Category Archives: Psychology


Rothko's Gravestone

Based on my own and my patients’ experiences, I now like to say that the story of loss has three “chapters.” Chapter 1 has to do with attachment: the strength of the bond with the person who has been lost. Understanding the relationship between degree of attachment and intensity of grief brings great relief for most patients. I often tell them that the size of their grief corresponds to the depth of their love.

Chapter 2 is the death event itself. This is often the moment when the person experiencing the loss begins to question his sanity, particularly when the death is premature and traumatic. Mary had prided herself on her ability to stay in control in difficult times. The profound emotional chaos of her baby’s death made her feel crazy. As soon as she was able, she resisted the craziness and shut down the natural pain and suffering.

Chapter 3 is the long road that begins after the last casserole dish is picked up — when the outside world stops grieving with you. Mary wanted to reassure her family, friends and herself that she was on the fast track to closure. This was exhausting. What she really needed was to let herself sink into her sadness, accept it.

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them,” said the writer Isak Dinesen. When loss is a story, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no pressure to move on. There is no shame in intensity or duration. Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning and all the experiences of grief become part of the narrative of love for the one who died.

Getting Grief Right >>


Lichtenbrg Figures

Lichtenberg Figures:  A. R. von Hippel, 1951 by Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001) Photographic enlargement on particleboard Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries Click image for larger view.

Lichtenberg Figures: A. R. von Hippel, 1951 by Gyorgy Kepes (U.S.A., b. Hungary 1906-2001)
Photographic enlargement on particleboard
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries
Click image for larger view.

More at NYRB Classics

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742-1799

“(Lion) fell in love in his tenth year with a boy named Schmidt (best pupil in the school), the son of a tailor, liked to hear him talked about and got all the boys to converse with him, never spoke to him himself but it gave him great pleasure to hear that the boy had spoken of him. Climbed up on a wall after school to see him go out of school. Now he still remembers his physiognomy very clearly, and he was far from handsome, a turned-up nose and red cheeks. But he was first in school. I should be sorry if by this free confession I should increase the world’s mistrust, but I was a human being and if happiness is ever to be attained in this world it must not be sought through concealment, not at all, nothing firm can come about in that way. Lasting happiness is to be found only in uprightness and sincerity…” From The Waste Books, translated by R. J. Hollingdale

“Lion” is one of the names Lichtenberg adopted when he wrote about himself in the third person, i.e. objectively.

Graphing The History of Ideas

Some people do really nice work sometime. Got these graphs from here and here. Visit the aforementioned pages for details and closeups, and click the following images to download larger views.

Influential Thinkers

Influential Thinkers

A History of Philosophy

A History of Philosophy

Also take a look at The History of Western Philosophy.


Section from a Quran Manuscript, 18th century Morocco or Tunisia. Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. | via | Click image for larger view.

“it is as difficult to present a fixed image of a character as of societies and passions. For a character alters no less than they do, and if one tries to take a snapshot of what is relatively immutable in it, one finds it presenting a succession of different aspects … to the disconcerted lens” (Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time: The Captive, 373).

Creativity & Mental Illness

nah puuchh be-khudii-e aish-e maqdam-e sailaab
kih naachte haiN paRe sar bah sar dar-o-diivaar

don’t ask about the self-lessness of the enjoyment of the coming of the flood
for/since they dance, fallen, end to end– doors and walls {58,9} Ghalib

Even if there are connections between creativity and madness, it does not mean that madness is the premise. Mental illnesses are generally disabling, and it could be a chance occurrence that being human, exceptionally creative minds too have their share of them. Acute sensitivity can lead to fruitful distraction and mood lability, but chaos is nothing without kosmos and vice versa.

