Jack Lampl graduated from Harvard in 1973 and has been dominantly involved in the nonprofit sector for the last thirty years. During that time, he has worked as a community mediator and president of two national nonprofits. The Threshold Foundation is a progressive philanthropic fund for wealthy donors. The AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems advances a methodology for studying the unconscious dynamics of groups. He now consults with various nonprofits, and psychological and religious organizations, pro bono for the most part, and is a non-ST board member of the San Diego Psychoanalytic Center.
Robert and Jack seamlessly weave their conversation around topics of psycho-politics, diversity, race, and inequity. These factors have effects on each of us that are both conscious and unconscious. Some unseen parts of our behavior often do not serve our best interests. This conversation is both insightful and introspective of Jack Lampl’s journey on an unusual life and someone who exemplifies a psycho-political relationship with the world. The main point of this episode is to support you to get a clearer glimpse of your most sensitive self, and to expand your trust in your capacity to be of support to our troubled world. It also can serve as an inspiration to develop your friendships to support what is most treasured inside you.
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast
The Missing Conversation, Episode 53.
Robert Strock: (00:04)
Now, as I say this, what matters is you? And whether you take this in, do you really believe that the world is endangered and, or hoping that the impact of listening to this is going to expand your capacity? All of our capacity to face the fact that the world is truly endangered and we’re in a completely different time period in history than ever before.
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry. Born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (01:11)
I’d like to give you a very warm welcome again, to The Missing Conversation where we do our very best to address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today. And when we look for the most practical, inspiring programs, innovative ideas and individuals to support survival on our planet and find a sense of unity, inspiration, and fulfillment that both we and the world needs so badly today. Now, as I say this, what matters is you? And whether you take this in, do you really believe that the world is endangered and or hoping that the impact of listening to this is going to expand your capacity? All of our capacity to face the fact that the world is truly endangered and we’re in a completely different time period in history than ever before. And we have a very special guest today, who’s lived a very unusual life, exemplify someone who’s lived in a way that I would say really expresses so much of the essence of a psycho-political life and his relationship to the world.
Robert Strock: (02:27)
And he also has a very inspiring background and has made personal choices that are very nontraditional throughout his life when he had other great options that lead me to feel very honored to have him on our show today. He’s also been a very good friend, which I’m grateful for, not just because we’re friends, but because of his devotion to give to the world creatively. And I do mean creatively in a very unique way. He’s a very out of the box guy. I’d like to start off by introducing Jack Lampl and Jack has served several functions for a range of organizations from the threshold foundation that has given a portion of their wealth to projects that are helping those that need the most support. And also has entered a field, or in some ways has innovated unique ways of entering this field of looking at the unconscious effects in, in groups, in the field of psychotherapy, psychology, and has done it through life experience, which is really unusual because that organization generally has a psychiatrist or somebody that’s in the field of psychology.
Robert Strock: (03:49)
So he’s, he has done it through his life and what he’s gleaned from his life. And as a pioneer, even though he hasn’t gone through the standard academic background in that area, his Harvard education didn’t actually directly apply. And he, he chose to parlay it in directions that wouldn’t have been predictable to benefit the world. He’s a great example of psycho-politics. So, Jack Lampl has been primarily involved in the nonprofit sector for 30 years. After founding subjective technologies in art and technologies startups in the early VR era, he transitioned to the nonprofit world. During that time, he’s worked as a community mediator, been president of two national nonprofits, the Threshold Foundation, a progressive philanthropic fund of wealthy donors and a psycho-dynamically oriented organization, the AK Rice Institute for the study of social systems that advance a methodology for studying the unconscious dynamics of groups.
Robert Strock: (04:59)
And I say that in that way, because this is an area that is not very well known. And as we see in our country today, the importance of being able to understand the unconscious dynamics of groups might be one of the key angles that we have a chance of starting to move towards some kind of greater understanding of the world, the country, and the chaos that we’re in. He now consults to a variety of nonprofits, psychological and religious organizations, pro bono for the most part, and is a non-analyst board member of the San Diego Psychoanalytic Center. He graduated from Harvard in 1973 and is primarily supported by an investment portfolio, generated from an inheritance and moderately conservative lifestyle. So Jack, thank you so much for joining us on the show today and really would be interested in you just giving us a sense of your history and also tying in a bit as to why you would relate to psycho-politics and why it’s a model for you that resonates.
Jack Lampl: (06:13)
Well, thank you, Robert. Um, I’m honored and wondering who the person is that you’re talking about and then had to realize while actually you’re talking about me . Um, so there’s a kind of natural fit. I think, between the things that I have chosen in my life and the things that I’ve kind of stumbled in, um, with, with psycho-politics. And I think probably beginning with the fact that I grew up in a wealthy suburb of Cleveland Shaker Heights, that in the sixties was one of the first communities to sort of intentionally integrate and it was not without, uh, pain. And, and I think to this day, looking back at the experiment, it wasn’t entirely successful, but I think at an early age, it brought me in touch with some of the issues around, um, diversity around race, around inequity, um, and what it felt like in a community that, a wealthy community, that we made an attempt to sort of heal some of the rifts and, and the culture.
