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Robert Romanyshyn

Educator, Author and Psychotherapist 

Morning Coffee Reflections

Before the day hurries us along and while one might still be in a place between dreaming and waking a few thoughts might linger before the coffee and the toast are finished. Below are some of these ‘crumbs’ already gathered. Who knows what more coffee and toast may bring?

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Robert Romanyshyn did an interview for The London Based Psychotherapy Excellence Group as one talk in a six part series dealing with soul in therapy, research and culture. For information about his presentation as well as the other presentations go to:

His interview for the Psychology Department Archives at Duquesne University can be viewed by going to
In this 2 hour interview he reminisces about the origins of the program in phenomenological psychology at Duquesne University, the cultural context for its rise in the late 1950s and the 1960s in the United States and the ways phenomenology influenced his life and work in psychology and informed his approaches to psychotherapy, research and reflections on technology.

To celebrate National Poetry Month in April, Robert was invited to publish 3 poems. To visit the site where they are published go to

Jung and Technology

Today most information is available in digital form as compared with the era before the rise of computers in the 1970s. “Terminal Talk: Reflections on Thinking and Saying in the Digital World” explores several ways in which the digital world profoundly transforms our sense of embodiment, time, space, and the sense of community, and the impact of these changes on how we think and speak. Edited by Bonnie Bright and published by The Depth Psychology Alliance, the articles in Depth Psychology and the Digital Age take up the challenge of Jung’s psychology to bring a depth psychological view to technology.


In the Gap Between Psychology and Psychological Life

There is a gap between psychology as a profession and as a vocation. In 1962 I chose psychology as a profession. Ironically that choice was made in relation to a dream. It was ironic because the discipline that I chose was through the dream the discipline that chose me. Over the last 40 years psychology as a vocation has been leading me toward un-becoming the psychologist I had become.

In this gap between psychology as a profession and as a vocation, it is and has been the issue of language that has informed my work. What characterizes psychological language hasbeen and still is for me the key question that has shaped my thinking, teaching and writing. 

The word psychology means the logos or speaking of soul, and if what is in a name matters, then psychology defined as a STEM discipline whose language eschews the humanities in

favor of the languages of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, invites us to question if it has been true to its name. In becoming a science that takes the measure of behavior has psychology lost soul? 

These questions have been asked for a long time and I am wary of them because they presume an either/or dichotomy, as if one is to make a judgment about what is right and what is wrong. 

I have, therefore, approached this issue of psychology and language by reframing the question of profession and vocation in terms of the difference between the noun psychology and the adjective psychological. 

As a profession, psychology as a noun is appropriate. It defines a set of methods and practices that apply, for example, to psychology as a STEM science as well as to the depth psychologies of Freud, Jung and their descendants, and the existential-phenomenological schools. Each has a particular and specific way of imagining the human person and each has a language in relation to that image. Moreover, in its identity as a discipline in its own right, psychology is taught in universities and institutes throughout the world.

As a vocation, however, the adjective psychological is required primarily because every thing a human person does is done by one who is a psychological being. An economist is a psychological being. So too is a physician, and a philosopher and a poet and as well a psychologist. Indeed, psychology is that strange discipline where the object of study is also the subject who studies that object. From the noun psychology to the adjective psychological, psychology as a discipline with its own identity becomes a perspective, a quality that colors, shades and qualifies every human action.

Holding the tension between profession and vocation, staying in the gap between the noun psychology and the adjective psychological, each of the many languages of soul are games we play and in each of those games something of soul is revealed and something concealed. Each language from STEM to depth and existential-phenomenological languages of soul making has a virtue, its strength, and each its shadow, its weakness. The danger lies in forgetting that in playing the language game of psychology, the psychologist is in a perspective. Then a perspective becomes identified with the truth. Then a particular game becomes the only game in town

The way out of this danger is for the psychologist to remember that he or she is always in some perspective even if he or she does not know with full clarity what that perspective is, even as he or she is fully identified with that perspective.

That kind of knowing is what I have described over the years as a metaphoric sensibility. (Mirror and Metaphor; Images and Stories of psychological Life; and The Wounded Researcher)Such a sensibility is a kind of alchemy that dissolves one’s fixed belief systems and encourages openness to dialogue with other perspectives. It is the bête noir as it were of the true believer. A metaphoric sensibility is a paradox, a piece or irony, a way of saying ‘I believe in making believe I believe.’ 

A key implication of this move from psychology to psychological is that departments of psychology would be balanced, if not largely replaced, by institutes for psychological studies. The primary purpose of these institutes would be to work alongside people within other disciplines to identify the psychological dynamics of those fields of study. 

