Where are the sources of hope and renewal in a world torn by injustice and conflict? What would it mean to “live without borders/ vivir sin fronteras”? Current models of globalization, development, resource extraction, and neoliberal policy, enforced through militarism and hypocrisy, have accelerated social inequity and environmental degradation. Basic conditions for survival – climate, soil, water, shelter, food, clean air – are threatened. While a privileged caste has been excessively enriched by international arrangements, massive numbers of people displaced from sustainable economies and ecosystems are searching for alternative ways of living.

  Liberation psychology offers useful approaches to communities, economies, and ecosystems in trouble. Through new practices that have emerged in local settings worldwide, liberation psychology has evolved methods to develop more creative visions of our place in the world. It allows us to focus on questions of paradigm change, reimagining, restoring and rebuilding as we try to think through how we might alter our course toward just and life-supporting agendas for complex living systems.   This archive traces the intellectual and political path I’ve taken on a long journey toward my understanding of liberation psychology. I’ve included books and articles, published and unpublished, along with some sample pieces I wrote or edited with friends about activist projects in which we participated in a past era.  I’ve also shared syllabi, talks, classroom handouts, and paintings. The writings featured here, a few recovered from dusty boxes and drawers, evidence a utopian reweaving of silenced stories and new connections that led me forward like the North star.

I’ve divided the articles into three sections. Activist Projects, 1970-1989 contains materials from local communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, written as we attempted to understand and respond to the implications of the Civil Rights, Women’s, Indigenous, and Farmworkers’ Movements, the Ethnic Studies strikes at San Francisco State, and U.S. government involvement in the Vietnam war and dictatorships and military interventions in Latin America and Africa. Witness, Amnesia, Culture Wars, 1990-2005 focuses on the period in which I returned to the academic world, where I encountered what have been called “wars of memory” and experienced the troubling realization that much academic curriculum in the humanities did not include what had been most important in my life and in my understanding of history and environment.   Liberation, Depth, Community, Eco-psychologies, 1997-present shares articles on new paradigms in psychology that dream of participation, dialogue, and repair through cultural activism, local organizing, direct action, and coordinated networks, imagining a tipping point, an awakening to the hope that “another world is possible”.


Mexico-Tenochtitlan / The Wall That Talks
by Anthony Ortega and the Quetzalcoatl Mural Project
Los Angeles, CA

Helene Shulman Lorenz has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Tulane University and a Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.

She is the author of Living at the Edge of Chaos: Complex Systems in Culture and Psyche, and with Mary Watkins, Toward Psychologies of Liberation. In addition to holding teaching positions at Sonoma State University, St. Lawrence University, Antioch University, and the University of Southern California, she has had a long history as a community activist in the Civil Rights, Anti-War, Farmworkers, Women’s, and African and Latin American Solidarity Movements. She currently resides in Los Angeles and teaches in the Pacifica Graduate Institute program in Community, Liberation, and Eco-Psychology.


Culture is the seed of resistance that blossoms into the flower of liberation
by Miranda Bergan and O’Brien Thiele, San Francisco, CA

Toward Psychologies of Liberation (with Mary Watkins) Palgrave Press, 2008

“This landmark book takes us on an unforgettable journey across disciplines, countries, spiritualities, and techniques to teach us twenty-first century psychologies of liberation. Authors Watkins and Shulman transform the discipline of psychology, showing us its connections to all disciplines concerned with liberating the imagination. Across international fields of difference, these authors never give up the prize: social and psychic emancipation. In doing so, they define what “decoloniality” means for the twenty-first century.”

Chela Sandoval, Associate Professor of Liberation Philosophy; Chair, Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Spanish Edition: Hacia Psicologías de Liberación,
Partes 1 y 2 – Tr. Montserrat Chanivet Marabot


Capítulo 1: Más allá de Universales: Regeneración Local

Capítulo 2: Más allá de la ideología: el diálogo

Capítulo 3: Más allá del desarrollo: La liberación

Capítulo 4.1: Parte II – Heridas psíquicas del Colonialismo y la Globalización

Capítulo 4.2: Síntomas y Psicologías en el Contexto Cultural

Capítulo 5: De espectador a testigo comprometido

Capítulo 6: Las patologías de la perpetración

Capítulo 7: Duelo y Testigo después del Trauma Colectivo

Capítulo 8.1: Parte III – El surgimiento de la restauracion creativa

Capítulo 8.2: Ruptura y Hospitalidad

Capítulo 9: La conciencia nómada y de los no sujetos

Capítulo 10: Diálogo 

Capítulo 11.1: Parte IV Prácticas participativas de las Psicologías de la Liberación

Capítulo 11.2: Comunidades de Resistencia. Hogares públicos y lugares de apoyo a la reconciliación

Capítulo 12: Las artes liberatorias. Amnesia, contra-memoria, contra-memorial

Capítulo 13: Investigación acción participativa crítica

Capítulo 14: Colocando las Éticas Dialógicas en el centro de la Investigación Psicológica

Capítulo 15: Sueños de Reconciliación y Restauración  

Living at the Edge of Chaos,  Daimon Verlag, 1997

“The author ably translates concepts not only from psychology, but from ecology, politics, and even shamanism into a non-reductive systems framework with which we can grasp the interface between mind and milieu, the while avoiding the EITHER experience-distant OR experience-near split that runs through so much postmodern thought. For that alone I would rate this book highly.
Moreover, these theoretical discoveries and speculations are applied to urgent contemporary crises like warfare, poverty, and social injustice, framing them as our unconscious attempt to push an overly rigid, “high-grid” civilization closer to the edge of chaos, where new channels of information can open and correct systemic imbalances.
Even biology plays its part in this coevolutionary swirl.”

