Christmas in Africa, “Ubuntu” the true symbolism and meaning of the season. By Dr. Leslee Brown

It is such an odd occurrence to be in the southern hemisphere during the holiday season. We all think of snow, Christmas trees, Rudolph, Santa, and twinkling lights. We are usually busy in a hectic rush, madly shopping for the perfect gifts, organizing parties, and decorating our houses and preparing for our big Christmas feasts. We all think nostalgically or longingly for spending time by a roaring fire with family and friends sipping a hot drink to warm our souls while 15304504_10154078357950592_4145352730299766829_o  watching our favorite Christmas tales.

However, here I am in Africa sitting poolside in the scorching African sun with small fake Christmas trees at the shallow end of the pool being powered by the sun. I sit at this lovely pool, at my country inn, under the shade of an umbrella with an attentive staff attending to my every whim in the lap of luxury, but right outside my electric guarded gates people are squatting on someone else’s property living with no running water, electricity or heat in makeshift cardboard and tin huts. This is not my typical image of Christmas. Where are all the symbols of Christmas lore? Where are all the nostalgic trappings that make Christmas, well, Christmas? I am here in an ancient place, and I find myself searching for Christmas, perhaps in all the wrong ways and places.

My search begins one evening out with friends in a very kitsch Las Vegas-like piazza at a casino. While everyone (white) was sipping wonderful South African wine in a place that looked like a mini wannabee Las Vegas, I thought aha I found Christmas. I found a big Christmas tree in a center square of this faux Italy spot in Johannesburg. I smiled as they not only replicated their version of the Venetian in Las Vegas, but there was also a typical centuries old Christmas market complete with all the decorations of our childhood memories. Here in Africa a replica of my favorite European Christmas market, decorated with fake snow and every symbolic representation of what everybody’s “dream” of Christmas should be.


What does all of this mean? Was it out of place? Do we all have a shared symbolic representation of Christmas worldwide spanning continents, hemispheres, and cultures? This captured the Christmas spirit in the most unlikely place with temperatures upwards of 95 degrees in the middle of the African summer, or so I thought.

However, here in Africa I found something totally unexpected and the true meaning and symbolism of Christmas. While running a course in equine assisted psychotherapy in South Africa, I learned more than helping people with horses. I learned about true dedication to humankind and the real meaning of what Christmas should be about.

One Saturday 200 children from a neighboring shantytown; Diepsloot came to celebrate the only Christmas they will most likely have, thanks to Sharon Boyce of Shumbashaba. Sharon began a few years ago when a few kids from the shantytown started turning up. In the beginning it was only a handful of poor children from the neighboring shantytown. Today, hundreds of children from the most abject poverty I have ever seen spent their usual Saturday at Shumbashaba; a safe haven for so many children. It was complete with Santa, presents, food, music and games.


Different groups came together a few years ago to help a few children who came around after school. This horse farm became a safe haven for kids. What they noticed was that these kids were hungry and they began an outreach program bridging the gap between black and white, rich and poor to help the nearby kids. Now every Saturday the kids come and work with each other, the community and the horses and they are provided a good healthy nutritious meal. They are learning here how to get along in life and the skills they need. They are learning that Shumbashaba is a safe haven for them, where they can play, learn and be kids for a few hours and get a healthy meal.

When I went outside and saw this beautiful scene of people from many walks of life, cultural backgrounds and socio economic status’ working together in the name of the children, I realized this was finding Christmas in Africa. So, this year while indulging in large Christmas feasts and celebrations about indulgence, truly think of the poor starving children I had the pleasure of meeting for a brief moment that changed my life.


The selfless devotion of the people making this all possible in this small grass roots community effort actually makes a difference. As more and more children come to Shumbashaba this becomes not only a safe haven and healthy meal, but also a place to learn and find coping skills in their poverty stricken communities. I realized that under the blazing African skies lies people who really care about the community and don’t view giving of themselves as a once in a while occurrence but a way of life.

Maybe this year instead of buying all the frivolous trappings of the season; the true spirit of Christmas is about opening our hearts and spirit to those in need. So in the middle of summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, yes I found the usual symbols of Christmas, but also the true inspiration of people struggling together to make a difference.

Giving really does feel so much better than receiving. This Christmas party for all theses children in need gave me hope, serenity and a feeling that one small act of giving can make a huge difference in someone’s life. At the risk of sounding cliché perhaps Christmas symbolism is all about Scrooge opening his heart to help those right in his own back yard that are in need. There is a reason we have these symbolic tales, but perhaps we are not listening to the symbolic message.

img_4605It turns out that Christmas began as a celebration of the sun solstices and is as ancient as human kind. All of our modern symbols of Christmas actually have meanings dating back to prehistoric times. Here in South Africa there is a major archaeological site of great importance dating back some 3 million years. This site called The Cradle of Human kind, and it is thought to be the beginning of humankind where we all originated. So it seems Christmas may actually be more apropos here where humankind began.

Yesterday I visited The Cradle of Humanity, a world heritage site, where 60 meters down in a cave the first human “ Mrs. Ples” was found. You see we all originate from the same place and are more alike than different. Deep down in this cool dark cave I observed the millions of year old rock formations and there by the side of a large underground lake was a rock formation of Mary Magdalena. Christmas is all around me in Africa much to my surprise. I wish we could all continue this Christmas spirit of helping and opening our hearts and minds to those around us in need.

img_4634We share a feeling of nostalgia during the Christmas season no matter where we are in the world. No mater where we come from, every culture has a symbolic representation of what this holiday must include. So what do we need to make Christmas seem and feel like Christmas? We need some of the symbols that give us that holiday spirit and warm fuzzy nostalgic feel. Here is a list of a few of the iconic Christmas symbols I found in Africa:

  • Santa—Chocolate Santa’s at Woolworths, Santa at a children party helping the community
  • Candy cans at Woolworths
  • Snow at a Christmas market at a casino
  • Rudolph flying above a casino piazza
  • Christmas tree at the Piazza Monte and small carved and beaded trees made by the locals
  • Mistletoe hanging under the door way at a convenience store where I bought some mosquito spray
  • Christmas trees twinkling at the shallow end of the pool at the country inn I am staying
  • Presents donated so no child goes home hungry or without a gift. The gift however is the loving and caring people who make these children feel worthwhile

img_4894How to say merry Christmas in Africa:

In Akan (Ghana) Afishapa

In Zimbabwe Merry Kisimusi

In Afrikaans (South Africa) Geseënde Kersfees

In Zulu (South Africa) Sinifisela Ukhisimusi Omuhle

In Swazi (Swaziland) Sinifisela Khisimusi Lomuhle

In Sotho (Lesthoto) Matswalo a Morena a Mabotse

In Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya) Kuwa na Krismasi njema

In Amharic (Ethiopia) Melkam Yelidet Beaal

In Egyptian (Egypt) Colo sana wintom tiebeen

In Yoruba (Nigeria) E ku odun, e hu iye’ dun!

img_4648Many South Africans have their traditional holiday meal of a barbeque or braai, or the traditional big Christmas roast even though it is hot and sunny. In east Africa they roast a whole goat. Christmas gift giving is not as commercial as in the USA and northern Europe. If you want snow and the symbolic white Christmas, you would have to go to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Caroling is also popular here, and I found posters adverting Christmas caroling everywhere.

Even in Muslim countries one can find the symbols of Christmas, and in many of these countries Christmas is a national holiday. The most common gift is a new outfit, books, supplies, etc., not the frivolous gifts westerners typically indulge in.

img_4752In African culture and civilization, this time of year was about the Earth, relationship of the stars, sun and seasons, which effects every living thing on Earth. This time of year in ancient Africa was important as the birth of the sun; many of the traditions were really about the rhythm of the Earth and heavens. The ancient Africans acknowledged these thousands of years ago. Over time different cultures have adopted these ancient traditions and infused them with their own cultural stories.

Today at a crafts fair in Africa, while under the scorching African sun, there was Christmas everywhere. I found old and new woodcarvings of nativity scenes made from a variety of different local woods and materials. I found beaded ornaments with African symbols and green tree branches to decorate and put into homes much like our traditional Christmas trees.

img_4756The ancient celebration of the sun and solstices and what was happening in nature and on Earth is metaphoric for the adopted stories that later shaped our modern practices of Christmas spanning many cultures.

Myths are important as they teach us many things about our history and natural occurrences on Earth and in life. These myths transcend time and space and are relevant to all cultures from ancient to modern time. Myths while not true contain truths and lessons and symbolism that are important.

