At the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

The Parliament of the Religions of the World—often shortened to the Parliament of World’s Religions—was first held in Chicago in 1893.  A century later it was reconvened in Chicago (1993), and has been held four times since; in 1999 (Cape Town), 2004 (Barcelona), 2009 (Melbourne), and in Salt Lake City in October of 2015.  My presentation on “Psychotherapy, Religion and Spirituality” was among the many programs.

The Parliament is an event that is certainly like no other I’ve heard of; thousands of people from all over the world convening to participate in what looks like hundreds of presentations, emphasizing the sacred in our relationships with the natural environment, the economy, people around the world, one another, and ourselves.  The sheer diversity of people, and the wonderful diversity of attire, was a visual feast!

Women’s identity, equality, empowerment, and sacredness, was a theme of this Parliament.  For example, I am writing these notes in a long hallway whose walls are filled with dozens of vivid silk hangings of representations of sacred women and goddess figures from several traditions.

I attended a program called “Changing Tides,” presented by a panel including Barbara Morgan (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chaplain at MIT and Harvard and assistant professor at Brigham Young University), Lucy Forster-Smith (Presbyterian, Head Chaplain at Harvard University), Maytal Satiel (Jewish chaplain at Yale), in which these chaplains at major universities discussed their experiences with changing attitudes and needs in the students with whom they work.  More students are identifying as “spiritual but not religious,” or, if identifying as religious, still want to learn about other faith traditions.  Even among chaplains, I was surprised to learn, there are some who do not identify with a specific faith tradition.

The Plenary 1 session was entitled “Focus on Women,” and featured addresses by women of several faiths who have achieved prominence in education, administration, human service, care of the earth, and nurturing in faith and in the spirit, including Dr. Serene Jones, president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York, Grandmother Mary Lyons, an Ojibwe Elder, and several others.  I was blown away by Marianne Williamson’s address—what a smart powerhouse!—in which she challenged the faiths represented at the Parliament, as often being responsible for the subjugation of women.  This was a particularly gutsy observation in a gathering of people advocating that the principles of their faiths support the equality, empowerment, and sacredness of women.  Williamson spoke her piece forcefully, and received enthusiastic applause.

In the programs that I attended, the emphasis on women’s natural sacredness and oppression was powerful, but seemed one-sided in a way.  The implication often seemed to be that, if only society would stop being so wretched in abusing and suppressing women, women would assume their natural role as sacred healers, nurturers, and goddess-types.  The learning, the effort, the self-confrontation, the sorting-out of the essential from the superficial, identifying what really matters most from what one has been conditioned to believe, getting past errors in perception and action acquired along the way, finding and living one’s way into a fuller life—which every human being has to do, and which each of the speakers undoubtedly had to do, in order to achieve her accomplishments and role in life—seemed somehow to be taken for granted, not included in the narrative.

My presentation was part of a two-part shared presentation, which began with “Diversity and Interfaith Dialog in Counseling and Psychotherapy.”  The panel of presenters included three who are active in the Pagan tradition—little did I know that there was such a tradition, so developed!—including Shel Skau, the moderator, Drake Spaeth from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and the very impressive Vivianne Crowley.  My presentation, “Psychotherapy, Religion and Spirituality,” followed, and seemed to go quite well; the audience seemed to be attentive, most stayed throughout the presentation, there were more people than seats (some sat on the floor, in a room seating about 50) and people laughed at the right places, always a good sign!

As I left the huge Salt Palace convention center for the last time, I passed a scruffy, disheveled looking young man, long-haired and bearded, sitting on the ground by a tree, surrounded by a bunch of signs that ran up the tree, with various aphorisms. One was about turning knowledge into action, which is certainly a key theme in spiritual life, and in psychotherapy too:  we rarely learn things about ourselves in therapy that we didn’t know, in some way, before, but weren’t acknowledging and living.  It seemed to me that this man was himself exemplifying what his sign said we shouldn’t do; as if he believed that, sitting on the sidewalk with his signs, he was turning knowledge into action.  He was a living sign, albeit unconsciously.

