santa A kindly looking old guy, he seems. Who wouldn’t want someone like him in their corner? A jolly old fellow who promises that we can have whatever we want — just for being good!

But there is no Santa, right. No danger in this blog of a child reading such heresy, I know. But even children have their ways of dealing with literal truth. One year, when my 10 year old daughter and 5 year old son approached me a few days before Christmas, they looked me right in the eye and insisted that I immediately tell them the truth: “Dad, is there really a Santa?” I’m not sure what came over me, but I simply said as gently as possible, “No. There is NO Santa Claus.” To which they quickly corrected me: “NUH UHHH!!!” Their belief stayed intact in the face of “the truth.”

It would, indeed, be nice if there really was a Santa Claus. I confess it – I want what I want when I want it. And in general, I’m pretty good, though far from perfect. I’d need a Santa who was willing to look the other way on occasion.

But I wouldn’t grow if I got want I wanted. I wouldn’t learn the myriad of life lessons that come from the opposite human experience — not getting what I want! I won’t stop wanting nice gifts, and I’ll always enjoy the heartfelt experience of giving gifts that others want. It’s just that Santa can only help us feel good, feel blessed, while “being Santa” for others can do the same for them.

It’s a crucial step in the direction of emotional and spiritual maturity when we can embrace our experiences of not getting what we want: not getting the “good news” for which we had hoped at a dreaded visit to see the doctor; not getting the relationship or marriage we had wanted; not getting the Christmas bonus that maybe our friends are getting; or not getting our way in a contentious national election. While these experiences cause us heaps of insecurity, disturbing fears, and real life suffering and pain, they are also the stuff out of which resilience is made.

A very technical definition of resilience is “the ability of a substance or an object to spring back into shape; elasticity.” If you have had this experience — of springing back into shape after receiving a blow — you know how miraculous it can feel. But it’s no miracle really. It’s a set of skills: calling friends when something awful happens and hearing their words of comfort and support; resisting the urge to withdraw into a tight little cocoon when life has dealt you a cruel knock; reaching out to others who need a hand when you feel you have little left to give; asking your God or Higher Power to show you the light in your darkest hour; talking with a counselor or pastor; or just taking the only next step you can see when you are weary and feel like the journey to whatever is next is beyond your imagination.

These are the things that help us grow through loss and not getting what we want. I will still give Santa my list of things I want next year. But I will continue to give thanks for the things I don’t want — the things that have forced me to look deep inside and to look outward to my friends and others so that I can find the character that shapes my soul and that gives me hope, vision, and purpose. And to the things from above that I often forget about. And while honoring the spirit of Santa, I am more than happy to celebrate the truth that really…, there is no Santa.

Peace and grace to you and yours in 2017!



Sex and Politics

sex-and-politicsa When it comes to sex and politics, it seems that these days the two topics make — well, yes — strange bedfellows. There is lots of talk about videotape, indiscretions, shame, hacked emails, and loud accusations. All of this makes for great entertainment, but it doesn’t seem to really enlighten us much. Just lots of noise, blame, and shouting.

We’re trying to choose a President for our country at this particular juncture in history, and yet many feel very disenfranchised by both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. Donald is accused by his detractors of being a bigot and a philanderer; while Hilary is accused of being a liar. Why would we want either to be a leader of the United States?

I wonder, though, about what we’re not talking about. In pointing the finger at this candidate or that one, we know that psychologically, we’re also unconsciously pointing the finger at ourselves: our own bigotry, our own lying, our own sexual compulsivity, and our own difficulties with speaking and living with a sense of moral integrity. Do we not all struggle with these issues in one way or another?

What if, instead of shouting and blaming and moralizing, Donald and Hilary offered real moral and spiritual leadership by modeling what it is like to speak with a sense of vulnerability about sex and about the abuse of power? What if Donald’s wife and daughter were allowed to speak frankly about their own experiences of being objectified by men, or even their experiences of being assaulted? Statistically, there is a 3 in 5 chance that they have had that horrific experience. Beauty and femininity often come packaged together at a considerable price — partly, the price of verbal and physical attacks that leave deep and lasting emotional scars.

What if Hilary could speak openly about how she, as a woman, a daughter, and a wife, has experienced objectification and out and out emotional damage in her life and work — even in her own family? She could lead all women and men in her constituency by modeling openness and honesty rather than simply scapegoating Donald Trump. Hilary could earn more respect by resisting the temptation of making more of a spectacle of the Trump videotapes than the media has already done so — and done so, ravenously and unfairly.

