Archive for February, 2011

Oscar on the Couch

February 23, 2011

Whatever you think of the Oscar-nominated films, or the Oscars themselves for that matter, this Global Grand Prize Game pulses with fear, desire, inclusion and exclusion on a mass scale.  Given that our dedicated focus as of late is the amelioration of fear, what better generally misunderstood figure to place on the analytic couch than Mr. Goldfinger himself (cue the James Bond theme here):  Oscar.

Oscar is our quintessential American Gigolo—a hooker with a heart of Oliver stone who wears his gold on his sleeve.  Oscar is a king who gives no speech, a Gatsby who doesn’t even float; not on the east coast, nor does he float in Gloria Swanson’s Sunset Boulevard pool either—but that’s still him at the bottom of our collective Theodore Dreiser/An American Tragedy lake that we’ll all be dragging like Rue Paul this Sunday when we’re Watching the Detectives who star in the big recurring dream/nightmare we all seem to Inceive each Oscar season.

So, what strange zeitgeist stirrings might be glimpsed in the collective tealeaves of this year’s best picture nominees?  Perhaps we might deconstruct the nominated pictures in terms of raw dread and universal human emotion:

I cannot trust mom, and so I am not sure if I am good or bad.  Love and success are not safe—I am not in a safe, sane or integrated place:  Black Swan.

Dad cannot be counted on, so I must figure it out alone.  I am not in a safe place (and I will lose an arm to get there):  True Grit.

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Princeton Re-View: Fiddler in the Rye

February 16, 2011

This is the story of my fail of a Princeton interview, and a small, but redemptive, synchronistic twist of fate that occurred thirty-three years later.  I tell it in the spirit of calming fears, in this case the fear of rejection; for when it comes to the lizard brain, rejection, loss, abandonment, annihilation, dread and death all cluster together.

Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), when we are in lizard mode, things do not go well for one-to-one love, nor do they pulse well for the social network.  And when it comes to parenting, whether it is about getting our child into the “right school,” or just getting them into the car when they are in one of those moods, calming ourselves by being mindful that we are already accepted to the school of life—the school we’re all in together—may help us calm our children and support them to shine, not just for the benefit of themselves, but for the collective good of all of us.

This particular story came back into my mind recently when I was dining with friends and got to chatting with a visiting step-mom, now a fellow psychologist, who turned out to have been in charge of admissions at Princeton for a good number of years—years including 1978 (a time when I had, more or less, fashioned myself after Sartre, Camus and Starsky—not Nick from The Great Gatsby).

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Tiger Moms in Tigger Times

February 9, 2011

I doubt many parents have failed to find Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother blipping over their radar, Tigger-triggering little waves of unease.  But as the dust settles, I want to employ this latest meaningless tempest in a teacup to further the aim of facilitating calm amongst parents.

Therefore, let’s not bother debating the merits of tiger parenting vs. Chua’s gloss on Western parenting; I imagine you already have your opinions on that and will not benefit from mine.

Instead, let’s consider why this issue has gotten so much ink, so many comments at the Wall Street Journal, where Chua’s essay on her parenting philosophy ruffled feathers, and sparked wide ranging debate in the New York Times and across the blogosphere.

I suspect that this all distills down to fear.  Fear that we are not good enough parents.  Fear that we, and/or our children, will be left behind (and the feeling of being left behind distills down to abandonment, which distills down to annihilation—to feelings swirling below the radar of many an unsuspecting grown-up that are akin to excruciating dread, angst and lonely shame).

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Fight, Flight or Snuggle? Welcome to the year of the Bunny

February 2, 2011

One afternoon when I was about nine years old I came walking up to my house to see a neighbor’s huge cat, Duff, perched menacingly in the ivy.

Duff was one badass cat, with a luxuriant grey coat sheathing bulk and power, yellow eyes that fixed you in your tracks and sent trembles spiraling down your sapling spine.

The ivy itself was a place of mystery, huddled low and tangled around a birch tree—an easily overlooked world where I’d once found a polyphemus moth—a micro-jungle where I was sure that other treasures were to be found.

And alas Duff had found one:  a rabbit’s nest.  I moved closer as Duff looked warily between me and his prey that he had been toying with, at his sweet leisure, as I made my way home from school.

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