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Psychology

Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death

Architects, Madmen and Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death

Freud, Kierkegaard, and the drug lord Heisenberg…A free peek into the Love & Death Issue, which people continue to tell us is their favorite issue thus far. Here is Ethan’s piece on the classic, Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. If you subscribe to the magazine, and add the code JESSEPINKMAN in the notes section of your order, we’ll send a free copy to a friend of your choosing.

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone…

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The Real (Suppressed) You

An amazing little passage from Frank Lake’s book on pastoral care. This could be filed away under “what not to do” in moments of great suffering. Lake discusses the human need to have negative feelings, that therealities of rage, anxiety, loneliness or grief should not be kept hidden or suppressed. In the realm of church groups, though, or really any other kind of group, Lake notes that these negative feelings are often seen as problematic and unattractive, even unacceptable. They are often, in these circles, evidence of a lack of faith, a lack of self-esteem, a lack of personal grit. When we are this person, the suffering one in need of a listening ear, we are aware that this is a risk, putting ourselves out there like this. Lake, like Brené Brown, argues that it is a huge act of bravery to be vulnerable about these unseemly emotions.

Sometimes, though, the pain is too great and we just have to share. And instead of finding friends who have faced the same demons, we find strangers who seem not to know what we’re talking about. There are awkward silences, darting glances, pained faces, a quick change of the subject. Someone in the group gets the group “back on track,” and our negative feelings–the thing that derailed the conversation–are cast aside as if they were never spoken to begin with. Here’s Lake:

The effect of this put-down on the anxious sharer is devastating. They feel the group life they have come to depend on and their acceptance in it are tottering on the brink of disintegration. They have shared the worst that they fear to be true of themselves and the group quite plainly did not want to know.

Next week there is a crisis: do I go again or do I stay away? If I do go, who is it that goes? The chastened/corrected John or Mary, resolved never again to risk being disgraced, resolved to act the cheerful charismatic cover-up to the evident satisfaction of all? But that is not the essence of renewal but of the old religion. However skillfully last week’s well-shamed sharer contrives…there will be anger hidden.

Isn’t this, after all, the defining character trait of “religion,” why it so often carries connotations of phoniness, grandiosity, and abstraction? And isn’t this what Jesus came to save us from, from our contrived sense of personal wellbeing? Throughout the gospels, Jesus seems to ask the question of the wounded ones he encounters (and, by extension, of us): where is the real you, not the corrected you? Where is the wound? Everything that is hidden will be brought to light, and released, made new.

From the Archives: What I Didn't Do On My Summer Vacation

From the Archives: What I Didn’t Do On My Summer Vacation

Lately there’s been a considerable dearth of David Zahl on this site, wouldn’t you say?! So here ya go. The following article goes out to anyone strapping a cargo shell to the roof of his or her car this weekend. From our archives, this one remains as prescient and timely as when DZ wrote it back in 2013:

It’s official: leisure has gone the way of the leisure suit. At least according to an excellent “long read” by Jenny Diski in The New Statesman, “Learning How to Live”, which explores the question of why we find free time so terrifying. If…

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The "Centre Point" of Paradox

The “Centre Point” of Paradox

I suffer from what psychologytoday.com calls ‘polarized thinking’ (self-diagnosed). This is a way of seeing the world in ‘either/or’ terms. When I judge something — which happens, let’s face it, all the time — it’s either this or that, good or bad, right or wrong. It’s not some of this and some of that — and certainly not all of both. Though it often means being hard on myself and others, thinking in a polarized way helps me simplify the more complex aspects of the world, while staying comfortably seated in my judge’s chambers.

For example: if I hit a green…

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Telling Stories to the Devil: From Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

Telling Stories to the Devil: From Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story

This is an incredible excerpt, albeit completely unorthodox. It comes from a short section entitled, “Saying Goodbye to Satan,” in Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s book, Healing the Mind Through the Power of Story: The Promise of Narrative Psychiatry.

