Tuesday, November 22, 2011

U-C Davis

I just don't get it, and I'm supposed to get everything.  If you saw the video, you saw kids lined up, sitting in a line on the ground, heads between their knees, and policemen spraying them with pepper spray.

Many of you are therapists, but you don't have to be one to know this is sick.
Someone enlighten me here.  It feels way too much like WWII, and those policemen, the Gestapo. Too much interface here, maybe, on my part, but this is unbelievable.

Not to brag, but my fair city, Chicago, handled protests with aplomb.  Maybe 1968 taught us something.



Sunday, November 20, 2011

Snapshots: Being Thankful

Glenn Hasard has a song, Falling Slowly. I woke up singing it today.

Every Saturday I walk over to visit my mother, and each time, pass a crack in the sidewalk, a rise about three inches high, and make a mental note:  Somebody should complain about that, an accident waiting to happen.  Then yesterday, it's me.

Walking with my son and his friend, we pass a rabbi and his family walking a little too slowly, at least for us.  We greet, pass, step up the pace.  I'm looking up at my kid (there's no other way to talk to him) and suddenly find myself flying forward, hands in Superman mode, terrified, falling fast. It's cold out and although they are bulky, my thick gloves brace the crash.  I survive the dive with a light blow to the forehead and a scrape on the nose.  At home, it's something to talk about, my clutzieness.  I wake up today with a slight headache, humming the song. Could'a been worse.

This kind of thing isn't worth mentioning, except that for me it's about empathy for abused women, really feeling some of that pain, a blow to the face.  My son jokes, "Just tell people that Aba (his father) smacked you because you got out of line."  But it's not funny, his joke, and he takes it back right away.

How about a few more not so funny snapshots, then a little Thanksgiving cheer.

(1) Dirty heroin:  A high school senior dies of an apparent overdose.  He's 18.  Four other boys witness him inject the drug at a park and watch helplessly as he falls unconscious.  They drag him into a car and drive around aimlessly for awhile, looking for someplace to be high.  That's what kids do when they get high.  They drive around.

The driver ends up taking the unconscious young man home with him to an apartment described as sheer squalor.  Many children will be taken into protective custody the next day when it becomes obvious that Griffen Kramer is yet unresponsive and isn't going to be responsive, not any time soon. Someone calls 911.

Griffen is believed to have been dead for several hours before the call, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

The story is only news because the loss is a loss to a retired NFL quarterback. Griffen Kramer is the son of someone famous. Most of us don't hear about deaths like these, but in some circles they aren't big news. Only sad news.

(2) Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story is a biography,  published eleven years ago. The book is now going for over five hundred dollars on Ebay. Some people are wishing they had read between the lines when it was first published.

An unforgettable Sandusky reference:
"I've loved trying to do the right things to hopefully make a difference in kids' lives and maybe make things better off for them. I'll never regret being called a 'great' pretender."
I think he regrets it already. 

In his biography Sandusky describes his childhood as so happy that he never wanted to leave the small mining town in Pennsylvania.  Remembered for his pranks (not favorably), he stayed fairly aloof, distant from others.  No one would have described him as a leader. He had a developmentally-disabled best friend.  Those of us in the research professions think of persons with developmental disabilities as vulnerable to exploitation. 

The profile mentions no girls, except his wife and his daughter, Kara, and that he and his wife adopted six children, five of them male, three of them  foster children, at least two from the Second Mile, the charity he founded to be help kids.

The profile-- aloof, inappropriate, building opportunities to take advantage of children--  misses having been exposed to pornography as a child, or having been victimized sexually as a child-- the primary variables associated with pedophilia.  We just don't know about that biography, do we.

It bothers us, too, that one child told the grand jury Sandusky called him 100 times, even after he pleaded with him, Leave me alone. Dependent, needy, cloying, desperate. An emotional mess.
"I'm an overgrown kid," he says in his defense.
Time to grow up, I suppose.

(3.) Modern day JesusThe man who opened fire on the White House last week tells us it's not just a coincidence that he looks like Jesus.  He is Jesus, a modern day Jesus.  Oscar Ortega from Idaho Falls begs Oprah to put him on her show.  He wants an audience.  Will we see more of this with deeper cuts to social services to the mentally ill? I'm afraid so.

(4)  The Thanksgiving Interview.

