Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Chronicles of a Wandering Soul

il piccolo editions presents

LeRoi, a novel
by Mel Mathews

“An introspective allegory about the search for prosperity of the soul . . .”
Midwest Book Review

“Mel Mathews’ place in the ranks of fine contemporary writers is assured.”
In The Chronicles of a Wandering Soul series, the wandering, questing central figure of Malcolm Clay has become a new literary icon. With thoughtful ruminations, keen humor, informative explorations of themes from religion to traits of visited countries, and so many clever double entendres, Mel Mathews’ place in the ranks of fine contemporary writers is assured.
—Grady Harp, goodreads, Top10 Reviewer

“Vive LeRoi: A powerful kick at the American way of life.”
LeRoi is ostensibly a novel, and not overtly psychological, but it lays bare the psychic plight of a middle-aged man looking for meaning. It is a powerful kick at the American way of life—ambition, success, money and power—but it is redemptive in the narrator’s search for internal Eros and an outer relationship he can trust himself to believe in.
—Daryl Sharp, author and publisher, Inner City Books

In Book One of The Chronicles of a Wandering Soul, Malcolm Clay, a rather ornery but ‘successful-in-life’ character, finds himself stranded in the middle of nowhere, his fancy MG allowing him to limp into a gas station with a diner-cum-motel on the other side of the road. Subtly layered in symbol and metaphor, one soon realizes that the simplicity of this novel is only skin deep. The old mechanic, a study in laissez-faire and cool disdain, tries the patience of our hero. As a matter of fact, all members of the cast including the Queen who rules the diner, the pretty waitress and the lanky fast-order cook are highly complicated human beings. The enigmatic and moody old Chevy half-ton pick-up truck Malcolm borrows is unreliable in the conventional sense, but does grant him the freedom to escape the confines of the motel and the frustration of his broken down MG. ‘Ol’ Reliable’ guides him over a cattle guard, a mysterious unseen gateway into sanctuary, the oasis of a river that cuts through this otherwise barren wasteland where he can cast a fly into adventure—and misadventure—yet beyond that, healing waters for the soul. Could this perhaps be a modern day model of a questing Perceval and the Grail Legend’s Fisherking?

Order LeRoi  Book 1 of The Chronicles of a Wandering Soul  by calling +1-831-238-7799, skype: fisher_king_press .

il piccolo editions is an imprint of Fisher King Press, publisher of an eclectic mix of worthy books including Jungian Psychological Perspectives, Cutting Edge Fiction, and a growing list of alternative titles.

Copyright 2010 © Fisher King Press - Permission to reprint is granted.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


To quote Norman O. Brown quoting Euripedes, “God made an opening for the unexpected,” and at long last we have what many of us have greatly desired: a collection of poems by Paul Watsky. His is a singular voice in contemporary poetry, with a range that encompasses the wry, the mordant, the laugh-out-loud funny and the deeply moving, often within the same poem. One of Ovid’s earliest critics complained that he did not know when to leave well enough alone. In this he resembles the eponymous hero of Watsky’s “The Magnificent Goldstein,” and, come to think of it, Watsky himself, for which we have cause to rejoice. —Charles Martin

We meet an observant poet telling a story, his story: wryly perceived incidents of family and history—all given with elegance, wit, and intimacy. A concise, carefully crafted, timely view of the world. —Joanne Kyger
Order Telling the Difference by Paul Watsky

A native of New York City, Paul Watsky moved to California during the late 1960’s, where, after teaching for five years in the English Department of San Francisco State University, he trained as a clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst. His haiku, longer poems, and translations have appeared widely in periodicals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, A New Resonance: Emerging Voices in English Language Haiku, Asheville Poetry Review, Cave Wall, The Cream City Review, and The Pinch. He is cotranslator of Santoka (Tokyo, PIE Books, 2006).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Guilt Cure

Assuaging the Wounds of Guilt
article by Lawrence H. Staples

Suffering: The Price Guilt Exacts

Guilt can cause prolonged suffering. We suffer regardless of whether the guilt serves essential human needs or not, whether it has outlived its usefulness or not, whether it is deserved or not, whether it is meaningful or not, and whether it was incurred intentionally or not. Nor does it matter whether we have a religious background or not, and if we have a religious background, it does not matter which religion. Even if our parents were atheists or agnostics, we are subject to guilt. They often had dogmatic and rigid beliefs of their own. With the possible exception of sociopaths, all of us suffer from guilt, to some degree. The point is that all guilt, regardless of its origin or meaning, brings pain that we need to treat and relieve.

