Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Come Closer Now

Come Closer Now I need You
Hold me like you hold the stars
Touch me like you touch the earth
Fill me with your comfort
My true love
Thank you for the woodsmoke
Thank you for the sea breeze
Thank you for sunshine 
And the colour
Come closer now I need you

The irony was that when I uploaded this to you tube the audio and picture were out of sync. I think God has a sense of humor.  I couldn't figure how to fix it so I figured it was meant to be this way.  

Attack on Darfur

I just watched this tragic docudrama starring Billy Zane, Edward Furlong, Kristanna Loken and David O'Hara. Darfur in the Sudan of East Africa is considered the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time with 400,000 dead and millions displaced.  The movie is the story of some journalists who come to observe but get caught in the midst of the genocide and ethnic cleansing comitted by the Janjaweed, Arab militia.  "Black African Monkeys" the Arab leader calls these villagers, women and children his men rape and kill.  The journalists are mostly out of their depth, emotional, amateurish and completely baffled by the pure evil psychopaths that shoot a child in front of them to make a point. There is famine in this land and there is a call for relief in the area south of Egypt, the Sudan. This is the land where Gordon died a martyr and Churchill rode in calvary action.  Ethiopia and Somalia are nearby. The human situation is horrid.
A 2010 Lancet article from the Centre for Research on the  Epidemiology of Disaster estimated  about 300,000 dead as a result of the conflict, but 80% of these due to disease.
Former Canadian Minister of Justice Irwin Cotier accused Sudan of practicing 'apartheid' against the non arab Sudanese.
Russia and China have been accused of fueling the killing by supplying the Janjaweed with weapons and supplies.  Amnesty International has condemned Russia as has Human Rights First condemned China for their distribution of weapons to the Janjaweed.
The movie depicts the limits on the United Africa league involvement and Khartoum has been firmly against UN involvement.
The International Criminal Court has charged the humanitarian affairs minister of Sudan and a Janjaweed militia leader with crimes against humanity.
The civil war began in 2003.  The official military and police are apparently supporting the Arab Jangaweed militia.  Villages of non arabs as close as 500 meters to another arab village have been totally wiped out by accounts.
Most of the northerners are Moslem and it's been the arab Sudanese moslems killing the non arab Sudanese
Christians in the south have been killed for years.  It was only last year I watched a hand held movie made by a minister in a community where Arabs Moslems had ridden through their village with machetes killing the Christian men then raping the women.  In the movie, Attack on Darfur,  a Sudanese african woman tells the journalists of her rape by the Arab saying, "He told me he would give me Aids".
This is the scene of  the drought and famine which we are called in the west to help with.  It reminded me of Canadian Christian singer, Bruce Cockburn's  song, "If I had a rocket launcher".  It's a Mel Gibson Road Warrior world where those given aid are then killed for the aid by the government and it's Janjaweed militia.  Moslems killing Moslems and Moslems killing Christians.  If ever a region needed prayer it's the Sudan.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn Cleared

I read in today's Economist (Aug27 to Sept 2) that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been cleared of 'sexual assault' charges following the accusation of a hotel maid whose credibility certainly didn't impress the New York Judge. Apparently the accuser was a notorious liar.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund.  He was and hopefully may still be the next French President given his bearing up so well under the worst kind of fire.  Because of these 'presumably false allegations' Mr. Strauss-Kahn stepped down from his position.
I once saw an internationally famous woman whose competitor had a woman accuse her of sexual harrassment. It took a year to clear the woman's name and during this time the competitor took the lead with great financial gain.
Michael Creighton years ago wrote a brilliant book called "Disclosure". It was seriously ahead of it's time talking about false sexual charges as an 'upward mobility' tactic in the workplace.
Carl Hiansen has quipped in one of his ingenius novels, "The only thing a southern politician can't do is 'get caught with a dead woman or a live boy in his bed".
In French law historically, false accusation resulted in the accuser being sentenced to the hoped for consequence of the accusation. It's certainly ashame that this didn't occur in France.
