Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dry humor, or wet seriousness #3: The Lady Shop


Part I

Is there anything we can make of the fact that a counseling practice I’m familiar with – in fact, have joined part-time – has an overwhelmingly female clientele (maybe ninety percent) who want to see a female therapist? I am the one male at a Lady Shop that is quietly Amazonian in feel. I believe I have an attitude about this, thought it remains unplumbed and open to reason.

Life coaching, EMDR, womanly empathy, sisterly encouragement, motherly-like love. The natural camaraderie. The comfort of not sitting with a man while opening up about sexual abuse five or twenty years ago. Pretty offices with imperative-inspirational slogans on the walls (“do what you love, love what you do”; “yesterday NOW tomorrow”; “You are worth your weight in [gold bar image]),” and many pillows. Where is the floaty go-nowhere music and aromatherapy?

One of my big ignorances about the history of psychotherapy is: I do not know when the drastic surgery of psychoanalysis and depth therapy turned into happiness promising and quick-fix making. When did shrinks in their cloistered offices turn into sunshine and lollypops, smiling ads and mouthwash commercial promises of joy, life course redirection, and healing?

I wonder but do not know: Is there a causal link between the two – the rising of the sea of female therapists and the sea change to love and positivity?

Part II

I have for once held a deliberately depressing session. The client, mid-forties, had been adequately successful, worked as a handyman, had many abilities. He would also periodically lose what he’d gained through neurotic relationships, becoming bored with a town and moving on, sabotaging himself in small fry ways (hobbled by warrants after failing to pay parking fines, for example). One day he got in an automobile accident that caused him some mild-to-moderate neurological problems – decreased alertness, iffy depth perception.

He never worked again.

In sessions, he sullenly described his incapacities, the unpayable warrants, his helpless attorney, the Disability Income litigation limbo, his failure to get a break of any kind. I listened, offered encouragements and empathy. And when he finally asked – with masked frustration – for some feedback, I said:

‘People such as you and I came from a depressive home that bled our natural energy, our capacity for a passionate true north. So as adults we carry within us an empty anchor. We are held back at the root. And this root makes success feel subtly tragic, some kind of wrong. Now you have gotten hurt, and the early injuries of your childhood have been re-proven. Once again no one is there to see or care. You can no longer move on. You “can’t work,” though I am sure you could if you could ignore your inner truth.
‘I think we have to know our anchor, and how our horizon has been narrowed by our childhood. If you then have compassion for yourself, you can look outward from your lower hills and valleys. You won’t be punishing yourself for mountains that don’t exist. You can then find smaller fruits, maybe some gold nuggets. You’ll be in your own world, not the one that was supposed to be.
My client fell into this session, participated at a deeper level than he had in the months before. I’m not assuming, as we exited the office, he was happy. But he seemed to have something new moving inside, which I can hope will turn benign and stronger.

What do you think, ladies?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Negligible #1: The superior white men


We’d like to be able to find some statement of such great power that it would stop these universal haters and ungrown white men in their tracks and turn them from sickness to health. Acknowledging the magicalness of that thought, I guarantee that therapy’s words can at times give a person a sudden new awareness of himself, altering his inner landscape and his approach to the world. More often, though, we are only a hand shaking the topmost leaves of his tree and the trunk remains unmoved.

It feels almost compelled to insult and have hateful contempt for these desperate, rageful adolescents. Their greatest agony, which they project into the atmosphere, is that they were punished and love-starved children who had to grow up. They were crying, brutalized infants and youngsters who were taken from themselves: They had to get older. Hurt, they needed to be helped in the crib, held by mommy in their childhood bed. But they had to grow up, leave their true but invisible real self behind, and live like adults. The pain of this discongruity is a death that goes on forever. It may as well be the eternal hellfire of the Bible.

“Strong” men need to become weak to get better. They need to have their pain touched by a father-figure, a mother-figure, so they’re not carrying their burden by themselves. I’ve seen this happen in therapy: a solid man – a medic returning to Afghanistan – whose face transformed to his six-year-old when he remembered the compassion he had missed, the coldness he received, a little boy. But I, like you, can hardly imagine that happening to the members of the masses in their camo and gear, raging together, feeling the womb-like warmth of fellow haters. They don’t want my warmth.

