true, it is a useful mental exercise in introspection.

  172. Short idea (88): "The Great Mystery" — To many, these words are exciting, inspiring, and meaningful. To others, the idea of a Great Mystery is dangerously irrational and superstitious and agitates and angers them. What does this disagreement signify? One possibility is that it is a simple, intellectual disagreement and that one side is right and the other wrong. Another possibility is that there is a Great Mystery for some but not for others. It also may be that, for most people, those not at the extreme ends of the continuum, there are occasions when they sense a Great Mystery, whereas, at other times, they think the idea is a childish, naive wish.

  173. Short idea (193): If you believe that there is a religious instinct, then atheism will be viewed as a form of neurosis. It can be seen as a form of hysteria (possibly conversion hysteria) in which one whole chunk of reality is denied.

  174. Short idea (163): More important to me than coming up with a psychological diagnosis (from the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual, 5th Edition) is to answer the question whether or not the patient can get better and how.

  175. Short idea (14): You are driving on a winding, icy mountain road in a blizzard. You are struggling to see enough to stay on the road and in your lane. There are five cars behind you. They have it easier than you; They can keep their distance and follow the tail lights of the car in front of them. Some in the cars behind are impatient. — Moral: if someone seems slow, it may be because they are weak or infirm or old or meandering, but it also may be that they are making an all out attempt to find their way on treacherous ground we will all be entering.

  176. Short idea (176): If you are the type of person who is devoted to thinking, it is probable that you are not the type of person who continually tries to balance your feeling state in order to feel as good as you can feel. And vice versa: If you are constantly monitoring your feelings and sensations to adjust them to their optimal state, it will be almost possible for you to be what is called "a thinker." All your thought and energy will be devoted to adjusting your feelings.

  177. Short idea (164): The nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, can be used to illustrate a psychological point. Once the big egg fell and cracked and broke, all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put him back together again. We are like this, psychologically. We start whole, but then we fall and crack up and break, and then nothing can put us back together again. We long to be whole again. Is it possible?

  178. Short idea (101) : Psychologically speaking, sometimes the only way out is in. At other times, the only way to penetrate deep inside oneself is to go outside and get lost in the world.

  179. Short idea (127): Freud and Jung disputed over whether dream images were signs (of something else) or symbols. I wonder if it isn't possible that dream images and, actually, each and every thing, is both a sign and a symbol at the exact same time. Every thing is a sign of other things; every thing is also a symbol. Every thing
    1) is
    2) is linked to other things
    and 3) points beyond itself to things in the future and to things in the past.

  180. Short idea (48): Psychological pain is always an opportunity to learn about our illusions; about where our feelings are registered in our bodies; about our bloated or otherwise incorrect self-images; about our unreasonable and immature expectations; about our obsolete, un-honed, imprecise, conflicting, or superficial values.

  181. Short idea (22): Imagine that every single religious architectural structure in the world was destroyed. And that it became illegal to be a teacher of religion and even to talk about religion. And that there was a way of implementing these laws, so there was never again a religious structure, a religious custom, or even a religious idea that ever appeared in public. Some people would say this would make the world a better place; others would say it would be a disaster for the world. The question for the psychologist is, "Is there a religious instinct in us that can not be eradicated no matter what we might do to try?"

  182. Short idea (42): "He knows his own mind!" — This can mean, "He knows his own tastes" (he differentiates his tastes from the group's taste); "He knows his own thoughts"; "He knows his own beliefs"; "He knows his own values"; "He knows his own view of further out things;" and so on.

  183. Short idea (5): Some have, as the whole goal of their lives, to come out of their shells and to enter the world and to venture out and to live and experience and achieve. Others have, as their goal, to retreat from the world, to dampen and tone down their experience, to withdraw from new experiences, to filter out much of the incoming stimuli, to protect themselves. The same person can have the opposite goal at different times, even at different times of the same day.

  184. Short idea (178): The only way not to have expenses and expenditures is to be dead.

  185. Short idea (109): Anything can become everything within a person's experience.

  186. Short idea (195): There are beautiful ideas and there are true ideas. Occasionally we find a beautiful idea that turns out to be true. And, occasionally, we stumble across a true idea that we come to see is very beautiful.

  187. Short idea (66): An educated man I know thinks the idea of "ghosts" is a primitive superstition. Last year his mother died. Recently he dreamed his mother and another dead relative came to him inquiring if he had taken care of the paper work required for them to move to another state or country. He said he had. Even in the waking state after this dream in which he dutifully carried out an obligation to the dead, he didn't think twice about looking down on and ridiculing those he heard saying they saw a ghost or communicated with the dead. How do you explain this apparent contradiction?

  188. Short idea (15): An experience of the whole, no matter how important and healing and tremendous it may feel, is, itself, only a minuscule and transitory piece of the whole.

  189. Short idea (138): Feelings can be thought of as like watercolor paints: They can stand alone, individually, or blend together. There are an infinite number of possible blends. You can have a specific feeling, and then a new one can come and mix with it, wholly or in part. Or the new one can become superimposed on the first in a transparent or opaque way. Or, like two side-by-side colors, if you have two "side-by-side" feelings, one can stand out and be brighter or more intense than the other and the other can be shadowy and vague and in the background. And so on.

  190. Short idea (30): For whatever it's worth: I've come to believe that either there are two realities or one reality with two "faces." I prefer the second. If true, then one face appears in our dreams, and the other appears when we wake up.

  191. Short idea (129): For every single problem, there is always a solution, and there is always at least one good and right way to solve it and one wrong and bad way.

  192. Short idea (65): Even in a dream there is left and right, near and far, inside and outside, ordinary and awesome. When the dreamer wakes up, there is also a left and right, near and far, inside and outside, etc. It's difficult to describe the difference. This is partly because it's difficult to compare the two. And this is partly because it's difficult or impossible to be in both states at the same time.

  193. Short idea (25): There are two types of people. One type thinks they're really something. The other type thinks they aren't anything much. People who think they're something are surprised when they realize they will die. Those who think they're nothing special may be surprised when they realize they're alive.

  194. Short idea (43): A good side of difficult experiences is how they peel off the surfaces of yourself. If you're a fan of self-knowledge, this is a plus. It creates a chance to catch a glimpse of things you don't and can't usually see. If the painful experiences are rooted deeply enough, they cast a new light on ordinary experience and behavior. This, in turn, can lead to the development of new adaptations.

  195. Short idea (97): An altar is a focal point for attention, and it is made to focus attention. A little girl dies and a mother makes a little altar at a spot in a room and places a cross on it, the child's favorite ribbon, and a picture. The altar focuses the mother's attention (and is made to focus her attention) on these things. The things help her remember, and to remember in a positive way, and so to counteract the grief and terror of the loss. Not only can the mother sit in front of the altar, but, wherever she is, she knows the altar is where she left it; and she knows the moves she must make to get back to it; and this, by itself, makes her feel a little better. Creating the altar is an unconscious process and can't be contrived. It happens as everything in nature happens.

  196. Short idea (104): People do the worst things when they think they're right. They can do even worse things when they know they're right.

  197. Short idea (174): A psychological metaphor: The Ego crystallizes from its substrate, the Self, and then dissolves back into it. It crystallizes again and then dissolves. It crystallizes again, and then dissolves .... But in one of these crystallizations it can solidify and harden. If this happens, it has to crack apart or be cracked apart to return to the Self until it crystallizes again. "Dissolving" is another word for "Relaxing," and "Solidifying" is another word for "Working."

  198. Short idea (56): Knowing thyself is a means, not an end. Unexamined lives may not be worth living, but it doesn't mean examined lives are. Knowing you're a jerk isn't enough; you have to do something about it. But what and how?

  199. Short idea (89): Say there is a king who is a great man, and he has a servant. This doesn't mean that the servant is a great man (or even a great servant).

  200. Short idea (59): If you have a camera whose pictures are getting more and more inaccurate — this is a good metaphor for getting old. Decaying tools can cause problems. There are additional problems if you don't know your tools are decaying. And still more problems when you insist to others that everything's fine when everyone can see it isn't.

  201. Short idea (23): Mattress ads claim that the reason a person sleeps badly is because of the mattress, and, if you use their mattresses, you will sleep perfectly. It is the springs or the stuffing or whatever. This is a good example of an attempt to explain a psychological state of unrest or discomfort by reference to a thing or event in the external world.

  202. Short idea (146): Every century is unique. Every decade is unique. Every year is unique. Every day is unique. Every moment is unique. Every thing is unique. Every event is unique. For example, every breath is unique. It is also true that we often feel that everything is the same, tedious, and boring and that nothing ever changes.

  203. Short idea (115): Alfred North Whitehead said that all European philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. Plato lived roughly 2,500 years ago and Freud lived roughly 100 years ago, but, to paraphrase Whitehead, I would say that all psychology, including all American psychology, has been a series of footnotes to Freud. — I say this even though I am not a Freudian.

JMH International Essays — Announcement

Original Essays on the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence 

We thank all those who have submitted an essay to the JMH International Prize Essay Contest. As of now, February 1, 2017, we have decided not to continue with the contest.

For those who feel they have an important contribution to the subject of the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence, please feel free to submit your essay with the form provided here. If the judges agree that the essay is a significant contribution, we will publish it here (subject to agreement with the author).

We include here links related to past essays — For the 2014 contest, click here for the summary article and here for the list of winners; for the 2015 contest, click here for the summary article and the list of winners; and for the 2016 contest, click here.

Longer Observations

  1. Longer observation (1): Raised in a Cave: I read about a South American Indian tribe. In their territory there was a cave, and, occasionally, a newborn child would be selected (I forgot how) to be raised 100% in the cave.

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  2. Longer observation (15): Is he Bad or Mentally Ill (or Both)?: In these modern times we hear people discussing people who have done something bad. One person says, "He's just bad! No excuses! He should be punished!" and the other person says, "No! He's mentally ill! You would have done the same thing if you had been through what he has been through! We should be compassionate!" The person in question could be a criminal on trial or a political tyrant or even a family member who is hurting and, maybe, tyrannizing, people within the family.

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  3. Longer observation (13): Imagining Ourselves Dying (1): There are different ways to try to imagine we are dying. One way is to picture ourselves in the middle of our daily activities, and then to picture the same scene without us in it. And we think, "That's what it would be like if I were dead!"

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  4. Longer observation (11): The Body & the Earth: In early thinking the human body is sometimes compared to the earth.

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  5. Longer Observation (21): Deep Cures: Traditional wisdom says that the Lord heals, not doctors. In our times, when medicine is charging ahead recording remarkable successes in its crusade against suffering, is there any place for this old wisdom? In discussing this question I will be focusing on psychological suffering.

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  6. Longer Observation (4): Dream of a Raging River: If a patient can’t cross a raging river in a dream, this can be the whole focus of therapy, and it may take many years for her to discover if she needs to and wants to cross and then how to cross and if she can. And then there is the crossing itself and, finally, the beginning of life on the other side.  These are difficult goals to explain to insurance companies.

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  7. Longer observation (17): The Center of Everything: It is usually as clear as a bell to young children that the sun and moon are the largest and closest objects in the sky; that the sun is the brightest object in the sky and the moon is the second brightest; that the sun is the center of the daytime sky and moves around our earth; and that the stars are the faintest and most distant objects in the sky.

