While continuing to manage the Zur Institute and its 150 online continuing education courses, I have also put down strong roots in my town, Sebastopol, where I am active in groups such as “Israelis Anonymous” 😀, Depth Psychology discussion group, Carl Jung’s discussion groups, a Hebrew book club, a writing group, and more. I have re-immersed myself in the practice of meditation, as well. Daily sitting-meditation seems to have a profound impact on my psyche, opening me to a deep appreciation of the “Now”; and thus, empowered, I strive to be present, as if each day (or each moment) were my last one on earth.
As I turned 66, one of the questions that naturally emerged was ‘how do I want to live my remaining years?’ Summiting mountains on foot or on a motorcycle, diving to extreme depths, fighting wars, jumping out of planes, teaching all over the world, backpacking on a glacier, authoring cutting-edge books, fighting irrational dogmas, implacably seeking justice and peace, were all achievements and enriching challenges of the past. Now the question is, What’s next? When I consider the possibilities, I can’t help but feel that surge of excitement that always precedes the new and unknown. I will intensify my meditations on a range of subjects, some old, some new. I will resume reading classic literature. I will write from the heart, for I still have so much to say. Perhaps I will travel to new parts of the world, visit new museums, libraries, or ancient sites, or. . .??? The ideas flood my mind as I go through the process of figuring out this new phase or how to begin again. Well, I do know that I am not going to take up golf. What is certain is that I will continue to nuture my close bonds with my precious family, friends and community, to engage in meaningful activities, and always promote peace and justice. While I know that life is going to move at a slower and more contemplative pace, I am yet not sure about its focus or form.
Alongside the question of ‘what is next in my life?’, I ponder ‘how do I want to die?’. I know that I neither want to die ‘erect’ (i.e. in my prime) as my mother did, nor do I wish to go through the lengthy, painfully slow journey that my father took in the final period of his life. My young son, Ilan, insightfully said one day “Aba (dad), you will not die on top of Kilimanjaro nor on the glacier in Alaska nor among the sharks in the deep ocean. You are mostly likely to die slipping on a banana in the local Safeway.” When it comes to death, I love the scene of Little Big Man where Chief Dan George announces “Today is a good day to die” and wanders off into the woods. The “Right to Die” law that was passed in California in 2016 gives me some choices or control regarding the way I may choose to die, which is a relief. I found appealing the story of a terminally ill California woman who invited friends from all over the country to a ‘farewell party’ – a jubilant celebration of her life and relationships. After two days of partying she retired to a room where, with her doctor and a few close people, she took the drugs that ended her life. Personally, I also wish to die among my family and friends but I am also resign to not knowing how I will spend the last days or last minutes of my life.
In 2019 I had the golden opportunity to fulfill a dream I have had since I was a 21-year-old Israeli merchant marine wishing to sail through the majestic and iconic Panama Canal. I was thrilled to be invited to crew for my son, Eitan (who lives on his beautiful 36-ft. sailboat in San Diego), who was hired to transport a 47ft sailboat from Baltimore to San Francisco. The Panama Canal certainly deserves its impressive rating as one of the top ‘Wonders of the World’. Eitan, a competent captain, led us through the 50 miles long perfectly designed three locks going up from the Atlantic Ocean side to the impressive and enormous man-made lake at the top, and then through three impeccably constructed locks down toward the Pacific Ocean side. This was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience in many ways.
Not too long after crewing for Eitan on the majestic Panama Canal in 2019, he and I joined up for another fantastic nautical journey, this one off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island. On this three-day trip I enjoyed the great pleasure of crewing for him on a 44-ft. catamaran headed to Martha’s Vineyard, passing along neighboring islands off the coast of Rhode Island.
Sailing with Eitan, just the two of us together on the magnificent Atlantic, opened a special door to our hearts, as it reminded us of the many adventures we have taken together, including kayaking 17 miles along the Na Pali Coast off of magical Kauai, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and many more. The meaningful connection and deep conversations we had into the night were precious beyond words. What was at one time a father to child relationship has now morphed into that of man and man.