Yet increasingly the poor and unknown are accusing the rich and famous at tremendous cost to society.
We're still waiting to hear the outcome of the infamous accusation of Wikileaks Julian Assange ,
What seems to me a concern is that opposition can easily 'smear' a person and that the 'dirty dirties', these far worse that perverts, will use society's concerns about sexual exploitation for their own nefarious reasons and gains. Further, there seems to be little consequence for those who make such heinous false accusations.
It's like the question, 'when did you stop beating your wife'.  A person 'accused' is guilty until proven innocent. Yet how can I prove that I wouldn't have sex with some ugly social climbing low life.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn has a beautiful wife and given his assets he could have any woman for sex for hire he could want. Yet a hotel bar maid claims this great and powerful man would want her and would attempt to rape her.  I suggest that this is as silly as me saying that Angelique Jolie would be stalking me if she ever chose to come to Vancouver Canada.
With Julian Assange I can believe the CIA were involved and that Swedish women collectively are to be avoided given Naomi Wolf's take on this business.
With Dominique Strauss-Kahn though I fear that no great man would want to step forward for high position because they risk being falsely accused sexually.
I imagine today that our former prime minister Troudeau would never have made it to election without dozens of women accusing him of sexual harrassment for wearing that rose in his lapel and smiling as seductively as he does.  (By the way, Nicole Kidman  has always sexually harrassed me too)
The trouble is these 'copy cat's' and "want to be" 'social climbers' ( quite simply sociopaths and psychopaths) make mockery of people who are really raped and sexually assaulted by rich and poor alike.  The pendulum has swung from when no one dared to speak out against sexual assault to where people are using sexual assault as a personal advancement strategy.
Further the media always seems to have the 'smear' and 'scandal' on the front page but when Dominique Strauss - Kahn is exonerated it's not a 'front page' matter.
For that reason I think it's important to report that Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been cleared.
I would further recommend that until further notice the Sofitel Hotel is not a safe place for the wealthy and powerful.
The good news, from my point of view, as an aging person, is that hotels would do wise to hire only staff over 50 years of age, as us mature oldsters are less likely to claim rape  or be confused about whether we were raped.  Maybe the young collectively carry to much 'risk' especially from an insurance perspective, and us oldersters would be less of a risk for the rich, famous and powerful.     Maybe there's a need for a psychiatric assessment for work in hotel housekeeping and various other places where rich, powerful or famous clientele would be at risk for false sexual allegations.  I can fore see a kind of 'bonding' which would serve to protect clients from such extraordinary allegations that could make it impossible for Elton John for instance, given his sexual charisma alone, to stay anywhere  without risk of false allegation.
I would hope that Sofitel Hotel and other hotels which have an obligation to their customers  would better screen their staff to protect customers from this kind of sexual predator.


1) Negativity and fear mongering - people corrall you to tell you their problems or to share how dire the situation in the world, in the weather, in life is.  They 'psych others out'.  They're doom sayers. They're soul suckers. They're a drain.  They 'steal the joy' from life.  There is no balance in their communicaton.  Some one told them they have a 'right' to feel this way and they believe communication is sharing their 'dark' feelings.  It's narcissistic self centred and 'unbalanced'.  In AA where everyone who comes in is missing their best friend, everyone is told that sharing (communication) involves "experience, strength, and hope".  I was shot, I didn't die. I hope I won't be shot again or that I'll learn from this experience.  (Period).  This is useful positive information.  In contrast "i feel bad about being dumped by my partner" 'ad infinitum" is 'nursing sorrow', 'sucking on the tit of despair', living in the past, self pitying, whining and snivelling.  I wear a t shirt sometimes which says "Thou Shalt Not Snivel".
