Sunday, February 27, 2011


Dear Readers,

Just wanted you to know that

Scientific American posted another essay by me, entitled "How conducting therapy changes the therapist":
(2. 26.11)

 Also  I was very pleased that the New Yorker cited the first essay published in in a recent article:

Monday, February 21, 2011

My File Cabinet/Myself

In recent days I have learned a lot about identity.   Mine.

As we unpack our belongings: furniture, clothes, files, books, knick knacks, family photos, art,  in our new home,  many months and miles from our old home, I have experienced both the joy of reunion with  my “stuff” and the profound grief over “stuff”  gone forever.

Some of our “stuff” I haven’t seen for 3 or 4 months, some, almost a year.  As we put our house up for sale we were required by various “stagers,” consultants to the real estate industry,  to pack up beloved books,  family pictures,  and even art pieces that told too much about who we were (“too ethnic”).  Though I thought this was highly unscientific advice and was incensed by the implied criticism,  I acquiesced.

My house started to feel like an alien space.  It looked more like a “model home” than my
slightly cluttered, but very personal and, I thought, warm and homey abode. 

Due to a sluggish housing market and some bad luck,  it took many more months to sell our house and move into our new digs here in Maryland. 

The worst was the books,  followed closely by family pictures.  Both tell the story of our lives. I don’t see collecting books as a vanity project but rather a chronicle of where we have been with our intellectual passions our not so intellectual passions and indulgences, our journeys both geographic and spiritual.  Some books go back to college and graduate school.  The pictures and photo albums… well we all understand about the pictures.

What really threw me was my reaction to not having a place to unpack my files,  old patient files,  courses constructed and taught over the years, material from particularly treasured courses I took as a student,  research for academic articles long since published,  ideas for books not read,  projects never launched.

I had already wrenched myself away from boxes and boxes of this stuff.  This was the distillation  of all that torturous weeding process.

My crummy metal filing cabinets were sacrificed on the altar of expediency and the knowledge that new housing would be substantially smaller.   After all we were downsizing. 

I was really bushwhacked by how horribly upset I was when there was no cabinet to hold this aspect of my identity.   Where were my ideas, my life’s work,  going to live if not in those battered, garage-sale-quality file cabinets?  What would happen to them?   What would I do?   Who will I be?

This may all sound crazy.  I guess it is a bit,  but  I really think this aspect of my work life
was and is much more central to my identity than I realized.  My file cabinet and its contents  contribute to what makes me feel whole, integrated, and worthy.  Even if I never look at another piece of paper in those files their presence affirms me in a way that I really need.  Still.

I think its worth thinking about what there is in our lives that fulfills this role.  Sure there are our core people that play this role, spouse, children, grandchildren, extended family, good friends. And then there is art in all of its expressions that fulfills this function.  Even pets. 

What is it for you?