April 2010


If you’re in grad school or going to start soon, consider getting engaged to an amazing woman. I have had the good fortune to do that, and believe me you won’t regret it. I could (and maybe will at some point) write long into the night about the qualities that I am talking about, but for now I’ll just focus on one telling detail.

In graduate school, you do a lot of reading. Many, many, many hours and hours of reading. Few people do all the reading that they are assigned in a grad program. The eyes and attention can’t take it. I have the advantage of being engaged to Reanna. She reads a chunk of my assigned reading to me each term. Understand that this is mostly dry, academic stuff, interesting if you really want to be a family therapist, but otherwise only tolerable if you are extremely intelligent, curious, and dedicated. Understand also that she doesn’t even get social time with me out of it. I live in Oregon and she lives in British Columbia. She reads my assignments into a voice recorder and emails the files to me. I get to do the dishes or whatever while hearing her voice and getting reading done. She gets to sit in front of a computer screen, reading. (Well, she does get to criticize the bad writing, of which there is plenty, but that’s not much of a payoff, especially for a professional editor.)

She also reads relevant books that she finds that I have not been assigned. How cool is that? I’m going to have a term on Susan Johnson’s emotionally-focused couples therapy next fall, and she’s already read me Johnson’s popularization, Hold Me Tight.

Here is a partial list of what she’s read, from my iTunes. Some of the times didn’t copy out (Open Office couldn’t recognize them, apparently, and made them into times of day), but take my word for it, this is about 50 hours of reading.