So we see around us as much pandemonium and failure as there are atoms in the world. Man-children carrying into the grim battle of job or rally hundred-pound loads of their closed past; those who live on poisonous ideas – hate blacks and immigrants and Jews – as if they were the green ground and clean air. I wish there were a way to broadcast to all of them the truths of being a human being, truths that struck each one personally. I know there’s no such way. But this world could use a little magic.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Returning from El Jobean


Thirty-five years ago, on an evening in an early year of my first marriage, my wife spoke a four-word sentence that I believe is a key to Borderline Personality Disorder and other global warps of the self, including the peculiar problem of our president.

“E___” and I were driving back to Sarasota (FL) from a visit out-of-county. There had been a gathering of her friends, fossil hunting aficionados, at one member’s house. As usual, I’d been carried along by my neurotic passivity, sitting politely without identity, ignoring others’ enthusiasms. Suddenly I was jolted into a feeling of “queasy alarm.” E, engaged in the show-and-tell revelry, had tossed an autobiographical claim into her presentation. The discussion went on. I, however, could not return to my quiescent state.

As we drove through the night, I found that I had summoned the courage to say: “E, why did you tell everyone that you have a Master’s degree? You don’t have a Master’s degree.”

Her reply is the material I’d like you to consider. I will admit that I am only considering it now, first time, in any depth beyond its occasional usefulness in therapy sessions.

“Pardon me for living!” was her retort, intoned so righteously that hearing it, I felt the kind of innocent and stupid confusion only a young child can experience. I don’t remember, these many years later, if I rejoindered at all or what I might have said. But would any, or no, response have mattered? Could there be any answer that would join a shared reality?

Look at Trump and hear the man’s continual lies, which obviously feel as true to him as anything could or need be. Hear my ex-wife assuming – assuming – that her lie is valid and unquestionable. We could easily judge her as immature or as casually insane. Instead, let’s see her remark as literal. Pardon me for living. This is what I need for life. This is what I need to not disintegrate. We’d been married for over two years, yet I had never heard her say that phrase, so I don’t think it was a personal mantra, as was her over-worn “rude, crude and socially unacceptable” or “incest – it keeps it in the family.” It was sparked afresh by my throwing a terrible reality at her: a knife to her siege ego.

She was telling me that she had lived in fire and that oxygen would only make her burn up more. She was telling me that the way you are born is the way you live. She was angry because anger comes from being painfully bent, childhood on, and that’s who she had always been. “Living” meant struggling against the enemy, which was the strange present that had no love for her.

Borderline Personality, Masterson says, is the “deflated false self,” while Narcissism is the “inflated false self.” False is false, though, and when parents make this falseness live in the real world, it or the world must lose. A fire doesn’t want oxygen, a shadow doesn’t want light. Pardon her for living alone among us, in a different, darker atmosphere.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mini statement: Don One


The narcissist wakes up in the morning and he doesn’t feel good. There is no automatic sense of glory, there is no basic happiness. His bedrock is not made of bright material. A troubled feeling – which he will either not notice or will misinterpret – sparks his self-medications. Thought (“I am perfect”) may precede and trigger a chemical sensation-emotion which is interpreted as superiority or powerful expansiveness, or the sensation may come first – triggered directly by the negative fog at waking, or one later in the day – and bring some warm reminiscence of being admired recently or winning at something. These are chemical and ideational reactions not to the outer world: They are reactions to the deep self, the historical self that is a dark and unmade child. To escape, the brain and all systems have created an internality that is a perfumed bath, and that colors, uses, bends reality, makes it his name. That is to say, it ignores reality.

What can we do if this is what has found its way into the White House?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

When "strength" is impossible


Here is a fragmentary idea, vaguely described and hypothetically explained. It lingers in my brain and wants to be better understood.

