Who he was

Some of you will find this relevant, and some of it is still relevant to me.

“John Michael Madden” – the old me:

  • was born on 9/26/46, to a working-class 3rd generation Irish-Catholic family
  • grew up in a (then) blue-collar suburb (Brookfield) southwest of Chicago. A kind of sweet little conservative lily-white town.
  • was raised by a sweet, loving, neurotic, guilt-inducing, Enneagram 2 mother and a passive, withdrawn, alcoholic father.
  • was born nine years into his parents’ marriage and was the “miracle baby”, the little prince. His mom always told him he could be anything he wanted to be – and that he was a complete disappointment.
  • his brother Terry was born 16 months later. (“He also is nice.”) Their relationship greatly shaped John’s life.
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Terry James Madden, 2014 (1 year into cancer treatment, RIP 6/28/16)
  • was influenced in his early years by old-time Catholic culture – with all the neurosis and genuine, hell-fearing trauma attendant to that.
  • was sexually abused from ages 6-10 by his much older tormented alcoholic cousin, who lived next door. The memories of this powerful, extended trauma stayed totally suppressed until they returned – completely unbidden (actually fiercely resisted), starting with a Jungian dream group. The return of these memories pretty totally blew his life apart – and allowed the surfacing of a pattern of feelings and behavior that were identified as “Major Depression” and then “Bipolar Disorder”. He had all manner of personal support and psychotherapy to heal the sex abuse and after several years declared himself “healed” – though the remnants of this trauma still definitely affected him until his “Integrity Day”, (6/26/19). Since that day, this part of “John’s history” is pretty much irrelevant.
  • attended Catholic schools through college (Loyola University in Chicago). For his four years of high school and his first year of high school, he was in the Catholic seminary – studying to be a priest. He left that specific vocation behind, but truly all of his work since then – as a psychologist, organization development management consultant or as a front-line customer service worker (for seven years now a grocery store cashier) has in a very real way been pastoral.
  • in his last year in college (1968), experienced a genuine transformation from a straight, middle class kid into a real immersion into the counter-culture and political radicalism. This, in a very real way, changed the trajectory of his life. In many ways he was an aspiring hippie (he tuned in and turned on), but never became a true hippie (he never really dropped out). Instead of moving to Haight Ashbury and really “living the life”, he stayed in Chicago and quickly married a girl very much like his mother.
  • got a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Rochester. Did not in any way identify with his academic faculty, charting for himself a course towards psychotherapy and personal growth. Rejecting the influences of Sigmund Freud and B.F. Skinner, he and many of his classmates were irresistibly drawn to Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Fritz Perls. His class and the class ahead of him were the first (and maybe last) wave of “student radicals” to hit that program: they and their academic faculty made each other crazy for the next four years – and he escaped with his Ph.D. by the skin of his teeth.
Carl Rogers, creator of Client-Centered Therapy