A Walk Down the Aisle – Prologue Kate Cohen 17:05
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 1 Kate Cohen 22:06
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 10 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 23:01
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 11 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 16:11
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 12 – ch 8 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 43:12:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 13 – ch 9 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 30:41:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 14a – ch 9 Kate Cohen 7:32
A Walk down the Aisle – Pt 14b – ch 9 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 1:28
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 15 – ch 10 Kate Cohen 1:26
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 16 – ch 10 Kate Cohen 1:47
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 17 – ch 10 Reanna A Walk Down the Aisle 29:18:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 2 Kate Cohen 10:18
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 3 Kate Cohen 10:25
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 4 Kate Cohen 41:25:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 5 Kate Cohen 7:51
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 6 Kate Cohen 12:49
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 7 Kate Cohen 11:07
A Walk Down the Aisle – Pt 7 Kate Cohen 10:24
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 8 Kate Cohen 45:32:00
A Walk Down the Aisle – pt 9 Kate Cohen 1:08:43
Pt 1 – Chapter 3 – Emotional Responsiveness Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 34:40:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 1 – Recognizing the Demon Dialogue Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 41:25:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 2 – Finding the Raw Spots Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 35:02:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 6 – Bonding through Sex & Touch Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 47:05:00
Pt 2 – Conversation 7 – Keeping the Love Alive Dr. Sue Johnson Hold Me Tight 23:59
Chapter 1, Part 1 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:06:00 PM
Chapter 1, Part 2 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 07:21:00 AM
Chapter 1, Part 3 Why Don’t Zebra’s Get Ulcers, ch1 Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:10:00 PM
Children’s Attachment Relationships Phillis Booth Reading Aloud to Nathen 30:05:00
Circle of Security – Terminology CoS Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:46:00 PM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 2) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 03:52:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 3) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 08:07:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 4) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 04:13:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (pt 5) Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 09:02:00 AM
Committed Ch 5 (Pt 7) – Marriage and Women Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 06:22:00 PM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 1) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 10:21:00 AM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 2) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 42:02:00
Committed Ch 7 (pt 3) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 05:21:00 PM
Committed Ch 7 (pt 4) – Marriage and Subversion Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 12:34:00 PM
Committed Ch 8 – Marriage and Ceremony Elizabeth Gilbert Committed 08:25:00 PM
Committed: Ch 1 Marriage and Surprises Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 50:31:00
Committed: Ch 2 (pt. 1) Marriage and Expectation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 35:17:00
Committed: Ch 2 (pt. 2) Marriage and Expectation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:50:00 PM
Committed: Ch 3 (pt. 1) Marriage and History Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:05:07 AM
Committed: Ch 3 (pt. 2) Marriage and History Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:38:00 PM
Committed: Ch 4 (pt 1) Marriage and Infatuation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:34:14 AM
Committed: Ch 4 (pt 2) Marriage and Infatuation Elizabeth Gilbert Reading Aloud to Nathen 07:37:00 PM
Death on a horse’s back Robert J Barrett Reading Aloud to Nathen 168:00:00
Dharma Punx Noah Levine Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:33:00 PM
The End of Innocence 1 Dusty Miller Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:45:00 AM
The End of Innocence 2 Dusty Miller Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:08:00
Family Process // The Language of Becoming Ellen Wachtel Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:04:24 AM
Feminism & Family Therapy 1 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 34:43:00
Feminism & Family Therapy 2 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 01:03:00 AM
Feminism & Family Therapy 3 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 28:33:00
Feminism & Family Therapy 4 Virginia Goldner, PhD Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:49:00 AM
Fixed (New Yorker) Jill Lapore Reading Aloud to Nathen 32:04:00
Impact on Family Therapist of a focus on death, dying Becvar Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:41:00 PM
Impact, pt 2 Becvar Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:59:00 PM
Introduction, 1 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:36:00 AM
Introduction, 2 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 04:32:00 AM
Introduction, 3 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:34:00 AM
Introduction, 4 Appetites Reading Aloud to Nathen 37:26:00
The last time I wore a dress – CH 11 Daphne Scholinski Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:28:00 PM
The Last Time I wore a dress – Ch 12 Daphne Scholinski Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:52:00
The Lobotomist Jack El-Hai Reading Aloud to Nathen 24:06:00
Marry Me St. Vincent Marry Me 04:41:00 AM
Minnie Mouse and Gunfire, Lucky Child Luong Ung Reading Aloud to Nathen 29:49:00
My Angel Rocks Back and Forth Four Tet Rounds 05:07:00 AM
My Lobotomy Howard Dully Reading Aloud to Nathen 32:41:00
Paris is the cruelest month Alan Alda Reading Aloud to Nathen 09:32:00 PM
Passionate Marriage David Schnarch Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:45:00
Prozac Nation Elizabeth Wurtzel Reading Aloud to Nathen 42:05:00
Real Weddings Media Hill Publication Reading Aloud to Nathen 06:44:00 AM
Running With Scissors Augustin Burroughs Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:30:00
Solution Focused Therapy – A Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 10:01:00 PM
Solution Focused Therapy – B Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 12:49:00 AM
Solution Focused Therapy – C Molnar & Shazer 1987 Reading Aloud to Nathen 05:39:00 AM
Stubborn Twig Lauren Kessler Reading Aloud to Nathen 52:15:00
Sybil, CH 7 Flora Rheta Schrieber Reading Aloud to Nathen 37:47:00
Truth Telling Candib Reading Aloud to Nathen 39:31:00
Truth Telling, pt 2 Candib Reading Aloud to Nathen 08:22:00 PM
Understanding the Rainforest Mind Paula Prober Reading Aloud to Nathen 09:36:00 PM
An Unquiet Mind Kay Jamison Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:33:00
The Voices of Children – 1 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 04:45:00 AM
The Voices of Children – 2 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 03:06:00 PM
The Voices of Children – 3 Sandra Stith Reading Aloud to Nathen 36:03:00
Where is the Mango Princess Cathy Crimmins Reading Aloud to Nathen 30:07:00
You Ain’t Got No Easter Clothes Laura Love Reading Aloud to Nathen 38:06:00

I read the following, by Steven Wolin, in Froma Walsh’s Spiritual Resources in Family Therapy, and it brought tears to my eyes. The “DSM” he mentions is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the medical-style Bible of human psychological problems:

“Now, the DSM-IV was written by people , many of them psychologists, who have figured out every conceivable thing that can go wrong with us, which is very impressive. But I would like to suggest that it’s fundamentally, unintentionally, and insidiously violent to name someone by what’s wrong with them.”

I underlined that quote and thought I’d want to write something about it here. In class that week, it became clear that just about every other person in my cohort had underlined the same passage. We have all just taken a class on DSM diagnosis, because we will have to do it, out there in the world. Insurance companies won’t pay for problems that don’t have medical-sounding names. Major depressive disorder? Here, have some money. Isolated from any kind of supportive community, except for your mom, who you can’t stand for some reason? Hey, get a real problem, preferably one that we have a pill for.