There are adult clients who, during work on more fundamental issues, complain and grieve about their abuse-of-power parents or ex-spouses. A session starts off with actionable energy, or it seems so: Alarmed and insightful, they detail one indignity after another: divorcing husband calls Child Protective Services on his wife for malicious purposes. Parent treats live-in thirty-year-old son like a humiliated prisoner of war. Father forbids forty-year-old opiate addict daughter, who lost everything and had to crash at his home, from taking medication of any kind including her antidepressant. Grandfather sues his daughter for “grandparents’ rights” or custody, treats the little boy like a king, the girl like baggage. Mother slanders her daughter to their friends. Father restricts adult son’s use of toilet paper and doesn’t let him sit in “the master’s” easy chair. New stepmother barges in and harps every time son phones his dad (who probably colludes in his own pussy-whipping).

There is nothing suspect about these complaints, on their own merits. Fairly early on, though, I will get the sense that the client is in narrator mode. He has one predominant tone throughout the speech, an inscrutable one that brings to mind humorist Dave Barry’s compliment to readers who sent him grist-for-the-mill anecdotes: “alert.” There is no anger. There is no sense of resignation, victory contempt or rolling of the eyes. There is not a sense that this is a problem to solve. And it may be just when this mystery strikes one’s awareness that two equal but coup de grace ones appear: The client has chattered his litany for the entire hour. And my interventions have been unheard; they have had as much effect as a leaf flittering down upon a charging bear.

The leaf, though, eventually takes a stand. “You are naming all these crimes,” I say, “but I get the feeling that you are somehow one with them, are not really ready to do anything about them.” The client’s response is: “He drives me crazy! Sometimes I just want to sit in my room and be left alone, but he stands at the door yelling about how much gasoline I used or that I ate some leftover he wanted. And my mother doesn’t believe me: She and he are a perfect team, though she sometimes listens. When my sister visits, she always takes their side. I try to be as polite and reasonable as I can be. Sunday night I listened to him pacing – or marching – back and forth outside the bathroom door as I was doing my business. I guess he wanted me to know I was taking too long. . . .”

If only these clients were as single-minded and driven in their health as they are in their misery, their chains would be broken. Or it seems so.

What generates this reportage, this constant list of small rapes and murders and abandonments? How does the client say them and not revolt against the saying? Is there an unspoken feeling within him that I am not grasping? I wonder if it’s the feeling: “Daddy, mommy, please love me, don’t hurt me!” In these jeremiads, I have never heard that feeling, but is that what is left when all the other expected expressions are not there – anger, humor, strength, futility? If this is so, then therapy would have to reach that need, and help (frankly speaking) a pitiful client be more pitiful, a childlike client become the child. He or she would need to grieve past losses dug up and snarling in the present. And I would have to put aside my own sick need and not push the client’s anger and resolve and rejection of the parent. Strength is not what I think it is.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Onward and upward: Beyond our self and the world


A person can be born in trauma (soaked in mother’s depressive chemistry, ripped out by caesarian, shut away in an incubator); have no bonding; grow up out of sync with his age, with his peers, with life; repress and lose his feeling core and real self in his childhood; live an anxious dissociated then manufactured persona; grow a warped ideational field that covers just about everything; live an ambition or a momentum that is entirely non-real – not based in a core organic person who never existed.

And we will find him a normal, standard-issue person, like you or me. He may feel something wrong, but it won’t stop him from moving about in some mundane direction, and he won’t know its this wrong which is getting in his way. Or he may be bizarre or berserk or personality disordered or a comedian. But still, we’ll think this is just a person with flaws, a guy with some challenges.

He could be a malignant demon, and be Mr. Rogers.

What keeps us unreally stable is our mind, which lies on a bed of repression. Picture this simple fact: Assuming we are troubled anywhere close to the person described: If we lived only our feelings, were lost and mutantly made as can possibly be, we would be a ball of acid on fire, rolling like the apex of torture crazily through a hellish life. It is thinking and ideas and mental attachment that create the anesthetizing, counterbalancing stability for us. Pain and loss become “understood.” A completely absent sense of self (and self-esteem) is replaced by belief or hope or narcissism, or by perceiving – our cognitive eyes – the outer world not the inner one. A sense of never having been fully human (Modrow’s* idea about the disintegration leading to schizophrenia) is saved by delusional ideas. Serial or seamless tortures in childhood are Band-aided by inspirational sayings or crusades or by having the identity of PTSD.

