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JHP54210.1177/0022167813478836Journal of Humanistic PsychologyKass

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Don’t Fall Into Those Stereotype Traps: Women and the Feminine in Existential Therapy

Journal of Humanistic Psychology 2014, Vol. 54(2) 131­–157 © The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0022167813478836 jhp.sagepub.com

Sarah A. Kass1

Abstract The current work examines some notable women in existential psychology, with a discussion of their contributions to the field and how they incorporated the work of previous existential philosophers and clinicians. The analyses are based on their own writings, dating back to the 1950s, as well as some secondary source material that reviewed their work. What the research reveals is first that there are many more women in the history of existential psychology than most people currently know about—especially from the 1950s and 1960s. Second, the “feminine” version of existential psychology really stresses the emphasis on depth, presence, and being. Even nonexistential theorists, including Winnicott and Guntrip noted that this idea of being with rather than doing for the client splits along gender lines— feminine for “being” and masculine for “doing.” But in a world where the many of the existential psychologists currently practicing are male—in 2011, the Society for Humanistic Psychology had 60.8% male members to only 39% female—bringing this feminine component to existential therapy by introducing the work of these female practitioners is vital to make existential psychotherapy a richer practice not just for women but for everyone. Keywords women, existentialism, feminine 1Saybrook

University, New York, NY, USA

Corresponding author: Sarah A. Kass, Saybrook University, c/o P.O. Box 1006, Old Chelsea Station, New York, New York 10113, USA. Email: [email protected]

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Introduction The theory of “penis envy”—as conceived by Freud—has arguably done more harm to women’s psychology than any other psychological or philosophical theory in the 20th century (see De Beauvoir, 1952/1974; Robb, 2006). This concept viewed women’s fates as inferior to men’s—as lacking something so primary that they would never be able to overcome this biological deficit. Thus, with Freud’s pronouncement, the world of philosophy and the burgeoning world of psychology in those early days of the 20th century could blossom in their thinking that measuring women’s responses and comparing them with men’s was simply not important since women’s responses were “less than”—or in other words, irrelevant—to the research (see Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1997). After all, history provides little counterargument. Simone De Beauvoir (1952/1974) pointed out that one of Plato’s first prayers of gratitude to the gods was for being created as a man and not a woman. De Beauvoir noted a similar sentiment from Aristotle: “The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities; we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness” (Aristotle quoted in De Beauvoir, 1952/1974, p. xviii). In many ways, the development of existential philosophy, and in its wake, existential psychology, was groundbreaking for women. Its focus on overcoming the subject–object dualism so prevalent in the history of Western philosophy opened up new possibilities for women. Yet, as De Beauvoir, who was herself a part of this existential movement, noted, there still existed in the world societies treating women as the “Other.” Thus, the theory worked to eradicate dualism, but the practice did not. Trying to reconcile this is one basic theoretical challenge when looking at the role of women in existential psychology. Other theoretical aspects of existentialism—the relational qualities, presence, and questions of freedom, choice, responsibility, and authenticity—fit better with what came to be defined as feminine qualities or even stereotypes (see De Beauvoir, 1952/1974). Indeed, once one overcomes the subject–object issue of gender in society, one finds that existential psychology melds quite well with the feminine, as De Beauvoir describes it. Yet the literature shows there have been comparatively few female theoreticians and/ or practitioners since De Beauvoir, and even fewer who note existentialism’s relationship to the feminine, perhaps wary of the stereotyping danger. This essay is an attempt to begin to open that discussion, first by putting women’s psychology and existentialism into a historical context, and then into a theoretical context. Next will be a discussion of some of the women who have worked in and written about existential psychology starting from its earliest days. Only then can one look at the more current issues of how

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women’s psychology and existential psychology are both taught and practiced today and how one may then link the two to bring out more of the “feminine,” as described by De Beauvoir and others, in existential psychology.

Part I: Historical Perspective The Early Role of Women in Psychology Before the 1970s, the dominant paradigm for women in psychology was Freud’s psychoanalytic model, complete with penis envy, Electra complexes, and hysteria. This was a model Freud tested on his daughter, Anna, among others, with analysis 6 days a week over a 4-year period (Tolpin, 2004). Tolpin (2004) said that “throughout her adolescence Anna suffered from greatly intensified rejection and shame because she displeased ‘papa’ by not being ‘feminine’ enough in his eyes” (p. 179). De Beauvoir says that “it is clear that he [Freud] defined it [female psychology] less in itself than upon the basis of his masculine pattern” (p. 45). Because his model is based on the masculine pattern, De Beauvoir (1952/1974) says that Freud assumes that woman feels that she is a mutilated man. But the idea of mutilation implies comparison and evaluation. Many psychoanalysts today admit that the young girl may regret not having a penis without believing, however, that it has been removed from her body; and even this regret is not general. (p. 46)

Robb (2006) recounts the tales of Jean Baker Miller, who on encountering Freud’s words in the 1950s, knew something was wrong with his descriptions of women but could not yet develop an alternative theory. Furthermore, Robb says that the Freudians of the 1950s were content to leave this alone, although it was clear a gender rift was developing. Robb writes, “They [the 1950s Freudians] taught that women could be calmed down or cheered up by being brought around to accept their femininity, which usually meant becoming unpaid, full-time housekeepers and governesses for their husbands and children and liking it” (p. 47). Robb says that Karen Horney had offered a critique of Freud but then shifted her stance somewhat, developing instead a general theory of psychology that applied to men and women equally. Additionally, Robb says that Miller would often remind women of the 1940s American psychoanalyst Clara Thompson, who said that Freud was “disguising cultural beliefs about women as biology” (Robb, 2006, p. 55). Belenky et al. (1997) describe the role of women in the early days of psychology as minor at best. They talk about Gilligan’s (1979) observation that “women have been missing even as research subjects at the formative stages

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of our psychological theories” (Gilligan, 1979, quoted in Belenky et al., 1997, p. 6). The results, the authors say, is that attributes typically associated with the masculine, such as the development of autonomy, independence, critical thought, morality, and justice have been studied in great depth, while those associated with the feminine—interdependence, intimacy, nurturance, and contextual thought, for example—have been studied in much less detail (Belenky et al., 1997).

