Robert Romanyshyn Biography

 

I am a former psychotherapist, who entered clinical psychology through the door of philosophy and who over the last thirty years, following the hints of dreams and symptoms, has tried and failed to find the exit through the door of poetry. In this respect, I regard myself as a "failed poet" who recognizes now that psychology has been a necessary and very good cover story, which in accordance with my name-Romanyshyn means "son of a gypsy"- has allowed me to wander among disciplines. An intellectual vagabond, I have roamed across the boundaries and lingered on the margins of psychology, philosophy, history, art, physics and poetry in order to explore the abysmal edges and dark alleyways of the soul while trying to learn and practice the art of soul making. A lover of the ghosts who inhabit the imaginal landscapes of the soul, I count as my companions and mentors the likes of Jung, Rilke, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and a host of painters, poets, and physicists as well a several mentors and friends who are still alive. Of all the odd pieces of conversation I have heard over the years while in the company of these ghosts, the one that seems most appropriate to this strange work of constructing a website, which has something of the feel for me of writing one's gravestone message, comes from Woody Allen, who in a brief biographical note to one of his earliest books said that his only regret in life was that he was not somebody else.

A core faculty member at Pacifica Graduate Institute since 1991, I earned my Ph.D. in 1970 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where in the clinical psychology program I studied phenomenology, philosophy, and depth psychology. I have published a few poems, five books, chapters in dozens of edited volumes and numerous articles in psychological, philosophical and literary journals. I have also written a television script on the history of the soul in western consciousness, which no-one seems interested in producing.

My first book, Psychological Life: From Science to Metaphor, published in the U.S. in 1982, was also published in England in 1984, and translated that same year into Japanese. My second book, Technology as Symptom and Dream, published in 1989, is in its fourth reprinting, and has been praised as a work which makes an original and important contribution toward an understanding of the soul of technology. The Soul in Grief: Love, Death and Transformation, was published in 1999, followed in 2000 by a revised second edition of my first book with new material and re-titled as Mirror and Metaphor: Images and Stories of Psychological Life. In 2001 a dozen of my published essays were collected in a volume entitled Ways of the Heart: Essays Toward an Imaginal Psychology. My work has also been the subject of website and radio interviews and television programs. All of this amuses and astonishes me and at times I find myself wondering who is this guy and wishing I could meet him.

In addition to having practiced as a psychotherapist for more than 25 years, I co-founded in 1972 with Robert Sardello the revolutionary graduate program in phenomenological psychology in The Institute of Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas. The destruction of that program by right wing reactionary political and religious forces in the late 1980s during the Reagan years left me spiritually homeless until I was invited in 1991 to join the faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Summeralnd, CA., where as a core faculty member I still teach in the clinical and depth psychology programs. The bright light(s) of California induce a state of mind, which might not be very good for the dark light of the soul, but the Institute has provided an oasis in this desert of sunshine where I have been able to develop an approach to research that keeps soul in mind and to make philosophical and curricular contributions to the origins of the Depth Psychology program in 1995.

As a teacher and writer, I have been described as a master story teller with a gift for expressing the insights of the soul with the voice of a poet. I like that and if it is true, then I owe a debt of gratitude to those family dinners of long ago when I sat at the table with a Ukranian father and a Celtic mother, both of whom were liars in the best sense of that profession, those who, like poets and artists, lie in order to tell the truth. What I learned there was the power of story to shape the facts and events of life into a believeable and liveable tale. What I learned there was the power of origins to call us continually into the work of not forgetting. What I learned there was the mystery of history. And what I learned there was the power of language to change and shape reality.

In ways whose paths I can not directly trace from there and then to here and now, I was given a life, whose primary interest lies in the work of awakening the collective soul to its condition of exile. Central to this work of an-amnesis, of un-forgetting, is the development of a poetic sensibility, which, in acknowledging the metaphoric character of psychological life, liberates the energies of the soul that are trapped in the literalisms of our psychologies and ideologies. In connection with this work, I have been interested in the role of grief and the healing power of the grieving process, which frees the poetic voice of the soul and opens it to its desire for and sense of the sacred. I have also explored the role of reverie and its useless pleasures as a style of consciousness that attunes us to the myths in our meanings, the symptoms in our symbols, the images in our events, the fictions in our facts, the dreams in our reasons, and the fantasies in our ideas. In addition I have written about the role of the witness as the one who in lingering in the moment becomes a spokesperson for the marginalized and neglected values of the soul, including its longing for beauty and creative expression, a lesson that I learned long ago through some film work with prisoners. In relation to my concern for the soul awakening to its condition of exile, I have also published essays on the virtues of being a fool with a pathetic heart.

All of this when, sitting around that dinner table I dreamed of wanting to be a bus driver. Be careful what you wish for, Freud once said, because it might come true. Well, it did!! I have been the bus driver for all these ideas, picking them up and taking them to their destination. Like passengers they were waiting for me to arrive at their stops, and I have no more been the creator of these ideas than a bus driver is the creator of the passengers who ride the bus. The route was already fixed. I did not choose it!

Now I am trying to finish a book,The Wounded Researcher: From the Mind of Reason to the Soul of the World, the result of a thirteen-year research project to develop an ethical epistemology, which keeps soul in mind and acknowledges the shadow elements in our scientific and philosophical ways of knowing the world and being in it. The bus has been crowded and the route has had many detours, but the passenger/ideas are friendly with and know those from an earlier ride-the bus whose last stop was the book Technology as Symptom and Dream, which offers a cultural therapeutics that awakens the collective memory to what has been forgotten, neglected or otherwise marginalized in our scientific/technological world. There are also a few other new bus routes whose passengers are slowly gathering for a journey toward Dark Light: The Psychologist as Failed Poet, a book of prose, poems, recollections and reveries, and others for a journey toward The Waters of Life Beneath the Currents of History, a kind of soul memoir in praise of the power of dreams and symptoms in charting the routes of one's life.

Along the way, I have been a guest professor at numerous universities and have lectured widely in the U.S. Canada, Europe, and South Africa. In addition I have done workshops on the grieving process, on the healing power of poetry, on writing and the creative process, and with my wife Veronica Goodchild workshops on the interrelationships between Jungian psychology, quantum physics and new paradigms of consciousness. My work has also been the subject of radio, television and website interviews.

I am a Fellow of The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, and in 2002 I was one of the first non-analysts elected as an Affiliate Member of The Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts based on scholarly contributions to Jungian psychology.

I live in Summerland, CA. with my beautiful, loving, and intelligent wife, Veronica Goodchild, whose fate placed her at one of those stops along the way. How lucky and blessed I was on that day! I also have four childern-Jeffrey and Andrew born to me and my first wife, Janet Weisser Romanyshyn, who died too young and too suddenly; and Sarah and Timm Goodchild who were there with Veronica on that fateful day.