The mind of thought and word comes in to give us a false stage, a dream that seems real. And a bonus value: Thought makes us feel mastery, feel powerful. We’re now in a place different from our pain, from our roots, from the rolling ball. The thought occurs that this deception is related to the phenomeno­log­ical problem: our adherence to a universe of surfaces, of appearance, with no capacity to know the essence. But it’s only a parallel, that we live an illusion of ourselves and see and think only an illusion of the world. There is little choice about the first, none about the second.

Psychotherapy, on this plane, helps us find some happiness or peace by mixing our need for the self-medication of thought with our need for organic feeling in a way that “works” for each person. It doesn’t know how it accomplishes this (and probably most often doesn’t know that it accomplishes this). Our work is noble and blind.

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* One of my favorite books, John Modrow’s How To Become a Schizophrenic, quoted elsewhere in this blog.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

When a lie is the truth and the truth is a lie


The Pessimistic Shrink sometimes can’t help but throw comments to the winds (of online news magazines). At Slate.com’s article, “Watch Fox News Anchor’s Exasperation at Trump Administration: ‘Why Is it Lie After Lie After Lie?’” –

Picture a six-year-old boy whose four-year-old sister pesters him unmercifully under the radar of their parents. She “borrows” his action figures, rips out pages of his comic books, calls him names. He yells at her, she runs to the parents, they reprimand him as the older one who should be more “mature,” dismissing his agony. One day it’s finally too much: In retribution he rips the head off Malibu Barbie. Four-year-old manipulative demon runs screaming to mother and father and they put the boy on the hot seat. He angrily denies he did it. Of course he denies it. He should deny it. He knows he will never get any justice in this family. To confess to one crime when dozens of unpunished crimes have been perpetrated on him would be worse than martyrdom. It would be injustice, self-sacrifice, humiliation. It would be to feed his soul to an uncaring monster. I think this is where the Republicans are when they lie and accept the Trump family’s lies above them. They’re the six-year-old boy and the Democrats are the four-year-old girl. Lying saves the dignity and the self of the mistreated child within.
Other blog posts have dealt with the imperative of a delusion, such as the Narcissist’s need to believe he is perfect, even the psychotic’s need to believe she is being watched and toyed with by strangers. Here I mean a different but related state of resolution: a deep felt need to redefine truth to mean personal justice. Each of us is alone, ultimately: We don’t, we can’t live for the social compact, accept the consensus against our sense of survival. Only the most damaged symbiote, the codependent victim, will give up her identity for a “greater cause.”

How is it that truth is redefinable like this? The boy in my example, if he could dissect his feeling, might describe this process: “What actually happened – something about some doll – doesn’t matter. Many things that happen don’t matter: a leaf may fall from a tree, a ceiling fan sends shadows across the wall. And if something doesn’t matter, its truth doesn’t deserve any standing; we may not care to invest belief in it. Especially if it’s used to defeat a greater truth.” These Republicans feel persecuted and harassed to confess to being bad people who are selling their country to Russia. There is no way they can allow themselves to be so degraded by judges, “parents” and bratty little sisters who feel superior. “You are not superior! Your facts are existential irrelevancies.”

Delusions and lying for self-preservation are bonded together in the survival of the ego. A psychotic goes insane in order to survive his insane world. Trump and his son may seem to lie for narcissism’s sake, but narcissism is the lie that protects a disintegrative ego. Dignity, pride, lies and justice may be unnecessary to a person whose child is intact.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ramble #4: Various


What should we like?