And can you imagine what it would be like if Donald Trump and Bill Clinton would join forces in talking with men about what is inappropriate “locker room talk,” about the dangers of men behaving unconsciously. Can you imagine how this would serve women and men well in their confronting things like the reality of date rape on college campuses? I think Trump and Clinton should create, immediately, a non-profit foundation devoted to educating young boys and grown men about the real and present dangers involved in objectification and sexual acting out to our daughters, sisters, and wives or partners!

Carl Jung pointed to the dangers and destructiveness of psychological projection, and he worried deeply about the potential ruin of civilization unless we each do our part in “reclaiming our projections.” I think Jung was prescient of our current political and cultural environment. We need leaders who refuse to polarize and attack, but who can lead us in building bridges between people of widely different temperament and beliefs. Our country is founded on the principal of government “of, by, and for” ALL the people — not just the ones with whom we agree, nor the ones who fit our image of moral superiority and purity.

Pray then, for sanity and enlightened wisdom in this crucial moment in our political history. Pray for moral courage to speak honestly, passionately, and deeply; but, moreso, to speak with the goal of unifying us. No one is pure or perfect — we all have personal and private things about which we could feel some degree of shame. So let’s pray for finding common ground that heals our great divides, rather than building more isolated islands that keep us from working together to solve our problems.

JUNGIAN WINTER INTENSIVE: A Continuing Education Dream

This continuing education experience would be a dream come true to attend. I plan to sign-up for it within the next week or two; and I’d love to have some fellow travelers with whom to go on this pilgrimmage. Just click on the link above to see all the great plans for this itinerary and conference. If I get 6 others to go along, I’m providing a $300 discount off of the registration fee to one fellow-traveler by way of a drawing.

Jungian winter Intensive 2017


Pregnancy    This little guy/girl is what pregnancy looks like from the inside – well, yes, that is with the light turned on. Little does she/he know the life that awaits in a few months.

But what about pregnancy dreams? Lots of people have them. So what are they about?

A woman came into my consulting room one day for her regular session , and soon into the hour, she shared a dream about being pregnant. Neither one of us had any idea about the meaning of this dream. So I suggested to her that she go home and mark her calendar 9 months from the date of her dream, so that she could notice what might have “come to birth.”

We continued to work together during the ensuing weeks and months. Then, one day, I noticed something different about her. She talked in that session about a number of things that were on her mind – some celebrations, some disappointments, some sadness and hurt and feelings of rejection. But what impressed me the most, for the first time really, was a kind of resiliency and self-confidence coming from her that sounded surprisingly new and solid — well-formed, developed. Over several years of working together, we had often discussed her lack of such solidity when it came to life’s myriad of ups and downs, the times of loneliness, and her occasional experiences of disappointment and loss. She had worked hard to know how to cope, but her childhood years of being ridiculed and emotionally neglected had not given her the inner, psychic muscles she needed to deal with such things very well.

When she mentioned, in passing, that it had been 9 months since her dream of pregnancy, it all suddenly made sense. In the midst of her struggles and her efforts to cope and change, an inner wisdom had been growing in her, mysteriously and unseen. Her psyche knew that this had begun to happen – that’s what her dream had been about! But neither she nor I could have known that at the time that she first shared her dream 9 months before.

So, we shared together in this moment of wonder and appreciation for this miracle of “inner birth” and new life — a new creation. A newfound, felt sense of inner strength had been discovered – but maybe, more accurately, had been received and nurtured to fruition. Gone, for now, was the negative thinking, guilt, and shame. In it’s place, life! Life, with both joy and sadness, happiness and sorrow. Life in its fullness.

Not all dreamwork feels this miraculous, certainly. But at the heart of the dream is the soul yearning to grow and to be alive.


Aphrodite’s Revenge and the Beautiful Life

AphroditeThe goddess Aphrodite represented for the Greeks the sacredness of beauty and sexuality – not the only aspect of the feminine, certainly, but an essential one.

And so, too, for civilization, in the Greek way of thinking about such things. We need ways to honor and to embody Aphrodite energy in our architecture, in the arts, the design of our parks, and in the quality of our relationships too. But where in our culture, are these values still expressed in conscious ways that heal our troubled souls?

I think a case could be made that, in the way our planet is suffering, we can tangibly see how Aphrodite is actually under siege. She is ignored, or more likely, actually debased, and so earth suffers under the weight of Aphrodite’s repression. Beauty is being exchanged for the ambitions of technology as Earth’s resources are extracted (raped?)at a perilous rate. The beautiful life in exchange for humankind’s thirst for profit and material success.

