Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Many Kristen Wiigs Are There?

Kristen Wiig

I'm probably the last person to see Bridesmaids.   

Quick  therapydoc  synopsis:

Annie (Kristen Wiig) has a relationship with a man who tells her, after a night of serious hard work in bed, that he wants her out of his apartment toute de suite.
It is morning.   It is against the rules, sleeping over.

She knows the rules, and she knows who makes them.

Right away we have a problem.  Annie is creative, she's smart.  She looks like Meg Ryan, but is so much funnier.  She shouldn't have trouble finding a man who will treat her right.

It's a trite theme.  Girl in her thirties tries to please a guy who isn't good enough for her, who treats her badly.  It is a friends with benefits relationship. Even Annie would say that the benefits don't outweigh the emotional costs, a rich-boyfriend-who-uses-her-for-sex versus always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

But she hangs on, probably because she doesn't want other people to think she's always alone, a definitive loser. At least that's what my patients tell me, and there are many like Annie in therapy.  To her credit, she's taking some control because indeed, she doesn't want to be alone. Not every. .  single. .  night.  She wants someone she thinks of as her boyfriend.  She wants someone to love her.

We call it settling.  Something's better than nothing-- the rule, not the exception in relationships.  And let's talk-- many a woman would settle for a man who looks half as good as Jon Hamm.  But this is the movies and most of them don't.

In reality, men are treated poorly in relationships, too.
Being a guy doesn't prevent a significant other from walking all over a person, the wishes and needs of the other ascendant, superseding their own.  It isn't gender-specific, self-denial.  The denier feels powerless, pathetic.

Not an unusual topic in therapy. Therapists, like friends, want to shake the patient, who tends to be among the good people in the world, a sincerely giving individual.  We want to scream, The best is yet to come!  Ditch him!  Ditch her!   Easy for us to say.  Tempting, but inappropriate.  Not our call to make.  More powerful coming from the patient.  We'll get there, give it time.

So of course you want to take a look at the family of origin.  Who raised Annie?

Her mom (perfection, Jill Clayburgh) goes to AA meetings and sponsors alcoholics even though she doesn't drink.  She never did.  What's up with this?  Why not Al Anon, go to meetings with people who have to deal with people who use?

We can assume that people in Jill's family did drink, and that Annie's mother got very comfortable in the fixing role, the helping role.  Alcoholics need a lot of help (read Dry, but Augusten Burrows, if you haven't already).  Annie's mom is that woman who can't give up the rescue role (co-dependent), who loves to see a down and outer get off the sauce, needs to be a part of it.  She desperately wants to be involved in the sobriety of others. A talented artist, she can lose herself in her healthy coping strategy.  Annie is artistic, too, there's clearly some transference.  But Annie isn't out there fixing an alcoholic.  She is the addict, and the drug isn't alcohol.

Mom adores Annie and Annie loves her mom, knows she can come home any time.  And  when Annie hits bottom, desperately trying to help her friend Lillian, the bride, she does.  She comes home, penniless.

Did Annie watch her mother do everything for her father with very little, maybe nothing in return?

I think so.    Seeing your mom in that selfless, co-dependent, giving role, it has to wear off on you, especially if she is as wonderful and as entertaining as Annie's.  She's so good, so selfless.

Says it all, don't you think?

Annie is chosen as Lillian's Maid of Honor and she wants to make everything wonderful for the bride, beginning with the bachelorette party, the shower, a dinner to celebrate.  Her wacky blunders are probably the movie's draw for most people.  The film is a comedy of errors, everything Annie does, a disaster.  We like her more for her incompetency, of course, and because she's so naturally funny.   Lillian can depend upon Annie to make her laugh. Most people who know her probably do.

That's a role in an alcoholic family, too, being a clown.  Somebody has to clown around, make everyone laugh, so that nobody has to look at the problem:  Dad's a drunk, not funny.  Somebody do something funny, please!  Distract us.

I love a good movie about co-dependency.  This one worked for me on that level, much more than as a comedic film.   I really didn't need to see that first scene, how hard Annie works to sexually satisfy a guy who will never work that hard for her at anything.  It is a stellar example of co-dependence.