President of CAPP

In September, I became President of the Chicago Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology.  It’s been a very busy time, creating programs for therapists and helping CAPP take care of its business.  Here’s the President’s Message, from the CAPP website,

President’s Message, Winter 2015

President’s Message, January, 2015: Jay Einhorn, Ph.D., LCPC

Welcome to CAPP, and thanks for being here!


Historically, CAPP was in the vanguard of the movement to open the doors of psychoanalytic training to non-physicians. Today, we seek to bring together therapists for mutual learning through the study of therapeutic experience in the light of psychoanalytic/psychodynamic concepts and methods. Since we see all forms of therapy as having psychodynamic activity, we think that therapists of various training and back-ground help refine one another’s understanding and perceptions and learn together.
Our programs include:

•CAPP Conversations: monthly (more or less) informal meetings on topics of therapeutic meaning, providing opportunities for therapists to consider and discuss important issues. CAPP Conversations do not grant CEs. At the time of writing, we’ve done programs on: “Fundamentals of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: What Are They?!”, “Psychodynamic and Cognitive Psychotherapy: Overlapping Dimensions or Separate Universes?”, and “Adoption: Development and Psychodynamic Issues,” and we are planning programs on “Gossip: We Love It, We Suffer From It, Do We Need It?” and “Relational Cultural Therapy in Psychodynamic Perspective.” And we plan to do more!

•Building Bridges: Psychodynamics Across Psychotherapies: more formal programs that grant CEs; often upward extensions of topics first presented as CAPP Conversations.

•Peer Study Groups: Ongoing and time-limited groups in which therapists re-fine their perceptions by considering analytic-dynamic therapy together. Current groups include a Chicago analytic readings/cases group, a Hinsdale cases group, an Evanston cases group, and an Evanston psychodynamic-neuroscientific readings/cases group. Time-limited peer study groups have included “Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health,” and “Multicultural Therapy.” We plan to do more.

•Partnering with Co-Sponsors: We are interested in exploring partnerships with co-presenting groups and organizations.

•Presentations for Consumers: We are interested in talking about the value of therapy to groups of potential consumers. We can say that “Therapy Works” because ALL therapy contains psychodynamic processes, whether it is called psychoanalytic/dynamic or not.

CAPP creates opportunities for working therapists throughout their careers to share and learn about analytic-dynamic therapy through discussing the actual experience of it. It is neither an academic nor a training program, but a complement to both.

I have been CAPP’s Chair of Peer Study Groups for a decade, and in the peer study groups we see the value of therapists of various backgrounds meeting to discuss cases, with an open mind to analytic-dynamic formulations that increase our under-standing of the experience of the patient or client, the therapist, and the patient-therapist pair. Therapists with various kinds and levels of training can help one another in this process.

A word about psychoanalysis and psychodynamics. The term “psychodynamic” is used in different ways; sometimes as an equivalent to “psychoanalytic” (when the speaker or writer means “psychoanalytic” but fears that the reader or listener might have an attitude about it); sometimes to include all schools of analysis (Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, Self, Relational, etc.) in contexts where “psychoanalysis” might be seen as referring exclusively to Freudian-classical psychoanalysis; and sometimes to refer inclusively to all the microcultural schools within the macroculture of psychoanalysis, plus other dynamic formulations of mental life and therapeutic activity. It is in this latter sense that I am using the term. One of the great discoveries of psychoanalysis is that there can be splits within the self, in which different parts of the self interact dynamically. Emerging neuroscience both supports long-term reflective empathic therapy, and gives us the model of a modular and dynamically networking brain.

It might even be that the splits within the self reflect the splits within the cultures within which we grow up and live. In a time of accelerating social and economic change, analytic/dynamic therapy provides one of the few resources with which we can reflect on, recollect, and reorganize ourselves, the better to reclaim ourselves and live a more meaningful life. I happen to believe that it is not accidental or coincidental that analytic/dynamic therapy developed in Europe just prior to World War I, when the empires that defined the geopolitical world were about to collide and disintegrate. Sabina Spielrein, an overlooked mother of psychoanalysis, presented on “Destruction As a Cause of Coming-Into-Being.” I’d say there’s still a lot to think about in that.

