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Friday, August 28, 2009

Really Good Tissues

When I was in graduate school they told me that you shouldn't hand people the tissues when they're crying because you want them to know that it's okay to do that, cry, and if you hand over the tissues then you're giving the message that you want them to stop.

I thought that was powerful but dumb, because you could hand over the tissues, which might make some people more comfortable, blowing their noses into a tissue, as opposed to say, on a sleeve, and you say,
"This is not to tell you to stop crying, cry away, please. Crying is good for you. In moderation, obviously, to a degree, for sure, but with me, it's always good."
Anyway.

We've joked about me wanting a sponsor for the blog, mainly Puffs or Kleenex.

But who has time to really pursue this? I did go after one of the tissue companies, actually, maybe both, and remember a resounding rejection. Life hurts, is the truth.

Generally, when I shop, it's a guerrilla mission, no time to go through all of the aisles. I know, however, when I'm getting low on tissues at the office, that this will be on my grocery list-- KLEENEX.

Because Kleenex is another word for tissues, right?

As a c0-parent of five, and a person who likes to eat, I save a few cents if possible, buy the generics. So the cart fills up with generic tissues, off-brands if they look okay, especially if they come in a pretty box. You have to buy in bulk if you're a therapist because they go, as we say, in a good week. A good week is a good cry or fifteen.

Anyway, in over the years, very occasionally, someone will say,
"You need better tissues. Buy Kleenex or Puffs. People don't want to think they're using up all of your tissues."
Pretty amazing, but it happens, and of course I say thank you for the advice, because you have to thank a person for asserting, for trying to get the needs met.

I might even say, "Thanks, I don't hear this much, but I'm not going to take it personally." This makes the event an intervention. People take way too much personally and it gets them into trouble emotionally. Something to talk about.

"No problem, Glad to oblige," my clientele will say. People are nice like this.

So this morning I go to the grocery store, and buy several brands of tissues thinking, "We'll give this a whirl, see which one really is the best, which is the best for the money, which makes a person feel worse, might make a person think, My life is so bad, I even get a cheap therapist! Everything is bad! I'm born under a dark star.

We'll see what happens.

therapydoc

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shame

What we didn't say in the last post, The Disappearing Act, not specifically, is that shame has a huge impact upon personality. Although we talked about fear of exposure in the comments, it is shame that muzzles us, keeps us in the closet, limits our capacity for intimacy, scratches at our vulnerabilities and tickles our fears of abandonment. We think, if we're honest with people, we'll be rejected if they know the truth about us.

We assume there's a huge stain on our shirt, that even if we don't talk about it, they know. Like we're the only ones who ever did it, whatever it is we did.

Add to this our Judeo-Christian-Moslem-Confuscian--who knows what upbringing-- the sense that we imbue from our parents, teachers, or other significant care-takers, that we're horrible if we stray from the tenets of goodness, all in the interest of raising us right, you know, and we're toast. It isn't unusual that parents and teachers will over-dramatize the wrongfulness of experimenting, acting out, and as kids we're vulnerable to drama and blame.

Spare us young and we can take it when we're old.

Survivors of childhood shame can get the sense of okayness from someone, if they're lucky, some angel, the one who gives us the nod that we're actually good. It's okay, says our angel. You're human. To err is human.

We could talk about this all day, but there's a story I want to tell, a story in a story about embarrassment. Embarrassment has to be a sister of shame, I'm thinking, and if at all possible, if we're talking about functional behavior, we do our best to avoid doing this, embarrassing people, because we know how that sense of shame might stick, like the effects of most relatives.

THE STORY:

One night FD and I are at a party for a bride and groom, not the kind that you stand around and drink and talk, but the kind specifically designed to bless the newly married couple during the celebratory week following their marriage. This means these parties are food-centric.

Nobody runs off to Hawaii right after the wedding, not in my crowd. Following the expensive (usually) gala event, the couple celebrates with friends and family for an entire week, then maybe takes off, maybe not. They may not because they haven't lived together before marriage (not in my hood), so staying home and getting used to one another tends to feel pretty good.

