“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.
President, Society for Humanistic Psychology
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
Ed Mendelowitz can’t be categorized as a clinician. I’ve known Ed well for some years as a person and in shared treatment of clients. You could say he works in the existential/humanistic tradition, which is true, but it’s not the whole story. That’s where he starts; where he goes is harder to explain. It has something to do with where you are and what you might be. For those needing or wanting to explore and better understand themselves, he is uniquely qualified.
Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH
Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Mood Disorders Program/Tufts Medical Center
Author of Concepts of Psychiatry, A First-Rate Madness
Editor of The Psychiatry Letter
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 light
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 homogenizing 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.
“To say that dream is useful may be tantamount to saying that breathing is useful. Try living without it.”
Joyce Carol Oats
“I love your personal writing—and the freedom of mind and spirit that informs it!”
Robert Coles, MD
Author of Children of Crisis, The Spiritual Life of Children,The Mind’s Fate, The Call of Stories, The Secular Mind
“Ed Mendelowitz is a careful, thoughtful scholar, an articulate presenter of ideas, and one of the most ethical, honest people I know. He is an original, creative thinker who integrates insights from a number of disciplines including psychology, religion, philosophy, literature, mythology and the creative arts— challenging us and opening new vistas.”
David Elkins, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Author of Beyond Religion, The Clinical Manifesto
“As soon as I get something from Mendelowitz, it’s hard for me not to stop everything I’m doing and immerse myself in his writing. He is both extraordinarily fluent and readable.”
Robert Kramer, Ph.D.
George Washington University
Editor of A Psychology of Difference, The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank
“Ed Mendelowitz is a great gift to the psychology of literature! He has made unique contributions to the fields of theoretical and philosophical psychology.”
E. Mark Stern, Ed. D.
Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Editor-in-Chief, The Psychotherapy Patient
“He writes like a European, not an American–at least not a contemporary American psychologist.”
Sasha Watkins, LMHC
“I just read your piece in the Society for Humanistic Psychology newsletter. It’s brilliant! This is much too rich a piece to let it remain only in the newsletter. How about letting us use it in the journal?”
Scott Churchill, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Dallas
Editor-in-Chief, The Humanistic Psychologist
“One of my editorial perks is reading papers in advance. Your latest (and I have only had time to read the abstract and first half, mind you) epitomizes what I love about so much about your writing (though that term fails to capture the depth, artistry, and genius of your work). This is another masterpiece. Or should I just say, this is quintessential Ed Mendelowitz?”
Shawn Rubin, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Humanistic Psychology
“Ed Mendelowitz is the poet laureate of existential psychology.”
Kirk Schneider, Ph.D.
Editor of The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology and Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy
President, Society for Humanistic Psychology
“Ed Mendelowitz may be the best writer in contemporary psychology.”
Louis Hoffman, Ph.D.
Editor of Brilliant Sanity: Buddhist Approaches to Psychotherapy, Existential Psychotherapy East-West, Stay Awhile: Poetic Narratives about Multiculturalism and Diversity