Interview with J. G. Ballard, 1997

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J G Ballard, (image from Alchetron)

In September of 1997, I had just started my first job out of psychiatric residency at Omaha VA and University of Nebraska. I was keen to continue my scholarly work on creativity, trauma, and healing that I had started with my studies of Jerzy Kosinski and Louis Ferdinand Céline – writers who had lived through war. I envisioned a book examining the lives and writing of a series of authors and I contacted J. G. Ballard for an interview via the post. Life happened and other things came up and I did not get much further on that book idea. (Some of my writing of this era can be found on my webpage in the Coniunctionis column I had written for the on-line journal Mental Contagion). Somewhere along the way, I lost the original handwritten letters of my correspondence with J. G. Ballard, but my sister, Karen, recently gave me back a stack of my writings that I had sent her over the years and these contained a photocopy of the transcribed manuscripts. (Thanks to Shelby Stuart for transcribing from hard copy).

I am belatedly publishing this interview with J. G. Ballard from 1997. My initial questions appear immediately below and following this Ballard’s reply.

9/25/97

Dear Mr. Ballard,

Thank you for your response to my letter concerning an interview on the topic of trauma, literature, and autobiography. I appreciate your suggestion of a postal interview.

In trying to draft a few preliminary questions, I have been struggling to avoid simplistic and potentially leading questions. Rather than an isolated question, I have embedded the question in a context including my own musings and various references. I hope this does not prove too distracting.

What has fascinated me in your writings is your past experience as a child of war and the reappearance of images like the empty swimming pool and the young, male protagonist enthusiastically exploring physical and psychological landscapes in transition. How do you see the relation of these childhood experiences to your later writing? I have also wondered the unanswerable question: would you have been a writer without those experiences during the Japanese occupation?

The later traumatic incident that stands out is the death of your wife as described in The Kindness of Women. I became interested in your works during my clinical years of medical school when I had just finished reading a number of William S. Burroughs’ novels. I was struck by the loss of your wives’ deaths preceding (if my memory serves me) both of your careers as writers. Burroughs commented,

“I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, from Control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit and maneuvered me into a lifelong struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out,” (Miles, William Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible, 1993, pg. 53).

 

Could you comment on the early loss of your wife and your career as a writer?

Could you comment on how close to objective reality your books Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women are? Stated another way, where do you consider these books on the spectrum of objective history-symbolic representation? Spence, a psychoanalyst, has used the distinction between ‘historical truth’ and ‘narrative truth.’ These two realms of truth describe external and internal realities which are equally valid, although not necessarily identical. I notice that both of my copies of these two books of yours are classified as ‘fiction.’ I spent quite a bit of time on this question in relation to my work on Kosinski. There are great discrepancies between Kosinki’s documented biography and his fictional portrayals of his life which he encouraged to be taken as autobiography. While expressing some form of symbolic truth in his ‘auto-fiction,’ as he called it, he both revealed, disguised, and concealed certain elements of his self.

An observation that has struck me is that many of your books seem quite hopeful in contrast to those of Konsinski and Céline’s which I have been studying. You generally do not portray the despair and disappointment in human nature that they do. Kosinski’s books are filled with existential aloneness, sadism, and brutality, ultimately, he committed suicide. His life and writing could be viewed as being tainted and continually influenced by the events of his childhood, a Nazi victory almost 50 years after the fact. In your books and stories you seem to draw on childhood experiences and images, yet there is more of a sense of hope. Other related questions I have relate to a clinical phenomenon observed in survivors of trauma which Freud called the “repetition compulsion.” His view was that traumatized individuals recreate traumatic interactions in their later relationships in an attempt to have a better outcome. I have not seen this to hold true in many of the individuals with whom I have worked, instead they just seem to add new trauma to old. However, in writing, it does seem possible that some form of reworking and mastering of past experiences could take place. Writing can also be a form of witnessing, which in many theories of recovery from trauma is a necessary step for the individual objectified and isolated by trauma to reconnect with the community. Could you comment on this possible relation between trauma, repetition, and writing as witnessing?

Do you have any thoughts or comments on these interactions in the lives and writings of any of the other authors I am in the process of examining: Céline, Kosinski, Burroughs, Beckett, Woolf?