You would think people would leave a young couple alone, but no. That's not how we operate. We have to lavish them with good wishes, because basically we assume that if we lavish these on the couple, that the odds are better that our well-wishes will come true. We send them off to independent living with an insurance policy.

Would that it were that simple, but in any case, we don't change traditions that are really, really old just because they're inconvenient or seem fattening. And the Jewish tradition is that wherever the bride and groom sit down and break bread that first week, they're entitled to seven blessings, assuming they can gather the crowd of people necessary to say them. If there's food, you see, you increase your odds.

Jews basically eat because inherent in eating are food related blessings, and since praising Her is an inherently Jewish thing (although some mix it up, refer to Him), if old fashioned perhaps, whenever observant Jews have an opportunity to do this, eat and praise, they jump to it, praise before eating, praise after eating, praise the carrot, the bread, the wine, everything but the tablecloth. You name it, we praise it and are thankful for it. You would think we're starving. Oh yes, in our history, there was starvation. So this makes sense. But as long as we're eating, we'll add a few extra praises for the divine idea of coupling, for the newly married couple.

Enough said. This particular party happened to be a dessert party. I made two strawberry pies, for the record, and they turned out well enough, although between you and me, were lame excuses for pies, compared to my mother-in-law's, for she's from the south, and they know how to pie in the south, like nobody else; not even my mother, although as a yankee, her blueberry is incomparable; as is my machetainista's* apple. So my pies are generally not as good, not as rich, not as sweet, but if you cook for people you love, your odds are better that whatever it is you are making will turn out well, despite your fallibility. This is the thinking of my mother-in-law and I think she's right.

So we're sitting around a very, very long table, just the thirty of us, the hosts and the families of the young couple, and a lot of little kids. There's no alcohol, for the record, but enough sweets to put anyone into a coma.

The speeches begin, and it is thanks to the speeches that you get this post.

Rabbi Azose, the Sephardic rabbi of Chicago, perhaps the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of the Midwest, tells this story, one that dates back to 180 AD, I imagine, and the Roman occupation of Jerusalem. Forgive my interpretation, the rabbi did not use the word "idiot" in his speech.
Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, or Judah the Prince, a descendant of King David, had a serious revulsion to garlic.

Sensitive to the smell, he started a class one day and had to stop teaching. Sensing the garlic on a student, the rabbi asked politely that whoever had been eating garlic please leave, because he didn't feel well, he had this allergy.
As a therapist this takes me to people who take off their shoes, and sometimes I must politely ask, Would you mind. . .put 'em back on . . .the ventilation in this place just isn't good enough and I am cursed with a sensitive nose. But this is not about me, who could do not even share the same room with the good Rebbe, certainly not when it comes to manners, although perhaps have some of those queasy genetics, it's true.
Anyway, Reb Yehuda asked the class in a generic way, "Would whoever had garlic for lunch kindly leave, I'm so sorry, I feel dizzy. . ."

And a group of men got up to leave.

After they had vacated the classroom together, the guilty student, the one who had spiced up his chicken salad, asked the others, for they did not smell of garlic,

"Why did you guys leave? I'm clearly the idiot who didn't know about the Rebbe's sensitivity!"

They told him that they had learned it is better to embarrass yourself than to let someone else be embarrassed, and you should do whatever you can do to prevent your fellow's embarrassment. The men had learned this from their rabbis.

Most likely they had learned it from Reb Yehuda who knew that they would do this, get up to leave with their fellow, therefore enabling him to make the request.
Good lesson, right? These are the kinds of stories they tell after you quit Hebrew school.

therapydoc

A machetainista is the mother of your daughter-in-law or son-in-law. Machetainista rhymes with Bach-eh-rain-vista

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Disappearing Act

Maybe, instead of lovers, you start out as best friends. Or maybe there has always been chemistry. Maybe someone fixed the two up, thought you would work well together, and you did.

In each case things start out swimmingly, perfectly, and for awhile, maybe even a long while, it's magic, and there's attention and love, and that face I see on the leather sofa two feet away from me is pretty happy.

And the cynic in me waits for the other shoe to drop. Far be it from me to burst anyone's bubble. I'm not your mother. Let the fantasy last. We all need a little hope, and when someone is kind, when someone is attentive, when someone is flirtatious, well, it feels pretty good.