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  8. Longer Observation (22): Looking for the Best: Some people are not satisfied unless they have the best, whether it be the best car or the best cheese or the best wine or the best house. If they feel they have anything less, they feel dissatisfied, that they are missing something. There is value in this approach to life, in this value system, but there is also at least one important short-coming.

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  9. Longer observation (19): Imagining Ourselves Dying (2): Imagining dying is different than trying to imagine death. Dying is a process; death a state. Here I want to write about a certain type of dying, one where there is no pain, no physical discomfort, and no inconvenience. Here is I am trying to imagine an unusual situation: You find that you will be dying, painlessly, in 30 seconds. I think most people, if they became convinced of this, would be upset. The question is, "Why?"

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  10. Longer observation (20): Limitations of the DSM-5: Whether or not the newest edition (Fifth Edition) of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual for mental illnesses is an improvement over the Fourth Edition is being debated within the mental health professional community. Which ever side of the debate we find ourselves on, perhaps we will agree that any attempt to categorize mental illnesses has inherent limitations. We use the image of a building with windows to demonstrate the point.

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  11. Longer Observation (5): Measuring Time: There are many ways of measuring time.

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  12. Longer observation (10): Experiences of the Location of Sounds, An introspective report: The following is a report of observations I made on four nights over a 3 week period.

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  13. Longer Observation (9): Imagination & Reality: Forgetting the difference between Imagination and Reality.

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  14. Longer observation (16): The Growth of Trees and of People: If you look casually at a large tree that has lost its leaves for the Winter, you might be struck by an intriguing and/or beautiful pattern, but the pattern itself will probably appear meaningless and random. A grove of trees or a forest can feel even more overwhelming and confusing and meaningless to an intellect trying to understand it. However, if you begin to think about the tree (or trees) from the angle of their history, the patterns begin to make sense.

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  15. Longer observation (3): "Why do Good People Suffer?" or "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

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  16. Longer observation (7): Science and Self-Knowledge: It is easy to have views about things, even strong views, even certainties, and to be wrong. Science does not guarantee truth, but the scientific method is an attempt to subject our views, even our certain views, to a slow and methodic and public scrutiny, filled with checks and safe-guards to try to filter out as many false views as possible.

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  17. Longer observation (18): The Great Mystery: Whatever you think about the Great Mystery, the Answer, or the Secret, there are many people who spend much of their lives searching for such things. A portrayal of someone on a Search or Quest for such things is given by Somerset Maugham in his book, The Razor's Edge.

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  18. Longer observation (2): What makes Success: The very thing that makes a person a success in the world, the very consciousness required — the work ethic, the cool objective eye, the ability to close off subjective thoughts and feelings and to focus on an end — these abilities, and they are abilities (abilities that not everyone has but that can be developed);

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  19. Longer observation (6): Everything is Real: Speaking informally, in ordinary language, not scientifically or even logically, we can say, from a psychological angle, that everything is real, but, at the same time, it is also part of the Imagination, part of our Thoughts, and filled with our Feelings and Emotions.

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  20. Longer observation (14): An Objective Measure of Success?: Here is a mathematical formula offered as an expression of the amount of success in a person's life: s = (h-l) + w + gwh - d

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  21. Longer observation (12): A Suggested Model of Memory: Here I would like to make a suggestion for a possible research approach to Memory.

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  22. Longer observation (8): A Mother's Sensitivity: When a mother becomes pre-occupied with some concern or other, she may not feel able to handle her children at the level required by her own standards. This is especially true if the children are also worried about what is worrying the mother. It's difficult enough for the mother to handle her own feelings.

    read more >>>

Anger, Violence

  • "Big" Dream 004

    "Big" Dream 4 (November, 2013)

    (from the series of "Big" dreams)

    This Dream felt like a very big dream to the dreamer. I present it as a kind of quiz. The quiz question is: "Is it a big dream or not?"

  • 2014 JMH International Essay Contest - Summary Article

    2014 JMH International Essay Contest — SUMMARY ARTICLE

    Introductory Thoughts

    The essayists agreed that anger and violence are serious problems, for the people involved and on the level of society which it can undermine.

    Strong anger is like a wild-fire; it destroys reason. People who get carried away by anger often say, later, that they don't know what came over them, and so, being taken over by anger, is like becoming unconscious.

  • 2015 JMH International Essay Contest — Summary and Winner List




    Those winning the prize of Honorable Mention are, in alphabetical order:
    C. M., USA
    Sarthak Meher, India
    Ioana Meșterelu, Romania
    Cassie Monae, Trinidad and Tobago



    The essays this year can be classified into 
    1) personal inner reports 
    2) discussions of Emotional Abuse from an external point of view. 

    Both have value. 

    Inner Reports

    I think some readers might benefit from reading two of the reports from people who have experienced emotional abuse, who, as it were, have been in the eye of the storm. 

    Curious readers who have never experienced severe emotional abuse may, by reading these essays, have a chance to catch a glimpse of what the experience is like from the inside. 

    Also, it is a strange psychological phenomenon that we can suffer emotional abuse and never be aware of it. It is hoped that reading these two reports might help those of us who are unaware in this way come to a new awareness of ourselves. 

    Finally, these two emotionally intense reports can show why it can be so very difficult to become healed from deep emotional abuse. No slogan or A-B-C answer can go deep enough. Psychotherapy itself, even if it can be an answer in some cases, is not easy answer. And, as this first essay shows, if there is an answer through a deep religious experience, it is not necessarily straightforward. (click here for the essay of C. M.)

    I think C. M.’s essay and also essay by Cassie Monae (click here) indicate another aspect of what it is to be abused. What I want to say here is true for all suffering, but I am speaking specifically about Emotional Abuse: There can be a positive side. To echo Nietzsche’s thoughts, if we are not destroyed by that which oppresses us, we can become deeper and better and more thoughtful people. The essays by C. M. and Cassie Monae indicate a depth of feeling and thought that is, I think, unusual. 

    C. M.’s essay can lead to very deep thoughts about religious experiences, as it contains an event that Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli referred to as Synchronicity (Meaningful Coincidence). When people have what feels to them like a very meaningful coincidence, it can shake them up on a profound level and lead to a deepening of their thinking and understanding about the forces at work in determining the course of a life.

    The essay by Cassie Monae, on the other hand, points to a widening of ethical feeling beyond the ordinary as well as a broadening of feelings of social responsibility. That essay indicates how a person who is suffering terribly might link with another in the same situation and form a bond of mutual respect and desire to help. This gives a wider meaning to ones own suffering and can lead to a life spent helping others and a life experienced from a more ethical dimension than is usual.

    Of course, as we know, pointing out a possible positive side in suffering, does not mean there is no suffering and no pain. And suffering can, for some, have no meaning, and lead only to negatives. (It is probably true to say that each one of has a limit to the suffering we can bear). I think the two essays just presented show more than pain from Emotional Abuse and more than the difficulty of a complete cure. I think they show how persistent the abused mindset can be. In both of the above inner reports, the painful situation occurred in childhood, but we can see that the feelings and thoughts of the child are there, unchanged, in the adult. The abuser can be long gone or even dead, and we can still feel the same expectations we had when they were around.

    The External Point of View

    This last point is one of those made in the essay by Sarthak Meher although expressed in the form of an external report on the effects of abuse. In his essay, Sarthak points out, among other things, how a person sensitive to being ignored or ridiculed, can enter a classroom and misread the feelings of fellow students. 

    Those who are Dependent

    All this lends more significance to the objective data that emotional abuse is, perhaps, most difficult to deal with in childhood when we are learning in leaps and bounds what to expect in the world.

    In addition to other factors, children, especially young children, are all but helpless. Children may be one hundred percent dependent for their survival (food, clothing, shelter) on the very people who are emotionally (and possibly physically) brutal to them. If there is a way out, they can’t see it. Maybe they can imagine it or dream of it, but it isn’t real. This is how things are. Period.

    Even when a person is older, if they are financially dependent on another person with no perceived way out, they are all but prisoners at the mercy of the other person. This can be a wife who is dependent on her husband (or a husband dependent on his wife) or a worker dependent on his or her boss (or co-workers) or an elderly person dependent on his or her caregiver or a prisoner in a jail or a citizen dependent on the government. In these cases, if the person is a rational adult with at least a little bit of courage and with some social support, it is often possible to discuss the situation and to help the person figure out a way to escape or handle the difficult situation and to develop enough power to stand on their own two feet within a supportive community that values freedom and dignity. When an abused person feels strong, the abuser often stops abusing.

    Since we are all dependent on others, we are all subject to abuse. Even bosses, looked at from one angle, are dependent on their employees. 

    Blaming the Victim

    One point made in the essay by Ioana Meșterelu is that it is very easy for those on the outside to blame the victim. This is a difficult problem to understand and to solve. It is worth taking a moment to try to figure out why.

    It seems to me that each of us suffers abuse at least to some extent, probably every day. At the same time, we each differ in our ability to fend it off or successively absorb it. Some of us, for whatever reason, are very sensitive, and some have, what my grandfather called “a thick skin”. If we are sensitive, we might marvel at others who seem never to get upset about anything. And we might feel inferior (which, in turn, can eat at us). On the other hand, if we see someone more sensitive than us respond emotionally to a situation that seems like nothing to us, we can wonder why they are making such a big deal about what amounts to nothing. We can give advice such as, “Why not just forget it?” that can only serve to irritate the other person and make them feel worse, and we can become surprised to find out that the other person has come to see us as an abuser. If we say, “Why are you being so sensitive?”, they see this as heaping abuse on abuse. We don’t see it. We are just being objective and, it seems to us, trying to be helpful.

    All of us can be placed somewhere on this Scale of Sensitivity: Some are more and some are less sensitive than us. Sensitivity is a relative concept. But it’s not so simple, because we can be sensitive to one thing and not another, and our individual sensitivities as well as our overall sensitivity can change over our lives. But, still, the Scale of Sensitivity can be a useful concept. It can, for one thing, help us see that we are less sensitive than some and more sensitive than others. We can feel and be upset by the relative insensitivity of others to us, just as we can be, at the same time, insensitive to the sensitivities of others.

    We can even be insensitive to ourselves. We can, right or wrong, agree with our adversary’s view of us. We can see ourselves as lazy or untidy or stupid and beat ourselves up. As pointed out in many of the essays, this can immobilize us. We may feel we will never be able to find a better relation, because everyone will see how bad we are. We can get locked into a hopeless goal of trying to please the one who is judging us. We are now our own unforgiving enemy.

    The Abuser (from the Inner and the Outer Points of View)

    Abusing is the other side of the relationship that is Emotional Abuse. We have talked about the victim. It is time to say a little about the abuser.

    One of the things pointed out by both of the objective essays (as well as many of the essays that were not given a prize), is that the abuser is often unconscious of being an abuser. 

    I already said that many who are abused aren’t aware of it. It may be connected to whether or not the person has enough knowledge of life to know there are other ways of being together. 

