Frightful Stages : From the Primitive to the Therapeutic book cover
1st Edition

Frightful Stages
From the Primitive to the Therapeutic

ISBN 9780789013668
Published July 26, 2001 by Routledge
254 Pages

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Book Description

Face stage fright and self-doubt with new courage!

The experience of awe has rarely been considered by psychologists, but this extraordinary book makes up for that neglect. Frightful Stages explores all the shades of that strange emotion from reverence to terror. At its heart, awe is the condition of human suffering in situations that require you to act in all the senses of that deceptively simple word, whether on stage or off, whether in the presence of many or alone.

Frightful Stages provides a multifaceted view of the semiotics of awe. It deals with its manifestations in film, on stage, in poetry, in ordinary lives as well as in the more extraordinary ones, including Bessie Smith, Carl Van Vechten, Barbra Streisand, Federico Fellini, Thomas Merton, and John Ashbery. This unprecedented book delineates the experience of awe in moments of stage fright, performance anxiety, and everyday interpersonal relations.

Frightful Stages takes place on and off stage, before the curtain and behind, in the audience and on the screen. It explores the mysterious experience of awe in a multitude of contexts, including:

  • Thomas Merton's psychoanalytic showdown with Gregory Zilboorg
  • the chronic tensions between Apollonian reason and Dionysian instinct in myth, psychoanalysis, creation, and performance
  • the ill-fated encounter between the greatest of all blues singers and a brilliant, self-loathing literary critic
  • the moment of awe in experiential psychotherapy as seen by both the analyst and client
  • the differences and similarities between stage fright and social phobia
  • the intricate interrelationships between pernicious envy, emotional awkwardness, and fear
  • a personal diary chronicling one man's crisis of panic, anguish, and self-doubt
  • the complexities of feeling, offering, and accepting reverence in the psychotherapeutic relationship

    Frightful Stages gives clinicians and lay readers a variety of approaches from the analytic to the unanalytic, from the psychodynamic to the humanistic. It will appeal to a diverse audience, including therapists, clients, social theorists, cultural anthropologists, performers, and writers. Additionally, this book is intended to help artists deal with creative blocks, therapists cope with their own terrors, and all helping professionals understand bizarre phenomena.

Table of Contents


  • Awe: Dionysian and Appollonian (A Preface)
  • Introduction-A Hermit in Times Square: Setting the Stage
  • One Sings, the Other Doesn't: Stage Fright and the Psychoanalytic Theater
  • The Awesome and the Awestruck: Bessie Smith and Carl Van Vetchen
  • Burnt Offerings to Prometheus: The Consultation Meetings Between Thomas Merton and Gregory Zilboorg
  • The Nights and Knights of Cabiria: Modern Woman in Search of Her Soul
  • From the Couch to The Concert: Streisand as Doctor and Patient
  • Awe and Terror in the Living of the Resolution of the Polarity of Insight and Expression
  • Standing in Awe: The Cosmic Dimensions of Effective Psychotherapy
  • You Will Have These Awe-Full Moments When You Have Your Own Experiential Session
  • What It Was Like to Go Through Three Awe-Full Moments in My Own Experiential Session
  • The Role of Awe in Experiential Personal Construct Psychology
  • Reflections on Mystery and Awe
  • On Anguish and Other Frightful Moments in the Process of Self-Discovery
  • I'm Not Crazy, They Are Coming Around with Guns!
  • Finding the True Self Onstage: Dialogue with a Comedienne
  • The Little Old Lady
  • Poetic Schizophrenia: Regarding the Performative Process of Composition
  • In Awe of the Superindividual: A Conversation with E. Mark Stern and Rob Marchesani
  • Index
  • Reference Notes Included

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