Reading “Every Grain of Sand” by Gregg Levoy [October 1992] affected me not only emotionally but morally. How long had it been, I asked myself, since I’d read something that made me vow to be a better person? I liked the piece because it was so unabashedly moral, so clear about what was right, yet not at all superior or preachy.
I get from The Sun what I’ve always looked for in churches and synagogues, in Quaker meetings and twelve-step programs. I find a sense of shared values: not a knee-jerk agenda, not a spacey seeking after something-or-other, but a commitment to and trust in the spiritual journey. I’m grateful for this community of writers and readers.
Stephen R. Schwartz, in “Compassionate Self-Care” and in his interview [October 1992], talks about a “portal of love” in the frontal body. It reminded me that human beings have lost a body part. At least English-speaking people have. It’s the breast. That’s right — the breast, singular.
The Oxford English Dictionary says that for about a thousand years or so, breast denoted both the mammaries and that all-important feeling center of the body, the upper third of the frontal torso. Not anymore. To get a feeling for what I mean, try talking about your breast with someone. If you’re a man, you’ll get some strange looks; if you’re a woman, you’ll almost certainly be misunderstood. Bosom likewise has shifted in meaning.
As our language changes, so does our consciousness. What has no name seems not to exist. It’s startling to realize that we have lost the point of reference in our language for the very home of our human feelings, and it points up the importance of Schwartz’s work, for soon we may lose heart, too.
The Stephen Schwartz interview had me engrossed, intrigued, and almost a believer — until the last page. Come on: a healer who exhorts other people to feel subtle “movements of energy in the body” overlooks for months a tumor in his own chest the size of a basketball? Once you remove the hushed reverence you surround him with, you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty funny joke.
A few years ago, just after dusk, I took a stroll in Riverside Park. Suddenly, a man came out of nowhere, lunged at me, and punched me in the head. He did not want money; with wild eyes he dared me to fight him. I ran. He pursued. When he stopped chasing me, I turned around and stalked him until I reached a telephone. The man turned a corner, however, and was gone by the time the police arrived.
Perhaps there was a racial motive; the man was black and I am not. Perhaps he felt economic resentment; the man appeared to be homeless and I am not. More likely, there was no motive other than paranoid schizophrenia. About six months later, I saw on the news that a man had been arrested at a bus station in Newark for stabbing a young woman to death. The man looked like my assailant.
Violence is not funny. “Meet Mr. Fist” by Miles Harvey [October 1992] is the stupidest story you have ever published.
When it comes to Miles Harvey, I’m all ears. So let’s hear more of him if we can.
I am down to two subscriptions: The Sun and the New Yorker. The latter has just changed its format and increased the protuberance of advertising to such a degree that I’m tempted to drop my subscription. At any rate, it hits me with such a gratuitous punch in the nose that I’m sending you an extra twenty bucks for “telling me everything, kid.” I know what you’re up to.
As a practicing psychotherapist of twenty years, I greatly enjoyed the interview with Tom Rusk on guided self-change [“Replacing Therapy,” September 1992]. For a long time I have felt somewhat (dare I say it?) unprofessional for my refusal to hide behind the trappings of my position as therapist. Self-disclosure and the acceptance of essential values have been prime tools in my work.
However, though I agree with most of what Rusk had to say, transference is a fact of life (in and out of therapy); he is quite naive in his mission to eliminate it from self-change work. I also mistrust his categorical rejection of traditional therapy principles. Why do so many innovative thinkers fall into the trap of re-dogmatizing the fields they are attempting to free? People come to therapy for so many reasons, from so many scenarios of wounding, experience, and need. Does Rusk really think his model would even begin to fulfill all the needs these richly-varied individuals present?
His model surely wouldn’t supplant such valuable methodologies as bodywork, gestalt, and dream integration, to name a few. Survivors of severe trauma (e.g., rape, combat, natural disasters) are known to have profound electrical-chemical alterations in their brains and nervous systems. Surely Rusk doesn’t think the same approach is appropriate for, say, a victim of ritualized sexual and physical abuse and for a middle-aged executive searching for meaning in life.
Tom Rusk, M.D. responds:
Of course I can’t eliminate the transference in counseling, but I deliberately minimize it in a number of ways. From the outset, guided self-change cultivates the client’s self-reliance by helping him or her develop a personal course of healing with the expert advice of the guide. In fact, I refer my clients to a wide variety of physical, pharmaceutical, and psychological resources, anything I can think of (or they inquire about) that may be useful to them. As I tried to make clear in my remarks about drugs and electroshock, there are hardly any existing methodologies I would steer clients away from. The crucial question is whether those methodologies are explored as part of the client’s own experiential learning, or as part of the therapist’s “treatment” of so-called diseases and disorders.
The learning approach recognizes that no one is “normal” and everyone can change his or her life for the better; the treatment approach judges the client according to pathologically-oriented diagnostic standards and tends toward pessimism about the client’s potential.
Do I really think the open-ended model of guided self-change can better fulfill the needs of the richly-varied individuals now in conventional psychotherapy? Absolutely.
The ordering information we gave last month for Mark O’Brien’s Breathing was incorrect. The book is $3 postpaid from Little Dog Press, P.O. Box 684014, Austin, TX 78768.