The following are my thoughts on the different types of guilt and some of the ways in which I have experienced guilt. These are less obvious forms of guilt and go beyond lack of guilt (psychopathy) and excessive guilt (depression, anxiety, suicide, etc). As would be expected, by the age of 71, I have experienced most forms of guilt.
1. Appropriate Guilt: This type of guilt is an appropriate response to, or regret for, what we have come to understand, acknowledge or admit that we have done something wrong, unjust or immoral, or feel remorse for what we have not done. In my own life, I regret some of the ways I endangered others with the way I rode my motorcycle or shot the light bulb in the bunker, what I did or did not do in war, or was insensitive to friends’ needs.
2. Catholic Guilt – Religious Guilt: This kind of guilt is religion-induced that does not differentiate ones thoughts from their actions. Besides the Catholic church, other Christian denominations also believe people should confess to ‘sinful’ thoughts, yearnings or desires even when no actions were taken. Similarly, the ultra orthodox Jewish religion makes no distinction between ‘sinful thoughts’ and ‘sinful acts.’ I have experienced this kind of guilt as a young man when I felt guilty for internally reacting disproportionately with extreme anger.
3. Survival Guilt: This kind of guilt primarily manifests in people who have survived a life-threatening situation, such as battles during war or car accidents where others died or were severely injured. They often believe they could have done more to save the lives of others even if they could not. I have definitely felt this kind of guilt in relation to fellow soldiers who died or were heavily injured in military operations I was part of.
4. Neurotic – Toxic guilt – Persecutory guilt: This form of guilt is derived from a sense of not being a good–enough person, feeling like a failure who deserves to be punished. Persecutory guilt is a form of self-inflicted punishment
5. Existential guilt: This type of guilt can seem free-floating or unrelated to any particular situation. It is about one’s sense of accomplishment or success in addition to an awareness of the inequalities and injustices that exist in the world, such as a family member or community of people who are less capable or less fortunate than you are, or the fact that there may be people starving in Africa, or that the whales are dying off due to over hunting, pollution and other factors. When a person asks themselves “Am I doing enough to help others or help the world?” I have definitely experienced this kind of guilt combined with deep concerns for the underprivileged people worldwide, victims of unjust war, and disappearing species around the world.
The Coronavirus Pandemic exemplifies a variety of feelings of guilt that are the result of the fact that billions of people are unemployed, locked at home, or struggling with food needs, yet ‘you’ still have a job or can provide for your family. People may feel guilty because their children can’t see friends and grandparents or participate in normal activities. Perhaps someone they care for has been ill with COVID-19 or they feel guilty because a loved one has died all alone (‘coronavirus way’), and they couldn’t be there to say goodbye.
Infidelity, unlike what most people assume, is neither rare, an exclusively man’s doing, nor the likely end of the marriage. Almost a third of all marriages may need to confront and deal with the aftermath of extramarital affairs. Women, men, gay, straight, young and old, all seem to be somehow engaged in affairs. Online affairs have become extremely prevalent. Marriages can get stronger when couples deal constructively with the affair. See: Infidelity & Affairs: Myths, Facts & Ways to Respond
|1. Conflict Avoidance||8. Unsatisfactory Marriage|
|2. Intimacy Avoidance||9. Exit Affairs – Jumping off point|
|3. Individual Existential/Developmental crisis||10. Long Term Parallel Lives|
|4. Sexual Addiction – Sexual Obsession||11. Online (Most prevalent)|
|5. Accidental – Brief – One Time Affairs||12. Cyber Affair w/ a Sex-Robot|
|6. Philandering||13. Consensual|
Myth: An affair inevitably destroys the marriage.
Fact: Many marriages survive affairs and many emerge stronger from the infidelity crisis.
Myth: Infidelity is rare in the animal kingdom.
Fact: Only 3% of the world’s 4,000 species of mammals are pre-programmed for monogamy.
Myth: Infidelity is rare and abnormal in our, and most other, societies.
Fact: Men’s infidelity has been recorded in most societies.
Myth: Society, as a whole, supports monogamy and fidelity.
Fact: Society gives lip service to monogamy/fidelity, but actually supports affairs. (i.e. Ashley Madison)
Myth: Men initiate almost all affairs.