    But it can be deeper, I think. Remember back to the first two essays and the feeling of being abused. Imagine being an adult and still feeling the same way. Then image someone being mean to you. Now you are an adult. You don’t have to take it. In fact, you may have vowed not to take anything from anybody anymore. So you stand up to the other person. You get angry. Even if you don’t strike out physically, you strike out with words. You feel good when you see the other person upset and crumbling. You feel strong and brave. You are proud of yourself. What you don’t realize is that you are an adult now and that the person you just yelled at was, in the situation we are imagining, vulnerable and looked up to you. You have just become an abuser! And at the very moment you thought you were being a hero! Say the other person is your son or daughter and is six. We all know that little kids can say the craziest and meanest things, partly because they heard it from others (maybe from you) or that they are trying out new behavior or because they don’t yet know right from wrong, but to batter them down and to yell at and to lecture them and try to control and punish may not be the best approach, both from the point of your own feelings of love and self-respect and from the point of view of teaching an open and vulnerable child.

    If we are tired or feeling overwhelmed or both and are trying to concentrate and deal with one of many problems facing us in order to escape from failure, and someone interrupts with something not on point, we may lash out and feel justified. “How can they not see how important this is?!” “How can they be so disrespectful to my time and space and to my project?!” “How trivial are their concerns compared to mine?!” “Why can’t they see what I’m going through?!” And again we can feel proud of ourselves for sticking to our purpose and not being pushed around or seduced away from our critically important goals by those who can’t understand us and who probably don’t want to. But do we care about them? Do we see their vulnerability and how our words and thoughts and feelings are affecting them within their inner life? What if we are physically bigger than them, and they are dependent on us? Maybe they are our child, maybe our spouse, or maybe they work for us. Or maybe we are in the police force or a soldier or a governmental figure or a judge. And we can’t forget that bosses and soldiers and judges are people top who can and do feel abused as much as any of us.

    There is something to be said for being a loner and going our own ways, but there is also something to be said for trying to get along with others, develop friends, and even to have a group of friends, a circle of friends. We all know what it can feel like to be outside a group, especially an “in” group, but, what we tend not to see, is how our own attitudes and actions can prevent us from getting into some groups. Of course there are groups that exclude us because of our religion or because of our race or nationality, and this is a different story, but many groups would accept us if we weren’t so unpleasant towards them. And maybe we just don’t want to give in and change and work at changing and going along with the crowd. But, let’s say we go the extra yard and work at fitting in to some group, and let’s say we succeed, and then we turn back and look at someone outside the group who wouldn’t change, we can look down on them. Especially if we think they are secretly feeling superior to us or are blaming us for not including them. They are angry and feeling superior, and we feel abused, and so we laugh at them or appear snobby. This type of abuse is cured by awareness.

    Or, in trying to fit in, we may cement our attempt by putting down others, so we will appear to be fitting in and to convince ourselves and others we have turned our back on our old ways. Perhaps this is natural and a stage we go through, but it doesn’t seem good. It can be cured by awareness and time and the desire not to be like this.

    If we have had an experience or an insight that has changed our lives, it is almost humanly impossible to resist trying to show it to others. But it is one thing to share the experience or insight with someone who is interested and wants to hear it, and another thing to try to force it on someone who has no interest. This attempt to convince can start out as badgering but can turn into other forms of forcing a person to behave and think the way we think is good for them. We can get very angry if they don’t go along. We can find ourselves feeling superior and seeing them as lower and as unworthy. Some find it useful in this sort of situation to ask ourselves 1) Are we as really as much changed as we think we are, that is, don’t we still have doubt about this Absolute Truth we are forcing on others? 2) Are we acting out of a true ethical feeling and desire to help or are we just angry and weak and disrespected at not being recognized as the authority we think we are? and 3) Are we really happy being aloof and superior and outside the group? Wouldn’t we, perhaps, welcome the warmth and friendless of the human family and is this bad?

    As many essayists pointed out, emotional abuse may be a conscious way of controlling someone else. Cases such as these are the best argument for laws against emotional abuse.

    This is not a complete list of how we might become an abuser. There are probably as many reasons as there are people. The interested reader will do his or her own research.

    Abusers becoming Abusers

    Both objective essays given above (and others that were submitted but that were not given a prize) discussed how abusers tend to, at times, become abusers. In cases where this may be true, it may be partly due to our tendency to imitate. Some families are rougher than others. They let out anger more to each other, both physically and verbally. Other families are more polite and don’t hit or yell and have other ways of handling anger. If we are raised in one type of family it is hard to even imagine that there are other types in the world. We are born into our family, and it never occurs to us that there is another way to act. And, if we have limited perspectives, we may simply continue the practices we learned when we start a new family. 

    And some cultures seem to be more violent than others. Everyone feels angry at times, and how we deal with it is partly determined by what we have learned.

    The Genetic Factor

    And, as pointed out by Ioana Meșterelu, our genetic makeup probably pushes us in one direction or the other. Some people get more angry and quicker than others: They are more explosive and have shorter fuses. Controlling oneself may be more difficult for those of us in this category. Here again though, it is all a matter of degree. 


    Another possibility that every psychologist has seen is if you are not happy with something you are feeling, instead of becoming aware of and accepting who you are and dealing with it, you strike out at others. (Seeing in others what you can’t see in your self = Projection). A man is attracted to a woman and can’t accept this and strikes out at the woman and criticizes her way of dressing and her flirtatiousness and tries to control her. In this way he tries to control himself. Another man has homosexual feelings and laughs at homosexuals and/or tries to punish them in some way. Self-abuse expresses itself as abuse of others. This does not seem like the best way of dealing with such situations.

    How Widespread is Emotional Abuse?

    I introduced the concept of a Scale of Sensitivity. It turns out that we are all sensitive at times and insensitive at times.  Probably every day each of us is abused and each of us is an abuser, at least to some extent and to someone. We can be reacting out of a feeling of being abused and, at the exact same time, be abusing. And this helps us understand why statistics the say that ninety percent of children are abused may seem jarring and overstated. It depends on how we define abuse. It can be everywhere, all the time, or fairly rare, depending on how we define it.


    Many feel that state intervention (or perhaps the intervention of the United Nations) can help prevent Emotional Abuse (and other forms of abuse). No doubt there is something to this, but it also seems true that trying to force someone not to abuse is not necessarily that easy, especially if they are not aware they are abusing or have a different definition of abuse than we do. And there is a danger of the big organization itself becoming an abuser, always watching and interfering in the lives of both the guilty and the innocent. In addition, the kind of attention needed to monitor and enforce can be very time consuming and costly. But this solution, I think, needs to be explored.

    I mentioned how hard it is to come to a deep and complete cure for Emotional Abuse, but the situation is a little more complex than this. We can feel abused by parents, government, children, caregivers, teachers, corporations, and even by nature itself or by a god (if we believe in a god). And we are probably, at least to some extent. None of us are accepted completely for who we are. (Even nature doesn’t tolerate all our behaviors.) If it is too great an oppression, we will buckle and collapse and even die, (and even the strongest of us has a limit). But, if it is not enough, we can become spoiled and go around the world thinking we own it. For those of us who have survived this long and are thriving to some extent, we have to proceed, it seems to me in the following manner:

    First, we have to become and to be willing to become conscious of just how sensitive we are and when and to what, and we also have to become conscious of how we respond to our sensitivities. 

    Second, we have to be willing to try to deal with situations that are difficult for us in a rational and ethical manner, and we must, if possible, take the time to give these matters serious thought. We need time to think and to discuss this with others in a similar boat and even with those who aren’t, unless this will get us in deeper trouble.

    Third, we must strive for independence in so far as we are capable of it and to help others strive for their independence.

    And finally, we do have to be aware that solutions can come from the outside, not only from other people but also from within but from outside our own limited perspective and ego. It is possible that experiences can come to us that cast new light on our problems and lift us into another dimension, at least for a moment. When we return from this “journey” we see things a little differently, our pain may be a little less, we may behave more sensibly and more completely and competently in our world. For most of us, this is not a one time, once and for all, thing, and it can feel horrible to lose the feeling and to have to start all over again at what feels like square one. But, it seems to me, and it has seemed to other psychologists, that progress can be made, on a personal level, and, perhaps, with humanity as a whole. Here, as elsewhere, it may be a case of having to fall back one step to move ahead two.


    To all who submitted an essay: Thank you!

    The Judges would like again to thank everyone who submitted an essay and the sincerity and thought we found in them.

  • 2016 JMH Essays - Announcement

    JMH International Essays — Announcement

    Original Essays on the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence 

    We thank all those who have submitted an essay to the JMH International Prize Essay Contest. As of now, February 1, 2017, we have decided not to continue with the contest.

    For those who feel they have an important contribution to the subject of the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence, please feel free to submit your essay with the form provided here. If the judges agree that the essay is a significant contribution, we will publish it here (subject to agreement with the author).

    We include here links related to past essays — For the 2014 contest, click here for the summary article and here for the list of winners; for the 2015 contest, click here for the summary article and the list of winners; and for the 2016 contest, click here.

  • 2016 JMH International Essay Contest — Summary and Winner List



    This year there was no First, Second, or Third Place prize awarded.
    Those winning the prize of Honorable Mention are, in alphabetical order:
    Bozhidar Boyadzhiev from Sofia, Bulgaria
    John Dairo from Ajuwon, Lagos, Nigeria
    Primavera Fisogni, Ph.D. from Como, Lombardy, Italy (editorial chief at La Provincia daily newspaper, Como, Italy)
    Matthew Gaiser from Calgary, Canada


    Please note: Essays have been edited for grammar and, in some cases, headings were added.


    The reason behind this essay contest has been, and still is, the feeling on my part that I do not understand anger and violence and how to handle it. This is partly, to be frank, a personal problem: I have never been comfortable with my own anger to the degree that (as a thinker) I am often not aware that I am angry. I have to observe what I say and do and the effect of my behavior on others in order to deduce that I was or am angry. People don't see me as an angry person, and I am not physically violent, but words and facial expressions can hurt others.

    I am not writing this to make a public confession but to explain why we are not awarding First, Second, or even Third prizes again this year. I have been waiting for an essay that will help me understand my own anger as well as the anger and violence of people I know, people I meet, and people I read about. I am not sure what the standards are of the other three judges, but this is mine.

    One judge says that the Essay Question, as stated, is very difficult or impossible to answer. How can anyone understand anger? If anyone does, how can the answer be put into words without over-simplification? Anger is so deep and natural and prevalent that it is like trying to understand life itself or matter or energy.

    So I think I owe an apology to those who submitted essays. What I am looking for is for something on the most profound level. This is like setting up a music writing contest and only being happy with music on the level of Bach or Mozart. I myself can't live up to my own expectations.

    I see glimmers and flashes of insights in most of the essays submitted, but nothing on the level of a Freud or Jung. And I stand by my goal, because I think this is what we need. We need a real answer on the deepest level to the problem of violence. On an individual level and on a global level, we have to penetrate to the heart of the problem. This is the goal of the essay contest, and I hope we can all agree that it is a worthy goal.

    Another way to put this goal is that I am looking for papers that will give me the tools to change, to recognize, understand, and handle my own anger. 

    I am not writing this to discourage anyone from entering the contest if we continue on with it in 2017. Since I have never seen what I think of as a good answer to anger, I think it is valid for each of us to chip away at the problem and put the little chips out there. I am not trying to discourage people from writing their partial answers: I am just explaining why we are not giving the First, Second, and Third prizes.