2) Criticalness - anyone says anything and you feel that your job in life is to point out the flaws, to prick the ballon, to shoot down, to say the sky is falling, to rain on their parade.  Generally speaking if I suggest going for a pizza I don't need you to tell me what is wrong with pizza.  Alternatively, if you would like to go for Mexican and know a fine Mexican restaurant it would be helpful if you made that suggestion pointing out the pros and cons and thereby giving us two options to discuss.  Nothing is more painful than being around people who have nothing themselves to contribute but think their destructive criticism is 'contribution'.  They're stuck in the arrogant adolescent phase where a kid knows nothing but think they know everything and act superior and disdainful of everything becasue they're afraid and immature.
3) Self justifying - You use conversation to prove you are right or were right.  This is all about 'winning' and not about communicating.  When something goes wrong I don't need to know why you did the stupid things you did. That's still in the 'problem' . It's much better to get into the 'solution'. Later when something is solved it's possible to have a 'post mortem' and discuss what choices could have been made or how things could have been done better.  This is an agreed on discussion not something that one person repeatedly tries to bring to the fore as a form of "I was right, really" communication
4) Defensiveness - Defensiveness is all about 'avoiding blame' and 'avoiding responsibility'.  It implies the other is accusing when they may just be saying the car tire is flat. Going into 'I wasn't driving' isn't going to get the car tire fixed.  Some people are always 'blame seeking' and 'blaming' but the rest of the world just wants to know 'how the tire got flat', and 'whose going to fix it'., and 'when will the car being drivable again.  In some families who broke something defines who fixes something but the two don't need to be 'linked'. Accepting responsibility for an action or error can quickly move the discussion of 'problem solving' forward into who would best fix the error, the solution.  Obviously if the baby left her grenade in the driveway and it went off when the car drove in, the baby isn't going to be the one to fix the flat tire.  However knowing the baby did it can save concern about whether fixing the tire is the answer to the tire going flat.
5) Making a case - this is where an individual event is 'linked' to a collection of past events in an attempt to make a case against the other person by presenting a litany of evidence to prove you're right and they're wrong with the kind of authority a court room has. I relationships couples do well to stay in the day and not fall into the various traps that go with connecting past events to present, worst of all is 'selective memory' and 'hindsight' .
6) Cross complaining - One person says something they don't like about what another is doing and that person defensively comes back with a complaint about the complainer.  Eg.  Honey I can't hear the tv with you vacuuming.  Response: "How do you think I like it when you answer your cellphone when I'm talking to you.
7) Mind reading - people will insist that they know what you're thinking without you're saying or doing something. Worse they will have pouts or temper tantrums based on their own telepathic insights.  Checking it out is asking a person what they are thinking and respect is accepting that what they say is true for this time.
8) Talking over  - this is where one person speaks 'over' another person in an argument or debate. It's demonstrated daily in the House of Commons in Canada resulting in the need for a referee. Normal conversation can be much like a badminton  match with ideas passed about the table like birdies. When it's feeling like 'murder ball' it's time to slow down the discussion or have it at another time.  Whenever people have said they don't feel like they're being 'heard' I've pulled out a timer to ensure they have 'time' to share. Most often "I don't think I'm being heard' means 'you don't agree with me" in 'pc - bizarro speak' - political correctness is commonly blaming and shaming and criticizing language and verbal bullying wrapped up with a twisted bow.  Alternatively 'are you listening' is an insult and the 'I" statement , "I don't feel you're listening" takes the pressure off the receiving and raises the possibility that I may indeed be deaf.
7).  Selling versus conversing.  Often with couples one person has a 'sale' they want to make. They figure that if they get enough time they can wear their partner down and bring them round to the idea. Like a true salesman they say things like 'I just want an minute of your time", and "no this isn't really about whether I can borrow the car, or have a thousand dollars to go to Vegas or we should have a threesome with your sister'. These kinds of assaults and trojan horses are all nice and seductive but the 'cost' is hidden.  It's not really a conversation because there's really not a desire for the other person to participate but rather what is wanted is capitulation. The one person already has the 'solution' and they'rejust trying to sell you on their 'solution'
8)  Should statements - 'you should" is irritating since I'm a free agent and I don't generally like to be 'told' what to do unless I ask for your opinion or grant you that authority. Remember the 'princess' knows what everyone should do but can't take care of herself.  Sometimes too a person needs to be told ''who made you king and didn't tell me about it."