Fortunately, the psyche has a self-regulatory function that helps soften the pain of guilt it inflicts. It appears to function somewhat like the sympathetic and parasympathetic operation of the physical body’s autonomic nervous system that protects us with its opposite tendencies. In the physical body’s system, one part may dilate the pupil and the other contract it. One part may inhibit the heartbeat while the other stimulates it.

The mechanism of guilt formation gives us a clue as to how protective opposition works similarly in the psyche. The mechanism of guilt formation is complex. Much of it takes place out of our awareness. What begins as conscious guilt that is palpably felt, is often displaced by other thoughts and feelings. That is, the initially conscious guilt tends to become unconscious. The ego is protected with a variety of “autonomic” defenses, like rationalization, displacement, and projection. We “sin” and then we experience guilt. Then, in retrospect, we rework the experience and with the aid of ego defenses come to a new formulation that dresses our guilt in new meaning. For example, we may come to blame others for our transgressions. Or our sexual instincts may overwhelm us. After enough transgressions, and enough processing of our guilt, we often can come to feel that sex is okay. At that point the guilt experienced drops into the unconscious and is replaced by justifications. This reworking of our guilt gives us temporary relief. The defenses that render our guilt unconscious and less painful operate involuntarily.

Part of the paradoxical beauty of the psyche is its capacity to create one thing and its opposite. It can create pain and it can soothe the very pain it creates. Like the body, however, the psyche can be assaulted by disorders that overwhelm its natural defenses and require intervention. In the case of guilt, the feeling, after it has been treated by our natural defenses, is buried in the unconscious. While the guilt may for long periods in our life not cause intolerable pain, it can fester, become toxic, and behave as a kind of saboteur. Then, later it may overwhelm the old defenses and storm back into conscious awareness. At that time, we face the pain again and have to assuage it.

Our earliest experience of guilt in childhood is like a kind of psychic slap that disturbs our youthful innocence. Guilt shatters the psychic wholeness with which we are born. Unfortunately, some of the split off parts are not intrinsically bad. They are needed to complete our development.

No matter how we incurred the guilt, we eventually need to seek relief from its pain. The means of expiating guilt is as important to optimal human development as guilt itself. Without the means of relief, guilt induced suicide might become a greater threat to human existence than disease. Part of the healing process involves becoming conscious of the nature and origin of the many types of guilt we experience. The following sections outline some of the spiritual, psychological, and educational steps we can take to assuage its wounds.

Giving Back: The Promethean Way to Assuage our Guilt

Because guilt is important in the formation and maintenance of the opposites and, thus, consciousness, and because it also serves the self-regulatory functions of the psyche, it appears to be a necessity for human life, just as food is. While food is a necessity, its waste products, nevertheless, have to be discharged after the food has performed its essential function of providing nutrients. Otherwise, the waste becomes toxic and makes us ill. It makes no difference whether the food we originally ingested was “good” or “bad,” nutritious or unhealthy. Similarly, it makes little difference whether the guilt was good for us or not so good, it has to be discharged or it will make us sick. With food the waste product itself becomes valuable when it is converted into fertilizer. When unassimilated guilt is discharged in the form of giving back to society, the otherwise toxic portion of guilt is converted into something valuable. This is the Promethean Way to discharge guilt. It is an especially effective way to relieve guilt that has overwhelmed our self-regulatory protective functions. It is precisely because guilt is a necessity that we must find ways to discharge its residual toxicity.