With our modern commercialism of the holiday season we have lost our symbols and important myths, erasing important traces of why we celebrate and the meanings associated. The history of the holiday season has brought new meaning for me by looking at the ancient and the history of humankind.

img_4758Stores are decorated with all the symbolic regalia, Christmas is here and the festive atmosphere just comes and is symbolized in a way that suits the culture, climate and people. In Northern Africa December 25 marked the rebirth of the sun, the winter solstice. It is the birthday of the African God Ra or Osiris. When you decorate your modern day Christmas tree, you are actually reenacting the Ancient African tradition of decorating an Egyptian tree that bore fruit and you are reenacting or symbolizing an African legend or myth.

So maybe I am celebrating the Christmas season in the very place it originated with the symbols that are closer to where they all began. Maybe here in the most impoverished communities I learned that Christmas means giving and making a difference. I found Christmas in Africa… and I found symbols here, modern and ancient. I found a wonderful tradition of old and new. Maybe I just needed to make meaning out of the symbols I found under the hot African sky.

img_4892Here is how I found Christmas in Africa: “Ubuntu”, is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’. Ubuntu is an idea from Southern Africa, which means literally “human-ness”, and is often translated as “humanity towards others”, but is often used in a more philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”.

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And God Was Crying…

By Mind Body Passport participant,  Dr. Mim Collins

 It was a few years ago, at a networking meeting at my home, that I met Dr. Leslee Brown, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist who lives and works in Los Angeles and Europe. I was immediately drawn to her; quite simply, I felt a connection. She had brought brochures which detailed how her company Mind Body Passport offers worldwide seminars for therapists and others in which the experiences of travel, culture, and psychotherapy are shared, processed, integrated, and incorporated. I told her that I wanted to go with her… but not right then; I would let her know when I was ready.

IMG_0263I was born in 1939, the year that Hitler invaded Poland. In 1944, when I was five, my older brother, my parents, and I sat around the radio and listened to the voices of General Dwight Eisenhower, General Douglas MacArthur, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to learn about what was happening overseas. On April 12th, 1945, while sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner, we spontaneously wept at the news of FDR’s death. Our hearts were broken. Who would look after us as well as he had? We felt such a loss, and so did the rest of the world.

There was much talk during those years about what was happening to the Jews in Eastern Europe. I was too young to understand, but it haunted me that I could not connect with their plight. And through these many decades I have felt drawn to understand my lack of identification with or compassion for the horrors that had been whispered about at first, then talked about aloud in the synagogue from the bema in our small town’s little schul. The Jews in Eastern Europe, the Jews in Eastern Europe, The Jews in Eastern Europe… throughout the years, I have felt compelled to watch the documentaries over and over. I wept to my core while watching Schindler’s List some 20 years ago, and again when I saw it recently. It never occurred to me that I could feel the depth of their suffering, or that these unknown Jews could ever feel like my family.


And then a beloved friend went to Auschwitz. I became aware then that I yearned to be able to join her, to experience the place of suffering with her. I hadn’t even known through all of these years that I wanted to go there. Her pain touched my longing to feel it for myself. I was afraid to travel to Europe on my own. I had never done it, and I felt my wings had been stunted by issues early on that had kept me from living out my longing to travel the world. As a psychotherapist for more than 40 years, and a psychoanalyst for 15, I have always taken pride in my internal travels, and the deepening of the inner journey of the psyche, both mine and those of my patients. The inside world is where my focus had been. Now, I wanted to travel the outside world. I was ready to go.

In December 2015, Leslee advertised a trip to study in Vienna for a week-long  Existential summit experiential process seminar. I called her immediately. To my surprise and delight, she told me that she also had a course the week prior going from Vienna to Poland and back titled The role of memory and the psychology of dark tourism : The March of the Living. She had arrangements for a private van to drive us to Krakow, Poland and to Auschwitz for the three days prior to the seminar. I was going! My heart flipped!! OMG!!! Could it be real? A million questions flooded me… and she answered all of them right away in her reassuring and comforting way. I was going to Auschwitz. We were going to participate in the March of the Living on Holocaust Remembrance Day!

IMG_0589When the itinerary for Poland arrived several months later, I eagerly read it and then burst into sobs. Vienna for two days, then a six-hour ride to Poland. Our first stop would be Auschwitz. We were going straight to Auschwitz, just as the unsuspecting Jews had done. In those moments, I felt my soul journey back to the depths of my being. I felt my heart reach back to my deceased parents, brother, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins, through the generations to those who had died in the ghettos in Krakow and Vienna, in the gas chambers, in the cattle cars, from starvation, from torture, from humiliation, from lethal injection, from all the atrocities that befell the Jews, my people. I felt connected to them all. They are my people… I am a Jew… they are my brothers and sisters, grandparents, my beloved ones. I am weeping now…not because I lost them, but because I finally found them!

We arrived at Auschwitz just three days ago. There was the gate, the barbed wire fences, the railroad tracks from Vienna and Krakow and all over Eastern Europe through Auschwitz, to Birkenau and the crematories. I saw for myself the gas chambers, the ovens, the mountains of human hair piled along the entirety of one of the museum rooms, the artificial limbs. I had seen so many pictures of it all over the years that it was no shock… but I cried when I saw the baby clothes on exhibit.


And then we drove the 2.9 kilometers to Birkenau. I had never seen pictures of the desolate, barren open space where the railroad tracks led to the stopping point where cattle carloads of Jews were unloaded after days of starvation and travel under despicable conditions and forced to go through the “selection” process. In that process, the able bodied people were sent in one direction, while the  old and young, either too young or too old to be useful, were marched directly to the gas chambers.

The stopping place seemed to reach far into the distance. Our group of six others had already walked to the stopping place. I decided to join them. Before I began to walk toward them, I stood there silent for a moment. I opened my arms wide to embrace the brisk, chilled air, and the fact that I was there. I was in Birkenau, in Poland, where all the Jews who I had heard about but never known had suffered and died. I loved the cool damp air on my face; it felt like a cleansing.

IMG_0763I spotted my fellow travelers returning from the “selection” spot. I turned around and joined Leslee as she was walking back toward the gate, the entrance to Birkenau. Just then, we heard a unified sound coming from far down the tracks. It was the voices of young and old gathered together and praying in Hebrew. It took me to the sounds in my memory of my own father and grandfather and others praying in our little schul. And I cried. I was alone for a moment, then I felt Leslee’s arms around my back. Then we hugged, and I said, “I came here to say Kaddish for them,” and I sobbed deeply, feeling connected to all who had suffered there. And in my heart, I felt for all my family who had never mourned the loss of our loved ones. Leslee and I walked arm and arm back through the archway. I felt I was home.

IMG_0637On Thursday, yesterday, two days later, we drove back to Auschwitz from Krakow where we were staying. We walked again through the camp, joined by 14,000 people from all over the world. Many were students, with the flag of Israel draped around their shoulders like capes. We began the walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the March of the Living, where in 1945 the prisoners had done the March of the Dead in the freezing cold, dropping from sickness and exhaustion, only to be shot or left to die.

The sun was shining, and it was a golden, glorious day. We were all together, in front of us a sea of the Star of David flowing before us, leading the way. We approached a hill, and as a throng we climbed it together. I saw the sign for Birkenau; this time, I recognized it. Yiddish music was surrounding us as we walked toward the camp. The music and Hebrew prayers filled the air. And there before us were thousands of Jews, clad in capes of Israel, placing candles on the railroad tracks that led to the “selection” place (as if to say to the Nazis, “You will never use these tracks again; now they are ours! They are the graves of our beloveds.”), saying prayers, putting markers on the tracks of the names of our lost sisters and brothers, saying, “Never Again!!”

IMG_0730I was walking with Leslee when, suddenly, my fellow traveler Stephanie was next to me. And just then, the skies opened up, and rain poured… and the sadness was so deeply profound that it felt as if God was crying!


 Leslee and Stephanie and I grabbed each other, stumbled to retrieve our umbrellas, and covered each other with them until we were all sheltered. Stephanie and I hugged each other, and I said to her, “We came all the way to Poland, so they would know we hadn’t forgotten them.” The three of us walked arm in arm through the archway into the camp. As we made our way through the crowd of young people and walked under the arch of the entrance to Birkenau, just as suddenly as it had rained, the sun burst through! And I thought to myself, “We all came back, we didn’t forget, we came back to say Kaddish for our family.” And in the shining sunlight, I felt God smiling…!