This is the new relationship paradigm, you know, love without commitment. With a divorce rate holding steady at one out of two, what is the point of the crystal and china? Why register at all? Surely weddings are expensive, and happiness a toss of the dice. I'd prefer to think, actually, that it's not. But that's something to talk about another day, not now.

So you're in this relationship and your lover is extremely attentive initially, professes adoration and ever-lasting love, and this feels ever-so-good, and the sex, whoa, is amazing, and you're thinking, I Could Live Like This, and your lover has told you that no one has ever made him/her feel this way before, no one has touched this part of him/her before, and as the song goes,

This May Be an Ever Lasting Love.


I've Finally Found Someone.

And then it disappears. No fights, no drama. No calls. No response.

"I text him. I call him. I leave voicemail. I email. Nada."

There are so many ways to do this, communicate.

"Nothing?"

"Nothing."

There's no such thing as nothing. Nothing is something. We have this phrase, "You can't not communicate. No communication is communication."

From the Life Stinks, department, that's for sure. So unfair. It was so good. Where did it go? Where did he go? She?

It's called the disappearing act, and if you know anything about behavior modification, then you know that some people actually are masters at this thing, modifying the behavior of others to accommodate long absences. They can stretch the rubberband, as we family therapists like to say, like nobody's business. They have an uncanny sense of knowing how long a relationship can linger in nomans land, before sparking it up again, lighting up life, just to disappear again.

Read that post on rubberband, if you haven't already, on emotional distancing and psychological space. Meanwhile, a short if not complete list of where people go when they take an intermission.

(a) back to his/her committed partner, aka, wife/husband

(b) back to life before you, shooting pool, arguing cases, building bridges, whatever a person with a life does

(c) is dating someone else, carrying on more than one relationship at a time.

(d) is getting stoned.

(e) is really angry about something you said, the way you said it

(f) is beginning to see you as much less than perfect, and wants perfect

(g) is doing just fine, actually.

(Help me here. Add to the list)

You, however, are the problem, assuming you're uncomfortable with the situation. You signed up for the problem, friends with benefits it's called. You're a giving person. More-so than your friend. You want more, you have greater intimacy needs. But there never was any kind of deal that referred to intimacy needs when you hooked up. The two of you didn't go over that part of your collective psychologies before becoming involved, before one of you unconsciously committed to the other.

And you can't say they didn't warn you.

So how does a person avoid the manipulation, the bad deal? Is it so outrageous to have this talk about intimacy, about needs, about sharing, about time, about the triggers we have, things that make us angry, all that before we get totally lovey dovey and out of control? Or maybe just get used to being rejected. Maybe that's the ticket. Haven't found that this works, gotta' say.

But since I'm on a roll, can't we talk about having missed someone to talk to as a kid, or having had to share a room with six siblings? These ditties about our upbringing makes us either reticent or more communicative, depending.

Can't people talk about what it meant, being verbally abused, or physically abused, and how that experience likely affected how they interpret things that happen to them, things that are communicated by a partner, i.e., criticism? Probably not, because all that is likely to be unconscious without therapy. We aren't all that in touch with how we distance, why we check out, or why we take things personally.

These are the things that really matter in relationships, you know, intimacy needs, our sensitivities. Just putting it out there. Something to think about.

therapydoc

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Doubt


Warning: There may be spoilers. If you haven't seen John Patrick Shanley's film but intend to, no question this will ruin it.

You probably know that it is about the Catholic Church cover up of clergy who molested and raped children. This is not something reserved for this faith, by the way, covering the tracks of those who are supposed to be protecting, yet who are endangering our children. Cover-ups in schools, governments, work-places, and houses of worship. . . happen.

They shouldn't, but they do, sometimes because of denial
it's not so bad what he did, or,
just a minute. . .he couldn't have done that
Sometimes, maybe usually, a cover-up is about not wanting to make an institution liable for hiring a certain someone. Schools especially are liable for child endangerment, for hiring criminals. They do background checks and have insurance policies to protect against this sort of thing, due to exposure of the problem. Awareness of childhood sexual abuse is higher, thanks, in part, to films like Doubt.

