“One must harbor chaos to give rise to a dancing star”
Dr. Mendelowitz is a wonderful guide because he really sees that I have my own wit and genius. When I am feeling a little insecure, it is his voice that holds out hope and quietly encourages me to believe in myself. Coming to see Dr. Mendelowitz is much different than anything I have ever known.
A Young Woman in Psychotherapy
Our first meeting stands out in my mind with intense clarity. He was a tall, slender man with a tranquil face and a joyful disposition. His voice was soft and peaceful. He asked me into his office. The first thing he said wasn’t the typical “So, what can I do for you?” All he said was, “Tell me about yourself.”
A Young Man in Psychotherapy
He is exceptionally thoughtful and articulate and has a grasp of clinical and philosophical issues that places him head and shoulders above almost every other clinician I know. Ed Mendelowitz is a genuine artist of our field who will greatly benefit any individual who has the privilege to work with him. I recommend him without hesitation.
Kirk Schneider, Ph.D.
It is important to recognize Mendelowitz’s absolutely noble heritage, which proclaims itself not only in his writings and rich clinical narratives but also in the phenomenon of his friendships with luminaries like Rollo May and Eugene Taylor. I treasure him as one of the vital souls in psychology.
E. Mark Stern, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Iona College
One does not often meet someone like Ed Mendelowitz. During the time that I’ve know him, he has remained steadfastly in my thoughts. He has astounded me with piercing essays, dazzled me with unflinching clinical insights, and consistently impelled me into a more responsible stance toward my world. He is one of those uncommon human beings who, by their very presence, reminds the rest of us to open up our eyes and take things in. He urges us to see.
Arthur Roberts, M.A.
Salve Regina University
By the time I met Dr. Mendelowitz, I’d spent months sitting in identical rooms while the doctors tried to figure it out. These were rooms with two chairs and some random imitations of Rothko paintings on the wall, more like a business office than a safe haven. Every week I would sit across from a different therapist and discuss my ever-shifting moods. Whenever I did finally say something, I’d look up and find these strangers. They all had faces as blank as a new canvas with nothing discernible behind their features. In the institution I had no say over my life; it was in the hands of a psychologist who didn’t know me. Dr. Mendelowitz understood my feelings of bitterness. His voice calmed me, it encouraged, it never judged. When I saw him, it was like the outside world disappeared. He let me speak my mind. When I told him it was hard waiting for answers to my questions, he was there to guide me. He was always sitting in his desk chair when we’d talk. He held a cup of tea, and everything was leisurely. He was an older man, but time had treated him well. His office was comforting because he had piles of books — books that I wanted to search through and read, books that helped me see myself in a clearer I began reading authors like Musil, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Kafka. We’d sit and talk about them, the authors who tried explaining human existence. Dr. Mendelowitz was an old soul, the wise man everybody looks to for guidance. He knew all of those books and could carry on a stimulating conversation about any of them. One day he introduced me to the films of Federico Fellini. He told me to start with 8 1/2, a film I’d never heard of. I watched it after I left and was in awe. The movie was a mixture of reality and dreams: a neorealist piece. It displayed the struggles of human existence through poetic narrative. There was one quote that I’ll never forget, “Accept me as I am, not as I’d like to be.” A light began to swell inside me. I was always that person standing on the wrong side of the bridge. The idea of being normal was appealing to me, but now I could see it was okay to be different. Dr. Mendelowitz introduced me to a whole new world. He helped me regain control. When I feel the impulse to hurt myself, I go to a quiet place and close my eyes. I think about all the books I’ve read and what they’ve taught me. My head becomes clear. I know Dr. Mendelowitz won’t always be there for me, but I’ll always be here for myself. Someday my mentor will fade from my sight. Everything is finite and nothing lasts forever. We will always struggle, but I can never let the darkness obstruct the path to La Dolce Vita: the sweet life.