You give, but you don't get back, and you'll settle for that.
It's what you're used to seeing in the family or origin, you can bet on it.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Untold Consequences of Social Networking

Raquel Welch on Facebook
We've heard about the many dangers of Internet socializing.  A face might end up as a pic online, except that the body, thanks to Photoshop, is the body of a young Raquel Welch without clothes.  This could be a good thing, for some people, depending upon their priorities and personal preferences.  But these types of pics can be sold for a tidy sum, and it is an anonymous merchant making the money.

Then there's phishing, losing valuable identifiers to people who could use what's left in our bank accounts.  For most of us, no problem.

But this is one for the books.  Blogworthy, we say.  Or something else to worry about if you worry a lot.  Therapists like to think of these situations as problems to be solved.

I'm on Facebook.  It's true, I don't post very often, and if I do, maybe a picture of saltwater fish.
But the other day I notice that I now seem to "like" Zoosk.  Zoosk is a romantic social networking website and I don't like them, never have.  So I post this:
Don't like Zoosk, no matter what they're telling you.  
I don't know, at this point, how to hide what feels like spam on my feed, and I don't know that nobody else knows that I'm the only one seeing the things that Zoosk is posting on my feed.  So I head over to Zoosk (unproductive) but now that I have visited, the cookie to this dating site is captured, somehow, by

All of a sudden I have signed up with  I am Hypnodoc55 and shudder at the thought that there may be a Hypnodoc54, 53, 52, etc.  And is sending me 18 women a day to date!  And here I thought that online dating was this difficult thing!  Apparently not if you are a Hypnodoc.

I'm thinking, Ignore it and it will go away. Wrong.  The offers, suggestions, keep coming!  I am clearly the hottest thing out there!  And here I thought that advice, Marry a doctor, passe'.  Apparently not.

So I tell Gmail to pitch to Spam. That will stop it.  No!  They keep coming.

The only logical thing is to sign in to Match and cancel the account.

This turns out to be simple.  They send me the password that somehow I forgot, and I sign in, and within minutes is sorry to see me go.

When I tell the story to friends, FD has a funny look on his face.  I know he's thinking, Does she really want to date at this age?

Never gave it a thought, honestly.  Until now. (Joke, okay?  Joke.)


Friday, August 10, 2012


I'm at an art fair with a friend and we stop in front of a booth. My friend doesn't like what she sees and tells me as much in a loud whisper.

The artist happens to be that person to her left, and she is in earshot.  She's not happy.  Maybe sales haven't been good, and now she has to hear what a bad artist she is.  As a result of listening in, an interactional sequence, she suffers an ego slam.  It hurts.

The irony is that my friend hurts now, too. She has hurt someone's feelings and feels horrible about it.  She apologizes, tries to recover, but the deed is done.  Safe to say, the artist hurts even more.

It's an interesting question:
Who hurts more?
People do intentionally listen in on conversations. My grandson listens behind a door as I innocently talk on the telephone while whipping up a salad dressing.  He thinks he's fooling me. He loves the power, the sense of control. It is hard to mentor him, to explain that this isn't good for his character. He's only seven.

But adults do it all of the time, snoop intentionally, and I would posit that this is terrible for their character, their sense of self, too.  The act is probably worse for the snooper than for the snoopee.

Who is this person who reads someone else's mail, who opens closed  files, who deliberately listens in on the conversations of others? Sociopathic, possibly.  Insecure, more likely. Doesn't make it right. Get therapy. Don't lower yourself to this.

It is becoming an every day thing, hacking into electronic media, editing pictures so that they make other people laugh.  A young man kills himself because his roommate hid in a closet, videotaped him having sex with another male student, then posted it. Videotaping has become something we think we can just do.  
Privacy, certainly, isn't sacred anymore.  Not a new issue, really.

So snooping is just one of the many ways of breaching privacy.  No matter how we do it, the behavior reduces our stature, our very selves are diminished in the eyes of others, and our own, when we wake up, too.  We become dangerous as snoopers.  Saying that the means justify the end, merely denial.  By snooping a person morphs into someone to suspect, to watch, to be careful around, untrustworthy.  Not even less trustworthy. Untrustworthy.  The deed is done, it can't be undone.

It's too hard for the victim to regroup, to say, Never mind. We can act as if it is okay, but with no sincere apology from the offender, it won't be. This is the rationale behind the apology in the 12-Step program. At least with an apology there is some hope that a person sincerely regrets having hurt another, a way back.

