Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of the History of Psychological Theories

pp 612-614

Krippner, Stanley

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Basic Biographical Information

Stanley C. Krippner, an American psychologist, was born on October 4, 1932 in Edgerton, Wisconsin, of Norwegian, German, and Irish ancestry. In 1954, he received his B.S. in speech education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and worked as a public school speech therapist before attending graduate school, receiving his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University in 1957 (in counseling and guidance) and 1961 (in educational psychology) where he was the graduate assistant for Paul A. Witty, the first of his distinguished mentors. While at Northwestern University, he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., attended all of his on-campus seminars, then personally guided him on a tour of the campus; he credits King for stimulating his interest in social activism, a theme that was to characterize Krippner’s later work on behalf of children with special needs, combat veterans, Native Americans, and other marginalized groups. In his earlier years, he spent his summer vacations working as a program director at YMCA youth camps and in 1959 he received the YMCA Service to Youth Award, the first of many awards he was to receive during his career.

Currently, Krippner is the Alan Watts Professor of Psychology in the College of Psychology and Humanistic Studies at Saybrook University in San Francisco. Formerly, he was director of the Kent State University Child Study Center (Kent, Ohio), which houses his archives in the Special Collections department of its library. From 1964 to 1973, Krippner was the director of the Maimonides Medical Center’s Dream Research Laboratory (in Brooklyn, New York), having been suggested for this position by Gardner Murphy, a long-time mentor for whom he had served as teaching assistant during Murphy’s guest professorship at the University of Hawaii. For 36 years he was married to Lelie Harris, and retained a friendly association with her after their divorce.

Major Accomplishments and Contributions

At Kent State University, Krippner’s classes for graduate students in the School of Education emphasized the neuropsychology of learning disabilities. As early as 1967, he published a pioneering paper on the role played by central nervous system dysfunction in reading problems, at a time when many specialists in the field were emphasizing emotional difficulties and poor schooling as the primary etiological factors. He continued to contribute articles on this topic after leaving Kent State for Brooklyn, New York, where he and his colleagues studied anomalous effects in dreams for 10 years. This was the first long-term laboratory study of the topic and is described in the 1974 book Dream Telepathy coauthored with the renowned psychiatrist Montague Ullman, the founder and director of the Maimonides Community Mental Health Center. This work was the basis for career achievement awards that Krippner received from the International Association for the Study of Dreams (in 2006) and the Parapsychological Association (in 1998). In 2002, he received Andrah University’s Award for Life-Time Achievement in Parapsychology, named after J.B. Rhine, another of Krippner’s long-time mentors. In 2010, he co-edited Debating Psychic Experience: Human Potential or Human Illusion an historic volume in which parapsychologists and their critics confront each other in the form of presentations and rebuttals.

Krippner’s next position was at the Humanistic Psychology Institute in San Francisco, later renamed Saybrook University, where he designed a series of courses focusing on the study of consciousness. Krippner was an early leader in Division 32 of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Society for Humanistic Psychology, serving as the president of the society from 1980 to 1981. He received the Charlotte and Karl Buhler Award from this society in 1992; Charlotte Buhler had been an early mentor, introducing him to the basic principles of humanistic psychology. Krippner was given the Pathfinder Award by the Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP) in 1998, “for enduring contributions to the exploration and expansion of human consciousness.” Krippner served as the president of AHP in 1992. Krippner has written many articles about humanistic and existential psychology, linking them with chaos theory, Jungian thought, and postmodern perspectives. He has served as the president of the National Association for Gifted Children, the International Association for the Study of Dreams, and APA’s Division 30 (the Society for Psychological Hypnosis) from which he received its Award for Distinguished Contributions to Professional Hypnosis in 2002, the same year that he received APA’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to the International Advancement of Psychology. In 2003, he received the Ashley Montagu Peace Award from a Russian-American consortium for his “service toward the advancement of an international culture of peace.” In 1996 the First Church of Humanism, New York City, named him “Humanist of the Year” for his years of social activism.

For 4 decades, Krippner had a close association with the celebrated psychologist Albert Ellis, attending many of his seminars on Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy. Krippner drew on the principles of REBT (especially his distinction between rational and irrational beliefs) to conceptualize, with the psychotherapist David Feinstein, “personal mythology,” the life narrative and worldview that impact one’s attitudes and behaviors. Their book, Personal Mythology served as the basis for several doctoral dissertations at Saybrook University and Krippner and Feinstein conducted personal mythology workshops and seminars jointly or separately in a dozen different countries. It also served as a theme for Krippner’s co-edited anthology The Psychological Impact of War Trauma on Civilians (2003) and coauthored book Haunted by Combat: Understanding PTSD in War Veterans (2007). Another pioneering co-edited anthology was Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence published by APA in 2000, becoming one of their best-sellers. Krippner became a Charter Member of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, a Charter Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and a Founding Fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists, having published the first studies of the dreams of pregnant women and, in a separate study, the dreams of male-to-female transsexuals.

His co-edited book, Broken Images, Broken Selves: Dissociative Narratives in Clinical Practice (1997), reflects his long-standing investigation of dissociation, a phenomenon that he encountered in visits and field research with shamans and other indigenous practitioners from six continents, among them the Mazatec shaman Maria Sabina and the intertribal medicine man Rolling Thunder. Krippner regards one of his greatest honors as being the Lakota Sioux name, Wicasa Waste, given him by a Native American elder, which can be roughly translated as “mensch.” Krippner met Rolling Thunder through his association with the Grateful Dead musical group, and is a member of the Grateful Dead Scholars, having published the first scholarly article in 1973 about this legendary rock band. Krippner was the first recipient of the Ruth-Inge Heinze Memorial Lecture Award (2008) named after his colleague, Dr. Heinze, who founded an annual shamanism conference, held at Dominican University, San Rafael, California, where Krippner currently lives. Krippner published the first article on shamanism to appear in APA’s flagship journal, The American Psychologist taking the position that shamans served many psychological functions for their communities and that their contributions to health care, the expressive arts, mental imagery, ritual and mythology, and even the placebo response are worthy of academic investigation. In 2007, Krippner received the Woodfish Award for his collaborative work with Native Americans.

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