Minh Tran is a Ph.D. student in Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program, as well as being a licensed family therapist. He has been selected to be a featured artist in the Artist Spotlight at LACPA. The featured project he was selected for is “America Dreams,” an intellectual musical exploring matriotism and social artistry. I’m delighted to talk with Minh about his project:
Angela: What can we look forward to in “America Dreams,” the presentation you will be giving on June 6th for the LACPA?
Minh: It’s a choreographed essay with its roots in a presentation I made for a course at Pacifica in Cultural Psychology, on America and social justice. That was the genesis. The Spotlight series the LACPA has this year, reached out to me to see if I wanted to elaborate more on the topic and present more on what “America Dreams” is about. The origin of the choreographed essay was inspired by a music video of a Vietnamese singer who was choreographing with her hands. I was so inspired by it. And at the gym, one fine morning, my active imagination was at work, and I started to think about my essay and my hands just started moving, and it started to look good, and I just went along with it. So the hand movements were new to me, but they are choreographed movements. In my clinical practice, I work with kids also, and I started experimenting with elaborating with my hands like puppets, and it became natural. I started paying more attention to hand gestures as a form of communication during telehealth sessions. On a conscious level I was drawing inspiration from Ericksonian Hypnotherapy, Milton H. Erickson, the “wizard of the desert.” His form of hypnotherapy widens what we think of as hypnotherapy.
My intention is to queer the line between edification and entertainment. I hope people who experience “America Dreams” walk away entertained, inspired, and moved on some level, as we are by a great concert or movie. But I want people to also think deeply about topics of the times. I want the art to speak to the times.
Angela: You were born in Saigon and came to the United States via a refugee camp. For many immigrants to the United States, there at one time, and perhaps still, was this notion of the American Dream. That people came here to pursue dreams or enjoy freedoms that were not available to them where they were born. And for many, although not all, there has then been the disappointment inherent in finding that a dream is not all it was hoped to be. How has your experience as a Vietnamese American shaped your work in the field of psychology? Is the concept of the immigrant experience part of the framework of “America Dreams”?
Minh: What’s funny is that I had entitled it “America Dreams,” but people wanted to turn it into “American Dreams.” Interestingly enough, I think either would work. It’s connected to my ideas of matriotism, which has to do with the land, eco-psychology, and indigenous psychology, all of which feeds into my framework. It’s an epistemology, a way of looking at the world from a depth psychological place, which translates from my motherland culture as animism, a connection to the land, and ancestral dreams. But calling it “American Dreams” could work, in that there are many different American dreams. A singular American dream invisibilizes a lot of people, so I like the idea of multiple American dreams, an inclusive one, but there could be something archetypal to it. But this has very much to do with my heritage and background. My first memory is being in a refugee camp off the coast of Malaysia. Being part of that history, coming to America, and being given the opportunities I was given, in many ways I am living out the more popularly known monolithic American Dream as well, and I’m very grateful for that.
I want to channel the spirit of renaissance, a strength-based approach rather than tearing things down, an integration of the shadow.
Angela: What is the idea of “matriotism” and how has it featured in your work? I assume it reflects on depth psychology and the history of matriarchal societies in Asia. How do you look at our current political and social situation in the United States in terms of gender, statehood, and the future progression of the country?
Minh: In addition to being an earth-based consciousness, it’s nascent ideation, a word used by other people. I started using it because it feels intuitive and makes people think of matriarchy as well as more feminine and feminist values in American politics. Bringing in more feminist values into political discourse as well as drawing from indigenous cultures. So it comes from respect for feminine values.
Angela: You are part of the LGBT community, as well as working with LGBT teens in your job as a therapist. Many LGBT individuals (and LGBT allies), who, having fought for the right to adopt children, marry, and have domestic partner rights, felt apprehension with the shift in political tone during the last administration. What archetypes can we draw on during setbacks in the progression of human rights? Are you optimistic for the future?
Minh: I think about Jungian analyst, Deldon McNeely, in her book Animus Aeternus: Exploring the Inner Masculine, pointing out that the archetype of the Syzygy represents psychic-androgyny, which is unlike the image of hermaphroditism. The latter is undifferentiated, while the former has undergone a psychological differentiation process before coming back together to form a new third.
Angela: In 2017, you graduated with an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica. And now you are pursuing a Ph.D. at Pacifica in Depth Psychology, in the Integrative Therapy and Healing Practices specialty. What can we look forward to in your dissertation project?
Minh: I am currently a practicing therapist full time as well as a fulltime student. I’m currently packaging a proposal for a Fulbright research grant, regarding my dissertation topic, which is about indigenous mother goddess worship system that is indigenous to Vietnam. I’m excited to get even more in touch with my roots and continue to develop further this idea of matriotism.
Angela: What is your favorite part of studying at Pacifica and how do you juggle that with a fulltime practice:
Minh: When I went for my M.A. I was working fulltime and still am. It’s through passion. I have a lot of passion for the field and my work and career, so they all feed into each other. It’s an ecosystem in my life, it feeds me.
I have had such a transformative experience being a student at Pacifica. Pacifica isn’t shy about offering an experience of further individuation. So it has opened doors I didn’t know where there before and has been healing for me on many levels. The land itself is very much alive, and I have a relationship with it, and look forward to coming back to it.
Angela: Thank you so much for speaking with me. Can anyone attend your performance on June 6th, and if so, where should they look for that information?
Minh: It will be live and recorded, and I have intentioned it to be engaging and revealing and intimate. I only know how to lead by example, so I like to bring in ideas and personal things I might be working through in the moment and break the fourth wall and see what we can do with it. I like a twist, a Hitchkockian twist to the plot, so expect some mind trips, a combination of singing, dancing, acting, and slides and more intellectual/theoretical kind of things. People can rvsp here and it will be available later recorded
Minh Tran identifies as a queer man, a psychotherapist, a student of depth psychology, and a proud Vietnamese-American. Minh has a postgraduate certificate in psychedelic-assisted therapies and research from the California Institute of Integral Studies, a former California MFT Consortium Stipend awardee, and a recipient of Pacifica’s “Wendy Davee Award for Service.” Currently, Minh is a full-time practicing clinician, a full-time doctoral student, and a part-time adventurer into contemporary Reggaetón music. Minh currently resides in Denver, Colorado—The New Heartland of America.
Angela Borda is a writer for Pacifica Graduate Institute, as well as the editor of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Her work has been published in Food & Home, Peregrine, Hurricanes & Swan Songs, Delirium Corridor, Still Arts Quarterly, Danse Macabre, and is forthcoming in The Tertiary Lodger and Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Vol. 5.