DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEWs of Paul Rosenfels The Pyschology of the Creative Process, and Laney: The Introvert Advantage, and Haidt: The Happiness Hypothesis; Rhonda Byrne: The Secret

 

Author (or Editor): Rosenfels, Paul.  Introduction to first book listed by Dean Hannotte; third book edited by Dean Hannotte

Titles (3):  Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process

Subjectivity and Objectivity: Further Aspects of Psychological Growth

We Knew Paul: Conversations with Friends and Students of Paul Rosenfels

Fiction? Anthology?   We Knew Paul is an anthology of interviews

Publisher:  Libra; Ninth Street Center

Date: 1972; 1980; 1990 (respectively)

ISBN: ISBN 0-932961-08-8; PCN 86-23698; ISBN 0-932961-00-2; PCN 86-143018;

0-932961-09-6

Series Name: Nonth Street Center books and monographs

Physical description: paper, 169 pgs, paper monograph, 20 pgs, paper 257 pgs

Relevance to doaskdotell:  Psychological growth and polarity (covered in Chapter 3 of DADT, http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/xchap3.htm)

Review: Paul Rosenfels is known as a psychological freedom fighter among his inner circle, much of it associated with the Ninth Street Center in New York. Others view him as a "guru." Paul's particular contribution is a very precise articulation of the paradigm of psychological polarity, or yin and yang, as it had been known in ancient Greece.

Paul sees human beings as, regardless of biological gender, essentially feminine or masculine. A feminine personality finds greatest fulfillment in yielding to and nurturing another person. A masculine personality finds corresponding fulfillment in possessing and motivating another person. This is the basic love vs. action duality. At the deepest level, a person is "turned on" by living out according to his polarity.

A perpendicular axis to all this is formed by the subjective vs. objective duality. Subjective feminines and objective masculines are "unbalanced" and the other two combinations are "balanced." Unbalanced persons tend to insist on following goals chosen by them regardless of the support of others. Balanced persons tend to find satisfaction by following more conventional goals (and maybe limited ones) as determined by the needs and support of others.

The other great concept in Paul's writing is the notion of psychological surplus. This comprises a person's opportunities remaining after adaptive needs are met. Creativity means exploring this surplus. Yet creativity has what many people see as a "downside": people become creative when they mal-adapt in conventional pursuits.

A goal of psychological growth is to reconcile achieving of balance (meeting the real needs of others) with surplus, being able to expand in areas where one has something unique to give. Growth is very difficult, and generally is forestalled by use of psychological defenses, where one erects false power or false surrender mechanisms in a kind of sour-grapes or sweet-lemons mechanism to avoid rejection and pain. Ultimately, one is led back, in a most personal way, to moral issues of determining appropriate personal priorities given the needs of others in one's immediate and more distant environments. Morality, to Paul, is simply what is right in human terms.

The path to growth leads Paul to make some startling observations. For example, to experience full psychological growth, everyone must pass through homosexual territory. In fact, one must choose to experience homosexual potential. A "masculine" man may find being loved by another man more affirming to his masculinity than being "loved" in a conventional fashion by a woman in conventional marriage. A "feminine" man may actually feel fulfilled by surrendering (even sexually) to another person. These possibilities occur in heterosexual marriage and gender roles can be reversed.

Lifelong psychological growth comports with a concept of lifelong adolescence, something that reminds one of the “tweens” tom Tolkien’s hobbits. One is to have the political and social freedom to pursue one’s own psychological well-being, which at least means partly one’s own goals. This is a libertarian idea. Of course, this “adolescent spirit” challenges the idea of religious faith as a determinant of the course or station of one’s life, or even socially conservative ideas of adulthood founded upon committed marriage and parenting (“baby-making”) to meet a larger society’s purposes.

Paul writes with the precision of a mathematicians giving a formal proof. Often a paragraph describing a concept for feminine personalities is followed by a paragraph describing the same concept for masculines, with the appropriate substitution of analogue concepts.

