Autobiographical Notes:
Adam Blatner

December 10, 2006   (In addition to the general biographical outline that can be read by clicking the bio section above, this amplifies some of those details.)   Further notes will be added as time passes.

I think aspects of the story of my life might be of interest because they witness to a number of important cultural shifts that operated in my lifetime. Some began in earnest, though some precursors (of course) might be discerned, while others continued and evolved. I have been fortunate, I feel, in being a part of these, even if only, as I sometimes put it, “on the outer fringes of the cutting edge.”

Professionally, I have been affiliated with the general fields of psychology, medicine, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and related endeavors. In these roles, I’ve been part of:
– the height of the fashion of psychoanalysis in psychiatry, and its somewhat precipitous decline
– the emergence of a stronger trend towards medical treatments, medicines for psychiatric illnesses, and research in neuro-science
– the flourishing of alternative approaches to psychoanalysis as more efficient and holistic approaches to psychotherapy
– the emergence of a sense of rational eclecticism, a search for common denominators and ways to theoretically and practically move towards integration of the best insights and techniques derived from the aforementioned proliferation of approaches
– more specifically, I’ve been active in systematically organizing and presenting the theoretical and practical foundations of psychodrama, therapeutic role playing, and helping to build scholarly bridges with its related fields such as drama therapy, group psychotherapy, family therapy, and so on.
  – the emergence of humanistic psychology, the encounter group, and the human potential movement, its fashionable phase, and its continuing more subtle influence.
– the emergence of new trends towards integrating spirituality and psychotherapy, at first through the field called “transpersonal psychology.”
-- the shift from using psychology mainly in the clinical field to applying it more in the mainstream culture (i.e., in business, education, religion, community-building, everyday life)-- what I've called "psychological-ization."
-- adding also the domains of imaginativeness, play, and other aspects that I've called "re-enchantment" and "spiritual-ization"-- both in enriching and modifying religion and in general endeavors apart from religion
   For more playful explorations of such dimensions, see "Adam ManyParts" and  his cartoon biography.
-- harvesting the best insights of Alfred North Whitehead's philosophical ideas and applying them also in the aforementioned contexts.

(As a hobby, I became interested in the history of medicine as a more specific “window” on the history of humanity in general. At times, this perspective has aided me in my other endeavors.)

Personally, I’m aware of a number of other trends that I have participated in and reflected upon:
– a stable childhood and adolescence in the 50s and its emergence (just before the “boomer generation) into the postmodern era
– a process of assimilation, ethnically, from my background as an Americanized Jew with parents who immigrated from Eastern Europe when they were younger, noting this process over several generations and reflecting on the assimilation and acculturation of other ethnic groups
– a process of loss of connection with religion and an interesting and rich story of how I re-connected in some unconventional ways
– a weaving together of interests in various subjects and an indirect commentary on their cultural evolution, also, including:
    – singing, popular songs, kids’ songs from camp, novelty and funny songs, folk songs and their fashion in the 1950s, holding song fests, compiling song sheets and booklets; reflecting on the dilution of the nature of popular songs as understandable (i.e., you can hear the words distinctly), singable, memorize-able.
    – dancing, first ballroom, then international folk dancing; later, square and round dancing; reflecting on the dilution of the idea of dancing with steps.
    – cartooning, starting with an interest in comics, influenced by the EC Comic artists (science fiction, horror comics, MAD comics), later influences in Mayan writing systems, other alphabets, geometry, etc.  Enjoyment of cartoon- like art by others. (See cartoon bio)
    – humor and the enjoyment and following of types of humorists, comedians, etc.
   – history, with slight emphasis on military history, the history of the Jews, and in later life, the history of writing systems, all of which served as lenses for examining the richness and depth of history itself.  Many other types have also been included in the reading.
    – general reading, loving libraries, browsing, reading quickly and slowly in many fields.
    -- investing in a diversified life, maintaining connections and involvements with nuclear and extended family, friends, and community
     -- walking, working out at the fitness center, riding my bike, etc.

... and though I did a fair amount of travel as a young-middle adult, and more associated with professional conferences, I’ve never gotten much out of travel, nor been much interested in it. Similarly, sports has been uninteresting to me. I felt a bit “different,” for a while, but have come to respect my own focus on what I am interested in—really a rather broad range of things, but not everything!

Cultural Criticism

Perhaps the most relevant part of my autobiography, though, has been a process I’ve found especially fascinating: Many of the social norms, role definitions, and assumptions about values that I learned as a youngster I’ve found to be misleading, over-generalized, and not infrequently flat wrong. This has come out of my own personal re-evaluations (also known as a partial self-analysis, much done with the help of my wife, Alle); from my work with patients in psychotherapy whose problems, it occurred to me, arose in part due to the playing out the rules of life they’d been taught not just by their family, but by the mainstream culture!; and in part from a tendency to reflect on life.

I will confess to having been in part infused with a psychoanalytic sensibility, and while I criticize Freud and his followers in many ways, I also honor that there are a number of elements that I have not only found most useful, but they represent deep values: I believe in systematic intellectual humility, knowing that I am infused with patterns and temptations for self-deception. Part of my life play has been the detective game of discerning these and correcting them. It seems un-ending, but not at all disheartening.

I also have a bit of Buddhist or trans-personal perspective, reinforced by other studies in esoteric fields, such as the Jewish mystical tradition of kabbalah. In short, I view life largely as a construction of mind, individual and collective, and in general, I see our own age as being in the midst of a paradigm shift: Moving away from the materialism, scientism, reductionism, positivism, and over-valuing of rationalism that characterized the height of the spirit of modernity—a sensibility still quite pervasive in our culture—, I see a shift towards a re-balancing with a greater respect for the proper exercise of trans-rational thought, emotion, empathy, imagination, playfulness, spontaneity, and a degree of phenomenology and holism in philosophy. I temper this with a mild dose of postmodernist philosophy—note, only a mild dose, because there is much in postmodernism that, when taken too seriously or over-used, seem to me to be foolish—, the general perspective is, shall we say, simply, reflective. I think not only about thinking (i.e., meta-cognition), but also thinking about what it means, culturally, spiritually, psychologically, and from an evolutionary perspective, to reflect also on what it might mean that increasing people are being reflective (i.e., meta-meta-cognition).

These complex aspirations and tendencies to be a visionary in themselves make no claim to being right or accurate. I continue to learn, revise, refine, and am certain only that in several hundred years my approach may be appreciated as at best relatively useful to others in the evolution of consciousness; at worst, well, with some indulgence, that I probed some ideas that turned out to be blind alleys. I want to balance the confidence to seek and penetrate, to dare to speculate and create systems of thought, with the recognition that it is likely that Hegel’s concept of history as a dialectical process is probably right: Others will point out antithetical ideas, and others will find ways to use the best of my insights and charitably leave the worst.

On other webpages, I’ll pursue some of these points.