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I have been curious about your portrayals of sexuality in some of your earlier works, such as The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash. These books examine a mode of sexual interaction which is objectified rather than focusing on the subjective or shared emotional experience. These two works seem to explore the potentialities of interaction and to develop modes of relating based on architecture or mechanics (perversions of geometry). To what extent were these personal struggles for you in your life, compared to philosophical explorations? I guess this gets back to the question of historical and narrative truth.

Also of interest is your writing yourself into your own novel in your own automobile accident. (Did you know that Stephen Crane also wrote of fictional situations which he later experienced in his life, such as a boat accident?) Could you comment on this reversal of life imitating art, rather than art imitating life?

Back to the issue of sexuality. Much clinical work has focused on survivors of trauma who have been treated in an objectified manner and who then relate to others in an objectified way, again, a form of repetition or re-enactment of the past. Flipping through The Atrocity Exhibition, I find Dr. Nathan’s comment, “However, you must understand that for Traven science is the ultimate pornography, analytic activity whose aim is to isolate objects or events from their contexts in time and space,” (Re/Search publication, 1990, p. 36). Some of the more enlightened psychiatrists have realized this insight about objectivity and the scientific method, as Stoller has stated, the “false self of psychoanalysis is our jargonized theory,” (Stoller, Observing the Erotic Imagination, 1985, p. 175). The jargon thus become the fetish which is used to objectify the other. This reminds me, in what way did your medical studies influence your writing?

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Could you comment on your commitment to Science Fiction? I just finished your book of essays, A User’s Guide to the Millennium, (which is a great title, by the way) and I was struck by the extent that you consider yourself a S-F writer. In the States, Burroughs, Vonnegut, and Ballard are found in the general fiction section. I think that here S-F tends to be looked down on by the “serious” writers. Although, amongst many of my friends, reading S-F was a kind of rite of passage which led up to the journey away from planet “home.”

One last question, what did you think of the film adaptation of Crash? The movie and the novel have been the topic of a number of conversations that I have had with friends.

Well, I guess I did end up asking a few questions. I would like to go through your books in an orderly fashion and perhaps formulate a few more questions if you are willing to tolerate them. I appreciate your willingness to review these pages.

Sincerely,

David Kopacz

Omaha, NE

J. G. Ballard’s Reply

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http://www.jgballard.ca/criticism/experimental_fiction.html 

 

2/10/97

 

Dear Mr. Kopacz,

Happy to answer your questions, and I hope you can read my handwriting [transcribed from original] – I ought to say first that there seems to be an underlying assumption by both you and the received wisdom of the day that all disturbing or violent experience is inherently damaging – that is that experiences such as the death of a spouse or child, death of a parent, the stress of being uprooted from one’s home, the hunger and privations of war, will all leave indelible fracture lines that run through the wounded psyche like a crack through a glass pane, and that even the lightest tap is capable of inflicting irreparable damage – I very much doubt this, although I seem to be opposed to the entire apparatus of 20th century psychotherapy – the fact is that throughout most of their evolution, human beings have been exposed to constant threats and ordeals, both physical and mental, of every kind, and the majority of people recuperate and in due course make a full recovery – when Empire of the Sun was published many people remarked on the appalling hardships I described, as if they were wholly untypical of the lives led by most people of the time – but as I always retort, the experiences I described in Empire of the Sun are far closer to the way in which most people on this planet have always lived, even today – it is we in the suburbanized, welfare-state western democracies who lead untypical lives – if the death of a spouse, child, parent, if hunger, disease, and privation were unusual and deeply damaging, human beings would never have survived. In fact they have enormous powers of recuperation, and when a devastating blow like a child’s loss of a mother, an utterly irreparable disaster according to psychologists such as Bowlby, can be recovered from if the wider family supports and loves the child, and sometimes, I suspect, if it doesn’t – this is not to say that genuinely horrific experiences of a sustained kind – like Nazi death camps and so on – do not inflict lasting damage – of course they do, just as some people will never recover from the wounds of a serious car crash.

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I think this preamble probably answers many of your questions, but I will deal with them one at a time –

Childhood experiences and my later writing, and would I have become a writer but for WWII?