    I encourage people to think about the issue(s) and write about it and submit your ideas. As a psychologist I would say that this process is valuable in itself — the process of becoming aware of and struggling with a problem. On the other hand, perhaps there is a person out there who has penetrated to the depths of the problem in themselves and/or in others and understands what needs to be done and will write about what they have learned in a way we can all understand.

    I live in the U.S. I wonder why there seem to be more school shootings in the U.S. than elsewhere. I wonder why one student becomes violent when others don't. Why aren't we all violent more often? We can discuss external environments that breed angry feelings, but anger can arise without any external stimulus. Some — by genetics or a brain disturbance (neuro-psychology) or because of previous experience — seem to be prone to violence even in peaceful, happy, empathetic, and pleasant environments. Being nice and empathetic can make an angry person more angry instead of less. — I do see, in the essays submitted an attempt to grapple with the complexity and multi-factored nature of the phenomenon, but I don't feel I come away with enough of an answer. (Perhaps an in depth case study of a shooter would have thrown a different kind of light on the subject). 

    All this said — and it may seem that we are being overly demanding — I would like to move on to a summary of the positive and, hopefully, helpful ideas the judges found in the winning essays.

    Empathy and Introspection

    Bozhidar Boyadzhiev (from Sofia, Bulgaria) emphasizes the need for empathy if we want to understand school shooters. In his essay, Boyadzhiev also suggests that it is only if we understand the potential for anger and revenge in ourselves that we can recognize, understand, and possibly help students who may become violent. In his essayJohn Dairo (from Ajuwon, Lagos, Nigeria) sees the answer as "listen to our youth" programs which are based on empathy with individual students. Primavera Fisogni (from Como, Lombardy, Italy), in her essay, states that empathy is the answer. And Matthew Gaiser (from Calgary, Canada) suggests, in his essay, that a supportive (loving and empathetic) family or friend or teacher or mentor or religion or therapist can help. 

    I have to agree, but I don't see this as the solution for every student in every situation. It makes sense intuitively, but is there evidence? How do we know what will help who and when? Also, what if a hostile person turns away from or against the person trying to listen with empathy?

    Causes of School Shootings (in the U.S.)

    Boyadzhiev speaks of suffering from "chronic humiliation" which compresses the psyche and leads to an equal and opposite decompression. "Just as a dehydrated body must drink in larger amounts, a compressed impressionable ego (which comes to feel unrecognized and that one's life is ruined forever) requires a powerful act of decompression." But, he adds, this decompression is not necessarily explosive or impulsive, as school shootings are often carefully planned. Contributing to the problem is the press that gives blueprints to potential shooters and makes us all feel that school shootings are inevitable. Compounding this is a hyper-vigilance of anxious authorities that can damage and provoke students with quick diagnoses.

    To me, one of the more interesting ideas in Boyadzhiev's essay is that it is a skill to handle one's negative emotions, and not everyone has this skill. My intuition (and prejudice) is that he is right that some children could benefit from training in this skill (to recognize and handle one's own anger). Those for whom the training was not successful, closer monitoring would be required.

    According to Dairo, humiliating bullying, mental illness (leading to over-sensitivity and feelings of hopelessness and to fantasied humiliations), modelling (from movies, etc.), parental moral duplicity (and hypocrisy), and a general lack of inner peace all contribute to the pain and anger that lead to the desire for revenge. He feels, probably correctly, that cyber-bullying is exaggerating the problem, as it spreads humiliation to more and more people and leaves it out there for longer periods of time. 

    Fisogni sees acts of violence such as school shootings as being voluntary, as they are often carefully planned. She sees the shooter as feeling outside a group and wanting to be in and blaming the group for his not being included (which is a different psychological mechanism, she argues, than terrorist attackers who do feel part of a group). The rejected student (or the one who feels rejected) is lost in his own pain and does not empathize with those he is about to shoot. This is not mental illness but a voluntary closing off "to the world of life," the world of others. The student dehumanizes those in the group and does not respect them, and, in shooting, hopes to gain back the feelings that he blames the group for having taken away from him. He comes to see himself as a mythical hero standing up to an unjust and all-powerful institution.

    Fisogni argues that we are all in the same boat. We all know what it is like to be locked out of a group and of losing the "taste of goodness" and of losing, at least for a while, our morality. We stop sensing the humanity of others and focus only on our own hurt. Most, but not all of us, value controlling these cold feelings and do so, but others choose not to.

    — These seem to me good points, but I do wonder how much control we have over our feelings. It is true we can fight our tendencies to treat others as sub-human and evil, but it can take a great deal of sophistication, even in cultured and sophisticated people, even in religious people, to reach a place where we see our vengeful tendencies as a problem. Often we are proud of these tendencies (as Fisogni points out) and feel as if we are heroes for having these feelings and that we are weak cowards if we do not let them out. There is a sense in which we choose our behaviors, but what if we haven't been trained or taught to value self-understanding and self-control? There are two perspectives, and we don't know enough about ourselves and about human nature to know what flips us from one to the other — or so it seems to me. This is especially true for certain mental illnesses in which there are delusions of rejection even when there is none. And then there are situations when a person's anger at a group or group values (or at all people) pushes a group away and forces the group to reject the person who then blames the group. The situation is complex and difficult for us to understand and even more so for people who have little training and may lack the intellectual ability to understand complex matters.

    Gaiser sees school social life as the medium in which hurt and humiliation and then anger grows. Though this is more a sociological explanation than a psychological one, the points Gaiser makes are relevant to psychology. School, he argues, is a different form of society than a nation. Society (outside school) has, over thousands of years, developed methods for discouraging and handling violence, but school has a different structure than society. Most important, children are grouped together in classes without getting to choose where they are put. In society, if you don't get along with someone or someones, you can walk away. And, as mentioned. there are mechanisms available (even if imperfect) for what to do if you are harassed. Not so in school where the students have to figure out their own way of handling situations. Students are told not to fight and, instead, to report problems to teachers, but it is often impossible (both in school and after school) to avoid conflicts, and there are problems for anyone who turns in fellow students. 

    — I think Gaiser's argument is overstated, as there are many injustices and humiliations after school, in the bigger society, that cannot be remedied. Still, it seems true that, in some way, school is a self-contained Petri dish where all kinds of bacteria grow.


    The Essay Question did not ask for an answer to the problem of school shootings. It was too much to ask for an answer, especially before we understand the problem.

    However, it seems irresistible for us to look for and hope to come up with an answer. This shows how severe is the problem. 

    As mentioned, all four winners suggested that empathy and listening might help potential school shooters. Boyadhiev added that we need to be aware of our own desires for vengeance in order to be truly empathic. He also recommends a "beneficial environment" and the education of the public and students to psychological mechanisms which education would include how to recognize and understand fellow students who are having trouble. He says, poetically, that we have "to be psychologists to one another." — I add, on what seems to me to be a slightly more realistic and pessimistic note, how difficult it is for adults to become aware of themselves psychologically. How much more difficult to ask for this same awareness of adolescents. Still, I have to agree, at least to some extent. Most psychotherapies depend on the idea that empathetic and understanding listening can help some patients to become less isolated and less filled with self-hatred and more accepted and less angry. Research supports this approach with some people, at least to some extent. But we must remember that some shooters (I'm not sure about school shooters) had been involved in long-term therapy. Therapy is not a cure-all or panacea for everyone at all times. We don't know enough to say for sure in these matters.

    Dairo suggests that parents might model decent behavior and train their children better and seek peace instead of just money or power. He feels, perhaps optimistically, that this would humanize their children. He also recommends participation in societies that promote inner peace such as the Goi Peace Foundation (an organization with which I am not familiar). — I like this idea but also know, from my own life, how difficult it is to maintain feelings of peace in the face of financial, political, relationship, and health issues. And there is a danger of forcing oneself to feel peace and pretending to oneself that we feel good and happy and peaceful when we are unconsciously seething with resentment and anger.

    To all who submitted an essay: Thank you!

    The Judges would like again to thank everyone who submitted an essay and the sincerity and thought we found in them.

  • Dear Reader who is a Batterer

    Dear Reader who is a Batterer,

    (This note is definitely not meant as a replaced for psychotherapy! It is a thought that might possible be useful for some people, some of the time, who are already working on this problem in psychotherapy.)

    This is a note to people who:

    1) have impulses to assault and battery

    2) struggle with these impulses, because they think they are bad, and still have trouble controlling them, and

    3) whose abuses are minor on a scale of 1-10 —

    (There are many degrees of abuse. Some abuse is tolerated by society and is not illegal. Some is socially acceptable and even encouraged. In this last class are some forms of emotional and verbal abuse that people feel is funny or strong. People who stand up to these "minor" forms of abuse are often considered to be "overly sensitive." —

    (This note to batterers assumes the reader will feel it is morally correct for him or her to seek help now and immediately with any abuse that even hints at severity to him or herself and/or others.)

  • Dear Reader who is a Pre-Batterer

    Dear Reader who is a Pre-Batterers,

    (This is not meant as a replacement for psychotherapy! but as a thought that might be helpful for certain people at certain times who are already working in therapy.)

    Here are some assumptions about batterers — people who have tendencies to hit people or animals (or yell at them or insult them, and the like) but who haven't done it yet.

  • Dear Reader with Impulses to Batter

  • Film & Stage: Silence of the Lambs

    The Silence of the Lambs: A Psychological Review

    Psychologists are not trained to evaluate the artistic merits of a film, but we may try to analyze a film very much as we analyze other products of the human psyche such as dreams or myths. In fact, a film, in so far as it "grips" people, is a myth in action, and to comment on a film that fascinates its audience is to comment on a living myth, a snap-shot of the American psyche.

  • Hostile, Violent, Abusive

  • JMH 2015 — Essay 12

    by Sarthak Mehe, Bhudaneswar, Orissa, India

    Emotions sketch our personality, and so any alteration gets reflected in the personality, as well. Emotional abuse has its effect on every other aspect of life. 

    Emotional abuse cannot and should not be compared or weighed against physical abuse. Emotional abuse leaves deeper impressions, which cannot be healed by pain-killers, ointments, or vaccines. 

    The impact becomes far more difficult to overcome in the case of children. Unlike the physical, emotional abuse can be a confusing subject, because children who are abused can not label what is going on and learn so come to accept it and continue to live with it. Most people who have gone through emotional or psychological disturbances eventually begin to suffer from and to become aware of the stigmas, stereotypes, and ignorance that are prevalent in the society.   

    Actions that suppress or restrict individuality or creative potential come under the label of “emotional abuse”. Threatening, spreading rumors, bullying, etc are some of the common examples. 

    Emotional abuse is not limited to any particular setting, and can take place at home, school, workplace, or any other organization. 

    Often this kind of abuse takes a very subtle form, which makes it difficult for people to fully realize. Our methods of punishment, and disciplinary actions, themselves aim to create emotional disturbances. The word ‘punishment’ has undertones of revenge and anger, which is intended to ‘teach a lesson’ to someone. It is a socially accepted form of emotional abuse, which probably never, if ever, brings positive or corrective results, no matter how much we justify it.   