CAPP is a therapeutic home for some members, and a good place to visit for others. You don’t have to be a member to attend our programs, so come and taste, listen, experience. I invite you to consider joining if you like what you see, hear and feel! There is a lot to learn. Let us learn together!

Anxiety and Trust: A Key Emotional Relationship. Part I

During the 1970’s I began to hear about “the age of anxiety.”  Anxiety disorders have emerged as leading causes of mental and emotional distress today, and are one of the leading motivators for people to seek therapy and medication, as well as being one of the main causes of abuse of alcohol and drugs.  Anxiety plays a substantial role in eating disorders, cutting and other forms of self-harm, compulsive disorders, and contributes to overeating and the complications of obesity, such as diabetes.  Anxiety contributes to disorders that have a psychosomatic aspect, including cardiac and gastrointestinal disorders.  And anxiety underlies a widespread behavior pattern that doesn’t really have a clinical name but has to do with either underperforming, as a way of avoiding the risk of failure or the challenges of success, or overperforming, as a way of trying to extend one’s control over life.

But where does all this anxiety come from?  I think that there is a key relationship between anxiety and trust.  We have an excess of anxiety, in my opinion, because have a deficiency of trust.  This is the first of two columns in which I’ll explore that relationship.

As I often say, it’s no accident that psychotherapy evolved just as Europe was running up to the huge transformations of the first Great War, which led to the redrawing of the global political and socioeconomic map.  Psychotherapy, an attempt at a rational approach to understanding unconscious process and healing unconscious rifts, was born more or less at the ending of the great Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires, with repercussions that are still being felt today, in Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa.  World War II, a continuation of the first, facilitated the end of the French and English empires, and, reaching to the Far East, led to revolutionary upheavals in the Japanese and Chinese empires, and elsewhere.

Social, political and economic upheaval has affected virtually every family, in ways that are bred into the “DNA,” the behavioral and emotional memes, of family cultures down the generations.  To this instability and insecurity are added the vast changes brought about by technological innovations in industry, agriculture, economics, medicine, and communications, which we can see expressed in the culture and even the language of the “new generation” that emerges among adolescents every 5 years or so.

A key result of all this change and transformation has been the loss of trust in the stability of how things are and how things are done; how we communicate, relate, make a living, what we can expect and take for granted.  During most of human history, people lived in times when conditions were quite stable, and even the dangers of life were familiar.  Things didn’t change much over the generations, let alone during the course of a single lifetime.  Indeed, I’m told that, during most of human history, most people lived their entire lives in groups of 30-50 people, to most or all of whom they were related.  Those days are gone, for nearly everyone on the planet; although the search for new “tribes” is one of the motivators, and sources of anxiety, in modern life.

It is not only empires that were swept away in the abrupt, tumultuous, often bloody transformations of recent history, but the role and authority of institutions upon which populations depended for stability, including the religious, academic, legal, political, and cultural institutions which where the adhesives that glued the old order together.  The resulting psychological challenge of modern life is that we have to learn to trust change rather than stability, which is very hard to do.  In order to trust change, we need to understand it better, and to have the roots of our stability anchored in values, relationships and experiences that are deeper than those which are changing.

A key psychoanalytic insight is that the self can dissociate or split into different parts, which may not recognize, or be “unconscious” of one another.  It’s also possible to think about a model of mind that is inherently multiple, as in the “Multimind” model described by psychologist Robert Ornstein (, and Human Givens therapist Pat Williams (  In this model, different “selves” come into prominence at different times, rather like actors on a stage; except the director may be absent, and the troupe may be working from an old and fragmentary script.  (By the way, it seems to me that the difference between “psychoanalytic” and “psychodynamic” concepts is that  psychoanalytic ones postulate a single self that has split, in various ways and for various reasons depending on which analytic theory you buy, while “psychodynamic” concepts can include that as well as multiple self and multiple levels-of-consciousness models of mind.)