Jack Lampl: (07:20)
Um, and I, and I grew up in a very college track kind of community father who’d gone to Harvard and the assumption was, well, I would go to Harvard as well. So as expected, I went to Harvard without thinking about it very much, because who would say no to this wonderful privileged place that had such a fabulous reputation and I was really miserable. Um, and I think it was in some ways, a, a lack of courage that kept me there for four and a half years. Um, I was depressed for most of the time. And I think in looking back, I think it had a lot to do with the fact that there was a certain kind of model, a cultural model that Harvard represented, a kind of indoctrination into a particular way of being in the world, certain kind of arrogance self-assurance that just didn’t take with me.
Jack Lampl: (08:10)
And I, I think it had something to do with the fact that I’m from a Jewish, very assimilated family, and that for my father who went to Harvard during the forties, it was a very difficult time to be Jewish at Harvard. And I think a lot of his own assimilation had to do with hiding parts of himself, which didn’t work as well for me. So, I left Harvard in somewhat in pieces and spent a number of years wandering in Asia. And, um, in some ways seeking the thing that I expected Harvard to be, which would, was a much more interesting, diverse, creative place. Um, I came back from Harvard. I spent some time exploring alternative communities again, I think looking for what I imagined Harvard represented and then realizing that it wasn’t really for me. Um, then I did some short time in, uh, selling real estate, which was very eye-opening and then discovered, um, community mediation, a lawyer friend of mine said, you know, you’d be interested in mediation.
Jack Lampl: (09:17)
And I think I should step back a little bit and say that I, I had a certain amount of money that came from my family, And I spent many years not spending money. So, I developed the nest egg that gave me an incredible amount of freedom to kind of choose what I wanted to do. Um, so I got involved in, in a community mediation center here in San Diego and was trained as a mediator and spent a few years mainly working in neighborhood mediation between neighbors, very often, or small businesses. And it was really eye opening because I started to see how kind of the, the origin of war starts with two families sometimes around loud music or around a barking dog or around a fence, around just diversity or the difference between the two people. And mediation was satisfying in that there was some opportunity for people if they, especially if they’d been in the pain of the dispute long enough, to find at least a, a working agreement. But then over time, I started to realize that, well, I’ve, I maybe have helped manage a symptom, but I haven’t really managed to deal with the underlying issues. Um, and that led me to be more interested in what is the unconscious, what are the un, what are the unseen parts of our behavior that really often don’t even serve our best interests. Um, and that led me along a long trail that ended me in the psychology, psychoanalytic world. Um, and I’ll continue on that. ,
Robert Strock: (10:54)
You know, I, I love the, the simplicity and the relationship to two neighbors with barking dogs leading to war, uh, because that is exactly the premise of psycho-politics, which is just simple unprocessed anger, the inability to do what you did right at the beginning, which is to say I was depressed in Harvard and then be able to work with it rather than just be a slave to it, or just react off it. Mm-hmm . And seeing that it is that kind of, uh, very young part of ourselves that if it isn’t processed, literally can lead to waring in a neighbor, but it also can lead to bigger wars. And it’s hard to fathom. And I know you’re gonna go into it further with the group unconscious, how easy it is to have it spread through a whole vast community, an idea that’s seated that that can be utterly destructive or utterly damaging. Uh, and I look forward to you, you going more into that, but going from the simple to the, to the very deep complex world, you know, is a big part of, of what, when I know you discovered young, and I also discovered young, and it’s, it’s mind blowing that, how immature at one level, how young, so many major decisions are made in our world today.
Jack Lampl: (12:23)
Yeah. And to say a little bit more about the mediation experience, which was really formative, which was being in the role of the mediator, which essentially works to be able to hold in some ways, internally, both sides, you know, going with my own preconception of who had the case and who didn’t and realizing that in some ways people became a mirror image of each other, that the parts of themselves that they didn’t like ended up on the other side of the fence, you know? So it, it, and, and, and finding the kind of in some ways miraculous process when people really heard each other and they took back some of the, the projections. I mean, that’s a term that I’ll talk a little bit more. Taking back, what, what, what they put into the other person, you know, they, at least for a brief time, they had the experience of what it feels like to, to work through something rather than to enact it.
Jack Lampl: (13:19)
And it, and, and very often it just involves slowing things down. You know, I, I did some work with one of the, one of the influential people in my life in the last 20 years was a woman by the name of Lily Allen, who started an organization in the, in Atlanta called, Be Present. And she started working with young black women and girls trying to help them find voice. And over time, she developed a way of speaking, a way of talking, a way of holding space that invited white women, and then eventually white men to be able to have these really powerful conversations about race, gender, power, and class, and, and how a community can, can develop when you’re able to have those kinds of conversations and what you would often say when a conflict would happen, there would be often a conflict, you know, myself being in a room with a woman who was on welfare with two kids, and, you know, what did I know about that world?
Jack Lampl: (14:17)
And a conflict would happen. And what would Lily would say is, slow it down, slow it down, and you slow it down slowly enough, to be able to untangle the misperceptions and to, to make sure you’re being heard, which is a, a structure that happens in mediation as well, but in a much more organic way, just to see how quick we are to sort of operate on our limbic system, on that part of our brain that just reacts rather than the part that can slow down enough to look at what is this feeling that’s coming up to me, where does it come from? Whose feeling is it, is it mine? Is it the groups? And, and you know, of course this, a lot of this has to do with what, you know, what your, your family of origin is. What, how did you experience, how did I experience myself as a child? So, a lot of the skills that I developed to thrive or to survive as a child are very useful to me in my life right now.