During 10 years of training at my analytic institute, my colleagues and I were often taught that a true interpretation happened only when the patient’s regressed material emerged into consciousness in the presence of the analyst, with it being re-experienced in the present moment, and the experience itself being felt between the patient and the analyst as if the analyst were really the original object in the patient’s early life.

In the moments of this awesome experience, I was in the present, at the same time that I could feel the generations before me as if I were a child, wondering what all the fuss was about, and struggling to understand why I couldn’t understand what was going on. So for me, the past and the present were the same. And who and where was the analyst, with whom I was living both the past and the present at once? Could it have been all the lost souls, the survivors, or my colleagues, to whom I was so deeply bonded? Or was it everything and everyone whom I felt connected to? And could that all have been the presence of God?


 By Mim Collins, Psy.D., MFT, written on Friday, May 7th, 2016 at 2:15 am. Mim Collins is in private practice



The symbolic meaning of the color purple: the new red, white and blue.

By Dr. Leslee S. Brown

The symbolism of Hillary and Bill Clinton both wearing purple is quite interesting in Jungian symbolic terms. Purple symbolizes: magic, mystery, spirituality, the sub-conscious, creativity, dignity, royalty and it evokes all of these meanings more so than any other color. Purple is also a color of mourning. In today’s world symbolism is more meaningful than ever to tap into our collective unconscious.

On Wednesday November 9th, 2016 Hillary stood with her husband former president Bill Clinton and gave an epic concession speech in a presidential election unprecedented in its vulgarity, anger and racial connotations. It was unlike any election we had ever witnessed. It has divided us not only as a nation, but also as people, and as friends. I posted something about Hillary and Bill wearing purple on Facebook a few days ago and received more comments than anything I have ever posted. I also noted some who wanted to un-friend me and who were un-friending those who had voted and supported the opposing candidate. I am pondering this and will most likely write another article on that hillary-bill-story-647_111016103353 topic later.

Many of us around the world are trying to find meaning in what is happening in America, the home of the free and the brave. As Adlai Stevenson said, When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea.  He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect”.

So what is the symbolic meaning of Hillary and Bill Clinton both wearing purple?

Both Hillary and Bill made a bold statement in wearing the color purple. Hillary wore a dark grey pantsuit with purple lapels and a purple blouse and Bill wore a matching purple tie. Blue the color of the Democratic party (Clinton) + red the color of the Republican party (Trump)= purple. Was this a show of blending the two together? Was it symbolic of joining and re-uniting from the battleground of this election? Another symbol I find is the bumper sticker and slogan, “Love Trumps hate”. Stephanie Vardavas born in the USA, wrote in December of 2015, “In bridge and some other card games, one suit is designated as trump, and cards from that suit carry special powers to take tricks and defeat cards from other suits. This is called “trumping” as a verb. So “love trumps hate” means that love overcomes or defeats hate, with the obvious pun adding an additional layer of meaning”.

mtqyode3nje1njqxodq3ntgwThe Clinton’s come from a Methodist religious background; in their religion purple symbolizes royalty and penitence. Purple also a symbol of, political unity and balance. Most of the world watched in disbelief on election night as the US map lit up with more “red” states than “blue”. This is symbolic of course for democratic states being blue and republican states being red, but on this night in this particular election it was so much more.

Hillary wore her American designed suit by Ralph Lauren symbolic of mourning but the purple lapels and blouse so bold and meaningful. America has always stood for balance and the co mingling of people of color from nations around the globe. We were built as an immigrant nation who worked hard and fought hard. The emblazoned red all over the map with tinges of blue is so symbolic of what the world at large is becoming. This is not just about America, but as a global community.

Purple is also the color of royalty and the Clinton’s have certainly been a dynasty reigning over many years of public service in America. It is the end of dynasty. My first childhood memory was of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, I was three years old (yes you can do the math). This too was the end of an era. I am not sure if it was an actual memory or if I remembered the symbolic images of the Kennedy’s. But I do feel this is analogous of what was later called of JFK’s short term in the white House as the end of Camelot. Through out the decades, this iconic phrase elicits so much imagery and symbolism from the myth of Camelot. The myth was so powerful it transcended generations and cultures as we all embraced the legend of Camelot.

The myth and symbolism of Camelot is another bold symbol carrying a universal story and message, which we often find in myths. JFK loved the ending in Camelot “Don’t ever let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was Camelot.” Jackie Kennedy artfully used this phrase in all its richness and symbolic meaning. President Kennedy, she said, was strongly attached to the myth of Camelot. Mrs. Kennedy told in an interview, “There will be great presidents again,” “but there will never be another Camelot.” By using the symbolism of Camelot, Jackie Kennedy opened us up to a morally uplifting message to heal our nation.

The color purple symbolizes, royalty, as many years ago it was a very expensive color to create into clothing. Among Mediterranean people, purple was reserved for emperors and popes. The Japanese christened it “Imperial Purple”.

161109115551-07-clinton-concession-speech-1109-large-169In solidarity Bill stood beside Hillary in a purple tie as a symbol of so many things. Colors can be symbolic and they are often universal.

In religious symbolism purple was mentioned in the Bible In Mark 15:16, “Roman soldiers clothed Jesus in purple before beating him and crucifying him”. In Christianity Purple is the liturgical color for the seasons of Advent and Lent. The Jewish encyclopedia also talks about the color purple, “The purple dyes were obtained from the “ḥallazon,” a species of shell-fish. It yielded purple-red (Hebrew “argaman” = Aramaic “argewan”) and purple-blue or violet (Hebrew “tekelet” = Aramaic “tikla”). Both colors figure largely in the decoration of the Tabernacle and the priestly robes”.

hillary-clinton-debateHillary’s choice of colors in her outfits during the campaign was also symbolic. She chose a lot of white symbolizing, purity, and virtue and was also a symbol of the suffragette movement allowing women to vote in America. The colors of the suffragette movement were white, gold, purple and green. It is the color symbolizing loyalty, constancy to purpose, and unswerving steadfastness to a cause.

Hillary’s suit and fashion choices were always by American designer Ralph Lauren. She chose white for the democratic convention, and red, white and blue for the successive debates, symbolizing America.

Purple, is rarely found in nature and has many meanings to many cultures. It is also symbolic of magic, the supernatural, and spirituality. The suffragists fighting for the vote wore purple, representing dignity, along with white (purity) and green (hope). It is also the color of The LGBT community as the color of pride. The LGBT community has adopted purple and once a year on spirit day stands against bullying and marginalizing of the Gay community.

Hillary gave a heartfelt, moving and powerful speech. It was an authentic expression and you could feel and see the emotion as she choked back tears. Purple as the color of royalty, befitting as Hillary has reigned for many years with Bill and has devoted her entire adult life in the service of the people of The United States.

On CNN, journalist and commentator Carl Bernstein reflected that purple is “the color of spirituality, the color of mourning, the color of mystery,” and called the image of Hillary and Bill Clinton standing side by side in matching purple “a tableaux of the Clinton’s and the best of what they stand for.”

Hillary’s suit was custom made and must have been ordered and fitted to perfection months ahead of time. Meaning that purple was her conscious choice of color. Either way whether she won or lost it was a very apropos choice based on the symbolism of the color.

hillary_clinton_We don’t often think of symbolism in terms of fashion, but in this instance of rising racism world wide it symbolizes so much in terms of unity. Hillary was obviously the most qualified candidate as she has been in public office and served as The Secretary of State of The United States of America. The country however chose to vote in an entirely different way, albeit she still won the popular vote.

In terms of our elections, swing states are referred to as “purple” states. As Hillary so eloquently stated, “We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought, “But I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future.” I hope we can reach within all of us on both sides of the political fence as see the symbolic meaning as looking towards a unified future. The “Purple Heart” is the American award for bravery.

Hillary was certainly brave in running as the first woman president of the United States. Hillary Clinton expressed deep regret at not finally putting a woman in the White House. She said: “Someday, someone will and hopefully sooner than we might think. And to all the little girls watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.” So for me purple also symbolizes the bravery all little girls can have to achieve anything and everything.

mtqyode3nje1njqxodq3ntgwThe origins and symbolism of the color purple are more interesting than other colors. In pre-historic times there was no color purple, as purple is rarely found in nature. The earliest use of color as a dye in clothing dates back to around 1900 BC. Thousands of shellfish were used to extract a tiny amount of dye, hence the color of royalty, nobility and luxury. Purple is the most powerful visible wavelength of electromagnetic energy.  It’s just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays. It is also a cultural symbol for people around the world.