James Hillman addresses this in his book, Anima (1985):

      Modern man has an accumulated debt to Aphrodite on which she is today exacting payments at a furious rate. It is as if she were actually demanding our souls for all the centuries that they were denied to her by Judeo-Christian repression. But we pay her back best in the true coin of Aphrodite. To pay her in the guise of soul-indulgences cheats the real cost. It is more comforting to visit her planetary house in the name of anima development than it is to suffer the venereal evils, entanglements, perversions, revenges, furies, and soporific pleasures for her sake alone. (p. 29)

Heavy duty stuff! Here’s the take-away for me though…

What if it is true that Aphrodite is actually in a state of revenge? Not debased to the point of inaction, but to the point of full-on counter-attack? We might see her revenge in the multiplication of porn-sites on the internet, making a semblance of Aphrodite easily accessible, but doing so in dark, illicit, and destructive ways. Aphrodite appearing now in divorce court in the form of “Exhibit A: The Facebook Account!” The spirit of Aphrodite acted-out in our addictions to all sorts of substances and things. Our culture values work for work’s sake, for ambition, for financial and material gain — but where has beauty and soul-filling sexuality gone?

Well, of course beauty never goes away. Beauty is eternal or archetypal if you will. It is spirit as well as body. But when Beauty’s value is shoved to the side in favor of overpowering the spiritual needs of the body, Beauty exacts a price in her own ways.

Christianity has to assume some of the blame here, as Hillman states: for centuries of treating the body as if the body itself is sinful, something to be ashamed of; and thus sex, too, got a bad rap for a long, long time – until Freud and Jung and Horney and others invited Aphrodite back into the consulting room and back into open-eyed culture, making what had become unconscious conscious once again.

We need Aphrodite. Not for her surface beauty alone, but for her substance. The beautiful life is a life worth living and tending. We honor Aphrodite when we visit museums and gardens or when we care for the textures and colors and shapes in our homes, in the clothes we wear and the foods we consume — good, healthy, delicious, sensual foods that is. We honor Aphrodite in marriage and in intimate relationships when sex is cherished. And as John Gottman (The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work) says, everything in marriage is sex — not just physical intimacy, but also the intimacy involved in sharing housework, in how we handle differences, and nurturing trust and friendship.

We honor Aphrodite, too, when, we do her bidding for the beauty of the earth and the cleanliness of our skies, and in the protection of our rivers and lakes and oceans. When we balance work and work’s rewards with the embodied joy we experience in deep and meaning-filled friendships; when in our communities we love the least ones along with the easily love-able, and when we fight for laws that protect earth’s beauty rather than ravaging her. In all these ways, and more, we turn Aphrodite’s revenge into Aphrodite’s smiles.



Self WorthSo how does one get self-esteem or a feeling of self-worth? Where does it come from?

It all depends, doesn’t it. Your boss may define your self worth in one way. While your wife or your husband or family may define your worth in a very different way. In a culture increasingly dominated by people born after 1980 — the millennials — worth may be defined based on appearances or having innovative ideas or on being “millennial-like.” Those of us in the baby boomer generation often are fighting to preserve a sense of worth by staying fit and flexible, eating right, boosting our 401-K’s, and basically fending off the effects of old age at every turn.

Books, articles, and blogs are written about how to develop one’s sense of worth, but I wonder if any of them have lasting value. I’m sure some do. They encourage us to learn to love ourselves. But how, prey tell, does one love oneself if he or she is already feeling unlovable? This makes no sense to me. I recall those silly Saturday Night Live skits where the comedian sat in front of a mirror mimicking the words, “I’m special, I’m lovable, and darn it – people like me!”

I am guilty, myself, of misplacing my sense of worth from time to time. I used to think that if I had the right job or the right relationship or worked out just the right amount of time, that I would gain a sense of self worth. While these methods work temporarily, I can tell you that, after many attempts at these ego-centered solutions, my research says conclusively that they do not work!

So what does work, we ask?

Consciousness. Consciousness, alone, is the sole lasting solution to the challenge of self-worth.

My Methodist heritage and my training as a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist teach me the same thing. There is an inner wisdom instilled in us from the moment of our conception that resides within us until the time we die. John Wesley used an unfortunate, linguistically difficult term for this: “Prevenient Grace.” Jung taught the existence of a Divine or Sacred Self that is constantly working silently in the background to shape us and to develop our felt sense of worth. The problem is not that we have to find our self worth — it’s more that we are rarely encouraged in our culture to look within to locate its source. To actually become fully conscious is a lifetime task, and it’s not really for the weak of heart. Consciousness requires effort, awareness, and usually a spiritual guide, a compassionate therapist, or a guru to help bolster my courage along the way.