I think those experiences were a remarkable education, introducing me to an immensely wider contact with the real world than I would have had if my father had been running a textile company in Manchester – I also saw adults under pressure – an education in itself – in fact I didn’t write Empire of the Sun until I was in my mid-50’s and I think that I had long since come to terms with my experience of the war and risen above it.

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http://www.jgballard.ca/media/1974_imagination_on_trial.html

Would I have been a writer but for WWII?

               Probably, since I was a tremendous day-dreamer and fantasist from an early age (five or six) – however, I think the first-hand experience of the war made me very suspicious of the ‘solidarity’ of everyday life (house and home, the securities of bourgeois life, etc.) and pointed me toward the surrealists – I think I relished the surrealists’ dislocations of the war-time landscape as I experienced them, possibly because I realized that the abandoned hotels and drained swimming pools addressed a deeper truth about the nature of so-called civilized settled life – in part I probably turned to science fiction because it allowed me to inflict just those corrective dislocations on the suffocating docility of English life and all its gentrified ordinariness.

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http://www.ballardian.com/drained-london 

No, my wife’s death, in 1964, came ten years after I began writing, and by then I had published 2 novels, and 2/3 book of short stories.

Trauma, repetition and writing?

I’m not sure that I have ever suffered irreparable trauma – the experience of psychotherapists is not a reliable guide, since they are dealing with a small number of genuinely wounded patients, who perhaps lack the constitutional strengths that allow most people to recover.

Of course the death of my wife was a devastating blow, and to some extent I still mourn her over 30 years later – I think it’s “inexplicable” cruelty (in fact, sadly, mortality often unexpected, is the ocean we swim in) led me to embark on the Atrocity Exhibition, with its attempt to make sense of another inexplicable death, that of J.F.K. – “he wants to kill Kennedy again, but in a way that makes sense,” someone says of the Traven figure.

I’ve never claimed that Empire and Kindness of Women were straight or were largely autobiographical. They are my life as seen through the mirror of the fiction generated by my life – I hope that all my fiction is optimistic, since it is a fiction describing various journeys of psychological fulfillment – my characters, including Jim in Empire, devise strategies that allow them to remythologize themselves – though often their behavior seems superficially paradoxical and even self-defeating – (Kosinski, from what one of his then British publishers told me, was a deeply unhappy man, obsessed with pornography, of which he had a huge collection that he swapped with another wayward Pole, Polanski – but I suspect he would have been deeply unhappy even if WWII had never occurred – I doubt if his suicide was a victory for the Nazis, since he was never interned and the ordeals he witnessed were those of a child – the older concentration camp victims were the true sufferers.

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Céline, if I remember, was wounded in the first World War, and this may have acted as a facilitator, revealing a thread of vicious misanthropy that found its most concentrated form in anti-Semitism – a brilliant writer, but deeply nasty man probably from childhood – Burroughs, whom I knew on and off for over 30 years, seemed to me to have entirely created his own world from his imagination, from his homosexuality and the worldview generated by heavy drug use – I never had the sense that any events of his childhood had profoundly influenced him – Woolf, I assume was flawed from the word go, a depressive who might have survived but for the war.

The sexuality portrayed in Atrocity Exhibition and Crash has very little to do with my own. I own no pornography, soon become bored with the films on the “adult” channels in European hotels, and have been lucky enough to have had long and emotionally close relationships with a remarkably few women. On the other hand, I am interested in the ‘idea’ of pornography and how our sexual imaginations are influenced and shaped by the alienating effects of late C20 life – as I keep saying, Crash is a love story, describing how a man and his wife rediscover their love for each other, a fierce love that may be its own [warning? I was unsure of the original handwritten word]. Atrocity is one sustained attempt to make sense of the dislocations of the world.

