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1st April 2014

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Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.
— James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

Tagged: bookslovepsychologyJames Baldwin

25th March 2014

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In love is hidden an infinity of egoism, vanity and selfishness. Love is the potent force that tears off all masks, and men who run away from love do so in order that they may preserve their masks.
— P. D. Ouspensky, Tertium Organum (1922)

Tagged: lovepsychologyphilosophyouspensky

30th January 2014


The length of mourning

Continued incapacitating grief is the commonest variation of the usual pattern of mourning. There is evidence that the people who at first do not demonstrate their grief may later show this troubled, chronic state. To recognize a state of grief as being unduly prolonged, however, infers that there is a generally accepted length of mourning. In fact the duration of sorrow varies enormously.

John Hinton, Dying (1967)

Tagged: booksdeathdyinggriefmourningJohn Hintonpsychologyloss

25th January 2014

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Only saints have diabolical visions

[T]here is no position without its negation. Where there is faith, there is doubt; where there is doubt, there is credulity; where there is morality, there is temptation. Only saints have diabolical visions, and tyrants are the slaves of their own valets de chambre. If we carefully scrutinize our own character we shall inevitably find that, as Lao-tzu says, “high stands on low,” which means that the opposites condition one another, that they are really one and the same thing. This can easily be seen in persons with an inferiority complex: they foment a little megalomania somewhere. The fact that the opposites appear as gods comes from the simple recognition that they are exceedingly powerful. Chinese philosophy therefore declared them to be cosmic principles, and named them yang and yin. Their power increases the more one tries to separate them. “When a tree grows up to heaven its roots reach down to hell,” says Nietzsche. Yet, above as below, it is the same tree. It is characteristic of our Western mentality that we should separate the two aspects into antagonistic personifications: God and the Devil.

Carl Jung, Psychology and the East

Tagged: psychologyphilosophybooksCarl JungNietzscheLao-tzuEastern philosophyyin and yangreligion

6th May 2013

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For certain fortunate people

For certain fortunate people there is something which transcends all classifications of behaviour, and that is awareness; something which rises above the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games, and that is intimacy. But all three of these may be frightening and even perilous to the unprepared. Perhaps they are better off as they are, seeking their solutions in popular techniques of social action, such as ‘togetherness’. This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it.

Eric Berne, Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships (1964)

Tagged: psychologybooksreadingsociologybehaviourpsychoanalysisEric Berne

24th April 2013


Erich Fromm has convincingly listed man’s needs as an object of devotion, an ability to relate, a desire for unity and rootedness, the wish to be effective, and the need for stimulation. Every one of these needs may be answered in a positive or a negative way. The object of devotion may be God, love, and truth; or it may be diverted into veneration of perverse idols. The need for relatedness may be satisfied by kindness and altruism; or by dependence and destructiveness. One may find rootedness and unity in brotherly co-operation and mystical experience; or one may find it in drunkenness, drug addiction, and depersonalisation.

Brian Masters, The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer

Tagged: bookspsychologyethics

19th March 2013

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Did You Used to be R.D. Laing?

Tagged: videodocumentarypsychiatrypsychoanalysispsychotherapypsychologyR D Laingmental healthdepression

10th February 2013

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R. D. Laing and a childhood double bind

His father lost his fountain pen and thought his son had stolen it. He hadn’t, but his father refused to believe him. His mother, trying to protect him and calculating that he would be doubly punished both for stealing and lying, told his father that he, Laing, had in fact confessed to stealing it. His father went ahead and beat him. This confused Laing all the more. He became unsure whether he had stolen the pen — maybe he had. Then his mother discovered he wasn’t the culprit and told him so, ‘Come and kiss your mummy and make it up’ — it was a stupefying volte-face. Part of him longed to go to her, to be at one with her again, a feeling so strong as to be almost unendurable. Yet another side of him felt it would be wrong or ‘twisted’ to do so, it would be caving in, so he stood his ground and made no move. His mother then said, ‘Well, if you don’t love your Mummy, I’ll just have to go away,’ and she walked out of the room. He remembered that the room started to spin, his head in turmoil.

John Clay, in R. D. Laing: A Divided Self (Hodder and Stoughton, 1996)

Tagged: bookspsychologypsychiatrypsychotherapyR D Laingchildhoodparentingdouble bind

30th January 2013

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Mr Weiss became intrigued with the symbol meanings of cigars when a cigar campaign that showed a woman beaming as she offered cigars to men backfired. Mr Weiss ordered a depth study to find out why. The conclusion was that men smoke cigars to assert their masculinity and like to think the habit is objectionable to women. Any message that runs counter to this deprives the man of one of his main reasons for smoking cigars.

Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders (1957)

Tagged: bookssmokingadvertisingpersuasionsymbolismcigarsgenderpsychology

8th January 2013

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arcs and lines of sight

One of the first things that Robbins ever explained to me was his observation that the eye will follow an object moving in an arc without looking back to its point of origin, but that when an object is moving in a straight line the eye tends to return to the point of origin, the viewer’s attention snapping back as if it were a rubber band.

Adam Green, ‘The spectacular thefts of Apollo Robbins, Pickpocket’, New Yorker.

Tagged: Apollo RobbinspickpocketcrimeNew YorkerAdam Greenpsychologyattentionvision