July 2010


As a kid I was in the newspaper every month or so. It was a small town and I performed in a lot of plays, played in a lot of concerts, swam in a lot of swim meets, made a lot of honor rolls, etc. Plus, my dad is a professional photographer, and in those days supplied a high percentage of the photos the High Desert Star ran. I’m pretty sure they just ran anything he sent them, to make their papers look professional, and write little stories to justify running the photos. My local fame paid off at least once, when my car broke down on a highway 40 miles outside of town. Within minutes, a woman stopped and offered me a ride. She said, “You’re one of the Lester boys, aren’t you? I thought I recognized you from the newspaper!”

The pace has slowed considerably since then, so it was a little thrill to get a photo of me and Karly performing in downtown Eugene for Summer In the City.

It’s very difficult to photograph dancers so they look like they are dancing. At least one of them, usually me, looks as if they are just standing there. This is one of the first photos of me dancing where it really looks like I’m dancing. Thanks, Kevin Clark!

Advertisements

Our check-out at the end of group supervision last night was naming our “guilty pleasures.” My cohort-mates mostly talked about TV shows they were watching, plus some fiction reading. When it was my turn, they shot down every single extracurricular activity I offered. Not one qualified as a guilty pleasure. Here’s the list:

Reading Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology

Watching Ken Burns’ documentary Jazz

Listening to Sol Stein’s Stein on Writing on audiobook

Listening to This American Life, Radiolab, and a couple other podcasts

Recording Reanna a cover of “Got To Get You Into My Life”

Dancing every week

I think they might have given me dancing if I hadn’t tried their patience with the other stuff first. I didn’t think to say writing for my blog, which is probably the pleasure I feel the guiltiest about, but they probably wouldn’t have given me that either.

It doesn’t seem like I have time to watch TV. I don’t even have a TV, come to think of it, and I haven’t figured out how to get TV shows on the internet. I’m watching a little of the jazz doc each night as I brush my teeth, but it’s hard to imagine watching multiple seasons of TV shows, like my cohort-mates are. It would take a major shift in lifestyle. I did listen to Murakami’s (excellent) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle last spring, but only while I was driving, so it took 15 weeks to finish.

I feel conflicted about my lack of guilty pleasures. I’d like to have that kind of laid-back lifestyle. I want to be more relaxed. This summer–this next four weeks of this summer–is my only even partly unstructured time before I graduate next June. And who knows after that? I’ll have loans to pay off.

On the other hand, it doesn’t sound relaxing to add something to my schedule! Plus, I like the stuff that I’m doing, and I’m working on wrapping my head around something with infinite depth. When I finished my two-year record-production program in the 1990s, my teacher Josh Hecht said, “This is a deep subject that you have scratched the surface of, but you now know what you need to be able to do. The next step is figuring out a way to do it for 14 hours a day, every day. In 20 years or so, you’ll be very good at it.” That was his lifestyle, and it made him an excellent record producer. He worked all day, had no time for non-audio entertainment, read only the two very best trade magazines, participated in only the two very best trade organizations. He slept five hours a night.

This is a path of mastery like Erickson’s 10,000 hour rule; to get good at any complex endeavor, you have to put in about 10,000 hours. Being a therapist certainly qualifies as a complex endeavor! The catch is, weeks after Josh told us how to become a good record producer, he got very ill and was forced to take a long vacation–his first vacation in decades, I believe. I think that was the point my supervisor was making about guilty pleasures; this is a demanding career in many ways. How do I master it while maintaining my health, motivation, and clarity?

This is my 14,179th day.

I was born on September 29, 1971. On my last birthday, I had been alive for 38 years, which is 13,880 days. (That’s 365 x 38 + 10 leap days.) Today is the 299th day of my 39th year, my 14,179th day.

I plan to live at least to my 100th birthday, if things remain pleasant enough. On that day, I’ll be 36,525 days old, so I’ve got at least 22,346 days to go. That sounds pretty good. I should be able to do a lot of good stuff in 22,346 days.

If you want to calculate your age in days but don’t want to do the math, here is a site that my friend David pointed me to, after I’d already sweated it out.

When your partner in a relationship stonewalls, what does it look like? They might leave the room or house. They may stop talking and ignore you. If they are an accomplished stonewaller, they probably look like they don’t care, are calm and unaffected. They look like “You could stand there screaming all day and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.”

The first thing to know about this behavior is that, if it happens very often, your relationship is likely in trouble. You probably needed couples counseling years ago.

That is pretty common knowledge these days, now that John Gottman’s work is so well known. What I found surprising about stonewallers when I read his work is that if you hook a stonewaller up to a biofeedback machine like a heart-rate monitor, you find out that they are freaking out inside. Their heart rate and blood pressure are way up. They just look calm or withdrawn. They are actually so painfully engaged that they can’t deal with it. This knowledge has helped me think more clearly about stonewallers. I can be a lot more sympathetic to someone I know to be in something like flight-fight-freeze mode than someone who appears to be shutting me out.

John Gottman has been the leading researcher on romantic couples–mostly marriages–for at least a decade. He has developed a technique for analyzing conversations that lets him predict with a lot of accuracy whether that couple will stay together during the next several years. One of the things he does is video a couple talking about a contentious subject and code the conversation for what he calls the four horsemen of the apocalypse: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. The presence of these behaviors indicates that the relationship is being corroded.