A User’s Guide – the pieces go back to the 1960’s, when I was still writing s-f, and when I certainly considered myself in part an s-f writer and still had hopes that the genre could escape its juvenile origins and amount to something. But todays -s-f, largely dominated by cinema, is wholly different, a form I suppose of commercial space fantasy – but I’m still interested in science and its handmaiden, technology, and how these play into the hands of our own latent psychopathology. Indeed the normalizing of the psychopathic is the main enterprise on which late C20 mankind has embarked – Crash, the film? A superb and brave adaptation by Cronenberg – I think it will prove to be a landmark film, the Psycho of the 90’s – in the future all films will try to be like Crash —–

Best Wishes,

J.G. Ballard

Treating All of the Patient Physio Matters Interview, August 2016

The following is the text of an interview I did for Physio Matters, (member magazine of Physiotherapy New Zealand) August 2016.

FEATURE 22 | PHYSIO MATTERS AUGUST 2016

Treating All of the Patient
Interview by Rhonwyn Newson

David Kopacz, author of the book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine, defines a holistic approach to healthcare means taking into account all human dimensions that influence health and illness.

These include not just the physical, but also the emotional, relational, mental, creative and spiritual dimensions of the person.

“To be holistic is the opposite of being reductionist. In addition to focussing on the physical body, we also are heartcentred, bringing caring and compassion to our work,” Dr Kopacz says.

How can physiotherapists provide a more holistic approach to treating patients?

Dr Kopacz believes clinicians can only provide holistic healthcare by first developing one’s own ‘wholeness’.

“We cannot give to someone else what we have not first developed in ourselves. Healthcare is both an art and a science, although we often forget the art and only focus on the science. If we want to give more compassionate care, we must cultivate our own compassion.”

‘Counter-curriculum of self-care’

Dr Kopacz notes that healthcare workers are often not trained to take care of themselves.

“If we do not care for and replenish ourselves, we end up with professional burn-out, which leads to a loss of caring in healthcare, and ultimately a loss of health for both the healthcare worker and the client.”

The basics are a great place to start – stretching, exercise, regular movement and engagement in life. Proper nutrition and relaxation techniques are helpful too. From there, the concept of mind-body-spirit should be looked at, and this applies to both the clinician and the patient.

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David Kopacz at Re-humanizing Medicine book signing at University of Washington Bookstore, January 2014 (Photo: Salin Sriudomporn)

According to Dr Kopacz, there are nine dimensions that need to be looked at:

  • How can a person engage their body for health?
  • How can a person engage their emotions for health?
  • How can a person engage their mind for health?
  • How can a person engage their heart for health?
  • How can a person engage their creativity for health?
  • How can a person engage their intuition for health?
  • How can a person engage their spirit for health?
  • How can a person engage their context and surroundings for health?
  • How can a person engage their time for health?

Looking at these nine dimensions gives a holistic view of a person, and each dimension has health benefits. Physiotherapists can individualise a treatment plan by finding out how to support a person to engage all of the dimensions of their health. “We don’t have to be an expert at working with each of these different dimensions, but as healthcare workers, we need to have basic fluency in each dimension.”

Treating more than just an injury

“When people are injured or have a movement disorder, it doesn’t just affect the physical body as a machine – the body also ‘thinks’,” Dr Sandra Bassett, senior lecturer in Physiotherapy at AUT says.

Dr Bassett believes a biopsychosocial healthcare approach means taking into account the beliefs people have about their treatment and their injury.

“It means taking the time to talk to a patient about any limitations to adhering to treatments – what their time and social commitments are.”

From Dr Bassett’s perspective biopsychosocial healthcare is different to providing holistic healthcare.

“It’s about finding out and respecting what a patient thinks. What their commitments are, and how they think their bodies work.”

She also believes patient education is so important. Knowing how the body works, and how treatment will help, means patients are more likely to adhere to their treatment and manage their disability.

“I often hear physios saying, ‘But I’m not a counsellor’, and that’s true,” she says. “However, physiotherapists are well-placed to connect with people, and get them to think about their day and when they might be able to fit in their treatment exercise regime, for example.”

Physios can also place responsibility on a patient to encourage self-efficacy. “Our research shows that when patients take responsibility and ownership of their treatment, they cope much better. Patients feel better about themselves and think more positively.” In this sense, the physiotherapist may act as more of a coach by setting goals, and providing encouragement and support, as well as educating the patient.

Dr Kopacz says an injured person may also suffer from grief over lost physical functionality, anxiety over being re-injured, and even depression around an injury. These emotional and mental elements need to be addressed in order for a person to even have the motivation, and commitment, to doing the exercises that physiotherapists know would help them.