Robert Strock: (15:12)
Yeah. I mean, I mean, the, the simplicity, again, of learning something from our background and having a set way of going, and then as you say to slow it down enough to say, do I really believe this is objective? Do I really believe that my background is the right background, quote, capital R right. You know, that, that I have the answers being wealthy, or I have the answers being poor, or I have the answers being black, or I have the answers being white that slowing it down and recognizing that we all come from a bias and unless we slow it down, we’re not gonna be able to hear both sides of any issue. And, you know, the beauty of mediation, you know, as you’re talking about it is not enough to where this room to hear two sides or more than two sides of any issue.
Jack Lampl: (16:13)
Yeah. And I, and I think in, in some ways I start to realize that everybody has a wound of one sort or another, you know, and, and so in the end, sort of being seen, being heard, being respected goes an incredibly long way in terms of dealing with conflicts and that when the wound is deep and it’s not acknowledged really bad things happen.
Jack Lampl: (16:37)
Yeah. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna throw a personal question at you. Um, so what, what do you think your wound is, or a wound in you that you feel is the one that you’ve had to keep watching and maybe bringing out in, into the room that is, is one that would be a model for all of us to be able to see cuz it, my experience is as being in psychotherapy for 50 years is that everybody carries multiple wounds and usually there’s not a witness on them. And usually it’s not part of the conversation, but I know you’re somebody that’s, you know, utterly transparent in, in so many ways. I’m curious what, what you would say that would be.
Jack Lampl: (17:24)
Well, I mean, I think there, I I’ve had a long time since I’ve sort of recognized the amount of privilege and good luck and good fortune, I’ve had, an inner conflict and in some ways a kind of survival guilt or a sense of how I, how am I entitled to, to the privilege and the good fortune I have. On the one hand, which has led me in some ways to feel unentitled, to love and respect and things that would make my life better. And so, there’s been a kind of compensatory struggle all along. I mean, I basically, most of my adult life I’ve been doing service work, which has been incredibly rewarding and it, it, it’s been very difficult for me to actually ask to get paid in, in many situations, um, for fear of, well, you know, there’s people who have no money, um, I don’t need the money.
Jack Lampl: (18:25)
Why should I, you know, even from an organization or a group that can afford it. And so I’ve, I’ve struggled a lot with the sense of, you know, what, how to use my privilege in a way that’s not, um, self-destructive or self-canceling. And of course that has been magnified a million times with what’s going on in the world now in this country around sort of white supremacy and privilege and gender and race and all those conversations. And, and I have to say, it’s been very difficult to show up in these conversations as if somehow, what do I know about suffering? What do I know about lack? What do I know about lack of respect?
Robert Strock: (19:08)
Jack Lampl: (19:09)
You know, so, and, and, you know, and I, I enter these conversations with, it’s finding that sweet spot between humility and self deprecation, I think is really important in these conversations.
Robert Strock: (19:23)
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Yeah. I, I think the thing that you are demonstrating, which would be such a good foundation for all of us is to assume that we’re coming from a background that literally means we’re only coming from a part of the whole, and that to assume the opposite might very well be true and be interested like you’re talking about coming from entitlement. And so you felt unentitled and, and so something about that helps the mediation process, helps the world and to have what I would call a healthy, constructive self-doubt that, that really you bring into the room, which I think is why you’ve been one of the reasons, why you’ve been such a good leader is because you come in with a personal humility and a self-deprecation that, and a humor, that really, really brings out in the open that you’re not coming from, like I know because I have wealth, it’s more, it’s more like I might be disqualified because I have wealth.
Jack Lampl: (20:34)
Well, I, I had a conversation with colleagues this morning and we were talking about someone who had, was, was interested in becoming the leader in some particular work. And the thought occurred to me was in some ways the least narcissistic person in the world, in the, in the, in the group is probably the most qualified to be the leader and the least likely to end up being the leader. yeah. So I, I can say a little bit more about this sort of the paradox of wealth. Like one of the organizations that I got involved in a number of years ago, Threshold Foundation, um, is a, is a group of people about 40 years old started with, by some young inheritors who were really struggling with having a social conscience and finding themselves, you know, in the privilege of getting way large amounts of money from activities that they consider to be morally reprehensible, or at least not socially productive.
Jack Lampl: (21:34)
So, it was a group that basically continues to this day to, to give money primarily to startup organizations, to groups that are more progressive than would traditionally be in the radar of traditional foundations to learn how to do that ethically and also struggle with just the psychological issues around growing up with wealth. And for most people who are not in that situation, it’s pretty hard to imagine that people who grow up with servants or, you know, being driven to school and, you know, which was not my case, but in some of these cases, you know, growing up in that culture is, can be psychologically problematic in ways that then cause people to continue to enact the very same dynamic that’s caused this inequity in the first place. Because if you don’t feel safe other than with the wealth and the money and all the support you have around that lack of safety can create a, a sense of, well, I just need more and more money around me.