    Emotional abuse seems to be far more widespread than physical. This is partly due to lack of awareness and knowledge of how to recognize and label it that makes it difficult to identify these issues early. 

    Although emotional abuse is physically not visible, the consequences are loud and clear. Usually, the consequences are woken up to very late, and the resultant sense of fear and hopelessness stands as a barrier to effective recovery. What may have started with a few words could go on to develop into failed relationships, cheating, mistrust, substance abuse, etc. 

    Repeated exposure to emotional abuse can cause the self-esteem to diminish. Feeling of rejection and inferiority becomes persistent, and the mind becomes very sensitive or vulnerable to minute external stimuli, and it can over-react. For example, if a child grows up with a sense of rejection, then simply not being able to find a seat inside a hall/classroom could act as a powerful stimulus to invoke inferiority feelings or feelings of rejection. Someone may not respond to their greeting, but it could also be that they were too busy or unable to hear due to some noise. Irrespective of situations or circumstances, an emotionally abused person may carry a constant sense of inferiority or low self-worth.

    Children are the most sensitive to judgments and remarks, and unlike adults, their intellect isn’t fully equipped to shield against undesirable effects. Parents are generally unaware that some of their words or behavior may constitute emotional abuse. Kids may accept this abuse as a legitimate role of the parent and hence, even do the same with their future children. It would be worth noting that even if our intentions may be good, our methods may have a negative effect, and we often do not know our own real motives.

    Unlike physical abuse, the term ‘emotional abuse’ has yet to find its way fully into the vocabulary of general public. This one reason why so many cases of emotional abuse go unnoticed until something drastic or serious happens. 

    Emotional abuse can take the form of publicly rebuking a child, shutting him/her inside a room, or simply comparing them with their peers. In my opinion, children are to be guided and not dictated to, so that they are empowered and choose a good path themselves. 

    Emotionally abused kids are actually being taught to inflict the same treatment on others as a means of control and achieving something. It is in childhood that the roots of all good and evil form, which are nourished and produce similar qualities of fruits later in the future. In my opinion, there needs to be a greater understanding and awareness of the effect of our methods, so that the right qualities are sown, which would eventually lead to a healthy society.  

    The effects of emotional abuse have no limit. Despite technological improvements, our mental health may, at times, undermine our physical health. Money spent on medical treatments and surgeries prolong life span but are undermined by abusive behaviors. We have to shift our focus to the source and analyze our mind. The effects of emotions reach the vital organs of the body, and so emotional abuse produces damaging effects on our health. 

    And turbulence within the mind is bound to create ripples in our relationships. Emotional abuse is good neither for the abuser nor the one being abused, because ultimately it is the relationship which suffers. Communication, which is a vital aspect of relationship gets affected and only helps to complicate matters further. 

    Suppressed emotions of the sufferer can eventually erupt in unpredictable forms, and lead to rash decisions, which could prove to be costly. 

    Emotions are connected with the spirit, which infuses life into the physical form. Playing with someone’s emotions intentionally is no less than harassment. It needs mention here that, our each and every thought contributes to our destiny. Thought gives rise to feeling, which decides our action. An action if repeated, gradually builds up into a habit. All our habits collectively form our personality, and as is the personality, so shall be the destiny. Hence, emotional aspects of life must be placed at the top of our priority list. After all, every action begins with a thought, and every thought arises from the beliefs we hold. Mind is the source which has to process incoming information and run the body accordingly. 

    Emotional abuse creates turbulence at the very source of our being, and it’s only a matter of time till it materializes into the outer realities. More and more people globally today are knocking on the doors of spirituality, yoga, meditation, etc for a reason. Counselors and self-help books are increasingly being sought. Unless we are emotionally healthy, all our physical effort to find peace would go in vain.

  • JMH 2015 — Essay 6

    by Cassie Monae, Trinidad and Tobago

    Imagine what it’s like always existing within the eye of a storm. It is a place where your days are spent fearful and in a restless calm, silently aware that the psychological security of your world could be shattered in seconds and that another entity, as human as yourself, would be responsible. Their assault is aimed at your inner self, leaving your protective exterior unharmed and guilty of being so. That, to me, is emotional abuse.   

    When I think of my childhood, I remember Sorrow and Savage. That’s how I visualized my two parents in those days. Sorrow and I were like partners. We spent our time together, primping and prepping, putting everything away, neatly in its place, just as Savage liked. We also locked our psyches away with the valuables so that their unsulliedness may not be tarnished when the storm came.   Savage was that storm. A thickening of the air to some biteable form would usually herald his arrival.  

    My tiny body would writhe fearfully, recalling the things that were left out of place, as he pulled into the driveway. I felt that he enjoyed Sorrow's fear of not pleasing him, since today would be one thing and tomorrow would be another. I'd even taught myself to falsely confess on her behalf that I was the one who had left the house awry, in the hope that Sorrow would be spared. Even then, as childlike and forgivable as my errors should have seemed, she would be blamed and suffer my consequence. I found myself taking shelter in the basement that was the underside of my bed, choking with remorse that outside my door her spirit was being weakened and that Sorrow could not be saved from the windy tail of the storm.   

    In wider society, there are many others like Sorrow, suffering emotional abuse though under different circumstances. In my homeland of Trinidad and Tobago, often times the wife of the first born son in families of East Indian descent moves into her husband's family home after they're married. It is not uncommon for her to be assigned the caretaking duties of the entire household of extended families, even if she has a higher educational. The abuse exists where she lacks the ability to reprimand or challenge any family member even on valid issues. She knows that her opposition would be seen as a transgression, as ungratefulness and may also embarrass her husband, since to have been allowed to marry their first son and move into their home is considered a high honour. She therefore feels compelled to avoid this.   

    Emotional abuse also exists in large families consisting of several siblings where there may be one sibling who may never have started their own family or developed their finances enough to live on their own. Consequentially, they remain in the family home and can experience extreme psychological pressure from siblings to vacate the home so it can be sold for profit after their parents' passing. 

    Apart from siblings, parents themselves have also used their ability to provide education and finances to coerce good behaviour into their children. In both circumstances, the emotional abuse persists as it is less likely for the oppressed to take legal or other action against their kin.  

    While many persons seem to believe that emotional abuse is an affliction of only women and children, it affects males as well. I've witnessed personally that men, in times of hardship, are often pressured to “be a man”. It is my opinion that this exists globally. I have had male colleagues who have become emotionally disenfranchised by attempting to conceal their unhappiness with their job or depression after a breakup because society considers such displays of vulnerability “unmanly”. The abusers here may be the mass media (if it is a public), their spouse, co-workers, or even their father figures. The effects can be devastating as this pressure silences men who may then turn to alcohol or other addictions for their comfort. They, in turn, may also impose the same abuse on their sons, thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse. 

    Such is the very nature of emotional abuse. Due to its intangibility, its invisibility, it is seldom identified and therefore easily grows and becomes immortal within a victim or a family. Think of my Sorrow, who may have first suffered emotional abuse in her marital home, having to raise children within that environment. From my hiding place as a child, I would hear that Savage roaring insults and profanities at her, which also seemed to bash themselves against walls. In the mornings that followed these happenings, I would have always expected to see Sorrow terribly disfigured, but she never was. Only now I realize that Savage's aim was never physical annihilation but to shred the very core of her being. 

    Emotional abuse invokes feelings of fear and poor self-esteem, leaving the abused but a shell of their former self. A shell one can manipulate and distort any way they pleased. Feelings of shame and lack of knowledge of others like them, leads the abused to isolate themselves and not reach out for help, allowing the abuse to continue.   

    By eliminating this isolation, one removes the dark hood under which emotional abuse thrives, serving to break the vicious course of psychological disempowerment. It is my hope that by having shared my thoughts, I have encouraged at least one person to stand up and free themselves, help others or, more so, tell their story. Greater awareness of this issue can propel further research, and thus, possibly create a framework to identify both emotional abusers and their victims early, before its harmful effects transfer to more generations.    


    Abuse in Intimate Relationships. Fremouw, Westrup, & Pennypacker, 1997. Harmon, Rosner, & Owens, 1998.

    Tjaden; Thoennes, 1998, 2000; Walker & Meloy, 1998 Date accessed: 22 July 2015  

    Ali, A., & Toner, B. (2005). A Cross-Cultural Investigation of Emotional Abuse in Caribbean Women and Caribbean-Canadian Women. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 125-140. Date accessed: 22 July 2015


  • JMH 2015 — Essay 7

    by C. M., USA

    I longed to be on my own. Some space, some peace, some time for thoughts to organize themselves. To be autonomous. To find something to hold on to. I was never alone. There was always someone intruding on my thoughts and my freedom, demanding my emotions, will, and soul. I grabbed my roller blades and began to skate. A couple blocks before my appointed destination, I sat on a corner in the grass for some peace, to be alone. Thinking, crying, praying. “This is not a father. This is not right. He will never change. He will never be a true daddy. I will never be loved.” Empty and lacking a solution, I stood up, “God, you be my Daddy.” I began to skate up a hill with all my might with God as my Father at the top of the hill. When I reached the top, it would be official. I would leave behind my ties to my old father and embrace my new Father. Faster, faster I pressed on, feeling the burning in my legs, the tears drying on my face, I locked eyes with the top of that hill. The pain felt good and right. Then to my confusion and horror, as I had nearly reached the top, my father’s red truck emerged over the hill. I stopped. I don’t know why he came looking for me, or how he knew I hadn’t arrived at my neighbors house yet, or why he had come from the forward direction rather than behind, or even if I was really that delayed in arriving, as I’d only sat in the grass a few minutes. I did know what this meant, as much as I desired to brush it off as coincidence. There was no denying such an unfortunate intervention. The Father I thought I would reach at the top of the hill was my father. There would be no shaking him off like that.       

    Here I am 13 years later, pretending I live my life autonomously. Pretending his presence doesn’t loom over my fears, my desires, my frustrations, my decisions the way they did so many years ago. Pretending I left him when I got keys to my own car. Pretending I left him at a Bob Evans breakfast the day before my college courses began. Pretending I left him when he sat in the pew after walking me down the aisle. Pretending I left him on that grassy corner as I raced to the top of the hill. Now years later, after running and running, he’s always waiting for me. Reminding me I cannot escape. When I’m told to use my head, there his voice echos. When I’m told to stop crying, there is his harsh response. When I’m brushed aside, there he is pushing. When the things I appreciate are stripped away, he’s the one grabbing them. When I can’t get some space, some peace, some time for thoughts to organize themselves, there he is intruding. When no one will listen to me, there he is ignoring me. When I’m fearful there is nothing good left, its the old familiar feeling of my childhood creeping back.      

    I’m 24, but I’m still wishing there was someone I could trust. Someone who would listen to me. Someone who would tell me I have good ideas. Someone who would be tender and gracious with my mistakes. Someone who would encourage my interests. Someone I wouldn’t have to hide from, to feel like myself. And God still hasn’t showed up at the top of that hill. So I’m still waiting for Him to pull up in his truck, open the passenger door and take me home where I will be loved.