“A key question is asking a patient, ‘What do you want your health for?’ This helps to motivate a person, and individualise their care. It’s not enough to provide information or appeal to a person’s intellect. We need to focus on engendering hope as much as providing an evidence-based physical treatment,” he says.

Although this may seem like a lot to take on in a busy clinical setting, it is a vital component of providing care.

“…really, it comes down to making sure that we are good human beings to each other as well as being a good technician or clinician. Kindness and caring only take a moment and we need to make sure that we make space for that moment to occur.”

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Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and David Kopacz working on their new book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. (Photo: Karen Kopacz, 2016)

 

2015 in Review

What a big year it has been! My first book came out at the end of 2014 – Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine. I have traveled a lot this year for speaking engagements: from here in Seattle to Denver, Colorado, Auckland, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia.

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I just picked up Jean Houston’s book, The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology & Sacred Psychology. I was surprised to read her introduction to the second edition. She describes that in September of 1992 she stood at the northern-most point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga and watched the waters of different oceans come together. She asks her companion if “this is the place where the planetary DNA gets coded anew?” He replies, “it is…the place where all Maoris go when they have died to lift off to the Other World,” (vii).

The Search for the Beloved

This is the place, right by this tree in the photo, named Te Aroha (love), where the Māori believe that departing spirits leave this world for the other after death. Houston’s guide continued, “It is because of places like this…where the spirits of many people and many lands can meet and refresh themselves. And it is here as well…that we remember who we are and…And call our spirits home,” (viii).

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I, myself, stood in this same place, looking down on the coming together of masculine and feminine waters and of the place where souls leave this place after death – during my last month living in New Zealand, November 2013. See my blog about this trip.

Now, 2 years into living back in the United States, but in a new region, Seattle in the Northwest, I am at this point. Sorry, I know that sounds like Yoda-speak, I just saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Where am I now? Where is my home? Is my home here in the Northwest?

My wife and I went up to Victoria, British Columbia on the Victoria Clipper for an overnight weekend for our 24th wedding anniversary last weekend. Here are a few photos from that trip.

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We are still exploring this region, so it seems difficult to call it home when it is so new and so far from where we grew up and where most of our relatives live. I have been reading a lot of Joseph Campbell lately, as well as other authors (whom I will discuss below). This has been a big part of my transition from “down under” back to the Northern Hemisphere. At age 48, this has been my mid-life transition, like Dante taking his mid-life journey:

Midway along the journey of our life

     I woke to find myself in a dark wood

I have developed a class for veterans based on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. The hero hears a call to adventure, crosses a threshold, meets mentors and challengers, has a descent into the unknown world, comes to a challenge which is both external and internal, comes to terms with the inner/outer feminine as well as the authority of society, re-crosses the threshold to the known world, but here finds himself or herself a stranger in a strange land and must work to re-acculturate to their own home. What the hero finds at the furthest point of the journey is the gift or boon which transforms the self and has the potential to renew and transform society as well. But often, this gift is hard to see and the physical treasure might even be lost, as happens to Gilgamesh when he sets down the herb of immortality that he has brought up from the deepest ocean and it is eaten by a snake. This means that the real treasure is the transformation of the self – not some material item. This framework is so useful for returning veterans who have been away in the military world and have difficulty returning back to the civilian world. The book and class I have developed are at the point where I have just submitted it to a publisher for review with a tentative title of, Return:  The Hero’s Journey Home – for Veterans & Society After War.

Hero's Journey

I have found this framework helpful for my own return and I have felt fellowship with these lost souls I have been working with. Reading Houston’s introduction, my mind returned to that rocky outcropping where Te Aroha clings to the cliff, serving as a guidepost for those who have died and transition on to another world. The end of my life in New Zealand really was a kind of death for me, while I am living here in the Northwest, I am still waiting in some ways to be reborn, to find out who I will be and what my life will be like here. The Northwest is the boundary between the physical West and the spiritual North on the medicine wheel. This brings me to the other major project I have been working on, co-authoring a book with my friend and Brother Joseph Rael (Joseph likes to think of us as verbs, rather than nouns, thus “Joseph-ing”), whose Tiwa name is Tsluu-teh-koh-ay (Beautiful Painted Arrow).