Here are a few interesting symbolic meanings of purple:

  • Purple tends to be a color that people either love or hate it is not neutral.
  • Purple is the color of mourning or death in many cultures (U.K., Italy, Thailand, Brazil)
  • Purple is not a common flag color. Only two flags contain purple.
  • A myth about purple has been that it is used as a calming affect for nervous and psychological disorders.                                                         (
  • The Crown Chakra,  is linked to the crown of the head, the nervous system, and the brain, and is representative of pure thought.
  • In Thailand, purple is worn by a widow mourning her husband’s death.
  • A man with the rank of Roman Emperor was referred to as “The Purple” — a name that came from the color of the robe he wore.
  • In the traditional Ukrainian form of egg dying, purple speaks of fasting, faith, patience, and trust.
  • Purple denotes virtue and faith in Egypt.
  • Traditionally, in Iran, purple is a color of what is to come. A sun or moon that looks purple during an eclipse is an omen of bloodshed within the year.

ceea084731914a0eaf10f718d586fc90-95c9982681c644a7bf0756399c94c9de-0-1As we all world wide move through our stages of loss and mourning we must also remember that we must also be brave as the color purple suggests and stand up against racism, bullying sexism and hate crimes. We must be brave enough to speak out for others who are oppressed and may not have a voice. We were built on a nation of brave immigrants; let us not forget from whence we all come.

To circle back to the myth and symbolism of JFK and Camelot As John F. Kennedy said, “My fellow Americans. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Now we must move through and face the purple symbol of mourning. As Hillary stated, This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it … We need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives. And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will — and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”

Dedicated to Dr. P: I would like to dedicate this article to my dear friend, my sister in solidarity to the fight and “March” against prejudice, intolerance and hate.







An Alchemists’ Lair: A Jungian Tale, By A. van Krallingen, Mind Body Passport participant


Arriving at Bollingen Tower.IMG_20160227_102225 (2)

I am not an intrepid traveler. I am rather attached to my comforts and routines and usually overwhelmed by the airports and stations and luggage and people and shops. So it was with great trepidation that I set off to Zurich to attend the Jungian Winter Intensive, 2016. I traveled with a group organised by Dr. Leslee Brown of Mind Body Passport Inc. that included accommodation and outings. This really worked for me, since I usually hide out in my hotel room too intimidated to explore on my own. Zurich is amazing, I loved it and it was the first time I saw snow! Lake Zurich, The Black Madonna and the incredible library at the Einseideln Monastery, the Jungian workshops and seminars, are just some of the amazing things I experienced.

Click here for more info about The Jungian Winter intensive 2017

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But the highlight of the experience by far was visiting Jung’s Bollingen Tower. This house with four towers was built by Jung in stages throughout his life. The first tower was built in 1923, with additions added during 1927, 1931, and 1935. A second story was added to the 1927 addition after the death of Jung’s wife Emma in 1955. It is now the owned by the family trust.  Jung’s extended family uses it during summer as a holiday home, but in winter it is too cold to stay there. Although It is not open to the public, we were privileged to get a private tour by Jung’s grandson Hans Hoerni, as part of the Winter Intensive programme at the Institute. Bollingen is Jung’s testament to his own individuation process and his relationship to symbols and alchemy.

What an incredible experience! Hans was sixteen years old when his IMG_20160227_105350 (2)famous grandfather passed away and he has few precious memories that he shared with us. He told us that Jung used to go to an island in the Zurich lake and camp out there with his family until his wife Emma complained that it was too unpleasant. He then purchased the land on which he built the Bollingen tower to create a place to go to during their holidays. The initial structure was a circular tower only. Hans told us that Jung started building it himself until he got to about a meter high and then realised that he needed some professional help. He shared with us stories from his childhood: how big and soft his grandfather’s hands were, how the grandchildren were told to be quiet around the house when their very old grandfather was there until his mother decided that it really is not practical and they stopped going when Jung was around. He told us that he was with Jung when he carved the inscription for Emma after her death and he remembers when the stone chipped. He also relayed a story from when he was ten years old. He and his father went skiing, and upon returning decided to go past the Bollingen Tower. This was during January. How surprised he was to find Jung and his helper wrapped up in thick coats sitting around the kitchen table freezing, when he had a beautiful warm house back in Kusnacht!

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What is obvious when you visit Bollingen is that this was Jung’s authentic expression of who he was. His family treasures its authenticity and it has no running water, only a water pump, no electricity and only one outhouse. On our tour we were only allowed inside the bottom level which included the kitchen still kept with the original furniture and utensils, a space where the family used to eat and a fireplace. We were not allowed to photograph the inside of the tower, only photographs outside were allowed. Hans shared with us that Bollingen was broken into and a number of weapons that hung above the fireplace was stolen. Also, some salt seeped through the stone and Hans’ brother carved over the inscriptions to make them visible again. Hans also showed us two photographs that have not been published of Jung without his shirt chopping wood.
The family cooks and spends most of their time outside on a patio. The ceiling of the patio is painted in the various family crests, where Jung inscribed the names of Marie Louise von Franz and Ruth Bailey who helped him to paint this during 1957.

Hans recalled the story of how one of his aunts found the skeleton of a French soldier on the property when they were excavating for the build. Jung had carved an ode to the unknown soldier in one of the rocks. All around the property, there are carvings of various images and verses. It was a magical experience seeing the carved stones and listening to Bob Hinshaw reading the English translations of these stones to us.

Jung was guided throughout his life by many powerful symbols. One of these symbols were stones. Since when Jung was a child, stones had symbolic meaning for him. He wrote in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
“The stone symbolized something permanent that can never be lost or dissolved, something eternal that some have compared to the mystical experience of God within one’s own soul.
It symbolizes what is perhaps the simplest and deepest experience, the experience of something eternal that man can have in those moments when he feels immortal and unalterable.”

IMG_20160227_105150 (2)The power of the symbolic meaning of stones are palpable at the Bollingen Tower. Here he spent many days inscribing stones with Latin quotes and images. Just days before his death in 1961, at the age of eighty-six, he dreamt of a great white stone.On it was the inscription “This shall be a sign unto you of wholeness and oneness.” The feeling that there is something magical, that you have stepped into a space without time where this alchemist of the psyche transmuted these stones into visions and symbols on his own path to individuation can be felt and experienced at Bollingen Tower, and will remain for as long as it prevails the ravages of time. Visiting Bollingen Tower filled me with a longing and sadness that I was only able to reflect on once I returned home. As a Jungian, I have deep relationship with the symbols that I surround myself with. One of my most important expressions of who I am and what I choose to reflect about myself is my home. My relationship with my immediate environment is the canvas on which I create my own meaning. What is within finds expression without and this is what I experienced at Bollingen – one man’s ability to carve his world into the stones and foundations of his being. I can understand why Jung chose to spend so much time here, among the symbols and words that reflected his innermost dialogue with his unconscious. I too long for this experience of being at one with my surroundings and seeing myself reflected within the creations of my soul. Bollingen Tower vibrates with reverence and meaning. It was an inspiration. I am blessed to have experienced and seen it.

Until next time

Anja (To contact Anja:

I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you details  and my experience of the incredible course. The next Jungian winter Intensive is February 19-26, 2017. Having gone on two of Dr. Brown’s courses  and tour experiences myself (and my third at Tavistock London in September)I really recommend joining one of her exciting courses.




Psychoanalysis + Tango = PsychoTango

We all know that Argentina is known for tango, but did you know it is also known for psychoanalysis? What’s the first thing that psychoanalysis and Tango have in common? They were both born in the 1880’s. As Freud said, “there are no coincidences”. Both are ingrained and part of the daily culture in Argentina. The healing power of combining psychoanalysis and tango in psycho tango is multi faceted.

In Argentina psychoanalysis takes many forms and shapes. A group of psychotherapists journeyed to Buenos Aires last October and will do so again in July with Mind Body Passport. We learned and experienced this marriage of psychoanalysis and the deep emotionally charged dance of Tango. We will once again have the opportunity to both learn and see psycho-tango in action and practice alongside analysts and psychotherapists with schizophrenic patients at the famous J.T. Borda Psychiatric Hospital in Buenos Aires this coming July. Click here for more information and to register

As Freud was developing psychoanalysis, Argentina was developing the tango. Freud in Vienna working with “Anna O” discovered “the talking cure” as the Argentine Tango was being danced in Buenos Aires. Tango and psychoanalysis both became a cure for longing, desire and connection.