Excerpt from The Sweet Life
I have always intuitively understood the connection between art and inner exploration. Discussing film and literature is, of course, a primary means by which I share myself with Dr. M; I feel as if I am inextricably wedded to certain artworks such that they are part of me just as my heart or my blood is part of me as well. These works deal with themes similar to those that I face, but it is the very nature of art that truly promotes such a union. The artist enters a vast and tortuous realm to engage in the process of creation, but the reader, viewer, or listener also enters such a realm to absorb the creation. There is an aspect of trust involved in both cases; each party forges a relationship with creativity itself and must surrender to its mystery in order to gain any reward from the experience. It is when some part of me recognizes that this seemingly external inspiration—the words written by another, the painting fashioned by another’s hand—is also found within myself that I truly connect with the artwork, and by extension with the open expanse of possibility.
Just as film or poetry or music allows the ineffable self to flow outward, to fill the spaces that exist in conscious awareness, the psychotherapeutic relationship ought to do the same; it should encourage the self to flow outward, to expand, to find expression for the tiniest, quietest corners of the mind. The loud cries are important, but it is the softness, the silence within me that requires the most care. When I reflect on my relationship with Dr. M, it is his nurturing of these quiet spaces that I most often think of. The subtlety of his understanding is not informed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the American Psychological Association, but rather by the true observers and philosophers of human experience, the artists. There is an art to relationship as well, and I have honed my ability to appreciate this throughout the time that I’ve known him. Our relationship, just like any relationship, is a mutual creation; it is mysterious and synergistic, and its healing nature derives from these qualities. I am able to recognize my role in co-creating and maintaining this intricate entity that moves with grace and sensitivity and, also, my contribution to its beauty. It is from this recognition that I draw courage.
The other day, I was standing in my kitchen when, in a moment of stillness, I suddenly perceived the chasm, the inner darkness that I so often write about. Awareness of it sliced through conscious thought with a pang of anxiety and I instantly felt dizzy with the intensity of it. Despite its unpleasantness, I didn’t immediately push it away or attempt to blanket it with more mundane concerns. Within seconds, I found myself plummeting into its depths
After the initial shock of panic—which was significant—my attention slowly began to shift; I found myself focusing less on the sensation of falling and more on the particularities of what was happening to me. I then began to wonder how I would convey this experience to Dr. M. What did it feel like to be here at this precise moment? How would I describe my surroundings? As I endeavored to shape the anxiety into an image and thus began to notice its subtler qualities, I realized that I was no longer falling; I was in fact back on the ledge, standing beside Dr. M. Wishing to show him the monstrous nature of what I faced, I pointed to the abyss. He followed the line of my finger, past the cold mist clinging to the perimeter, deep into the dizzying blackness below. I watched as he gazed into it for several minutes, carefully surveying the landscape of the dark. Part of me feared that he would be appalled or frightened by its size, its menacing appearance, even though I had surely stood here with him many times before. Perhaps he would see something he had not previously perceived, some fatal flaw, some hidden edge of corruption.
Eventually, he turned to look at me and gently nodded. His face did not display shock or disgust; it was instead receptive, as if to say, Yes, I am here, Lori. I turned back to look out into the vastness, and as he and I continued to stand there, I became aware of the horizon beyond the chasm, the line where the land met the sky. Some distance off, there was what looked to be a meadow of some kind, with a verdant copse of trees and a vibrant river that wound its way around the circumference of the land. The sky itself was rich and deep, with hues of every shade feathering into another infinity altogether. After a time, I noticed a desire to tread further on, to see what lay beyond the void, beyond my current line of sight. I felt anxious, particularly since I remembered the last time I had ventured out only to be dragged back to this pit. Still, there seemed to be so much more out there; it seemed a shame to remain here forever, stuck in this one place. I turned to Dr. M and he nodded again, almost imperceptibly. I smiled quietly in acknowledgment and, after shutting my eyes for a brief moment, began to walk.
Excerpt from Sculpting the Darkness
The playwright Bernard Shaw once opined that all professions ware “conspiracies against the laity.” An exaggeration, perhaps, yet not without its kernel of truth. Anyone who has searched in earnest for direction during the critical moments of life may well be inclined to agree. The psychotherapist is often a technician, a spokesperson for this or that system or school of thought, yet rarely someone who has searched deeply into the quandaries of life. The helping professions, like the greater world, yield increasingly to expedience and the homogenized dictates of the marketplace.
