Posts Tagged ‘empathy’

Maybe it’s all about love

November 16, 2011

“What are you, Johnny Appleseed?” Peter said, with what felt like mocking contempt.  He was teaching me to be a psychologist, a certain kind of psychologist.

Navy blazer, grey slacks, leather chairs, the austerity of analytic psychology itself a gardened hedge against the chaos of badly wounded psyches and the mayhem of human behavior.

Who am I to plant seeds?  And besides, perhaps it’s the tree itself, and not the snake much less God 2.0, that has played us:  “Hey kids, whatever you do, do not eat that fruit.”  It’s not only bears that shit in the forest.  Really love your peaches, but your tree shakes me.

It was a woman’s hundredth birthday party when I saw Peter in a lovely, albeit cool and drizzly, garden.  Over twenty years his blue eyes had grown soft and his graying beard was soft too.  His leather jacket was soft and his velvet handshake as good as a hug.  Looking into my eyes he said, about therapy, but probably about everything:  “It’s all about love.”

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Relinquishing Resentment

October 5, 2011

While we’ve been attending to fear and how it inhibits parenting and lives well lived, it’s worth keeping in mind the relationship between fear and anger—and anger’s brooding distant cousin:  resentment.

When we feel scared we may run away, freeze up or go into fight mode.  This marks the workings of our primitive brain.  Thus fear and threat are generally the root causes of anger.

When we are scared of things that do not truly pose a dire threat to us (but make us feel, and react, as if our very lives are threatened), or when we are scared that things may happen which in truth have already happened (like being, or feeling like we were, abandoned as children and thus chronically fearing abandonment) we move into the more neurotic realms of functioning, or perhaps dysfunctioning.

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Shadow Work

September 7, 2011

I was in a rather good mood on the way to work after chatting with Nate about On The Road, deeply appreciating his take on “rootless soul-searching” and the “selfishness of Beats who couldn’t deal with intimate relationships.”  I opened the top of my car to see the sky.

I had dreamed of the bear the previous night—a recurring dream symbol that first leapt out of the blackness when I was four, and has shape-shifted in myriad forms and meanings over the years.  In the latest dream a mother bear challenged me, in a vacation home, where I was protecting my family—suddenly she was all teeth and claws and we were embraced in wild conflict as I awoke.  In waking I intuited that the problem was mine and not hers.  The Shadow brings us our power, and the illumination of our own dark places… unless we resist.

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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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Parenting Manifesto

June 19, 2010

The true history of all society is the history of parenting.

Parents have always seemed to be in charge, but every generation has faced a revolution of children growing up and taking charge—only to be usurped by the next generation.

To end the entrenched strife of anxious children and unhappy parents caregivers must see that they are as much child as parent—and that parenting (i.e. caring for others and the world) is enlightened Self-interest that sets us free via an expanded consciousness.

Thus a parenting attitude brings feelings of harmony, community and more widespread stability and well-being.

In order to liberate parenting from the yoke of experts and materialist exploitation of insecurity about the most important job any of us ever do, and which we so deeply yearn to get right, caregivers must unite in a common consciousness that sees all children as all of our collective children.

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Paying loving attention to attachment

June 2, 2010

Lindsey at A Design So Vast wrote a recent post, “There is something holy in authentic presence,” that got me thinking about attachment.

Lindsey’s post is about the intense power that authentic presence has on people, as evidenced by artist Marina Abramovic who has a piece going at Museum of Modern Art in New York right now.  The “art” or “performance” or whatever one might call an authentic human sitting and giving full attention to whoever cares to sit across from her at a table in a taped off square in a busy museum space.

Person after person eventually ends up in tears, profoundly moved by Marina’s authentic and unflinching presence to them.  The photos of these people’s faces are fantastic—with tears coming down their eyes, each one is so extraordinarily beautiful, and in a way rather different from features and symmetry and instead revealing the universal beauty of the soul when it has a chance to shine from within the body.

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Many Truths, One Consciousness

May 30, 2010

A recent Op-Ed piece by Tenzin Gyasto (the Dalai Lama), “Many Faiths, One Truth,” is well worth living (it’s also worth reading, but it’s in the living, together, of what he says that we find freedom and true well-being).

My one and only TV Show that I directed was called “Tales From The Dark Side,” and it was built upon a joke hinging on the Dalai Lama (ultimately all jokes are on us, however).  The episode was titled “Seymourlama” and was about a ridiculously spoiled child in suburban New Jersey being inadvertently selected as the next Dalai Lama.  It was profane, I suppose, and so I cast Divine as a Tibetan holy man.  (for more on that see Divine Tears)

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A tale of two camps

May 14, 2010

The summer camp that my parents sent me to was a well-respected and venerable institution in the north woods of Wisconsin.

The summer camp I went to, at least in my mind, was something more akin to a Nazi concentration camp.

As a grown-up I might like to spend some time amongst the pines, “roughing it,” swimming in the lake, fishing, engaging in manly sport and jocular good cheer with fellows.

As an eight-year-old child, I was put on a transport vehicle, slept on one-inch thick mattresses and had forced work details for insubordination:  “green buckets” that had to be filled with either pine needles, pine cones, or (hardest to come by in the immaculate woods) trash.

As a grown-up I can see how this very camp helped shape David Mamet’s love of guns and cabins in the woods (he went there and I’m sure he loved it; in my mind he might have been a capo, collaborating with the authorities as some sort of “counselor in training”).

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When trees fall down

May 2, 2010

Whether or not a tree falling in a forest with no human soul to hear it makes any noise, I’m pretty sure that if that tree ends up blocking Coldwater Canyon on a beautiful Friday morning one can’t drive down Coldwater Canyon to get to work.

And so it was that on Friday I was standing still in “traffic” (which implies movement, so this was more like “parking”) along a lovely stretch of Mulholland Drive as I watched the clock on my car turn to ten a.m. (two hours after I had left on my typically thirty minute commute) blithely informing me that the therapy session to which I had failed to make it with my waiting client, the one I had asked to change, had just ended entirely without me ever showing up.

And whether falling trees do or don’t make noise, forgotten cell phones definitely do not make calls—not calls of explanation, not calls of heads up, not calls of apology—just mute and enigmatic silence regarding any excuse whatsoever as I sat contemplating the distant blue Pacific, the rogue yellow mustard growing crazy over the hillsides and the lovely purple wildflowers all just better than I at being, quietly indifferent as I sat blocked and breathing.

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When all the young girls loved Alice… and I did too

January 13, 2010

When I was in second grade the teacher asked everyone what his or her favorite book was.  She then went around the class and every child stated a book title.  I was around the middle of the pack, and simply stated my truth:  Alice in Wonderland.

By three quarters of the way around the room I realized that between us all, there were only two favorite books:  Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book.  As we neared the final children I also realized that every single girl had chosen Alice while every single boy (except yours truly) had gone with Jungle.  I think this was the first shining moment when I realized that I just didn’t think like I was supposed to think.  At this point I value my way of thinking, but I also have compassion for kids who, like Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, just doesn’t quite fit in.

With maturity, I realize that despite my own agonizing and sudden self-consciousness, the other kids were not paying any attention whatsoever to what I had said—rather they were paying close attention to the group—the trends, the importance of fitting in.  Even if I had gone last, I would still have said Alice—I was honest to a fault and clueless about reading social cues to an even larger extent.

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