Abe Maslow, creator of Humanistic Psychology
Fritz Perls. seriously serious dude, creator of Gestalt Therapy
  • was married right out of college. A tormented, ten-year marriage that did, however – right near its end – net a wonderful adopted son, Terry, who lives in Louisville, KY, and still is his heart.
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Terry Madden and son Felix
  • Having grown up in a sheltered, all-white midwestern suburb in the fifties left him completely ignorant of racial issues until his final year of college. Then, along with the rest of his political and societal waking up, the scales began to fall off his eyes about racism and white privilege. Over the last fifty years, he has – among many other influences – been shaped by
    • raising a black son
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My son, Terry Michael Madden
  • Martin Luther King (marched with him in Chicago),
  • Re-evaluation Counseling , with its passionate, across-the board commitment to liberation issues – a real distinguishing characteristic from so many personal personal growth paths. “I can’t be really free until everybody is free.”
  • ten years of his management consulting and training specialized in “diversity issues” – race, gender and sexual orientation in the workplace.
  • a long and powerful commitment to “men’s issues”. He was groomed to work with men by: having six brothers, five years in the Catholic seminary, four years of working in a VA hospital, and 15 years working with mostly-male corporate managers. He passionately loves his brothers and has organized and participated in men’s groups for the last forty years.
  • has been influenced by many personal growth influences, especially Re-evaluation Counseling (peer “co-counseling – a passionate 24 year involvement, formally ending about 20 years ago but forever influencing him) and Gestalt Therapy.
  • Has been in therapy for himself for most of the last 20 years, with therapists who have practiced
  • in his 20 years of practicing psychology, he (among other things)
    • taught college for two years at Alfred University
    • worked in a mental health center in Amherst, Nova Scotia, for two years
    • offered psychotherapy in a private practice in Syracuse, NY, for seven years
    • (in his last psychology job) was for four years the psychologist in a Day Hospital program at a tough, mostly black, West Side of Chicago VA Hospital
  • in his 15 years of practicing organization development management consulting, he:
    • worked full-time for four years at AT&T, including a lot of work at its headquarters in Basking Ridge, NJ – where he grew from a psychologist into being a genuine systems-oriented organization change person
    • while at AT&T, he was greatly influenced by the brilliant and incredibly progressive organizational hero Peter Block and his ground-breaking book Flawless Consulting (which Peter teased that he had considered titling “Smash the Patriarchy”), was certified as a trainer of the corporate training course based on that book and was briefly a part of Peter’s training firm, Designed Learning.
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Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting
  • Worked two years at Cincinnati Gas and Electric – a sleepy old-fashioned utility that was the opposite of the vibrant AT&T, was as resistant to change as AT&T was relatively open to it.
    • While at CG&E, went as an OD consultant with representatives of the Training Department to an extended series of trainings with Peter Senge on “Systems Thinking” as applied to organizations. A lifesaver while he was working in a system that so feared change.
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Peter Senge’s ground-breaking bookon systems thinking and the “learning organization” – one of the most influential business books of all time.
  • Participated in the 54-day (over 18 months) Organization and Systems Development (OSD) professional training program at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. Influenced the way he worked with corporate clients – and his whole way of being in the world.
  • after his “mental health breakdown” (should have been a spiritual transformation) thirty years ago, did not work for a couple of years
    • was hospitalized 13 times over eight years in Chicago and Asheville. Those hospitals ranged from very benign (if never truly therapeutic) to snake pits
    • was treated for 30 years with very potent cocktails of psychotropic drugs
    • separated by a year, was treated with two extended rounds of ECT shock treatments. The first round was relatively traumatic: he discontinued it when he became very aware of much erosion in his subtle mental faculties. The second round was totally devastating and precipitated a three-day psychotic episode (the only psychotic experience of his life)
  • in 2004, somewhat on impulse, in a desperate attempt to re-invent himself, moved to Asheville, NC. – as counseled a year before by his son Terry (“Dad, if you ever get suicidal again, no matter what don’t hurt yourself. Move to a place where you have never lived, where you know nobody, do work you never have done – start over.”) The funky, artistic Asheville really fits him – has supported his development as an artist/writer/performer. 
  • In his fifteen years in Asheville, has held 13 different front-line customer service jobs – including restaurant server, cab driver, call center customer service agent and grocery store cashier (his last 7 years). Has become “the working class hero I was always meant to be”.) Read his “Working Hard for the Money” chapter in his in-progress memoir A Dark Awakening.
  • meditation and eastern spirituality: has been a meditation student of
    • Sri Chinmoy (three years)
      • Bengali teacher of Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of love, devotion and surrender
      • teacher of classic jazz guitarist “Mahavishnu” John McLaughlin and Carlos “Devadip” Santana
      • stumbled into the guru’s backyard and joined a group of about 15 people who got to hear the guru instruct Santana on how to meditate when he is playing for thousands of people in a rock concert
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Sri Chinmoy
  • mind-expanding drugs – did four powerful acid trips in grad school. Each was intended and structured to be a “spiritual experience” – and each was, until it turned terrifying and out of control. Had no one around him then to help him integrate these experiences.
  • mental illness: was diagnosed with “clinical depression” in his early forties, and “bipolar disorder” a few years later. Today, influenced by the thinking and writing of Stanislav Grof (famous pioneer of Transpersonal Psychology, the meeting point between personal growth and spiritual growth – especially in his book The Stormy Search of Health), is no longer willing to identify himself as having a mental illness and sees his “symptoms” as signs that he was having a “spiritual emergency” – which no one around him was equipped to do anything but define him as mentally ill.
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Stanislav Grof, pioneer of Transpersonal Psychology
  • psychotropic drugs: has for 30 years taken potent cocktails of 2-4 drugs. He is convinced now that none of them has ever really helped him – in collaboration with his psychiatrist, is in a process of weaning himself off of all three drugs he has been taking.
  • has been very influenced by the 12 Steps and (until very recently) has for many years thought that really “working” the Steps, with a sponsor, could be very powerful. Not sure if any of this still pertains to him.
  • was a Myers-Briggs ENFP and an Enneagram 7. Today, being pretty totally guided by Spirit, none of that is really who he is any more.
  • a writer – threw himself into it since elementary school. His writing really caught fire when he moved to Asheville 15 years ago.
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Diana Buchanan and my chihuahua mix Panchita aka Pancho
  • 5 Rhythms free-form improvisational dancing
  • he has also been very influenced by three dogs:
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  • 5 pound yorkiepoo Toni
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Toni and the amazing vocalist Paula Hanke
  • “Woke up” – 3 a.m., Monday, June 26, 2019

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These days all of my identities are converging: whether I am offering a blessing in the grocery store checkout line, offering a prayer in a poem or experiencing the kinship with all life while walking my or a client's dog - it's all the same. It's all Life.

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