Fact: Infidelity has become an equal opportunity issue in the West.
Myth: An affair always means there are serious problems in the marriage.
Fact: Research has shown that some of those who engage in affairs reported high marital satisfaction.
Myth: Infidelity is a sign that sex is missing at home.
Fact: Some unfaithful spouses have reported increased marital sex during the period of their affair.
Myth: Infidelity always has to do with a bad marriage or a withholding partner.
Fact: There are many reasons that people may choose to have an affair.
Myth: Full disclosure of all the details of the affair to the betrayed spouse is prerequisite to healing.
Fact: Giving the uninvolved partner all the X-rated details of the affair can be traumatizing.
Myth: Extramarital affairs are never consensual.
Fact: Open marriages used to be popular in the 1970s and are still around.
My 2019 trip to Israel had a different flavor than previous ones, as this time I traveled alone. This afforded me the chance to spend quality time with my sister, and to fulfill a yearning to revisit and re-experience the Negev desert via off-road motorcycle. My body and psyche clearly remembered the long and exciting days that I had spent as a young man navigating and exploring the dirt roads, creeks, springs, and craters of that awesome landscape. To start the adventure, my nephews Tal, Shay, Leor and young Ely had planned an exciting day along the steep slopes of Jerusalem, so that I could prepare for the desert ride. I rented a Yamaha WR250 dual-sport off-road motorcycle and headed with them to the Jerusalem hills. It turned out I was indeed in need of this ‘prep’ trip, as I flew off the bike at least half a dozen times, landing on my shoulders, my recently replaced knees, my back and, yes, even on my head (again). I ended up in ‘urgent care,’ where they put me on antibiotics via an IV drip. Miraculously, I sustained no broken bones and no damage to my ‘new’ knees, although who knows what it did to my head! A couple of days later the five of us headed south to our ‘real’ destination, the stunningly powerful Negev Desert, with three dirt bikes and a 4×4 pickup truck trailing us with food, water, tents, etc. The ride, the awesome landscape, the challenges, the comradery, and the conversations with these generous and capable young men was immensely gratifying.
It has been interesting for me to contemplate this adventure at this point in my life, now pushing 70. My friend Garry Cooper describes this part of my character as “Roaring toward the precipice, twisting the throttle wide open to either soar over the abyss or crash in a blaze of adrenaline and glory.” “Twisting the throttle wide open” had a different feel to it this time. Now, death did not seem so remote or abstract. Looking it in the eyes I still felt a sense of calm, but gone was the former strain of defiance or romance. Stripped bare through the hard cast of age, death is simply an objectively possible outcome!
On my 2019 return trip to Israel, observing its political-moral scene was a painful reminder of why I left the country 40 years prior. Back then, I knew I had to leave, as it was clear to me that staying in Israel and bearing witness to the immoral occupation would corrupt me as well. This was a consequence I refused to pay. As Dissonance Theory explains, when there is an inconsistency or discrepancy in people’s minds between attitudes and behaviors it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior. People tend to adjust their ideology to their behavior and not vice versa. Sadly enough, this is, indeed, what seems to take place in Israel today.
A tragic example is of an Israeli teenager girl who was brutally murdered in August 2019 by a homemade bomb that exploded at a natural spring. She was visiting this spring not far from her home in a settlement in the West Bank. Government officials declared it an act of terrorism. A local rabbi, declared her “a martyr,” calling on God “to avenge her death.” There was barely any mention of the greater context. The fact that the young woman was part of the occupation, living in a settlement built on military-conquered Palestinian land in the occupied territory of the West bank was barely uttered.
I decided to conduct an experiment, asking people first what they thought about “the girl who was recently murdered in the West Bank” and asking others (a second group in the ‘experiment’) for their thoughts about “the settler-girl who was recently murdered in the West Bank”. Almost unanimously, people in the second group objected to my referring to her as a settler, accusing me of “justifying her murder.” I definitely did not justify the murder; all I was doing was simply putting the murder in context. I think that sadly enough, most Israelis, even the ones that lean to the left, after 50 years of occupation (as predicted by the dissonance theory) have lost track of the context—the oppressive, inhuman, murderous immoral occupation of the West Bank.
