Existential-Humanistic NorthWest

From the Polarized Mind to the Rediscovery of Awe: An Existential-Integrative Perspective on Healing Presented by: Kirk J Schneider, Ph.D.

Praise for The Polarized Mind:

" The Polarized Mind is one of the great reflections on humanity." --Alfried Langle, MD, President, International Society for Logotherapy and Existential Analysis on Kirk Schneider's new book The Polarized Mind: Why It's Killing Us and What We Can Do About It.

" The Polarized Mind targets an important problem and shows how it has surfaced throughout the entire world, and chronologically, through the whole of recorded history. The book's scope is mind-boggling and its message crucial." --Huston Smith, Author of "The World's Religions" on Kirk Schneider's new book The Polarized Mind: Why It's Killing Us and What We Can Do About It.

Workshop Summary

There is a reason that many of the most twisted and destructive people on this planet are not seen as “mental patients.” They tend to be ordinary or even celebrated individuals—and their brains are as “normal” as the rest of us. Does this not tell us something glaring about the inadequacy of our current diagnostic system, as well as the culture out of which it arises? We have no language for the malady that both supersedes and in many cases fuels the diagnostic categories we conventionally term psychiatric illnesses, and our reduction of them to brain abnormalities almost entirely blinds us to their deeper cause. This cause is overridingly environmental and the product not of sickness but of unaddressed, unacknowledged fear—which leads individuals and societies to become rigid, narrow, and destructive. I call this syndrome “the polarized mind.”

In this workshop, I will explore the nature and basis of the polarized mind, how it afflicts both individuals and societies, and some steps we can take to address the issue. Some of these steps derive from “awe-based” wisdom traditions of the past and present, and some can be derived from what I term “existential-integrative” (EI) therapy, which echoes these traditions. In the first and briefer part of the workshop I will explore with the audience some of my major findings from my recent book The Polarized Mind, about how polarized leaders and their cultures have evolved through history, as well as some steps that in my view are urgent to curb the problem. In the second and lengthier portion of the workshop, I will discuss and illustrate the principles of EI therapy, which address the contemporary polarizations we see every day in our offices and clinics. I will provide case examples, video excerpts, exercises, and live demonstrations to illustrate the power of EI therapy to revitalize diverse lives.

Recommended Readings:

  • Becker, E. (1973). The Denial of Death. New York: Free Press. 
  • Foucault, M. (1965). Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Vintage. 
  • Laing, R.D. (1967). The Politics of Experience. New York: Ballantine. 
  • Laing, R.D. (1969). The Divided Self: A Study in Sanity and Madness. Middlesex, UK: Penguin. 
  •  Schneider, K. (2004). Rediscovery of Awe: Splendor, Mystery, and the Fluid Center of Life. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House.
  •  Schneider, K. (2008). Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy: Guideposts to the Core of Practice. New York: Routledge. 
  • Schneider, K. (2009). Awakening to Awe: Personal Stories of Profound TransformationLanham, MD: Jason Aronson. 
  • Schneider, K. (2013). The Polarized Mind: Why It’s Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. Colorado Springs, CO: University Professors Press.

Workshop Outline

I The Larger Peril of Humanity is Not Mental Illness but The Polarized Mind
A. Some qualities of the polarized mind, i.e., the fixation on one point of view to the utter exclusion of competing points of view (beyond the DSM). Difference between polarized mind and extremism
B. How the polarized mind has evolved in major power centers throughout history
C. How the polarized mind has evolved in our own lives (my life)

II Basis of the Problem
A. The terror of death, groundlessness, insignificance, cosmic helplessness
B. Terror management theory and the evidence behind generative death anxiety
C. Range of polarizations/fantacisms—from racism to obsession with wealth and materialism

III Treatment of the Problem
A. The issue of mental disturbance (polarization) must be addressed by much more than drugs, prisons, or short-term fixes because too often these reinforce the quick-fix nature of the problem itself
B. We need to apply the great wisdom traditions of the past-- non-dogmatic philosophical and spiritual traditions (in many cases from the very same power centers that have been ravaged by polarization), plus what we know today about awe-based and depth psychology, to every major level of our lives, from childrearing to work etc. Consider Socrates, mystical agnostics, studies on awe and self-actualization.
C. This is a kind of “ontological” or “being” therapy; the art and science of how we ”treat” each other, as Laing would say--and on a mass scale.
D. Consider what I call “a Manhattan Project for Depth Therapy”

IV Existential-Integrative Therapy
A. Intro to the approach—one way of understanding and coordinating a variety of therapeutic modalities within an overarching existential-experiential context
B. Basic principles—“How are you living and how are you willing to live?”
C. Levels of liberation for levels of constrictive/expansive consciousness,
D. Non and semi-experiential approaches within the model
E. The four experiential stances—Presence as ground and aim; Invoking the actual; Vivifying and confronting self-protections, and Rediscovering Meaning and Awe

V Video examples
A. Mark
B. Anita

VI Experiential exercises

VII Live Demonstration