  • JMH 2016 — Essay 1

    by Bozhidar Boyadzhiev, Sofia, Bulgaria


    Understanding School Shootings through Empathy and Introspection

    I have thought over this long enough to believe that the most effective way of gaining personal psychological insights on the subject is to fearlessly try and empathize not only with the victims, but with the shooters as well. People could consider such a statement polarizing enough, but I would add that it is only through empathy, the closest approximation to another’s personal experience, that we could grasp some of the sentiments which accompany a whirlwind of vengeance. 

    Since we, as humans, still have a general lack of tact and humanity, and the bullying and negligence which leads to school shootings are ineradicable, introspection and empathy are good means for getting a grasp on the situation (better than just standing in the burial ground and cursing). 

    Only by recognizing the potential for, and portents of, violent deeds in the controlled environment of ourselves could we learn to recognize these in others, to gain the understanding to counsel and give aid before feelings and ideas reach threatening dimensions. One cannot begin to grasp school shootings until one has been slighted and has contemplated a form of vengeance. 

    I can say that this has happened to me multiple times (being slighted), the perceived leverage which I visualize afterwards giving me the calm and confidence, the mental fortifications, to not only continue functioning unperturbed around the person, but to approach him and calmly solve our mutual problem. These thoughts have arisen in me when the sanctity of my ego has been threatened, when others have tried to push through it, and I have always been fully aware that such thoughts, in me or in someone else, aside from depth and detail, have the potential for great darkness. 

    School Shootings

    A response to humiliation

    A school shooting is such fantasies come to life, an advanced, desperate act of ego affirmation in a consciousness which has suffered chronic humiliation. As each movement warrants an opposite, the warped nature of what others have created for the psyche warps the nature of what the psyche creates for others. Just as a dehydrated body must drink in larger amounts, a compressed ego requires a powerful act of decompression (or explosion).

    An active shooter is a living vessel for this pressure; if it isn’t relieved in a controlled manner, with the help of other human beings, it can leave a permanent dent in a community. Before the event, after much ideation, the person finally moves to what is now the hunting grounds, carried on his most primal and violent urges. While they fuel him, a lack of impulse control is hardly the reason for the shooting, serving only to facilitate the realization of something planned for a long time, a vision.

    The desire for immortality

    The decompressive (explosive) process is often accompanied by something just as powerful. Herostratos, lead by the drive for notoriety which often accompanies antisocial behavior, burned down the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Through an act of destruction, he was subsequently immortalized in literature. This thread exists in most of the tragic scenarios in recent years. The rounds themselves are aimed not only at flesh and blood, but at eternity itself, in an advanced form of ego gratification, which, as many cases have pointed out, often stops at the point of resistance of a single courageous person. The drive towards infamy … a pure form of aggression.

    Many wind up stopping and killin gthemselves instead

    This is the point at which, in fewer than half of all cases, vengeance halts and the shooter either takes his own life or takes actions towards it. The reason for this varies cases by case. While some people think that the guilt is too overwhelming, a more plausible theory is the desire for a last act of punishment; the shooter denies society the chance of holding him responsible, seeing that he has paid his dues and equilibrium has been reach in relation to what he has gone through.

    Reporting by the press contributes to future killings and numbing in the public

    All of this is reported to the degree to which the public knows as much about the scene as the specialists. Sadly, the next perpetrator is given a very specific set of parameters to work with, the pattern, by the multiple iterations of each previous case in media and entertainment.

    From a sociological viewpoint, few people are aware of the fact that the desensitization accompanying such an event, especially when reported multiple times by the media, creates fatalism and resigned acceptance in the public; the event is now not only expected, it is preordained, and when it arrives, it is met with apathy, for it is nothing but the old raincloud coming into view.

    Worse yet, the disasters of recent years have fed our bloated sense of morbid curiosity, the result of our sedentary life’s lack of excitement. As with all events which are accepted as an integral part of a culture, people are participants, taking roles wittingly and unwittingly. In many people’s dreams and fantasies, they are actors in an event which is psychologically ingrained as inevitable, disregarding the fact that it is a pathological thought, a member of an invasive species with which only after years and years of brooding have our mutual bonds strengthened.

    No way to give a systematic and complete answer of “Why?”

    This is not so much an essay as a series of thoughts and observations; I could not expect more, since the phenomenon is so baffling and my thoughts so eager to avoid systematization. I could, however, narrow them down to this: As each mind is a unique architecture, it is not in the least surprising that a violent movement is the suitable method of pressure relief in some people.

    The ability to handle our negative energies is a skill not everyone has or can develop

    The further we develop, the more sophisticated our faculties for handling and transforming negative energies become. The immediate act of bursting into tears as children evolves into the delayed act of meditation, going to the gym and so forth. Such a system, however, cannot and should not be expected of everyone. This is why the individual approach is paramount to minimizing outbursts of mental and physical violence; people become aware of the agents and boundaries of individuals.

    Difficult to predict and can cause damage with quick diagnses

    A psychologist, should be careful about overreacting to what he (or she) might consider signs of a disaster waiting to happen, in truth nothing more than a youthful case of rebellion and morbid curiosity. Quick diagnoses can serve to antagonize children by demonizing them in the eyes of others, in the worst case giving them roles to act out, compared to which I think that even negligence is preferable.


    School shootings are the end result of year’s worth of inattention. The antidote to this would be attention. One cannot hope to eliminate the negatives of school life, so empowering the positives is the most rational course of action.

    The same dispassionate learnedness with which we would assist a person with a dysfunctional limb in daily life could be a great replacement for the blind eye and primitive fear we have for people lacking the psychological mechanisms to handle stress.

    I could not think of a better or, sadly, more generalized, approach to the phenomenon of school shootings, than educating the public about psychological mechanics, and teaching children the following behaviors: externally - acknowledging the loners, the failed joiners, and collectively fostering a beneficial environment. Internally – a hard-wired sense of empathy, allowing us to be psychologists to one another.

  • JMH 2016 — Essay 2

    by John Dairo, Ajuwon, Lagos, Nigeria



    Anger is a natural emotion in response to pain experienced combined with anger-triggering thoughts which motivate to spontaneous action.  

    In the United States, school shooting is primarily caused by anger as a result of pain incurred from another person action. Bullying and revenge, mental illness or disorder, learning from history, learning from movie, lack of inner peace and moral duplicity are causes of school shooting in the United States.

    The necessary remedies to eliminate those causes are radically discussed in this essay.

    Demystifying the causes of school shooting in the U.S.


    Bullying is something that has existed since the first caveman felt he was superior to another caveman.  The bullying that exists in current day is far different than that which has existed for millennia. In the digital age, a bully has the ability to torture and humiliate someone but in the modern era a bully can also do so on social media for the world to see. Once something is posted on the internet it cannot truly be removed, further enhancing the torment.

    If the person feels the whole world knows the spiteful things that has been said about him, an arouse emotion emanating from within would galvanize a dangerous revenge actions like the school shooting. This leads to a psychological perspective of a teen to do something wrong wholly since they are termed with the detrimental reputation. Thoughts of a life being ruined forever, as teens often view things, can mean the only option is to lash out by attacking the bullies and committing suicide to end the pain.

    Mental Illness

    Mental illness is also one of the major causes of school shooting in the United States as some of the students are no longer in their right senses. Anxiety can lead to fears of the unknown as certain personality disorders and psychotic disorders.  Mood and anxiety disorders can lead to feelings of hopelessness and feeling as though one is powerless to change what is wrong with ones life.

    Mania can lead to a lack of control and impaired reasoning about an event or action.  As a result, mental health issues can compound things and lead to a feeling that the only option is to lash out at the world or that the only way one can show others how he/she feels is to show them or make them feel the pain being felt.

    The most serious mental illnesses, schizophrenia and depression, often become overt in adolescence. A boy who is smart enough to get into a good college becomes deluded, obsessed, he gets rejected, isolated and stuck in a fantasy world. Those fantasies can become lethal. These forms of mental illness are typically the source of homicide as they torment and demoralize the disturbed individual.

    Society is morally bankrupt

    We have created a society that is morally bankrupt, and the victims are our children who have lost faith in authority due to our moral duplicity. This is a cause of school shootings. Millions have been killed or made refugees in a war waged over oil that is causing global warming.  Parents, many of whom are divorced, work day and night to make ends meet, unavailable to children, while pop culture sells unprecedented debauchery and violence to children daily.

    In the United States, teens apply all what they learn in their immediate environment, classrooms and home. They are always anxious to practice all what they watch in movie. In sundry American movies, actors and actress perform active roles of anger and violence in revenge for the action done by their Nemesis. American children always watch these movies and they learn from it. Whenever an issue arises in school, even if they don’t want to react, a depraving hormone would catalyze their psychological mentality to fight back as they had earlier watched in various movies.

    Human beings can be categorized according to their temperaments, like the Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic. The lack of understanding of these temperaments by the students make them to play prank with the choleric students, thereby leading to anger of the choleric students, then to violence such as the school shooting.

    Also, many students lack the inner peace. They are not peaceful from within, how can students having no peace within them share peace with others? The issue of inner peace should not be taken with levity hands in schools today.

    Remedies for the imminent menace

    School shootings are the end result of year’s worth of inattention. The antidote to this would be attention. One cannot hope to eliminate the negatives of school life, so empowering the positives is the most rational course of action.

    The same dispassionate learnedness with which we would assist a person with a dysfunctional limb in daily life could be a great replacement for the blind eye and primitive fear we have for people lacking the psychological mechanisms to handle stress.

    I could not think of a better or, sadly, more generalized, approach to the phenomenon of school shootings, than educating the public about psychological mechanics, and teaching children the following behaviors: externally - acknowledging the loners, the failed joiners, and collectively fostering a beneficial environment. Internally – a hard-wired sense of empathy, allowing us to be psychologists to one another.


    Before anything can happen, the answer must emanate from the mind: When the mind is controlled, then the world is controlled. The main emphasis of this magnum opus is the MIND.

    Students need to have inner peace. Collaborating with the Goi Peace Foundation in order to teach students with inner peace problems would become a profitable panacea for the world.

    Once the issue of the mind is addressed scrupulously, then school shooting would be abolished spontaneously.


    1. Frank Ochberg. (2012). Why does America lead the world in school shootings?Retrieved:
    2. Harry Mills. (2005). Psychology of Anger. Retrieved:
    4. Justin Nutt. (2013). School Shootings and Possible Causes. Retrieved:
    5. Narayan Kulkarni. (2015). Building Peace Begins from Within. Retrieved:
    6. Stephan Said. (2015). The Cause of School Shootings: We’re Missing the Mark. Retrieved:

  • JMH 2016 — Essay 4

    by Primavera Fisogni, Como, Lombardy, Italy



    A school shooting is a phenomenon within the realm of interpersonal (intentional) violence. It brings to light the failure of either school and society. In any case, it would be wrong to focus only on the guns market, although the availability of weapons turns resentment, anger and other bad attitudes to life to concrete wrongdoings. The aim of my paper is to argue that a school shooting is a sub-type of the category “outgroup dehumanization”, which takes place within an intergroup context (the school) that has completely lost – from the killer’s perspective – any sense.

    From this point of view, a school shooting cannot be compared to a mass shooting in a public place, as it happened – for example – in some major terrorist events (San Bernardino shooting, 2016). Both phenomena, nevertheless, can be ascribed to the loss of sensing that originates in the intimate ground of the personal identity when a sharp divide is drawn between itself and the others (as Castano, Giner-Sorolla assume).

