Jun 09 2015

Murder-Suicide in the Jungian World: Influence of Robert Moore on the Victories of the Heart and MKP

Published by at 8:32 am under Counseling & Psychotherapy

We don’t know much at this point, except Robert Moore, a well known Jungian analyst, murdered his wife and then committed suicide.

A tragedy beyond belief, our own vulnerabilities surface and we try to find compassion and understanding.

This extreme act of violence is already being difficult for colleagues, students, clients of Jungian analysts and also the larger men’s work community which has been profoundly influenced by Moore’s lectures and writing.

I never knew him personally, but heard him speak a few times. He was a brilliant scholar and impressive in person.

He had a tremendous influence on the Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure. To a lesser extent, he influenced the Victories of the Heart programs, especially the so called, Shadow weekend, created by Kevin Fitzpatrick, LCSW and Paul Kachoris, M.D.

The founders of the Victories program, Bob Mark, Ph.D. and the late Buddy Portugal, MSW sought Robert Moore out to endorse their book, Victories of the Heart. Whether Mark and Portugal respected Robert Moore and his ideas is unknown. They no doubt felt he would help legitimize their book and help with marketing.

Despite being a noted scholar in Jungian psychology, Moore’s forward for the Victories’ book does not reveal much critical thinking about the origins of this type of work with men or relevant research which might suggest concerns with experimental body-centered work (heartwork), guided imagery, and the controversial use of nudity.

In Moore’s forward for the Victories book, he moreso reveals elements of his own personal story. In doing so, he reveals the default notion that personal disclosure and catharsis, the release of feelings related to this disclosure, may be the engine for men’s programs.

Like myself and millions of others, Moore experienced early childhood distress related to his vulnerable family. Moore became a “seeker” utilizing psychotherapy, then thinking, conceptualizing and writing about his evolving views of how humans are damaged, then healed in this world.

His ideas are infused with spirituality. The devotion of his followers suggests Jungian ideas became a secular religion for many, especially in the men’s movement. Witness the Victories authors wanting Moore to legitimize their book by writing the forward. I’ve read Moore’s work and reviewed the Victories book here and Bob Mark’s self-published book on spirituality here. Moore was also a frequent keynote speaker at the 1990’s mens conferences in Chicago.

I would guess there are many, many Chicago men who have been clients of Moore. Knowing how the brain works, I know just sitting in close proximity of such a highly esteemed man and feeling his warmth and positive regard could be healing in itself. Of all the proven factors in what makes therapy successful, we know the relationship between the therapist and client is key. To be Moore’s client must have been a “wow!” experience.

But now we have Moore, the husband who murdered his wife and then killed himself. This violent end to Moore and his wife’s life places all he taught in question, and rightly it should.

The concept of “shadow” is not based on scientific research. It’s an idea with various elements constructed by Jung and influenced by religious and other spiritual ideas. Followers of Jung, and Robert Moore are often like members of a secular religion teaching ideas and wanting people to believe them as if they were science. They are not.

There is evidence Jungian based psychotherapy is beneficial. No doubt psychotherapists whose practice is influenced by Jungian ideas are deep thinkers and can offer their clients a rich emotional experience. There is no argument that psychotherapy of many types can be very helpful. However, personal growth weekends based on the shadow aspect of Jungian psychology may help, may have no effect, or may worsen serious or undiagnosed mental health problems.

The number of shadow based programs out there are substantial. Just google “shadow work, programs, weekends” and you will find many.

There is no evidence human beings have a shadow, although all the shadow-work programs out there claim they will help you find it.

The confused and shocked colleagues and friends of Moore refer to his act of violence in this way:

“In an act of murder-suicide, Moore took the life of his wife and then turned the gun upon himself.”

They clearly state it was an act of murder-suicide, then soften the message by saying Moore “took the life of his wife and then turned the gun on himself.”

I understand how colleagues would want to present this in the most sensitive manner possible, but people are murdered, their lives are not “taken.” Moore just didn’t “turn the gun on himself.” He pointed the gun at himself and pulled the trigger.

I suggest we can not co-construct a reality where violence is not violence. When someone who holds themselves out to be an expert in a field, especially psychotherapy, they need to explore and understand all the research which may support or challenge their ideas.

We don’t really know what Moore did or didn’t do. We know he tried to help himself by seeking psychotherapy, at least he tells us he did. It didn’t work and I wonder if he was blinded by his own ideas. How could be criticize himself and his own life’s work?