Evacuation orders were inching in. The cellphone text alerts gradually progressed from “Evacuation Advisory” to “Evacuation Mandatory.” In between, there was enough time to consciously or unconsciously, wittingly or unwittingly contemplate the evacuation ‘wonders,’ considerations and choices:
Q: What do I take? — What is dear to my heart?
A: Our dog & cats, cell phone, laptop, passport, etc.
Q: What is OK to leave?
A: The remainder of my physical possessions
Q: What do I wish I could take but forego for lack of space in my car?
A: Photo albums, some nostalgic old clothing, and a unique collection war propaganda.
Q: What did I wish the fire would burn away?
A: I wished to toss into the fire my petty desires for comfort, my impatience, my attachment to being someone who changes the world, and my ego identification in my accomplishments. Then, also my huge collection of hard copy academic articles and books (so that my study could transform to a sacred meditation space).
Q: What was the most ridiculously absurd thing I took with me?
A: Alas, my attachments to my ego’s accomplishments. I recognize that without an ego at all, one can’t do much in life. So I suppose I needed my ego to navigate the evacuation journey!
Q: What would I like for the fires to give energy to or fuel growth in?
A: Many things! I would like to add energy to the fires of my desire to continue to learn and grow, to ‘do good,’ and to serve social justice. I’d like to fuel my passion to serve the greater good in psychological health through fighting the unnecessary dogmas of the therapy profession; and for my mission to challenge unexamined beliefs and myths. I’d like to energize my empathetic caring for family members, friends, colleagues and strangers in need; my capacity to focus on what gives me meaning and joy; and my ability to contemplate and meditate.
Dr. Zur is well known for having the vision to introduce ideas well head of their time: When almost no one spoke of HIPPA or Clinical Form he was already touring the country giving presentations about it. He was one of the pioneer leader the Private Practice Outside Managed Care movement in the 90’s. When almost no one contemplated the complexities of Dual Relationships or the Risk of Risk Management, he was already writing and publishing books and articles about it. When almost no one cared to invest in Telemental Health education he was already envisioning and focusing on creating courses and resources about it.
In 1997 Dr. Zur developed a vision that was also ahead of its time, the Zur Institute: The creation of a successful model of online education that would provide CE credits for Mental Health practitioners. When asked, “Who do you think you are? Do you think you are going to compete with UC Berkeley?” Dr. Zur, simply, responded, “What a great idea.” Indeed, Zur Institute, Inc. has since served dozens of thousands of individuals, becoming one of the most successful and biggest online CE programs in the world. After 25 years of passionately devoting himself to developing and upholding the highest educational standards for Zur Institute, in April 2020 Dr. Zur left his role as its Director/owner. He then devoted his energy and time to the non-profit he created: Project Insights.
Whether in psychology, oceanography, chemistry, limnology, or on ‘hot’ topics such as gender, race, victims or war, I have devoted a big part of my life to exploring the ‘given’, the unexamined truths, and often, the politically incorrect beliefs. The Following are some samples of the faulty beliefs I have challenged (and links to my writings on each topic):
In my forensic/expert witness practice I have encountered the most fascinating, colorful and intriguing cases where BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) clients have gotten their (otherwise solid, competent and ethical) therapists to behave in ways they regularly wouldn’t such as giving them money, regularly texting with them at 1 or 2 in the morning, doing drugs with them, moving in with them, wearing their clothes, even adopting them, and, of course, having sex with them.
This dynamic is often present in the BDP’s personal, intimate, familial and vocational life and can also occur with psychotherapists or counselors.
Without a doubt, it is a therapist’s responsibility to maintain clinically appropriate boundaries with all clients. However, that is not always easy when it comes to BPD clients, especially for therapists who are either new to the profession or not experienced with these clientele. Clients with BPD are extremely unstable and are so desperate for connection that their fierce need can draw a therapist in. At the same time, many BPD clients have learned not to trust those very attachments they demand and crave. Thus, therapists can find themselves caught in their BPD clients’ conflicting desires. Therapists and others the borderline is in contact with will often accommodate, give in, support, yield to no-end in order to avoid the “borderline” rage.