Tango was born from an immigrant society moving from their motherlands to find a better life in Argentina. Psychoanalysis was also born and developed by Freud having to move from his birth home in Pribor Czech Republic to Vienna, where his family was also escaping political oppression and prejudice, looking for a better way of life. Later, during WWII Freud was once again forced to move from Vienna to London or face deportation to the death camps. The peak of tango was in the 1940’s. This was about the same time as WWII when the Nazis outlawed psychoanalysis, and many of Freud’s books were burned and many analysts were forced to immigrate or be sent to the death camps.

After the military take over in Argentina, tango disappeared and was outlawed. During the 1970’s and 80’s tango and all arts including psychoanalysis was banned, and over 30,000 people disappeared in crimes against humanity. In 1983 the dance of tango re emerged and transmitted teaching of tango to a new generation.

The tango was first danced between men, a leader and a follower, and then moved into the brothels as a way for women to attract male customers. The music of tango became about nostalgia, longing for the comfort and embrace of the familiar. Tango and psychoanalysis encompass all of the human emotions. The saying, “ it takes two to Tango” applies to psychoanalysis as well. Likewise it takes two to tango in psychoanalysis.


Perhaps it is no coincidence that Argentina has parallel processes going on in their culture of tango and psychoanalysis. They were both born in a society of immigrant influences and trying to understand the self from a culture who no longer had roots and was escaping oppression. Both tango and psychoanalysis have many psychological metaphors, both between two people. The lyrics and music of tango express emotions of hopes, disappointments, dreams, memories, anxieties, love and philosophy of life. Isn’t this the same “lyrics’ or themes of psychoanalysis? We switch in both between leading and following, we know in both that there is a set time limit and we must then move off into other directions and other “dances”, not knowing exactly where we are going or what we will run into.

They say there are two analysts for every Porteno (Person from Buenos Aires), and that analysis costs about what you would pay for a cup of coffee! We pour our emotions into the tango as we do into psychotherapy.

In the tango the follower must surrender her/himself and follow. In order for this to occur the leader needs to direct and support her/his physical being by the frame of the embrace. This relationship is analogous to the analytic relationship. The leader must also surrender to the music and if there is too much control or not enough control, the follower is left lost.

Trusting ones intuition and sensing where the other is at, is part of both the psychoanalytic dyad and the dance of the tango. In both tango and analysis one must understand when to lead, when to follow and how to be in tune or in step with the other and the emotions being poured into the moment.


So what is Psycho Tango? Psycho Tango is a therapeutic technique combining Tango (and Tango music) with psychoanalytic tenets. Psycho Tango is integrated into specific exercises in psycho and palliative therapeutic form for powerful therapeutic benefits and outcomes.

It is used in and is possible to apply Psycho Tango for a multitude of diagnostic conditions including:

  • Discovering and resolving conflicts
  • To increase self esteem
  • To improve body image
  • To resolve anxieties and fears
  • To enhance the relationship between partners
  • To improve body balance and posture
  • To better understand ones place in relationship to others
  • Relationship or couples therapy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cardio vascular disease
  • Elderly patients
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Social Phobia
  • Schizophrenia

Tango has been used as therapy in the treatment of several psychological disorders. (Trossero, F., 2006)

Psycho Tango brings together the body, mind & soul, hence the title of our summer course in July in Buenos Aires. It brings together our body, mind & soul in a creative outlet without words in connecting the emotions and feelings in the self.

Psycho tango is not simply a tango class, but led by experts who are psychoanalysts and psychotherapists who are also experts and tango professors. This is serious business as psychoanalysis is serious therapy. Tango professors are also serious about their craft. My experience with my groups in Argentina, have shown that our Psycho tango professor and many others in Argentina combine their years of knowledge and experience in both analysis and tango.

As Juan Carlo, told us one evening over dinner in Buenos Aires, “tango is a dance that people of all ages can enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, thin or fat, man or woman, it transcends the human condition. You can be in a relationship or by yourself and this dance can transcend and cure the soul” .

My group eagerly learned the steps, the embrace (which is very important) and the rhythm of two people moving through the space. Leading and being led, become about trust and letting go about following yet holding your own space and boundaries, about leading, yet giving your partner space, freedom and creativity to enhance the dyad. Sounds like psychotherapy. Tango can be viewed as an intimate non-verbal conversation.

After 3 days of Psycho Tango lessons with Dr. Ana Maria Queirolo we sit down and learn the theory behind the experience we have been enjoying. After our lecture, Ana Maria leads us on the local Collectivo (Bus) to the very large and famous J. T. Borda Psychiatric hospital. I for one am not sure what to expect. Ana Maria gives us strict instructions of not taking photos as to violate patient rights etc. We wait in the hallway until the head psychiatrist comes out and ushers us into her tiny office for a discussion of what we are about to embark on working in this ward of schizophrenic patients.


The J. T.Borda Hospital was founded in 1863. It is the largest psych hospital in Buenos Aires, for men, and the average stay is 441 days. Many of the patients come from the forensic wards from prisons. Tango Therapy treats mental illness in Argentina. My group of psychotherapists and doctoral students experienced this first hand through a series of seminars and work we performed with schizophrenic patients at the J. T. Borda psychiatric hospital. The program is called “All of us are crazy for tango”. The Borda hospital has been treating schizophrenic men for over 150 years. Once a month they bring in a live band for the Tango therapy class in the “makeshift” Tango hall in the hospital.

We are then shown into a large room where many of the patients sit or mill about and we wait for the other analysts and psychotherapists to arrive for the every Wednesday at noon psycho Tango session. I thought to myself,” How are these patients ever going to be able to dance?’ Many had the shuffle of strong medication; many were sitting in their own worlds chain smoking, and others talking to their invisible “Others”.

A circle is formed and we all introduce ourselves. We are analysts, patients and others all in a room and an unexpected feeling of belonging is in the air. The head doctor pairs us up; she is aware of not over stimulating men and protecting women. Psycho tango builds communication for the psychotic patients teaching them how to deal with social interactions and build human connection. Through tango it sparks shared human contact. Tango has helped give the patients a renewed interest in their appearance, and I am told that the next psycho tango class they come bathed and well dressed. It is rewarding to see the patients respond to the tango. This was a trans-formative experience for all.

One of the doctors tells us that therapy happens when hospitalized men dance with visiting women. It makes them part of a powerful social and cultural current that runs through Buenos Aires, and gives both dancers and therapists the shared human contact that is essential to community. “To dance, it’s necessary to include the other, which requires coming out of your little world,” the doctor explains. “Then comes the hug … the whole world is now fascinated with hugging, which is a form of communication. And ‘communication’ comes from what we have in common. This is something that we have in common, this hug of the tango.”

My first love psychoanalysis and Freud and my newest love tango and all things Argentine merge into one in this culture.

Tango began as a dance of immigrants in Buenos Aires on Rio de la Plata, as an outlet to contain the melancholia of what the immigrants had lost from their homeland and helped form their identity in their new home of Argentina. Psychoanalysis and Tango are national obsessions. Perhaps the root of these two phenomena lies in the past, just as we look towards the past and subconscious in psychoanalysis. The society in Argentina has thought of themselves as a European culture in exile.

So what other parallels can we surmise from Psychoanalysis and Tango? In Tango we have walking, walking, walking. Ana Maria and her partner Cato, patiently showed us the walking. I can’t help but think of the endless walking Freud did in Vienna, either around the famous Ringstrasse or at the Prater Park. Analogous of the deep thinking Freud did while on his daily constitution.

Tango is a social dance with clear steps and boundaries yet completely improvised- like free association in psychoanalysis. It takes two to tango and two to form a psychoanalytic relationship. We must stay in tune with our partner in both and build trust, attunement and surrender to being in the moment.

Pop culture portrays Freudian analysis and tango as sexual both with libidinal undertones. Modern science tells us that Oxytocin is released thru sex, orgasm, breast-feeding and the embrace in the tango. Studies show that 12- 15 minutes in the tango embrace also produces oxytocin. This is about the same amount of time as dancing occurs with 1 tango partner in the set or tanga approximately 3-4 songs.