There are economics applications for some of Paul’s ideas. In an economy that is outsourcing more “content-based” work overseas, there is a tendency to grow jobs based mainly on selling or sales culture—manipulation of others, good jobs for masculines.  The sales person or negotiator (be it a trial lawyer or even a bill collector) makes the customer or client respect him or even like him for his persuasiveness or charisma. The objection to this comes when manipulative exercise is not ethically justified by the content of what is to be sold, or respect for the sales person is not justified by that person’s being or performance.

My own “polarity complex” is feminine subjective, and that has some moral consequences. I “tick” by idealizing certain other people, based on values chosen by me. This gives me the opportunity to become “the power behind the throne.”  There is a danger that this “upward affiliation” lapses into self-indulgence or parasitism. If I am able to get away with it, then I set a disturbing example for a rather oppressive political and social meritocracy. I justify this by saying that I, like anyone, must be held accountable for my own choices, and this accountability might include proving the capability to support others with their real needs.  There is a political advantage to this approach in that it reinforces individual rights (and responsibilities). On the other hand, many people believe that social justice must be approached as a communal good, negotiated politically at the group level, and removed from the area of individual rights for their own sake, but this risks freedom because it invites corruption. 

For more details, see my DADT book account (at xchap3.htm reference given above), of the Ninth Street Center site given on this site's index page. See also discussions of personal responsibility and of same-sex marriage.

The Ninth Street Center has produced a black-and-white video (available only through the Center at this time), The Paul Rosenfels Video Anthology, of some of the talk groups that seem to come from the 1980’s, in the Center’s basement East Village studio.  The quite discussion has the soothing effect of My Dinner With Andre, perhaps, and Paul is at his best here as a teacher, discussing his psychological concepts, especially about the way social conventionality suppresses awareness of depression, in the simplest possible language. There is one participant who seems to be dealing with his restlessness, after an experience in the military (apparently Vietnam) in which he felt compelled to repress his intimate feelings, and Paul chuckles about the military’s naivete (as he sees it) over homosexuality as almost unavoidable in a military social setting.  Paul also discusses his philosophy of writing (and even film and video) and the need for a scientific, disciplined approach to presentation rather than just an inductive one.

There is another book from the Ninth Street Center, We Knew Paul (1990), edited by Dean Hannotte (after Paul’s death in 1985) that gives interviews with a number of the participants.

Dean has a 2006 essay on NPR “This I Believe” at http://www.thisibelieve.org/dsp_ShowEssay.php?lastname=hannotte&uid=476&start=0

The “Ninth Street Center Handbook” is available at http://eserver.org/gender/rosenfels/Handbook.htm

Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D., The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World (2002, Workman Publishing, ISBN 0761123695, hardcover. 330 pages, indexed) presents the polarity problem as roughly the dichotomy between Extroverts and Introverts. About 75% of the world is extroverted, she writes, and one's temperament is immutable, probably genetic. The slang terms are "outie" and "innie". The book is in three parts: "A Fish out of Water," "Navigating the Extroverted Waters," and "Creating the 'just right' Life".

Her definitions are a bit open, "Extroverts spend energy freely and often have trouble slowing down." Then "Introverts ... are energized by the internal world--by ideas, impressions, and emotions." This may sound like a rough comparison to Rosenfels's masculine and feminine polarities, although a better comparison may be made to his "balanced" and "unbalanced" dimensional personality types. Her characterization of introversion applies to me roughly, but not completely. When one talks about giftedness and talent (not identical concepts), introversion and extroversion operate in a more complicated way, in areas like writing or literature, art, music, science and mathematics. In the TheWB series Everwood, Bright is the obvious extrovert, but Ephram (the piano prodigy), while verbal and idealistic like an introvert, often behaves in flamboyant ways himself. In Smallville, teenager Clark Kent seems like the perfect extrovert and man of action, but is given to long periods of soul searching and reflection.

