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Few have ever witnessed the dehumanizing potential of mass society so up close as Bruno Bettelheim. After internment at Dachau and Buchenwald, Bettelheim came to America, where he served as director of the Orthogenic School at the University of Chicago from 1944 to 1973. There, he practiced what might be best described as a humanistic form of psychoanalytic theory. His approach was profoundly influenced by his experience of the camps, and, because of this, he went on to view his students — most living with either autism or prior emotional trauma — as struggling to develop an authentic sense of self in balance with an authentic sense of community. It’s important to note too that “authentic” here means what is emotionally and psychologically sustainable, derived from profound consideration of one’s self and one’s community. Many who were closest to Bettelheim in his decades at the school speak of his steadfast dedication to the regeneration of his young students, but, it should be noted, considerable controversy has mounted on this subject (and his reputation in general) since his death. More… “You, Me, and Everyone Else”

Nicholas Cannariato is a writer and teacher living in Chicago.

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For a long time, most academic studies of metal were as dark and foreboding as the songs appeared to be. With titles containing phrases like “heavy metal music and adolescent alienation” (1996) and “delinquent friends, social control, and delinquency” (1993), these works looked at whether being a metalhead was associated with a higher likelihood of depression, suicide, violence, and a particular kind of adolescent male aggression.
More… “The Positive Psychology of Metal Music”

Christine Ro’s writing about books, music, and other topics is collected at ChristineRo.com.

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Creative people walk. The philosopher and compulsive stroller Friedrich Nietzsche left little room for debate when he claimed 125 years ago, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

And he had a lot of company in this belief, especially among the pantheon of the early big heads: Tchaikovsky, Rousseau, Dickens, Mahler, Thoreau, Kant — all were habitual walkers, some to the point of obsession. Thoreau, for instance, adhered to a simple calculus — he could write for an hour only if he offset that with an hour of walking. Tchaikovsky walked precisely two hours every day to remain creative. Rousseau believed he could conceive thoughts worthy of committing to paper only if he walked. Rousseau further claimed that just looking at a desk left him dissipated and vaguely nauseous, foreshadowing the affliction of modern cubicle dwellers everywhere.

The idea for The Ugly Duckling, writes Paul Binding in his newly published Hans Christian Andersen: European Witness, came to Andersen on a walk. Andersen was already famous by then. He was staying as a guest at an estate on the island of Sjælland. Andersen always got himself invited to places like this — grand homes in faraway places belonging to people who would have otherwise ignored someone of Andersen’s class. Being an artist was like a special pass. With it, you could go anywhere and be anything.

Stefany Anne Golberg is a writer and multi-media artist. She has written for The Washington Post (Outlook), Lapham’s Quarterly, New England Review, and others. Stefany is currently a columnist for The Smart Set and Critic-in-Residence at Drexel University. A book of Stefany’s selected essays can be found here. She… More…

August 26 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of William James, a giant in American intellectual history. James was a founder of pragmatic philosophy and of modern psychology. His two greatest works, The Principles of Psychology (1890) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), are towering achievements, still relevant today in providing insights into why we behave as we do and why we believe what we do.

 

For years, I had little knowledge of William James and was instead an enthusiast of his younger brother Henry. It still mystifies me how two such extraordinary minds could have come from the same family. I first read Henry James in college and was soon a fan of his late work. I loved his complex style and subtle if wrong-headed heroines (with whom I identified).

Only much later did I… More…

 

I’ve always been suspicious of the birds. Maybe it’s because they are always spying on us from above. The ancients understood that the birds were in cahoots with powerful forces. They poked about in bird entrails trying to find messages from the heavens, omens from hell. They wondered whom the birds were working for. Poor Prometheus was punished for the simple and humane act of giving fire to mankind. It is no accident that he was punished with the torture of an eagle eternally feasting on his liver. The birds will always sell us out for a pittance.

Our latest humiliation at the hands of our feathery friends comes in the unexpected realm of art criticism. The birds, it seems, enter any arena if there is the chance of making us look like fools.

Here’s what happened. Shigeru… More…

 

At the turn of the 20th century, Harvard University faced a quandary: Where should the new psychology department reside — among the science buildings, or in the new philosophy center, Emerson Hall? The argument was over more than just physical territory: It was about who was more qualified to make statements about human nature — philosophers or scientists. Psychology used to fall in the realm of philosophers, theologians, and the occasional metaphysicians. But with the rise of the theory of evolution, the release of the first comprehensive psychological textbook, and the rock-starification of natural scientists, even the American Psychological Association was holding seminars called “The Affiliation of Psychology: With Philosophy or with the Natural Sciences?”

Is psychology of the brain, or of the soul? Philosophers won Round 1 when Harvard’s psychology department was ultimately housed at Emerson Hall,… More…

 

I can think of no better poster child for the Twelve Step addiction recovery plan than James Frey. This is despite the fact that Frey argued extensively against the Twelve Steps method in his addiction, uh, “memoir” A Million Little Pieces, calling it spiritual nonsense. He wrote, “I’d rather have [relapse and death] than spend my life in Church basements listening to People whine and bitch and complain. That’s not productivity to me, nor is it progress. It is the replacement of one addiction with another.” Frey instead decided he could beat his addiction through sheer willpower.

Soon after, there he was, revealed as a liar and fraud who exaggerated his addiction and melodramatized his rock bottom. If that is recovery through willpower, perhaps that surrendering your will to God thing is looking a little better now. Jody,… More…

 

Oh, the endless promise of the self-help book aisle. Cheaper than even 10 minutes of traditional psychotherapy, and carefully worded to be completely unhelpful without overtly appearing so, it’s no wonder we get trapped by these shiny, happy books. Just follow these 10 steps, and you can turn your nervous breakdown into a breakthrough.

I should have known it was time to switch advisers when Laura started recommending I read books like Byron Katie’s I Need Your Love — Is That True? and Barbara Stanny’s Overcoming Underearning a year or so ago. I halfheartedly skimmed a few of them, saw that they wanted me to write uplifting statements on my bathroom mirror, and quickly took them to the dumpster outside, afraid that someone might come over to my apartment and see them in my trash can. I reported… More…