Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Toxic Narratives of Slavery and Gun Ownership in the United States

Image of black slaves being mistreated
Narratives are not only the stories we tell ourselves and others, but they also comprise stories that are built and construed around the existence and development of countries and nations. Narratives are powerful themes that often define us and highlight our relationship with others, including our identification with our respective cultures and nationalities.

As we are continuously surrounded and, in some cases, even bombarded with certain narrative strains and trends, we come to not only accept and embrace them but often identify with them without thinking. This can be problematic in various instances.

Narratives take place in various forms and dimensions and have different effects on its proponents and recipients, but I shall focus or limit my views here merely on the nation known as the United States. Since the citizens in the early days of this nation had to contend with constant fear of their safety, certain strains of narratives took hold and cast a spell on them and led them down a path quite different from citizens of other nations.

Historically, the United States had to fend off its territories and would fight against its original inhabitants, the indigenous people. In such cases, there loomed the constant threat of potential attacks from Red Indians onto the newly established settlements.

Furthermore, to have, refine and even redefine their own national identity and independence, the settlers also had to fight against British rule through the American revolution and hence create their own separate and distinguishable identity. This double threat of original inhabitants and controlling colonizers made it important for the settlers to ensure not only that their freedom was guaranteed and intact but also to propagate the ability to protect themselves against any kinds of threats to their lives and ideology.

In fact, to accept and face and deal with the brutality of the Wild West, there were two narratives that needed to be reinforced as a nation to bind and unite its citizens.

The first one I simply call the cowboy mentality. In fact, this is essentially an Us versus Them approach to daily life. Yet beneath this approach lies the juxtaposition and the implicit ideology of good versus evil. Put differently, the settlers used morality as a means to justify the usurpation of the land and the slaying of the indigenous people. Since the pioneers regarded themselves as more civilized and, ipso facto, morally superior, they believed that their actions were right and guided and approved by divine forces.

Politically, this ideology has also continued and is known as the manifest destiny of the United States that - at least in the eyes of its own citizens - makes even objectionable and questionable actions morally right.

The cowboys then are regarded as good and pure and as upholders of the faith, whereas others – be they Indians, communists or terrorists - were assigned indiscriminately to the THEM bulk, that is, they were immediately and automatically stapled as threats to their ideology and, by extension, the American way of life. This is also the moral backbone and justification for the fact that the United States often acts as a police state and takes the liberty to interfere globally while aiming to ensure that their own needs and interests are met.

This would also explain the penchant for celebrities and presidents who espouse such sweeping views, be it John Wayne or President Ronald Reagan (an ex-actor who played cowboys as well), both seen as prototypes of American stamina or even the current sitting president Donald Trump who uses rhetoric of harsh force and retaliation mirroring the language of Gung-ho cowboys.

Yet the narrative of moral superiority has led to various dangerous and morally ambiguous interpretations, among them the existence and practice of slavery. This is due to a misconceived and downright racist view of African people, which allowed slavery not only to exist in the first place but to actually thrive and flourish in the United States; in fact, worse, slavery endured even when and long after other nations around the world had abolished its practice.

Although racism against black people is and has been prevalent all around the world, it was never as pronounced as in the United States. For example, Europeans were no less racist in thought and attitude, but this was not as systematic nor as vicious as in the land of the free, the land of the white settlers. Segregation in its systematic form did not exist as strictly and as vehemently, with the noted exception of the Apartheid system in South Africa.

A hatred that was so strong and even led to lynching and mob attacks against black people had always disturbed and puzzled me. How was it possible for these ordinary citizens to hate black people so sweepingly and fervently, not unlike the ways the Nazis hated the Jews? Yet the documentary Not Your Negro shed some light onto the issue. I realized that it was because of the toxic narrative of supposed moral righteousness and superiority that not only brought into being (and supposedly justified) the existence of slavery but also ensured its endurance and continuity.

The underlying problem with such narratives is that they do not go away on their own. Despite the fact of slavery being officially outlawed, the idea of it continued to remain and fester in the minds of many Americans. How else could you justify the fact that it was illegal to have a mixed marriage until 1967, let alone, recent racist acts and attacks of the police force on members of the black community!

None of this was based on economic benefits anymore. It is an often underplayed fact that the booming cotton industry brought wealth to the nation thanks to the free labor of the slaves, but long after, the narrative of slavery still lingered and was so entrenched in the fixed minds of many white Americans that black people continued to suffer throughout the years (and even up to modern days) regardless of being officially and legally liberated from the yokes of slavery; unconsciously, they are seen - and in some cases even tend to see themselves - as continuous victims of slavery.

