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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: American Idol

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: American Idol

Welcome to the seventh and final installment of act three of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own.  If you missed one or more of the previous installments, the entire series can be found here.

Everybody worships … idols. Last time we reached this inevitable and undeniable conclusion, and in it hides the definition of greed.

Everybody worships idols.  At first glance you may disagree, but recall that worship need not involve a supernatural being.  Merriam-Webster defines it as “extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>.”  Dictionary.com says it’s “to feel an adoring reverence or regard for (any…

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From the Archives: In Praise of Guilty Pleasures

From the Archives: In Praise of Guilty Pleasures

I brought two books with me on vacation last week: a collection of Jonathan Franzen essays and the recent Dark Tower prequel by Stephen King. One guess as to which one I read. That’s right: both books stayed shut as I inhaled 20 or so Batman comics on my iPad and caught up on Beach Boys message boards. Guilty pleasures in other words.

So upon returning to the world of ‘serious’ reading I was pleasantly surprised to discover a wonderful little piece in The New Yorker by critic Arthur Krystal, tracing the history and appeal of literary guilty pleasures. He touches…

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When the Solution Isn’t a Solution

When the Solution Isn’t a Solution

It’s only July, I know, but the 2016 Podcast Episode of the Year can already be announced. I wish I could give the nod to The Mockingcast or PZP (“Ecumenical Apocalypse” tied with “Cook’d Book” for runner-up, and Gladwell’s “The Lady Vanishes” took bronze), but alas, top honors go to Invisibilia’s “The Problem with the Solution”, which first aired this past Friday, ht CWZ & LM.

The cast takes a lengthy look at a place we’ve written about a couple of times before, the town of Geel in Belgium, where instead of being cooped up in a facility mental patients live…

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“Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell” by Archibald MacLeish

When he moved to Paris in the 1920s, Archibald MacLeish (1892 – 1982) ran with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, and I have every suspicion that his God-wrestling Pulitzer-winning legacy will make a cultural resurgence soon enough; here’s hoping.

Despite first appearances, the following poem doesn’t just pit science against faith. Rather, it emphasizes the persistence of the unknown versus the known and the unmeasurable versus the measurable. As with much of MacLeish’s work, it’s designed to affect us emotionally, not just intellectually.

Eugenia-Loli6

Eugenia Loli

Dr. Sigmund Freud Discovers the Sea Shell
by Archibald MacLeish

Science, that simple saint, cannot be bothered
Figuring what anything is for:
Enough for her devotions that things are
And can be contemplated soon as gathered.

She knows how every living thing was fathered,
She calculates the climate of each star,
She counts the fish at sea, but cannot care
Why any one of them exists, fish, fire or feathered.

Why should she? Her religion is to tell
By rote her rosary of perfect answers.
Metaphysics she can leave to man:
She never wakes at night in heaven or hell

Staring at darkness. In her holy cell
There is no darkness ever: the pure candle
Burns, the beads drop briskly from her hand.

Who dares to offer Her the curled sea shell!
She will not touch it!—knows the world she sees
Is all the world there is! Her faith is perfect!

And still he offers the sea shell . . .

What surf
Of what far sea upon what unknown ground
Troubles forever with that asking sound?
What surge is this whose question never ceases?

From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

From the Archives – Coping with Our Failure to Be Happy: Moral Palliatives vs Repentance

Well, we’re probably nearing our yearly limit for writing about anxiety, but great articles on the subject have been irrepressible. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that our increasing need to self-actualize, and increasing avenues for doing so, is a root behind the contemporary epidemic of nerves that had 1 in 5 American adults on anti-anxiety or antidepressant meds in 2011, numbers which have presumably risen since. An organization called the ADAA (anxiety and depression, etc) reported that almost one-third of the nation’s health bill is caused by anxiety disorders. You could reasonably ask to vet the numbers there, but even…

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The Culture of Narcissism, Pt 4: Good News for Narcissists

The Culture of Narcissism, Pt 4: Good News for Narcissists

Here is the conclusion to the series inspired by Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism. Find the rest of the series here.

