Paul’s first encounter with Depth Psychology began more than twenty years ago when he still lived in Washington, DC. Like many, the difficult circumstances of life pushed Paul, “kicking and screaming,” he says, into an office that happened to belong to a Jungian analyst. It was the discovery of his wife’s ovarian cancer that precipitated this deep dive into dream work and an exploration of the inner life. From this difficult experience, an interest in Jungian psychology emerged.
The decision to attend Pacifica Graduate Institute came some years later. As Paul says, “Pacifica attempts to teach students how to apply depth psychological principles to culture.” This focus got Paul’s attention. He had a goal in mind—not to become a therapist, but rather to look for a framework to understand the difficulties that boys in this country face. At Pacifica, Paul encountered the Jungian and other theorists who were interested in male issues, and was introduced to publications such as Phallos: Sacred Image of the Masculine by Eugene Monick and the many writings of Anthony Stevens, especially Archetype Revisited: An Updated Natural History of the Self. His studies were “driven by efforts to try to understand masculinity more deeply, and why boys are struggling so profoundly,” as seen, for example, in the fact that 90% of those in prison for violent crimes are males.
How did Paul land in this particular psychological terrain? The 1998 move from Washington DC to Santa Fe stirred a desire to understand this new and unusual place called New Mexico. His approach came through volunteering to become a Big Brother. The “Little Brother” was an 8-year-old Native American boy who, as it turned out, fit all of the criteria and stereotype of a “boy with problems” around school, mental health, and conduct issues. William Pollack’s Real Boys had just come out: “I went to hear him speak and it grabbed me, thinking about my little brother, and my weekly contact with him brought it all to the fore. If I’m going to do something serious with this, I need to get more grounded in a theoretical framework.” A PhD in Depth Psychology did just that and in response Paul launched the Santa Fe Boys Educational Foundation.
“The mission of the Santa Fe Boys Educational Foundation is to broaden the conversation by supporting public discourse, projects, and research to better understand the developmental needs of young males.” Following this mission, Paul collaborated with the former editor of the Infant Mental Health Journal, Hiram Fitzgerald, to host a conference in 2015 entitled: The Psychology of Boys at Risk: Indicators from Zero to Five. The January 2017 edition of the Infant Mental Health Journal, of which Paul is one of the guest editors, is entirely dedicated to the publication of many of the papers from that 2015 conference. (Wow! Congratulations Paul!)
Paul has a second conference in mind for 2018. He will gather with 12 of the leading scholars in the field to determine the viability and content of such a conference. The working title of the proposed event is The Early in Life Origins of Violent Behavior in Males. Paul states that the old models of why boys are struggling goes something like: “Boys are socialized away from feelings, crying, vulnerability, and must maintain control.” But he contends that this model is no longer sufficient. New research from neurobiology, epigenetics, and developmental psychology suggests that there are also innate vulnerabilities, specific to boys, which can begin prenatally and extend into the early years of life. Attachment theory furthers the evidence related to the long lasting effects of trauma that can occur during the early years. This link between early neurobiology, epigenetics, inadequate, abusive and neglectful caregiving and later expressions of violent behavior will be the likely focus of the 2018 conference.
Paul’s studies in Depth Psychology at Pacifica helped give focus and viability to his role as a facilitator who gathers information and convenes scholars to address the developmental needs of young males. Paul says, “Pacifica gave me the confidence and a more sophisticated idea about the interaction between psychology and culture. The material that comes from Depth Psychology is so much more helpful than empirical research. Without the Pacifica experience, I doubt I would get to this point. It took me a long time to figure it out…to narrow it down from education, and mental health issues, to very early childhood, as a place to focus my energy.”
And isn’t the world fortunate that figure it out he did.
We collectively ask for abundant blessings upon all of your endeavors, Paul!
Interview and Article by
Jill C. Griffin, PhD
Regional Coordinator for PGIAA of New Mexico