For example, a psychological consultant or commentator working along side an economist would not only bring a psychological perspective to the issue of money, he or she would do so less as an outsider and with a more intimate knowledge of that discipline. In addition, he or she would have at their disposal the multiple languages of psychology that could be applied to describe more fully the many facets of money, employing, for example the STEM language game to highlight the behavioral aspects of making and spending money, the symbolic language game of depth psychology to underscore its unconscious dynamics,  and/or the social and cultural language games of the existential-phenomenological tradition, to describe the effects of how money is made and distributed in ways that enrich some and impoverish others. 

I realize that this proposal goes against the grain of our times. In an age of increasing specialization, the psychological commentator would be an unabashed generalist. Such a stance challenges one’s status and identity. 

For the sake of full disclosure, during the course of my life and work as a psychologist I have been a psychological commentator, making raids, as it were, or forays into the fields literature, art, history, science and the humanities, mining them for their psychological gold to better enrich my understanding of the psychological dynamics of contemporary events, especially regarding the question of technology.

Staying in the gap and along the way I have come to realize that in becoming a psychologist I have been following a path coded in my name, Romanyshyn, which means ‘son of a gypsy’. I have been a wanderer, a drifter, drawn to those fringe areas where psychology spills into philosophy and poetry, where history and literature percolate with the shared collective dreams of soul, and where the splendor of the world’s simple displays can awaken a forgotten, lost and elemental sense of home. 

Along the way and with some good companions psychology has been a good cover story for me, a good disguise. But the path seems to be getting steeper and lately—the last ten years or more—I realize that it would be un-becoming of me to continue to be and to further become the psychologist in disguise. 

Leaning Toward the Poet: Eavesdropping on the Poetry of Everyday Life

Leaning Toward the Poet: Eavesdropping on the Poetry of Everyday Life is one part of a memoir about becoming and un-becoming a psychologist. In the Introduction I tell the story of how dreams and poetry have escorted me through the world of academic psychology in search of a poetic sensibility to craft a style of 

writing in service to the subtle epiphanies of experience.  The light of a summer morning, the appeals of an empty bench, the surprise of a spider’s web framed by rain drops, the smile on the face of a stranger at the threshold of a door, the tableau of a porch on a Sunday morning with cups and plates displayed on a table attesting to the expected visit of a friend, the passing glimpse of a stranger standing in a doorway that unfolds as a story: such moments among many others are the stuff at the heart of the poetry of everyday life. Rising from the depths of soul, these epiphanies require one to be a witness who, through a whispered allusion, might be responsive to their elusive presence.

The poems in this small volume accompanied in places by images celebrate the splendor of the simple, attest to the miracle in the mundane, and explore both the shadows and the stray lines of experience that undo our map making minds. They are gifts I have gathered along the way while travelling in the company of the poets. 

In an age of information overload and diminishing time spent on the simple things in life, Leaning Toward the Poet is an invitation to slow down and pause to attend to those occasions when memory and imagination lead one to unexpected occurrences that wake us to what is happening around us and allow us to appreciate that, as John Keats, said, the world is indeed the vale of soul making.

You can purchase this book here as well as my other titles.

Soul on Edge

In the Places of Thinking and Writing, Conversations in the Gap between Mind and Soul, Eavesdropping on the Edge, Writing in the Margins, Lingering at the Lip of the Abyss, all possible titles-containers for experiments in writing down the language of soul, experiments in the gap between psychology as a natural science and a distinct and specialized profession, and psychology as a vocation and an art and a practice that colors and shades and qualifies all of our actions.

To be a psychologist is not like being an economist or a physicist. Being either an economist or a physicist is what one does; being a psychologist is who one is even when one is doing economics or physics. Psychology as an art and a practice is not even a distinct profession, nor should it be. As a distinct discipline psychology might very well be dangerous to the vitality of psychological life.

Let’s get rid of the noun psychology for the sake of the adjective psychological?

Recently this danger became national news as the APA was discovered to sanction torture. That should not surprise us. One of the key themes of phenomenology is the chiasm between perception and language in which the gestural body is the hinge where perception and word pivot round each other. Sanctioning torture is made possible in psychology’s image of the human being described in terms of its addiction to its language of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. That is ok and it fits if we are robots stuffed with bits of data.

Might poets be closer to the logos of soul?

Might it be better to be a failed poet than a successful psychologist?

Too much of a dichotomy in that statement! Too much either/or thinking that turns too quickly into an ideology!