I read more snapshots before closing the browser. Herman Cain preaches from a pulpit a few times a week, and when he travels, takes his minister along. Is he working a program? (Referring to sexual improprieties, here, 12 Steps might be useful.) Can't help but ask.

An Egyptian blogger has chosen to go nude on Twitter, refers to feeling more free, thumbing her nose at repression. This doesn't feel free to me. Someone explain it to her, the bit about objectification, stealing with the mind.

After the story of the naked blogger it was time to seize the day, go feed my fish. The little guys thank me, as they should, for this is thanking season.

Thanks to all of you who read my blog, who comment or don't, but support the effort, don't beat on me for the stream of consciousness, knowing that a Freudian, truly, I am not. Not even a pretender.

Many of us, not just my tropical fish, will count blessings on Thursday.  That's what Thanksgiving is all about.

Thanksgiving posts here on Everyone Needs Therapy tend to be about how hard it is, getting together with family, how many of us dread the whole thing.  So much dysfunction for so many of us! The scenes feel worthy of the big screen, and they are.

But this year it makes more sense to me to emphasize social skill, spin a little social advice.  Most people don't know it, but the real social lubricant is intimacy. Sharing real things, the ups and downs we've had recently, sometimes makes dinner or cocktail conversation not only tolerable, but absolutely rich.  Sure, it can be too much, too much information, so we have to watch the responses. It's a skill, too much or too little, and handling it, smiling and moving on, is a skill, too. A simple "Wow!" will do.

There's nothing stopping us, really from asking, directing conversation toward more intimacy. Nothing to fear but fear itself. Like this probe,
"So how is everybody in your family? How's the health?"
allows someone who has gone through radiation or chemo the opportunity to talk about it.  And if they don't want to talk, they won't.

"Anything amazing happen this year?"
Amazing things do happen to people.  They get promotions, their kids get good grades.  It isn't all gloom and doom.  And if it is, and someone wants to share that, then wonderful! 

The people who have the least fun on Thanksgiving, or so I'm told, are the people throwing the party. They're busy getting the food on the table, cleaning up between courses, directing the traffic, finding the coats, thanking for the presents.  It's really hard hosting Thanksgiving when there's a big crowd.  I'm thinking that the structure of the dinner, the serving, the putting things away, needs to be less important than the people. The best part of the evening has to be sitting down and talking to guests, getting a really good interview.  When they leave, if you can't put your finger on something about everyone, at least one thing said, maybe it's not been such a successful evening.

It's a value, you know, saying these things, that there can be, there should be, intimacy in Thanksgiving; even suggesting we make it a social wellness experiment, a bonding thing.  Is it really therapeutic, sweeping grudges under the carpet, glossing over all the history, whatever it might be, dismissing the narcissistic injuries to another place, another time?

I think so.  It is the risk we have to take to connect, you know, kicking it up a little, the depth of conversation.  See what happens when you ask, "So how are you anyway, really?"

Emphasis on the really.  Most of us don't like pretending all that much, is the truth.  It's a lot of work.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.


Saturday, November 12, 2011


File this one under Things That Make You Feel Bad.

BuzzFeed photo http://www.buzzfeed.com/gavon/the-reason-joe-paterno-was-fired

Joe Paterno

Depressed for about a week, I buried myself in work, pushed off talking to friends, and told FD, "I have a headache."

And I did.

Appetite poor, everything physical that usually hurts, hurt more.  I started watching old episodes of The Office and Modern Family.

Not even associating the emotional low grade fever with the Penn State child abuse scandal, I thought it odd that I hadn't devoured the newspapers to learn everything possible about the  case, and worse, hadn't blogged about it. Usually when a story like this breaks, the keyboard heats up right away. Someone like me gets rabid to throw in her two cents.

Maybe it was that rape in the shower that got to me, that picture of the rape in my head. We have to call it a snapshot reconstruction because it isn't a memory, as in a snapshot memory. We weren't there to see it. But we form snapshots in our brains, reading the paper. We picture a grown man, a large grown man, raping a small boy in the university shower. And that picture is traumatizing.  No one reading about it, no one reconstructing it, could feel anything but . . . bad.

If you really think about it, if you think about the exploitation of children, any kind of exploitation, there's no other way to feel.  Except maybe angry.