The Role of Women in the Early Days of Phenomenology and Existentialism “What a misfortune to be a woman” said Kierkegaard, according to De Beauvoir (1952/1974, p. 800). But such a sentiment is not without precedent in the history of Western thought as already noted above. However, the early phenomenologists seemed less concerned with gender issues than they were with understanding the nature of experience in general. According to a recent article in The New York Times, men dominated the field of philosophy by anywhere from a ratio of 30:1 to 100:1 depending on which source you use because men think more systematically—better for philosophy—while women are more empathic (Martin, 2010). Martin, however, also cites a passage from Book Five of Plato’s Republic in which same philosopher who was grateful not to be a woman also believed that women were just as philosophical as men and would qualify to become the philosopher “guardians” of the ideal Greek state of the future (in return they would have to learn to run around naked at the gym). It seems likely that women were among the pre-Socratic archi-philosophers. But they were largely oracular. They tended to speak in riddles. (Martin, 2010)

Martin explains that the point of philosophy from Aristotle on was to resolve and abolish riddles, clearly showing a need to abolish the voices of women if that was the way in which they were thought to communicate.

Part II: Some Theoretical Perspectives When existential philosophy begins to grow, evolving out of the work of such male philosophers as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard and finding its voice in Husserl, Heidegger, and Sartre, there were no obvious gender components because part of the project, especially from Heidegger’s point of view, was to do away with the subject–object Cartesian dualism. Heidegger’s primary

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question was “what is the meaning of ‘Being’ itself,” an issue he felt no philosopher ever satisfactorily addressed (Heidegger, 1927/1962). A pupil of Husserl’s, Heidegger used phenomenology to help elucidate the meaning, and he developed several concepts that became quite valuable for existential psychotherapy. The first of these is Dasein, literally Being-There but usually translated as Being-in-the-World, all hyphenated. Van Deurzen (1997) explains that the hyphens in the English translation are vital, signifying that the human being “is essentially always in a world and in relationship, never in isolation.” Also key to Heidegger’s (1927/1962) concept of Dasein is that humans are born into a world of other people so that Being-There is also Being-With or Mitsein. People can then further measure their capacity for relationship by showing how much humans care for others (Sorgen, Fürsorgen). Humans also measure their own capacity for authenticity by how anonymously or inauthentically people relate to others. This echoes Martin Buber’s (1996) concept of the I-Thou relationship, another way of understanding existential authenticity. Buber explains that if you treat another person as an object, you have an I-It relationship with that person whereas if you treat a person as another subject—as though he or she were you or even Divine—you are engaging in an I-Thou relationship. Buber’s idea is that all humans should strive to engage in I-Thou relationships. This question of authenticity is where the problem of the “Other” and the subject–object dichotomy come into play. These were big questions for both Sartre and De Beauvoir, the latter of course being the first woman to write about existential philosophy. De Beauvoir (1952/1974) talks about the historical and social origins of man setting himself up as subject, and as is necessary in such setups, designating woman as the “Other.” She writes, “She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her” (De Beauvoir, 1952/1974, p. xix). Women can, if they choose, transcend this situation, although De Beauvoir says it takes tremendous effort and will to battle the prevailing authority so women cannot call themselves victims of this otherness (De Beauvoir, 1952/1974). De Beauvoir, like Sartre, believes that the person is in bad faith when they do not even make the decision to choose—Sartre says the only choice humans do not have is not to choose (van Deurzen, 1997). De Beauvoir stresses that it is the political/social situation and not a woman’s body that is holding her back: “as we have often seen, through her erotic experience, the woman feels— and often detests—the domination of the male; but this is no reason to conclude that her ovaries condemn her to live forever on her knees” (De Beauvoir, 1952/1974, p. 809).

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Part III: Women Who Forged the Way in Existential Psychology As the third force in psychology took root in the United States, a number of female psychotherapists began to look at how the existential attitude could influence their way of being with clients and experimented with it in their work. They then wrote about their experiences in the new existentially oriented journals that arose in the late 1950s and early 1960s in response to the tremendous interest in the subject. While these women may not be called the “mothers” or “grandmothers” of the field, it is valuable to note in one place their contributions in what for many years was solely a masculine domain in psychology.

Iris Sangiuliano Iris Sangiuliano, a PhD and psychotherapist in New York, wrote a series of articles in the late 1950s and 1960s on individual and group psychotherapy. One article in particular, cowritten with a psychiatrist, Hugh Mullan, focuses on the discovery of what the authors term the “existential component inherent in contemporary psychotherapy” (Mullan & Sangiuliano, 1960, p. 330). The article was first presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in 1960 while Sangiuliano was the Consulting Group Psychotherapist for the New York Alcoholism Vocational-Rehabilitation Service in Manhattan and Mullan was on the faculty of the Association for Group Psychoanalysis in New York (Mullan & Sangiuliano, 1960). They write, Existential philosophy, in its formulation of man’s predicament and responsibility, has significantly contributed to current psychotherapy. Thus today, psychotherapy recognizes the human situation in which anxiety with despair, on the one hand, and satisfaction with risk, on the other, are inherent in both the therapist and the patient. Moreover, the intensive practice of psychotherapy now requires of the therapist a deeper self-questioning and reflection than before. (Mullan & Sangiuliano, 1960, p. 342)

The authors stress authenticity in the therapeutic encounter over technique and argue that it is through communication—through dialogue—that the authenticity of the self is recovered (Mullan & Sangiuliano, 1960). They say that classic psychoanalysis, while still “a much more penetrating and creative approach is . . . unilaterally oriented” (Mullan & Sangiuliano, 1960, p. 335). In existential therapy, however, change in both the therapist and client, they say, is an essential requirement.