Slavery does not only create and propagate deep trauma, it takes away and drains all human rights and dignity from black people. According to the misguided and lingering narrative of slavery, black people are nothing but objects. And objects have no souls, no dignity and are easily used, abused and disposed of. These have been the deep wounds and scars that the practice of slavery has left on black people, which has been passed on from generation to generation.

Although I applaud the noble intentions of shows and movies like Roots and 12 Years a Slave to bring and dig up the tremendous amount of pain and suffering that the practice of slavery has caused on people from the black race, I also find it troubling that these ideas would inadvertently be primed in the minds of many people; certain white people would continue their racist ideology based on these attitudes, while black people might unconsciously espouse the views of being victims and identify themselves with the troubled past of their ancestors. 

The second main narrative of the United States has to do with the Second Amendment to which many hold onto fervently and feverishly. This was regarded as a sign of freedom particularly in the days of the settlers. Yet it was perhaps less a sign of freedom but an issue of practical use as the possession of firearms ensured that settlers could fend off enemies.

The enemies included not only Indians but also fellow settlers. Even one’s property had to be defended against with acts of violence in those early days where chaos still reigned in the towns, while law and order needed yet to be firmly established. The roads were dangerous and for safe travel it was necessary to have guns and rifles to protect against robbers and bandits.

All this was seen as a necessity for life and was less a matter of freedom. Guns – and we are talking about rifles and revolvers of the past not automatic weapons - provided protection and could also be used as a form of rebellion against undermining and unjust government control. By ensuring that each citizen had their own gun, it made it difficult for totalitarian regimes to take over or for the British to take back their colony, for instance.

Personally, I have never equated ownership of guns with freedom or safety, but I see it as a dangerous form of enslavement. In my view, life without any weapons would be the most ideal solution. Arming its citizens against others would only create a more dangerous and volatile environment the same way the nuclear race of nations will not make us any safer, but rather quite to the contrary.

A society that is based on empathy and that does not condone violence is the best manner of ensuring safety. The symbols of violence must be eradicated to the best of our means and I strongly oppose educators to carry weapons because it would inadvertently or symbolically promote violence. We need to be receptive towards others and more importantly accept them and not isolate or segregate. If anything, history brings us face to face with our mistakes, but now is the time to make amends with others and with our own troubled and violent past.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Why I Heart Logotherapy: Thoughts on Viktor Frankl's Book and Theory

Blue Book Cover of Frankl's work
Although I have been intrigued by psychology for various years and have studied it academically, it was only about three years ago when I first encountered logotherapy. Yet Viktor Frankl’s theory turns out to be the most fascinating and effective form of therapy.

Hearing Alfried Längle, the main voice and spokesperson of current logotherapy practice, talk about his views on various topics and issues has been both a constant source of pleasure as well as a learning experience for me. I was so impressed by his lectures that I finally decided to read the quintessential work Man’s Search for Meaning by the founder of logotherapy Viktor E. Frankl.

Logotherapy, as the English title of the book underscores, is about finding personal meaning in one’s life. This form of therapy is surprisingly open-minded and open-ended as it is not limited or restricted by specific dogma. There are no pre-conceived sets of meaning and no right answers.

While psychoanalysis as a form of depth psychology is focused on digging up the past to make sense of the present and thereby manages to shed light upon the present states and formation of neurosis, logotherapy is more interested in ensuring that the person finds meaning in their lives both in the present and beyond.

As Frankl himself states, this can be achieved via three different means:

a) One can find meaning and vocation by a work or by doing a deed. This may be having a job that fulfills our sense of mission in life or be a spokesperson or activist regarding an issue that is close to our heart.

b) One can experience something or encounter someone that has deep meaning to the individual. This can be profound experiences ranging from religious beliefs and convictions to falling in love with someone special and unique. It can also be having and being devoted to a family one loves and supports with all one’s heart.  

c) One can find meaning by one’s attitude towards unavoidable suffering. In this case, one encounters suffering but instead of resigning and giving up or escaping it through different protective mechanisms, such as substance abuse or avoidance, one decides to face the suffering head-on.