In Argentina Ana Maria, Cato her partner and many Argentine’s flock to Milonga’s; a place people gather to dance tango. The Milonga lasts about 4-6 hours. Our group in tow, we become enamored with the ritual, the music, the dance and the culture of Tango and the Milonga. Everything starts late in Buenos Aires and we emerge from this oxytocin exhilarating experience as the sun is coming up. I laugh that the birds have started chirping and I am too wound up to sleep. I settle on my patio with a coffee and reflection of this dance and cultural coming together. Is it like the psychoanalytic longing to return to the nurturing arms of mother?


Winnicott talks of the containment and space of holding between the mother and child and between analyst and analysand. Is this the metaphoric holding embrace of analyst where there is no interpretation only feeling? When the analyst only feels the emotion and words of the patient? Is tango analogous of this embrace?

As we dance the tango in sets or tangas of 3-4 songs is the Oedipal at play? When the tanga of 3-4 songs finishes there is a different kind of music such as rock, which begins and lasts for maybe 30 seconds to 1 minute, this signals the end of your time with your partner; just as the 50-minute psychoanalytic hour ends and we must leave our analyst. In both cases leaving the comfort and embrace of our partner. The music and the analytic hour signals another dance. The couples on the dance floor break apart, as does the end of an analytic session when the patient gathers their keys and belongings and it is time to break the embrace. Seems to me both are metaphors of leaving the comfort of the mother to go off. Just as Lacan emphasizes the 3rd from primary exclusive relationship of mother, we must dance with others.

“With tango, you have the advantage of having many different styles of dancing to fit each specific patient,” chairman of the Wales-based International Association of Tango Therapy, Martin Sotelano told Reuters. “You focus on the embrace and the communication for couples counseling; the eight basic steps of tango for Alzheimer’s; and the tango walk, that requires so much grace and rigidity, can help a patient with Parkinson’s.”

I imagine why these men are here at the hospital. What are their stories? I am curious about “the others” who volunteer their time without pay. There are men sweeping up cigarette butts, moving tables to walls, shuffling men chain smoking and throwing cigarette butts on the floor. We are encouraged to introduce ourselves to patients, I am nervous. Other patients slowly wander in and the analysts and other outsiders arrive. Now there is a large group of men and women. We all dance, analysts and patients, all of us guiding one another through the room to the music.

I am not a dancer per Se, but Ana Maria is gentle and kind in her approach. She is petite and pretty with wisdom you can feel. She is all of 5’ tall but commands a presence you stop, listen and pay attention to. She teaches us mostly in Spanish and few words of English. The language was really not a barrier as the dance; the music and her demonstrations transcend the language barrier. I feel ill equipped with 2 left feet and I am not remembering my left from right in any language, it is ok, it is part of the process. I learn to give up control and give into the moment.


As Freud instructed his patients to free associate and give in to whatever comes to mind, I free associate to the tango. Anna Maria lovingly guides us and becomes the container for our group. She becomes Winnicotts “good enough mother” Instructing, giving structure, guiding us and teaching us the rules and order of the dance. She leaves me and moves across the floor to guide another in my group, I feel a bit of abandonment and a bit lost with another partner, but “the good enough mother” always returns and I learn to dance with others. The dance brought up feelings of being judged and not being good enough, as I am forgetting some steps and moving right when I should be going left. I surrender to Cato, Ana Maria’s partner and let him lead me. I try to follow, I try to keep up, he senses this and slows his pace, simplifies the steps back to the basics. It is the same give and take we experience in any relationship. The arms of the partner, the music, the structure and steps containing us both. I like to lead in life. I now learn that to follow is not to give up oneself, but to find a space to be oneself and hold the other. He must sense my hesitation, my fear and give me the space to follow his cue. I look for Ana Marias approval.

The analyst does he lead or follow? Is it a dance back and forth between patient and analyst?

Ana Maria shows how she can interject herself even following, by adding a sweep of the leg or another movement that seems so graceful.

The Argentine tango is a philosophy and way of thinking and seeing life. Every Argentine feels the way of the tango. Patients and analysts can share common ground in tango.


They work with feelings, joining the patient, the resistance of embrace, one must follow, wait for contact, and wait for the transference of weight in the tango. The analyst must wait for transference of feeling. She/he surrenders to the dance, just as the patient surrenders to the unconscious.

The music is on and all my training and 22 years of being a psychotherapist and professor go out the door. They know the tango better than I. The patients are now leading which must be a novel feeling as they are in a psych hospital.

I later find out that some of the patients had been here for years and had committed some serious infractions in the outside world. Many of the men could not speak they were so heavily medicated, but the music came on and they came alive. The dancing was like returning to the safe, the familiar the womb.

All of us, the tango team are the container of emotions for the patients. The Patients seem different after class more full of life. This experience builds a language. We have a dialogue with movement, we are communicating thru the dance. Tango contains the feelings like psychoanalysis. Tango and psychoanalysis are both inherently intimate. Combining the two magical and innovative.

Yes, psychoanalysis+ tango =psycho-tango

IMG_6960For more information or to talk with Dr. Leslee Brown:












Forgiving another, what it really means: The Meaning and Steps To Forgiveness By A. Van Kralingen Mind Body Passport participant

I have just returned from another fantastic international study trip with Dr. Leslee Brown, exploring Existential Analysis in Vienna. Leslee sources experts in various psycho dynamic disciplines and puts together amazing learning opportunities for both professionals (these courses are accredited) and anyone who is interested in these topics. Her next tour is in July 2016, this time in Argentina, and explores Lacan and Tango therapy. Follow this link for more information on this fantastic opportunity.

September will bring an amazing opportunity for a trauma training at the world famous Tavistock Clinic in London, exclusively offered through Dr. Brown and her company. Click here for more info and to register.

The Existential Summit I attended was in Vienna and presented by Alfried Längle, M.D., Ph.D., Professor and President of the International Society of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis. For more information on this amazing man and Existential Analysis, please follow this link to his website.  Victor Frankl, the Founder of Logotherapy was a close friend and associate of Professor Längle.

As a Jungian, exploring other methodologies can be challenging at times. But Existential Analysis was like a breath of fresh air. There are many obvious differences between the Jungian approach and the Existential Analysis approach. I would say the main being that Jungian Analysis focuses on exploring the unconscious using symbolic dialogue, whereas Existential Analysis is focused on the individual and their sense of self in relation to their external and internal environment. What I really liked about Existential Analysis is that the paradigm it is based on is the sensing of self. Whereas Jungian psychology focuses on self-awareness. Sensing oneself is what I would relate to Anima energy, the ebb and flow of feeling and resonance within is what drives the Existential approach. How do I become myself, how do I express myself, how do I find myself and how do I touch my authentic being? These questions are at the root of Existential Analysis. It explores the concepts of judgment, autonomy, integrity, morality, identity and self-worth and authenticity. Our guide in this process, Professor Längle, was the epitome of someone who sensed himself at all times. His spark was undeniable and his love of life palpable.


There were so many fascinating ideas that were presented during this Summit, but I decided to write about the topic of forgiveness since it is such an important and profound concept. In South Africa, forgiveness was one of the main drives behind the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was formed during 1996, after the first democratic elections. This Commission allowed both victims and perpetrators to share their stories and experiences. The perpetrators had to face the families of their victims (or the victims themselves) and could ask for amnesty and forgiveness. But there are many people who cannot forgive the past injustices. And many still inflict their ignorance and prejudice on others, even 22 years after democracy. Forgiveness in this environment is not easy.

There are a multitude of thoughts and perspectives on forgiveness and one never knows how to actually go about it. What is the right approach? Forgive but do not forget? Forgive and forget? Forgive and move on? Forgiveness makes you stronger? The quotes and expressions are numerous. All religions promote Forgiveness, and people suppress their anger and discontent to behave in line with their religious beliefs. But from both a Jungian and Existential perspective, it is far better to be cognizant of your feelings and relate to them and work with them than to suppress or repress them. These feelings will explode and it will either make your sick or it will cause you to lash out on other people.
In this blog I will look at forgiveness as a psychological process and not a religious driven concept. Existential Analysis certainly does not support any ideas of “should” or “must”. It supports the idea of authentic morality and ethics, which are born from being just and respectful towards oneself.

But what does it mean to forgive?