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Mullan and Sangiuliano (1960) also stress the importance of using this existential approach in group therapy, especially given the expectations of new clients and their families for instant solutions. The authors say that the culture has taught the clients and families to believe that the solutions exist separate from family and from the therapist. Mullan and Sangiuliano respond to these beliefs as follows: The therapist, in departing from these expectations, heightens the risk and at the same time increases the possibilities of communication. Through his critical evaluation of culture, he abstracts certain components of behavior which ignore and eliminate a doctrinaire approach. He identifies and demonstrates through his existence the commonality of therapist and patient. (Mullan & Sangiuliano, 1960, p. 337)

Thus, the client and the family begin to have a sense that they and the therapist are all working together, and that finding “solutions,” in whatever form they take, is a project in which they are all equally invested.

Charlotte Opler While Charlotte Opler may be best known for being the wife of Marvin Opler, the social psychiatrist and anthropologist, she wrote an article of her own in 1966 on existential counseling and therapy while working at the student counseling center at the State University of New York at Buffalo (Opler, 1966). She was not, however, existential therapy’s biggest fan. She begins her article with the following statement: “Despite difficulties in the language, purpose and concepts of existentialism and its predominantly philosophical and artistic flavour, there can be no doubt that its single most practical application has been in counselling and therapy” (Opler, p. 261). But her perspective is social, and she is looking for how to apply this philosophy to real life problems. As a result, she says, As an endeavour to grasp human reality in the face of automation, conformity and superficiality, this effort is to be commended. It is not one intended to provide answers so much as a way of approaching problems. It inveighs against simple formulae and slogans in assessing human crises, preferring to place its emphasis on the “crises of the individual” seen through his own world. (Opler, 1966, p. 261)

Throughout her article, Opler surveys this existential approach, presenting practical problems as some of the existential philosophers, such as Camus or Sartre might have viewed them. She also refers back to the history of

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existential thought in philosophy, citing all the major names, as well as those in literature and pointing to the inspiration of Dostoyevsky. Her conclusions after all her analysis of the existential writings is that “the sum total of twenty years of effort is a ‘good attitude’” (Opler, 1966, p. 270). And she actually says she finds this attitude often clouded by poetic or mystical language (Opler, 1966). Her real criticism of the approach seems to be a product of her times—1960s society: In the disorganized post-war world, the artistic representations of existentialism showed the lost individual, notably Sartre and Camus’ tragic figures. But they do not analyze social turmoil, nor find solutions for groups. No one can rebuild a wartorn world according to the tenets of individual discovery or wholly individual meanings. Reflexively, theirs is a negative kind of solution for people’s troubles, since they have never proposed anything positive for groups. Yet we must all live, function and progress, not as isolates, but in a world of groups. (Opler, 1966, p. 271)

It seems that despite her “thorough” survey of existential thought, Opler (1966) is making the same mistakes many people do when looking at existential therapy—mistaking Camus’ tragic figure walking on the beach toward his (metaphorical) death—that is, the shooting that leads to his capital punishment—for the kind of relational, Being-in-the-World, integrative work that actually happens in existential psychology. Encounter cannot happen in isolation—nor can dialogue. Opler (1966) does at least note that existentialism can help therapy in one way—that “we can listen to our clients ‘cries for help’ with more perceptiveness and sensitivity” (p. 271). Thus, she does respond to some of the relational aspects and uses that to call for more sensitivity in therapy, but then asks that they be combined with the new social and scientific methods of psychology. But sensitivity alone is not existential therapy.

Hanna Colm Hanna Colm had been working as a child psychoanalyst for many years, publishing articles in the United States from the 1940s, but it was not until 1965, one year before her death, that she took an in-depth look at existential psychotherapy. The reason, she said, “resulted from an experience of frustration both on the side of the patient and the analyst” in the therapeutic relationship in psychoanalysis (Colm, 1965, p. 137). She summed up the feelings of so many clients in psychoanalysis when she said, Patients began to object to the inhumanness and artificiality of this authoritatively, intellectually perceived prescription of the analyst who stayed uninvolved, not

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feeling, but pretended in a rather controlled way always to accept. Yet the uninvolved therapist was supposed to symbolize the lack of authoritative guidance or influence. To an increasing number of patients, it did not make sense that the trouble into which he had gotten through frustration should be cured by more frustration—by lack of response, lack of reaction and by an acceptance which he could not feel to be genuine because it was a method merely learned by the analyst. How could such a controlled and prescribed therapeutic relationship heal the patient who may already suffer from lack of trust in genuine relationship to people? (Colm, 1965, p. 137)

And the therapists did not have it any easier. Colm said that the encouragement of such thinkers as Buber, Tillich, Heidegger, Binswanger, and Boss dared European and American analysts to try having genuine mutual relationship with their patients—not to say that Freud’s intuitions about human defenses were wrong, but that his techniques needed changing (Colm, 1965). According to Colm (1965), what is really unique to existential practice is the therapist’s way of being. She says that the therapist may need to start by using some sort of “technique,” such as one that she uses—simply trying to observe the patient—and trying to forget preconceived diagnostic patterns so she can get a sense of the person just as he or she really is. Next, she says, I try to look at his disturbed behavior not as “pathology,” but in terms of what this behavior and what his symptoms possibly express in terms of their meaning to his whole living. What is it he tries to tell me? Often “neurotic behavior and symptoms” express as much as possible the degree to which a patient can live with integrity in an adverse family or cultural situation. I look not for his pathology but for his integrity. (Colm, 1965, p. 139)

Colm then says she observes her own reactions to the patient’s behavior and finds an appropriate way to communicate these reactions to the client in the hope that sharing her reactions allows the client greater freedom to communicate his or her own feelings (Colm, 1965). The healing then comes from “experiencing oneself (as one is) in relation to another person and in the struggle towards mutual acceptance in spite of the humanness one finds in oneself and in one’s partner” (Colm, 1965, p. 139). It is not, she says, a matter of simply gaining more knowledge about oneself—the experience of the relationship between the two people is the key, as one sees in Buber (1996), for example, above. Colm (1965) is the first of these women to include actual case study material with her articles—in fact, she includes nine different examples, with clients ranging from children to adults of both genders. And because this essay

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is focusing on women practicing existential therapy, it is interesting to note that in the introductions to all of Colm’s case studies, she refers to herself as the therapist in the masculine (e.g., “between himself and patient”; Colm, 1965, p. 143). What characterizes most of these case studies is that she allows herself to be human with all her clients and not let some technique or “prevailing wisdom” on a subject guide her. For example, with a client who kept talking about her goodness and conforming, and then condemned herself for it, Colm snapped one day and said, “You bore me with both the self-citation of your goodness and your utter self-condemnation” (Colm, 1965, p. 152). According to Colm, instead of alienating the client, this wound up stimulating much deeper exploration of the “why” of the simultaneous goodness and self-condemnation. Again, this shows what Colm describes above—part of the struggle toward mutual acceptance of one another’s humanness in relationship.