Now of course, Frankl makes it clear that one should not seek out suffering per se since that would be merely masochistic. But if one is faced with intense suffering, one should retain personal responsibility and not lose sight of one’s freedom and will in the process.

Considering Frankl’s own harrowing and unspeakable personal suffering as a prisoner at concentration camps and his loss of various friends and family members, all of which is detailed in the first half of the book, this viewpoint becomes much more poignant and relevant.

Frankl himself claims that even in the most abject and horrendous of conditions, one has control over one’s attitude towards the situation. There are parts of our lives we cannot control. Life or fate may deal us bad cards, but whatever this may be, one needs to face those challenges directly and not let them distort or affect one’s personal responsibility and freedom of choice.

This may sound quite stoic in nature, but I think he takes it a step further though. When Frankl was facing the worst of human nature, he claimed that many gave up and either committed suicide or allowed their bodies and minds be ravaged by disease and death.

There were far too many who were not given a choice at all as they were killed, but even then, there was a manner of facing their imminent deaths that would make them beyond heroic as they “entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael” on their lips. In other words, although by all accounts and purposes, their death would seem futile and in vain, some would still find a sense of meaning in their unfortunate lives and their ensuing deaths.

As I was reading Frankl’s account, I was reminded of what Nelson Mandela had once said regarding his sense of freedom. Mandela claimed that although they could physically lock him up and even torture him, there was a part of him that the oppressors could never reach or alter, the feeling of freedom and justice he carried deep inside, his personal convictions.

It is easier said than done and rather idealistic one could say. Others state and have even demonstrated that one is shaped by one’s environment and that such atrocious conditions only breed hatred and contempt and bring out the worst in human nature as evidenced in studies in social psychology by Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo.

And in many or most cases, this may be true. But the fact that there are exceptions shows that it is at least possible that humanity has a core that is unconditionally good and even untouched by and above the worst of external circumstances.

It is within this context of personal experience that logotherapy gains its weight and impact. Frankl says that in such a desolate and godforsaken place, there were still glimmers of hope and decency. It was especially in the direst of situations where the value and importance of art and natural beauty came to the forefront.

According to Frankl and contrary to common sense and knowledge, those who appear physically the strongest were usually the ones to give up first, while those who seemed frail and weak were more likely to survive those harsh conditions. The latter despite their appearance tended to have a richer inner life.

The dreamers, those with a rich imagination, had recourse to an inner world filled with images, sensations and vivid memories from the past and this fostered them with a sense of hope making them capable of resisting and surviving the hideous reality in front of their eyes. This strength of imagination aligned with a strong purpose in life helped many of them get through the worst kinds of suffering and to see past and through the injustices occurring to them on a moment-to-moment basis.

Moreover, Frankl makes a point of distinguishing between personal and collective guilt. In fact, Frankl claims that there are essentially two categories of people; those who were decent and those who were not. There were many people committing atrocities in the concentration camps, but there were also some who were trying to help as best as they could.

There were some commanding officers who went out of their way and even risked their lives to provide medication for the prisoners; at the same time, there were those dreaded Capos, prisoners themselves who for a bit of privilege in the form of extra rations of bread or cigarettes mistreated and abused their fellow inmates.

What it comes down to, and this is a general and dangerous fallacy, one should not collectively blame groups of people. This is a dangerous source of prejudice and racism. Whatever wrong your ancestors have done should not automatically reflect on yourself. Everyone should deal with their own personal guilt, meaning one’s misguided actions that were within one’s grasp and control.

However, even in that case, there may be at times accentuating circumstances where one wished to help people in plight but was afraid of risking one’s own life. In that sense, action would have indeed been heroic and rare, since most of us would choose safety over risk and danger.

That is not to say that there are no evil people in the world. One only needs to turn on the news to see atrocities occurring everywhere. One will encounter people with evil schemes and intention anywhere and may be even wronged and harmed by some of them on different occasions, but most of these people may be acting so because they carry an existential vacuum deep inside of them.

In fact, people who have a strong sense of responsibility towards themselves will generally not act irresponsibly towards others. In most cases, those who hurt have been or are hurt themselves in one way or another. This is quite apparent in recent studies of bullying, where the bullies often vie for social approval or rebel against pain and suffering they endure or have been enduring.

But logotherapy sees a remedy for it all. The first step would be to take control and responsibility of one’s actions. That of course presupposes a belief in free will and although psychotherapists in this field are aware of biological / genetic constraints and restrictions, they still believe in moral freedom and choice. There is a voice of conscience in every individual, no matter how small or neglected it may be.