As you read, note the utter left-handedness in Mehl-Madrona’s approach: he allows the patient to tell her story and enters that story with her, totally devoid of judgment or correction. This example of narrative psychiatry in real-life shows, first of all, that the stories we tell ourselves can be damning; second, that denying those stories won’t restore us to sanity. Instead, acceptance (and more importantly:…

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#allthefeels: Trying to Control Emotions in a World of Chaos

#allthefeels: Trying to Control Emotions in a World of Chaos

NPR’s fascinating podcast Invisibilia is back for its third season, and all is right with the world. Now we can all geek out about the strange ways our minds and bodies work and have everything we thought we knew about ourselves turned on its head.

The first episode is a heavy hitter, covering a few stories and research discoveries that reveal different facets of human emotions: where they come from, how they affect us, and whether we can control them. The hosts spend most of the episode discussing a Missouri supreme court case that resulted from a fatal car accident. In…

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Rest for the Betty Draper in Me

Rest for the Betty Draper in Me

In my dreams, I can breathe underwater. In my anxiety-crippled reality, I just discovered that a thing called secondary drowning exists. Yay! NEW WAYS (FOR MY KIDS) TO DIE THAT I HADN’T HEARD OF BEFORE.

We’ve been in Sydney nearly six months and there are countless “favourites” among our crew: the local, world-class zoo; Sunday morning ferry rides into the harbour for church; the amusement park fifteen minutes from our house; water views at every turn; late-afternoon trips to the beach. But one of my greatest thrills occurs every Thursday, when the local weekly paper is delivered to our mailbox.

Perhaps it’s…

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The King of Dissonance

The King of Dissonance

Well, I’ve been taking up DZ’s advice and making my way through Harriet Lerner’s slim little power-punch of a book, Why Won’t You Apologize? (He actually left it on my desk before the sabbatical…Soooo, did he mean for me to read it? Did I say, or not say, something?) The book is a powerful glimpse into all the strategies and self-deceptions we have around our wrongdoing–on what counts as an apology, and on what keeps us from doing it. As Dave mentioned, Lerner keys in on the prime impulse that makes the non-apologizer a non-apologizer: the need to be perfect.

Some people are so hard…

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The Absorption of All Our Rage

The Absorption of All Our Rage

In an age defined by emotional rage, political divisiveness and correctness, the recurring themes of the victim-culprit blaming, I have been comforted by God’s message to us in the cross. This passage comes from Frank Lake’s short book on pastoral counseling, in which he deals with both the problem of rage in social justice/injustice, but also the problem of individual victimhood and its corresponding rage. Where can it go? What can be done with it? Lake offers the supercessory response offered to the angry by God in the cross of Christ. 

Many years ago, I met, in a friend’s rectory, which he kept as a home…

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The Lord’s (Subversive) Supper

The Lord’s (Subversive) Supper

This post was written by Chad Bird.

I learned the basics of table fellowship where many others did: in the elementary school cafeteria. Gripping my cadaver-colored tray swimming in gravy, meatloaf, and green beans, I’d scan the tables. Where to sit?

I dropped more footballs than I caught, so I couldn’t jazz with the fourth-grade jocks. No boy in his right mind ate with the girls, so that was out of the question. No to the nerds, no to the really poor kids, and a big-fat-no to anyone who didn’t share my skin color (this was the 1970s).

So I set my food…

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You Complete Me? Grace, Loneliness and the Religion of Romance – David Zahl

Carrying on with the videos from Tyler, here’s the first of the breakouts, courtesy of DZ:

You Complete Me?: Grace, Loneliness and the Religion of Romance ~ David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Internet Trolls Have a Case of the Mondays

Internet Trolls Have a Case of the Mondays

A doozie of an article from the WSJ last week, provocatively titled, “We’re All Internet Trolls (Sometimes).” The piece highlights recent research out of Stanford and Cornell on the patterns and habits of internet trolling. Like any study of taboo topics, the research has its own missing pieces, but some of the findings are, frankly, revealing:

New research by computer scientists from Stanford and Cornell universities suggests this sort of thing—a generally reasonable person writing a post or leaving a comment that includes an attack or even outright harassment—happens all the time. The most likely time for people to turn into trolls?…

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