As I learned in an excellent workshop about reintegrating the offender into the community,
Where there are children, there are people who will abuse them, who want to use them sexually in one way or another.
Lovely thought.

The one way or another refers to either contact or non-contact crimes. When we think predators, we think about those who coerce children to participate in sexual acts. But far more common are those who make their money as non-contact offenders. I think of a beautiful girl or was it that good-looking boy, I treated many years ago, who vacillated between religion and a desire to make money. A man offered to make the child a film star. I lost the patient, who disappeared from treatment unfortunately, and never followed up about that career.

Non-contact offenders, those who photograph and film children, and those who expose themselves to little girls out walking their dogs, people who stalk, and many who plan contact crimes, are sometimes reaping the benefits of a trillion dollar industry. There's a good deal of money to be made swapping pictures, films, and names on the internet.

Contact offenders
seduce children or coerce or force children to perform sexual acts. These are the people at the pool, at camp, in the rectory.

One in ten children who spend a fair amount of time on the internet will be contacted by one one type of offender or another, another lovely thought.

Rehabilitation is certainly possible for sexual predators, or so we learn from the experts. The pie chart (sorry, you'll have to trust my reference) tells us that 27% of all sex offenders keep it in the family. They also have the lowest recidivism rates following restorative justice, meaning legally enforced accountability and treatment. Thus they are reintegrated into the family after a nice, long separation, lots of time in therapy.

I won't quote you every statistic, but 15 years post-arrest, according to a Canadian study--they're way ahead of us in the USA on this one--only
13% of incest perpetrators were caught doing it again
16% of extrafamilial offenders of girls recidivated,
35% of extrafamilial offenders of boys,
and 24% of rapists of adults.
A person has to stay rational about this, not leap to the thinking that what this actually means is that sixteen of every one hundred offenders of girls who are not in the family really do recidivate. If you think this way then your mind might wander to the possibility that it might be your daughter who is likely to be irresistible.

That's where all that doubt about rehabilitation comes in. But lets not get so negative. Our parish priest, the fellow in trouble in the film, is likely to get better with therapy, and we can see why. Bare with me.

Let's review the film. (I could talk about Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, you know, it was so good, that treatment of drugs. But I'll save that for the SecondRoad. My post is called, of course, Harry Potter and Drugs).

But more to the point, there are many poignant, wonderful scenes in Doubt and the costumes (hey, not all of us went to Catholic school) and direction of the film, for those of us who love sensory, not sexual visuals, captivate. And there's Meryl, who never, ever fails, our greatest living actress. And Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Flynn, in a poignant portrayal of a bad guy, brilliant.

We're swallowed up with emotion for supporting cast, too, especially Amy Adams as the idealistic young nun. We all know people like this, the ones with stars in their eyes, so naive, so positive, just like children before they learn that there is no tooth fairy; they grab me every time. I want us to be friends.

Viola Davis is especially complicated as Mrs. Miller, the protective mother of the vulnerable little boy, who is gay, of course, and is coerced into sexual acts with Father Flynn, who sees himself as mentoring the poor child into the world of male love. Mrs. Miller tells Meryl, Sister Aloysius, that the boy's father beats him, and all she wants is for her son to graduate, for this is a good school. The young man's future will be bright. The principal should leave this alone.

Positively rich.

Among the more memorable scenes, the first sermon. Flynn asks his flock (marvelously lower to middle class, a People's flock), in his Sunday morning sermon, with a delivery that real clergy people could work at emulating, meaning it is short and sweet and has a parable,
What do you do when you're not sure?
He is speaking of a crisis of faith, something that happens when our world is shattered, when we wonder,
Who is running this place?
I hear this quite often in therapy. Being affiliated, often labeled as a person of faith, people feel comfortable talking with me about their anger, their doubts about their religion.

It's not unusual to hear a patient say, "I'm so angry at Him. (Never Her, for some reason.) How could He let ____ happen?" Fill in the blank. Heart attack, cancer, job loss, job stress, earthquake, death, treachery, imprisonment. Rather than my usual pregnant pause, I'll talk about being angry with someone you don't believe exists, what that means. This is about doubt, and doubt is painful, wondering if what you do is a sham, a big joke, a waste of time, this is painful. As if not following the rules, not being observant, is so not a waste of time.