* Small children are jazzed by, stuck on, the phenomena around them. Old people are moved not by the world but by their thoughts of it. They are inner-dwelling even though they talk about things. Their landscape is memory and the philosophy their body has produced. Imagine the opposite: Lying on your death bed and becoming preoccupied with some unfamiliar insect crawling on the sheet, you lose your last three minutes on earth and are gone. It seems like the most ludicrous waste, the comedy of death by banana peel. Yet new experience – a bug, a grass blade whistle, a sliver of a moon – is the meaning of life for the child.*

Is it bad or good that we gain a self but lose the world along the way?

* Following all the politics and pundits today is a substitute for being alive. We have become “social metaphysicians,”** Nathaniel Brandon’s term for individuals whose ground is other people not the ground itself. We are built into the attitudes and delusions of movements and alarms, not personal loves or creativity. I saw the embodiment of that in a twenty-year-old girl (it must be said) who lived on the bobbing heads of friends, false friends, acquaintances of friends, gossip and fears of opinions. She didn’t see herself apart from them. Ambition, absorption in an object, doing something with her life, had never entered the scene. Maybe the youngest children are a healthy blend of realms. Saturday morning – plans on what to do; afternoon, they’re playing ball or swimming, nighttime they’re catching and inspecting lightning bugs. At school, they are learning the world they are in abstractly; recess, they are swimming in the hive of community, personal prestige, victories with and against others.

Is there some right point on our timeline when we should have finished picking up tools and started building something? Or, stopped being mesmerized and started being galvanized? People who want to only study and get more learnèd, people who want to read and read and collect books, knead thoughts into pies in the sky – something is wrong with them. I really wonder: If you’re living in ideas, are you really living?

New elevator speech

I always continue to try to be a better therapist. Part of this urge is, admittedly, my fear that there are either some elemental truths or some next-evolve insight of therapeutic relating that I consistently miss. For years I have oriented new clients to what might be called “injury psychotherapy”: The deepest and most enduring help comes from finding the poisoned roots of our dysfunction and getting the poison out. This is done through knowing, expressing the internal, sending it to the perpetrators, cutting the umbilical cord to them. These processes make us be less poisoned and feel different, and that means we’re a different person.

But this speech doesn’t address the close, caring, even parental and loving relationship that actually becomes the atmosphere and yes, often the fallback of therapy. Is there a way to incorporate that into my basic introduction to – pardon the hubris – their soul?

The client has described some of “what ails.”*** I’ve asked several or many questions. Then –

I hope you’ll come to see me as a different kind of friend. That’s because therapy helps when it’s a different kind of natural: a truth-finding and truth-sharing beyond where people normally go. All the things you have never said but needed to; all the feelings you kept inside and didn’t get to live and breathe; the past lost or never known, the now you’re afraid to say: All that is good and right here. The one predetermined part of this endeavor is that you’d need to decide it’s important to you. I’ve seen people do not nearly as well if they just come on a lark, here and there, or when some troubling feeling presses them. I really think therapy should be a meaningful part of your life.
I might try that speech.

What should we like? part 2

It’s possible that the best way for the old man to spend his last three minutes is to watch that insect. He began in the world, and ended in the world.

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* I mean, in an atmosphere of love. If love is missing, it will be a prepotent need that blanches or kills interest in worldly things.


*** Probably in the popular Love’s Executioner, Yalom says that “What ails?” is his opening question to the new client.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The defense mechanisms of "weak" and "strong"


Here are just a small couple of points that I’m sure most therapists have grasped. But they’re worth making explicit and adding to. We have a lot of women clients who are very confused about themselves. They say they have always been strong, or were always “the strong one” in the family. But now in their thirties or forties or fifties, something has happened: This strength has suddenly disappeared. They don’t know where it went, they usually don’t know when it left. Some of these women feel they are now falling apart. Others find they have something similar to the PTSD “foreshortened sense of the future”: Their hope and energy have gone; life feels that it is essentially over, there is nothing left to want or accomplish.