We have all experienced this feeling of rage and injustice due to the way we were treated at some point in our lives. Being human usually results in experiencing some form of abuse or violation of self in various degrees. If unaddressed and suppressed, these feelings can make us ill or cause us to separate ourselves from others in order to protect ourselves. Whatever the cause, it is not a good idea to try to “get over it”. Especially in this modern world, no-one is encouraged to delve into their emotions and wallow in self-pity. Do something, very quickly, and move on. Some people go on a weekend workshop, some say positive affirmations, some try to ease the pain through meditation or medication. But emotions cannot be suppressed. They are the soul’s feelings and we must take heed of this. Ignoring your pain, rage and frustration is certainly not a healthy way of relating to yourself. This is only further violation of yourself by yourself.

So when Professor Längle explained the process of forgiving, I decided that I must share it. Having some guidelines to follow not only helps with clarity but also helps to gain some measure of consciousness with regards the incident that you are not able to let go of.

What it doesn’t mean.

First of all, forgiving does not mean that the pain stops. Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation either. Once you have forgiven the other, then you are often left with pain or grief or regret. As Professor Längle pointed out, regret involves forgiving yourself. And for this you can follow the steps below as well.

What it does mean.

Forgiveness means that you free yourself, that you let go of your dependency; your need for the perpetrator to make it right in some way, or of vengeful thoughts. Forgiveness is about erasing the debt, accepting the past and letting go of what you have lost. Forgiveness is also about realising what you have gained from the experience and recognizing that you are now a different person because of what transpired.
At this point you may think that it is unacceptable to forgive the other for their behavior. That they should not be allowed to get away with it and must be punished. But these feelings of revenge and hatred tie you to the other – you are defined by them – they become the centre of your universe. You are not free.

Of course this does not mean that they should get off scot-free, or unpunished, especially if their actions violated human rights, your rights. But this is a separate issue. Now we are only addressing the concept of forgiveness.

Professor Längle relayed to us the following process of working through an issue in order to reach the point where you are ready to forgive.

The Steps to forgiveness

The first step involves describing clearly the violation. Write it down in a journal or on computer and make sure that no-one else will ever see it. This is to allow yourself to be totally honest and brutal about what happened. Describe in detail the actions, how you felt, what happened, how you still feel, how this affected you and your life, the repercussions for yourself and your loved ones, your thoughts. Don’t censor yourself, remember no one else will see this.

The second step is to reflect on how important this issue is to you. What is the weight, how heavy does it weigh upon you? Do you wake up thinking about it? Do you find yourself lost in the pain and grief? Is it crushing your soul? Or is this something that you think about only when you are triggered by specific words or images? Can you manage it? Write down the weight of it for you and try to use an image for it, e.g. it is like a millstone around my neck, or, there is a permanent scar on my heart.

The third step is assessing what you need from the perpetrator to make it right. What do they owe you? What can they sacrifice or give you to make you feel like you received justice? Perhaps an apology is enough. Perhaps you need them to confess to someone what they have done. Perhaps you want them to die. Be honest about what you feel would balance the scales.


At this point, you may want to approach the individual and make your demands. Now that you know what the price was that you paid, and what price you want them to pay, it is the right time to address this with the other party. You may choose not to take this step, since it is possible that your request will be rejected. But this you will not know until you have confronted them. You may also feel that you don’t care if they reject you, as long as you are able to express yourself clearly and let them know what the result of their actions were. It is also possible that you will get your just reward from them and that they are also weighed down by regret for what has happened.

But this is also tied in with the last step in this process. If you are aware of what was lost, and what is lacking, can you reach a place where this is not needed anymore? Are you able to accept the loss, the pain, the grief and regret? Can you allow yourself to accept what is, and no longer yearn for what was lost? Are you able to redefine yourself as you are now and let go of who you were before? Are you able to come to terms with this and integrate it into your current paradigm? Can you accept what this means for you, that then you have to face and deal with your own pain, regret or guilt?


These are big questions, but essential for the act of forgiving. They need a lot of reflection and time. Perhaps you read this and realised that you are unable to reach this place on your own and that you need to seek professional help. If you do feel this way, please don’t hesitate and contact someone to help you through this process.

Perhaps you are unable to do this now, and that is okay. Healing takes time.

Or maybe you have gone through this process and would like to share it. I know that your story will be felt and offer hope and a different perspective to many readers, so please comment on our Facebook page.

By Anja Van Kralingen :

Choosing a psychoanalyst is like a woman searching for the perfect perfume

IMG_7068On my last trip to Argentina, the Argentine’s told me, “When it comes to choosing a psychoanalyst, we are like women searching for the perfect perfume. We try a bit of this and a bit of that before eventually arriving at the right fit.” There are more psychoanalysts per capita in Argentina than anywhere else in the world. Freud, Jung and Lacan are alive and well in Argentina, as well as many unique depth therapies we don’t hear of in other parts of the world. The Argentine’s have a joke that says, “There is a Lacanian Institute on every corner in Buenos Aires”.

Argentine’s scoff upon hearing that psychoanalysis has been on the wane in the United States and other countries, rivaled by shorter-term and cheaper modalities. As a psychologist, and professor this perked my interest. As the director of Mind Body Passport, an international adult study abroad company, it challenged me to create a course designed to explore the Argentine passion for all things psychoanalysis.

My love affair and passion for Argentina began! I organized and led an amazing course in Buenos Aires last October (see video). It was so successful and there was so much more I wanted to explore and have others experience that we have another course coming this July: Body, mind & soul, experiencing unique therapies.

IMG_7134On my first visit to Argentina last October, a driver who is also a musician (common in Buenos Aires that you wear multiple hats and have multiple professions) met me at the airport. The old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” definitely applies in this country. Without knowing that I was a psychotherapist my driver started discussing his dreams and his own analysis! As it turns out, this was the start of a long series of taxi drivers, bar tenders and assorted strangers in shops and cafes who also openly discussed their therapeutic journeys with me. This is Argentina! You see, it is normal to discuss your analysis and emotions in their culture and almost everyone is in or has had psychotherapy. The Argentine’s view psychotherapy as a sign of health. There is a very interesting book which talks about the culture and passion for psychoanalysis in Argentina; Freud in the Pampas.

I chose a quirky and interesting apartment residence that we call home for our stay. It is a true tango house. Every morning we are served a home cooked breakfast by Amy (the owner who becomes your surrogate aunt and friend).

Opening the door to my apartment each day, I hear tango music wafting through the house. Downstairs we sit for breakfast at a big communal table with folks speaking a multitude of languages while a tango lesson is underway at the adjacent tango dance floor. IMG_6576

Our day begins in the most delightful and unexpected way. After breakfast I lead my group to our meeting space, it is on the 19th floor of a beautiful building with a breath taking 360-degree view of Buenos Aires with the iconic Rio De La Plata down below. Dr. Ana Maria Queirolo who is a psychoanalyst and tango professor met us daily.

Yes, psychoanalysis +tango= psycho-tango.

Ana Maria became our Argentine mother. She is a petite, warm, brilliant and friendly ball of fire. Each morning we were served coffee, mate (Argentine tea and cultural ritual) and sweet delicious pastries while we learned adding to the warm, relaxed and gracious hospitality of this country.


I live in Los Angeles part of the year, Paris part of the year and the rest of the world the rest of the year. Never in my travels have I met such genuine, warm, friendly and hospitable people.

We spend the morning learning unique combinations of depth therapies with our analysts and experts, who engage us in a journey. After our morning seminars, we shift gears to incorporating the physical with the psychoanalytic; Psycho tango lessons with Dr. Queirolo, a truly extraordinary experience!


After psycho tango, we venture out in the culturally rich, diverse, and wonderful city of Buenos Aires for lunch, a marvelous discussion of our day, and explorations and excursions through this fascinating city.

Every day brought such interesting topics to our seminars that we couldn’t wait to wake up and begin our day!

During the week, we had a rare and coveted opportunity to work at and visit the famous J. T. Borda Psychiatric hospital. At the hospital we worked with psychiatrists and analysts utilizing psycho tango with the schizophrenic patients. We will once again in our summer course have the privilege to work for the afternoon with the schizophrenic patients utilizing psycho tango at The J.T. Borda Psychiatric Hospital. This was an incredible cultural experience to see that psychoanalysis and tango truly do meet in this beautiful dance and expression and healing of self.


As far as depth therapies are concerned, Argentina embraces Freud, Lacan, and Jung. Depth therapy is part of the society as a whole, and is part of normal everyday life. I am from The USA, and we seldom learn and hear about Jacque Lacan and Lacanian Analysis. I learned a great deal about Lacan during our week in Argentina.