Mid-March 2020 was a perfect time to fly to the Bahamas for another long weekend of sailing with Eitan on a 40 ft catamaran, this time around the Bahamas Islands. It was an odd time on the planet, as the worries and concerns around coronavirus pandemic had not taken hold yet. Eitan got a few days off from his 1st mate position on a giant 130 ft. mega yacht that was docked at Nassau.
As we tend to do on such trips, we took our time sailing in the clear/shallow water all around the gorgeous Bahama islands while enjoying peaceful weather, great conversations, sweet long silent periods, and variety of colorful tropical fish and spring-time bird flocks.
Re-entering the world via flights to Florida and back home to California was like entering a war zone of Humanity vs. Coronavirus, or more accurately entering a brave new world where humans are forced to encounter the inevitable and most denied facts of life: Death (especially of old people) is part of life not necessary always to be feared, combated and avoided but also to be… celebrated.
My new adventure as of mid 2020, Project Insights, is an online forum in which I invite you to reflect and share about an ‘Aha’ moment you have encountered along the way and to read about insightful experiences of others. By sharing, reading, and contemplating these meaningful moments in our lives, I hope to support the deepening of our personal and social reflective practices as well as to promote intercultural dialogue about the subtexts that impact our choices and help define our human experience. Engaging with this virtual community, I hope, will help you examine your life choices, cultural assumptions, belief systems and biases.
The first topic explored on Project Insights involves experiences with the Corona Virus: If the Coronavirus could speak to you… what would it say? What would You say to it? What gift could Coronavirus offer you / the world? There are 12 different themes that are dear to my heart around which I will invite you to share your stories. These themes include: Regretting not doing the right thing; Looking at death straight in the eye; On being sane in an insane place. I hope you will join me.
Selling the Zur Institute, Inc. after a quarter century of intense, challenging and highly rewarding engagement, opened up a huge psychic space and time for the ‘new’. Then, launching Project Insights has been a creative challenge and exercise in the rare commodity of… patience.
I have been training for a potential dream-challenge of posting a stake in the South Pole as well as hike, kayak, camp there and hang out with the penguins for my 70th birthday. Obviously, with the current (mid 2020) COVID-19 hysteria it is hard to know when this plan will materialize.
Exploring boundaries has taken another dimension for me these days. This time, it is to the limitless expanse of the heavens and the incredible, awe inspiring view from far-above. I started taking pilot lessons as I am exploring getting a pilot license to fly small planes high and to exotic faraway places. Hard to know where it may lead.
In Sept. 2021 Jennifer and I joined Eitan and his friend, Amanda, for a fantastic sailing week on a 46ft catamaran on the Sea of Cortez (Mexico). It was a wonderful break from a tormented and hostile divided world around the complex coronavirus related issues of life-death-health-fear-trust-responsibility and much more. Sailing, swimming, snorkeling and some hikes in the powerful-arid-rocky landscape cleared my heads and refreshed my spirit as I was looking for ways to find meaning and joy in a tormented world.
In December of 2021 we ‘needed’ to get out of town again and after a lovely Chanukah party we headed, this time, to the east side of Mexico, the Yucatan, with our 2 boys and Amanda. It was a lovely experience to hang out at the resort town Playa Del Carmen, and on the gorgeous island of Isla Mujeres and visit the amazing Chichen Itza Ruins during Christmas time. Unlike many parts of the world tormented by COVID-19, the Yucatan was friendly, vibrant, musical, colorful, hospitable and truly celebratory.
2020 and 2021 years were distinct as they were the beginning of a new ‘Post Zur Institute’ (ZI) era (sale went through in Ap./2020) and a divided world struggling to comprehend and attend to the coronavirus threat. Free of ZI, I turned my professional focus to teaching ethics and consulting & expert witness forensic work.