Jack Lampl: (22:36)
I need more and more success in order to feel safe. So, part of what the organization is kind of, was, is continues to work with is how, how to work through the pathology of that. Yeah. In a productive and nurturing way. And as a result of my work in the organization, then I became exposed to another methodology that was used as a consultation to the organization called, Group Relations, which is kind of the next chapter of my life. So, the connection is–there was a time in the organization when there was a struggle between the men and the women in the organization. And women were pretty much in leadership because the association of maleness and men and the kind of patriarchy and the sort of, sort of consuming capitalism was associated so negatively that there was no room for that kind of aggressive, healthy male energy in the organization.
Jack Lampl: (23:39)
So, we’re sort of looking at the sort of psychological underpinnings of something that goes on in groups and organizations all the time. So, they invited some people to come into the organization and do an intervention to basically try to see, to try to unpack some of these dynamics. And I was part of that, uh, and it kind of opened a Pandora’s Box of a kind of new edge organization that was very much in denial of its own aggression, denial of a lot of things that needed to be worked through in order for the organization to be effective. And that was Group Relations. And so that’s a methodology that has pretty much been this center of my life for the last 20 years.
Robert Strock: (24:21)
If, if you were gonna go right into the male-female and, and really try to encapsulate very briefly, like here’s a couple of the key insights that really allowed some degree of communication or some degree of identification or empathy or something like that, what would you say was a, a key insight or, or way of working with it, way of revealing it?
Jack Lampl: (24:45)
Well, I, I think it, again, it’s another example of kind of splitting, you know, as if, as if all of us are healthy people hold sort of masculine identity and feminine identity, the sort of nurturing receptive and the aggressive, and that when those things were out of balance in a person or in a culture you end up with very extreme kinds of situation, you end up with people storming, you know, the capital out of a sense of impotency and rage, you know? And, and, and so, so again, it’s, it’s like in the, in the example of mediation, this sort of, the world and the groups that I work with there start to develop a theme of noticing how this sort of splitting the, the, the, the incomplete person and the way that gets manifested in a group or an organization is a kind of just like in the body, it’s an imbalance of health, you know? Um.
Robert Strock: (25:46)
Yeah. I mean, when you, when you say splitting, I know that the, the audience probably that’s, that’s a term that’s important to understand. It’s like you split off the one side of yourself and you ignore the other side. And, and I think the, the, the key and correct me if, if you, you see it differently, the key is really being able to be the other at some significant level and let in the other, and, you know, a big part of psycho-politics is recognizing that the family unit and the sense of self or the ego has a sense that I’m it, and everyone else’s other, and, and basically mediation and group relations work is in some ways, a integration of letting in the other and not being so in a box of self where you’ve split off from the world. And that the world is basically on an individual level. So separated, even foundations are separated. Nations are obviously separated. Religions are separated, you know, almost every institution is separated and the idea of being more inclusive and the other being more of the self and having that blending is such an important part of, of healing ourselves and healing our world.
Jack Lampl: (27:08)
Yeah. I mean, let me say a little bit more about the group relations methodology, cuz I think it might be helpful. I mean, it, it, it sort of evolved from a body of theory that was developed by a, a psycho, psychoanalyst, Wilford Bion, after the war in, in terms of understanding some of the phenomenon of how groups act. And part of the theory is, is that all of us really desperately wanna belong to groups. And at the same time, we desperately don’t wanna belong to groups cause we don’t wanna get lost in the group. And I think there’s a family aspect of that as well. We want to be part of the family, but a certain point, we want to individuate from the family. So the dynamic, the, the dynamic that we look at is that whenever you’re in a group, there’s a significant amount of anxiety associated with being in a group, and a group like an individual has an unconscious and a group needs to manage his anxiety in order to do the work that it sets out to do.
Jack Lampl: (28:08)
And very often the group never talks about its anxiety. It just struggles with all kinds of hidden agendas and problems and things like that. So, one of the ways that the group deals with its anxiety is creating a scapegoat. So, if a group can’t deal with the tensions and the conflict inside itself, it will find somebody in the group or somebody outside the group to say, well, if only we could get rid of this person, we will all be fine. And very often in a group, if you worked in a group in your office or something like that, they’ll be the troublemaker. And if you get rid of the troublemaker, well, if the group doesn’t deal with the underlying anxiety about what’s really going on, somebody else will have to step into the role. And the, so part of what we study is the, the dynamics of, you know, how a group gets into a work group and how a group gets into this, what we call a dependency group.
Jack Lampl: (29:01)
So, another example of that might be, well, if we would only elect a great leader, for example, Barack Obama, he’s gonna fix everything and we can relax. So people pretty much give up their authority with the hope that some leader is gonna take care of things, but that creates again a split and it creates a, it creates a disappointment because then eventually when the leader doesn’t do all the things, one imagines, you turn on the leader and we say, well, we need another leader. So again, the idea is to understand these underlying dynamics because they repeat themselves over and over again historically. And we’re seeing that now.