    Moving from this anthropological frame –  the point of intersection of school shootings and mass murders – I’ll defend the voluntary aspect of such events. At the beginning of the discussion I invite the reader to ask about the peculiar kind of relation existing between the killer and the victims of a massacre. Beneath a school shooting it generally lies a close link between the perpetrator and the victims, grounded on a common set of values, beliefs, and activities. How does it happen that empathy turns into the absence of any respect towards other people?

    The Psychology of Dehumanization

    Through the lens of psychology of dehumanization, it can be said that the killer has never been really part of the group to which its anger is directed: a former student who has felt frustrated for years, during the high school, was not certainly incorporated in the school society, although he/she was considered part of it. The vicious resentment allows him/her to engage in bad actions against that primary source of frustration. In the killer’s view victims are perceived as bearing the main responsibility for his/her missed integration and realization. Through the absence of empathy, the denial of the humanity of the victims makes it easier for the perpetrator to kill a great number of them.


    These shooting are voluntary and planned

    When such a situation is given, the perpetrator’s lack of humanity does not depend on mental diseases: School shootings have much in common with a set of rituals that belong to the rules of massacre. The killer takes his time, stops and starts again. He reflects, he makes plans; he tries to have a conversation with the annihilated hostages or give them orders, as it happened in Columbine’s massacre (1999).

    Killer feels like sole victim and a hero

    Those who have been victimized are perceived as less human and the perpetrator feels himself to be the sole victim of the school system. The atrocities committed then turn into a revenge for the author of the shooting, to whom it gives back the human qualities the killer think to have been deprived. From this point of view, a school shooting is the result of an unresolved integration that gives rise to a disintegration: Victims are felt as a part of the frustrating educational environment against which nothing can be done except a war. Guns are part of this spectacular count down also for the symbolic implications they entail. The killer is involved in a final battle against the institution that was unable to guarantee equal opportunities of flourishing. There is something mythical, in the killer’s view, in making a massacre: The assassin aims to portray himself as the hero who, alone, or with a small group of peers, can defeat an organized army.

    School Shootings differ from other forms of massacres

    A mass shooting (the Bataclan attack made by IS militants in Paris in 2015 and the jihadist massacre at Dacca, Bangladesh, 2016), on the contrary, is a classical case-study of outgroup violence. The perpetrator looks at the victims as sub-human subjects (infidels/kuffar), if compared to the intergroup society to which he/she belongs and to the ideology (the fundamentalist doctrine of takfir). The process of dehumanization works on the presumption that victims lack of the primary qualities of humanness, so that killing one person or thousands (the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001) does not make any difference. Guns are not the main weapons of such mass assassinations, if we consider the jihadist suicide attacks and the role of death camps played in Nazi totalitarian regime in 20th Century.

    A common link between the two types of mass killings

    Given these profiles, in brief, it is possible to find a common link between the school shooting killer and the mass murder perpetrators. In both cases it can be seen a loss of sensing, that’s to say the incapacity to feel the other as a living subject to whom respect is due. This condition entails a dehumanization that continues to work and leads to an intentionality that always assumes human agency.

    Definitely not insane

    This is a very crucial point in order to argue that perpetrators are not insane (Fisogni, 2010). In the Nazi regime there was bureaucracy that produced a detachment from the world of life, as Hannah Arendt argued in The Origins of Totalitarianism. In school shootings and in mass murders in general, this intimate dryness originates from the deliberate closure to the world of life. As an immediate consequence, the “others” become part of the outgroup of sub-subjects deprived of the primary qualities that define humanity.

    Resentment and frustration make it seem there is a sharp divide between the frustrated student(s) and the education society, unable to perceive what does not work in the intergroup relations. The jihadist ideology of takfir comes to the same consequences through a very simplified logic that brings to the excommunication of whoever does not belong to that society.

    On the other hand, it may be impossible for some to be involved with others

    This general intellectual framework suggests the possibility that an individual cannot flourish when his/her relation to the world of life is compromised. This is because of the inseparable link between reality as a source of positive contents (being, values, life, the opportunity to flourish) and the moral life.

    Into the general perspective of this anthropological framework, it can be seen that two main chances are given to any person: the possibility to choose to sense the other or the impossibility to be involved with others because of a number of pathological matters. The interpretation of evildoing as a loss of personal being may reveal fruitful throws light on the ordinariness (instead of the superiority) of perpetrators.

    Not able to orient to the Good because don’t see anything positive in reality and can happen to any of us if the taste of good is gone from our lives

    Jihadists as well as student/former student killers are often cultivated people, however they can kill innocent victims without batting an eyelid. Beyond an ordinary profile, an impoverishment of intimacy is present: It gives rise to action unlimited in hate, basically because the lack of sensing does not allow them to make the experience of the positive feature of reality. Hence, they are incapable of orienting themselves to the good. Guns or bombs are the final tools of an intimacy dryness that cannot simply be reduced to a mental disease, nor to an unresolved integration: Everyone can experimence it when the taste of good is lost.


    At this point in the discussion, in which, up to here, I’ve simply sketched some main traits of the phenomenon of school shootings (an outgroup dehumanization risen from an intergroup context, intentionally oriented, where perpetrators are not insane), compared to the one of mass massacres, some conclusions are needed.

    What to do? Empathy is the answer. To be part of a group does not suffice for feeling part of a veritable community (a school): it is necessary to check it with a regularity, through the “vocational orienteering” (Moretti, 2016), an interpersonal relation (teacher/student) that allows school to prevent frustration.   


    Castano, E. &; Giner-Sorolla, R. (2006). “Not Quite Human: Infrahumanization as a Response to Collective Responsibility for Intergroup Killing”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 804-818.

    Moretti, M. (2016). Orientamento vocazionale, Università degli Studi di Verona. Master biennale di II livello in Consulenza Filosofica di Trasformazione (Dissertation, unpublished)

    Fisogni, P. (2010). “Terrorists: Analogies and Differences with Mental Diseases. A Phenomenological-Metaphysical Perspective”, Rivista di Psichiatria, III, maggio/giugno, 145-153 -    (2011).

    Fisogni, P. “Diseases. A Phenomenological-Metaphysical Perspective”, Rivista di Psichiatria, III, maggio/giugno, 145-153 -(2011).

    Fisogni, P. “How Dehumanization of Terrorists Reflects on the Ineffability of Al-Qaeda Phenomenon: a Philosophical Investigation”, Economia Autònoma, vol. IV, No. 7, Enero-Junio, 121-132 -(2013).

    Fisogni, P. Dehumanization and Human Fragility, London: Authorhouse - (2014).
    Fisogni, P. “Lone Wolves. Updating the Concept of Enemy in the Social Media Age”, International Journal of Cyber Warfare and Terrorism, 4 (1), 36-44, January-March.

  • JMH 2016 — Essay 6

    by Matthew Gaiser, Calgary, Canada


    What is it that causes people to choose violence as a means of resolving issues or accomplishing goals?

    Nations versus Schools

    Between nations, wars have always been highly costly, in terms of life, treasure, and political capital. Between individuals, there has always been a great deal of risk, both to life and limb. Because of its high cost, it is used at a time when the result is viewed to be more valuable than the price or when the situation is hopeless. In our society we have reduced violence through a combination of increasing the cost (punishment), reducing its efficacy (police forces and militaries which prevent violence from achieving its goals and enforce the cost), making other options for peaceful dispute resolution available (mediators, courts, democracy, rule of law), and preventing/minimizing disputes in the first place (contracts, laws, constitutions, restraining orders, etc). These mechanisms, which have taken thousands of years to develop (and indeed, still are developing), have allowed our society to enjoy the standard of peace and trust that we enjoy today by providing alternative ways of managing disputes and changing the economics of violence.

    However, schools inadvertently create an environment that encourages the development of a culture without means of dispute mitigation and resolution. It gathers youths together, grouped only by age and some arbitrary catchment area (a grade or year), and sorts them randomly (classes or homerooms). Within those cohorts, they are left to their own ends to create a culture of their own. In this process, little regard is given to existing social groups, commonalities, differences, or whether the strong have the opportunity to prey on the weak. “Date of manufacture” is the main criterion which decides who is placed alongside whom. The culture created by the students exists not just within the school environment, but extends itself to all other aspects of the lives of students. From parties on the weekend to excursions with friends to hookups and dating, all the rules for these are determined by the students themselves. Rules are determined by the powerful, those who are popular for looks, money, or athletic ability. Those without power have to live with the rules.

    In addition, it is the recommendation in society (in many cases, the chief recommendation) that if one can, one should just walk away from a fight. In schools, this is not an option as one must attend the same school with the same classmates for years. One cannot simply escape a problematic situation as one must return for hours upon hours each day.

    Society took thousands of years to develop rules, rules which strive to include all under their protection, rules which allow us to enjoy the benefits of modern civilization. In schools, that structure is not replicated, but instead it is hoped the structure will develop on its own, and it is just assumed by adults that this will be the structure of the rest of society.

    Doesn't fending for yourself in school prepare you for the world after school?

    Some would say that dealing with the school situation prepares students for the real world, where you have to form working relationships with people, but there is no similar situation to high school in the fluidity of the rules, the variability of their application, and the lack of resolution or escape. In everything from companies to political parties, people self-select into groups into which they feel they belong, automatically reducing conflict. In nations, which are often comprised of many different people, the rules come from tradition and precedent, and in the case of the most significant ones, are incredibly difficult to change and are backed by the power of the state. Transgressions against an individual are dealt with by some level of government, and the actors are also members of the community. In schools, the first two categorizations of students are created almost randomly and the self-selection begins within a very small group, unlike a state, where individuals self-select into groups. Many of these (post-school) groups have rules and regulations, enforced by active participants in the group. These rules have teeth and at the very least allow for the removal of a problematic individual. And a person is free to leave those groups if it does not suit them. In school, the official rules are enforced by people detached from the culture, teachers and administrators and in only extreme circumstances allow for the removal of a problematic individual.

    In addition, the culture created in the school extends far beyond: to parties, to events, and most recently to Facebook, areas where the enforcers of rules within a school have no jurisdiction. Large parts of school culture are the jurisdiction of nobody but the student body at large.

    Do you remember your own high school experience? Remember the names of the popular kids, the athletes, the hot athletic girls on the cheerleading team, the ones who got an "A" on every test, the ones people admired? The “outsiders” at the school, the teachers, the administrators, could tell you those names as well and their accomplishments. Now, do you remember the hidden interactions that occurred, who cheated on what test, who stole who’s girlfriend, who was the butt of jokes, which students were mocked in online forums or rated one star on rating apps (students at my brother's school built an anonymous social network to facilitate this), who got beat up in the schoolyard, which girls were thought to be “sluts” or “bitches,” which students had absent parents, which students were “snitches,” what the social groups were, where you and your friends fell on the social hierarchy, and who was invited to which parties and what occurred at those parties? Teachers and administrators knew nothing about those happenings, but without them, would you not consider their view of school culture to be distorted or at the very least incomplete, as though they were looking at half of a completed puzzle? This incomplete view makes it difficult for them to find workable solutions to issues between students. Unlike the government, they are members of an alternative community who only enter the student community when there is a complaint. Within schools, the rules are created by the students themselves; “removing oneself from the situation” is not an option. Telling a teacher or adult will get one labelled a “snitch” and will not result in a useful solution as the teacher is removed from the culture, and students can mete out retaliation or anger outside the jurisdiction of the teachers and administrators, everywhere from parties to Facebook.

