William Watts (Buck) Biggers (85) adman and cocreator of the cartoon “Underdog,” the mild-mannered canine shoeshine boy who turned into a caped superhero to rescue his girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebred. Biggers died unexpectedly in Plymouth, Massachusetts on February 10, 2013.
Alternative practices like encounter groups make sixties psychology compelling.
Published on February 1, 2013 by Jessica Grogan, Ph.D. in Encountering America
When I was a junior in high school, my American History teacher assigned the class a lengthy term paper. She instructed us to base it on extensive research, to become intimate with microfilm and microfiche, and to maintain the requisite organization by creating countless index cards of sources and facts.
The paper could be on a topic of our choice, with one exception: it couldn’t be on the 1960s.
Why were the 1960s forbidden?
I can only speculate. Maybe because the decade seemed too fun, and the paper was supposed to be hard work. Maybe because the subtopics—psychedelics and pot, the stirrings of the sexual revolution, violence and protest, a disruption of race and gender hierarchies, and students questioning authority—were too racy for a teenager at a respectable prep school. Maybe because even in the 1990s, the decade’s raw energy and chaotic pace of change still seemed hard to process.
I later inferred from college psychology classes that sixties psychology, which consisted of approaches like encounter groups, phenomenological inquiry, transpersonal study, and gestalt and existential therapy, is neglected for some of the same reasons. These practices seem like an anomaly, a hiccup in the otherwise fairly respectable progression of empirical research and evidence-based practice. The field of psychology, at the time, was cracked open. Almost every major university included courses on one of these topics, and related psychotherapeutic practices were widespread.
Of course, by banning the topic, Ms. Bertozzi, and subsequent psychology professors who censored it only by omission, heightened my interest. When I made the full case for why I should be granted an exception (I would take it seriously! I was a hard working student with a good academic record!), she caved. I wrote the paper, mainly focusing on Woodstock and folk music and sex and mud. It was well-researched and respectable, though I have to admit it was fun, too—fun enough that now, almost 20 years later, I’ve written a book on the same decade.
At the sexy center of the book are “encounter groups,” which were somewhat distilled, more psychologically intense and intentional versions of Woodstock. They were usually conducted as weekend-long marathons, in which sleep deprivation eroded inhibitions. In the 1960s and 1970s, they happened at growth centers across the country, like Esalen and Greenhouse. In their various forms, they were known to include nudity, psychedelics use, interracial confrontation, wrestling, and the disclosure of dark secrets.
Journalist Tom Wolfe described them like this:
“Such aggression! such sobs! moans, hysteria, vile recriminations, shocking revelations, such explosions of hostility between husbands and wives, such mudballs of profanity from previously mousy mommies and workadaddies, such red-mad attacks.”
George Leonard, former editor of Look magazine, attended a couples group early in the 1960s, and was struck by an emotional intensity that was so compelling it threatened to make participants into junkies. At the beginning of the group, everyone screamed and pounded the floor. Then each person was asked to tell three secrets to his or her partner that would threaten their relationships. Leonard recalls that a war bride from England confessed she had never wanted to get married and had hated every minute of it. A husband confessed he had been sleeping with his wife’s best friend; she responded by hitting him violently and repeatedly, then crying and claiming that he was a “shit” but she loved him anyway. The woman who had hit her husband, for example, felt intensely connected to him by the end of the weekend, but divorced him six months later. Others credited the groups with dramatic and positive changes in their lives, relationships, and self-concepts.
One of the reasons Ms. Bertozzi wanted me to stay away from these topics may have also been the reason many people thought it best to stay away from these groups. They were attractive, even seductive, but they were hard to make sense of. Even as they promised growth, they threatened destruction.
It might seem on the surface, that we, as a culture, came to our senses about this kind of psychological indulgence. Certainly these groups are no where near as popular as they were in the 1960s, but the themes they embraced—of self-exploration, authenticity, stark honesty, and the maximization of our potential—still surround us.
You’re a grandparent, and you get a phone call or an e-mail from someone who identifies himself as your grandson. “I’ve been arrested in another country,” he says, “and need money wired quickly to pay my bail. And oh by the way, don’t tell my mom or dad because they’ll only get upset!”
This is an example of what’s come to be known as “the grandparent scam”—yet another fraud that preys on the elderly, this time by taking advantage of their love and concern for their grandchildren.
The grandparent scam has been around for a few years—our Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has been receiving reports about it since 2008. But the scam and scam artists have become more sophisticated. Thanks to the Internet and social networking sites, a criminal can sometimes uncover personal information about their targets, which makes the impersonations more believable. For example, the actual grandson may mention on his social networking site that he’s a photographer who often travels to Mexico. When contacting the grandparents, the phony grandson will say he’s calling from Mexico, where someone stole his camera equipment and passport.
Common scenarios include:
• A grandparent receives a phone call (or sometimes an e-mail) from a “grandchild.” If it is a phone call, it’s often late at night or early in the morning when most people aren’t thinking that clearly. Usually, the person claims to be traveling in a foreign country and has gotten into a bad situation, like being arrested for drugs, getting in a car accident, or being mugged…and needs money wired ASAP. And the caller doesn’t want his or her parents told.
• Sometimes, instead of the “grandchild” making the phone call, the criminal pretends to be an arresting police officer, a lawyer, a doctor at a hospital, or some other person. And we’ve also received complaints about the phony grandchild talking first and then handing the phone over to an accomplice…to further spin the fake tale.
• We’ve also seen military families victimized: after perusing a soldier’s social networking site, a con artist will contact the soldier’s grandparents, sometimes claiming that a problem came up during military leave that requires money to address.
• While it’s commonly called the grandparent scam, criminals may also claim to be a family friend, a niece or nephew, or another family member.
What to do if you have been scammed. The financial losses in these cases—while they can be substantial for an individual, usually several thousand dollars per victim—typically don’t meet the FBI’s financial thresholds for opening an investigation. We recommend contacting your local authorities or state consumer protection agency if you think you’ve been victimized. We also suggest you file a complaint with IC3, which not only forwards complaints to the appropriate agencies, but also collates and analyzes the data—looking for common threads that link complaints and help identify the culprits.
And, our advice to avoid being victimized in the first place:
• Resist the pressure to act quickly.
• Try to contact your grandchild or another family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
• Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail...especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash—once you send it, you can’t get it back.