Georgia L. May, Ph. D. (Hon)
An interview with Helen Noakes

“I always seized opportunity by the forelock,” Georgia began. “Maybe that’s what distinguished me from other people. I never accept defeat.”

The diminutive woman sitting across from me, on a sunny Palo Alto afternoon, gave me her now familiar smile. We sat on the patio of her current residence, giant trees rustling overhead, and I wondered at the life this woman led, at the courage and the stamina she mustered, not only in becoming a therapist, but in the making of personal choices which shaped and enriched her life.

Georgia L. May (2011). Photo by Barbara Burghart-Perreault.

Georgia L. May (2011)
Barbara Burghart-Perreault

I met Georgia about ten years ago. She asked where I grew up, and when I told her that I attended primary school on The Bluff in Yokohama, she laughed, and told me that she and her ex-husband lived near that school for a while. I mentioned synchronicity. She asked if I knew Jung’s view on the subject, and off we went on a conversation of discovery which jump-started our friendship.

A gifted therapist, Georgia has a way of concentrating on the other, even in social interactions. She listens well, asks questions that inevitably lead to revelations, makes a few incisive but diplomatic comments, which lead to other questions, other revelations. And so, with skill and gentleness, she coaxes stories out.

Aside from the fact that she was the widow of Rollo May, was a Jungian, and was a therapist for many years, I knew little about her. During one of our meetings I made a point to talk about her for a change, at least, part of the time.

Her genuine interest and concern for her friends compels Georgia to concentrate on them, their lives, the current installment of their stories. It was interesting to see her reaction when I turned the spotlight on her. At first, she registered surprise, then warmth, and, finally began to talk.

Her story was quite remarkable. She met and engaged with people that we now consider icons.

Georgia acquired her first degree, a B.S. in Occupational Therapy, specializing in psychiatric occupational therapy, at Washington University School of Medicine. She was in their pre-med program for two years, and attended their medical school for another two. Afterwards, she trained as a lay analyst at The Menninger Clinic, in Topeka, Kansas, where she completed her final internship.

Her fifth year of training required the rounds of various hospitals, where she was given a choice of four internships. She selected TB, pediatrics and orthopedics, general medicine and surgery, and psychiatry. The program required full immersion in each of these areas for two to three month periods.

Georgia explained that she was drawn to Menninger  “…when they opened up their psychiatric affiliation program, more than any other hospital at the time.”

She learned analysis and worked with people who had undergone shock and insulin therapies. She attended lectures by experts who came to Menninger from all over the world, because it was the premier training center in the United States.

“The Institute was vast and avant garde,” she reminisced, and it was there that she first heard of Jung.

Georgia reminded me that the training she received at Washington University was invaluable too. In their excellent occupational therapy program, students were taught a variety of healing modalities. “Almost anything is possible when you find the right way to do it.” Georgia emphasized, “That’s why I’m open to alternative ways.”

She mentioned that this program may have been the precursor of our current ecological movements, because Washington University established Salvage Projects.  “Nothing was thrown away. It would be recycled into a project that would help people heal. For instance, I cut the leather out of an old purse and made a picture frame, which I used to frame a Valentine from an old beau.” She gave me a merry laugh.

Georgia acquired a Certificate in Clinical Psychology and worked as a psychologist most of her life. “Sadly,” she said, “I never had an opportunity to meet Jung.” After finishing her studies in 1948, she married and raised a family.

“I always planned to attend his lectures, but Jung died in ’61, and then it was too late.”

We came to the point in our conversation when I wanted to ask her specific questions.

 

HN      So, how we approach life is essential to how we evolve our lives?

GLM   Yes. My mother never gave us any compliments. But I laughed at these things. I immediately looked for something to make out of whatever occurred.

HN      What would you say is the difference between the Jungian and the Freudian approach?

GLM   Freud thought everything was sexual repression. Jung felt that everything was spiritual repression. They were both aware of mythology, but Jung connected mythology with the spiritual.

HN      How would you define consciousness?

GLM   We don’t know if plants and animals have consciousness. There are reasons to believe that all forms of life have consciousness. Maybe humans are at the top. Maybe that’s arrogant. Consciousness is what makes us aware of everything that goes on in the world.

HN      Is there a different state of consciousness in dreams? Is consciousness different from the unconscious?

GLM   Some think the unconscious stores up things that have happened to us.

HN      Storing may involve repression or suppression. Which of the two is drawn upon in dreams?

GLM   Repression means that an individual stores up things that happen, or emotions, but it’s not done on purpose. Suppression is when you do it on purpose, to rid yourself of that memory or event. In dreams you’re available and the barriers come down.

HN      Do you believe in precognitive dreams?

GLM   Yes. I’ve had some.

HN      You said that in dreams the barriers come down. Could it be that the barriers of time come down too?

GLM   It’s worth looking into. Time could shift.

HN      I recently read Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe. It seems to touch upon such possibilities.

GLM   Are you familiar with Karl Pribram. He talks about this.

HN      The Holographic Brain?

GLM   Yes. One night, Rollo asked me to invite Fritjof Capra to dinner.

HN      The author of The Tao of Physics?

GLM   Exactly. He and Karl Pribram may be interested in this sort of consciousness.

HN      I’d like to talk to you at length about Rollo, but, perhaps another time. When did you meet?

GLM   I met Rollo when I was about to be 51, and he was 69. He looked spectacular, and was so charming. I took a class from him, and the rest, as they say…

Georgia gave me another of her laughs. It was time to go indoors, the light was fading, and Georgia and I had myths to discuss.

 

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