What compelled you to write a book about this topic at this point in your life?

What I saw over 35 years in my psychotherapy practice led me to feel as though the human race had stopped evolving emotionally. Five years into retirement I asked myself what one thing I had learned in my practice that might allow us to resume our emotional growth. Immediately, anger came to mind – how this valuable source of information pushes us around. I thought about this and took extensive notes for over 5 years. My thinking went further into what is behind anger and how addressing it with active understanding leads to living with personal integrity. It was only then that I decided to write a book, my first book at 75 on chemotherapy!

Who did you primarily write the book for? What audience do you think will be most receptive to its messages about developing and maintaining one’s personal integrity?

Of course I think everybody could use a little emotional evolution! But thinking about it specifically, those who have anger issues – either their own or that of a spouse or family member or even a friend – can benefit. They will learn how to “unpack” their anger to understand it for what it really is – an unmet desire – and use it as a source of growth and understanding. Parents will find great information here about how to raise children with personal integrity that will make their job easier. In addition, anyone who has trouble with confrontation can benefit from learning how to stay in reality and not let their emotions guide their behavior.

Can you share a story about someone you’ve known or worked with who lacked a sense of their own integrity and was able to tap into it at last?

To me, this question implies that we all have an ongoing integrity and that it is merely a question of locating it. I think integrity is something that must be actively acquired during one’s lifetime primarily by an active understanding and subsequent acceptance of our feelings.

What do you think makes the crucial difference between letting a challenging situation dominate your responses to it and choosing your actions deliberately in order to own a situation?

I’d like to look at it a little differently. I do not see the primary problem as the “challenging situation” but as our internal emotional reaction to it. Likewise, I do not see the primary solution as trying to “own a situation” but as becoming comfortable with our uncomfortable feelings arising from our own unresolved internal emotional conflicts. The solution may be, so to speak, to first own yourself or your feelings.

How can we help each other find our own respective personal integrity? Is there a way to grow into a shared sense of integrity alongside someone else, as a couple?

A person with personal integrity tends to understand, and thereby comfortably accept, all of their feelings. This allows them to “get beyond themselves” and attempt to do the same with another’s feelings. Given this, they may be much more comfortable with the other person and/or the other person’s feelings than that other person is. The other person can now borrow upon their comfortableness and sense of legitimacy with their being and with their feelings, thus inviting them to risk more to understand, accept, and become comfortable with themselves and their feelings.

After 35 years of practice, what, in your opinion, are the most frequent root causes of anger?

I was a psychiatrist who practiced psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy. What I learned is that anger is always the result of one’s failure to accept the fact that the world is not gratifying their wishes. They are in need of re-calibrating their wishes to be in sync with reality. Once this is done, the anger subsides and is no longer available for discharge. Now one is much more in touch with reality and is no longer seeking someone to blame, to malign, or to punish. In short, this is just one more step in getting beyond one’s self by allowing external reality to be more accurately perceived.

Can you explain the term “psychosis” a bit more? Is it a word that deserves its negative associations?

I, myself, don’t perceive “psychosis” as having negative associations. It merely implies a certain significant degree of severity in a patient with a mental disorder. With psychosis, the patient’s perceptions of reality are distorted by projecting parts of themselves on to reality and then misinterpreting that as reality. For example, paranoia involves one’s personal criticisms of themselves (stemming from their conscience) being unwittingly projected onto somebody else whom they now perceive as dangerous and against them. If this were to happen in the psychotherapeutic relationship, the therapist would be very comfortable with the projection, would never in any way verify it. Hopefully the therapist would find that the patient, by borrowing on the therapist’s comfortableness, eventually was able to accept it as a part of them and process it accordingly. This would result in the disappearance of the paranoia and of the patient beginning to deal more directly with their self-criticism.

What advice would you give to someone graduating from college about staying true to their ideals in a competitive working environment where often moralistic behavior is not rewarded or reaffirmed?

Basically, the new graduate is looking to his workplace for gratification of one of his ideals; he is looking to it PRIMARILY to support his self-esteem. This would tend to retard or even preclude any attempts by them to understand or begin to meet the needs of the workplace and those who use it. You can see how a graduate who had come to the workplace looking for gratification of his emotional ideas would then not be successful in doing so, would become angry, and then would have an even harder time accurately assessing the needs of the workplace.

A person with personal integrity has evolved enough to no longer need the environment for gratification. Therefore, I might try to help the graduate understand how he is using the workplace for his own narcissistic needs. Then, hopefully, he might begin to renounce his wish for the workplace to gratify those narcissistic needs. To the extent that he can get beyond himself and accurately assess what straightforward, honest, facilitative behavior the workplace will tolerate, he can then recalibrate his needs and obtain as much satisfaction as his workplace would allow.

What role do passions play in developing personal integrity?

I feel that all passions, our feelings, need to be actively understood and accepted. This would include, particularly, love and hate, as these so often result in our pontifications about others beings which, if we will recall, are simply products of nature and nurture.

Why is the book void of any references to research or other scientific support for your observations?

The purpose of this book was to see what one thing, or perhaps few things, I had learned in my office helping others grow and evolve themselves emotionally might be available for the average person to use on a daily basis. I felt that this could happen simply by utilizing skills and techniques the average personal already possesses such as nonjudgmental observation of self and others and the understanding of certain feelings. I felt that with a little elucidation this was effective and self-evident and that further scientific support was not necessary.



"Authenticity" in psychology refers to the attempt to live one's life according to the needs of one's inner being, rather than the demands of society or one's early conditioning. How is "personal integrity" different?

Answer: Well, they are similar in that both have, at their center, being true to one's inner feelings. Authenticity, as I see it, is living according to one's inner feelings as they are, regardless of past conflicts, childhood trauma, emotional wounds, etc.  The person who lives "authentically" may, therefore, continue the same patterns they've known all their lives. To me, personal integrity goes a step further.  To live with personal integrity, one must come to a place of understanding of their past, their troubled feelings, their conflicts, etc. They have evolved past these issues and therefore no longer need to "feed" the same emotional patterns.   

New questions:

What’s the #1 thing you wish you’d known in order to let things go and get comfortable in your own skin?

First, the question seems to imply getting more comfortable with oneself by simply “letting go of things.” This sounds very passive to me and I can’t think of any examples where it really works, although it may appear to work in the short run. The one thing that I think is most helpful is treating my anger, anyone’s anger, as a signal that one’s expectations of reality are not being met and are in need of recalibration with reality. When our expectation of immediate gratification from the environment is renounced, the associated anger disappears.

Everyone has heard the phrase "don't take it personally." Here’s a way of looking at things so that you will never ever take anything personally again. Remember that the angry person wants to hurt you verbally, that is, to be sadistic with you. When you take it personally, you accommodate him by supplying the complementary masochistic counterpart necessary that makes his sadistic attempt successful! If he hurts you, it is only because you cooperated with him. And if you need another reason, consider that allowing the hostile person to hurt other people is not what’s best for them. You can help to frustrate his sadistic attempts by not gratifying them. The active understanding mode gives you the tools to enable you to not take things personally and to help others evolve emotionally.

Before I became practiced in using Active Understanding, I felt that when a hostile person made me feel bad, they were half the problem and I was the other half. Now I see that I am the whole problem. The other person brought their real self, for better or worse, to our relationship so that something meaningful might take place. The problem was really with me because I took their words personally and emotionally regressed.