For example, if I am truly conscious, then there may be those in my circles of influence who will disapprove if I am not working so hard to please them. Or if I am being consciously aware of what is going on in my selection of relationships, I may begin noticing whether this or that relationship is actually healthy for my soul. Is it the right timing? Am I carrying too much of my share of the relationship load? Is the relationship a good balance of communicating and responding to each other’s needs, or do we spend enormous amounts of energy avoiding any hint of a conflict — choosing to remain unconscious? Or it may be a job that puts pressure on me to stay unconscious, to avoid what is truly in my heart, to follow the crowd, or just get a paycheck. This kind of situation is a prescription for loss of soul and loss of one’s sense of health and meaning and spirit.

You see, consciousness is about values — inner values. Values connected to the way you and I are within ourselves, and how we express those values in the ways we live and work. And values are connected to our emotions: sadness, longing, desire, pleasure, pain, anger, joy, shame, and fear. Our emotions are designed to be like a compass that guides us through life, steering us away from the rocks and guiding us to what makes our souls sing the songs they were meant to sing. Consciousness brings with it a certain amount of felt anxiety, to the extent that we are refusing to simply adapt to others’ values. But consciousness also breathes into us the joy of self worth and living a life that is completely worth living. Not a life without failure from time to time; but certainly a life that has loads of meaning, heart-felt experience, and a fair dose of adventure.


Stopping Time (2)Recently, I had a couple of experiences in which it felt as if time stopped. A felt sense of time stopping, not a logical measuring of time. I did not plan to have these experiences, although I certainly was an agent in bringing them about. Let me explain.

The first experience happened unexpectedly. I met up with a friend whom I had not seen in nearly 50 years. We had had a close relationship long ago in elementary school and then middle school, but we had stayed in touch only very sporadically over the years. We really didn’t know who the other had become, but there was a definite mutual interest in catching up. So as it worked out, our paths crossed one crisp, sunny early spring afternoon, and we took the opportunity to meet for a walk in a local park.

We were only together for a couple of hours, but it felt as if time mysteriously stood still. In all, we probably walked a total of three or four miles, but distance was meaningless. If I had planned to go for a 3 or 4 mile walk, knowing me, I would have procrastinated, found other things to do. But this was different. We connected. Awkward at first, not knowing how to start a conversation that had ended almost 50 years ago, we easily slipped into a conversation that flowed with a rhythm as palpable as the steps we took effortlessly and joyfully. There was a sense of seamlessness between our conversation, the sharing of memories, noticing the obvious beauty of our surroundings, and promising to stay in touch as we said our goodbyes. I have little doubt that we will stay in touch. We shared something so special — both created by us, and also created by something that was bigger than us. I have no assurance that we can succeed again at stopping time in the same way. Maybe we can. But no. This felt like a gift — a gift joyfully and gratefully received.

The second experience happened a few days later at a Moody Blues concert at a local theater. The crowd was made up of mostly old folks like me: people who listened to the albums of these wonderful minstrels who flourished during the mid-60’s and 70’s; and now we are all in our mid-60’s and 70’s! It was, by far, the most wonderful concert I have ever attended. The old dudes on stage took us back to when we were young — if only for a few moments. We listened, rocked in place, stood and cheered, sang, and remembered who we were before life happened to us in ways both pleasant and sad. And we forgot for those three hours who we now were — all was timeless. There was only an eternal now, savored and enjoyed and celebrated — at least, until the last chord faded with the applause, and we began heading back into the reality we call our lives.

Both of these experiences are holy moments for me. I cherish them as two of the most important experiences — among many others — in my life. And they cause me to wonder. I wonder whether I can find other opportunities to stop time. These times carry a felt sense of mystery that transcends life, infuses it with meaning and joy, and also a longing for more. If these times are gifts to us, can we not find ways to be open to receiving them so that our lives are enriched and deepened by them? Can you join me in the search? Let me know what you think.




humming-birdWhen our lives are going well, we feel a certain “hum.” Skies are often blue, the sun shines bright, and warm, and when we look into our check books, we seem to always be in the black. Work is clicking along, with an occasional bump or pothole that temporarily deters us; but soon, with good colleagues and mental agility, we are back on our way, humming right along. We are loved and we love, and life is good.

But, what do we do when the “humming” stops? The stock market tanks, a door shuts on a cherished dream, a relationship abruptly ends, a loved one dies, or some other crisis drops down from the sky as if from “out of the blue.” What then? We listen, but there is no hum. We try to find the hum, to get it humming again, but effort and willpower get us nowhere. Maybe, instead, there is only silence — or pain, or anger, or fear, or helplessness.