This, in turn, makes logotherapy optimistic but not naïve. It is optimistic because it believes that any person is capable of change for the better, including criminals and evil-doers. But that decision must come from and be made by the individual themselves since no one can make you better except you yourself. Without that will and intention, any intervention or therapy would be futile. No matter how much we want to help people we care about, it won’t happen until they seek help themselves or are ready to be helped.

Logotherapy also does not take a rosy-colored view on human nature. It took Frankl to see the worst in human nature to also appreciate its best. All it comes down to is personal choice. His mission as a psychotherapist is not to provide you or fill your life with meaning but to help you define and find your own sense of meaning.

One can sense the existential influence here in that there is no clear-cut answer or set meaning to our lives. One must both define oneself and find one’s vocation and place in life. Once one finds balance and does what one is meant to do, then one has peace of mind.

For those confronted with tragedy, it would take a strong shift in will to turn it into something positive. We see it with people who accept their personal suffering and triumph by transcending it and turning it into a work of art, an exemplary life or a life filled with fruitful deeds. As such, Frankl turned his own traumatic past experiences into a beautiful and transcending form of psychotherapy.  

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Psychomagic or How Alejandro Jodorowsky Healed my Life

French book cover of Psychomagie
Here’s something I surely did not expect to happen: the director of El Topo and The Holy Mountain and the would-be director of a mind-blowing Dune adaptation Alejandro Jodorowsky would help me heal my life. 

Now I do not claim to say that he changed my mind or got me to see the light singlehandedly (there were various other conscious and unconscious life-long processes at work) but I can firmly state that it is with his help that all the myriad pieces have finally come together and clicked so-to-speak.

But to provide much-needed context, let us rewind to the dawn of this year. 2017 is a year I sometimes jokingly but half-earnestly call a veritable crapfest. It ranks high among one of my most uncomfortable years to date. I am not (only) talking about the world at its current state with all its political turmoil constantly and incessantly swirling around us but more about my own mini-world, the micro-fabric of my existence, also known as my personal life.

To put it bluntly, it was not good (but of course it goes without saying that it could have been worse). My year began with gum / teeth pain on two separate locations of my mouth, both of which had become infected and had to be extracted, as a result.

It is painful to lose one’s teeth; as a teenager I had to endure numerous extractions among which there were four adult teeth that needed to be sacrificed in order to make room for the other ones; yet now, there appeared two other much more visible gaps in my mouth (but thank God they are on the less noticeable back-row sections).

It was during the same time perhaps caused by my infection or perhaps even being the very cause of my infection that my blood sugar skyrocketed making me prediabetic / diabetic since then (the marking line between the two I find rather confusing). That on its own would have been enough to make my hair stand on end but add to that problems in the form of unjust treatment at work, all of which culminated in my loss of extended health benefits (ironically when I needed them most).

This dangerous cocktail sent both physical and mental health down the drain. This all-out stress was hard to bear, and my sleep took a temporary dive; there were days where I had to function on a few hours of sleep and in some extreme cases with no sleep at all! It was with immense discipline, patience and stamina that I managed to get through my tasks successfully despite all the storms around me both within and without. I hung in there like a lost and dazed kitten praying and yearning for better times.

It was the advice of the wise Tarot (which I have been duly and diligently using and practicing for almost three decades now) that gave me strength through these somber and anxiety-inducing days as I was promised better times ahead; the cards spoke of a time where I would be better able to handle my stressors and get (more or less) regular sleep. They also told me that I would be vindicated and that with patience I would be able to right the wrongs that had occurred to me at work and would, as a result, achieve a peaceful mind.

This did indeed happen later this year and helped me to overcome and clear the hurdles and the harmful gossip that had accumulated over time. It was a profound sigh of relief. I felt much better overall but had also made the conscious decision and promise to take my health more seriously and more firmly into my own hands.

I started to portion my meals, walk almost daily for close to an hour, exercise in the form of dance (don’t ask) and over the past few months I managed to shed some five kilos. It is a drop in the ocean, but it is at least something to hold onto and to continue over the next foreseeable future.

On one of my semi-idle days (which was rare but I had an unexpected break between two classes) I ventured into the main municipal library and browsed through the French section. I was looking for the essays of Michel de Montaigne, some of them I had studied during my grad years with great interest and I felt that they could help me to improve my posts in one way or another.

