Posts Tagged ‘fears’

We have a little time

November 9, 2011

“We have a little time,” said my son, sitting at the kitchen island, alert by an extra hour “saved” by changing the clocks around.

So we talked about fear, about movies and about how things that we know are not “real” scare us nonetheless.  I tried to explain the brain, our mythos, our culture of fear, but only because I love my boy.  Yet we all love all the world, don’t we?

It was time to go, so we continued to talk in the car.  He said, “I’m not scared when I’m not alone.”


Don’t Sniff Don’t Smell: When Kids Hate On Parents

October 26, 2011

How might thinking about Gaddafi’s lurid death help us to be better parents?

Collective rage and murder wrought upon a crazed dictator pulled from a sewage drain wearing gold pants and packing a solid gold gun, while bizarre on the one hand, also illustrates an important dynamic in human consciousness:  idealization and devaluation.

Whether plotting a coup or parenting a toddler or a teen, the relationship between idealization and devaluation is infallible:  idealization masks secret devaluation; devaluation masks secret idealization.

Teens, for example, often exhibit know-it-all contempt and pseudo-independence (if they are safe enough to swagger), but they eventually tame it down and transition from rebel-with-an-allowance to worker bee in the collective hive, that is if we have a hive worth working for.

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Zombies on the Couch

September 28, 2011

I’ve been writing a fair amount this year about fear, primarily because our unresolved anxieties can be a significant obstacle to both optimal parenting as well as a buzz-kill to a life richly and fully lived.

While it’s often relatively easy to see other people’s “issues” in stark relief, it’s our own Shadows that lurk behind us as we face the sun.  Hence a tour of one of my worst, albeit absurd (at least for a “grown-up” who is also a clinical psychologist), fears…

It was a Saturday night and my parents were out (but then, at least in my mind, they were always out.  They would say otherwise, but the fact that they made me feel that way speaks, at the very least, an emotional truth—and I digress here because parenting is not a legal proceeding, but an emotional reckoning and we want our kids to feel like we enjoy them and to feel like we’re actually there, which happens to be the opposite characteristics of zombies, but now I’m getting ahead of myself).

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Waiting for the End of the World… on the couch

June 1, 2011

We’ve made it well past May’s doomsday prognostications and mercifully into June.  Recent Rapturous predictions of the world’s end have, once again, proven to be greatly exaggerated.  So, now that we’ve dodged yet another kooky bullet, is there anything beyond mirth, snarkiness or the need to invent a new-new-Armageddon math to be learned from this age-old trope?

The freaky guy with an “End is Near” sign is, arguably, an archetype.  If so, Jung’s thinking would suggest that a doomsday figure (Grim Reaper, for example) coils embedded in our individual and collective memories, in our bones or at least in our more esoteric metaphysical collective unconscious.  The power of this archetype (think Darth Vader) is one way to make sense of how much media coverage an unlikely, and now failed, prediction was able to generate; even for a hundred million bucks (what Harold Camping spent) it would be hard for most multinational corporations to get so many of us to be aware of the same thing, even if it was to collectively joke about the same joke.

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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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A Little Love for the Very Very Nervous

March 23, 2011

A recent LA Times article by Mary MacVean about over-anxious parents in our age of hyper competition made a key point worth pondering:  if the majority of “experts” are telling us that we need to calm it down a notch (or three), why is it that we continue to parent like chickens with our heads cut off?

My friend, Sonya Gohill, a pediatrician in Brentwood (and a fellow colleague in a group of parenting experts who meet privately to discuss such matters) is quoted as saying, “For my patients, I have a lot of moms who are extremely well-educated, who were practicing lawyers or have their MBAs, and they’ve retired to be stay-at-home moms. They’re rechanneling their energy. Their kids are their project. The outcome is so important because they’ve put so much time and effort into it.”

Sonya highlights one of the starting guns that sets off the race to nowhere:  the failure to fully recognize our children as separate others.  Other triggers to our misdirected fear include the pervasive notion of scarcity—the idea that we are all competing for limited resources.  “No child left behind,” not only leaves plenty of kids behind, but furthers the manic idea that we’re all boarding lifeboats as the Titanic sinks; hardly an optimal emotional message to facilitate love and learning.

Being terrified lowers our IQ in the moment… and thus we are a culture of smart-when-calm people who are neither calm nor smart about parenting.

Yet we all know this.  My aim today (in keeping with my theme of wishing to help parents calm down, since they already know they are nuts with anxiety and still do not know HOW to actually calm down) is to be reasonably brief, and in the service of encouraging greater security and basic trust in whoever stumbles across these words:  in those I recognize to be my fellows, and with whom I am not competing… only connecting.

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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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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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Love and Fear on the Big Collective Screen

January 26, 2011

Having studied both film and psychology, I find myself often thinking about the interplay between these two worlds that have so captured my own imagination and interest.

Continuing with my theme for this year:  cultivating authentic calm, I turn to the most successful movies of all time in order to contemplate the zeitgeist, collective anxieties and potentially rising, and healing, consciousness.

If you look at the top-grossing movies in our American experience (adjusted for inflation so that we have a relatively fair picture of what pictures the most people have bothered to watch, as opposed to simply dollars spent), we have the following list:

Gone with the Wind ‘39

Star Wars ‘77

The Sound of Music ‘65

E.T.:  The Extra-Terrestrial ‘82

The Ten Commandments ‘56

Titanic ‘97

Jaws ‘75

Doctor Zhivago ‘65

The Exorcist ‘73

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ‘37

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