Anyway, I think we all underlined that passage in part because it was so refreshing, after thinking so much about diagnostic categories. It’s also because that quote captures the spirit of the Couples and Family Therapy program we are in, and we were selected by our faculty because quotes like that would resonate with us. It’s also because it’s so dang true. When you hear how many mental health professionals talk about their clients, it can be awful. “I’ve got a Borderline at five o’clock,” as if what really matters about that human being is that their behavior fits the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder.

I got hit by an SUV as I was biking back from my swing dance tonight. I’m fine–neither of us were moving fast–but pissed off. The kind of accident I had is common enough to have a name: The Right Hook.

I was in the bike lane, with traffic on my left, moving at the same speed I was. We were all about to cross a street at a light. The person in the SUV next to me turned right into me as we entered the intersection.

So, if you are in a car next to a bike lane, keep in mind that it is a traffic lane so it would be a good idea to use your turn signal and look over your shoulder before turning across it. You might really hurt someone if you don’t.

If you’re on a bike with cars around, wear a helmet and be ready for anything.

I was learning about and being shocked by the prevalence of rape of women in college for my crisis line training when an essay by Eli Lehrer caught my eye, “Ending Prison Rape.” It’s about the apparent controversy and reluctance to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. I looked into the numbers a bit, and it looks like there is a good chance that there are as many rapes of men in prison as of free women in the US.

(Here are some Bureau of Justice Statistics links, if you want to look into it: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1743, http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=840, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/corrections/institutional/prison-rape/welcome.htm)

No one deserves to be raped. Why do we have this weird double standard? Not even the most outrageous comedian would joke about women being raped, but it’s a very common joke about prisoners. Hilarious! It’s like that’s just part of the deal–part of your punishment. If you break the law, you get raped. You gave up your right to not get raped when you did such-and-such.

Most of these men will be getting out, someday. I know very few people really think that there is any rehabilitation going on in prisons, but getting raped is the opposite of rehabilitation. Does anyone seriously think a man can be raped into being a good citizen? That they will treat others better for having been raped? The evidence on trauma does not support this view. Or perhaps we think it’s a way of keeping people from breaking the law. Better not do that, they rape you in there… Lehrer’s essay says that some are saying this is a state’s rights issue, as if states should be able to decide which American men are suitable for raping. That would be fine with me, I suppose, if they unanimously decided that no rape was acceptable, period.

Still, for some perspective, the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s estimated 13% of men in prison raped gives better odds than the 20% of women raped in college. Perhaps there should be a College Rape Elimination Act of 2010.

Reanna is reading me a book, called Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, a memoir about a marriage and the history and culture of marriage. I’m only just into chapter 3, but so far, it’s good.

One thing the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, writes is that in 1967, when interracial marriage was made legal by the Supreme Court, seven out of ten Americans believed that it should remain illegal.

!

Wow. It’s hard to imagine anyone outside of the most racist crackpot seriously defending that position anymore. I wonder how many of that 70% are still alive, and what they think now? Two generations–the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900) and the G.I. generation (born 1901-1924)–have died since then. Two have been born since then–Gen X and Millennial. But two entire generations, Silent and Boomers, are still alive from that time.

I also wonder how many people would still believe interracial marriage should be illegal, if not for that activist-court decision? Could it be that if not for the Supreme Court’s very unpopular interpretation in 1967 that 70% of us would still believe that interracial marriage should be illegal? Would the anti-miscegenation laws have been struck down anyway, by political representatives of the liberal Boomers when they came to power?

And isn’t it easy to imagine that you would have been one of the 30% enlightened people in 1967 and hard to imagine otherwise? Chances are, though, we would have been in the racist camp. This kind of realization is one of the big reasons I doubt the existence of (much, at least) free will. It really seems as if I’ve come to my views on interracial marriage (and most other things) through consideration of facts, but it’s quite likely that the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision had a bigger effect on my beliefs than any of my own efforts have.

My Couples and Family Therapy program has a lot to say about epistemology. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. We don’t get so much into the history of it–what various philosophers have decided gets to count as knowledge–but we do get a decent overview of what they call modernist, systemic, and post-modern epistemologies.