Flynn goes on to tell his flock that when we have a secret, something we cannot share with others, our loneliness feels unbearable, excruciating, as opposed to when a community suffers a catastrophe, when multitudes experience a crisis of faith together. He points to the assassination of the first Catholic US President, John F. Kennedy.

Doubting as a community tests the community, but it is a test that is shared, an open (outed) existential crisis. Doubting alone (closeted) is torturous.

Why would anyone doubt alone if it is so torturous? Shame, of course. And doubt, fear of reprisals. If you're Freudian you can see how regressive this makes people feel.* But in his defense, how do you tell people who depend upon you for spiritual guidance that you think they are all misguided, and that you, too, might be misguided, but you have chosen to pursue what you pursue anyway.

Doubt is the theme of the film, and for Father Flynn, a man who has seduced a young boy, a boy who is marginalized from his class for various reasons, including race and sexual orientation, vulnerable-- as the perpetrator, the pastor rationalizes. Just as the boy's mother rationalizes.

He tells himself that he can love this boy in the way that he loves this boy because children need love. Where else will this particular child find so much love, so much positive communication (sure, it's my language, but were we to ask certain perpetrators, they might agree, sex is communication).

And this, you should know, this rationalization is nothing new. If you have done any reading about gays and lesbians, gay men in particular, then you know that there is history, there is cultural validation of this way of thinking, that older men feel they are mentoring younger men, and younger men are on board with it. Safe men, loving boys. The boys are gay, the men are gay, and the boys know nothing of the ways of men. Not yet.

(You could start your education if you're in unfamiliar territory, with Gay New York, Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey, a tome.)

Doubt, Father Flynn tells us, can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. We are lost. But we are not alone. Sounds good to the congregation, most of whom have no idea what he's talking about.

We, the ones who understand the reality of a sexual predator, don't buy it. We think,
Sure, most of us are lost; we know we're all lost to a degree, but we put our faith in some things, certain people especially. We suspend our doubt to feel good about life, to feel better, to have hope.
We don't expect our leaders to fail us, unable to hold fast to their own teachings.

therapydoc

*According to Freud, toilet training is the age of shame and doubt.

Back a' cha'

It's been awhile since I did this, and of course feel guilty because people have been linking over here and there's been no time to link back, life's pretty crazy.

On the other hand, I just told my brother that when we want to make time, when we want to do something, there really quite a bit of it. Just last night it took me three tries to beat my Spider Solitaire game. To waste less time at this, I only allow myself one game and won't play every day, not even every week, but I replay the game until I beat it unless it's obviously going to be a losing battle. Apropos of nothing.

Anyway, there are some wonderful new and old bloggers that have yet to see the spotlight on this blog, and some who have but should be getting even more attention, so let's begin with. . . .

Samurai Scientist!, always setting me straight, no puns intended. Thanks, Sam.

Enlightening Darkness. Someone has to, seriously.

Cardiogirl
takes all of her readers to other people's blogs on a train. (I love trains). Visit her blog and get something of a work-out, a pleasant work-out.

Uppity-crip (a very smart, or better, intellectual to use her words, crip) rails against the Pres and the Disabilities Act and how we really aren't doing enough to help this community. This should be a priority, Mr. President, if you're listening, and I know you are.

Massage Therapy
has assembled a huge list of help sources, inspirational, no less, and included you know who, thanks.

Coming out of the Trees has been journaling, which inspired a post on that, thanks.


Dr. Deb
(in my top faves on the blogosphere, if not my phone, and what's with that company that only gives you like five faves for free)) writes about all kinds of things, but when she writes about the amygdalla, I'm inspired again. That post on over-eating, if I didn't put it out yet, inspired by her Thanks Doc.

Suzanne Reisman at BlogHer is on my team against poor Steve Harvey (he cannot win). She's not into faking it either, to have to raise a man's over-inflated even higher (not that we can't be esteeming, it's the way of doing it that bothers some people, like most feminists, for example.

And MoonMaid has a new baby! That can make a person want to get in touch with who they really are.

And there are probably lots of bloggers under the radar. I just found one that specializes in child abuse, one of my, Oh, yes LET'S talk about that faves. Check out the Columbia Child Psychologist.