Craig Chalquist, Department Chair of East-West Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies

Links to Related Books

Articles – Activist Projects – 1970-1989

Song of Unity by Osha Neumann, Anna de Leon, Ray Patlan, and O’Brien Theile, Berkeley, CA

A few years ago, when I was teaching a graduate seminar in “Liberation Arts and Community Engagement” in a Theater of the Oppressed program at USC, one of the students asked a question that surprised me. She said that the goal of participatory theater work in Brazil had been to contribute ideas and imagination to building popular political movements, but no such movement had existed in the United States in her lifetime, so she didn’t understand what these organizations look like and how they start. After that, I redid the syllabus to include films and readings on the formation of new social movements. For this web page, I decided to include from past activist movements several publications that I had a hand in producing either as editor or co-writer. I thought it could be interesting for those curious about what it was like to participate locally and internationally in an idealistic period when large numbers of people came to believe that social change was necessary and possible. Such projects evolved organically in many different regions with varying degrees of understanding about goals and theories. Some were surprisingly successful.
Today, looking back, these activities are sometimes understood as “prefigurative projects” emerging in the United States as a result of post-WWII anti-colonial movements worldwide and from the civil rights, student, women’s, indigenous, farmworkers, and new left movements of the 1960’s and ‘70’s. Prefigurative projects are a form of activism that attempts to create alternative social relations and institutions in order to express long-term goals within present practices. Prefigurative projects hold a tension between older highly structured forms of political organizing that often sacrifice local and democratic considerations for the sake of a revolutionary future, and the need to experiment in the present with more participatory and liberatory forms of relationship and institution building. Prefigurative projects imagine new political and cultural meanings, often through the arts or through new types of infrastructure or education, and then circulate these ideas to wide public networks. Liberation theology activists in Latin America called such activities “prophetic” because they call a community to hear its conscience.

Sample Liberation School Catalogue, San Francisco, 1972, a multi-year volunteer “free school” involving hundreds of Bay Area participants.
Sample Program, La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, Cultural Production Committee and Community Chorus, 1979.

Script for La Peña Cultural Productions Committee multimedia musical theater Program, “Canto Libre” 1980. Co-written with Aurora Levins-Morales and Kathleen Vickery.

Script for La Peña Cultural Productions Committee multimedia musical theater Program “La Poblacion” 1981. Co-written with Aurora Levins-Morales and Kathleen Vickery.

Selections from 8th Anniversary Calendar La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, 1983.
Selections from 9th Anniversary Calendar La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, 1984.

Selections from 10th Anniversary Calendar La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, 1985.

With Paul Chin, “Resistance Culture Grows in ChileJump Cut No. 29, 1984. Article about the first National Cultural Workers and Artists Congress held in Chile since the U.S. sponsored coup in Chile in 1973, outlining 10 years of resistance to the Pinochet dictatorship.

With Paul Chin, “Culture As a Subversive ExpressionKPFA Folio, Vol. 36, Issue 3, 1984. Another article about experiences at the first National Cultural Workers and Artists Congress.

Vigil on the Tracks”, KPFA Folio Vol. 40, Issue 8, 1984. Article about a Nuremberg Action Group blockade of the Concord Naval Weapons Station where anti-personnel weapons were being shipped to El Salvador.

Tortured Activist to Talk About Repression” In El Tecolote, December, 1988. Article on new coalitions and demonstrations in Guatemala City.

With Grant Fisher, “National Dialogue Inaugurated in Guatemala” In ReportOn Guatemala, Vol. 10, Issue 2, 1989

Yearly Reports, Capp Street Foundation Central America Program, 1986-1988. (50MB file. May take a while to load depending on your connection speed.)

Articles – Witness, Amnesia, Culture Wars 1990-2005

Historias Pintadas/Painted Histories by Beatriz Aurora Castedo, Mexico City

When I re-entered the academic world in the 1990’s, I (along with many other outsiders to the system) found a compartmentalized environment with an inherited colonial tradition of denial and avoidance. Countries all over the world were attempting to come to terms with the violence of repressive histories through truth and reconciliation commissions that most often only seemed to throw light on the polarization between those who needed to remember and those who wanted to forget. Students were organizing “speakouts” on gender, ethnic, and homophobic violence, that even twenty-five years later are still being swept under the rug in university settings. During these years new scholarship was full of questions about the tensions between official histories and social memory, trauma and witness, manic defense and mourning, amnesia and counter-memory. We wondered how it would be possible to solve problems when huge numbers of people were invested in silence, and what it would take to begin dialogue. An immense literature developed on these subjects to which I contributed the following articles.