We have men and women clients who do not want to cry in session because they know it is “weak,” and they could not stand to feel this worst kind of weakness. Women are often in this place, too, usually the ones who became “strong” through their adolescence. In a world of coldness, parental immaturity and neglect and abuse, they became the toughened and suppressed carrier of responsibilities, the guarantor of the family’s or the siblings’ survival. Or in Child Protective Services and foster care, batted from place to place, they shut down but for anger and self-medication and a wounded form of selfishness or selflessness. They lost their child feelings, their silliness, hopes, they lost their ability to breathe easy or excitedly like a kid and now breathed with tension or deliberation. I’ve read (Dutton, I believe*) that men in Domestic Violence groups often look like sitting corpses. One can’t see their respiration. Beaten and debased children, they came to hold their feelings of fear, betrayal and rage inside by tightening their chest muscles and suppressing the “breathing of their emotions” in the moment when feelings would be the deepest weakness: the collapse of their heart, their death by shame.

Of course, the women were never really strong. They were just tight, lost, and they pushed themselves. As Claudia Black observed,** they had diversions and struggles through the up-slope to middle age, but then when the challenges were met or had burned out, they “plateaued.” The emptiness they’d lifelong been trying to both fill and run from re-materialized. Mother-naturely codependents become angry then. Selfless women become incompetently selfish: They can’t keep serving entitled people, but there’s not enough self to do for.

We tell the men and women that what they call “weakness” is just touching the truth of who they are, the deep pain of themselves. That’s theory and fact, but it’s not the reality in their bones. That says to cry is to break the shell of their adult, to lose themselves, become the child who is no longer there. But look: Since that’s their singular roots, and because it’s to face the pain of irrevocable loss, to cry is the most astoundingly brave, strong thing they can do.

I rarely think of strength and weakness in myself. I would cry as much as possible, knowing that if I were to break through the deepest barrier I would become the infant who did not survive for the most part. I’ve always been too weak to save money. I am so terrified of the fast-skittering, translucent-brown roaches and water bugs that prowl the sidewalks at night that I do a pink-out*** sissy-dance when I see two or more of them. But I own tragedies that I fear will still kill my mind in the last moments of my life – a really terrible fate – and I contain them with a terrible acceptance. I’d protect my wife from all danger, and perversely enough would relish it because I disdain my old cowardice. I accept that I may be working into my eighties, still five days a week. I believe I have no false hopes. For me, strength may mean nothing other than facing my oceanic flaws and injuries and finding, by luck, some good feeling nevertheless. And choosing that.

When we have a client who decries her loss of “strength” or who avoids feeling “weak,” we may say you shouldn’t have had to be strong like that. We may say it’s not weak to be real. It is true: We are asking them to become different from the person they did become. This is why therapy can be such an absurd adventure.

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* Donald G. Dutton’s The Battererhttps://drdondutton.com/portfolio/the-batterer/.

** Claudia Black’s It Will Never Happen To Mehttp://www.hazelden.org/OA_HTML/ibeCCtpItmDspRte.jsp?item=100.

*** A legitimate variation of a dissociative black-out or a domestic violence perpetrators red-out, as cited in Duttons book.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ripped from the comments section of The Atlantic online*


Sam Smith –

The problem with abortion is not whether a human being in the womb is a human being. People who believe abortion is moral and proper have a time and place dysfunction.

In the womb a human being is a certain age. That is a time function. There are no differences between a young human being and a newborn other than growth and development, a function of time.

In the womb or out of the womb is a place. There is no difference between a human being in the womb or out.

Adoption is the only moral answer to an unwanted pregnancy.

The Pessimistic Shrink –

No, Sam, it’s not that simple. Let me entertain you with some psychology (borrowed from a Canadian psychotherapist).** Child, home from school, tells his mother: Mommy, mommy, the teacher was unfair to me today! Mother responds: Now dear, the teacher was only trying to do his best. She likely believes she is trying to soothe her child’s feelings. In fact, she is not. She is soothing her own feelings and ignoring her son's. The boy is on fire with humiliation: The teacher, let’s assume, laughed at him and the class followed suit. He needs his mother to take his pain away. Instead, she doesn’t hear his message, his feeling, and replies with a parental platitude. The child now has nowhere to go with his pain. He must shut it down (repression and suppression). This burial of his true feelings is the beginning of the depressogenic process – the loss of the real self in childhood. The lesson here is that parent's lack of empathy is one of the most injurious kinds of parenting: A child will disappear in the face of this blindness. And yet no one would be foolish enough to call Child Protective Services on this mother. CPS, you must investigate. There’s a mother out there who lacks empathy!