    Some students have supportive families, some have friends outside schools, some have teachers who believe in them and mentor them, some had video games, some have religion, some have a therapist, and some have a strong sense of will to get them through trying periods within the school social environments. However, these are all inadvertent and incidental solutions, and treat the symptoms, not the core problem.  For those students without a means of escape or diversion, they must suffer through any abuses they endure at school if they cannot resolve them themselves. Unfortunately, that leads a small number of students to believe that violence is a solution of some form. When a student sees no other means of addressing their grievances non-violently (which is not a natural part of high school culture), they turn to violence.

  • JMH International Essays — Submission Form

    Submission Form — JMH International Essays
    on the Psychology of Anger and Violence




    Essay Format




    Submission Form






    There has not been a World War in almost seventy years, but anger and violence still exist.

    There are regional wars, terrorist attacks, inter-national and inter-racial and inter-religious wars.

    There is the ongoing danger of nuclear attacks.

    Within the United States there are gang shootings, school and other mass shootings, and there continues to be physical and verbal abuse within families and bullying at schools.

    It is possible that human nature itself makes anger and aggression necessary. This may be an human version of the tension between opposites visible throughout all of nature.

    Even if this is true, It is also possible that some aggression can be prevented. If there is hope for the level of anger and violence in the world to go down, understanding of the roots and source and nature of anger and violence and aggression should be useful and even necessary.

    In the United States, after each school shooting, there is a nationwide discussion of the causes of violence and of ways to prevent it. Psychologists are always given a prominent role in these discussions. Many argue that giving more money for psychological and psychiatric research and psychotherapy will help with the problem, but the sponsors of this contest do not feel that piling up more and more research studies and doing more and more psychotherapy is enough to solve the problem. The causes are deep, both in the world and in ourselves, and it seems as if there needs to be more searching in the deepest and darkest regions before we can come up with any sort of reasonable plan.

    The sponsors believe that psychology has a role in these proceedings but that we are still at the beginning of our understanding.  

    It seems there are no experts in this discussion. New insights can come from the laboratories or from psychotherapy treatment rooms, but they can also come from any person on earth who has looked deeply into him or herself, into others, and into the surrounding world. 

    It is in this spirit that the sponsors of this contest are asking for submissions from anyone at any place in the world who feels he or she can contribute to our psychological understanding of anger and violence.

    Submissions can express personal insights based on the introspection of the author or from the author's perceptions of the psychology of those around him or her. It can express insights about how religious, economic, cultural, national, and international factors influence our psychologies with respect to anger and/or violence. On the other hand, submissions can be based on research studies.

    It is the hope that a growing understanding in this area can eventually lead to some diminishing of the dangers in the world for ourselves, for our children, and for our children's children.


    Essay Format

    There are two formats that will be accepted:

    Format 1. Essays in English.

    They must be typed or pasted into the Submission Form below.

    (They have to be in English, because the judges only read and speak English).


    Format 2. Media presentations.

    Any media presentation must last no longer than five minutes.

    The presentations, if verbal, must be in English or have English subtitles.

    They must be uploaded via the Submission Form.



    1. Essays may be submitted at any time. We hope to read them as soon as possible after we receive them.

    2. Please submit an essay only if you feel you have a significant contribution to make to this year's subject and if the subject touches you and moves you to write. [The goal is to help with the problems of anger and violence in the world and in ourselves and our relationships.]

    3. No plagiarism is allowed. However, with the proper acknowledgements, you may submit essays that summarize, in a creative way, the ideas of other people.

    4. If there are quotations and/or the use of other people's material, Citations and Bibliography are required.

    5. There can be more than one author for a submission.

    6. If the judges, upon careful consideration, do not find that an essay or media presentation will be useful to readers of this site, they will decide not to publish it here. There decision is final.

    7. No reward or prize will be given for publication of any essay.

    8. All essays will remain the property of the authors. If an essay is selected for publication, before it is published the writer will be contacted to assure that both the publisher and writers agree as to the conditions.

    9. Submissions will not have been published or accepted for publication or submitted for publication at the time of their submission to this contest. (An exception will be for publications on an author's own website where no money has been charged for the essay.)

    10. Any questions or problems regarding the submissions may be expressed to the sponsors through the Contact Form of this website. If at all possible, these concerns will be addressed and corrected.

    11. Please note that no feedback on individual submissions will be possible. The judges wish they could respond individually to each submission. This would be ideal but not possible.


    Contest Restrictions

    The contest is open to anyone in any of the countries serviced by PayPal or Western Union except for the following:

    1. The contest is not to be used by someone to express anger or advocate violence against anyone (or anyones) of any country, tribe, race, or religion. And it is not open to anyone who is found to advocate such things or is a member of a group that advocates such things.

    The goal of submissions should be to help all who are interested, to understand the nature of and source of anger and violence in our own psychologies.

    2. The prize can not go to anyone known to be in an organization on the United States list of terrorist organizations or to anyone for whom the sending the prize would constitute a violation of the laws of the United States or of the country of the submitter or of accepted International Law.

    If it turns out someone is in such an organization or has an intent to harm the United States or any of its citizens, they will forfeit any prize they might win or have won, and the information they give may be turned over to authorities in accordance with law.

    To see an example (but not all examples) of the type of law to which submitters must agree to obey, click here.



    As stated, essays will be read in the order they are received. We will make every attempt to read them and notify the author(s) as soon as possible.


    Submission Form

    JMH International Essays on the Psychology of Anger and/or Violence


  • Key Concept: Impulse, Control, Balance

    Impulse, Control, Balance, Etc.:

    Psychologists now talk about people with impulse control problems or people with addictive personalities. We all know people who fit these descriptions, and we ourselves may have this problem, at least at times.

  • Mobs

  • Psychological Thoughts on the Evaluation of Estate Assets

    Psychological Thoughts on the Evaluation of Estate Assets

    Every family has fracture lines on which they will split apart under pressure and stress (using the imagery of earthquake faults). The division of estates after the death of parents is such a stressful situation. Families can splinter into individuals who never speak to each other again. Larger families can fracture into parts or factions that can remain perpetually at war.

  • Short idea 044

    Short idea (44): I think everybody has been abused by someone or other, to some degree or other, in some way or other, at some time or other. I think everybody has abused someone or other, to some degree or other, in some way or other, at some time or other. Abuse is not everything and everywhere, but it is part of life.

  • Short idea 045

    Short idea (45): There is physical abuse, intellectual abuse, religious abuse, emotional abuse, and abuse where one person browbeats and tyrannizes another person with tastes or values. Physical abuse is probably the most painful. (I say probably.)

  • Short idea 046

    Short idea (46): An abusive episode is like a tornado. Once it passes there is a calm just like on any other day. The only sign of what happened is what is left behind. — The weather is normal 99.9% of the time. Then along comes a tornado and kills a lot of people.

  • Short idea 091

    Short idea (91): There's a parallel between the passion of sex and and the passion of anger. I think almost every human being in the world would agree that there should be some limitation and restraint on the expression of sexual impulses and angry impulses (both for themselves and for others). It would be impossible for all humans to agree on just where the lines should be drawn, but pretend we all could agree. Pretend we all went to a big conference and could all agree that people, from now on, can express their sexual and angry impulses up to a certain boundary line but no further, that certain sexual and angry behaviors are totally unacceptable. Then, we might also agree that, as long as people do not step over the lines, everyone is free to express their sexual and angry impulses any way they see fit in accordance with their own individual styles. The points I am making are: 1) every human being has sexual and angry impulses; 2) every human being has to limit them; 3) every human being needs to express them in some way; 4) and people have just as much variation in their preferred ways of controlling and expressing their anger as they do in their preferred ways of controlling and expressing their loving feelings.

  • Short idea 143

    Short idea (143): Anger is like a storm: You can't prevent or stop or control it, but you can do your best to weather it and keep down the damage.

  • Short idea 167

    Short idea (167): Speaking as a psychotherapist, I guess that some school shootings and work-place shootings are irrational, incorrect, misguided, illegitimate, and immoral attempts to gain power, respect, and dignity.

  • Short idea 168

    Short idea (168): You can make two columns — one for all the things in life that are fun and one for all the things in life that are just work. For many people, as you get older and older, activities that were in the first column when you were younger have to be moved over to the second column. Towards the end of life, activities that were fun or so easy that they were barely noticed, like breathing or walking, can become labor and even labored.

  • Short idea 169

    Short idea (169): Regarding which mattress is the most comfortable: When you are tense and troubled, no mattress feels comfortable.

  • Short idea 175

    Short idea (175): Anger is a way of holding things at arm's length, of isolating oneself from what you are angry at. We know the negative sides of this distancing for oneself and for others, but a positive function is that it seems to be a necessary step in thinking; it is pre-condition of observing and analyzing.

  • Short idea 191

    Short idea (191): There are certain moments when we can become aware of the intimate connection between the Mind and the Body and the World around us. One is when we take an in breath. Another is when we feel our heart beat. Another is when we have a sexual response. Another is when we get furious. And another is when we feel an intense pain. Another is when we see or hear. And so on.

  • The Menendez Brothers

    Do the Menendez Brothers Reside in Many of Us?

    Human nature: Few children murder their parents with shotguns, but there are subtler ways of getting rid of people.

    [Published in: The L.A. Times, December 24, 1993]
    By Thomas Hersh

    A patient in a nursing home (call her "Mrs. Kay") is an 85 year old schizophrenic whose illness is more or less in remission. I look forward to seeing her because of her interesting ideas. She sits alone all day, often with her door closed, and resists everyone who tries to get her involved in activities. When she comes out to eat her meals in the dining room, she makes nasty comments that keep other residents away. She has a reputation. A lady at the home told me that "Mrs. Kay gives me the creeps. She reminds me of one of the Addams family."

  • The Pain from Tucson

    The Pain from Tucson

    Published in the Brattleboro Reformer, January 21, 2011.

    The killings in Tucson have awakened fear and confusion and pain (and even guilt) in many people. Here I focus only on the pain. Perhaps the deepest pain has come from the story of the nine year old girl. I would guess that most people who have seen interviews with her parents and her friends feel upset that this little girl has died. People who are not particularly interested in their feelings may not know they are in pain. Others may have noticed the pain within themselves but decided not to focus on it, because "What's the point: It's just one of those situations where we suffer, and there's nothing we can do about it. This is how life is. We're grown-ups, not naïve kids or neurotics, and we go on with our lives. Even more, 'We didn't know her personally.'"

Two Approaches to Understanding Psychology

via reflection on the world
via reflection on one's immediate experience

   the One   the Whole
the Sacred
the Ordinary
feeling stuck
feelings of failing,        of dying
 waking up — feeling reborn
   focusing   on the self
confronting the   unconscious
the whole person
living in multiple       worlds
learning about     the world
feelings of success,     of the good life