Maybe we turn to God in such times – a common practice. But to which God do we turn? The God of comfort and compassion? Or do we turn to the God referred to by Jesus when he said, “Whoever wants to save (get the hum back) his or her life must lose it (the hum)?” Or do we turn to the God of solace and soothing embrace? Or what about the God of emptiness and non-attachment as suggested by certain Buddhist ideals? Which God we turn to can make a world of difference when the hum stops.

Carl Jung said that “God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my path violently and recklessly, all things which alter my plans and intentions, and change the course of my life, for better or for worse.” When the hum stops, part of the problem we face is that we miss the hum, we seek the hum as if we are lost children longing for home, we want to re-start the hum — and thereby, in our anxious striving, we end up increasing, rather than decreasing our suffering. It’s hard and nearly impossible to muscle the hum back into its resonant existence, no matter how hard we try. It’s not so simple as finding a key or unlocking a lock in order to unleash the lost humming. Sometimes, maybe always, the best thing to do when the hum stops is to lean into its mystery, lean into the unknown, see what else is there in the middle of our plans getting turned topsy turvy.

If we’re running into brick walls at work, for example, maybe we see in this how devoid our lives have become of play. Have we lost touch with our children, or have we been absent from the “child” that lives within each of us? If we’ve been living at light speed while sucking the life out of the humming, is there a message of stillness and observation and a need for peace in the midst of the lost hum? If a relationship is ending, is it really a catastrophe, or is it life inviting us into creating a new version of who we are? Are there others who want to be there for us, or new friendships waiting to be kindled? Looking backwards with 20-20 vision, we often see that this is absolutely the case. But what if, in the throes of hum-less-ness, we developed better forward-looking vision? We might glimpse the seeds of hope, creativity, spontaneity, laughter, new life, and adventure in the dark soil of loneliness, dullness, and even depression.A depth psychological view, a view from the perspective of the soul or the collective unconscious — or whatever you wish to call it — of hum-less-ness suggests that there is a whole world of creative energy beneath the surface of the way we wish our lives to be. I think, though, that it might be an entire rich and expanding universe, actually, that is down there. I’m betting on that, both for you and for me.



John R



counselingShould I or shouldn’t I pursue psychotherapy? And if so, then when and with whom? Important and sometimes crucial questions.

Truth is, most people wait until there is some kind of crisis in their lives. A loss, a break-up of a relationship, an illness, a job loss. These are the most obvious times, and it’s best, I think, if it’s sooner than later — before things get out of control or start falling apart.

But I think there are other not so obvious times to seek out a psychotherapist, someone who is most of all a good listener. We suffer most, sometimes, when we feel alone or when we feel as if no one really knows who we are. Conversely, we feel better if there is at least one person in the world who listens and cares or who affirms us just for being the person we are rather than for what we do. We are human BEINGS, right? Not human DOINGS.

We are a complex lot, we humans. And we are so imperfect. So, it’s easy to get in the rut of putting on a public face everyday for each other, for our children, for our partners, for our bosses. It can be frightening to let others know our hurts and our insecurities. But the  public faces we put on are like the tip of the iceberg — there is so much more beneath the surface of the lives that others can’t or may not want to see. Who knows the secret or private or even the hidden realities of our lives, the lives we know best usually only when we lie awake at night thinking, wondering, wishing, or worrying?

When I was in between relationships some years back, I posted a profile on an internet dating website. Instead of stating my vocation as psychotherapist or minister — which I knew would cause most women to run away as quick as possible — I listed my vocation as “someone who listens and keeps secrets.” I figured this might be more intriguing than frightening, and that I might attract someone who would want to get to know me beyond my public image, title, or job. And thankfully, I did!

We tell our therapists, mostly, our secrets — that which we would otherwise keep to ourselves. Oh yes, we might share over coffee or lunch with a friend something of what we are discussing and learning about ourselves in therapy. But with our therapist, we can go as deep under the surface as we wish; or we can go as deep as we feel safe to delve. Someone who has no judgment or no agenda except to be there for us and us only — to me, this is the core of a good therapist. Someone who knows me at my best and at my worst, and helps me to know even the darkest parts of me that exist like unexplored islands of mystery, discovery, and healing. I know well how seeds long buried in the fertile depths of the soul can grow into something life-giving and beautiful.

So, maybe there are many reasons to seek out a psychotherapist. But this is the key ingredient I try to provide: a safe sanctuary, a sacred space. We meet to talk about whatever is important, whatever hurts, and whatever gives the soul breath, life, hospitality, and joy.