Point is – There is an eternal conflict between a person’s legitimately living her own life, with her own errors, and another person's legitimate judgment of that person. Knowing what a mother’s or fathers lack of empathy can do to a child, I’d hypothetically like that parent to be strung up by the toes for an indefinite term, or be required to be monitored by some overseer – from the same moral urge that would cause you to threaten or prevent a woman from having an abortion. Here psychology fuses with philosophy: Each of us is a solipsistic universe who can only live, for the most part, by his own lights and flaws – the imperatives of his or her unique energy – yet each of us judges the other person’s flaws and resultant behaviors.

Knowing the harm you are doing, should I be allowed to send you to prison for slapping your son on the face or for shaming your daughter with crushing words?

Sam Smith –

Sorry you had to write all of this but of course it is that simple. Everything else is just your justification for supporting an immoral action.

The Pessimistic Shrink –

Sorry, Sam. What is simple is you.

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I believe morality can never be an objective fact. We can only have individuals trying to make their life work: That is all that human motivation can be, whether the result is altruism or selfishness, self-sacrifice or violence, adopting a child or child neglect, narcissism or obsequiousness, drinking or suicide, making money or giving money. If there will ever be a consensus good, sometime in the far distant future, it will only be when love is ubiquitous and all acts are linked to it. There is, though, a catch to this love: Its definition comes from psychological knowledge more than from any other domain. It requires one to have been loved for being his or her own unique child. It requires foundational respect for one’s child’s mental processes – thinking and feeling. In that place where life is valued for itself, where pain is not injected deep within children to come out later at the world, each person’s natural solipsism will be trustable when the most difficult decisions are made. I will understand that you simply cannot afford to give to that helpless person, but I may be able to. You will accept that this woman is too emotionally fragile to give birth, though she loves life, and new life. We won’t have reason to judge anyone, in this future time, because people will be fully human.

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* My sections edited for improved clarity and civilized talk.

** Vereshack is quoted quite a few times in these posts – http://www.paulvereshack.com/.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Rage's roots


There have been occurrences in my adult life where I have been “triggered” to a lightning flash of nihilistic, helpless, abandon-all-hope rage. It has (not surprisingly) always been my loved one who, without realizing it, had pushed some inner death-trap in me. One late evening, I forcefully threw a plate of food on the floor, stormed out of the house and ran to my office. Once I destroyed a good laptop.* Gone it was in a moment of ultimate powerful powerlessness.

Our feelings are not equal to the words we use to describe them. We say “anger,” though it’s not too difficult to feel the flowing identity of anger and frustration, frustration and hurt. But these are still just words. Our feelings are our life. Our feelings are our history. What if our history – our earliest infancy and childhood days – is so precarious, frightening, painful and wrong that there’s no capacity to absorb experience – the fusion of good and bad – or the nourishment to a sense of self? What if we remain the thinnest two-dimensional thread, or actually a two-dimensional plane that can blink out of existence when turned at a certain angle?

I believe these facts and images apply to many individuals (and not just men) when they are inwardly swept to rage. What is really happening is something that sparks that deepest fragility, which is where our birthright of need and promise was thwarted. Add many years upon this ground, through many probable struggles. We have become substitutes for self and self-esteem, upon this cosmic unfairness, this failure to be given love. We seem sturdy, but psychology says we are standing on miles deep of transparent ice. A trigger – “you must have taken the extension cord,” when I didn’t – denies my value, like at the beginning of my life, denies my sane grasp of reality, which is the entirety of my two-dimensional plane’s stability. There is no choice but to not die, and that takes an extreme, that takes an explosion.