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Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)

I met Joseph in October of 2014 and he and I have met in person a few times and been talking on the phone and exchanging letters for work on our book, which we are calling Becoming Your Own Medicine. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Joseph. Not only does he make me ponder spiritual questions, he is really fun to work with and I always laugh with him. We are getting to the point of doing some editing work on the manuscript for the book and it is very much my own personal journey, my own hero’s journey as much as it is about Joseph’s teachings. Of course I have been reading and re-reading Joseph’s books and he just re-released a new version of his classic, Being & Vibration: Entering the New World. Hopefully the hero’s journey book and Becoming Your Own Medicine will be released in 2016/2017.

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In addition to my work with veterans and my collaboration with Joseph, I have been doing some deep study of various topics and authors. 2014 was largely reading Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham’s works on esoteric Islam and Sufism. This also included a lot of the well-known poets, Rumi and Hafiz, but also one of my favourite books of that time, The Unveiling of Secrets: Diary of a Sufi Master by Ruzbihan Baqli. In 2015, I met Richard Miller, who was kind enough to spend some time talking about iRest & yoga Nidra, when he was up here for a conference. This year has been defined by reading a lot about Hinduism and Kashmiri Shaivism with the principle of non-duality being a primary focus, as well as the concept of spanda, the divine creative pulsation which corresponds so well to Joseph Rael’s teachings about reality. These books have primarily been by Jaideva Singh and Mark S. G. Dyczkowski.

The Unveiling of Secrets

Another topic that has been of interest to me is understanding the foundation of American democracy and seeing how we have lost touch with that and how we can re-invigorate the sense of non-denominational spirituality and human rights that were foundational for our country. I think this has been a kind of re-acquaintance with the U.S. for me. Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, Jacob Needleman’s The American Soul: Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, Steven Hermann’s two books Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward and Walt Whitman: Shamanism, Spiritual Democracy, and the World Soul have helped me to come to a re-imagining of the idea of America.

George Kirazian

George Kirazian

Another highpoint of the year was working with George Kirazian on an interview with him about his friendship with translator Juan Mascaró, whose renderings of The Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, and The Dhammapada are still readily available in the Penguin Classics series.

Juan Mascaro

Juan MascaróUpanishads

 

In addition to my own writing, I look forward to continued collaboration with Joseph Rael, as well as some other friends of mine: Gary Orr, Hilton Kopp, and Sandy Carter. I met Gary and Hilton during my time down under and we have some great ideas – stay tuned…I met Sandy when she did a book review of Re-humanizing Medicine for the Courage & Renewal blog. She and I put together a conference proposal on Joy in Work, which was turned down, but has led to our long-distance collaboration on a project on this same topic, which I have been calling, A Work of Joy. This examines finding joy in work at a time when there are high rates of stress and burnout in health care.

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At the VA, I have a couple projects I have been working on that are specific to the VA. Along with Nicola De Paul, Craig Santerre, and Jenny Salmon, we have been developing a Whole Health class that provides holistic support and inspiration to veterans who are interested in taking a more active role in their health care. I have also been working with Laura Merritt on an adaptation of Re-humanizing Medicine for VA staff, which we have been calling, Caring for Self. It is great to be able to apply some of the ideas I developed in my book to self-care for staff as well as for patients.

I’ll close in returning to what Houston writes in the introduction to her book, The Search for the Beloved: Journeys in Mythology & Sacred Psychology.

“The premise of this book is that we must call our spirits home, lest we forsake our origins, and lose hope, meaning, health, and the ability to serve and participate in the greatest challenge that history has ever known…We are all being asked, both singularly and collectively, to cross a bridge and to meet halfway a rising reality, a sacred reality. Thus the need for training in journeys into the Sacred,” (viii).