Charlotte Bühler According to a tribute to her after her death in 1974, Charlotte Bühler was a “humanistic psychologist long before a clearly discernible humanistic psychology crystallized” (Massarik, 1974, p. 6). A psychotherapist and teacher, she married her teacher Karl Bühler in Germany in 1916, and they then went to Vienna to build an internationally acclaimed psychology department (Sutich, 1963). In 1940, after a brief stay in Norway, the Bühlers immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in southern California (Ogilvie & Harvey, 2000). According to Schenk-Danzinger (1963), Charlotte Bühler was the first psychologist to focus on the subject of human life as a whole—its structure and goals—from birth to old age with extensive and systematic studies. This was a particularly revolutionary concept for child psychology, which was used to the more psychoanalytic and behavioral compartmentalized models (DeRobertis, 2006). Additionally, Schenk-Danzinger says that Bühler’s methods grew progressively deeper, and she worked through other psychologists’ theories one-by-one until arriving at her own (Schenk-Danzinger, 1963). Bühler (1961) described human beings as having four basic tendencies: “need satisfaction, adaptive self-limitation, expansive creativity, and upholding of the internal order” (p. 8). Bühler’s (1961) exhaustive examinations of other theories led her to have very specific criticisms that helped in forming her own positions. For example, she objected to “Freud’s relaxation theory, according to which release of tension and re-establishment of equilibrium are considered the main and

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ultimate goals of the organism” (Schenk-Danzinger, 1963, p. 7). Rather, she maintained throughout her career that humans actually preferred some level of tension in order to create (DeRobertis, 2006). DeRobertis writes, Inspired by Goldstein’s (1939) concept of “equalization” and Bertalanffy’s (1950) notion of the “steady state,” Bühler viewed healthy personalities as motivated to maintain an optimal level of arousal for the performance of acts and ultimately the realization of their unique potentials for growth and development. (DeRobertis, 2006, p. 52)

Bühler also responded to behavioral theory by insisting that people do not simply react to the environment. Rather, they perceive the world and act according to value structure they have established (DeRobertis, 2006). Bühler saw life as a “work in progress” (DeRobertis, 2006, p. 53). As a result, the creative process was vital. Schenk-Danzinger (1963) says that Bühler saw no room in Freud’s models for “assigning to creativity that primary role which it actually plays in the living being’s motivational processes” (Schenk-Danzinger, 1963, p. 7). Thus, Bühler felt obliged to write a great deal about goal setting and motivation throughout the life cycle. One of the purposes of goal setting, Bühler said, was so that one would find oneself at the end of his or her life feeling as though he or she had lived a life of fulfillment rather than feeling despair (Bühler, 1967). She wrote, Fulfillment seems to result primarily from a constructive and thoughtful way of living; constructive to the degree that even major tragedies as well as great misfortunes are overcome and used beneficially; thoughtful in the use of even mediocre potentialities for accomplishments and meaningful self-dedication; thoughtful also in attempting to look repeatedly backwards and forward at the whole of one’s existence and to assess it in whatever terms one believes in. (Bühler, 1967, p. 50)

Goal setting for Bühler involves 12 different factors, ranging from internal values such as morals and avoidance of hardships to external values such as power and role in public life (Bühler, 1966). What arose out of this was the idea that an individual value system is vital to the formation of goals (Schenk-Danzinger, 1963). Consequently, goal setting and values always went together in her work. In a commentary in the American Psychologist in 1960, Bühler writes, Values, as defined here, are preferential potential goals. Although they may represent only factual [sic] preferences of an individual, they are distinguished

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from the goals of drives by the fact that they are chosen goals. As chosen goals they serve a different purpose than drive goals. The chosen purpose represents an intent of the individual, or else it has meaning for the individual. The meaningful goal in this context is defined as one related to fulfillment. Value then is a preferential goal in terms of its relationship to fulfillment. (Bühler, 1960, pp. 157-158)

This returns to the existential concept of choice—as Bühler explains it, valuederived goals are chosen. They possess intentionality. Thus, these goals are, ideally, helping the person to express his or her own worldview or his or her own meaning of life.

Emmy van Deurzen The origins of modern existential psychotherapy in Europe and the United Kingdom cannot be told without first considering the contributions of Emmy van Deurzen. Van Deurzen left her homeland of the Netherlands to study moral and political philosophy in France, where she wrote a master’s thesis integrating phenomenology and psychiatry (van Deurzen, 2010). She worked as a psychotherapist in France until moving to London in 1977 where she became involved with various antipsychiatry movements and working on some projects with R. D. Laing. Dissatisfied with the methods of humanistic psychology practice she was encountering, she decided to formulate her own method, which she codified and began to teach in the humanistic psychology program at Antioch University (van Deurzen, 2010). The program moved to the premises occupied by Regents College in Regents Park, London, and soon became part of the college and not just a tenant. van Deurzen published her first book on existential therapy in 1987 and one year later founded the Society for Existential Analysis, which still publishes the primary source for current British existential psychotherapy thought—the journal Existential Analysis. After leaving Regents College, she founded the New School for Psychotherapy and Counselling as well as a center for conflict resolution (van Deurzen, 2010). She is currently beginning training courses on existential coaching. The basis of van Deurzen’s conception of existential therapy is that one has to be prepared to think very deeply about one’s life (van Deurzen, 1997). She explains that security, belonging, and acceptance are extremely important motivations but they “keep us calm and willing to be reduced to less than what we are capable of” (van Deurzen, 1997, p. 287). This echoes Bühler’s