Ed Mendelowitz is unusual in these respects. He is uncommonly intelligent, sensitive and literate with keen interests in art, film, music, literature, philosophy, religion and the broader humanities. His work draws on these multifarious sources. His broad-minded orientation is far from current trends toward quick fixes and formulae or exclusively pharmacological approaches to the mind. His clinical narratives are admired by prominent scholars and practitioners worldwide for their profundity, pathos and eloquence.
During his graduate years, Dr. Mendelowitz worked closely with Rollo May, one of the foremost American sages of the 20th century. This association had a lasting impact on Mendelowitz, culminating visibly in his role as teaching assistant to May and, more privately, in a friendship that lasted until the older man’s death in 1994. Mendelowitz’s subsequent work reflects this influence in its sustained inquiry into what is possible in the way of human existence and its investigation of the manner in which an individual may be able to use adversity as the impetus for further growth. It is precisely this encounter that lies at the heart of effective psychotherapy.
Dr. Mendelowitz’s work as a psychotherapist is non-parochial yet both humanistic and thoroughgoing in helping individuals get beneath the surface in the confrontation of fundamental human and personal themes. It is a change-oriented approach that leads, with time and effort, to a greater immersion in, and responsibility for, one’s life and relations.
With numerous publications on a wide range of topics, a lecturing post at Tufts Medical Center and faculty positions at Saybrook University and University of the Rockies, Dr. Mendelowitz is the author of ETHICS AND LAO-TZU, a poignant meditation on suffering and awareness ultimately relating an extraordinary narrative of perseverance and psychotherapy.
Well-versed in the complexities of everyday life as well as the more extreme states of experience and consciousness, Dr. Mendelowitz currently lives on Boston’s South Shore with offices in Randolph, MA and the Squantum vicinity of North Quincy, just south of the city. If you are interested in a psychotherapeutic engagement of substance yet hesitant about how to proceed, you may contact him via this website.
And opening my eyes, I am afraid of course
To look—this inward look that society scorns.
Still, I search in these woods and find nothing worse
Than myself, caught between the grapes and the thorns.
“He who is not busy being born is busy dying”
“Reading this book was a journey that took me into the depths of my soul, reminding me of things I have so often forgotten or abandoned. As Dr. Mendelowitz co-journeyed with his perceptive and poetic patient, Kristina, so I co-journeyed with him. Within these pages, I lingered not only with Lao-Tzu but also with Camus, Beckett, Coltrane, Blake, Rilke, Rumi, Van Gogh, Buber, William James and many others who know the Tao that dances in silence and in the spaces between. This book, unlike so many others, spoke to my inner life and because of this, I want to me a better man. I suspect it will have a similar effect on others.”
David N. Elkins, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology Pepperdine University
Author of Beyond Religion, A Clinical Manifesto
“Ed Mendelowitz has produced a contemporary classic, a compelling integration of Eastern and Western wisdom and folklore—voices and dreams that descend and ascend through and from the mind/soul set of a visionary psychotherapy client—and from this model has managed to create a challenging manifesto. Mendelowitz mobilizes and activates a diverse chorale of voices whose earthy wit and spiritual wisdom converge in magnificent splendor. While hardly claiming to be an instructional guide, this work seeks to create a new atmosphere through which those who labor in the vineyard of facilitating others through their personal hailstorms will decipher a heroic ambiance in which to fulfill their callings.” asked me into his office. The first thing he said wasn’t the typical “So, what can I do for you?” All he said was, “Tell me about yourself.”
E. Mark Stern, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Iona College
“Ed Mendelowitz is the poet laureate of existential psychology. In Ethics and Lao-Tzu, Mendelowitz lays out an extraordinary vision of ethically informed living. With singular eloquence linked to psychospiritual luminescence, he draws upon such literary and artistic masters as Kafka and Beckett, Coltrane and Dylan, and even his own therapy client to weave a masterwork of guidance for the perplexed. All who are challenged and indeed incensed by the present age of gimmickry will profit from this page-turning paean to renewal.”
Kirk Schneider, Ph.D.
Editor/Author of Handbook of Humanistic Psychology, Rediscovery of Awe, The Polarized Mind
“Thanks so much for that extraordinary moral narrative – which taught me so much as I read it with great admiration! The visual ‘moments’ in the book had me thoroughly absorbed! I very much hope what you have to tell (and teach) will soon be available to others.”