9) "You make me angry" is a very different statement from "I am angry'.  I am responsible for my emotions. Telling others they are the 'cause' of your own emotions is 'blaming' and can be used for any negative in my life.  However, it gives control to the other person and results in my not having any responsibility for my own 'emotional hygeine' or "anger management".  Emotions can arise in a relationship but a statment likes "I feel angry when you piss in the sink" is alot different from 'You make me angry'.  "What's wrong with pissing in the sink?" can be a far more useful conversation than why you never learned to control your temper tantrums and pouts like the rest of us kids when we were children.
10) Talking about others, gossiping.  Note that there are conversations that are very difficult and they're about you and me. They're the basis of in depth psychotherapy and often are the essence of both pillow talk and all out 'war of the roses' with china breaking and chain saws going through walls.  The whole 'triangle business' of communication is keeping the focus off 'us' and onto 'them' or 'it'.  It's worth while that I'll agree with you people shouldn't fart as a general statement but it will mean war if you tell me I can never fart again.  Similiarly you might think it's silly how long some women spend on their makeup but I'll be in deep doodoo if I say I think you spend too much time on your make up.  The movement from us standing together and talking about something out there (a common enemy, perhaps) to us talking about each other in the same way is prone to blood shed.  Neither kind of discussion is particularly uplifting though it's really too much fun talking about the neighbours to give it up in this life time.
Instead of mis communication, communication is more rewarding and positive, and 'constructive' rather than 'destructive' in most part.
Communication can be many positive things.  Dr. Paul O suggested that we should talk to our partners like a 'wife' or 'husband' or 'partner' but rather like a 'secret lover'.  If your 'tone' of communication was the same as the Biblical Song of Songs most couples would get along far better than when they each sound like Charleton Heston playing Moses or General Patton in WW II.
Listening involves the ability to give back to the person what they actually were saying.  "What I heard you saying," validates another person and ensures that both people are actually on the same page.
"What do you suggest instead?
"What would you like to do?" The difficulty with this generousness is that the other person who is usually sophisticated in this area comes back with 'whatever you want to do' then pouts the whole time they're with you at the dress sale or arms dealer.  If a person abdicates from  choosing then they should be a 'good sport' or vote earlier in the process and accept that their idea of a 'good time' might not be as 'good as they think it is'. Not everyone wants to do stamp collecting on Friday night.
Graciousness and good manners came about as a means to facilitate conversation.  Studying 'diplomats' is always informative.
I've run out of time talking about positive communication so hopefully will find time to address elsewhere. Typically it's easier to point out the 'fault's rather than getting a handle on what makes for  'good conversation' ,  'witty repartee', good communication, clarity, non judgementalness, patience, gentleness and all those other things which we really would do well to list as what we like so that as couples we can both strive for the same goals.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


"It's not paranoid, if it's true".
"Maybe the paranoids were right." Freud on escaping Nazi Germany.
My favourite psychiatry joke: "What's the opposite of being paranoid?  Thinking you're following someone."
Jesus said "Do not be afraid."  It was a command.  Anxiety is a measure of our distance from God.  Worrying is wicked.  Kierkegard said that Life is 'Suffering unto Death".
Existential angst is that sense of being separate and apart or alone.
To be a lone and at peace is like resting in the hands of God. It's a childlike experience in which we early know mostly being held and fed and we haven't learned the 'hard knocks' of life by being betrayed, dropped, gone hungry, lied to, hurt, deliberately or accidentally.
If one is hurt enough it's possible to become afraid of much more than the original hurters.  The feeling gets 'generalized'.  One person hurts you enough and all people can be potentially a source of anxiety.
Often the person on the street is trying to stay away from you and as part of his extreme isolation he uses filth and smell as a distancing maneuver.