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra

Illness and Art – Arts & Academe – The Chronicle of Higher Education

The reason why a work of genius is not easily admired from the first is that the man who has created it is extraordinary, that few other men resemble him.  It is his work itself that, by fertilizing the rare minds capable of understanding it, will make them increase and multiply.  It was Beethoven’s quartets themselves (the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth) that devoted half a century to forming, fashioning and enlarging the audience for Beethoven’s quartets, thus marking, like every great work of art, an advance if not in the quality of artists at least in the community of minds, largely composed today of what was not to be found when the work first appeared, that is to say of persons capable of appreciating it.  What is called posterity is the posterity of the work of art.  It is essential that the work (leaving out of account, for simplicity’s sake, the contingency that several men of genius may at the same time be working along parallel lines to create a more instructed public in the future, from which other men of genius will benefit)  should create its own posterity.  For if the work were held in reserve, were revealed only to posterity, that audience, for that particular work, would be not posterity, but a group of contemporaries who were merely living half a century later in time.  And so it is essential that the artist (and this is what Vinteuil had done), if he wishes his work to be free to follow its own course, should launch it, there where there is sufficient depth, boldly into the distant future.  

Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time: Within a Budding Grove, page 142-143.

Group Psychology – Sigmund Freud & Heinrich Heine

Book burning at Opernplatz, 11 May 1933. | Source: Wikipedia | Click image for larger view.

Among the thousands of books burned on Berlin’s Opernplatz in 1933, following the Nazi raid on the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, were works by Heinrich Heine. To commemorate the terrible event, one of the most famous lines of Heine’s 1821 play Almansor was engraved in the ground at the site: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.” (“That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.”) –Wikipedia

In order to make a correct judgement upon the morals of groups, one must take into consideration the fact that when individuals come together in a group all their individual inhibitions fall away and all the cruel, brutal and destructive instincts, which lie dormant in individuals as relics of a primitive epoch, are stirred up to find free gratification. But under the influence of suggestion groups are also capable of high achievements in the shape of abnegation, unselfishness, and devotion to an ideal. While with isolated individuals personal interest is almost the only motive force, with groups it is very rarely prominent. It is possible to speak of an individual having his moral standards raised by a group (p. 65). Whereas the intellectual capacity of a group is always far below that of an individual, its ethical conduct may rise as high above his as it may sink deep below it.

Some other features in Le Bon’s description show in a clear light how well justified is the identification of the group mind with the mind of primitive people. In groups the most contradictory ideas can exist side by side and tolerate each other, without any conflict arising from the logical contradiction between them. But this is also the case in the unconscious mental life of individuals, of children and of neurotics, as psycho-analysis has long pointed out. — Chapter II

Group Psychology & the Analysis of the Ego by Sigmund Freud, 1921 – (complete text).

Christianity – and that is its greatest merit – has somewhat mitigated that brutal Germanic love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals. (…)

Do not smile at my advice — the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is of true Germanic character; it is not very nimble, but rumbles along ponderously. Yet, it will come and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.

From The History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, by Heinrich Heine, 1834.

Related podcast: the banality of evil

Triumph of the Will: a propaganda film commissioned by Hitler in 1934 & directed by Leni Riefenstahl.

Ideology and Aggression: Osama Bin Laden

There is only a perspectival seeing, only a perspectival “knowing”; and the more affects we allow to speak about a matter, the more eyes, different eyes, we know how to bring to bear on one and the same matter, that much more complete will our “concept” of this matter, our “objectivity” be. [GM, Nietzsche]

Ideology and Aggression: Osama Bin Laden by Peter A. Olsson

This text has been scanned from The Crescent and the Couch: Cross-Currents Between Islam and Psychoanalysis, a collection of articles compiled by Dr. Salman Akhtar.

Attempting to advance knowledge about Islam and to create the possibility of a dialogue between Islam and psychoanalysis, The Crescent and the Couch brings together a distinguished panel of Muslim and non-Muslim contributors from the fields of history, religion, anthropology, politics, and psychoanalysis. Together these authors highlight the world-changing contributions of prominent Muslim figures, and elucidate the encounter of Islam with Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. Moving on to matters of family, individual personality formation, human sexuality, and religious identity, they also address clinical issues that arise in the treatment of Muslim patients as well as the technical work of Muslim psychoanalysts.