Robert Strock: (29:48)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean the importance of seeing the lack of acknowledgement of anxiety, of inadequacy, of helplessness, of anger, all of those dynamics get projected or get thrown out on someone else. And it’s you, it’s not me. It’s, it’s, it’s somebody else in the, another Middle Eastern country. They’re the enemy. We’re, we’re the innocent. And as long, as long as it’s that split that you talked about earlier, the world is in deep dodo. I mean, it’s, it’s in deep shit. And, so the work you’re doing is so important for, for the world, for the country, for the city, for the neighborhood, it it’s all group dynamic levels, but a lot of it has to do with being transparent. And I, I, I’m quite confident the reason why you broke the tradition of the analytic groups that you’ve been able to move to the front of is because you are a transparent person by nature. Uh, you almost don’t know how to not be transparent. And, you know, you, you, you could even be a Woody Allen type of character from my vantage point, going in and suddenly you’re going, what the hell? This guy’s, this guy’s, this, guy’s a crazy guy. He’s talking about everything that’s going on inside. What the fuck? You know, it’s like here, here he is announcing what’s really happening in the room.
Jack Lampl: (31:13)
Well, I don’t know if Woody Allen is the best person to to be compared to these days, so.
Robert Strock: (31:21)
, I was only talking about one part of him.
Jack Lampl: (31:23)
Right? The split off parts. Yes
Robert Strock: (31:26)
. Yeah, no, I, I really appreciate the, uh, the modeling of being transparent and the modeling of how important that is in group dynamics, how important that is in relationship. Um, and how, in a way, how hopeless our situation and the world is if we all stay separate and split off from each other.
Jack Lampl: (31:52)
Hmm. I think, I think the thing that’s the, the thing that’s most painful to me that I’m in touch with often is just the sense of grieving and loss. When, when I, when I have, you know, friends of color, black friends, Latinx friends, and hearing their stories of what that feels like to grow up in this culture, or just realizing the gap between us, it just, it, it fills me with sorrow around, you know, why, what is there in between that connection? What, what prevents that intimacy and, you know, and, and, you know, being friends with some people from my high school still, and just hearing, especially black friends, hearing their experience of growing up in this integrated school and how painful that was for them. Yeah. You know, it, it, it makes me incredibly sad, you know, it’s kind of, Rodney King can’t we all get along, you know, and it’s, it’s, and so very often in these conversations, many conversations I’ve been in around race, gender, class, become very fractious and very heated. And I go very quickly to feeling like the thing that we share in common, even though we’re not able to verbalize it is the grief at where we all are right now.
Robert Strock: (33:20)
Jack Lampl: (33:22)
I sort of imagine this collective grieving ritual around let’s, let’s grieve for all the things that we hope for that we’re losing. And then we continue to lose let’s work something differently.
Robert Strock: (33:36)
Yeah. Well, you’re, you’re mentioning two crucial places that humanity in general has not caught up to. And one is the importance of universal grief and the, the other one is the unconscious. And, and, unless, unless one of the major messages we’re trying to get across in The Missing Conversation is the importance of identifying with beyond yourself and your family, being able to be open to grief, being able to be open to the most vulnerable feelings that we all have as human beings, and that we are unconscious, and we will remain unconscious. We’re not gonna get over it, but we can try to move forward. And I was gonna ask you, you talk about the fact that you’re left with grief. Wouldn’t you agree that that’s part of your inspiration and motivation to lessen the grief and that, that a lot of your life is in the grief. You’re saying, how can I possibly be of support with this grief to myself and to others?
Jack Lampl: (34:42)
Yeah, I, I think that’s true. And, you know, and I think there there’s a connection to, you know, I grew up in a family that was really bad at grief that just tried to pretend like loss wasn’t there. So, part of me is sort of like working through my own grief and then looking outside and seeing that that’s a shared part. You know, the other thing I wanna say a little bit about is, is the term, the unconscious. And, you know, I know the organization that I work with, the group relations organization, which is the AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, we we’ve talked a lot about. And we have a particular training methodology that we use to help people have this experience that the unconscious is a word that has a lot of connotations to a lot of people in this culture who aren’t sort of elite, you know, East Coast, you know, coastal people, you know, so it’s, it’s figuring out like how, how, how to have sort of regular people understand what that means, you know, and I think in indigenous cultures, it, it comes out in different ways around stories, around ancestors.
Jack Lampl: (35:53)
So, so to sort of take some of the elitist out of the term has been kind of a challenge to how to have this conversation. Yeah. Um, because, because it’s really scary for us to think of the fact that a significant amount of what goes on in us is, is beyond our awareness and we will never become aware of it. Yeah. So that’s, that’s really threatening to a lot of people. Um.
Robert Strock: (36:18)
Yeah. Absolutely. And, and I, my approach and, you know, and in really The Missing Conversation says again, and again, it’s reconditioning it possible that instead of going, oh, shit, I’m unconscious again, or, oh shit, I’m unconscious, and I’m never gonna be conscious. It’s more like, oh, good, I’m aware of being unconscious. Congratulations. There’s a, there’s a complete pivot from, from the oh shit reaction to the finally I’m in a stable enough place that I can admit and be actually appreciative that I can see the unconscious
Jack Lampl: (37:00)
Well, I mean, I, I think another way I look at it is, you know, having spent many years in psychoanalysis is realizing that things come to the surface. If, if you, if you create an invitation, things will come to the surface slowly, slowly, because a lot of those things are not, are under the surface for a good reason, you know, sort of denial and, and losing memory sometimes is very protective. So, Sort of inviting the unconscious, inviting the parts of the unconscious that wanna come up is pretty much all you can do. And then to be grateful when something shows up, even when it’s something that looks kind of nasty or kind of ugly. So, you know, being aware of implicit bias, it’s like a great example of that. You know, in spite of myself, I have these instant reactions to people who are different than me, that I may not like that somehow are very deeply implanted in me. And to be grateful that I become aware of those things and to, to have a certain sense of forgiveness to myself. Yeah. And to realize that if I do that, if I have a, in your terminology, a friendly mind toward those things, right then more of them will show up. It’s sort of like if you’re, if you invite it, if you, if you’re, if, if you are a good host to a guest, more guests will come .