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thoughts on the necessity of creative tension, and living in and exploring that anxiety in order to truly find fulfillment. van Deurzen’s rich background and knowledge of existential philosophy and literature makes her well aware of the darkness of the soul. But she says that when people say one must face reality, meaning only that one must face the negative in the world, she is quick to remind them that “reality contains a myriad of things,” including beauty, mystery, unexpected miracles, and love (van Deurzen, 2006). Her attitude is “It isn’t easy to make things work, especially not human institutions, but we learn a lot in the trying and we get better as we persist with rather than giving up” (van Deurzen, 2006, p. 211). van Deurzen (1997) puts a great deal of emphasis on the attitude of therapist in existential therapy. She writes about the fact there are many tools for psychotherapy but these tools: have to be used in a more positive way and this can only be achieved by learning to use them for ourselves in a more gentle manner first. Psychotherapists should be brave enough to start talking about their own explorations of life and their personal suffering and joys. (van Deurzen, 1997, p. 288)

She argues the therapist’s fear of being seen as human as opposed to some god-like authority actually holds him or her back as a practitioner. The work, van Deurzen says, is not in perfecting oneself as a practitioner but in getting better at learning to live with one’s own imperfections (van Deurzen, 1997). This is also about working on oneself so that therapists can simply be with clients. This idea, in turn, is a reflection of Colm’s work—hearkening back to her thoughts on learning to live in the process of the struggle. There is no evidence, however, that van Deurzen ever read Colm or Bühler in Europe, especially given that the latter two had limited exposure even in the United States. Regarding the therapist’s way of being, van Deurzen further frowns on an instruction that many trainees are routinely given—when in doubt about what to say to a client, just use your common sense (van Deurzen, 1999). She, in fact, quotes Einstein on common sense, who defines it as merely “the collection of prejudices acquired by the age of eighteen” (Einstein quoted in van Deurzen, 1999, p. 581). van Deurzen says that common sense can be “poisonous” to clients when trying to guide them in discussions of complex questions of choice and responsibility (van Deurzen, 1999, p. 581). Rather than putting counselors on a level-playing field with clients, as van Deurzen suggests many might think, common sense responses link therapists to prevailing social biases and morés, potentially unduly influencing the client.

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The opposite pole—psychoanalytic-style neutrality—is no better, she says. The answer for van Deurzen (1999) lies in real dialogue, in which both therapist and client constantly question their own assumptions. She asks the therapist: What moral position are you defending and what moral position is your client defending? Is there a constructive dialogue between the two in which the client is working towards greater clarity? Do not assume you have the answers, but do not assume your client has the answer either. (van Deurzen, 1999, p. 585)

Again, the process requires remaining open to the struggle, remaining open to living in the state of creative tension.

Iris Marion Young Iris Marion Young wrote a groundbreaking essay that specifically addresses gender differences in how women and men use their bodies based on the work of Merleau-Ponty. The essay, Throwing Like a Girl, opens with a quote from Erwin Straus from research he did on how 5-year-old boys and girls made use of space when throwing a ball (Young, 2005). What Straus found was that young girls used only their arms to throw while young boys used their entire bodies as well stepping forward and backward in the space around them (Young, 2005). Young (2005) says that Straus noted this as a significant difference but never elaborated on what it might mean or how this might have come about—that is, whether nature or nurture or some combination. But Young found more studies in which it becomes clear that women tend to use less space in the world than men. For example, women often sit with their legs closer together and their arms across their bodies while men sit with their bodies spread out (Young, 2005). She also notes that men and boys tend to carry parcels by their sides, while women often embrace them to their chests (Young, 2005). In summary, she argues, most women—and she does argue that while this is widespread it is not universal since there are always exceptions—tend to feel that they are not entitled to take up as much space in the world as men and feel limited to a certain constricted area around them. Young writes, “Women often approach physical engagement with things with timidity, uncertainty, and hesitancy. Typically, we lack an entire trust in our bodies to carry us to our aims” (Young, 2005, p. 34). The end result of this, according to Young (2005) is a feeling in many women of “incapacity, frustration, and self-consciousness” as well as a greater tendency to underestimate bodily capacity (p. 34). Young then tries to understand these differences through the work of Merleau-Ponty, since for

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Merleau-Ponty, the body is the center of intentionality. One point that Merleau-Ponty makes is that intentionality is located in motility and thus possibilities in the world open up depending on the extent of the bodily “I can” (Young, 2005). Thus, Young explains that difficulties arise when women respond ambivalently or negatively to this “I can.” Similarly, Merleau-Ponty (1962) stresses the importance of not reducing the body to an object. But Young says that this is exactly what women do when, for example, they bring the fear of getting hurt into a physical activity. Here, Young says, “the woman takes herself to be the object of the motion rather than its originator” (p. 39). This is because of this sense of being out of control of the action—a potential victim of outside forces rather than someone responsible for her choices and in control of her fate. But like De Beauvoir, Young (2005) comes to the tentative conclusion that many of these aspects of women’s bodily comportment are learned behaviors based on societal expectations and a society that does often objectify women. Thus, here is the subject–object dichotomy reemerging.

