June 2-8, 2018

Shadow Selves: Becoming Skillful and Wise in Our Response to the Human Need for an Enemy

Mind and Life Summer Research Institute 2018
Garrison Institute
Garrison, NY

It is well known that human beings are both profoundly interdependent and profoundly unconscious — a dangerous mix. In our conscious and unconscious desires to protect ourselves, we “need” an enemy whom to fight against, control, or withdraw from. In my decades-long profession as a Jungian psychoanalyst and a couples therapist, as well as my decades-long practice of Buddhism (especially Zen and Vipassana), I have observed how difficult it is for us to step back from the impulse to blame someone when our hopes and ideals are dashed. In a close relationship or in a community or neighborhood that we care about, we embrace ideals that foster both the disavowal of our own aggressive motives and the projection of these motives into another. Drawing on Carl Jung’s theory of a shadow complex and Melanie Klein’s theory of projective identification, this presentation will ask us to examine the arising of self/other within a dynamic field of ideals and blame. We will also see how to become skillful and wise when (1) we gain insight into the “enemy-making factors” in ourselves, (2) develop compassion for these factors in all humans, and (3) create a mindful space between our cherished “selves” and the threatening “others” as we live together in all our relationships. Drawing especially on couples therapy and other dyadic relationships (e.g. teacher-student), we will discover how to work skillfully with the enemy-making factors in ourselves.

About the Mind & Life Summer Research Institute:

The 2018 Mind & Life Summer Research Institute extends the arc from the 2016 and 2017 programs that addressed themes of context, social connectivity, and intersubjectivity by engaging critical topics relevant to cultural difference and human diversity. The week-long immersive program will examine social and psychological patterns, both implicit and explicit, to discuss how difference is constructed at personal, interpersonal, and socio-structural levels. Scientific, humanistic, and first-person contemplative perspectives will give attention to processes of othering and how we can overcome conflict by embracing difference.

Plenary faculty presentations from neuroscientists and psychologists will describe basic mechanisms of distinguishing self and other as well as cultural and developmental factors providing our sense of security and provoking our common fears. Discussions from the social sciences will explore cultural, historical, and structural factors that complexify conditions for disparity and inequity across social groups and communities, often contributing to conflict and dissonance. Philosophical presentations will discuss worldviews through which the other is interconnected to one’s self, how difference is a source of power, and the process of perspective-taking through dialogue. A training workshop and small group breakout sessions will explore practical applications for reflecting on biases and engaging difference. Through first-person practice, we will query contemplative traditions as a resource for compassion and redressing injustice.

The 2018 Summer Research Institute will be held at the Garrison Institute in Garrison, New York, 50 miles north of New York City in the Hudson River Valley. Please see the Garrison Institute website for more details.

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