Robert Strock: (38:20)
And that that’s beautifully said. And, and I, I think you’re saying it in a, a similar way, you know, that, that it really is a part of why we’re alive. It actually is a life purpose to be aware of our unconscious. And it’s not the bad news. It’s the good news that we have a chance while we’re still alive to realize that we’re unconscious and also not to take it to the extreme that we’re unconscious. And then period, it’s more, we’re unconscious, and therefore there’s an arrow that we’re moving toward, the possibility of having some consciousness and some identification with those that we’ve described as other, in, you know, in our prior lives. And we have a chance to be able to expand ourselves with becoming aware of our unconscious.
Jack Lampl: (39:08)
Hmm. Well, I think for me, it’s a huge source of creativity. I mean, to sort of having this mysterious bag of tricks that are hidden down there somewhere, sometimes come up or horrifying, but sometimes they’re really fun and interesting. And of course, fairy tales and stories and dreams are all part of this, you know, so you know, there’s nightmares and then there’s fun and playful dreams, you know? And so, um, and of course, you know, in so many traditions, there’s the question of, you know, are we living or are we dreaming that we’re living? And, you know, so, so in, in some ways our culture is more hostile to the unconscious than most other cultures throughout history.
Robert Strock: (39:49)
Jack Lampl: (39:49)
But there’s some way in which, and you only have to look at the last, you know, five or six years in this country and realize that there’s, it’s like, uh, the whole country has been gripped by the unconscious.
Robert Strock: (40:03)
Absolutely. And I think, I think the two areas there might be another one or two that would be in the same league, but it’s a pretty big league, is the unconscious and death. And, and I, I think we’re dealing with both right now, we’re dealing with the unconscious and we’re dealing with the potential death of a democracy, the death of our world. And so, we don’t instinctively, we don’t wanna deal with either one. We want to just get back to our private fairy tale life, but the whole point of group relations, the whole point of The Missing Conversation, the whole point of many people throughout the world that are working on this is to realize we can’t afford to stay this separate anymore. If we stay this separate, we’re fucked. And so, so we need to, to find many, many different modalities of being able to identify with the other more and being able to come to a greater peace.
Robert Strock: (40:53)
And that doesn’t mean we’re gonna become one or some airy fairy new age thing. It means that we’re gonna move a percentage of us that’s gonna be a bit more open. We’re gonna have, as you said, gradual discoveries in the unfolding of the unconscious. Now I wanted to ask you a specific question if you have any, and you, maybe you have a few, but if you have any specific breakthrough that you consider to be one that really aided your personal awareness or inspired you to move more and more into your heart, or more and more into your life work, maybe it was a teacher, maybe it was an event, maybe it was an epiphany, but if there’s any, anything that you share that you felt like was particularly transforming for you.
Jack Lampl: (41:38)
Yeah. I, I, I guess, you know, there, there, I, I wouldn’t say that there are sort of pivotal aha moments, you know, like one of those transformative moments, I think they’ve come in small bursts around awareness, first of all, perhaps around, um, the power of groups. Uh, I think doing the group work, I do, I think I was really blown away and I, and I, like I said, I done some exploration in intentional communities and various groups and organizations. And I think I like to think of myself as much more independent than I actually am. And so, I saw in small and large ways how the group could use me in some ways, you know, in, in the group relations terminology, we’ve referred to the group using individuals. So, for example, I would be in large groups and start to get very anxious, especially when the group just seemed to be bullshitting to, to, to be talking a lot and not saying anything.
Jack Lampl: (42:44)
And I would get more and more agitated. And finally, you know, in some dramatic situations, I would stand up and say, you know, what the hell are you doing? This is just nonsense. You know, and I’d be very agitated and everybody would look at me and say, well, who’s this neurotic, crazy kind of guy. But over time, what I learned is, and part of the theory, and I think it’s true is that when we’re in a group, we are all, everything we say and do is also reflective of our own history, but also of the group, the needs of the group. So, once I realize that, then I realize, well, if I’m feeling anxious and feeling irritated by this, there must be other people in the group. And I just invite them to come in. So, rather than being the person who gets sacrificed, I’ll say, excuse me, I’m feeling like this, this group is going nowhere.
Jack Lampl: (43:34)
Is there anybody else in the group that wants this feeling that, and then all of a sudden then people start say, oh yeah, I’m, I’m glad you said that, cuz really I’m feeling bored. So, so here’s another example. Okay. This is a good one. So when I was, uh, 17, I had just graduated from, from high school. I was about to go to Harvard, my father took me to a meeting in Washington DC, as part of this organization for presidents, young presidents of organizations. And it was gonna be a sort of a public affairs thing. We were given all kinds of special presentations and, um, I was allowed to introduce one of their speakers and everybody, so they were very proud of me. Um, and it was a pretty conservative group, there was a small group of people who seemed to have a little bit of long hair.