She discusses heterosexual marriage in the obvious mathematical combinations, and also discusses the combinations with children. She makes only a passing comment that the same analysis can be applied to gay couples (which Rosenfels had in mind with his book above). She also provides a biological discussion of the brain mechanisms: extroversion has a lot to do with dopamine, and introversion with acetylcholine, although the loops are very complicated. Lower acetylcholine may be associated with Alzheimer's disease, but it is unclear that this relates to personality type in any straightforward way. (Ronald Reagan was obviously an extrovert, but Lincoln was in introvert, as in, according to the author, Britain's Prince William.)

Extroversion certainly matters in the workplace, as so many high-paying jobs involving building social networks and schmoozing to raise money or sell things. That seems to be true even more today than a decade ago. Marriage and family often fold into these networks and socialize people into selling to others with similar, if partisan, needs. The computer industry, over the past four decades, developed a career path for the introvert or individual contributor, but that has become somewhat undermined by offshoring and over-specialization. Academia may appeal to the introvert, as may medicine in some areas (away from too much patient interaction).

She also takes up some other paired concepts, in a manner somewhat like Rosenfels, particularly when she talks about shame and guilt.  Shame is existential, rather than incidental in nature, but society connects the two concepts in complicated ways. I am also reminded of a dichotomy between acting (more likely done by extroverts) and writing (more likely done by introverts, but not always) or even film-making. I once recall hearing a recruiting pitch to become an agent for an insurance company looking to manipulate people into converting from whole life to term insurance. "We give you the words," the presenter said. No. I don't like to manipulate people. I don't like to use my own public identity to project someone else's "partisan" message. I'm a subjective "fem". I would rather give him the words. (But, as she says, we live in an extrovert world!) Well, about a year later on a substitute teaching assignment, I was at a special education class for the profoundly disabled, and the kids were to go on a field trip for swimming. I was asked if I would mind borrowing some gym shorts and manning "the Deep End" (pun intended with the thriller film from 2001) of the YMCA pool. Yes, I would mind. A sixty year old man with balding legs in front of kids? No way. I felt a shame at such a request that is almost indescribable. So I thought. Later I wrote an experimental screenplay in which I depicted the incident. Later in the screenplay I am in a pool, trying to swim, but with a younger character whom I like. Now I also, for purposes of making a political argument and demonstration, portrayed a character similar to myself (identifiably, from a defamation law point of view) in a most unfavorable way. Now, I think of myself as just "acting" (the way an extrovert playing a villain or bogeyman in a commercial movie would). But others see the writing of it (rather than the acting of it) and publication as a kind of false "confession". I have my shame and I am willing to publish it but not to experience it first hand. As far as defamation, the law looks act acting/roleplaying very differently from writing/publishing. Yet the problem comes out of basic personality types.  An interesting paradox indeed. 

Personality types even affect chess. Forty years ago there was myth that extroverts favored attacking openings and gambits, usually preferring e4 openings with White and the Sicilian with Black. Introverts tended to play more positionally with d4 or c4. Of course, all of this has completely broken down with all the changes in modern chess theory.  

Jonathan Haidt. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. (Basic Books, 2006, ISBN 0465028012, 297 pages, indexed.) Remember, when in the notorious NBC soap opera "Days of our Lives" the hapless Sami Brady says, "All I wanted was to be happy and have a family."! This book is a little more like a university philosophy text, with a winding discussion of all of the philosophical dualities and paradoxes that make up morality and explain happiness or the lack thereof. The tone of the book throughout is skepticism, a willingness to look at both sides of anything, of the way we think about anything. Ironically, the Introduction is called "Too much wisdom", and eleven chapters follow. Chapter 5 is called "The Pursuit of Happiness," spelled correctly, and perhaps it motivates the popular movie. Haidt develops polarity at the outset with the opening chapter "The Divided Self," where he puts in opposition: Mind v Body, Left v. Right (with some pretty interesting split-brain surgery experiments by Michael Gazzaniga), New v. Old, Controlled v. Automatic -- this gets interesting as Rosenfels had always opposed "automaticity" on the same grounds, as a lack of self-control (the way they define the topic in elementary school, even).