Lots of other people smile and say everything is okay because there's no one they trust to know their secrets. We are as sick as our secrets.
Discrimination is a product of fear.  Antidiscrimination legislation can be healing or more frightening.
There's still the Big Man and his Big Woman and they still are the ones who write history.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil because I 'm the meanest biggest one in the valley".
There is safety in numbers. Gangs begat armies begat nations.
Tribalism is a form of institutionalized paranoia.
First strike policy is kill it before it kills you.
Yet the Golden Rule professed by all the greatest civilizations of the world is simply, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Courage isn't fearlessness but rather doing the right thing in spite of fear.
Paranoia can be explained by 'projection'.  I want to hurt others so I see others as ready to hurt me.  It's said that addressing paranoia is an 'inside job'. Spirituality is 'growing love inside'.
Paranoia and Love can not coexist.  The depth of love we can know is limitted by the amount of the interior garden we give up to the weeds of fear.  There's only so much soil.
That which grows is that which you have watered with attention and thought.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Couples Communication Therapy

Communication theory developed from the ideas of radios. It was recognised that communication break down could occur because of many factors which involved the distortion of a message. To this end the language of radio communication is applied to communication theory.  For example when I speak the message may be misunderstood because what I mean by my use of the language based on my experience personally, family and culturally may be different from what you understand the 'words' or 'body behaviour' to mean.  Further language goes through a filter and then may be interrupted by a variety of environmental factors termed as static. Now we understand static to mean the 'emotional tone' of the discussion as just one factor. When a communication is received it must be processed by the receiver and pass through their 'filter'.
Considering all the factors involved in communication in terms of meaning, language, sending, receiving and distortion it is quite the surprise that anything real is actually transmitted and received. To undertand the limits of communication in general it's just a matter of reading the news and seeing how 'out of context' things are taken and how 'misconstrued' reporting is. This is often the 'facts'. Watching a court trial and listening to the 'spin' put on any information by a defense lawyer or prosecution is also a way to appreciate that couples commonly 'miscommunicate' and must develop ways to clarify communication and resist knee jerk reactions and threats of war based on miscommunication and misundertanding.\
"I" statements are one of the means.
"Toning down" the communication to remove all the 'drama' queen elements to 'clarify' what is being said.
12 step programs to help get at the motive under the communication.
Emotions anonymous is a good place to begin to learn about what I'm saying so I can hear what you are saying.
Sometimes a couples therapist working on communication therapy will simply repeatedly say "what I hear you saying is" in much the way two radio operators will repeat call signs to be sure they're actually talking to each other.
Further it's a product of couple's therapy to look at the 'tone' of communication much as radio operators will describe a transmission as having tonal distortion. The 'tone' of communication is found in the 'how things are said' not 'what is said'.  For instance, I can being showing you the bird, giving you the one finger salute, and saying "I agree with you."  Adolescents are masters of "mixed message' with their "yea, whatever" communications which say they agree but they don't.  So a therapist often helps a couple sort out what their body language is saying compared to the verbal communication. "In congruence' is a term commonly used in communication therapy.  For example "I don't want to have sex" says the woman while dressed in negligee spreading her legs. Or the man says, "I"m not angry" while beating his fist. These are extreme examples but the more subtle variations are readily apparent to trained experienced therapists.  Often communication can be 'grating' or 'insincere' and sometimes the person really means what they say but their 'limp' speach doesn't convey that.  To this end a therapist would ask a person 'how would you like him or her' to communicate this message to you.  Eg.  I'd like him to kiss me when he says he loves me not turn away after he says it.  Many times I've had to tell individuals I 'read' them the way their partner does and suggest that they some how picked up a glych in their communication apparatus or maybe in their 'local' family communication punching meant love , in the greater society, punching doesn't mean love.  Communication theory and therapy is often extremely helpful in cross cultural settings where the body language often doesn't mean the same thing.  So when this is clarified it's understood.