I like One Angry Daughter, who writes about a narcissistic mother. Nothing like the personality disorders to boggle the mind. And as long as we're at war, Trench Warfare.

Wait, What just makes me happy to be her friend.

And The Retriever is always worth the ride.

BlogSocial Worker, a foodie, is married to a writer for a food and wine zine. What a match. I have to see Julia and Julia.

Then there's Anti-social Social Worker, of course.

Now That's Nifty is as what it says it is, check 'em out.

Interesting Pile included my list of famous bi-polar personalities. Thanks, Pile, for reminding me to post more lists.
Everyone loves a post with a number in front of it. Five Ways to . . .

Of course I link to myself, from The Second Road. Talk about narcissistic, self-serving, self-indulgent, oh, drop it.

And The Modulator has a huge assortment of modules to choose from. You're probably in there, too.

My buddy Jack has been busy. If you have a little time, check it out. Jack generally blogs at Random Thoughts.


If you like good photography and art, and who doesn't, check out Leora in HP.

And I get great chizuk (strength) from one of our rabbi bloggers, this time kvetching about aging. Oy. As old as you feel, dude.

This Time, This Space, well, how great a name is that for a blog?

Visit Isle Dance, get away. I do.

More Mindless Rambling keeps it short and sweet, not an easy task, you all know it if you like to write.

Subdural Flow put up a Dancing in the Streets vid, Martha (she's stunning, and check out the pant suit)and the Vandellas, tells us where she's at, this is a good place.

Technobabe tells a mother-daughter saga, lots of us like these.

Wendy lost her son and leaves a tribute for us.

Can't forget Bird on a Wire or Laura's psychology blog.

Harriet, To Meat or Not to Meet, has some great recipes. Oh, you foodies. I aspire to even trying, and you just put it out.

Marie isn't shying away from trauma. Read her at Coming out of the Trees.

Dreaming Again posts at Wanda's Wings, is definitely depending upon a higher power.

Shades of Ivory found an even better Come Back to Me song, and tells a really sad story, but it's a goodie.

Cardiogirl
gives a nice account of getting over some social insecurity stuff. Gotta' love that.

Sandy, PhD is Bloggin' Behavioral. I love her post on "shoulds". And that pic from the Sopranos, priceless.


Lola's Diner
is a definite must. I've got to find time to get over there for real.

I've not told too many people about my obsession with those little rubber yellow ducks that you put in the bath for little kids, mainly so they don't notice you're giving them a bath. So how could I not love Duck and Wheel with String?

Kewie and Smithie are moving, maybe this is why they're not blogging much.

SYD is my first blogger friend to works an Al Anon program, so I stop by at his blog to get chizuk (strength, rhymes with me-too, soft "ch") when I need it. Thanks, Syd. Everyone should work a 12-Step program, I feel. Addiction has nothing to do with it (well, that's debatable, I guess).

And I LOVE A Quarter Life Crisis.

Battle Weary and Mercury in Pisces took off for the summer, or so it seems. Not that's a novel concept.

Chris is a coach, and since trainers and coaches make our lives more manageable, check him out. I imagine a coach is a trainer, right Chris?

And Mark, my buddy at the Naked Soul, is about as soulful as it gets. You have to read him.

April the Optimist, over at Thriver, never fails, either.

White Trash Academic is awesome, always throwing it around, that phrase, white trash, which I love.

Imagineamaste is working on focus. Good luck, bubbala.

Lisa Marie's occasionally in a Dysfunctional Daze, but like, who isn't? Check her out.

Positively Present has hit the six month mark in blogging. Don't leave us! Going great!

Transitions and New Beginnings is getting good at transitions and new beginnings, a lesson, here.

Jim, of the water method, doesn't mind telling us that he played with GI Joe.

SocialWorker24/7, at Eyes Opened Wider, tells it like it is. 24-7.

Cate, at Project Subrosa, is, well, still expecting. b'shaah tovah (meaning, in the right time)

A Midianite Mama isn't something to miss, and she's blogging that he's just not into you, which he might not be, unfortunately.