“Our society is narcissistic, then, in a double sense. People with narcissistic personalities…play a conspicuous part in contemporary life…these celebrities set the tone for public life and of private life as well…The beautiful people…live out the fantasy of narcissistic success….Modern capitalist society not only elevates narcissists to prominence, it elicits and reinforces narcissistic traits in everyone.”

So concluded historian and cultural analyst Christopher Lasch thirty-seven years ago in his influential book, The Culture of Narcissism. The intervening years have only more…

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Good Enough? Where Positive Psychology and the Gospel Meet – Sasha Heinz & Jacob Smith

All systems go for the next breakout video from our NYC Conference! This one was a real treat:

Good Enough? Where Positive Psychology and the Gospel Meet – Sasha Heinz and Jacob Smith from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Condemned By Illness to Passivity

Condemned By Illness to Passivity

This amazing passage from Frank Lake’s Clinical Theology is perhaps the best reading of Mark 2 ever written. As we prepare for the Mental Health Issue, it has much to say about Christ’s office being (quite literally here) at the end of our rope. And that pastoral care–in every facet, from simple friendship to hospital chaplaincy–does not mean giving power to those who are powerless over their afflictions, but instead digging the grave they are too powerless to dig for themselves.

The pastoral dimensions for the healing of the person with schizoid characteristics can be seen in the Gospel record of the healing…

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The Ubiquity of Grief (and How I Tried to Climb the Ladder)

The Ubiquity of Grief (and How I Tried to Climb the Ladder)

Another powerful one from our friend Connor Gwin. 

Last year I wrote a piece for Mockingbird about grief and Sufjan Stevens. I wrote about the cathartic experience I had at a Sufjan Stevens concert featuring his newest album (Carrie & Lowell) which centered on the death of his mother.

It has now been two years since my father died and I am still grieving. Do you know how frustrating that is for me? I believed the cultural maxim that eventually things would return to “normal” and I would “move on”. I believed that if I allowed myself to feel my feelings in the…

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From the Archives: The Saddest Epidemic of All

From the Archives: The Saddest Epidemic of All

Had every intention of re-running this last week, in observance of national Mental Health Awareness month. Apologies!

I was shocked by something a couple of years ago. At our Fall conference in Charlottesville (Sept 2012), RJ Heijmen showed a clip of a father telling the story of his son’s suicide and the emotional and spiritual agony it caused. The man’s words could not have possibly been heavier, and I almost questioned whether we had crossed a line. But that wasn’t what shocked me. What shocked me was the number of people who approached me afterward to share a similar story. Nearly…

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The Culture of Narcissism, Part 2: Sex and the Self

The Culture of Narcissism, Part 2: Sex and the Self

This is the second part in a series inspired by Christopher Lasch’s 1979 book, The Culture of Narcissism.

Narcissism is the self in love with itself; it’s believing the world revolves around one’s ego. While narcissists lack regard for the needs of others, they crave attention, admiration, and even envy to bolster their own self-esteem. And they will manipulate others for their own self-aggrandizement and personal satisfaction. Narcissists see others, and the world, as mirrors reflecting their own ego needs. Christopher Lasch, in his book The Culture of Narcissism, argued that “every society reproduces its culture…in the individual, in the form…

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UnREAL Season 1, Part 2: Death by Suicide, Death to Self-Pity

UnREAL Season 1, Part 2: Death by Suicide, Death to Self-Pity

This is part two in a series on UnREAL, a Lifetime drama returning for its second season on June 6. You’ll find part one here. Mega-super-nuclear-option spoiler alert: the following discloses the ending of the show’s first season.

Reality TV often has an ambience of controlled insanity. The contestants act in violent, conniving, or erratic ways, and one can legitimately wonder how many are (a) truly acting or (b) truly mentally ill. In the latter category, were they chosen because of their illness by cynical producers? Are the producers exacerbating antisocial behavior in mentally ill contestants, or are the producers (probably pleasantly) surprised? The uncertainty is…

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