There are many examples of improvements in 'communication' which have come out of the social sciences and political sciences. There are in fact 'war' mongering statemnt and 'sabre rattling' phrases and 'bullying' remarks recognised in diplomatic circles and 'toxic' workplaces.  Much of the aim of civility training is to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding and initiating conflict.  All of these disciplines have increased the potential for couples to learn better communications. Often if a couple is actually getting along and wants to improve their communication this can be done in a group therapy approach or attending a workshop rather than undergoing the more costly alternative of 1 on 1 therapy.
Virginia Satir's writing is the best place to begin in terms of reading in this field.

Couples Therapy 4

Marriage Enhancement is commonly a weekend workshop put on by churches or synagogues or temples. It wasn't developed as a 'religious' workshop but was picked up by the religious organizations because the premise of marriage enhancement is that marriages are best and that couples benefit from help keeping them together. The exact opposite of a marriage enhancement coordinator would be the divorce lawyer.  In these workshops, often a one day session though some go on in evenings over a few weeks,  newly married and long term married folk, mix and discuss issues,  share stories, and play some couple games.  By all accounts of those I've referred to these, the experience has been fun,  entertaining, inspirational and helped the couple improve their marriages. The cost of these workshops is kept low.  They are for the married people who want to stay married but would like to know how to do marriage better.
Virginia Satir was one of the earliest leaders in Couples Therapy. Indeed her name is often synonymous with Communication Therapy for Couples.Her writings are an excellent resource for training in the 'communication school' of therapy.  Her books  include actual written tracts of therapy with the words of Virginia indicating the therapists 'take' or response.  They are easily accessible and serve as excellent training manuals. I trained with Virginia Satir and love her work.  Unfortunately I have  found that most couples who come to see me in my referral psychiatric practice aren't  ready for "communication therapy'.  Couples who I've seen in the last few years have often consulted a divorce lawyer or are on the verge of breakup when I've been able to suggest alternatives.  I think it's best that there is  a 'ceasefire' in place for Virginia Satir's 'communication theory' to work.   Higher functioning couples do well with this approach and couples once they are no longer committed to killing their partner benefit greatly from this work. PD Seminars on Gabriola Island for many years held workshops for counsellors to learn the basic techniques which could help couples who were committed to relationships and wanted to learn resolution strategies.
"Structural Family Therapy" taught by the likes of Minuchin was a well established therapy for couples and families. There's a lot of scientific research and specific training for doing this advanced form of therapy which has a high likelihood of helping couples stay together when they are on the verge of separation.
Milton Erickson, MD, psychiatrist,  was the father of American Hypnosis.  He is the founder of the school of therapy called "Strategic Therapy".  This was studied by Cameron in Canada and found to be clearly an evidence based for of therapy which required fairly advanced training.  Jay Haley wrote the book "Uncommon Therapy" describing some of Erickson's cases and how he addressed couples with difficulties. The Ericksonian Foundation continues in Phoenix and every few years has an amazing workshop which looks at all the varieties of therapy used for couples and individuals which have derived from the 'interventionist' approach which originally was behind hypnotic therapies but has expanded to encompass the Palo Alto school and other 'change' therapies.  The idea isn't laissez faire but rather there is an agreed outcome and various forms of therapy and homework and exercises are given to achieve the desired outcome.  Paradoxical intervention, reframing, sympton suggestion, psychodrama techniques are all employed.
The Love Lab is a recent successful therapeutic approach for couples. The techniques utilized by therapists have resulted in 80% success rates for couples staying together after therapy is initiated. This evidence based approach and utilization of a variety of therapy approaches from previous schools of therapy is excellent. The weakness from a scientific point of view is that it is predominantly a 'business model' which markets it's work in a modern way with only limitted availability of the actual workshop content for general perusal.  In contrast Satir and Erickson shared their material fully without any issues of 'copywrite' so that those who are more inclined to 'share ware' approaches have objected to the cost of training and materials. On the other hand the outcome success of this model argues that commonly higher costs are associated with sometimes higher quality products.  What is available to review certainly supports the validity of this approach and I strongly recommend people go to the "Love Lab" site and read the material that is posted there as well as the books which are truly inspirational.