We have to give value back to the community if we are to discharge the guilt we incur for transgressing collective mores. Psychologically and spiritually it satisfies a deep human need. Our mythology reflects the ancient wisdom that this is so.

In Part I of Guilt with a Twist: The Promethean Way, I touched briefly on the lives of many famous figures that “sinned” but gave much back. Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates, Copernicus, Galileo, Martin Luther King, Alfred Kinsey, Rosa Parks, Betty Friedan, Darwin, Solzhenitsyn, Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela and many other audacious people pushed themselves far outside the conventional fences that had been built around them. They also contributed much to the very societies whose rules they broke. Life is clearly full of examples of “bad” people giving something good to society. This could also include the so-called Robber Barons such as the Vanderbilts and Andrew Carnegie. The guilt-ridden Carnegie gave us magnificent libraries. All of these famous individuals were “sinners,” violators of the mores and existing standards of the communities in which they lived.

Individuation is an enlargement of personality. We become whole. We become bigger and more complete. The most important thing we can return to society is a fuller self. This fuller self might be expressed in music or painting or poetry or dance. It might be expressed in science or medicine. It might be expressed as a political or military revolutionary. It might be expressed as a tutor or a teacher, as a minister or a therapist, or as a community volunteer in countless ways. Or it may be expressed simply as a caring person, who gives helpful time and energy to family and friends. One does not have to be so grand as Mother Theresa or Albert Schweitzer or Mahatma Gandhi to return real value to the world. The giving of our complete selves to the collective is a ransom we pay for being an individual in a collective society. A more complete self is the currency we pay as expiation for the achievement of individuality.

There are many who quietly and inconspicuously follow the Promethean way without wide recognition. One example of someone going outside the fence, into the shadow, and finding there something that eventually served her own growth and contributed to the community is a woman patient who in the spring of her senior year in high school, when 17 years old, received a scholarship to a prestigious college. From a poor family, a scholarship was the only way she could get an education and escape poverty and abuse. About the same time she got the scholarship, however, she also got pregnant. While teen pregnancy is not easy even today, it then carried almost unbearable guilt and untold complications. Abortion was not an option for her; she was both Catholic and poor. The church and her devout parents were opposed to her giving the baby up. After much agonizing she decided to offer her baby for adoption so that she could accept the scholarship. She carried and wrestled with a heavy load of guilt for most of her adult life. The burden she carried stemmed not only from her sexual conduct but also from her feeling of selfishness that was unavoidable when she gave priority to her educational opportunity. The guilt eroded her sense of self-esteem and self-worth and she searched for ways to find peace.

Despite the burden of this experience, she became a highly respected researcher in the area of children’s health. She made contributions that were of substantial benefit to her special discipline. She came to feel that her work and contributions were driven by her need to expiate her guilt, regain some of her lost sense of worth, and find some modicum of peace. We could speculate that the very nature of her “sins” led her to the particular field she chose and uniquely qualified her for that work. Who is to say what the “right” decision would have been? The scholarship was the only way she saw to develop her enormous gifts. We never know the road not taken but we do know that her way led her to contribute more, perhaps, to children than the raising of a single child. While we can’t be sure of this latter point, we do know for a fact that she did much good. In high school, she had jumped outside the fence and violated all her conventional and religious upbringing. Her work as an adult helped her come back inside the fence and bring with her useful, new knowledge and some relief from her profound feelings of guilt.

Another example is a patient I’ll call Ellis. Both the blessing and the curse of alcoholism can be seen in the story of this recovered alcoholic. Ellis started off in a blaze, fizzled badly, and then later reignited to lead a wonderfully useful life. He graduated with high honors from college, started as a reporter, married, and had a nice family. He was not long out of college, however, before he became a serious drinker. The booze did not seem to interfere with his life at first. He was an incredibly good investigative reporter, and his abilities were recognized. Over the years, however, his drinking steadily increased and he began to miss assignments and deadlines. The owner and editors put up with it because he was so good. Even when they knew he was drinking on the job, he could write better when he was half drunk than most people could sober. Things finally reached the point when the publisher and owner confronted him. His slurred response was that his personal business was none of the publisher’s business and the publisher could kiss his ass. Not surprisingly, he was fired. Not only did he lose his job, but also his wife divorced him, and his children refused to speak to him.

