Please contact Ken Buch for more information about dates, places, and times.
From Pythia Peay, author of America on the Couch: Psychological Perspectives on American Politics and Culture and American Icarus: A Memoir of Father and Country (Lantern Books).
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I am very pleased and excited to announce the upcoming March launch of my 2016 Presidential Election Study Guide. I don’t know about the rest of you, but as I watched the returns from the Iowa caucus, I could feel that strange mix of anxiety, fear, excitement, and hopeful anticipation that rises up in me during every Presidential election. For while we Americans may be divided by which party we belong to, or which candidate we support, we are all united in the myriad psychological responses—uncertainty over the fate of the country; helplessness against forces that loom larger than the individual voter; and overwhelmed by the relentless media coverage, and the knowledge required to sort through complex political issues—we all experience as we do our best to make our most informed choice for the next American president. And then there are the stresses that arise from the way politics can disrupt our relationships and even alienate us from close friends and family who don’t share our political views, party, or choice of candidate. Democracy asks a lot of us!
Because most of us are consumed by the day-to-day demands of life, some may even decide to disengage entirely from the whole messy, anxiety-inducing process. Flooded from within by our own intense emotional responses and unshakable convictions that defy reason or that swamp our conscious thinking, we may even decide to cut ourselves off from our own inner political selves and passion for civic engagement. As understandable as that is, it would be a great shame for citizens to disengage from the very election process that ensures the continuity of our American democracy, as flawed, messy, chaotic, imperfect, corruptible, and unpredictable as it is.
That is why I’m launching this Study Guide. Based on material drawn from my book, America on the Couch: Psychological Perspectives on American Politics and Culture, it is my hope that this collection of interviews with 37 clinical psychologists, political psychologists, psychoanalysts, and Jungian psychoanalysts offering their profound, learned, and unexpected insights—on violence, guns, mass shootings and Hiroshima; our crisis around alcohol and drug addiction and the need to understand the underlying cultural and unconscious forces at play; our beloved but rapidly deteriorating environment and the changes we face if we are to survive; the strengths and flaws of our capitalist economic system and our rampant consumerism; the dangerous but also the positive aspects of political polarization, and psychological perspectives on American presidents, and the presidency; and, last, the archetypes and myths underlying the democratic principles of individualism, independence, and freedom that define the American soul, as well as how these myths are evolving into the next century—may offer a more thoughtful, conscious way to navigate the months leading up to the election.
Because America on the Couch is such an “idea rich” book, the Study Guide also provides an ideal opportunity for people to join together in study groups in a way that can help them digest this sumptuous feast of perspectives, as well as providing them an intimate venue to experience the election, and to explore the enormous issues facing the American public as our historic experiment in democracy continues into the 21st century.
The Study Guide will launch on March 1st, when I will send out an email to those who have written to let me know they’d like to participate. It will begin with a selection from the introduction and the first half of Chapter One, “Violence in America,” along with questions that will generate discussion. April will focus on the second half of Chapter One; and then discussion questions for the following consecutive chapters will be sent out each month. The last Study Guide will be sent out in November, post-election, with special questions and selections so that group members can bring their process to closure.
Here is the schedule:
March 1: Introduction and the first half of Chapter One: Violence in America.
April 1: The second half of Violence in America
May 1: Chapter Two: Addicted America
June 1: Chapter Three: America’s Vanishing Environment
July 1: Chapter Four: A Poverty of Meaning: Capitalism and Consumerism
August 1: Summer break
September 1: Chapter Five: Politics, Presidents, Power and Polarization
October 1: Chapter Six: The Soul of America: These are the Times that Try Men’s Souls
November 1: Concluding Questions to help participants integrate their feelings and responses to the country’s choice of its next new President; what this significant shift will involve; saying goodbye to President Obama; and the inevitable feelings of victory for one side and loss for the other.
And here is a list, in alphabetical order, of the psychohistorians, psychologists, psychoanalysts, and Jungian analysts whose ideas we’ll be studying in America on the Couch, and who act as our guides on this Dante’s journey of exploration through the American psyche: Stephen Aizenstat, John Beebe, Bonnie Bright, Gary S. Bobroff, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Philip Cushman, Larry Decker, Raymond De Young, Edward Edinger, Michael Eigen, Stephen J. Foster, Charles Grob, Bud Harris PhD, A. Chris Heath, James Hillman, Judith V. Jordan, Donald Kalsched, Robert J. Langs, Linda Schierse Leonard, Harriet Lerner, Robert Jay Lifton, A. Thomas McLellan, Thomas Moore, Ginette Paris, Mary Pipher, Ernest Rossi, Andrew Samuels, Erel Shalit, June Singer, Thomas Singer, Lawrence H. Staples, Murray Stein, Charles B. Strozier, Paul Wachtel, Karen B. Walant, Marion Woodman, and Luigi Zoja.
As the Study Guide is based on America on the Couch, that book will be required reading; American Icarus: A Memoir of Father and Country is suggested, but not necessary. Please write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to participate in this study guide and form a group, but can’t afford a copy of America on the Couch.
I look forward to your responses, and to reaching out and joining with those I know and those I don’t know, and to also participating with individuals and groups via email over the coming months!
With all my best regards,