Jack Lampl: (44:33)
And, but basically it was a very conservative group and it was for the parents and their children. So, some had sons and some had daughters. This was during, this was 1969. So, we went to the Pentagon for a special briefing from some Information Officer and here were sort of presidents of a number of small companies and their, their, their children. And this Information Officer was giving the most absurd presentation about the logistics of moving supplies, the kind of stuff that the Pentagon to this day continues to do. I mean what they did for how many years about Afghanistan, that everything is going great, we’re winning. This was the kind of speech that they were giving. And so, the guy has a flip chart and he’s showing all this positive stuff. And so, people start to ask ridiculous questions and I’m sitting there in the back of the room getting more and more agitated and, and just really, really agitated, and finally, I jumped up and I said, something like, this is all bullshit. You know, if you were my father, I would have no respect for you.
Jack Lampl: (45:49)
And, and there was a dead silence in the room. My father was furious and a young man all dressed in a tie, my age, who in the front row stood up and said, I’d like to apologize for this young man’s outrageous behavior. He doesn’t represent us so, so for me, that was the first example of someway being used from the group. Cuz somebody had to say that yeah, I’m sure there was other people in the room who were thinking, wait a second, there’s there’s, there’s an incongruity here. And it was a traumatic experience for me. It did not feel at all good. And it took years for my father and I to even be able to speak about it. And I realize at the time now that the, that the power of a group based also connected to one’s personal history can mobilize people to do sometimes courageous and sometimes reckless things.
Robert Strock: (46:44)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean that is, that is such a great story. Matter of fact, before we started, I had a, kind of a momentary awareness of asking you, would you be comfortable sharing that story, but I spaced out.
Jack Lampl: (46:55)
Well, and, and the funny thing is that, that there was a magazine from the organization, and the next episode, there was a description of this meeting in Washington and I was called the young radical, who screamed you’re dead, you deal in blow.
Jack Lampl: (47:11)
, which, which I hadn’t done. I wish I had done it because it was so perfect. You know, and I was hardly a young radical at the time. Um.
Robert Strock: (47:18)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I, I mean, I, I think that, again, the uniqueness of you is that you have to work hard not to speak from your guts and that, that it’s so instinctually, um, natural for you to speak from your guts. And of course, a part of you is terrified of it and you hate it. And so, you have this mixed feeling of, I, I wanna go for the power and I don’t wanna go for the power and I wanna express my entitlement and I’m not entitled. And you’re aware of so many contradictions inside yourself that you expose them. And, and that, that is, I mean, you can imagine today how many Republicans there are that are, are going, what the fuck we’re destroying democracy, what the fuck, you know? And, and they have it, but they’re tuning it out. And they’re saying the only way we’re gonna get elected and this, the, the means the means justify the ends. And so, you know, he does have some good policies and so therefore it’s worthwhile, but the amount of people that would need to do what you did in the Pentagon in that, in that moment, what 18, 19, that, that’s, what it’s gonna take is a number of people that are gonna really scream it from the rooftops.
Jack Lampl: (48:27)
Well, it, it’s interesting because in, in, sort of connection to that, you know, why don’t people speak up, cuz they’re, they’re, they’re terrified of, of Trump and the media machine that can–well, you know, I’ve been in conversations and, you know, around the sort of race, white supremacy, and there’s a small group of black intellectuals who are pushing back a little bit around the woke movement. And they’ve been very much ostracized from the black community. And so, I’ve found myself with a certain amount of sympathy to some of the thoughts about maybe this wokeness thing is too polarizing. Yeah. Maybe the kind of, there’s a kind of almost religious quality, you know? So, I’ve been in conversations that feel a little bit like, you know, Chinese reeducation camps around, this is what you’re supposed to say. This is, this is how repentant white privilege people need to be in these conversations. And I get it. I certainly feel, you know, there there’s certain, there is a certain amount of healthy guilt around the situation we’re in, but there’s a certain point at which it becomes pathological, but I’ll be, I’m not gonna be the one to push back in those situations. And I’m, I’m really watching that, you know?
Robert Strock: (49:41)
Well, I, I, I can empathize with the people who are keeping their mouth shut.
Robert Strock: (49:46)
Yeah. Yeah. And when you say almost like a religious situation, you know, you’re, you’re really referring to like a religious situation where people are polarized into separate religions. You know, it, the, the dangers of, of thinking you’re right. Thinking you’re chosen, you know, thinking that you, you are the people that represent the true and one and only God, etc., etc., rather than the whole damn planet that is in danger of not surviving. So I, I know we’re winding down toward the end, but I’d be curious as you’ve mentioned your money, what kind of inner world can you give us a glimpse of your conflicting, inner world as it relates to the money that you were raised with and how, how much you’re gonna give away before you die, whether you’re gonna give it away before you die, you know, all the mixed emotions that are there, can you give us a personal glimpse of that?
