Thank you all for your interest in exploring the ever-present issue of narcissism in contemporary men and women today and its underlying impact upon romance and eros. And many thanks go to you, Bonnie, for providing this forum. These issues have had an impact upon me far longer than the ten years it took to write the book. As Jung has said, and I’m paraphrasing, ‘all psychological theory is based on personal confession.’
Jung has been stalking me since I was eight. My synagogue on Pico Blvd. in West L.A. was just across the side street from a little building called “The Jung Institute.” The eight year old thought it was a Chinese dentist! Seriously. In high school and early college my friend Tom and I used to go over to his Uncle Hal’s home. ‘Uncle Hal’ was Hal Stone, former president of the L.A. Institute and originator of Voice Dialogue. My master’s thesis in 1974 led me to fieldwork among the Mayan healers and shamans of Guatemala, and the spiritist mediums of Brazil. My mentors at the time were Stanley Krippner, Alberto Villoldo, and Gordon Tappan at Sonoma State. Jung as many of you know, wrote his dissertation on mediumship practices which were all the rage around the turn of the 19th century among psychologists in Europe and America. When I returned to the United States I interned on a psych ward that conducted research with psychotic patients who were permitted to go through their processes without the use of medications. I conducted a dreamgroup on the ward and collected patient dreams that profoundly mirrored themes of death, rebirth and initiation that were common to the ritual practices in South America. Portions of my thesis revolved upon these themes.
These seminal experiences ‘marked’ me in a significant way, and set me on a course that has brought me to where I am today. I like to think of that early work as a ‘former life’, for I was infused in those early years with creative energies of the “puer aeturnus”—the eternal youth. Now, at 61 years of age the energies of the “Senex,” the old father, are part of a continuum of being that balance those youthful energies still alive within me. Through the emerging acceptance of my own finiteness and the sense of responsibility as a man and a father I have come to value what it means to place the other’s needs before my own, to be less preoccupied with grand inner truths and more cognizant of the relational sphere.
You will read about Emmanuel Levinas whose work was informed by the Holocaust and the enormous loss he suffered. Yet despite this, rather than succumbing to depression and ultimate suicide--like so many sensitive Jewish poets, artists and writers who survived the camps--Levinas and his philosophy exudes a life-affirming spirit, a vibrant poetic cadence of being—a being for the Other--an other whom he felt compelled to place before himself. As you will discover, this is the key to helping a man to find his way out of the labyrinth of narcissism, that insulates him from all threat, and destroys all links to anyone that might try to love him. It is often a result of trauma or loss or misfortune that ultimately shatter the illusions of the grandiose defenses and de-centers the narcissistic ego. It may lead to enormous pain and loss, but if endured, may awaken a man’s capacities to love.
The ancient stories of Eros and Psyche, and Narcissus and Echo are the templates that we use to describe the entrapment and the transcendence of these destructive aspects of narcissism in romance. I was gratified to read in earlier posts of readers’ interest in the Psyche and Eros tale. Because my book is written from the male perspective about men’s narcissism, I approach the myth in much the same way as von Franz, in her great work on The Golden Ass, to which the Psyche story is a part.
The book is long. Please try to stay with it as best you can. One month, both Bonnie and I agreed, is not enough time to absorb its many turns. For the sake of this book club, if you do not have time to read the whole book, read the introduction and the introductions to each of the three parts, as well as the concluding remarks at the end of the book. Many people really like the last chapter. Do what you can. Find the stories or dreams that fill its many pages that speak to you. As I have described in the introduction to the book club page, there are three themes arising from the book--men's narcissism beneath romantic fusion and their underlying fixation with the mother complex; denial of love through negation of the other and destructive narcissism; and transcendence of narcissistic defenses and the awakening of capacities to love.
The book is not lacking in clinical insights for men and women practitioners. But as John Beebe says in the blurb on the backcover, none of us as authentic relational beings can escape the pitfalls of the “fear-driven shadow of predation” that we encounter at some point in our long histories of love, loss and tragedy.
I look forward to hearing about your experience of Eros and the Shattering Gaze, and I invite any and all questions evoked from the reading.
By the way, if you still need to order the book, you can do so here.
With Kind Regards,