A Psychoanalytic Examination of Positive Psychology

This column also appears in the online format of the January-February issue of The Therapist Magazine, the publication of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.  While it was written for clinicians, concepts discussed are readily accessible to any interested reader.


In this column, Dr. Heller examines the clinical limitations of the Positive Psychology model, particularly the ways in which its limited dimensionality forecloses on the therapeutic process of working through and subsequent integration of strong vitality affects.  Rather than obviating the need for defenses like splitting and projection, this model sustains defensive posturing and induces guilt and shame.  Split off and projected affects often develop an independent life of their own where they continue to be acted out in their unmentalized and pre-articulated state.  Self-injurious repercussions frequently accrue from these repetitively abortive attempts to manage difficult feelings.  Literary, film and clinical material are used to illustrate iconic concepts of Donald Winnicott, Wilfred Bion and Melanie Klein. Continue reading “A Psychoanalytic Examination of Positive Psychology”

Hello…are you still there? On life, death and dropped phone calls

This column also appears in the Orange County Register.

As dropped cell phone calls become a daily irritation, the jarring experience of losing a conversation in mid-sentence has become routine.  The ugly wart on the nose of wireless communication, what once served as the triumphant but rude ending to an angry conversation has become a daily frustration.  The original hang-up technique, signifying an almost monarchical dismissal, that harsh bang sending combatant lovers to their corners, now seems rather quaint by comparison. Continue reading “Hello…are you still there? On life, death and dropped phone calls”

Aging: the coda to life’s mythic themes

This column originally appeared in the Orange County Register.

“He’s gotten completely paranoid and is speaking in vernacular I don’t recognize,” my friend explained slowly and evenly, though clearly in an anxious state.  “The psychiatrist put him on medication, and I don’t know why.  I think he’s having a bad reaction.” Continue reading “Aging: the coda to life’s mythic themes”

A Father’s Tale

This column originally appeared in the Orange County Register.

Because I often emphasize the importance of mothers, mothering and the maternal, it may appear that I completely disregard the masculine and paternal.  I’ll clarify that by distinguishing between an actual mother and a maternal function.  Parental functions may be construed as active or passive, directive or receptive, calming or stimulating, separating or merging. Continue reading “A Father’s Tale”

Sadness and Mourning

This column originally appeared in the Orange County Register

A screenwriter friend gave me an article discussing the salutary aspects of sadness and the ways in which our contemporary culture tends to quickly erase it or prematurely foreclose upon its gritty psychological usefulness in a quest for perennial cheery happiness.  As if happiness were a concrete object one could hold instead of a transitory state of being, one of many, that links specific inner notations of experience with external ones. Continue reading “Sadness and Mourning”