Jack Lampl: (50:37)
Well, I’m trying, I’m trying to give as much of it as I can away in this as, uh, thoughtful and leveraged a way as possible. I, I don’t have kids. Um, so I’m, I’m not sort of worried about that and it, it’s, it’s kind of a weird dilemma, but it’s kind of figuring out all right, what to do with it. And, you know, and, and also I struggle a lot with, you know, doing things anonymously or doing things with my name on them. I mean, I, I sort of, you know, I, I, I understand there’s, there’s both sides to that question. So, and, and having worked in Threshold for a long time and notice the dynamics between the donor and the beneficiary, there’s some gnarly dynamics around, do you think you’re entitled to do something with your money? And at the same time you might have some experience and insights that might be helpful to the organization.
Robert Strock: (51:33)
Jack Lampl: (51:34)
So, I’ve been trying to, to, to sort of leverage not just my giving, but also my own expertise, which I feel in some ways is as valuable as whatever money I can provide. So, to try to develop relationships rather than just to write a check, you know?
Robert Strock: (51:50)
Jack Lampl: (51:50)
And figuring out, not just my financial resources, but my personal resources in terms of energy, and then the feeling of perfectionism of Holy Mac, how do you even decide what’s leveraged? Do you, do you even know, you know, and, and to not get, um, to just take small steps, you know, to be realistic, um.
Robert Strock: (52:13)
And do, and do you feel like you’re still in a very fertile state in terms of like, wow, I, I could change more this next year, you know, as it relates to money or do you feel like you’ve found your way?
Jack Lampl: (52:26)
No, it’s I I’m always underperforming by my standards, you know? Um, yeah, so it’s kind of like, as my own timeline, my own mortality timeline goes out. It’s like measuring kind of what, what I’m productively able to do and just the, the dire need of things. And, you know, I, I think I’m more worried about democracy at the moment than anything else.
Robert Strock: (52:52)
Yeah. Yeah. Me, me too, me too, and, and global warming, and I love the word “underperforming.” I mean, I, I think that’s just such a, a great way to hold, uh, things, especially because there’s not a condemnation in it. There’s, there’s more of it, it an inquiry. Um, I can, you know, I can feel that it’s not, you, you’re not really putting yourself down, but you’re, you’re being in that, you know, you’re looking, like you said, you’re looking for that sweet spot between self-deprecation, humility, you know, it’s, you’re, you’re close to that sweet spot.
Jack Lampl: (53:24)
So, well, I, I am putting myself down a little, like say I haven’t, I haven’t completely dropped that.
Robert Strock: (53:30)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, I, I actually think that putting ourselves down a little, and I emphasize a little, is healthy. It’s necessary. If, if we aren’t then, then it’s, then we’re just kind of operating from Godland and, and I, I think that’s healthy. I think it’s really healthy. So, as sort of a final question, you know, what, what would you see, and maybe I’d like to share this question with you, but what do you see as your greatest challenge emotionally or situationally as we face the current poly crises that are going on with global warming, economic inequality, terrorism, corruption, all, all of that. How, how do you feel, uh, your greatest challenge? What, what on a feeling level is your greatest challenge and, and maybe situationally, how, how are you thinking about it?
Jack Lampl: (54:17)
Well, I think I’m increasingly aware of my own mortality. And so, I’m trying to make sense of my life and what am I leaving behind? What, you know, my mother was very depressed most of her life, and she would often say toward the end of her life, “I have nothing to show for my life,” which was absolutely untrue. . You know, if, if nothing else, she had some kids that weren’t just swiss cheese or whatever, , whatever the expression is. So, you know, I think I’m trying to figure out sort of, you know, maybe how to leave the earth better than how I found it, which is a big, which is a big lift right now.
Robert Strock: (54:58)
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Yeah. I mean, I, I know for me, I feel that the grief, the helplessness, the sorrow, the incredulousness, you know, the really, really dynamic feeling of powerlessness is with me on a daily basis. And it’s just saying, is there any possible next step, is there any possible next step that I can take small, medium, large whatever’s there without pressuring too much, but just trying to let it be an inspiration, if there was ever a time of life that we were born, where we wanted to have a sense of purpose, the world is giving us plenty of opportunities to have a sense of purpose.
Jack Lampl: (55:50)
Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s, you know, I think the way which my life has sort of unfolded is I’ve sort of gone to where the energy was, where something called me. So, I think, like you say, there’s a kind of act of trust in this I’m feeling helpless, but I can feel a little bit helpful in the presence of the helplessness.
Robert Strock: (56:10)
Yeah. Yeah. And I think that very dichotomy of being able to feel into the most painful feelings, and then to be able to see if we can pivot toward, like you said, helplessness to helpfulness or grief, to some kind of even small sweet contribution of some sort or, or group identification. And I, and my hope is for you, uh, that, that are listening to us that, that you’re personalizing this in a very deep, personal way, because everyone’s situation is so unique and everyone matters, and this is gonna be a situation where it’s gonna require billions of people for us to survive these global crises. And Jack, I, I just wanna thank you so much for sharing your unique, creative soul and, and your, your life journey, and, uh, just appreciate you so much.
Jack Lampl: (57:03)
And thank you for your work. Um, you really stuck your neck out, and I really appreciate that.
Robert Strock: (57:09)
Thanks so much.
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