He develops interesting substance about the nature of arguments (yes, as in a graduate philosophy course -- there is a bit of Nietzsche's "The Gay Science" throughout). People develop pseudo-rational arguments to support positions that they intrinsically believe. But moral beliefs, like mathematical postulates (say, The Axiom of Choice) ultimately get back to cultural assumptions about what can make things work. I note that in litigation surrounding censorship and free speech (COPA), so much revolves around one's own assumptions about the moral qualities of self-expression, and whole arguments do get constructed. The Supreme Court, which got started with Marbury v. Madison, owes its existence to the ability to make any legal dispute into a "four color problem."   Successful trial lawyers, he said, make it by being able to "lie". So do salesmen.

Happiness will come from "the between." Here we get back to ideas like yin and yang, polarities, subjective and objective. You can link this bit by bit to Rosenfels. As for "ethical culture," truth is pragmatic (though not just "situational ethics"), or at least arrived at with some kind of social experience, as must be a sense of right.

He provides a summary of the theories of Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson, as (like Rosenfels) a repudiation of the idea that the job of psychology is to classify pathology. (Remember all those horrible 50s texts in "abnormal psychology"?), a long with a bulleted list of their virtues.

Haidt sees socialization (even some good old-fashioned blood loyalty) and unexpected adaptive hardship (accountability to the real needs of other people) as likely to be beneficial in increasing happiness over the long haul. He does not seem to agree with Rosenfels that the greatest virtues come in psychological surplus and perfect character specialization. He provides an interesting discussion comparing human altruistic socialization with that of some other social animals. He sees demographic diversity as a good thing, but "moral diversity" as more a varied expression of abstraction for the sake of self-righteousness.  

Rhonda Byrne. The Secret. New York: Atria / Beyond Words (Simon & Schuster), 2006. ISBN 1-58270-170-9, 198 small pages, hardcover, illustrated, heavy paper. Many contributors (John Assarat, Michael Berrnard Beckwothm Lee Brower, Jack Canfield, Dr. John F. Demartini, Marie Diamond, Mike Dooley, Bob Doyle, Hale Dwoskin, Morris Goodman, Dr. John Gray, Dr. John Hagelin, Bill Garris, Dr. Ben Johnson, Loral Langemeier, Lisa Nichols, Bob Proctor, Lames Arthur Ray, David Schirmer, Marci Shimoff, Dr. Joe Vitale, Dr. Denis Waitley, Neale Donald Walsch, Fred Alan Wolf, Ph. D). This "motivational" book as been much reviewed and discussed, and it uses language similar to what I have encountered before. The basic idea is the Law of Attraction, which seems like a compaction of the "polarity principle" in Rosenfels. A corollary is that thoughts generate reality, that everyone is a beacon of intent and formative creative energies. For some reason, the name Buckminster Fuller came to mind, with his paradoxes. She talks about the "Creative Process," which comprises asking, action, and receiving. Her concept of action is more centralized than Rosenfels. She also talks about the difference between giving (out of surplus -- as Rosenfels would call it -- or Love) and sacrifice, which is based on collective lack and need and a negative idea. Many reviewers have been taken back by the way "sacrifice", in view of the privations of others, is brushed aside, and one can do a thought experiment mapping this to the idea of charity in the Gospels. It almost turns into a secular version of the "purpose-driven" life -- in which the thinker does not accept external limitations imposed by the needs of others or "will of God."  

 

A Current Psychological Discussion Group (2007)

Checkout the Cortelyou Center, organized by Ethan Haymovitz in Brooklyn, NY, website here.

 

Related: Rick Warren: The Purpose-Driven Life

 

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