A Group of the American Academy of Religion
Summer 1999; Volume 22, no. 2

Kelly Bulkeley, Editor; D. Andrew Kille, Layout

AAR/SBL Annual Meeting Program

25th Anniversary Project

News from Members

PCR Opinion:
"On Murdering Our Mothers" by Margaret Alter

Membership Information

Steering Committee

Send Us Your News

NOVEMBER 19-23, 1999 - BOSTON, MA

Pre-Session, Friday, Nov. 19

  • Selves and Boundaries I

Pre-Session, Saturday, November 20

  • Works in Progress
  • Selves and Boundaries II

Main Session I

  • Evaluations of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams on the Centennial of its Original Publication

Main Session II

  • Psychology and Buddhism

Pre-session, Friday, November 19

Theme: Selves and Boundaries I
A.Gregory Schneider, Pacific Union College, Presiding

Joseph E. Bush, Knox College, New Zealand
Interdependent Self and Religious Experience in Polynesian Contexts

Barbara Davy, Concordia University, Canada
Sovereignty and Belonging: Narratives of Self with Others

Panel: Carroll Watkins Ali's Survival and Liberation: Pastoral Theology in African-American Context
Lucy Bregman, Temple University, Presiding

Panelists: Celia Brickman, Divinity School, University of Chicago; Lee H. Butler, Jr- Chicago Theological Seminary; Kathleen Greider Graduate School of Theology at Claremont;

Respondent: Carroll Watkins Ali, University of Denver

Trevor Watt, Canisius College: Spiritual Genograms

Pre-Session: Saturday, November 20

Works in Progress
Kelley A. Raab, St. Lawrence University, Presiding

Theme: Selves and Boundaries II
Lucy Bregman, Temple University, Presiding

G. William Barnard, Southern Methodist University
Earth Angels, Mother Seas, and Cosmic Selves; a Variety of Jamesian Suggestions

James I. Higginbotham, Vanderbilt University
Crossing the Boundaries: Borderline Personality Disorder and the Circumscnption of Gender and Madness

Business Meeting
Lucy Bregman, Temple University, Presiding

Main Session I

Theme: Evaluations of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams on the Centennial of its Original Publication
Kelly Bulkeley, Santa Clara University, Presiding

Pamela Cooper-White, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
`Higher Powers and Infernal Regions': Models of Mind in Freud's Interpretation of Dreams and Contemporary Psychoanalysis, and Their Implications for Pastoral Care

James DiCenso, University of Toronto
The Dream Navel: Networks of Meaning and the Undermining of Foundations

Diane Jonte-Pace, Santa Clara University
Turning Aside at the Navel of the Dream: The End(s) of Interpretation

Respondents: J. Allan Hobson, Harvard Medical School; Peter Homans, Divinity School, University of Chicago

Main Session II

Theme: Psychology and Buddhism
Franz Metcalf, California State University, Los Angeles, Presiding

John Haule, C.G. Jung Institute, Boston
Psychoanalysis and Social Virtuosity: Jung and Chan Buddhism

David Need, University of Virginia
On the Limits of the Self: A Consideration of Buddhist and Psychological Notions of Wholeness and Health

Lynken Ghose, McGill University
Emotional Healing in Buddhism

Michael C. Mitchell, Boston University
Buddhist Practice Through the Lens of Psychology: an Example




Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Person, Culture, and Religion Group. Steering Committee Chairperson Lucy Bregman is preparing a bibliography of publications whose first appearance was as a PCR presentation.

If you would like to add your references to the bibliography, contact Lucy Bregman. We will make the final document available to all PCR members and to the AAR/SBL administration. This bibliography promises to be an impressive testimonial to the fertile scholarly conversations the PCR group has generated over the past quarter century.