With Randi Kristensen, “Failed Multiculturalism and Dreams of a Negotiated Settlement” In Proceedings of the Association of University Women Conference on Gender and Race on the Campus and in the School: Beyond Affirmative Action (1999). 

With Randi Kristensen, “Does Your School Send Mixed Messages on Multiculturalism?” Interview in Women in Higher Education, October (1997). 

The Shattered Lens: Revisioning the End of Monocultures” In Proceedings   of the Association of University Women Conference on Gender and Race on   the Campus and in the School:  Beyond Affirmative Action (1999). 

Amnesia/ Countermemory”  Talk at Conference on When History Wakes. Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, CA (2002).

Thawing Hearts, Opening a Path in the Woods, Founding a New Lineage”   In  This Bridge We Call Home,  Edited by Gloria Anzaldua and AnaLouise Keating (2000).

Thinking About Collective Trauma, Symbolic Loss, and the Praxis of  Restoration in the Americas” (2004).

Interrupted Subjects” In Transforming Terror: Remembering the Soul of the World, Edited by Karin Lofhus Carrington and Susan Griffin (2011)

Articles – Liberation, Depth, Community, and Eco-Psychologies
1998 – Present

earth dreams by Helene Lorenz
During these years I have had the rich experience of teaching with Mary Watkins and others in liberation psychology graduate programs featuring participatory research courses and fieldwork requirements. That has meant my students and I have had the opportunity to accompany community organizing projects in the United States and abroad, and to learn from them and with them about what works and what fails in efforts of repair. From that vantage point, I could see the links connecting corporate power, militarism, media control, and silencing at home and abroad to the widespread displacement of populations through resource extraction, land theft, and environmental degradation. How many polluted rivers, flooded homes, droughts, failed states and cities, wars, market crashes, and refugee crises do we have to witness before we ask ourselves and others about carrying on business as usual? At what point are we prepared to take in the enormously difficult idea that we are at the end of an era, that the worldviews that underlie much of our approach to nature, development, and governance are about to arrive at a dead end?
The values that guided 19th and 20th century industrialization grew during a history of colonialism, slavery, and genocide, evolving into an ethic of domination and exploitation of the environment and human populations. Now we need to find a new orientation through dialogue and imagination, as well as trial and error with new forms of community-building and sustainable economic projects. This will mean that our identities need to change as well, in order to express doubts, concerns, and hopes that we learned to silence in the past. All over the world new cultural forms and regenerative projects are emerging through complex self-organizing networks built by the pioneers of liberation psychology that seek to create thriving healthy ecosystems and inclusive creative communities.
From the point of view of psychology, the first question is whether we face the unexpected in life with denial or dialogue. We need to understand the conditions that favor each strategy, and the personal and public outcomes of adopting them. What produces blind obedience to repressive authorities and what nurtures compassionate responses to suffering? What are the long-term human costs of violence and how have they affected our own thinking? Can we imagine and rebuild a new life-sustaining economy? Can we develop a framework spacious enough to link together efforts of small local and large transnational movements to organize resistance to displacement? These are some of the concerns of emerging new paradigms in the fields of liberation, community, depth and eco-psychology.

Windtrails”  In Images, Meanings, Connections: Essays in Memory of Susan R. Bach. Edited by Ralph Goldstein (1999).

The Presence of Absence: Mapping Postcolonial Spaces”  In Depth Psychology: Reflections from the Field, Edited by Lionel Corbett and Dennis Slattery (2000). 

With Mary Watkins. “Silenced Knowings, Forgotten Springs: Paths to Healing in the Wake of Colonialism” In Radical Psychology: A Journal Of Psychology, Politics, and Radicalism  (2001). 

With Mary Watkins. “Depth Psychology and Colonialism: Individuation, Seeing-Through, Liberation” In Quadrant (2001). 

With Mary Watkins. “What is a Cultural Approach to Depth Psychology?” Conference on Creating Community With Youth (2002). 

With Mary Watkins, Dan Hocoy, and Aaron Kipnis. “Liberation Psychologies: An Invitation to Dialogue” (2003). 

With Mary Watkins, “Introduction” In Toward Psychologies of Liberation (2008). [hsl33]

A Language for Liberation Psychologies” (2005). 

Synchronicity in the 21st Century” In Jung, the e-journal of the Jungian Society for Scholarly studies (2006). 

Broken Dreams: Liberation Psychology and Theater of the Oppressed” (2011). 


Eagle Flight by Helene Lorenz

Depth Psychology and Culture, 2005. 

Trauma, Memory, Reconciliation, 2010.

Liberation Arts and Community Engagement, 2013.

Jungian Psychology, 2015.

Creating a Psychology Syllabus Within a Global Social Justice
Framework. A faculty discussion document created to challenge
Eurocentrism in psychology.