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Exploring the Midas complex

Aaron Kipnis, Ph.D. | Core Faculty, Pacifica Graduate Institute
| originally posted on 7 Jan 2014

I became a student in the Pacifica Clinical Program in 1988 and had the good fortune to become its first graduate in 1991. Like all of you, I was privileged to enjoy profound academic freedom in an intellectually enriched environment where it was possible to explore new ideas in depth. My dissertation took a provocative look at the male psyche. The so-called men’s movement was under way. Many men were beginning to take a fresh look at the ways they were being defined by our broader culture and seeking a more soulful life. My dissertation was published as my first book: Knights Without Armor: A Guide to the Inner Lives of Men. It brought me into a bigger world, presenting with established teachers like Robert Bly, James Hillman, Martin Prectel, Malidoma Somé, and others. After years of itinerant teaching, I found my way back to Pacifica as a professor where I have worked for the last 17 years. More books and dozens of chapters and articles followed, all grounded in that initial dissertation on male psychology. But after a while, I began to feel derivative of myself. It’s a little sad to keep creating variations of the same initially inspiring theme because you got a name for yourself in a little niche, and that is what the world kept asking of you.

For some years now I have been bringing discussions about the Psychology of Money into my Cultural Psychology and Violence and its Preventions courses. It is a profoundly psychological subject. Students both here and in public programs elsewhere kept urging me to compile the material into a book. So I did, and expanded it far beyond the material many of you encountered in my courses. It is refreshing to be out now with an entirely new topic after all those years of gender work and to expand the Psychology of Money dialog into a wider community. I think you will enjoy The Midas Complex and, since I am with a small press this time, I am counting on you to help me get the word out.

Kipnis | Exploring The Midas Complex

Posting the cover and any supportive thoughts you have on your social media sites is an easy and very helpful way to do that. I am very grateful to Pacifica and all of you for your support and encouragement over the years it took to finish this. We all share a great and unique history. We were gifted with this very special Pacifica experience. And now, 25 years after I first arrived, this institute is still bearing gifts in the form of new ideas, engaging forums, and an expanding community of alumni.

While our capstone projects in graduate school often represent the biggest breakthroughs in our intellectual lives, there is also life beyond grad school. It is possible to have new inspirations and find new directions without the reward of an advanced degree urging us forward. I encourage all the alumni to keep growing and deepening in your work, be radically original in your thought, and seize the opportunity to express yourselves beyond the constraints of APA and all the other gods we bowed to in order to secure our degrees and vocations. I look forward to meeting with many of you in the year ahead as we move into our next year of the PGI Alumni Association and to hearing about how you are making meaning of your Pacifica experience in the world today. If you want to stay in discussion with me, please visit It will have a blog and newsletter and provide a forum for us to continue exploring the Psychology of Money together. Pacifica will be hosting a few related events too. Hope to see you there.

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