Houston develops this concept of Sacred Psychology and training in journeys into the Sacred. I feel that this is also the focus of my work in the past two years. My understanding of the hero’s journey class is that it is a form of initiation rite to help veterans move from a state of being of war to a state of being of peace in order to make the transition back into the civilian world. One of the primary ways of doing this is a kind of spiritual awakening that accompanies a shift from a materialism-based separation to a spiritual-based sense of connection and even oneness with others. I have also come to understand my work with Joseph as being a guidebook on how to become a visionary in order to move from war to peace and again to move from a state of isolated separation (which is a state of conflict) to a state of Unity as expressions of the Vast Self. This requires dying to the old self and being reborn, continuously.

Hero's Journey Reflection

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Here is how Joseph ends his book, The House of Shattering Light:

The House of Shattering Light

Each of us is a ceremony, a vibration of the All-That-Is. We ourselves are the Vast Self, that One Actor in the universe, who creates continually in all moments. We are the Vast Self playing in creation as creatures, as individuals.

In the experiences of my life, through loss and transformation, ceremony and story, I learned how to emerge continually from the individual self that is Joseph Earl Head Rael into the Vast Self again. In the kiva, in the sweat lodge, in the sun dances and long dances. I have learned to die to myself in order to know the Self, dying from this House of Shattering Light into states of ecstasy, and then returning again, that the Vast Self might drink continually of the light that It is creating.

To know ourselves as the Vast Self playing is to be both human and divine. It is for this we all are born, to be mystics, fully alive and dancing, (199-200).

My return to North America and my transition into the second half of my life have brought me to look less for a physical place of home and more for a spiritual, internal place – a place that also includes many places in the world as well as the whole world, or as Houston writes, “a citizen of the universe.”

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Alliance of International Aromatherapists conference – Denver, September 2015

I just got some photos back from a conference I did in Denver back in September. My dear friend, Sara Holmes encouraged me to present at the conference. Here is a photo of the two of us together with Sara promoting my book!

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I have been presenting variations on the topic of “Becoming a Whole Person to Treat a Whole Person.”

title slide

The idea is that we lose important aspects of ourselves as we learn to be good technicians. Therefore we must work to balance out our technical learning with human learning. This is what I call the “counter-curriculum,” the way that we re-humanize ourselves as we go through technical training and work in institutions that value economic and productivity issues in which we can lose sight of our humanity as well as the humanity of the client we are there to serve.

Be a Whole Person slide

In order to be a whole person, we must have some understanding of what it means to be a whole person. This is the framework that I use in my book:

Whole Person

I did a book signing as well as the presentation at the conference. The book signing was fun and I was able to have some great in-depth conversations with some people doing really great work. Here I am talking with Debrah Zepf (center) and Julia Graves, author of a very interesting book, The Language of Plants (right).

David Kopacz, Debrah Zepf, Julia Graves

David Kopacz, Debrah Zepf, Julia Graves

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Here are a few photos from the presentation that the conference photographer took:

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I was originally going to do a workshop, but ended up doing an hour presentation at the conference. I ran out of time to do this visualization, or perhaps I should call it a scentualization exercise. Here was the idea I had for this particular aromatherapy conference:

Integrating the Scents of Self

I also spoke some about my work with veterans and developing the hero’s journey class based on Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey. This class uses narrative, story telling, writing, mindfulness, and understanding PTSD as a form of cultural adaptation as well as a conditioned response of the nervous system. Here is a painting that I did as part of the class where we do a “hero’s project.”

Hero's Journey

It was a great conference and I really enjoyed meeting these wonderful healers there. Sara had me stand in front of this painting for a photo and I thought the lighting was interesting, so let’s end this post with that. I forget what Sara was saying to try to make me laugh, but I know it was great seeing her and her husband, Chuck – great friends from our time in Central Illinois:

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Australasian Doctors Health Conference, Melbourne, Australia

I just got back from a presentation at the Australasian Doctors Health conference in Melbourne Australia. Ironically,  I got sick at the doctors health conference! It was worth it, though, such a great conference, great people, great topic! Now I am back in Seattle, recovering and unpacking.

The flight out of Seattle, heading to LA for my connection, had some great sunset views.

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I presented on “Becoming a Whole Person to Treat a Whole Person.”

becoming a whole person

I first stopped in New Zealand for a quick visit with friends. Of course, I stopped at my favourite morning coffee place, the Kohi Cafe and looked out at the ocean (I didn’t have my good camera, so these are just a few snaps with my phone camera).