Betty Cannon Betty Cannon, a psychotherapist in Boulder, CO, probably best known in the existential psychology community for her 1991 book Sartre & Psychoanalysis: An Existentialist Challenge to Clinical Metatheory, says in the preface to that book that she became interested in Freud and the post-Freudians following her training in humanistic psychology (Cannon, 1991). This definitely shows some of the generational shift happening where one can study Freud after the humanistic psychologists rather than before. Cannon (1991) said that in spite of its disturbing nature, “among the contemporary psychological approaches, only psychoanalysis provided a comprehensive theory of the origins of human misery” (p. ix). She also chose Sartre for her subject, much less examined in the existential psychology oeuvre. Among her many reasons, she says, was that she feels that Sartre, more than other existential philosophers, “demonstrated a deep and continuing interest in both in psychological theory in general and in psychoanalysis in particular” (Cannon, 1991, p. 6). When Cannon speaks of existential analysis, she uses this Sartre/Freud paradigm: While existential psychoanalysis, as defined by Sartre and expanded by existential psychologists, owes a debt to Freudian psychoanalysis, it goes beyond Freudian psychoanalysis in recognizing and working with existential anxiety as an impetus and impediment to change. (Cannon, 1999, p. 23)

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The worlds of Freud and Sartre often clash—a chapter of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness is devoted to a critique of psychoanalysis, and as Cannon (1991) argues, many of Sartre’s projects such as intentionality have no room for ideas such as Freud’s drive theory. But in existential analysis, they come together in unusual ways: When as a client in therapy I allow myself to comprehend the significance of a symptom or painful way of being in the world, I will feel threatened on two counts. The significance of my symptom will threaten the equilibrium I have precariously established in order to go on living an early intolerable situation—which I experience as being recapitulated in the present. This is the return of the repressed in Freudian terms. But giving up the symptom will also threaten to destabilize my sense of self in another way: I will no longer be who I have been, and the world will no longer be what it has been. Hence understanding the significance of my symptom makes me doubly anxious. I am anxious about the return of the repressed because it destabilizes me, and I am anxious about the destruction of my previous sense of self/world because it announces to me that I have no solid self. The two, of course, are obviously linked, which is part of what makes deep level change so difficult. Yet it is the very source of existential anxiety, the fact that I am not a solid self, which is the condition which makes deep level change possible. (Cannon, 1999, pp. 38-39)

Sartre’s double nothingness and Freud’s return of the repressed coming together to create existential anxiety, yet also be the very thing that opens up the possibility for its alleviation, seems quite a radical idea. But in existential therapy, where only birth and death are given, certainly there is room for this possibility. Cannon’s (1991) thoughts about the therapist in existential analysis are more in keeping with the ideas noted by other authors regarding the development of genuine relationships between client and therapist. She stresses that it should not be reduced to what she calls the “workings of transference and counter-transference” (Cannon, 1991, p. 319). Cannon notes that Sartre himself specifically objected to therapist hyperneutrality, and insisted that the client and therapist must be engaged in dialogue during the process in order for any kind of progress to occur (Cannon, 1991).

Lucia Moja-Strasser Moja-Strasser is a founding member of the Society for Existential Analysis and a former Director of the Advanced Diploma program in Existential

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Psychotherapy at Regents College in London. Her approach to existential therapeutic practice comes directly from Socratic dialogue, for she believes that is where real therapeutic communication begins. She states that the word “dialogue” comes from the Greek and literally means “through the word” or “through speaking” (Moja-Strasser, 2005, p. 100). Moja-Strasser writes, Socrates had no doctrine or method for his dialogues. He was challenging, questioning, disapproving and attempted to free his interlocutors from “pseudoknowledge.” Through his questioning, Socrates was not pursuing a specific answer, but rather like all philosophers, he was in search of a truth and believed that an individual can only attain truth through dialogue with another individual. What Socrates did was to pave the way to “wisdom” as it was discovered in relationship. (p. 101)

Moja-Strasser explains that this nonmethod of sorts had many implications. For example, she says the Socratic dialogues are filled with irony and humor. Thus, one learns that communication in therapy can be both direct and indirect, serious or humorous. And humor can go a long way in creating relationship. Moja-Strasser also explains that as existential therapists, one needs to be listening to all the aspects of dialogues—such as intonation and tempo—free from any agenda, or else one might miss something vital (Moja-Strasser, 2005). She writes, Having an agenda could make me look too far ahead and miss what is right there in front of my eyes . . . If I only listen to the words, I might miss the essential—that which cannot be said but is often implied. (p. 103)

Moja-Strasser (2005) points out that dialogue is not just about talking but about all the different levels on which two people can communicate. Dialogue also occurs when two people sit together in silence.

Myrtle Heery Myrtle Heery is the director of the International Institute for Humanistic Studies in California. Heery is among the newer generation of American psychotherapists modeling themselves after James Bugental’s ExistentialHumanistic approach. Heery explains this hyphenated approach as follows: “Our orientation is existential. This means we ask ourselves and our clients to look at how we are each meeting this basic fact and mystery of our existence” (Heery & Bugental, 2005, p. 253). The humanistic part, she said,

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covers her value system, “meaning we regard all humans as valuable and as having the potential for experiencing greater meaning in their lives” (Heery & Bugental, 2005, p. 253). Existential therapy, for Heery, is the process of exploring the mystery. She quotes Bugental who said, “The miracle of all miracles is the fact of being” (Bugental, 1991 in Heery, 2002, p. 90). She said she finds this quote quite inspirational because of the potential she constantly witnesses with her clients in her therapy office. She writes, My practice enlivens me to search continually in my own life. What is it that keeps us rejoicing over this miracle of being? In practicing psychotherapy, one listens and attends to the dark night, dawning, and full sun of the soul. The madness and joy of the soul are all present in the room. (Heery, 2002, p. 90)

Heery, as do her soul sisters in the field of existential psychology, stresses the importance of the deep self-searching in order to find real deep meaning as well as being open to the creative adventure.