And the link I missed somehow, Uppity. Sorry, C. and Third Time's a Charm.

Maybe best of all, Motherhood is Not for Wimps. Read DaMomma, she don' disappoint. And she agrees with me about the therapy thing, too.

Okay, who else did I miss? Let me know. No problem adding you.

therapydoc

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Separation


This morning I wake up really early with a plaintive OneRepublic song in my head,

Come Home
.

Lyrics :
Hello world
Hope you're listening
Forgive me if I'm young
For speaking out of turn
There's someone I've been missing
I think that they could be
The better half of me
They're in the wrong place
trying to make it right
But I'm tired of
justifying
So I say you'll..

Come home
Come home
Cause I've been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
And right now there's a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I've ever known
So come home

Oh

Everything I can't be
Is everything you should be
And that's why I need you here
Everything I can't be
Is everything you should be
And that's why I need you here
So hear this now

Come home
Come home
Cause I've been waiting for you
For so long
For so long
And right now there's a war between the vanities
But all I see is you and me
The fight for you is all I've ever known
Ever known
So come home
Come home
It's an anti-war song, is the truth, or so I learned on YouTube trying to find you a link. Watch it after you read this.

This isn't a political blog, but I do have an American flag drooping over our front-room window, and I'm thinking I should bring Old Glory to the cleaners, but don't want to take it down, not even for a day. The song has nothing to do with my personal politics, fyi, I just like it. There's a love song in there somewhere. Has to be.

This post is about marital separation, and the feeling that characterizes this stage of marriage. It isn't the same as wishing someone home from a war, but usually there's missing. Emptiness defines separation, and loneliness.

With separation one of two partners has to leave home. Someone has to pack up and go or it isn't a real separation. Sometimes a spouse will leave voluntarily, walk out, close the door, and that's it, game over. Too little, too late. Therapy didn't work. The love is gone, the relationship dead, the formal beginning of the end. From here we go to dissolve the marriage, dissolution, another D word, a softer word, as in dissolve into water. Means divorce.

Feels harsh, divorce, and it is. Also lonely. Dissolution-- soft, like water.

Yet there is no limit to the cheer-leaders, family, friends, colleagues who encourage the divorce option, who have been there and profess to be quite happy about it; and so many others who have suffered abuse in marriage, who see everything in terms of abuse, who support the leaving, toast to it. Bring on the party. Here's to a new life. The old one is over. Move it along, jump to the chase; what is this no man's land, anyway. Make a decision, please; it's been three weeks.

Relationship therapists don't see separation this way, actually. We don't see it as an entre' to divorce.

First of all, we know that no matter how you label a relationship, it is never over. These reside in our heads for years and years and years, no matter how we label them, even relationships of our youth. So what is the rush to finalize the ending of a committed relationship? It isn't over until the ink is dry. Boyfriend, fiance, lover, friend, spouse, partner; what happened there, in the relationship, the meaning of that person, will not disappear with a signature.

Therapists see all kinds of separations, you should know. So we snuff out the panic when a couple nervously asks, Might it help, a little space, some time apart? This one quotes the statistic that 3 out of 4 married couples endure a separation, generally not due to abuse or neglect or even a marital problem.

Normalizes it, doesn't it, that 3 out of 4 couples separate? That's well over a majority.

When separation is not about the relationship, it is usually due to a work transfer, or the needs of a sick family member, perhaps a change in status, like having to attend to the estate of a lost loved one, executorship, maybe. When crises happen, togetherness is the expected outcome of the separation--as soon as possible, if you don't mind. Fix whatever this is so we can so we can be together again soon. There is stress, being apart is stressful, but ways of communication transcend geography mainly because a couple wants to transcend geography. There is no discord.

Come home.

When separation is due to marital distress, however, therapists are in less of a hurry (depending upon one's treatment perspective) to push a couple back to the same home. We entertain objections, surely, from one of the two partners, but might advise :
Take a break.
get some space,
give yourself a chance to heal, to think.
Rearrange priorities,
see your own behavior, own your part of these problems, don't minimize.
Understand your significant other in a more rational way.
A little distance and we gain perspective. Of course this is within the context of therapy, for sure. If your time is spent at the bars crying in your beer looking for sympathy, it's unlikely any light bulbs, epiphanies, will be going off any time soon.

