Encountering America: Sixties Psychology, Counterculture and the Movement That Shaped the Modern Self

Encountering America: Sixties Psychology, Counterculture and the Movement That Shaped the Modern Self

Jessica Grogan

Language: English

Pages: 435

ISBN: B008LVCPIA

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A dramatic narrative history of the psychological movement that reshaped American culture

The expectation that our careers and personal lives should be expressions of our authentic selves, the belief that our relationships should be defined by openness and understanding, the idea that therapy can help us reach our fullest potential—these ideas have become so familiar that it's impossible to imagine our world without them.

In Encountering America, cultural historian Jessica Grogan reveals how these ideas stormed the barricades of our culture through the humanistic psychology movement—the work of a handful of maverick psychologists who revolutionized American culture in the 1960s and '70s. Profiling thought leaders including Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, and Timothy Leary, Grogan draws on untapped primary sources to explore how these minds and the changing cultural atmosphere combined to create a widely influential movement. From the group of ideas that became known as New Age to perennial American anxieties about wellness, identity, and purpose, Grogan traces how humanistic psychology continues to define the way we understand ourselves.

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Maslow, “January 17, 1968,” Journals, vol. 2, 1009. 25. Edward Hoffman, “Abraham Maslow: A Biographical Sketch,” in Future Visions: The Unpublished Papers of Abraham Maslow, ed. Edward Hoffman (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996), 13. 26. David Dempsey, “Love and Will and Rollo May,” New York Times, March 28, 1971, SM29. In 1974, Love and Will again appeared in the New York Times, on a list of books that had received “uncommonly large print orders”—an estimated 400,000 copies—in the prior month.

19. Reinhold, “Humanistic Psychology,” 13. 20. David Dempsey, “Love and Will and Rollo May,” New York Times, March 28, 1971, SM29. 21. Litwak, “ ‘Rolfing,’ ”19. 22. Ibid. 23. Richard Farson, telephone interview with author, October 5, 2005. 24. Maslow, “September 19, 1967,” The Journals of A. H. Maslow, vol. 1, ed. Richard J. Lowry (Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole, 1979), 287. 25. Bernard G. Rosenthal, “The Nature and Development of the Encounter Group Movement” (Maslow Papers, Box M449.30,

pursue the effects of psychedelic inebriation.45 The early results of Leary’s research were promising. In his first study, in which 175 participants from all walks of life ingested psilocybin, Leary reported that more than half had reached new heights of self-understanding; an equally high percentage felt the experience had permanently improved their lives; and 90 percent wanted to repeat the experience.46 Subsequently, Leary conducted the Concord Prison Experiment, in which psilocybin therapy

exciting groups of the mid-1960s. Schutz had been trained at UCLA as a social psychologist, found a niche in academics studying group processes, and held a hard-won assistant professorship at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in New York. He abruptly abandoned this position, however, when he received an unusual offer from Michael Murphy in 1967.8 “[Murphy] said he could not pay me,” explained Schutz, “but I could offer three workshops, and if anyone came I would make some money. He could not

superficial, invoking changes in expression but not in power.52 May’s response, which was published as an article in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, was typical of the ambivalent way in which the movement grappled with feminism. Initially, he grudgingly conceded that his analysis “does suffer from unintentional sex prejudices. So does practically every other book written by a man (and most of them by women) in that period.” He also noted, again a bit defensively, that Maslow and himself

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