Orah Krug Orah Krug, the training director of Existential-Humanistic Institute in San Francisco, trained with both James Bugental and Irvin Yalom. From her two mentors she developed a theory of cultivation of presence, referring to what is emerging in the therapy room in the present moment between client and therapist (Krug, 2009). She explains, however, that Bugental and Yalom viewed their roles with the client quite differently. Where Bugental saw himself as more of a “coach” cheering his clients along from the sidelines—an intrapersonal approach—Yalom saw himself as more of a “fellow traveler,” making the journey along with his clients—an interpersonal approach (Krug, 2009. p. 350). The results were not necessarily more or less effective, Krug says, but simply different, although integrating the two enriches the therapeutic experience. Krug writes, Each focus is appropriate at different times and with different people depending on their psychological issues. It is essential that a therapist tailors the therapy to the needs of the client and when brought together, and applied appropriately, the personal and interpersonal are of optimal value to the therapeutic work. (Krug, 2009, p. 353)

Krug (Schneider & Krug, 2010) has also noted this in her own client work, such as in the case of Claudia, when her client revealed difficulties in trusting people. She said that she and the client came to understand that this conflict

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would have intrapersonal and interpersonal elements, and both would have to be addressed in the therapy.

Movement and Sensory Therapies Hearkening back to the work of Iris Marion Young, with her emphasis on Merleau-Ponty situating Dasein in the human body, several female existential practitioners have chosen to integrate the body into their therapeutic practice through movement and multisensory therapies. Laura Perls, for example, had her roots in psychoanalysis and existential therapy, having studied with Martin Buber and Paul Tillich (Serlin, 1992). And her way of sitting with clients evolved from Freud, or rather, in direct opposition to Freud: Laura invented a way of sitting opposite her clients, observing that “Freud couldn’t stand people staring at him, so he could avoid his own embarrassment, but also the embarrassment of the client.” Laura brought embarrassment directly into therapy. “Embarrassment has become for me a creative state . . . You are always with one foot in what you know and one foot in what you don’t know. Actually, any development starts with disequilibrium. If there is complete homeostasis, nothing happens. (Perls quoted in Serlin, 1992, p. 62)

Perls (1992) said the basic concepts of her idea of Gestalt therapy are “boundary, contact, and support” (p. 53). Contact, she said, is where people recognize one another, while boundary is where people both touch and experience separateness (Perls, 1992). She explained that support can then be physical or physiological—involving processes such as breathing, digestion, posture, or movement—or more cerebral, such as language. She said a person’s lifetime of experience combines to form this support. Serlin, who has a background in dance, built on this work with her kinesthetic therapeutic approach, reconnecting bodily gesture with the mind. She says that “our task as therapists is to restore congruence between thinking, feeling, and action; between psyche, soma, and language; between logos and eros” (Serlin, 1996, p. 32). In her work, she uses movement and nonverbal communication to understand conflict and connection, such as that between a group of Israelis and Palestinians in workshops she and her colleagues (Serlin, Berger, & Bar-Sinai, 2007) taught in Israel. The authors found that movements work as a powerful tool for understanding the nature of conflict and discord between the groups. Eleanor Criswell (1997) also works with the body with Somatic Yoga, a process she says works to integrate body and mind. Criswell, the founding director of the Humanistic Psychology Institute, now Saybrook University,

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has long been interested in the body–mind connection having authored a book on biofeedback as well as on Somatic Yoga. Her approach to yoga is to fully visualize a posture before enacting it, in order to give the brain time “to set up a template for the actual motor action” (1997). Afterward, the person should enter the pose mindfully, stay in the pose mindfully, and come out of the pose mindfully. Most important, as a final step, she says, pausing for about a minute to assimilate the sensory feedback from the posture, which further facilitates the process of body-mind integration. The pause also gives one the opportunity to have insights and experience the various moods triggered by the postures. (Criswell, 1997)

Waiting to assimilate the sensory feedback also echoes some of Charlotte Selver’s work, since Selver focused on increasing sensory awareness to unlearn conditioned responses (Mogar, 1969). Ida Rolf, the founder of the Rolfing technique of massage therapy, also discusses the mind’s potential when the bony structure of the body is properly integrated and again, sensory awareness is cultivated (Rolf, 1978). All three of these women are looking to undo the disconnection between mind and body so prevalent in the Western world.

Part IV: Pedagogical and Psychotherapeutic Perspectives In spite of all noted so far in the history of existential philosophical and psychological thought, and in the work of many of the women who have forged the way in practicing existential psychotherapy, the feminine aspect of the work is all but absent except in the work of Young (2005). Most of these women, especially those practicing before the 1980s and 1990s, were working primarily alongside male psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists, whatever modality they used. And those practicing now are still following a tradition dominated by men. Determining a set of specific feminine characteristics is as politically charged a project now as it has ever been, and as De Beauvoir (1952/1974) points out, is situated within the societal context. Young (2005) also notes that setting up masculine/feminine dichotomies is value laden—those such as “mind/body, reason/passion, public/private, [and] hard science/soft science” (p. 5). Again, here one finds oneself trapped by the very dualisms that existentialism, at least as viewed by Heidegger, was trying to overcome. In some ways, the movement toward a women’s psychology in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, probably without ever being aware of it, had a

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kinship with this existential project of Heidegger’s in that the movement was also trying to do away with this pat masculine/feminine dualism and stereotyping in psychology that resulted in dismissing women’s experiences. Belenky et al. (1997) write about a movement in pedagogy from dualism and “faith in absolute authority” (p. 9) to relativism where students learn that meaning is subject to context and truth is no longer fixed. The authors say this change happens over time when students are repeatedly challenged to present evidence for their beliefs. The women in the relational psychology movement also obviously stressed relationship—without ever articulating as such, a Being-in-the World. Miller and Stiver (1997) say, “If we observe women’s lives carefully, without attempting to force our observations into preexisting patterns, we discover that an inner sense of connection to others is the central organizing feature of women’s development” (p. 16). The founders of this movement such as Miller and Gilligan used one simple method—they listened to women’s stories (see Miller & Stiver, 1997; Robb, 2006). Gilligan (1993) says her work is “grounded in listening” (p. xiii). And what she was hearing in women’s voices was—and is—“a relational voice” (p. xiii). Gilligan and others developed women’s relational psychology phenomenologically—by looking deeply at women’s experiences. These women had been trained in psychology by men and knew only of how their personal experiences of growth, development, and living differed from what they learned. Therefore, all they had to go on were their own experiences and later, the experiences of the other women they studied in order to create a firmer scientific foundation (see Belenky et al., 1997; Robb, 2006). Josselson, for example, has done several done several longitudinal studies (see Josselson, 2000, 2009) to investigate women’s stories over time. The first study (Josselson, 2000) looked at the stories of 24 female college seniors in 1972, who stayed with the study until 1994, reflecting on their lives and goals, their relationships, and their experiences, and how all these changed over time. In the second, Josselson (2009) followed the narrative of the life of one woman, Maria, from 1971 to 2006, as Maria progressed from age 21 to 56 years, analyzing the data thematically. It is important to recognize that this women’s relational psychology movement, however, is not existential psychology. Although many relational therapists do focus on the client–therapist relationship as an existential practitioner would, many others who are connected with this movement have used or are still using paradigms adapted from traditional psychoanalysis, object relations, or developmental theory. Others may not use the traditional theories but may incorporate other more directive approaches or techniques in their