Thoughtful separations like these are healing for older couples, but for people new to marriage I tend not to recommend them, although there are certainly exceptions. But young people do well in marital therapy living together, not apart. The therapeutic mission will be to test new behaviors with one another in-house.

Young marriages are still in the test tube, the laboratory phase, everything is an experiment. The therapist can add a twist of this or that, present new perspectives, but the successful couple, with a little therapeutic insight, will comes up with the ideas that work independently, will finesse the experiment. And voila, it's back to being in love again.

Therapy is more complicated for older couples with history and emotional inventories . Negative emotions associated with a partner's misdeeds feel hard-wired to the victim, intractable. So many memories, so many disappointments, repeated enactments of dysfunctional behaviors, reactions. We can change these in therapy, work to understand one another, but the love won't catch up with the intellect, not so quickly. Not usually.

Time. But did you say you want to know how long you should be apart?

This depends upon each of the partners, how committed they each are to change, and how disassociated they feel from one another. Can we predict it? Can we predict how long a couple will stay separated?

Some of us take pot shots, guesses. I have a short but open-ended list of questions that make mine feel educated.

(1) How huge is the inventory, the list of pain, the wrongdoing?
(2) How deep is the anger, the hurt? Is this really immeasurable?
I actually measure it in terms of days, then hours, number of tears, holes in the plaster.

Every therapy for separated couples will be a designer therapy, by necessity, with a designer treatment plan. Objectives and goals are discussed, as well as an exhaustive investigation of each partner's emotional life. That certain responses are predictable, based upon that history, unfolds over time, and this is the insight we're looking for.

Thus there can be no textbook treatment for any particular marriage, which is why the work itself is as much an art as a science. We have our methodology, but procedural order will depend not only upon the broken dish of the day, but the way the therapist determines it to fit back together.

Is it time to block that metaphor yet?

Not to beat a dead horse, for those of you who read me, but there are three patients, three patients, remember, to every marital therapy-- the two partners and the marriage. That's a lot of therapy, a big treatment plan, so sorry. And the emotions don't just heal up overnight. People forgive, but they really can't forget. That memory thing will get you every time.

It would be nice if there were a switch, if we could will ourselves into loving again. Hypnosis, maybe.

Sorry.

That's why, if the rabbi or the priest, or the mullah, etc., has one thing to advise a young couple, it should be that they should stay out of denial, not brush any problem aside, look to the family of origin, the roots to the tree, the reasons people do what they do, the reasons they don't do things they should do. Attend to this right away, don't ignore "issues" let them build up inside until you have reached the point of no return.

Cuz that's a very, very bad place.

The Anti-Relationship drug, the thing that will ruin you is denial. You lull yourself into thinking, If I don't discuss this it will resolve on its own and I will love my partner again. These problems will go away in time.

Right.

Think again.

therapydoc

Monday, August 03, 2009

I Confess

Okay, I confess. The reason you don’t see me blogging so much anymore is that there are other things to write (like you, am poking at a book that will never see the light of day) and am super busy at work and find that this and putting out on the blog is really hard to do.

For me there's an optimal time to do this, write, and only so many of these, optimal hours, in the early morning. So be patient with me.

Once I learned that ancient Japanese fine artists only produced, only approached their brushes and ink for an hour or two a day. Perhaps they lacked caffeine, is my thinking.

Anyway. In the process of writing this thing I am forced to re-read (this is so painful, you have no idea) many of my earlier posts, and have to rewrite them, for it’s a shame to take them down when the essence is still there, but the medium, the writing, like I said, atrocious.

Nevertheless, the first and perhaps only post on Bipolar Disorder has changed somewhat, and includes an inspiring embedded YouTube video of Kay R Jamison, author of the classic book on the subject, An Unquiet Mind.

Apologies to those of you who read the first draft. Probably none of you did, though, because in 2006 I didn’t even know about things like, tags, the traffic signals we bloggers use to draw attention to ourselves. But like I said, maybe that’s for the best in this case.

Anyway, here’s the edited version of

Bipolar Disorder, Not Everyone Has it, Actually.

therapydoc