I quickly and gradually more joyously, adjusted to the new ‘coved-19 reality’ and have been intensely teaching remotely via zoom. Teaching from my study at home (with running shorts and flip flops) was odd and freeing at the same time. I recall the moment when I cracked a joke in a live zoom webinar but had NO idea if any of the 600+ attendees laughed or grimaced. My two main focuses of teaching ethics at these times have been a. Debunking myths and commonly held beliefs in psychotherapy and b. 20+ ways to avoid being sanctioned or disciplined by mental health licensing boards.
My consulting & expert witness work has also flourished in the post ZI era. I have asked to provide expert opinions on highly complex, interesting and intriguing psychotherapy licensing boards and civil lawsuits cases in several states across the US. A couple of ethicists and attorneys have referred to the cases they retained me as an expert as “Even Dr. Zur”😋 reflecting on the informed-importance I place on context in standard of care matters rather than on “risk-management.” In June 2021 I had the honor of receiving an authorization from the Minnesota Supreme Court to prepare an amicus brief regarding the standard of care for psychotherapy and counseling.
My 3 weeks visit to Israel in May 2022 was diverse, challenging, longer and more unique than in the past. It included riding in Negev Desert on 250cc off-road motorcycles with 3 nephews, I attended ‘Memorial Day’ for those who died in wars and being reminded of my own intense-profound war experience, and enjoyed a high school reunion for the first time in… 54 years.
Visiting Israel during memorial-day for the fallen soldiers has added an interesting and intense aspect of the visit. I joined my best friend Eitan to his military units annual memorial-day ceremony at Tel-Saki on the Golan Hight where his small unit was surprised attacked in the 1973 war and found itself surrounded by hundreds of Syrian’s tanks and soldiers. The ritual included the parents and siblings and the photos of the soldiers who died right there. Some members of the unit, got severely injured and 50+ years later are still heavily disabled. I chose to walk into one of the dark underground tunnels in Tel-Saki in an attempt to remember and re-live my battle experience in the 73 war in the Egyptian front across the Suez Canal. As expected, walking into the dark, long and narrow tunnel, I encountered strong bodily memories of tunnel fighting, of keeping the non-stop the intense fire upfront/ahead while stepping on enemy soldiers’ dead bodies. It was, definitely, an intense experience, but fortunately did not activated any of my PTSD, on which I ‘worked’ for many years, after I finally realizes the stupidity of the belief I was indoctrinated with, that “Israeli paratroopers do not get PTSD”.
I went on a challenging and equally exciting adventure in the Negev Desert on 250cc off-road motorcycles, with my 3 nephews: Tal, Leor, Shai and Tal’s Son, Ben (16). I was determined to enjoy the awesome (challenging) beauty of the dessert, its rough terrains, and the (unavoidable) falls off the bike, and keep away from the hospital, where I ended up in my last motorcycles adventure 2 years prior. We embarked on our trip in Mitzpe Ramon and made our way in the Israeli “Grand Canyon” where we spent 4 days in awsome, challenging and varied terrains, meandering up hills and steep river banks made of rocky and sandy surfaces. Inevitably, I did take some hard falls off the bike but luckily did not break any bones or infect my body with bacteria as I did last time. The journey indeed felt epic.
A surprisingly unique event took place during this visit when David Eldar invited me to the 54th year reunion of our mathematic/
I was schedule to teach ethics class on zoom for psychologists in California while in Israel. Many friends and colleagues stated the obvious to me: “What is so special about teaching from Israel, it’s the same Internet and same Zoom”. Yes, it is the “same” indeed, yet it felt surreal to me: sitting in front of a screen in the Middle East and teaching ethics to psychologists in the USA, half way around the world. A sure reflection of modern times.
We celebrated my seventy second birthday in May 2022 by gathering in our back yard and inviting people to share memories, stories, narratives, and anecdotes about me or to share a poem or song. About 25 people joined the hearty celebration, catered beautifully, by King Falafel and with celebratory, funny and, of course, embarrassing, stories and creatively funny original poems.
After 2.5 years of corona virus hysteria and multiple remote teaching, primarily via zoom, the Lutheran Community Services Northwest, in Portland, OR invited me to teach live, in-person, seminar on TeleMental Health and Digital Ethics. It was an exciting hearty event where in-person exchanges, hugs, laughs, and even present exchange took place… again.