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Brothers and Sisters: Myth and Reality

July 23-28, 2017

The relationship of brothers and sisters is the stuff of myth and legend. In this seminar, we will explore the actual and archetypal aspects of these relationships. “He is like my brother, she is like my sister.” What do we mean by this? What are we implying? An expression we may use, “Am I my brother’s keeper?,” can refer to our families as well as our community or country.

Brother/sister relationships are complex and fraught with challenges, problems, strong emotions, and often ambivalence. We can love our brothers or sisters more than ourselves but can often resent or hate them enough to cut them out of our lives.

And what of siblings who are twins or only children? What are their special issues and roles in the family, and how do those issues affect them in life? Typology, birth order, and the age difference between siblings also have great influence on our personalities, complexes, and worldviews. What do brothers and sisters represent in our fantasies and our dreams? Longings, shadow figures, idealizations, or missing parts of ourselves?

In families where parents created jealousy, competition, and discord among siblings through favoritism or by playing one child against the other, lifelong aversions to intimacy and trust are often imprinted on their offspring. For those fortunate to have grown up in families where each child’s unique qualities were appreciated and whose parents helped them bond and value one another, it may be easier to navigate future personal and professional relationships.

The power of brother/sister relationships is omnipresent —in psychology, history, politics, religion, literature, and art. Throughout the week, we will explore the theme of brothers and sisters in myth, archetype, and reality.

Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk.
—Susan Scarf Merrell

PRESENTATIONS & WORKSHOPS

The Siblings We Have and the Siblings We Wish We Had

Henry Abramovitch

If Freud and Jung had used the Bible for inspiration instead of Greek psychology, they would have discovered that some of the most intense, enduring, and painful conflicts are not only between children and their parents but between brothers and sisters. Dr. Abramovitch’s presentation will explore brother/sister stories—from the primal scene of Cain and Abel, through the yearning for a lost brother, to a series of possible resolutions in a new kind of sisterhood/brotherhood.
Our identity as brothers and sisters is played out in the interface between our actual, outer siblings and our ideal, inner ones: between the personal and archetypal. Dr. Abramovitch, in presentation and workshop, will help us explore the ongoing tension between, on the one hand, the brothers and sisters we actually have and, on the other hand, our ideal siblings—inner siblings we would most like to have.

Henry Abramovitch, PhD, founding president and senior training analyst of the Israel Institute of Jungian Psychology, is a professor at Tel Aviv University Medical School, as well as former president of the Israel Anthropological Association and co-facilitator of the Interfaith Encounter Group. He supervises “Routers” in the IAAP Developing Groups in Poland and Russia.

Dr. Abramovitch is the author of Brothers and Sisters: Myth and Reality (published in English, Hebrew, and Russian) and the forthcoming Therapy as Performance Art. His passions are poetry, dream groups, and the holy city of Jerusalem.


 

Sibling Spirits: Men and Women in Mystical Friendship

Gregory Collins

Despite the formal exclusion of women from holding office in the male-dominated hierarchical structures of the Catholic Church, as well as the Church’s insistence on celibacy for its priestly ministers, there has always been an interesting phenomenon within its spiritual tradition: intensely close friendships and collaboration between men and women, in sister/brother relationships, at the level of mystical experience and spiritual transformation.
Dr. Collins will present some classic examples of this phenomenon (e.g., Benedict and Scholastica, Francis and Clare, Teresa and John of the Cross), as they engaged each other both in harmony and conflict, and will discuss their spiritual and psychological interaction in the light of Jung’s reflections on the archetypal relations of the masculine and feminine.

Earl Collins, PhD, abbot of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, 2011–2016, studied philosophy and holds a doctorate in Byzantine mystical theology. A former monk of Glenstal Abbey, he studied at the Jung Institute in Zurich and was a professor of theology at the Benedictine University in Rome. Author of The Glenstal Book of Icons and Meeting Christ in His Mysteries, Dr. Collins is interested in the history of spirituality—particularly, the phenomenon of mysticism in Christianity and world religions.


 

Archetypes and Sibling Relationships in Identity Formation

Carol S. Pearson

Our early sibling relationships affect how we view and relate to our connection with the world and other people. When a child is addressing major life issues, these relationships affect how we establish authentic identity and successful personae and how we successfully exert power in the world. For example, our yearning for a spiritual brother or sister can originate from an unhappy relationship that can be either positive or negative. This workshop will explore how the flow of archetypes throughout life, and in subsequent personal and professional relationships, can be affected by such early affiliations.

Carol S. Pearson, PhD, DMin, is the author of Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within (winner of a Nautilus Award Gold Medal), as well as The Hero Within, Awakening the Heroes Within, The Hero and the Outlaw, The Transforming Leader, and the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator. Her most recent professional roles include provost and then president of Pacifica Graduate Institute and director of the Burns Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland.


 

Creative Writing Exploration: A Workshop

David Merkowitz

It started with Cain and Abel. Sibling relationships have been the subject of stories and poems from earliest times. They typically are fraught with meaning—positive, negative, or both. In this workshop, we will consider how such relationships have been explored in poetry and other forms of creative writing, discuss several works that focus on brothers and sisters, and try our hands at our own written reflections on the topic.

David Merkowitz, PhD, has extensive experience in publishing, journalism, higher education, politics, and public policy. Early in his career, he taught literature, creative writing, and journalism at several major universities. He also has been a speechwriter for prominent elected officials and other leaders, as well as a consultant to numerous organizations and political campaigns. He holds a doctorate in American culture from the University of Michigan.