Robert Coles, MD
“It is a remarkable book, a compendium of wisdom from an astonishing variety of sources.”
Allen Wheelis, MD
Psychoanalyst and Author of The Listener, The Way We Are, How People Change, The Life and Death of My Mother
“You have grasped the innermost kernel.”
Eugene Taylor, Ph.D.
Author of William James on Consciousness Beyond the Margin, Shadow Culture, The Mystery of the Personality
“A masterwork of dazzling dimensions.”
Margaret Yonemura, Ed.D.
Bank Street School and SUNY at Binghamton
“Ethics and Lao Tzu is a monumental contribution to psychological literature. The book is written by Ed Mendelowitz, who may be the best contemporary writer in the field of psychology. Few authors are able to bridge a literary writing style with scholarly work in the manner that Mendelowitz demonstrates in this book. Through his unique approach, Mendelowitz is able to bring many of the greatest thinkers of all time—Nietzsche, Kafka, and Camus, for example—into dialogue with one another.
Ethics and Lao Tzu is not really about Taoism and is not about ethics as we think of it today. Yet ethical thinking and Taoist ideas permeate many aspects of the text. Rather, the book is about a client, Kristina, diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Kristina’s heartrending story is the starting point for a discussion that radiates with existential psychology and thought while not being bound by it. The book is filled with Kristina’s artwork—and she is a very talented artist indeed, each drawing and painting richly imbued with symbolism and meaning. Mendelowitz also incorporates many quotes from numerous thinkers, sages and artists. Through a commingling of quotations, artwork, Kristina’s story and Mendelowitz’s voice, the many aspects of dissociation are in some way replicated. Every quote and piece of art is exquisitely placed so that there is not so much as a comma out of alignment. Mendelowitz doesn’t offer the easy solutions or falsely happy endings to which we have grown so accustomed in narratives of psychotherapy; he is too honest about the human condition to provide simplified answers to a difficult existence. He offers, rather, something more: an illustration that even the most complicated existence can still be exquisitely rendered and profoundly meaningful, that only the most discerning eye will perceive what most would overlook. Throughout, Mendelowitz invites the attentive reader to join him in the exploration of the depths of the human soul.”
Louis Hoffman, Ph.D.
Past President, Society of Humanistic Psychology
Editor of Existential Psychology East-West, Brilliant Sanity: Buddhist Approaches to Psychotherapy
“A book that sings, an author who dances, a reader moved. This book is a hidden gem amidst the endless, oftentimes superfluous, existing works in psychology. It represents what psychology is and should be all about: an inquiry into the psyche, a discourse on character and ethics, an examination of our deepest thoughts and feelings, a critical look at how life can be lived meaningfully.
Mendelowitz’s writing is meditative and poetic. He invites the reader not necessarily to engage in intellectual debates on topics of morality or the systemic structure of a mental health facility but, rather, to reflect with depth and sensitivity on what it means to be human, on how we can better recognize and express the humanity that inheres within each of us. Mendelowitz cites a diverse wellspring of thinkers. Such a feat is impressive not because of the mere quantity of citations but, rather, because of the genuine interest in reconnecting psychology with its siblings in art, literature, music, theater and so on. The indispensable connection between psychology and these other pursuits will be obvious to any practicing artist, though the vast majority of psychologists are likely to remain oblivious to its very existence. Rather than remaining stuck on the left-brain of psychology, Mendelowitz embraces the affective and creative sides of human existence. He sees that these fields, too, are concerned with the potential meaning (and meaninglessness) of human existence and that the insights garnered from these explorations are to be embraced and integrated.
As much as I would like to shower Ethics and Lao-Tzu with ongoing praise, I realize that I have only scratched the surface of the profundity of this book. It is a privilege to read Mendelowitz’s writing and to meet his patient Kristina. If you have ever been awed by the exigencies of life, you are likely to find yourself instantly caught up by a work that strengthens and inspires the attentive reader.”
Jason Peng, M.A., MSW
Social Worker and Psychotherapist
“The ultimate paradox is that negation becomes affirmation.”
“One must harbor chaos to give rise to a dancing star”
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