Perhaps the locus of a psychological science is the threshold between thinking and dreaming, the permeable boundary between a daylight mind and a night time soul, a cyclical movement between the natural rhythms of sun light and moon light, a science practiced in twilight and dawn, transitional moments between waking and sleeping, a seasonal psychology practiced in the fall and spring times between the full light of summer, the season most favorable perhaps to the clear and distinct ideas of the reasonable mind of a STEM Psychology, and the dark nights of winter, the season most favored by the dreams of depth psychology.

But on the threshold we still have to let go of noun conscious, of the dream, to embrace dreaming, if we are to avoid making STEM psychology or Depth psychology into monumental sciences. Speaking of Orpheus, the eponymous poet, Rilke, the modern incarnation of Orpheus, warns us not to erect any stones to Orpheus, but to let it be the rose whose presence is enough even as it might overstay its blooming for a moment.

From dreams to dreaming! From identifying with a psychology made in sunlight or moonlight, a psychological way of knowing and being made in the passage way between waking and sleeping! A psychological science that bridges the two moments, a bridge psychology whose languaging of the epiphanies of psychological life alludes to what shows itself as elusive, a way of playing in these half moments of reverie, of making meaning that does not fix meaning but holds onto it by letting go of it, an e-ducation, of being drawn, into psychological life by way of seduction.

For forty years or more this issue of the logos of soul has been a vocation. It has called me into becoming a psychologist and un-becoming one, into an ambivalent love affair with the discipline, seduced at times by the philosopher at one end of the bridge and then by the poet at the other end, so that this work is and has been always beginning, a work that in one moment has shaped my thoughts and ideas and at the next moment has undone all that with dreams.

One is helped in this work by having good companions like Jung, Hillman and other depth psychologists, and phenomenologists like Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard, van den Berg to name but a few

And, one has to be in the mood for this kind of work, but that is for another blog post

For some of the experiments conducted along the way check the PDF articles on my website (

On Becoming and Un-Becoming a Psychologist

Anyway, Why Did it Have to be the Death of the Poet?: The Orphic Roots of Jungian Psychology

Conversations in the Gap Between Mind and Soul

Phenomenology as a Poetic Realism

Sitting on a Bench with James Hillman: Conversations with the Dead

Terminal Identity: A Reflection on My First Webinar Experience, January, 2016

There is a Gap between the digital space of technology and the erotic field of fleshy engagement between self and other, a fleshy entanglement with all its ambiguities and mess, with all its spoken and unspoken gestured desires and appeals, where all the follies and absurdities of trying to say what one means and to mean what one says is nakedly there impregnating the other, where the lies of a hidden mind betray themselves on the face? What are words spoken at the terminal when they are no longer inscribed within the gestures of the flesh?

Where is the sky in the digital world? Where is the earth, the flesh of nature? Where is the depth of this space? Its vertically has been usurped by the horizontality of an infinite expanse that eclipses or nearly so the human scale of time and space. And where is the other, the community of others when we meet at and through the terminal, where each and all of us now have a terminal identity, an image presence on a screen that has no haptic sense, a space then where we are quite specifically out of touch with each other, a disembodied image, which not weighted with flesh can float free and be anywhere in the digital world, a spectacle of a disembodied self? There are no kisses in this terminal world.

 (While you and i have lips and voices which

                           are for kissing and to sing with

                           who cares if some oneeyed son of a bitch

                           invents an instrument to measure Spring with?


There are no kisses in this terminal world!

(Continue to the full article)

Resurrecting the Dead: A Reflection on Technology

For many years now I have been intrigued with Mary Shelley’s story, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. In many ways her story is a prophecy of themes that characterize our technological world-view. In the book that I am now writing, The Frankenstein Prophecies: The Untold Story, I explore seven of those prophecies. The triumph over death, which is the dream of Victor Frankenstein, is the central theme. 

That theme lingers today in films that are our collective dreams. Jurassic Park is a good example. In that film and its sequels dead creatures are recreated from their genetic codes. But they are destructive monsters. So too is the creature that is made by Victor Frankenstein.

Is Mary Shelley’s story a warning about becoming a God who would create life?

Does Jurassic Park and it sequels allude to the same warning?

Are the resurrected monsters that were meant to be the attraction in a theme park, a kind of Disneyland run amok, the modern form of Frankenstein’s monster?

In Mary Shelley’s story Victor Frankenstein abandons his creature and refuses to take responsibility for his actions. 

Abandoned, cursed as demon and devil, the monster is marginalized.

Her story lives on as told only from Victor’s point of view

What might be learned if drawing near to the margins we listen to his side of the story?

Might we be faced with the unsettling question; Who is the Monster?