The basic question for someone thinking about epistemology is, “At what point can I say I know something to be true?” Here’s a super-oversimplified version of a few “epistemologies”:

Pre-modern: I can say I know something if a book or person that I believe has sufficient authority says it is true. Forever. Also, if I feel very certain about something I might consider it true.

Modern: If I observe something with my own senses, I can say that it is true, at least for that instance. If others who look at the same thing make the same observations, that gives more weight to my belief. I ideally keep the possibility open in my mind, however, that new evidence may come along and change my belief.

Post-modern: I can never really say that something is true, as I am forever limited by the perspective given me by my sense organs, my mind, and my acculturation. I will never have direct apprehension of reality. The closest I can come to real knowledge is a guess that produces useful results.

My program conflates post-modern epistemology with what they call “systemic” epistemology. “Systemic” refers to cybernetics, or systems theory, and in my view is actually an extension of modernism. Traditionally, modernism looks for linear causality and uses reductionism to learn about things. Systems theory looks at causality in terms of networks of interacting, mutually affecting/effected influences, all of which you must see, in action, to understand. It’s holistic, not reductionistic. It doesn’t rely, however on the post-modern insight about the limitation of each person’s perspective.

What I like about my program’s emphasis on epistemology, though, is that they encourage us to examine our “personal epistemology,” so that we know as much as possible how the lens that we view reality through shapes our perspective. A very post-modern idea. We are to think about how we think about reality and own our epistemology. We wrote a series of essays in this vein.

Gregory Bateson, one of the founders of the field of family therapy, said that anyone who doesn’t think they have an epistemology just has a bad epistemology. How would you describe your epistemology? What is your bar for labeling an idea “truth”? What things do you believe are certainly true? Why? Do you think your experiences tell you something directly about reality? Can you take anyone’s word about reality confidently?

I’m reading Virginia Satir’s Conjoint Family Therapy. She was this amazing, giant, super-loving woman, one of the founders of the field of family therapy–kind of the Julia Child of family therapy. I’m learning her style of therapy, possibly in part because I was introduced to her work very young, maybe 11 or 12. My mom bought me Elgin’s The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. It was my first introduction to going meta on communication–thinking and talking about communication, a very useful skill, possibly the central skill of a therapist.

I’m really enjoying reading the original Satir. One of her (many) assertions is that pretty much any time you say anything you are making a request. It could be a request for any number of behaviors, but ultimately they are all requests for some kind of validation. The difference between functional and dysfunctional communication is how overt your requests are. Here’s one of her examples (p. 86):

Functional:

“Let’s see a movie,” or even better, “I would like to see a movie with you.”

Dysfunctional:

“You would like to see a movie, wouldn’t you.”

“It would do you good to see a movie.”

“If you want to see a movie, we’ll see one.”

“We might as well see a movie. It’s Saturday night.”

“There’s a new movie house down the street.”

“My voices are ordering me to see a movie.”

Dysfunctional requests require decoding. If both the sender and receiver of the communication are clear about the codes they use, this is fine, but in general, the more decoding required, the more trouble you get into.

The problem is, if you make a clear request, you can be clearly denied your request. You make yourself vulnerable by saying “Let’s see a movie,” or “Do you like me?” because the answer could be “No.” Unless your self-esteem is quite high, a “No” hurts.

If you send a code, say, “There’s a new movie house down the street,” you can pretend that you’re not putting yourself out there. If your receiver says, “I don’t want to see a movie,” you can say, “What do you mean? I was just commenting on the new building.” Or your receiver can say “No” in code, maybe, “Yeah, that place looks like a dump.” Then things are really fuzzy. You don’t know if they decoded your message accurately, and they don’t know if your message was coded in the first place. It might feel like protection–it might even be protection–but it’s confusing and it lacks intimacy.

Why do we code our requests? We learn to. Maybe we’ve learned not to trust our receiver with a vulnerable request–the way they responded to such requests in the past have been painful. Or maybe it’s just habit, left over from accumulated painful experiences from our younger years. It could be part of your family’s culture, and uncoded requests seem harsh or demanding.

Try watching your communication. How coded is it? How do you feel when you imagine speaking in less coded requests? And try being vulnerable. Try to do even better than Satir’s, “I would like to see a movie with you.” Unpack it more. If you can say with honesty, “Hey, I really like you and I’d like to spend time with you tonight, watching a movie. What do you say?” then do it!

Next Page »