The Clinical Adventures of a Bulletproof Therapist

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So at my workshop Michael, the ex-fire-fighter, ex-brooklyn DA said: “That title doesn’t work — too long.” Now Michael is an amazing writer and I do look forward to his book being published and watching folks read it on the subway — but about this he is wrong. That’s the whole point of my book, of my life in fact. Psychology needs to be a bridge and not a tower.

People think that the world of psychological health and fitness is its own little planet — like a star shining down illuminating what we can’t see within ourselves. Or they think it’s a meteor crashing down: “blowing that shit up,” as my kids like to say. But my book stamps its foot in a tantrum of: “No! No! No! It’s not either” or.” It’s not: you’re a writer, or an activist, or a trauma therapist.” My life –like my book is an ingathering of stories that heal.

I knew my friend Milton got it when he said: “I guess psychology is like G-d; it’s there even if you don’t believe in it.” I know that Milton believes in G-d, so that takes care of that.

A therapist, a social worker, a shrink; a bleeding heart, a hug-a-thug, words like sniper fire, bullets killing any hope that a therapist in the trenches, on the bus that will explode seconds after they get off, the therapist that is not trapped in the consulting room can instill hope, or find the hope that eludes.

My book Here but Often There: The Clinical Adventures of a Bulletproof Therapist, is about the advantages of dissociation. Dawn in the desert is everywhere at once and trauma does not belong to geography. Transcendent moments cannot pave the way to peace if they go unrecognized; and sometimes it takes a clinical eye to recognize transcendence.

Robert Jay Lifton was throttled when he undertook his writing of The Nazi Doctors. They said that by getting their side of the story he was giving it legitimacy. But that’s not what clinical understanding does. The trauma lens takes a picture so we can stop, breathe, figure out which problem it is that we are trying to solve. The trauma lens gives us the opportunity to change the outcome.

Embedded in the story, embedded in the predicament, embedded in a clinical relationship; there is no anthropological detachment. There is the challenge to make meaning of the story behind the violence — those split seconds of hope where transcendence is a possibility.

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