Luckily, he found AA. He got sober, and back into newspaper work. It was not easy because his reputation had preceded him, but his talents blossomed again and in a few years he was a managing editor. He attended AA meetings several times a week and began to lead a quiet, helpful life. He found that his spiritual practices and helping other alcoholics relieved a lot of the burden of the guilt he carried. During the rest of his life, he helped hundreds of alcoholics recover.

Ray was one of the alcoholics Ellis helped. When he was drinking, Ray was bad, and he ended up on a chain gang. Ellis led AA meetings at prisons, where he met Ray. Ellis could see that Ray was bright and curious, even though he had not finished high school. When Ray was released, Ellis offered him a menial job at the newspaper. Soon, Ellis was teaching him how to write, and it quickly became clear that Ray had real gifts, and soon became a feature editor.

After leaving newspaper work, Ray wrote several novels, and also taught writing at local colleges. For the remainder of his life Ray helped hundreds of other alcoholics recover. Whether helping other alcoholics or contributing to the community in other ways, many recovered alcoholics give much back to society. It is an important way for them to deal with their guilt. Much of the giving back they do is invisible and unrecognized, because it is done anonymously, in line with the principles of AA.

Like most people, alcoholics usually start life inside the barbed wire fence that surrounds their egos, but most then venture far outside the fence. Some then move back inside the fence, where they contribute in ways usually not widely seen or noted. They bring back knowledge and experience gained, painfully, outside the fence. The knowledge and experience they gain outside the fence actually turn out to be gifts that uniquely equip them to help other alcoholics. No one can help alcoholics as effectively as recovered alcoholics, who have paid a huge price to gain this particular helping gift. If an alcoholic comes to me while he is still drinking, I encourage him to go to AA. I tell him that I cannot help him until he gets sober. Practicing alcoholics have a hard time telling the truth. Active alcoholics going to therapists are like someone going to an internist with another person’s urine sample. The therapist would be working with false data and cannot be of much help. On the other hand, alcoholics who are sober and who have done the AA spiritual work are among the most honest people I know.

Alcoholics generally experience enormous guilt. They need much help to heal deep wounds. Most recovered alcoholics find giving back to be a powerful salve for those wounds.

Because guilt is a necessity that causes us to suffer, and because giving back relieves our suffering, it is enlightened self-interest to do it.

Other Spiritual Approaches

It is as if from the beginning we have been “wired” to sin, to incur guilt, and then to seek some way to atone for it. It is the pervasive experience of guilt, and humanity’s need for relief from it, that led most healers, in various cultures and societies, to devise ways to help people deal with guilt.

For example, Yom Kippur is an important Jewish holiday, called the Day of Atonement, a ritual that helps them deal with the experience of guilt. The other great religions also have rituals that serve this purpose. In the Christian community, baptism is a widely practiced ritual whose purpose, among others, is the washing away of guilt and the forgiveness of sin. Confession, a ritual practiced in differing ways, tends to ease the pain and the burden of guilt.

In years past, most people who suffered guilt went to their priest or minister or rabbi for help. However, some of those who turned to religion for relief were acting like alcoholics who turned to drink for relief, to the “hair of the dog that bit them.” Most religions, however, do have spiritual tools that can help assuage their guilt.

Today, many people turn to therapists and analysts for relief rather than to religion. Therapists and analysts would be wise to borrow some of the spiritual tools that have long been sources of comfort for guilt. On the other hand, if the spiritual tools and religious practices had been sufficient, the practice of psychotherapy probably would not have expanded to where it is today. Many people today simply feel that religion is closer to the problem than to the solution. It is probably also true that many patients do not suspect that guilt is the real culprit behind their pain and suffering. They think their suffering is caused by something that therapists are more qualified to deal with, like depression and anxiety. They may not know that guilt often lurks behind and can be a significant cause of anxiety and depression.

