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Through A Glass Darkly


MartyT

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Dear Ones,

I want to share with you this extraordinary article from the January 2008 issue of The Sun Magazine, in which journalist Barbara Platek interviews psychotherapist and author Miriam Greenspan:

Through a Glass Darkly: Miriam Greenspan on Moving from Grief to Gratitude

Psychotherapist and author Miriam Greenspan was born in a displaced-persons camp in southern Germany shortly after World War ii. Her parents were Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust, enduring dislocation, imprisonment in a forced-labor camp, starvation, and the destruction of their families, homes, and community. Although her mother and father did not speak to her about these experiences until she was thirteen, Greenspan remembers sensing their grief from a young age and knowing there was a story there that needed to be told.

A psychotherapist for more than thirty-three years, Greenspan sees the dark emotions as potentially profound spiritual teachers — if we can live mindfully with them. She knows from experience how to befriend these emotions: fate has brought her the death of one child and the disability of another. Though she believes firmly in the idea that conscious suffering can deepen our connection to life and make us more compassionate people, Greenspan understands our tendency to turn away. She quotes Carl Jung: "One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. . . . This procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not very popular."

Greenspan holds degrees from Northeastern University, Columbia University, and Brandeis University, and she served on the editorial board of the journal Women and Therapy for a decade. Her first book, A New Approach to Women and Therapy (McGraw-Hill), helped define the field of women's psychology and feminist therapy in the early eighties. In her most recent book, Healing through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair (Shambhala), she argues passionately that the avoidance of the dark emotions is behind the escalating levels of depression, addiction, anxiety, and irrational violence in the U.S. and throughout the world. Her therapeutic approach encourages what she calls "emotional alchemy," a process by which fear can be transformed into joy, grief into gratitude, and despair into a resilient faith in life. She questions the prevailing psychiatric attitude toward grief and despair, which relies heavily upon psychopharmacology to return us as quickly as possible to a "normal" state. Her focus is on transformation rather than normalcy.

Now sixty, Greenspan has become a spokeswoman for what Jungian analyst James Hollis calls the "swamplands of the soul." She leads the descent into the most-rejected places in our psyches, having spent a good part of her life learning to navigate this rough terrain.

I met Greenspan for this interview on a sunny day in May 2007 at her home in Jamaica Plain, a tree-lined Boston neighborhood. She lives in one part of the house with her two daughters and husband, while her ninety-five-year-old mother occupies the other. Greenspan led me to the space where she meets with her psychotherapy clients: a light-filled room adorned with images and objects from nature and mythology. Though we talked primarily about the dark emotions, the conversation was anything but depressing. I was struck by how willing Greenspan is to be present with what is. She quotes the comedian Lenny Bruce: "We all live in a happy-ending culture, a what-should-be culture. . . . We are all taught that fantasy. But if we were taught 'This is what is,' I think we'd all be less screwed up." Read on here >>>

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Well, Marty...this piece is just the best. I started to copy/paste some quotes that I especially liked from it into this post but I would have ended up pasting the entire article here. Her approach to life, her belief "system", her inferred and clearly stated approach to therapy is all but identical to how Bill and I have tried to live and our approach to doing therapy these past many years. It is such an affirming piece. I felt so excited reading this because it is so rare to find someone who states so clearly and sensitively what my beliefs are and my philosophy (and Bill's) is/was. I have ordered her books and plan to pass this article on to a few people...though most will not read it or if they do...many will disagree with it for the reasons the author states. This is so broad, so inclusive, so whole.. and for many so threatening....where do I stop? It is indeed, as you said, extraordinary and it is not surprising to me at all that you were so drawn to it as it reflects you so well.

Thank you SO much for this. What a gift. Now I have to go read every word of it again :) print it out and read it again later until her books arrive...then I will also listen to the interviews. I was at Kripalu for 8 weeks in 1980...an incredible journey...cried every day :)..tears of pain, tears of joy, tears of whatever. The poem she mentions, "Try to Praise the Mutilated World," was put into music (4 part) a couple of years ago by a local outstanding composer and sung by a choir directed by a friend. I know it very well. Reading this was like looking in a mirror....reflecting back to me my aspirations and beliefs. Thank you, Mary mfh

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Oh Mary, I had a feeling you were going to love this article! It's dated 2008 and I just happened to stumble upon it (via Twitter) this afternoon. One of those things that was just meant to be. I thought of you and Bill when I read it, and it warms my heart to know that you appreciate this woman's writing and philosophy as much as I do. Thanks so much for letting me know

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Marty, I love those synchronistic happenings. Yes, it WAS meant to be...I am writing the author about it in a moment.

I made it through my first funeral since Bill died...this morning. Same soloist, some same songs....difficult but not devastating. The friend who died had the same Dx as Bill did originally (cerebral amyloid angiopathy) and I told his wife, a friend, that I am here for her....she wept. After the reception, I came home and sobbed (of course).

Thanks again for the article. It is perfect!!

Mary

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Marty, I REALLY appreciate this link, thank you for running across it and posting it. I am presently composing a list of books to read this winter and have added Ms. Greenspans; Healing Through the Dark Emotions..... to my list.

Beth

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