But I did not find that specific book. Instead by sheer accident or coincidence (in neither of which I actually believe in), I stumbled upon (or rather were guided to) the book Manuel de Psychomagie by none other than Alexandro (French spelling of his first name) Jodorowsky.

Now that certainly looked interesting! A few pages in, my eyes fell on the cursive unofficial subtitle, Tips to Heal your Life and I thought of giving it a try. I hesitated at first because my impression of Jodorowsky had been that of a brilliant director who was also a nutcase (the two of which, more often than not, end up going together). But somewhere in the back of my mind, I did recall that he was an ardent believer and practitioner of Tarot cards and that swayed and steered my mind favorably in his direction.

When I started reading this book, I was more than impressed, to put it mildly. It is like reading a psychoanalytic self-help book but on acid. I must admit here that although I have admiration and a certain fondness for psychoanalysis, I had never taken it completely seriously.

One thing we often overlook is that Sigmund Freud was not only a psychiatrist but also a neurologist. He knew about the physical and biological processes even though his form of analysis is often labeled as not fully grounded in science or even haphazard; in short, it is often regarded as a (mere) creative endeavour and sometimes put on the same footing as astrology, for example.

The stereotypes and some random quotes picked out here and there and the (seemingly) rampant obsession on themes of sexuality running through his theories have not helped in this matter to make his theories resonate as much as they should. But I think that this book by Jodorowsky helped me break through the barriers of my own ignorance and prejudices vis-à-vis this type of therapy.

In fact, Jodorowsky uses psychoanalysis as a psychological and philosophical starting point towards self-realization and then takes it a step further. As you may know, psychoanalysts usually dig up the person’s past and scan for childhood traumas; this in turn would help or at least facilitate the clients to shed light upon and re-examine their neuroses or issues at hand.

This can be achieved in various ways, either through free association (the client on the couch spontaneously talks about whatever comes to their mind) or a sleep journal or even vivid and lingering memories that resurface from the past.

The main reason why there is so much focus on childhood is because it is one of the most impressionable stages of one’s life. At that point, we are at our most fragile state of being depending not only physically on our survival but also mentally. These memories (sensations, impressions, thoughts, experiences) are then engraved in our mind and play a significant role in our unconscious.

The unconscious then is really our basement, a repository in which we accumulate and keep track of our most cherished as well as most despised thoughts and feelings. Our consciousness, this would be the executive acting agent referred to as the ego, will try to protect us especially from the negative stuff; the ego will attempt to keep traumas down there in the basement for as long as possible.

However, as we all know from daily experience, repression does not solve the problem. These unwanted thoughts fester and grow in the unconscious and will spring up unexpectedly, either in dreams as nightmares or in the form of neurotic behavior.

Psychoanalysis helps to give insight to the client and unearth these feelings that then explain why one has certain phobias. This could be, for example, a fear of being criticized or judged or of consistently choosing the wrong partner in one’s romantic life. The answer lies and is rooted more often than not in one’s unconscious.

But this is where psychoanalysis would generally stop. You may realize that your abhorrent and abnormal fear of being criticized goes back to your childhood due to steadily nagging parents or that the fear of losing a job equals, at least in your unconscious parts of your mind, that of losing approval, hence the love and affection of your parents.

Once you realize this, you will re-frame your perspective and see everything in a new light. This new way of seeing and understanding the world will help you towards healing from those traumas and to live a more authentic and less stressful and less neurotic life.

But what Jodorowsky proposes, and this is where the magic and his creativity bordering on surrealism come into play, that realization is not enough but actions are needed to resolve these issues. Let us say, you have hatred for your boss – which is in turn a reflection and your own projection of a parent - you need to do something about that.

The good news is that the unconscious is usually satisfied with symbols or symbolic actions. Thus, to vent your anger against the source (boss or parent), you do not need to resort to beating them up (something that is never advisable) but it would suffice to throw darts on their photos. The photograph is a symbol of the person, but the unconscious will feel relieved because it often confuses the symbol with its actual representation, that is, the map with the territory.

Put differently, a psycho-magical act is one in which we heal our traumas via symbolic action. If you find yourself too attached to your mother, for instance, you can tie yourself to her with a (preferably silver, the color of femininity) ribbon and while pronouncing that you are grateful for all her care over the years but wish to become free and independent from now on, you will cut the umbilical cord. The accompanying words are equally important as any magician knows that Abracadabra is mysterious enough to add effect to the magical trick while prayers are utterances and words aimed for the ears of the Almighty.

