What has Howard done for me? Let me count the ways. His books have enabled me to “see” with eyes of deep feeling into the often dysfunctional dynamics in business and health care organizations from the suppressed deep emotional reactions driving organizational irrationality to the emotional reactions to the working

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environment, changes in an organization, and the narcissistic dynamics of leaders. He modeled how to say such things in ways people could be touched by and use. I have found his skill and intuition in that regard immensely helpful.

But Howard also makes clear the difficulties of being a container for others, the somewhat flawed and messy paths that lead to saying the helpful thing at the helpful moment, a reality any of us can expect to experience. He wants to share the reality, not leave an impression of unique, personal magic. I find that humility central to how he listens and speaks. That modesty and humility empower others. He cares about that.

He’s a poet as well as an anthropologist and consultant. He’s taught me (and many of us) that we can use poetry to express more than we knew we could, making it possible for “the rest of me” to speak where my rational self falters. When listening to someone, he takes in what that person is not conscious of feeling and helps give it a voice. In poetry, he attends to what a place or situation evokes but will not otherwise be noticed. In both listening and poetry, he connects us to our deeper selves. This is what matters to him. Such listening is an invaluable gift, he says, perhaps his central teaching.

To give an example of how I like to think I learned from him, I regarded modern hospital interiors as sterile until the day I was in for a lithotripsy. One reassuring nurse stayed with my wife and me from start to finish, offered to get my wife coffee (and did so), and was there by my side when I came out of the anesthesia. One person, one relationship throughout the day, made for a radically different affair from all other hospital experiences I’d had. And I noticed the same interior architecture now felt warm. I realized it’s what we are to each other, how much we stand by each other, that makes a place, as much as the shape of its halls or the colors of its rooms. I had not previously felt my need for one caring staff person walking with me through such a day. I think this is a hallmark of a Howard moment: a situation with a previously unfelt feeling about it now conscious and owned. The most powerful of such moments came once when he and I were sitting together. From what he noticed and what he said, I had the experience of being seen more deeply than I’d experienced with anyone before, including myself.

I find Howard a rare and irreplaceable gift. Psychohistory,

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psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic anthropology, psychogeography, and poetry: each of these fields and all of us are better because Howard has been walking with us through life.

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Authors:

Michael Britton

Michael Britton, EdD, is Vice-President of the International Psychohistory Association, Research Associate of the Psychohistory Forum, and Board Member of the Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies Network. Michael did interview research with high-level military in command of nuclear weapons in the cold war, researched ways of parenting that fosters children’s growing up with the ability to do well with love as adults, has spoken internationally on neuropsychology and global issues, and has been a consultant/trainer for the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Relations (conflict resolution) Division. He may be contacted at mfbrttn@gmail.com.

How to Cite This:

Britton, M. (2022). Howard Stein’s invaluable gifts. In D. R. Beisel, P. H. Elovitz, & N. D’Andria (Eds.), Howard Stein Festschrift. Clio’s Psyche, 28(3), 293-295.

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