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I spent a very beautiful and peaceful day out at the gannet colony in Muriwai. It was a cool, blustery day. One of my favourite places on Earth.

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I then headed down to Melbourne, Australia. I met up with my friend, Gary Orr and we brainstormed some about doing a presentation at Esalen sometime in the future. We also talked about dusting off our blog: Creating Human Work Environments, which we need to update our details on and do some more posts.

Then the Australasian Doctors Health conference. This was the third time I attended and presented. It was great to catch up with some friends and hear about what Marsha Snyder is up to and about her book, Positive Health: Flourishing Lives, Well-being in Doctors.

Marsha's book

Add I spent some time catching up with my mate, Hilton Koppe, a GP from Lennox Head, Australia, who has been doing some great stuff on re-humanizing medicine using poetry and writing. Here is a snap of him doing his presentation:

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My presentation was on “Becoming a Whole Person to Treat a Whole Person.” This is a theme from my book, Re-humanizing Medicine, because you can’t give to others what you haven’t first developed in yourself. One thing I have been working on is trying to come up with a conceptualization of how doctors can be both competent technicians as well as compassionate healers.

developing a technician healer identity

technician.healer characteristics

And I have been working with Laura Merritt on adapting my book into a staff self-care workbook called, Caring for Self. This uses the multi-dimensional whole person model from Re-humanizing Medicine in a workbook format. One thing that is new is that we have been working on developing a set of three attributes for each dimension to give a gestalt of what that dimension represents.

Caring for Self

Here is the outline of the nine dimensions with the three attributes of each dimension listed. From my work with Joseph Rael, I challenged myself to develop these attributes as verbs rather than nouns, to show that we are in a never-ending process of becoming, rather than thinking of ourselves as static objects we are flickering lights of being & vibration!

BODY: embodying, moving, savouring

EMOTIONS: feeling, connecting, flowing

MIND: thinking, minding, evolving

HEART: creating compassion, loving, expanding boundaries

CREATIVE SELF-EXPRESSION: wording, drawing, expressing Self

INTUITION: dreaming, visioning, receiving

SPIRIT: unifying, integrating, transforming

CONTEXT: harmonizing, sustaining, communing

TIME: growing, transitioning, becoming who you are

I met some great, very inspirational people at the conference. I didn’t have much time in Melbourne, but I walked around the market a bit and stopped in at the State Library of Victoria which had a good coffee shop and book store.

One thing I love about Australia is all the parrots everywhere. Here is photo of a few of them:

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The next Australasian Doctors Health Conference is to be held in Sydney, Australia in two years…I’ll be there…

We Need a New Holistic Paradigm – “Re-humanizing Medicine” Review

Please check out the Courage & Renewal Blog post, “We Need a New Holistic Paradigm – Re-humanizing Medicine Review,” by Sandra Carter, of the Center for Physician Leadership Coaching.

Here is a quote from the review:

“If ever a path was needed, the time is now! Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ‘Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.’ In this case, a must read for physicians is Re-humanizing Medicine by David Kopacz, M.D., who shines a ray of light on a positive path forward.”

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Thanks Sandra for your kind words and thanks Courage & Renewal for your support!

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Some Photos from the Book Talk at University of Washington Bookstore, January 8, 2015

Photos courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

Photo courtesy of Salin Sriudomporn

 

 

 

 

 

Doctor appeals to colleagues: Do more than problem-solve

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Dave Kopacz at book reading at University of Washington Bookstore

HSNewsBeat article on Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine.

http://hsnewsbeat.uw.edu/story/doctor-appeals-colleagues-do-more-problem-solve

“The push toward evidence-based medicine can blind physicians to other aspects of human interaction, Kopacz suggests.”

 

 

 

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Re-humanizing Medicine: On the Radio and Book Reading!

 

Rehumanizing Medicine Book on Exam Table

Follow this link for an 8:30 minute interview with Dave Kopacz on KUOW public radio: “Doctor’s Push To Get People Talking About Health”

Join me for a book reading and signing

Thursday, 1/8/15 at 7 PM

University of Washington Book Store on the main campus

Address & Phone

4326 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Phone: 206.634.3400