Living in the Dead Zone: Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison: Understanding Borderline Personality Disorders

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9780971654204: Living in the Dead Zone: Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison: Understanding Borderline Personality Disorders

Psychologist Dr. Gerald Faris and sociologist Dr. Ralph Faris explain their findings about two icons of 1960s music and how each suffered from a complicated condition psychiatrically defined as "borderline personality disorder.

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About the Author:

Gerald A. Faris, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist with more than 25 years of hospital inpatient, private practice and supervisory experience and was an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Faris has drawn on his extensive clinical experience in presenting Janis and Jim as the extraordinary talented, intelligent and tormented individuals they were. Ralph M. Faris, Ph.D. has presented the sociological commentary and analysis of the era in which Janis and Jim lived. He is a professor of sociology and the director of the Honors Program at the Community College of Philadelphia, where he was recently won the National Lindback Foundation, Distinguished Teaching Award.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue I know Janis Joplin. She's been in my office many times. I have seen her funky clothes, heard her cackling laugh, been the target of her good-natured wisecracks, experienced her unpredictable affect storms, and felt her agony. I have lamented the dismal, pitiable quality of her life, wrestled with her demons, and tried to help her with the most intractable of inner conflicts. And I've observed her relentless drive toward self-destruction. Jim Morrison, too, has been in my office. Like Janis, he was bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. Unlike Janis though, his demeanor was frequently abstruse and enigmatic, his ever present arrogance being the most prominent feature of his interactions with others. He uses words to confuse, attack, and diffuse; yet his demons, like Janis', were unmerciful and in the end did not permit him to escape. Finally he fell victim to them as he slid into the abyss. Perhaps I should say that I have seen such patients who bear a striking psychological resemblance to Janis and Jim. I have seen these patients in psychiatric hospitals and in my private practice. I have also supervised interns and clinicians who were treating them. Of course, these patients are not exactly like Janis or Jim. No person is ever identical to another - not even an identical twin. People have their own unique combination of traits apart from their pathology, as do my patients. But they are very similar to Janis and Jim in that they engage in the same terrible struggle with the emptiness of the dead zone. Overcome by constant misery and beset by a vast and dreadful emotional emptiness, these patients are unable to contain the forces that drive their rampant impulsivity. Lacking a stable sense of self and vulnerable to sudden emotional episodes, they desperately seek to sustain unsustainable relationships, as did Janis and Jim. Like them, they lead lives that are both intense and chaotic. One should not, however, misconstrue the analysis we provide in this book as an attempt to diminish the value of Janis and Jim's creativity nor of their contributions as performing artists. Neither should one take this work to be yet another expose of "real" lives of two rock stars. Janis and Jim should not and cannot be defined solely by their affliction; and it is certainly true that their lives, regrettably, have been greatly exploited. Still, we do wonder how they were able to bring so much energy, creativity and excitement to their music in spite of their affliction. Speculating in that direction might be intriguing, and we do have a few thoughts on the matter as we attempt to understand the psychological roots of their illnesses. We provide explanations of their behavior which are drawn from more recent developments in modern psychiatry and psychology - developments that we believe constitute the most comprehensive account of the disorder that ultimately took their lives.

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