In the Chinese language, the two characters representing crisis are danger and opportunity. Can that possibly be true of these days of pandemic crisis, with physical, economic, and psychological destabilization? Voices of experience and wisdom speak to us about finding potential in desperate situations.

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The archetype of origins is in resurgence since the advent of ancestry-mapping programs. What are the psychological and symbolic meanings of ancestry? Identity is often strongly linked to ancestry in its ethnic and cultural aspects, and as the carrier of personal traits.

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Should an analyst share personal information with clients? Freud believed that the analyst should be devoid of personal presence, so he sat unseen behind his famous couch. Jung realized that regardless of theory, psychotherapy entailed two people in a room interacting. 

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“The word plague derives from the Latin plangere, “to strike the breast as if in lamentation.” The novel coronavirus has visited loss, fear and hardship on many. Nature in her destructive mode can radically disrupt cultural creations and norms and show us how fragile they – and we — are.”

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“Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be.” For Eeyore, only perverse possibilities lie ahead, even if they are unknowable. Do gloomy expectations create self-fulfilling prophecies? Or are pessimists more realistic than naive optimists like Winnie the Pooh? Pessimism can be associated with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and more. It may also motivate preparation and striving, especially if the pessimist believes he or she can overcome significant obstacles and succeed. 

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We can all cite examples of behaviors that defy reason and meaning. How can we understand X shouting those things at a party, or the bizarre thing Y filmed himself doing on YouTube? There is a great array of psychological labels for such behaviors, as if pronouncing them “histrionic,” “manic” or even “drunk” explains radical actions and cascades of feelings.

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While psychiatric diagnostic labels often reify the complexities of psychological dynamics, they can also orient us to the essential qualities of a particular emotional and behavioral field. BPD is characterized by difficulty with affect regulation, intense and unstable interpersonal relationships, impulsive behavior, and a tendency toward highly polarized emotions: idealization / elation versus devaluation / despair. BPD is associated with early relational deficits, especially in caretakers’ capacity to maintain connection when their child is angry or aggressive. If intense early emotional states have not been well moderated, they can take on the force of emotional tsunamis, overwhelm the ego, and lead to impetuous and self-harming behaviors. A deep therapeutic and human process can re-inspire the possibility that one can find one’s center in a human relationship.

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