Steven J. Holmes (Harvard University) has published a new interpretive biography of the American nature writer and environmentalist John Muir, entitled The Young John Muir: An Environmental Biography (University of Wisconsin Press, 1999). Weaving together concepts from object-relations theory, religious studies, environmental psychology, and other fields, the book proposes a new approach to analyzing an individual's emotional, spiritual, social, and practical relationship with their natural environment, and uses this framework to gain new insights into Muir's struggle to find/create a healthy relationship with nature over the first 35 years of his life. The book incorporates and extends Steve's paper to the PCR group at the 1997 AAR annual meeting, and he looks forward to continuing the conversation with PCR members.

Fred Hallberg (University of Northern Iowa) retired in May, and is pursuing research interests in a social consensus theory of warranted religious beliefs--a theory by which religious beliefs can only be designated "correct" or "warranted" in the context of a church organization or its equivalent rather than by unchurched individuals. Fred recommends to PCR members the new book by Francis Fukuyama, The Great Disruption (Free Press), in which Fukuyama analyzes the link between women entering the work force and the neglect of children; Fukuyama believes well-to-do women will leave work during their childbearing years, and only poor mothers will have to work in the future.

Dan Noel (Pacifica Graduate Institute) is working on issues of "belief" and religious epistemology at the millenial turn as reflected especially in popular media. He led a seminar and delivered lectures at the C.G. Jung Institute is Kusnacht, Switzerland in May of 1999, and is teaching a course at Pacifica on "The Myth of Apocalypse at Millenium's End." Dan recommends Sonu Shamdasani's Cult Fictions (Routledge, 1998), which is a reply to Richard Noll's two books attacking Jung. Also, Dan mentions that there are still openings for his August symposium "Black Sun, Deep End--Re-imagining Millenium" at Land's End, Cornwall, England. For information contact him at noel@norwich.edu.

Carole Bohn (Danielsen Institute) is working on the various dimensions of carrying out advance medical directives, particularly when that means ceasing life-support. She is exploring family and friend responses from psychological, religious, and ethical perspectives, and is engaging in cross-cultural dialogue with people in other countries (e.g., the Netherlands) where euthanasia has been seen quite differently than in the U.S. Carole wants PCR members to know that the Danielsen Institue now offers an APA approved internship program as well as a post-doctoral program, both of which are designed to give persons who do both theological and psychological training an opportunity to integrate theory and practice from these two disciplines. The Institute is also offering a CPE program set in neighborhood health centers, working primarily with frail elderly people. Applicants for all programs are welcome (Danielsen Institute, 185 Bay State Road, Boston MA 02215).

Melvin Miller (Norwich College) recently published Spirituality, Ethics, and Relationship in Adulthood: Clinical and Theoretical Explorations (International Universities Press), a work he co-edited with Alan N. West. The book includes chapters on "Spiritual Quests and the Life Structure in Adulthood," "Critical Consciousness and its Ontogeny in the Lifespan," "Loving with Integrity: A Feminist Spirituality of Wholeness," and "The Interplay of Object Relations and Cognitive Development: Implications for Spiritual Growth and the Transformation of Images."

D. Andrew Kille (Santa Clara University, Holy Names College) taught two classes this Spring that mirrored each other: "Psychological Development and Spiritual Growth" in the Counseling Psychology program at Holy Names College, and "Psychological Issues in Spirituality" in the Pastoral Ministries program at Santa Clara University. "It was a fascinating opportunity to work with much the same material from the perspectives of both psychology and theology students."



The following comments were written after the 1999 Annual Meeting of the AAR Western Region, held March 14-16 at the University of San Francisco. The PCR group's first session at that meeting was titled "New Developments in Psychology and their Implications for Religion," and included presentations and responses by Peggy Alter, Kirk Bingaman, Franz Metcalf, and Andy Kille. Peggy's comments provide a continuation and critique of the PCR conversation at that session.

On Murdering Our Mothers: a Century of Anti-Mother Bias
in Psychotherapy

byMargaret G. Alter, Ph.D.
Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley

John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth's "Attachment Theory" measures human development and determines sources of psychological distress arising from an infant's faulty attachment to its mother. Ainsworth measures three levels of attachment in her laboratory study, the "Strange Situation," a test easily replicable. Results ostensibly predict future trouble for a badly bonded pair. Since people all over the world have mothers, scholars claim universality. Bowlby became so sure of this that in his final book of essays A Secure Base (1988), he is positively dogmatic.