Here’s a paraphrase of how he defines the four horsemen in The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy:

Criticism: Any statement that indicates that one partner thinks there is something wrong with the other, such as “What’s wrong with you?” or “You always blah-blah-blah.” Note that what he calls criticism is different from complaining. In a complaint, one partner says that they didn’t like something that the other did. For a complaint to become criticism, it needs a barb. A generalization like “You always…” or “You never…” will do, as will making the complaint about a character flaw, rather than a specific incident, like “Why would anyone do that?”

Defensiveness: When one partner acts as if the other is attacking them. Instead of directly responding to a statement, for example, the defensive partner might respond with a “counter-attack” like “What are you complaining about? You’re worse than I am!”

Contempt: Any statement or action which implies you are a better person than your partner, like mockery or eye-rolling. There is a facial expression for contempt, which Gottman also codes for. This is a version of  the sneer, from emotionalcompetency.com:

Stonewalling: When one partner removes themselves in some way from the conversation. This can be by leaving or ceasing to respond. Often this is combined with attempts to not show emotion on the face. This is the worst of the horsemen, just ahead of contempt. It seems to be quite difficult for a relationship with this kind of behavior to remain viable.

Gottman says that some amount of four-horsemen behaviors (except contempt, which apparently never happens in happy couples) are inevitable, and that what is critical is not that they don’t happen, but that they are repaired by soothing, softening, or meta-communicating.

I like to know what everyone thinks is going on. To this end, about a year ago, I filled up my igoogle home page with feeds from a bunch of different news sources. They are political news sources, for the most part. I don’t care at all about sports or celebrities. I tried to pick stuff from the hard left and hard right and then some mainstream stuff, thinking I could read headlines every day or two and read the articles that grabbed my attention.

It’s not working out that well. I’m too busy to read much. I do glance over the headlines a bit, but there are a lot of them and often my eyes just glaze over. And while I want to know about the rest of the world, I’m even more interested in what my friends and family are doing. If my sister-in-law, Maya, has posted on her blog, or my mom on hers, my brother Benjamin on his, or my friend Jeannie on hers, or my friend Ethan on a couple of his blogs (one about everything and one about his wife Susannah’s struggle with leukemia–both amazing), or several other friends and family with blogs have posted, that’s what I read while I’m brushing my teeth or during whatever scanty extracurricular-reading time appears.

So I need to cull. I’m considering getting paring it down to the few feeds that I actually click on. That would look like this:

Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman columns at NYTimes.com–occasional reads.

Wall Street Journal feed–very occasional reads.

NPR’s political feed–pretty regular use, but usually just audio clips from “All Things Considered,” plus a nearly-daily five-minute news overview, also audio.

A google news feed gathered from a bunch of sources–very occasional reads.

Plus PsychCentral‘s Mental Health News and Children/Parenting News feeds–pretty frequent reads, a few a week–and Nildoctrine‘s feed for his hilarious feminist political vlogs.

And plus my podcasts, which I have absolutely no problem keeping up with: Left, Right and Center, Planet Money, This American Life, Radiolab, and The Long Now Foundation’s Seminars About Long Term Thinking. These I love the most.

I’d call that a US-centric, left-leaning-centrist list. I’d be ditching my right-winger stuff besides the Wall Street Journal–FrumForum which looked pretty good when I checked it out, but I just haven’t been checking it out, and National Review, whose cartoony headlines and terrible writing meant that I almost never looked at it, and regretted it when I did. I’d ditch quite a bit of left-winger stuff–The New Republic & Mother Jones (cartoony headlines again), Truthdig (generally good but not catching me), and Democracy Now! which I think is great but consistently depressing. Also The Onion, which is hilarious but I’ve stopped looking at it, and a CNN feed, which is weak.

That list doesn’t really do what I originally wanted–covering hard left to hard right–but it seems OK for now. What do you think? I’m interested in the media-intake schemes of anyone who made it this far through my post. How do you make these decisions? Do you think I’m missing anything crucial? Make me some recommendations!

Also, anyone interested in my actual media diet can look at my reading list here.

Most parenting psychology literature talks about four parenting styles, derived from the combinations of two parenting qualities, warmth (also called “responsiveness”) and demandingness, like this:

Parenting Style Warmth Demandingness
Authoritative High High
Authoritarian Low High
Permissive High Low
Neglectful Low Low

Parents who are both warm and demanding (having high standards) are called “authoritative” and considered in psychology to be the best parents. Parents who are both not warm and have low standards are called “neglectful” and considered to be the worst parents. Authoritarian parents and permissive parents (also called “indulgent”) come out in the middle somewhere, the first lacking warmth, the second lacking standards.

The table of parenting styles below is from Rodriguez, Donovick, and Crowley’s 2009 article, “Parenting Styles in a Cultural Context: Observations of ‘Protective Parenting’ in First-Generation Latinos.” In their work with Latino parents, they decided to add a third category, autonomy granting, giving us four new parenting styles: protective, cold, affiliative, and a new kind of neglectful. I’m still thinking about this, but it seems like it could be a breakthrough in parenting theory.

It will be interesting to see if this idea is meaningful in terms of outcomes for the kids of these different kinds of parents. There is evidence, for example, that the kids of authoritarian parents have a lot more trouble with alcohol abuse than those of authoritative, and kids of permissive parents have even more trouble than that. Will there be a significant difference on this outcome between authoritarian and “cold” parents, who differ only in their giving their kids the chance to mess up or not? How about between permissive and “affiliative”?

Parenting Style Warmth Demandingness Autonomy Granting
Authoritative High High High
Authoritarian Low High Low
Permissive High Low High
Neglectful Low Low Low
Protective High High Low
Cold Low High High
Affiliative High Low Low
Neglectful II Low Low High

Next Page »