For each issue, there is a symbolic (and healing) response and the book is filled with many examples. Some of them sound outrageous and may appear offensive for some (keep in mind this is Jodorowsky we are talking about) but others are more than useful. In this way, he proposes a symbolic cure or fix for anything from shyness to jealousy to alcoholism and to even having problems at work.  

The difference between white or black magic and psychomagic lies in its focus. While the first two usually are done with the intention of influencing another person or a certain outcome outside of one’s reach, psychomagic focuses on the given individual and his or her surroundings. In other words, the decisions and actions are your responsibility and lie in your own hands, so psychomagic cannot merely make things happen for you.

For instance, you cannot make somebody fall in love with you or you cannot make your boss promote you against their will, but you can overcome your own shyness and other things holding you back to make a strong impression on the beloved or your boss. In this sense, it is very similar to the practice of Tarot, where the cards do not say what will happen in the future but rather what you should do to have the outcome you desire. There is a significant difference in terms of locus of control here.

Let me give a couple of examples taken from the book to demonstrate this. On the passage on how to regain trust in your own self, that is to repair the negative self-esteem you have, Jodorowsky suggests wearing dark metal glasses and walking around the block three successive times. This will literally show you that you can trust yourself!

One of my favorite pieces of advice pertains to kleptomania. Jodorowsky claims that the desire to steal objects is fueled by the need to confess one’s deed and may be due to an unresolved and harmful case of sibling rivalry; one wishes to steal outside objects to win back the affection one’s supposed rival receives.

The solution? Print out a card that states your nick-name used during your childhood and identifies you as a "child thief." In it you also say that you could have chosen to steal this given object but refrained from doing so. You have succeeded and now ask the person to love you. Then physically put this card next to one specific object you had the desire to steal.

Another one I quite liked was directed towards those who had their childhood "stolen" by either parents or certain circumstances or both. Jodorowsky then advises the client to take a sizable amount of money and go to the casino to lose it all. You cannot leave the casino until all the money is gone; if you happen to win, keep on playing until you go home empty-handed.    

One of the most poetic ones is regarding how to console a sad child. He says that one should make a doll with a marked sad face. You tell your child that this is his or her sorrow and you will all do different fun activities together, have ice-cream, go to the movie theater etc. Once the day is done, you will put helium balloons on this doll and send it to the skies. You will say to your child: “There goes your sorrow. The angels will take care of it. Now you can be happy on your part.”

One of the surprising things I also learnt is the fact that names matter more than we think. For example, if you have the name of a famous writer or composer, it creates a lot of subconscious tension, especially if you are yourself involved in the creative arts. In that way, you will feel an immense burden and pressure to do well but will not able to match the quality of work that your name represents.

The same applies to names, such as Mary, which is symbolic of the Virgin in Catholic belief and it creates not only the pressure on the person to be virtually a saint in life but will even extend itself to her child that needs to be perfect, namely, the child of God!

This book has also helped me in terms of parenting. We as parents often put undue pressure on our children with ominous warnings. If you do not study, you will become homeless; or you need to have a good job or else you will not be able to have, let alone provide for, your family, or worse, when we tell our children they will not be successful in their desired professions.

The problem is that these predictions could (and often do) become self-fulfilling prophecies! Instead, rephrase your words and reward the good behaviors in lieu of badmouthing the ones you do not approve of. But overall, one should be as open-minded as possible and give our children room to grow and live their dreams.

In sum, what this book has showed me is that my fear of failing in my endeavors harks back to a time where I was told all the things I would not be able to do or accomplish supposedly. I had a hard time dealing with criticism; whether it was from home, my wife, or from work, a supervisor, it was nothing but the echo of my parents chastising me and setting me up for future failure.

Yet the most beautiful thing about psychomagic is that once one realizes this, one should not (and often does not) hold a grudge but one understands and forgives. Because the perpetrators themselves - those who hurt must have been feeling hurt themselves - might not have realized the pain they inflicted upon others, be it their children or their fellow human beings.

In that sense, with realization plus action that promotes overall well-being, one can achieve true healing. In fact, when you heal yourself, you are ready to heal others, and in turn this comes back to you more than tenfold. Thank you, Alejandro Jodorowsky from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful book and this unique and wonderfully odd but effective psychological practice!