Because therapists are secular and because many of the traditional answers from faith-based sources fail to provide relief, they must develop clinical methods to treat guilt. While therapists of many different persuasions can be helpful in this work, so can gifted religious professionals, friends, and spiritual groups, like twelve-step groups, if they assist without judging the sins or the sinners.

Psychological Approaches . . .

This article is an excerpt from Guilt with a Twist: The Promethean Way by Lawrence H. Staples. Dr. Staples has a Ph.D. in psychology; his special areas of interest are the problems of midlife, guilt, and creativity. He is a diplomate of the C.G. Jung Institute, Zurich, Switzerland, and also holds AB and MBA degrees from Harvard. In addition to Guilt with a Twist: The Promethean Way, Lawrence is author of the popular book The Creative Soul: Art and the Quest for Wholeness.

Copyright © 2010 Fisher King Press, Permission to Re-Print this article is granted with a link back to

Masaccio Fresco image from the Cappella Brancacci, Santa Maria del Carmine,  Firenze, Italia,
provided via Wikimedia Commons
[Public domain].

Friday, October 1, 2010

News Release: Becoming

Oct 1, 2010

With great pleasure, Fisher King Press is pleased to announce the publication of

Becoming: An Introduction to Jung's Concept of Individuation

By Deldon Anne McNeely
ISBN 9781926715124, 230pp, Index, Biblio, (Oct 2010)

Becoming: An Introduction to Jung’s Concept of Individuation explores the ideas of Carl Gustav Jung. His idea of a process called individuation has sustained Deldon Anne McNeely’s dedication to a lifelong work of psychoanalysis, which unfortunately has been dismissed by the current trends in psychology and psychiatry.

Psychotherapists know the value of Jung’s approach through clinical results, that is, watching people enlarge their consciousness and change their attitudes and behavior, transforming their suffering into psychological well-being. However, psychology’s fascination with behavioral techniques, made necessary by financial concerns and promoted by insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, has changed the nature of psychotherapy and has attempted to dismiss the wisdom of Jung and other pioneers of the territory of the unconscious mind.

For a combination of unfortunate circumstances, many of the younger generation, including college and medical students, are deprived of fully understanding their own minds. Those with a scientific bent are sometimes turned away from self-reflection by the suggestion that unconscious processes are metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. Superficial assessments of Jung have led to the incorrect conclusion that one must be a spiritual seeker, or religious, in order to follow Jung’s ideas about personality. Becoming is an offering to correct these misperceptions.

Many university professors are not allowed to teach Jungian psychology. Secular humanism and positivism have shaped the academic worldview; therefore, investigation into the unknown or unfamiliar dimensions of human experience is not valued. But this attitude contrasts with the positive reputation Jung enjoys among therapists, artists of all types, and philosophers. Those without resistance to the unconscious because of their creativity, open-mindedness, or personal disposition are more likely to receive Jung’s explorations without prejudice or ideological resistance. There is a lively conversation going on about Jung’s ideas in journals and conferences among diverse groups of thinkers which does not reach mainstream psychology. Becoming is for those whose minds are receptive to the unknown, and to help some of us to think—more with respect than dread—of the possibility that we act unconsciously.

About the Author
Deldon Anne McNeely received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Louisiana State University and is a member of the International Association for Analytical Psychology. A senior analyst of the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts, she is a training analyst for their New Orleans Jungian Seminar. Publications include Touching: Body Therapy and Depth Psychology; Animus Aeternus: Exploring the Inner Masculine; and Mercury Rising: Women, Evil, and the Trickster Gods.

Fisher King Press publishes an eclectic mix of worthy books including Jungian Psychological Perspectives, Cutting Edge Fiction, and a growing  list of alternative titles.
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