Why do I find this neat theory so difficult to swallow? After all, it is measurable and identifies a culprit. We can all remember things our mothers did that hurt our feelings. Or is it psychology's misogyny in yet new clothing? Women have been told they have penis envy. Male colleagues have defended this, "You can see it in little girls." Never mind that Karen Horney suggested it was power envy. Mothers have been blamed for autism and schizophrenia. Remember the scary invasive "schizophrenogenic family"? Both these illnesses are now considered chemical and genetic, but what happened to the mothers who had to endure a barrage of blame in order to find help for their suffering children? Science sweeps that responsibility under the rug and races on to a new theory. A kind male psychiatrist assured me that eating disorders are caused by controlling mothers. Never mind that Marlene Boskind-White (Bulimarexia, 1983) reported girls in her study loved and trusted their mothers, and Mary Pipher (Reviving Ophelia, 1994) observed that a child's illness, which she suggests is caused by cultural norms of thinness, brought the mothers into anxious involvement. What a novel idea! Can it be that children's suffering affects their mothers?

Heinz Kohut observes, without much support, that narcissism is caused by mothers' inability to applaud their children's budding independence. Since mother guilt is an accepted doctrine, no one raises a question. Daniel Stern's research with infants and toddlers is used to defend this claim, and Control Mastery theory relentlessly beats the drum of mother blame. Faulty mirroring in the first two years of life, such an obscure doctrine, damns one's existence.

No description exists in these works of day to day parenting. In addition, mother is used as a sort of wooden appliance; she has no personality, no life. Her role is background or else she is other, enemy, and probably criminal. "Have any of these theorists done their own child care?" I have shouted. In most settings the question is considered so irrelevant my protest doesn't even interrupt the flow of the class. Of Winnicott's respectful description of "good enough mothering," one male psychiatrist asserted, "I think he was being sarcastic."

What is the intensity that drives these theories? Oh, yes, I know they are supposed to be "objective truth." Didn't the sixties blow the cover off that rationalization? Isn't it our own passionate narcissistic belief that we could be wonderful? Who knows what I might have been if Mother hadn't ruined it! Isn't this the age-old passionate desire to be "as God knowing good and evil?" Ah, the brave new worlds promised by the Enlightenment. We still hold them dear. Could it be that the Fall is more believable? Children are not perfect little Toyotas off an assembly line. We are all born with a combination of genetic faults.

In my 23 years as a marriage and family therapist, I have gratefully used many therapeutic techniques devised by these theorists. I have also done empirical research and know the limits of that venue and the danger of over generalizing findings. As a seminary professor, I read burgeoning arguments contradicting the dogma: Judith Rich Harris (Group Socialization Theory), Philip Cushman (self as an historic artifact), Archie Smith, Jr., (need for spirituality), and Jerome Kagan (low self-esteem as part of brain growth).

Most persuasive are clients who do not fit the picture. A graduate student related to me a fight with her boyfriend during which she had retained a courtesy based on Jesus' admonition to treat others as you would be treated. I noted that this unusual behavior was characteristic for her. Others following psychology's formula have said, "I have no role model. My parents always fought dirty." "Yes," she mused, "I wonder how that became so foundational for me." She shared her use of prayer and her sense of God's presence. "The attachment model has nothing for me. I'm adopted, breaking that all important bond, and my adoptive family was a mess. I should be doomed."

Perhaps we could surrender mother-bashing for greater use of healing factors in our own faith traditions.

[Do you have an opinion on an issue related to the concerns of the Person, Culture and Religion group? We welcome comments and responses, especially regarding PCR gatherings and presentations. Send contributions to the Editor, Kelly Bulkeley, at 76633.1555@compuserve.com]


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Last revision: October 17, 1999