There is no creature in my world whose breadth of consciousness is greater than my dog Max, from his heightened sensitivity to the details of his life — smells, sounds, images and emotions — to the constant decisions he makes about how to interact with what he experiences. Max can distinguish the footsteps of the New York Times delivery person from a stranger’s before I am aware of anyone’s presence in the hallway. He can direct me to the bank when I have a deposit slip in my hand or to our favorite restaurant where we can dine outdoors should I suggest it.
As my co-therapist, Max is a genius. He’ll comfort a depressed patient with a lick on the cheek or bark at an arguing couple demanding that they stop. Once, when I was interviewing a very proper Upper East Side couple who had difficulty confiding their problems, Max handled it perfectly. He came out from the bedroom of my home where I currently see patients, carrying a pair of underwear in his teeth that he had lifted from the laundry basket. The couple laughed heartily and took Max’s lead by airing their own dirty laundry.
Though Max has no advanced degree, his understanding of the world includes the subtleties and nuances of memory, emotion, abstract thinking, and imagination.
In Jeff Warren’s essay, Here Come The Animals, he considers the matter of animal consciousness as it relates to humankind’s capacity to understand the experiences of other species. An advocate for the interconnectedness of all things, Warren states, “in every being there is something we can relate to, whether it’s the purring of a cat, the focused swivel-gaze of a bird, or even the tree’s upward movement towards sunlight. The degree to which we can experience these connections with our fellow creatures is the degree to which we will truly feel at home on this planet.”
There are moments in life when time stands still, and words and actions seem frozen in midair — and when they finally settle, we find ourself forever changed. In this final issue of our first year, PTM introduces a new column, Defining Moments, in which contributors are asked to recount such times and the long-standing consequences that follow. Perhaps we are deeply effected after someone says something hurtful to us, or when we arrive at an epiphany, or a tragic or joyous event surprises us. For our first column, Ben Peck tells of a middle school encounter that shattered everything he believed about himself. His essay, How a Single Act of Teenage Cruelty Saved My Life, Peck recounts the resulting journey which has brought an abundance of self-knowledge and richness that he might never have discovered had it not been for that moment.
The poet Betsy Bonner suffered such a moment. For the past two years, she has been working on a memoir about surviving her mother’s and sister’s suicides, and her subsequent journey of self-transformation after these losses. This issue of PTM features three poems that are part of a cycle of elegies, Mothlight.
In her column, Couples Therapy, Alyssa Siegel reminds us that relationships are never perfect and maintenance always necessary. She identifies a series of familiar positions partners take such as “the extrovert vs the introvert”, “the rational vs the expressive,” or the “avoidant vs the aggressive,” that inevitably lead to conflict. But with an attitude of generosity, self-responsibility and open-mindedness, intractable patterns can be broken and new more satisfying ones formed.
Throughout history, human beings have gone to great lengths in search of a mystical experience with something greater than themselves. Some seekers push the physical limits of the body and mind through prolonged meditation or yogic exercise. Others seek a “runner’s high” to the detriment of their knees and spines. Any of these methods will in fact work; yet none of them is necessary. For Reverend James Reho Ph.d, you can simply breathe. In his essay, Riding the the Breath: Breathing as Spiritual Praxis, he describes various techniques of working with breath—from traditional pranayama and hesychastic breathing to more modern practices such as breathwalk and holotropic breathwork and shows how we can utilize this often-unconscious process to affect our lives physically, mentally, and energetically.
As a young college student, “Becca” responded to a Craigslist ad for a “fit, hot, athletic women wanted for sensual role play. NO SEX INVOLVED.” This led to an extraordinary journey as a professional dominatrix that has inspired fundamental insights for both herself and her clients. In her essay, Truth in Deviance, she makes a sound case for the psychological benefits of her work. “The exploration of what satisfies our sexual urges, and what tests our boundaries helps us clarify who we are.”
Re-imagining sex in a new light requires us to not only grapple with the language, popular images, and the politics of sex stereotyping, but also to more deeply understand our specific desires, what they mean, and how to honor them. In this issue’s column, Intelligent Lust, Ben Peck and I imagine a New Sexual Revolution that stands for new models of sexual democracy based on authenticity, sensitive, respect, and generosity. This next wave will wash away negative conceptual relics that force us to define ourselves by mass marketed labels. Among the revolutionary strategies for large scale change: creating popular porn based upon mutual affirmation, positive objectification and an equal commitment to pleasure for all parties.
Should Artists Fear Psychoanalysis? In the first of a two part essay Robert Frashure addresses fundamental suspicions that many artists have about psychotherapy. Will discovering the sources of their creativity dry up their ideas and render them uncreative? Can the the process of therapy and making art energize and revitalize each other?” Frashure talks with Dr. Danielle Knafo, an esteemed psychoanalyst and art critic on his search to answers these question.
When you think of Tango what comes to mind first? Passion? Drama? Violence? Romance? Sex? Whatever it is, it is usually emotional in nature, primal and stirring of your senses. Psychoanalyst and dancer Dr. Velleda Ceccoli discusses the complex history and language of Tango and shows us that it is as much about the relationship between partners as it is the beauty of the choreography.
Our literary excerpt for this issue is taken from my novel in progress, “The Boys,” based on the extraordinary love story of Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, the world’s greatest duo pianists, best-selling authors and food editors for Vogue magazines, “The Boys” as friends called them, were lovers and artistic partners for nearly 50 years during the mid-twentieth century. Nearly every great modern composer wrote for them from Poulenc to Stravinsky. From middle-class families, they created their life together as if it were a work of art. Though each had other lovers, including the poet Frank O’Hara and choreographer Jerome Robbins, they were the stable couple in world of modern art and music who others depended upon in times of crises.
Columnist and sex therapist Alyssa Siege reviews The End of Sex, written by Donna Freitas. A religion professor and researcher, Frietas claims that casual “hook-ups”are replacing dating on college campuses and “leaving a generation of students unhappy, sexually unfulfilled, and confused about intimacy.” Siegel examines Frietas’ research and conclusions and weighs in on the issue of casual sex.
Matthew Ortiz takes us back to the days of punk culture in Anarchy on the Runway, his review of the MET Costume Institute’s exhibit, which resurrects the grit of that fabulously rebellious era and the fashion that defined it — torn clothing; safety pins piercing cheeks; chains; mile-high mohawks; mosh pits; cuss words; guitars; cigarettes; leather jackets; and boots. As Ortiz eloquently assures us, “the attitude of “fuck it” can make anything possible when you’ve got nothing to lose.”