Professionals who specialize in neuroscience would be quick to wonder about the health of Moore’s brain. To commit such extreme and senseless acts of violence suggest seriously impaired judgment likely due to some brain abnormality. Moore would have benefited from a comprehensive brain evaluations, including scans. Medical science, not ideology. Moore’s Jungian personality archetypes were likely a maze he

I only know Jung’s concept of the “shadow” is a clever way to talk about what religious clergy describe as the sinful nature of human beings. In an elaboration of the shadow concept, Moore talks about the active shadow and passive shadow of human beings. Again, there is no science which validates this thinking, but Moore wrote and taught this, so common folk are led to believe it must be true. Robert Moore’s murder of his wife and his suicide cause us to pause and look at how we can best help those dealing with serious mood disorders and are at risk of harming themselves or others. We spend billions and billions on police, yet services for the mentally ill are woefully inadequate.

Concepts like the “shadow” are sexy and get our attention in marketing literature. The programs based on these concepts are likely really beneficial for most people. However, diagnosing and treating mental illness is enormously complicated. It really can not be left to a simple psychotherapy evaluation or even a diagnostic interview with a psychiatrist.

Neuropsychiatrists and other practitioners who evaluate the brain through sophisticated scanning and neuropsychological testing offer people suffering a range of problems an effective way to diagnose, then more accurately treat mental health problems.

Psychiatrists who only do interview assessments are known as “the only medical doctors who treat a part of the body they do not see.” It’s true. Wreck your knee, you get an MRI. Have heart problems, you get any host of scans and sophisticated evaluations.

These advanced diagnostic technology can be incredibly helpful to doctor/therapist/patient better understand what’s going on and offering life saving treatment.

A blind attachment to any psychological ideas not verifed by research is risky. I know.

I myself was misdiagnosed and encouraged to spend years in mens groups and even leading men’s weekends. It wasn’t until I sought more sophisticated diagnostic help that I was diagnosed with a serious organic brain problem. Knowing this has been life changing in ways “men’s work” never was. And really, once you start to criticize specific elements or general men’s work activities, you find yourself outcasted and alone.

I was asked to help staff one of the original Victories of the Heart’s so called, “shadow weekend” in the mid-1990’s. As it is encouraged by Victories all the time to “tell others about your experience, not the processes, I will say I did not like the program. I’m sure there were others at the weekend who did like the program very much. I am only speaking about my personal experience. I had the opportunity to discover aspects of this program again about 2007 while on the Board and leader in the Victories program. I did not like anything I heard at that time.

I’ve been assured it has been totally revised since I knew it in the mid-1990’s. I know this to be partially true. I was part of the Board and leadership when one significant improvement was initiated.

It’s true I wish to know more about the progress in the weekend. Then I could feel more satisfied about the progress made in enhancing the program. I like the men involved now and wish them well, but this “shadow” program has had it’s controversies over the years and though it now may be different, the marketing on the brochure and website is nearly identical to what it was in the 1990’s.

I have always been critical of this Shadow weekend, as several neuroscience concepts possibly challenge the Jungian theories upon which the program relies. This concepts involve the way the brain stores memory, especially trauma memory and specifically, emotional hijacking, implicit vs explicit memory, priming, context and state dependent memory, and the important role of the amygdala in managing the fight, flight, freeze process in human beings.

Maybe I should go to the weekend! 🙂

The organization still chooses to keep specific aspects of their program secret. I have heard and understand the rationale presented, I just never thought keeping good ideas secret was a good idea. I said this many times when discussing the idea of keeping weekends secret. One of the reasons I was so successful in helping men cross over to attend weekends was I explained in great detail what would happen.

It wasn’t any of the detail of the weekend I explained, but rather the honesty. Men who trusted me, trusted me more when I answered their questions directly. In fact, they didn’t really remember what I had told them after the experience, only that I was honest with them.

MKP was forced to describe in more transparent detail what happens on their weekend as a result of a lawsuit filed after a man committed suicide after one of their weekends. It was a tragic event and complicated circumstances. However, having the light of day shine on this program through the legal process led to descriptions on marketing materials helping men and their loved ones know what to expect. I think this is a good thing.

Ahh, men’s work! It can be very complicated and tricky.

Perhaps Robert Moore’s brutal murder of his wife and suicide will awaken responsible people in the men’s movement that treating the brain is the first step in helping other human beings get healthy. Promoting Jungian concepts of shadow and shadow work are at best not helpful to people with serious impairments, and at worse, dangerous. Moore’s murder of his wife and then his suicide present a profound challenge to leaders and Boards of programs promoting “shadow” programs.

Just like suggesting faith healing instead of medical treatment, those promoting “shadow” weekends must evaluate their programs, leaders, and staff top to bottom.That Moore was impaired is not even up to debate. He killed his wife and himself. There was something wrong and no one noticed anything. This is the tragedy.

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