Posts Tagged ‘trauma’

Courage

August 31, 2011

Greetings.  Now that we’re in that back to school time of year, I thought we might take a moment to consider the concept of courage, especially as it relates to parenting.

In a sense, courage is the antidote to fear, or at least the opposite of succumbing to fear, and thus it is a “virtue” we want to cultivate in the service of better parenting (and lives more richly lived).

Courage is defined as, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

I might expand this definition to suggest that “the quality of mind and spirit” that does the trick is love; thus courage is love in the face of fear.

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Together and Apart

July 27, 2011

Given my year’s theme of working to increase consciousness in order to ameliorate fear, my take on this week’s zeitgeist is that there is much astir in the collective corridors of rage and despair—and perhaps some opportunities for compassion, growth and healing at the micro level—the level that perhaps counts most in the final and collective analysis.

A gunman in Norway, a human being, attacked what he perceived as his enemy—the human beings of the left-leaning labor party and particularly their children.

What might we make of such horror?  What keeps going so terribly and tragically wrong with us human beings?

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Growing up as America

July 6, 2011

Here we are in July, two days after America’s 235th birthday.  Given that parenting requires us to consider issues such as autonomy, attachment, independence and development, perhaps it’s worth zooming out for a moment and considering our current state of development as a parenting zeitgeist and as a country.

Like stars forming from dust and later burning out and blowing up into dust again, countries are born and they also die.  The Roman Empire has dwindled to a tourist destination (an every-other-month cover of Travel and Leisure) while the sun pretty much does set on the British Empire; meanwhile China and India are growing vigorously toward dominance like well fed children… rising once again (if you look at long-term history).

So, where is America in all this?  America seems to be a country struggling to come out of a very long adolescence.  As a psychologist I have seen that insecure attachment leads to distrust, to problems with relationships—sometimes to avoidance of others, at other times to control and dominance and manipulation of others.  At a national level we have oscillated between isolationism and pre-emptive attacks on perceived enemies.

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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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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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The Deep

June 17, 2010

This day always holds dread and portent for me as it marks the day in my childhood when my best friend, Jonathan, was killed; yet there is another story of attachment and loss that also clusters around this day in the watery tumult of my psyche.

It all goes back to high school—junior year honors English.  Ellen was in my class and of course I thought she was cute.  I sat one row over and one seat back, and thus my year was spent stealing glances at her as my mind drifted in and out, but mostly away, from Jude the Obscure.

The very last week of class the teacher invited us all to her house and on the way out, with summer stretched endlessly before me, I somehow found the courage to ask Ellen out on a date and was elated and shocked when she said yes.  I had asked out girls before, and had a good long history of “no” (particularly humiliating was my freshman year honors English fail with the girl who sat in front of me as my mind wandered away from the likes of Pride and Prejudice—I could simply not persuade that girl, a full head taller than me, to go on a date where we would ride our bikes).  But in 1977 I had a license to drive, and so Ellen would be picked up in a car.

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Abby Normal

June 11, 2010

I went to sleep last night with prayers for Abby Sunderland in my heart.

I awoke to learn that she is okay, and I am delighted and relieved for that.

What I wish to say today is that Abby’s situation is a perfect confluence of the opposites (the very place where the transcendent, sublime, even divine is most likely to show up).

Abby’s brother sailed around the world alone—the youngest to do it.  Abby wanted to do it too, to get the crown of youngest to sail around the world alone.  Note how many opposites this collective focal point conjures: life and death, over-protection and under-protection, bravery and fear, equipment and nature, togetherness and isolation, young and old, water and land, safety and adventure, “good” parenting and “bad” parenting, giving up and keeping on, ego and oceanic oneness.

Given that my aim is to enhance consciousness toward the benefit of the collective, my personal opinions about whether or not, as a parent, I would let my own sixteen-year-old sail around the world alone (I’m nervous for him to start driving lessons) is at least partially beside the point.

I went to sleep with images of “pitch-poling” and “submarining” in my mind’s eye—the experts conjectures of what 25 foot waves in 80 knot winds might do to cause a sailor to hit the rescue-me button (a forty foot boat flipping end over end; nose-diving straight down the face of giant waves and capsizing into 50 degree water).

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Looking back at Loss

June 10, 2010

A recent Wall Street Journal article by Jeffrey Zaslow, “Families with a Missing Piece: A New Look at How a Parent’s Early Death Can Reverberate Decades Later,” raises important issues to consider if we are sincere about doing our best for all our collective children.

Obviously it is a terrible thing to lose a parent, and the article makes a number of important points, including increased risk for depression and suicide of the course of life for those who lost parents when still children.

If we are going to look out for our collective kids, it’s worth keeping in mind that when children lose a parent, things like staying engaged in activities with peers and having adults in their lives who are willing to talk with them about their feelings has been shown to make a big difference for kids.  A lot of survivors of early parent loss report that therapy and bereavement groups were not necessarily helpful, in contrast to these things tending to be comforting to adults. There are, however, non-profit camps for kids who have lost a parent, and being with other kids in similar boats does seem to offer meaningful assistance.  I also think that, as many a grown-up has experienced, the “right” therapist can be comforting while a poor match can feel like insult to injury.

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The Undersea World of Jed Clamp-it

June 7, 2010

In the old days nursery rhymes like “Ring around the Rosie” were actually about bleak things like the plague.  In the spirit of getting medieval on the primeval black death tragically washing up on certain beaches, I found myself humming the theme to “Beverly Hillbillies,” but with some different lyrics spilling out.  Sing it with me—in honor of all our collective children.

Come and listen to a story ‘bout a Pig named Big

A company so rich it went dig, dig, dig.

From the bottom of the sea it was pumping up the crude

Until a pipe went bust and Big Pig’s being sued.

By everyone… Shrimpers.  Governments.

Well the next thing you know Big Pig is in the shit;

Execs and lawyers whisper, “we gotta get away with it.”

Said “Pretending that we care is probably the key,”

So they piled in the jet and they flew to “I can’t see.”

Facts that is:  dead birds.  Tar balls.

*

Well now it’s time to say good bye to Big Pig and all his bitches.

And he’d like to thank you folks fer kindly givin’ him the riches.

Yer all invited back again to this travesty.

To have a heapin’ helping of bitter irony.

Con artist that is.  Purveyor of fine sea food.

Throw another shrimp on the engine.

Y’all don’t get sick now, y’hear?

Sardonic Kiss

May 25, 2010

I have always carried the sense that the world is a mystical place in which strange visions, dreams and coincidences carry meanings that interweave us all together at levels beyond our conscious understanding.  As it happens, I’ve recently become blogging buddies with Terry Castle… and only when I noticed her career interest in producing horror films, combined with the venerable Castle name, did I realize that her very father directed one of my favorite films of all time:  Mr. Sardonicus.

As readers of this blog know, I’m a great fan of cinema.  My first career, blocked and battered as it might have been, all grew from that magical transporting that can happen in a darkened theater, be it a play or a film, or even in the space between our screens and ourselves.  Only in films did I see anything that resembled the world that I lived in, the one where insects were communing with you from the trees and the spirit of Native Americans were as “real” as the milkman and the mad men in suits driving to offices.

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