From Fish to People: On Mothers, Women &… War

At 29 years old, I moved to the US to do my M.A. in counseling at Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, ‘slightly’ shifting my career interests and path from fish and oceanography to psychology, psychotherapy and counseling. Within psychology I was interested in learning about the healing process for individuals, couples, families, communities and cultures. Initially I was intrigued by the psychology of peace and violence on all levels from the individual to the cultural. I was interested in the roots of war and the prerequisites of peace and explored a variety of theories on these topics. I was especially intrigued with how men and women co-participated in the making of war, or what I called “The role of women in the making of war”, and similarly how parents and their young adult children co-created war systems. (Later, I expanded these interests into thinking about the tensions between life, love, and mortality.)

“Trees Die Erect” – Mother Parted Exactly as She Planned

I continued my work, exploring the roots of war and promoting peace, which led me to literature that discussed the meaning of the fact that the average frequency of war is 25 years, which corresponds to the span of a generation. The theory posited the puzzling and odd idea that war may be the unconscious wish and impulse of parents to kill their children, or what is also known as the Medea Complex. I asked my mother her thoughts on this idea and did not hear back from her for a couple of months. Then one day, I got a package from her with probably all the available literature on this obscure topic. She noted that compiling this literature was one of the most difficult challenges she had ever faced. That was the last correspondence I had from her as she died soon after from her second heart attack in November 1982 at age 68. Mother repeatedly told us that she neither wanted to slow down in old age nor have a prolonged death. So on her gravestone we engraved her own words -“Trees Die Erect”.

Understanding Peace in the Shadow of War: The Roots of Enmity

From 1984 to 1991, alongside my friend and colleague, philosopher-author Sam Keen, I devoted my professional life to promoting peace by deepening the public understanding of the complex psychology of peace and war, as well as the roots of enmity. During these final and challenging years of the Cold War, I gave dozens of presentations and media appearances across the US on such subjects as: Gender and War, The Psychology of Peace and War, Understanding the Light of Peace in the Shadow of War, and Psychology of the Nuclear Age.

Presenting in Moscow on War Propaganda

In 1987, I was honored to be invited to Moscow, Russia for a symposium on “Soviet-American Images: A New Perspective,” organized by the Soviet Peace Committee and the Center for Soviet-American Dialogue. Our guest appearances included working sessions with scientists from the USSR Academy of Science. These were exciting times in Russia – the early years of Perestroika and Mikhail Gorbachev’s political reforms.

The Delight of Becoming Step-Father and Father

With my first marriage in 1981, I became a step-parent to my step-children, Suzannah and Jeremy. Soon after (1983), our daughter, Azzia, was born which marked one of my most profound inner shifts; my sense of self was expanded and, obviously, my sense of responsibility for my daughter’s and step-children’s growth and well-being.

Wind-Surfing in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

I met my first wife in orientation to our doctorate program in psychology. We spent our honeymoon in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, where I learned wind-surfing. We also visited the lovely island of Isla Mujeres, fascinating ancient sites in Talum, touristic Cancun Island, and Cozumel.

Getting my Ph.D. – Studying the “Love of Hating”

In 1984, at 34 years old, I received my Ph.D. from the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA. My dissertation centered on the dynamics of how men and women view and co-create warfare, and called sharply into question the almost universal belief that only men are inherently warlike, while women are inherently peace-loving. Subsequently, in a paper, “The Love of Hating”, I refuted another faulty belief – that war has no intrinsic appeal and is only a necessary evil or last resort – and explored the conscious and unconscious attractions of war.

Marrying Azzia’s Ballet Teacher and Being Blessed w/ 2 Boys

In 1988, I was single again and moved to the beautiful town of Sonoma, CA where Azzia went to school and rode her horses. These were special years where Sam Keen, who had moved to Sonoma a year earlier, worked with me on men’s themes and peace and war issues. Even more special was that, at Azzia’s ‘insistence’ :-), I started dating her ballet teacher, Jennifer, and later, in 1992, I married her. We had two boys, Eitan, born in 1992, and Ilan, born in 1995, and are still married, 24 years later.

On Being a ‘Barn-Mother’: Azzia and Her Love of Horses

Azzia, my first born (1983), besides her love of reading and ballet, enjoyed and became skillful in horseback riding and jumping. Later, she graduated from UC Berkeley in philosophy, became an excellent writer and editor, and has established herself in many ways, including as a Sensei, in an Aikido dojo in Berkeley, CA.

Introducing my Boys to Basketball, Motorcycles & Doing Good

Supporting my children as they developed their unique identities, interests, and gifts has been one of my life’s greatest joys. I have had the fun of sharing the love of basketball, motorcycles and adventures with my two sons, Eitan and Ilan. Later in life, Eitan developed the love of swing dance and trapeze arts. Ilan, who I have had the chance to coach, has come to excel in his academic studies, his pursuit of justice causes, leadership, and basketball. But more about them later…

Re-Thinking “Don’t Blame the Victim”

In the mid 1990’s, I took on debunking the myth that all victims are always innocent and invited people to re-think the then prevalent belief in the dictum, “Don’t Blame the Victim.” While some victims are truly innocent (e.g., abused children) others thrive on being victims. The victim’s stance is a powerful one and was erroneously framed as: The victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable, and forever entitled to sympathy. That perception has since changed to some degree, I am pleased to say.

Kayaking Magical Kauai’s 17 Miles at the Na Pali Coast

Another boundary to be experienced was the Na Pali coast in Kauai, Hawaii, which is considered “the Everest of sea kayaking”. My son, Eitan, who was only 12 at the time, and I went on a demanding, 17 mile kayak trip, where the cusp of the Mammoth Mountains slopes into the ocean. It was an incredible day with breathtaking 2,000 foot sea cliffs, cool lava-formed sea caves and mile-high waterfalls plummeting into the blue Pacific.

The Delight of Spending Quality Time with my Kids

Spending time with my children in nature has been uniquely rewarding as it combines adventure, physical and emotional challenges, reliance on self and others, and, of course, connection and fun. In this picture, my boys and I are on a lovely ride in Annadel State Park. Engaging with my young children in fun, but at times also challenging, experiences not only created memoriable experiences but also enhanced our closeness and mutual respect.

Paragliding with Fearless & Adventurous Eitan (11)

Eitan has always been adventurous. Here he is at age 11, fearlessly joining me (the first time for both of us) paragliding in tandem off Sonoma Mountain. And there was another mountain in our future: It was with Eitan that I summited Mount Kilimanjaro 2007, as we shall see. In later years, Eitan pursued skydiving, catcher in trapeze, commanding sailboats and scuba-diving, worked as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and much more.

Playing College Ball at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem

Basketball, as mentioned, has been my sport. I have played basketball since the age of 10 and later coached. I love the intensity, mastery, camaraderie, as well as the strategic, competitive, physical, mental, and social aspects of the game. I played in leagues in Israel, college ball at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and in the Jack Benny League in Sonoma (over age 39). I retired from playing at age 56, but always find other ways to keep active.

Flatlined for 90 Seconds – Disappointedly Did NOT See God

In the millenial year of 2000, I suffered my first heart attack and cardiac arrest at the age of 50 (100% occlusions of LCA) and crossed the boundary of life and death (flatlined) for 90+ seconds. I remain disappointed that I neither saw a white light nor God, a truly wasted opportunity. With a stent in place, I have increased my focus on my “bucket list”. In that same year, my father died, but unlike my mother, he went slowly at the ripe old age of 84.

Sign up for topical updates and invitations to participate with Dr. Zur