There is really no choice in that moment. This is the other primal scream** – not the one of grief, loss and need, but the one that insists on living.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Transient post #1: If you don't know what's broke, you can't fix it*


It is time to “psychoanalyze” a fellow therapist based on only five biographical facts. Though my means seem catty and low, my ends are high: to open the eyes of clients.

The five are: He’s going for a PhD at age AARP. He drives a Mercedes. He was in the military, assumedly his first and main career. With a one-in-a-thousand exception, every time he opens his mouth to initiate or respond to me or to someone within my hearing, shooting the breeze, talking clinical or with a client or administrative staff, he mentions that he was “in the military” or references “the military.” Really – steadfast as the loon’s throaty song, reliable as the hands on an atomic clock. And, he loves President Trump and clearly has no ability to see (diagnose) the man’s Narcissism or to grasp his stunning lack of adult-level acumen and president-level breadth of knowledge. The placidity with which he goads our psychiatrist about Trump’s sterling qualities is an emetic waiting to happen.

So beware. If this is true, then it could happen over and over again: Your therapist may be blind to himself and to grave disorder. She may be neurotically self-enclosed, which is what you are seeing in someone who chronically talks about herself. And you may be sitting before someone who remains, in his hidden engine, a child, despite his medals (if any) and years in the rugged death-kill, deferential and duty-bound terrain of the military.

Why a child? It is impossible to like this president with his global self-loving immaturity unless your own caregiver (when you were a child) was an immature authoritarian at some level and you were stripped of your own power and submerged under his. Look at Trump’s adult children. They “chose” to become capitalist Midases, have the emotions of a predator-lizard, and do not notice the poison or the razor’s edge of their father’s character disease. Shadow souls.

This is similar to the millions of Germans who saw a right-thinking, heart-warming father figure in Adolf Hitler. There is something very wrong with people who cannot feel the pain that a toxic person puts forth.

It is not hard to be a counselor. This is because there are many kinds of touches that can help a client feel better short of – far short of – getting better. Pleasant, humorous conversation. Advice and a knowing air. A genial manner that seems caring but isn’t too empathically intimate (which would threaten one’s defense, one’s child’s heart). Asking questions. Providing personal experience or book-based insights. Intent eye contact (which, as I believe Jeffrey Kottler points out, can be maintained even when the therapist is falling asleep). Many therapists don’t change a person. They just throw a little pink cloud under her ass for the session.

This could be the case of my peer, here. I cannot see how someone who lives on the psychological defense of dull-axe dogma can be adult and “empty” enough to contain a client’s burden, transparent enough to know what she says. That his work, and many others’, endures shows that people do not ultimately know what is wrong with them, and may therefore accept any candy or band-aid that’s offered.

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* This article will pop in and out of existence, like McDonald’s Angus Burger and Cheddar Melt.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Poem: I can't really call this a poem


When I’m 87 I will move to Key West and be a shell
burning on a lounge chair, under the blue sky, feet
spread in the ocean. I know I’ll still have shit to be
burned away even then: thoughts, any thoughts,
which have always been the way the brain dances
around truth. I’ll be tired of all thoughts by then. I’ve
already felt all my feelings. What will come then will
be a mystery, maybe even a rebirth, something new.
Something will come, because the burning will
happen, the days and nights will flow.

Doing my work of therapy has mostly been further
and further self-awareness. This has taught me
that I became other people in childhood. Ego
doesn’t necessarily happen as a positive. I’d like,
then, to be stripped of all the pollution, this history,
the false ego that is stupidly proud, and in a place
where the world is sweet, healthy, even benignly
dangerous: I could be extinguished by the dark
ocean.

I’ve long seen that nothing in our adult life is
right: grabbing a beer, having a job, liking music.
Lost, we passively take these things from the
ground or the shelf. (Drive by inner fires, we move.
Drive by inner frozen earth, we are still.) Who are
we really?

Remember there’s Key West, where you may just
have a glass of water, not a beer, watch people milling
about, finally ignore time. You won’t need to get on
a boat and sail out into the sea for the final adventure.
You will be the boat.