Sometimes a patient will whip out a cell phone and ask me to listen to voicemail from a spouse or someone else. I've been sucked in, but no more. It's not cool.  Only one of the two invited me into the conversation.

As my son-in-law likes to say, No good can come of it. Whatever I hear from a recording can surely be communicated some other way.  Most people memorize traumatic conversations, semblances, at least.  We don't have to have it word for word.

I always believe only half of what I hear, anyway.

Therapists, especially, and doctors, researchers have to lock their files before they leave the office, shut down the programs. We don't afford the cleaning crew an opportunity to read notes on our patients.  Patients trust us to protect their privacy, like we trust our families to do the same.

And yet.  The same people who would never think to leave out a chart (me, for example) might  justify, reading what is left open on someone else's computer screen. If this weren't public domain, then why was it left open to begin with? Why not at least minimize that window?

We might as well ask, Why don’t people remember to turn off the lights when they leave the room? They forget, is all.

As parents we rationalize listening into our kids' conversations, rifling through clothing, pockets, reading notes in backpacks. We have to protect them, especially our adolescents, we think. They are our charge, we need to be sure they are well. Somehow. We’ll deal with the information, the evidence, figure it out as we go along. But is it right? Can't we accomplish as much developing a truly trusting relationship with our children, one that is intimate and safe?  No, it isn't easy, but it is possible.

Partners snoop, and of course therapists hear it all. One sniffs another's collar for perfume, another reads the texts messages on a phone. It is de riguere, a regular thing in couples therapy, the guy who has programming skills hacking in, reading email from his partner's friends, searching out pictures of her with a lover. Then, because there is evidence of an affair, he assumes, usually incorrectly, that their relationship is over, so he deliberately sets out to trap her, punish her. Things get ugly and complicated.  The therapy gets dicey, too, if they are in couple's therapy, as they should be. Now not only is she guilty, but he is, too, for invading her privacy, her thoughts, her supposedly private conversations.

Women, when they hear about an affair, come to therapy or they talk to their friends, consult a lawyer, maybe confront.  They don't go to the lengths of tapping phones. I'm sure it happens, just not something I hear about.

Which crime is worse? Breaking marital vows or breaching the privacy of a partner?

I discussed it once with a colleague. His patient had taped my patient's phone calls (the two were married and we had permission to speak about them.) I thought my colleague gave his patient (the snooper) too much credit. The psychologist excused the behavior much too readily, basically gave permission, told the his patient that it was okay, his snooping understandable under the circumstances. Man to man he could see why the guy felt driven to trap his spouse by taping her conversations. Busted. He really won that battle.  Now she'll never really trust him, even if they kiss and make up. A perfect system.

I ask the therapist:
“So if the same client told you that he had been taping your visits, that he had recorded every word you ever said to him and locked the tape up somewhere, perhaps in a safe deposit box, how would you feel?”
Note, I did not ask if he could find justification for the behavior. We can find justification for almost anything we do.  I wanted to know how he would feel. Would that feel good, knowing that his words, his thoughts, could be shared with the world?

There are all kinds of ways to rape someone.

He had to think about it. A week later we talked and he answered honestly. He would probably feel violated, abused, horrible, sick. And the sickness wouldn't just end at dinner, it would absorb his thoughts for weeks, make him paranoid about other patients, too,  make him worry that others are running tape recorders in their backpacks.

He certainly would never trust the patient again. Stolen moments and sin upon sin, stolen intellectual time, time wasted obsessing, time that could have been spent more productively. We don't think about this, the extent of the violation, what this really means, the invasion of privacy.  The "rape."

The means don't justify the end, no matter what we think that end should be.

Expressing negativity is therapeutic, some think the curative ingredient in all of of psychotherapy and even friendship. We should be able to vent in peace to our doctors and to our friends.  It is their integrity on the line if they tell over our secrets, and we learn who we can trust with secrets and who we can't in the process.

It can be upsetting, the triangle, being the one left out of the conversation.  We've talked about that before, will get to it again.

But snoop? Snoop on anyone? Not becoming, not dignified, not cool.  Breaching someone's privacy pierces the humanity of both, but casts a shadow upon the snooper, a partner who might otherwise be a thinking, self-assured, kind, attractive human being.

No good will come of it.