Our first seminar was on modern Lacan in practice. We learned about the main concepts of Lacanian psychoanalysis
, the basic differences between psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, how each discipline gathers information during the preliminary interviews according to each paradigm, the concepts of demand, desire, and subject, as well as the conditions for a psychoanalytical treatment, the position of the analyst, and how we apply the theory in our interventions from a Lacanian perspective. It all came alive with interesting case studies and examples.

I will never forget one of the cases our analyst presented. It was about a young woman who was told early on that she was nothing and would amount to nothing in her life. She would often talk about herself as being a piece of “shit”. Further on in the analysis she embraced this and turned her “shit” to something useful. She began recycling elephant “shit” into stationery and artwork.

We also learned how depth therapy and psychoanalysis is used in addiction in hospital settings. Most parts of the world use the 12 step recovery treatments, but in Argentina psychoanalysis is widely used in hospitals following a Lacanian approach with input from a team of psychotherapists from different schools of thought.

Quite important in today’s world of immigration with so many people fleeing their homelands for safety was “Psychoanalysis
and society: subjective effects of social exclusion”. An analyst discussed working with vulnerable populations (immigrants who are marginalized/ segregated) from a Lacanian perspective. Shedding light on the contributions of psychoanalysis in examining how a subject is affected by segregation and racism.

The Argentine’s embrace all depth psychologies and we learned many unique approaches to utilizing depth therapy with different populations and unique applications. I was immersed in depth therapy for the entire week.

What really stands out for me is the combining of psychoanalysis with Tango. This fascinated my group, especially to see this in action with schizophrenic patients at a psychiatric hospital. Having the opportunity to utilize our newly learned skills of Psycho Tango and work with these patients alongside the other analysts was an extraordinary experience. We all learn from textbooks and lectures, but this course was so experiential in nature, that we actually learned by doing, making it so much more real and transferable to our own practices back home.

The evenings are a cultural journey from experiencing closed door dining (chef’s due to economic conditions open their homes to an intimate group of diners), an analytic immersion without words (free webinar Mon. March 28), and Milonga, which is a traditional place to dance tango. The feeling of being in this place left me marveling at how lucky I am to be able to journey and lead people to these places with all of these fascinating people from all over the world. My group too was quite emotional at this journey and marveled at the beauty and grace of what we learned and the expression of that in the tango.


On the last day, we visited La Boca where all the old buildings are painted bright glorious colors and there really is tango and art in the streets. On the bus on the way back to our apartments, the group had a car waiting to take them to the airport for their departures. Jenn one of our participants came to me and said, “I loved this course, trip and experience and I am just not ready to leave”. She changed her ticket and stayed 3 additional days. Alisa, another one of our participants also changed her flight and stayed an extra week.

I too must confess, I stayed 2 additional weeks. I fell in love with the people I met that have become close friends, the ease with which Argentine’s talk about their emotions, the amazing food, art and culture and the abundance and passion for psychoanalysis.

I have organized another truly extraordinary week of delving and exploring depth and unique therapies this July in Argentina. I am confidant that you too will not only fall in love with this place and people, but will find a renewed sense of who you are and your place n the world.

For more information or to talk with Dr. Leslee Brown:






Travel Psychology: Five Reasons Why International Study Is Good For Therapists

For therapists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals with wanderlust and the desire to travel and study in a foreign land, there is some terrific news to be had. There is now empirical research
demonstrating that studying, traveling, and living in a foreign country is not only a culturally stimulating
experience, but one that actually changes the brain, most notably in terms of increasing one’s creativity and problem-solving abilities, qualities which are often crucial to doing the best clinical work with our clients.

lbpicHere are five key reasons why studying abroad expands one’s internal as well as
external horizons:

1. Travel and geographic distance enhances creativity and problem solving capabilities.

In a recent scientific study conducted by Dr. Lile Jia, a psychometric test designed for measuring creative problem solving called The Creative Generation Task yielded striking findings. Dr. Jia applied the Creative Generation Task psychometric test with Indiana University graduate students as his research participants. The participants were given a problem and asked to generate as many solutions to it as possible. Two groups of participants were compared to one another: one group comprised of students living at their home university and one comprised of students studying abroad. Dr. Jia found that the group studying abroad showed a strikingly increased ability to problem solve and be more creative in their approaches.

A reasonable inference to be made from this study is that when we travel and study internationally and have a culturally enriching experience, we feel more relaxed and are therefore better able to conceive new and different ways of approaching and solving our problems at home. Other studies have also demonstrated that travel can positively change our brain structure and increase our creativity. Could such attributes not make us more supple and alert when dealing with the complex emotional and relational concerns of our clients?

2. Travel makes us more open to experiences and thus builds skills and capacities.

When we find ourselves trying new things, especially when immersed in a different culture, we naturally
increase our cognitive flexibility. Being in a culture where we need to adapt to, or at least become familiar with, people, foods, customs, media, and modes of transportation different from those encountered in our ordinary living situations, stimulates us to be more receptive to new ideas. Such an experience can only assist mental health professionals in being more effective in working with multicultural clients who present with a diverse array of emotional and relational concerns. As clinicians, we never know what will be opened up in our offices from our clients. Travel and experiencing and adapting to new cultures and new ways of being increase our flexibility, thus helping in our day-to-day practice with clients.

3. Travel helps us expand our sense of self.

When traveling abroad, we find ourselves in unfamiliar, perhaps even exotic, terrain. Such travel thus leads to a widening and growth of our own self-concept, an expansion of our sense of potential. Getting out of our comfort zone helps lead us toward more confidence in our abilities to try and succeed at new and challenging tasks and situations. As we develop and acquire new capabilities and skills in areas like navigation and transportation, we naturally experience uncertainty and fear, but we also experience the expanded sense of self that results from confronting these fears and working through them. For therapists who believe that truly effective and meaningful therapy involves not just short-term behavior change but long-term expansion of our clients’ capacity for growth, such soul-expanding travel could prove an invaluable tool in the clinical toolbox.

4. Travel helps us relax.

One of the most common occupational hazards for those of us in the helping professions is burn-out. What
happens when the giver feels he or she has nothing left to give? Can a therapist truly help a client manage
anxiety and stress if the therapist him or herself is constantly anxious and stressed as well? Fortunately, taking ourselves away to new geographical locations helps us to relax and recharge our emotional batteries. Whether we are licensed or pre-licensed clinicians, we frequently lead very busy lives, and our dedication to helping others can make it perilously easy for us to overlook our own self-care. If, as many believe, “use of self” is a key component in a therapist’s ability to heal a client, the importance of taking care of ourselves is imperative, so we can be present for others. The American

Psychological Association (APA) code of ethics states that self-care is imperative. “A state of physical,
emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by a long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations” (Figley 1995) describes burnout in psychotherapists. Current literature typically attributes burnout to work environment context or job choice. It is seen as cumulative, and frequently a vacation or change of environment helps considerably (Brown 2011).

5. Travel helps us more fully experience the essence of life itself.

Traveling abroad and taking a break from our routines allows therapists to become more inquisitive about the nature of existence itself, providing us with new opportunities to consider the world and our place in it. To fully explore a new landscape, after all, one must be more alert and authentic to its environment. Such alertness and authenticity increases our confidence and opens us up to opportunities to express our true selves in new and different ways. As a result, we may not only experience more positive thoughts and emotions, but deeper and richer ones as well, ones that our daily structures likely too often help keep at bay. The traveling psychotherapist is, therefore, the psychotherapist who not only sets out on a course of going to new landscapes abroad, but also to new landscapes within, more fully engaging in the quest to live passionately and authentically and to deeply experience the very essence of life itself.

In short, Travel Psychology studies show remarkable benefits to our health and psyche… more Travel Psychology coming soon from Mind Body Passport!

About the author:
Dr. Brown is the founder of Mind Body Passport Inc., providing extraordinary learning experiences, certificate programs, professional development courses and continuing education, for adults, professionals, grad students and others interested in once in a lifetime learning experiences. Courses are offered and held in International locations with prestigious partners, and provide experiential learning through travel. Each trip is specifically crafted to learn and explore therapeutic techniques, cultural phenomenon, and history through a psychological lens and more.

Mind Body Passport Courses meet the California requirements for hours of continuing education credit for
MFT’s, LPCC’s, LEP’s, and/or LCSW’s as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.

Mind Body Passport Inc.
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