Archive for April, 2011

“Three Sisters,” One Parent

April 27, 2011

Andy and I recently attended a performance of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.  As I mature, I find myself moved and fascinated by many of the things that once bored me to tears as a young, angry and impatient rebel with an allowance—a youth where I had the luxury of cynicism and grandiose artistic ambition, followed by a life of hard work in the wake of my father losing all his money in what turned out to be a blessing, at least for me, of the most liberating magnitude.

As I offer up these blog words in the service of love and encouragement for us all to be our best Selves (as parents and as “parents” of our shared world, as well as nurturers of, and participants in, its unfolding consciousness), I found Chekhov’s words, as well as his temporal and political context, incredibly resonant—prescient, modern and eternal.

The first director of Three Sisters was Stanislavski, the pioneer of naturalistic acting that came to be called “the method.”  Out of this school of radical authenticity, and interiority, on stage, came Marlon Brando, James Dean and later Pacino, Hoffman, Streep.  In a world of overwhelming falseness, sometimes the quest for what’s real must unfold behind the third wall of a stage… art itself being a living remnant of communing with spirit, with the Truth of what just is… of what we cannot, by our brains, hope to know.

As parents, we are often hammered by the mundane and conforming (not to mention race-to-nowhere fear-and-money-driven competition), and thus we must continually unearth and give flight to the transcendent and the luminescent, the compassionate and the connected, to be found and lived in the small moments of our big-enough lives.

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Self Taught

April 20, 2011

A teacher I know recently said to me that they felt that, after three years at it, they were just starting to truly understand how to teach.  That made sense to me—as a past therapist had told me that her supervisor had told her that it takes seven years of practice before you truly know what you are doing as a therapist.  Moving into two decades of clinical work, I keep learning how much I do not know, but ever deepening my appreciation for the process, for the courage of my clients, for the possibility of accurately connecting as a way to facilitate healing and growth.

That teacher went on to say that they were very excited about teaching, and that I should tell all my clients to become teachers, not just because it is a noble thing to do, and deeply rewarding to the soul, if not always the purse, but because he was learning how to be a father to himself through teaching—having conversations with students, and giving compassionate counsel in ways that had been entirely missing from his own upbringing.

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Dr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

April 13, 2011

I met Carl Rogers in a bookshop in Paris.  Well, I guess I didn’t actually “meet” him, but I did encounter him, by way of one of his books, “On Becoming a Person.”

I was on my honeymoon, having been accepted into a doctoral program in psychology, knowing that my days working thanklessly at a movie studio were numbered, and living a free man in Paris feeling through a magical string of lovely September days, when I wandered into a charming bookstore with an open heart.

When it comes to ideas, I love a vast and wild tangle of possibilities, but when it comes to shopping, I hate malls and too many choices all lined up by focus-group-driven statistics to guess my behavior, exploit my fear-gripped psychology and divest me of my capital (be it time, money or spirit).  Thus when it comes to shopping, I love small places that are run by curators of things—shoe-sellers with soul, booksellers who pick a few gems.

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Won’t you be my neighbor? And can we MAKE it a beautiful day in the hood?

April 6, 2011

A recent New Yorker article by Paul Tough, “The Poverty Clinic,” is wonderful and inspiring, although too narrowly titled in my view.  It is about a parenting hero, Dr. Nadine Burke, who is making a difference with some of our least supported and most hurt children and families; and it’s also about the effects of abuse in childhood on not just emotional, but also physical health in adulthood.  But it’s also about how to help, how to connect, how to work more effectively… by taking feelings more strongly into account even when looking at physical healing—and that is about the world we all live in, a world where the “poverty” may be spiritual, compassion-oriented or consciousness-oriented.

Abuse in kids leads to later psychological and physical illness when they grow-up (see the ACE Study, which I wrote about previously, and which underpins Burke’s actions).   Since we cannot be happier than our least happy child, if that child lives in the hood, the barrio or in rural poverty (or in a more economically advantaged part of town, even under our own roof) we must do something about it.  And that something starts with accurately understanding feelings, something that both medicine, and our broader culture, have given short shrift.  Why is this?  Perhaps we just don’t know how to deal with emotion effectively… and we have not yet bought into how effective and important it is to attune with our kids:  this is a huge part of how we enhance self-esteem, improve academic performance, reduce wasted health-care dollars (i.e. after people are already very sick) and heal out children and our collective community.

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