Now, here’s where all this comes together.  Anxiety is one reason for the evolution of psychotherapy during these revolutionary planetary changes, and anxiety is related to the untrustworthiness of the key institutions upon which we depend for stability and meaning in our lives.  It may be that there is a natural process of fragmentation of self, and need for subsequent reunification of self, that is just part of the human condition; the ancient stories certainly indicate that.  However, the conditions of modern life encourage fragmentation, without giving much guidance about how to achieve the subsequent unification.  It seems to me that that’s where finding the roots of value deep within ourselves, in our relationships with one another and with humanity as a whole, at a deeper level than such transient institutions as government, temple, school, court, etc. can provide, becomes a key part of healing our inner fragmentation and resolving our anxiety.

The old institutions are not entirely irrelevant, of course.  They continue to provide a kind of social stichting-together function.  In addition, each institution contains, within itself, traditions of access to deeper and higher values.  Religions, beyond their role of  organizing populations and telling people what to do and believe, included access to spirituality through esoteric and mystical affiliates.  Academic institutions, beyond requiring rote learning and preparing students for roles in society, included access to the deeper questions of the meaning of life, especially through philosophy and the humanities (science, a late-comer, is still getting oriented there).  Legal institutions, beyond maintaining laws, enshrined devotion to justice, and sometimes exemplified it.  Government, in addition to administration, aspires to uplift the well-being of all.  Even today, people who feel they can trust their social institutions seem to have less anxiety than others.  But sooner or later something happens to undermine their trust, so they do have to deal with being unanchored in life, one way or another.  The commitment to the fundamental values of spirituality, meaning, and justice, along with their discernment, seems to have diminished in the practice of religion, education, and law–everywhere, as far as I can tell from what I see around me and glean from newspapers and other media.  The result has been that, at a time of great change, when people are in greatest need of connection with perennial human values, the institutions upon which societies have relied to maintain and transmit those values have been less and less up to the job.  There are individual justices, reporters, ministers, teachers, administrators, who exemplify highest values, and some organizations do a better job than others of instilling them into the culture.  But the institutions, on the whole, are a pretty sorry lot, measured against higher values.  They neither embody nor represent such core values, and as a result people are unable to trust them; and, often, one another.

So we can’t trust our social institutions to be what they are supposed to be, and when we ourselves are part of those institutions, we often have to conform, to go along and get along, or else stand against the tide and perhaps get swept away.  The resurgence of fundamentalism in religion, and the fundamentalist variant of strict constructionism in legal and judicial practice, seem to me to reflect the misguided attempt to return to the times when the institutions of religion and law were more closely connected to spirituality and justice, respectively.  However, that’s like focusing on the utensils we ate with years ago, because we are hungry now.  As to education for meaning in life, our academic institutions seem to have pretty much given up on it, except for those which go in for brainwashing, and the odd teachers and schools here and there who persist in trying to help students connect with themes of meaning in life, albeit against the tide of rote learning for high stakes testing, indoctrination in social beliefs, and education for vocational preparation.  The attempt by departments of education across the country to develop a common core curriculum (see my post of April 16th, 2012), is an attempt to establish fundamentals in education, but it focuses on behavioral objectives that can be measured, so it must, of necessity, omit the crucial dimension of meaning of life and connection with the real core values of experience.  And so, in the midst of our busy lives, we are adrift.

As a psychotherapist, I find that issues of spirituality, meaning and justice in life (expressed through family and other personal relationships, as well as relationships with teachers, employers and other institutions) often underlie anxiety, although that is not something you will find in the professional literature, such as the DSM-IV (  As the great psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out, when these issues are identified and clients are able to make progress by establishing or reestablishing their connections with their own spirituality, sense of meaning, and love of justice (what Maslow called the “being-values”), anxiety tends to diminish.  But that is not taught in our therapist training programs today either, since it can’t be reduced to a measurable behavioral objective.