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work that are not the existential therapist’s way of simply allowing the client to be him- or herself in the therapy room. Training models do not separate out working with women in the same ways some traditional psychology programs now have courses to train students in working with cultural difference. But such specific courses for women are not necessary as long as the trainee is integrating into her work the elements of existential practice the therapists and authors above have outlined. Cultivating the existential attitude in one’s work begins, as van Deurzen stresses above, with oneself. Whether this requires engaging in one’s own therapy or participating in some other self-awareness practice does not matter, as long as it brings people to a place where they can recognize and accept their own humanness and thus can recognize and accept the humanness of others. Once a therapist has started doing this self-work, for this is a project that must continue for the rest of one’s life, one may then begin to really look at what is happening in the therapy room. And in the therapy room, it is all about asking oneself questions: about the nature of the dialogue and the communication, the nature of the presence one is cultivating, about whether one is allowing one’s clients to take the lead, or about whether one is willing to stay in the struggle with them. None of these are easy questions, which is one of the reasons why many of the therapists above stress the fact that it is often more challenging to be an existential therapist than other kinds of therapists (see, e.g., Mullan & Sangiuliano, 1960).

Part V: Questions for Future Research Going back to Winnicott and Guntrip’s ideas about “being” and “doing” as related to the feminine and masculine, respectively (Schmir, 1986), one might be able to apply this idea to existential therapy and suggest that it would be easier, or more natural, perhaps, for a female existential therapist to “be” with clients. In other words, a man might have to learn how to “not do” so much in order to become an existential therapist. This, of course, is merely wild speculation based on gender stereotypes, the kind that if it were applied to racial or ethnic groups would be automatically slammed. This is where it becomes necessary to begin conducting real research into the process of existential therapy in order to find out if there are truly any qualities that make the therapy more feminine or naturally suited for female practitioners because of its relational quality and its focus on being and presence. Research on existential therapy, as with most therapy, is quite difficult, because when an observer or a tape recorder is introduced, the dynamic of the therapy and thus the character of the relationship changes. But if we measure

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the qualities that have been considered traditionally feminine and look at them not in terms of gender but simply in terms of qualities that create the optimal conditions for a therapeutic relationship in existential therapy, we can perhaps remove some of the charged gender language but still accomplish the same end. Additionally, more work needs to be done to examine the way existential philosophy and psychology has managed to overcome Cartesian dualism for the subject and object, but still has yet to successfully deal with the “Otherness” of women and male/female inequalities that still exist in the society at large—not to mention the racial, social, and cultural inequalities— that are beyond the scope of this current essay.

Part VI: Concluding Thoughts In his novel Point Counterpoint, Aldous Huxley (1928) wrote, “I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.” The women who forged the way in existential psychology helped bring the practice of psychotherapy a long way from the chauvinistic Freudian analysis of the early 20th century. The cultivation of presence, of relationship, and of real dialogue and communication between client and therapist created a dynamic in therapy that, as Heidegger had hoped, helped to overcome, at least in the therapy room, the Cartesian dualism that plagued much of philosophy. In such therapy, the client–therapist relationship was nonhierarchical, even if the social situation in the world at large objectified one or the other. The therapy room became immune, at least for the duration of the session, although issues from hierarchical world at large would obviously cross those boundaries. Statistical and anecdotal evidence abounds (see, e.g., American Psychological Association [APA], 2012; Kass, 2012) about the predominance of men in existential psychology, compared with the predominance of women in other forms of psychology. In the demographic breakdown for Division 32—the Society for Humanistic Psychology—of the American Psychological Association, 60.8% of members are male, while only 39% are female (APA, 2012). Even in my own training, I was 1 of 3 women in a group of 13 students in England, and in the minority in my American training. During a panel on women in existential psychology at the Society for Humanistic Psychology’s 2012 conference in Pittsburgh, much discussion centered on the lack of women practicing and teaching existential and humanistic psychology. The therapist who has worked hard on himself or herself to deal with his or her own struggles, as many of the female existential practitioners espoused,

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could learn to hold the paradoxes and contradictions inherent in this approach and in life. Many of the teachers who have taught these lessons come from this line of women existential psychologists, starting with Sangiuliano and Bühler, to those who are practicing and teaching today. This lineage in itself honors the feminine in existential psychotherapy, and the practice of continuing to hand down their teachings enriches the feminine without stepping into gender stereotype landmines. And perhaps, this can open up the world of existential therapy not just to more women, some of whom might even take up the mantle to practice and teach, but also to more humans in general, regardless of gender. Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Funding The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Kass Author Biography

Sarah A. Kass, the managing editor of The New Existentialists, has received her PhD in existential psychology from Saybrook University. A former editor and writer for The New York Times, she has trained at Regents College in London as an existential psychotherapist and also holds a master’s degree in cinema studies from New York University and a history degree from Columbia University.

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Don't Fall Into Those Stereotype Traps: Women and the - CiteSeerX

478836 research-article2013 JHP54210.1177/0022167813478836Journal of Humanistic PsychologyKass Article Don’t Fall Into Those Stereotype Traps: Wome...

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