A younger man, Mike McQueary, perhaps an assistant to an assistant coach ten years ago, witnessed the rape in the shower. He tells the head coach, the now infamous ex-head coach Joe Paterno what he saw, and the head coach forwards the information to the athletic director, Tim Curley, who tells then Vice President Gary Schultz, who tells President Graham Spanier, and trail stops there. No one calls the police.

Every social worker, every teacher in this country, every nurse, every doctor, every childcare worker, everyone but the officials at Penn State, apparently, knows that even the suspicion of child abuse means a call to a state agency like the Department of Child and Family Services or Child Protective Services. If you don't know the phone number, you call the police. Paterno didn't know, or didn't want to know, and neither did anyone else in the know at Penn State.

So yes, I buried this story, or tried to repress it, because sometimes things just make you too sad to talk about them. Then yesterday at the office I'm chatting with an older middle-aged couple, two people who like to spend at least a few minutes philosophizing about politics, religion, and social class injustices with me, important topics, before we say goodbye. Not seeing it coming, they pull the oh-by-the-way-doc.
Hey Doc, about that Penn State story. How does this happen? How does a man get caught in the act and then, nothing?
As of this morning, 21 felony counts for Sandusky, the ex-Penn State football coordinator and coach. Two perjury charges against university officials who may have lied about what they knew. Joe Paterno, history.

A mother talks about her child's trauma on ABC. "I want him locked up," she says.
Me, too.

There are so many reasons these things stay under the radar, I apologize to my friends. There just isn't enough time to talk about all of them right now.

Then I spend the next ten minutes talking nonstop. Maybe somebody paid off the family. Maybe the family didn't want to traumatize the child more, thinking the investigation a second rape. Probably the family didn't even know. Child victims are paid off in many, many ways, and troubled kids come cheap, with cheap gifts. They don't always have a male role model who loves them, they don't understand love, and they know far too much about sex. They hear that anything goes. They are blackmailed, their lives are threatened, the lives of their families threatened. Children fear authority and Sandusky is a big guy, imposing, intimidating. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy who takes no for an answer.

We don't know what happened. Maybe Sandusky got down on his hands and knees, cried and begged forgiveness, vowed he would get help and change, would pay for the kid's education.

He's a pedophile.  This is pedophilia.  You can call it a sex addiction, if you want, but let's narrow it down, pedophilia. It's about children, and it is sick and criminal. Most of us can't say that about our disorders.

Bernie Madoff robbed hundreds of investors of millions, billions of dollars. We were sickened by his actions, disgusted, appalled, and he's in jail for life. People will argue, but losing life savings isn't even in the same ballpark, or should we say on the same football field, as losing innocence, integrity, and person-hood. Add to this that it is hard enough, working toward the goal, some of us have this goal as children, of one day establishing a loving, happy, satisfying, enjoyable, intimate, ever-lasting sexual relationship, maybe even with one partner. This is hard enough. Mix it with memories like these, and oy vey. It is complicated.

Therapists see the victims of child molestation and abuse decades later, usually, well after the fact, and we find our patients still aren't "over" it. Most haven't had the therapy they needed, of course, and stay stuck, developmentally, to the age of the assault, which is why perpetrators who are caught pay for this, therapy for their victims, for years. And they pay for the victim's formal education, something that is interrupted, or never begins, when you don't feel you are worthy of one, that you matter.

Sandusky probably had good enough health insurance to pay for his own treatment. And he spent years at college.

That he probably never sought help feels criminal to me. But denial, deception, and criminality characterize, if not define, pedophilia. Treat it in the family (when it presents as incest), and the prognosis for the offender isn't all that bad. When the offender strays beyond the boundaries of home, it is a more intractable disorder, harder to make go away.

That Sandusky founded a nonprofit agency, Second Mile, to "help" vulnerable, troubled boys, isn't surprising. The old adage, If you want to hunt pedophiles, go where the children are, applies.

Now, because this is a sensational story, joining the ranks of thousands of professionals and para-professionals who work with children, will be coaches, assistant coaches, head coaches and athletic directors. Everyone on campus, certainly, will be reading the university handbook, or will attend a workshop. They will learn, hopefully, that they can't let it go, can't pass the buck to their supervisors to call the police and sit tight, hope for the best. It is everyone's responsibility, protecting children.

Call it manning up.