Alot of material is now available which can be said to optimize couples functioning.  Transactional Analysis, mediation therapies, communications couples therapies, Structural and strategic therapies, Ericksonian models, all have strong evidence based results.  The difficulty is finding adequately trained therapist.  To this end it's really useful to ask ahead and review the experience and training of the person doing the therapy.
Having a phd in Psychology might mean that a person is a specialist in mice behaviour. A clinical psychologist however is a person with a phd who has worked with patients.  A psychiatrist may have gone to a school which trained them predominantly in psychopharmacology whereas other psychiatrists are trained in both psychopharmacology and psychotherapy. However many psychiatric psychotherapists and psychological psychotherapists have never been formally trained in couples therapy. Social workers have had a major contribution to the field of couples therapy given that couples therapy is more a 'sociological' external phenomena than internal 'psychological' phenomena.  Clearly a social worker who has specialized in couples therapy would be more desirable than a counsellor with limitted experience. More and more too ministers and priests have recognised that their training in pastoral counselling can be coupled with formal couples therapy to result in a stronger basis for therapeutic intervention than might a person coming from an 'insight' based therapeutic background.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Couples Therapy 3

In Couples Therapy the therapist helps identify recurring negative patterns in conflict.  Bianca Jenks described a number of these in her books.
One she called the 'ambush'.  This was when a partner picked a time to discuss something important and insisted that if the other really cared they would discuss it then.  Typical times for 'ambush' were when one person came into the room, when one was leaving or when one was tired.  Children learn to recognise that daddy or mommy 'gives in' when they are tired or hungry or don't have time.  In the 'dirty play' of 'ambush' one partner 'wins' but at the cost of 'resentment' and by 'dirty tricks'.  To this end both identify these typical 'ambush' times and agree to 'respect' each other in this regard.
For example, no major questions or discussion starters in the hour of meeting or departure or before bed.  Others have agreed that potential dispute topics are not to be discussed at the dinner table.  Each couple has it's own unique circumstances but the 'ambush' can be identified by each and like 'nuclear disarmament' each agrees not to 'do that again.
When adolescents are most difficult the first and simplest solution is to first establish 'house rules'.  Group homes specializing in violent and difficult kids post these rules with great success. They're used in asylums and even hotel rooms have succinct lists of 'acceptable behaviour'.
It's another great strategy for a couple to make a list together of what are 'unnaceptable behaviours'.   This is not an attempt to rewrite the law books but rather to establish the '10 commandments' for the home or 10 commandments for communication.
Time out - is a strategy used in any sport. Each team can call a time out. The number of time outs is limitted however since often in couples one person, often the offender, doesn't wish to have a discussion about the 'offensive behaviour'.  To this end it was suggested that when a person call a 'time out' which is like a 'cease fire', they also agree to a time to have a 15 to 30 minute further discussion about the subject when heads are cooler or the subject can be addressed at a mutually aggreeable time. This is usually within 24 hours.  To this end, who takes out the garbage this month becomes what time will we discuss who takes out the garbage this month.  However it doesn't become  'lets not talk about it'.  or "I don't want to talk about it'.  The subject is addressed but not at this time which might well represent an 'ambush'.
"Tit for tat" describes the central mechanism of business "change".  Transactional Analysis was one of the most powerful descriptors and process for helping relationships change. For transaction to occur it was simply understood that most people want to know  "What's in it for me?"  If I want you to stop calling me names then I exchange my making fun of your invalid mother in law with the children's water pistol. Any number of situations call for 'tit for tat'. This came up because quite commonly in relationships one person wants the other to 'change' but doesn't see that in relationship change requires both.  So if I am giving up golfing this weekend what are you willing to give up in your schedule to make my giving up golfing worthwhile to me.  Not uncommonly people will each ask the other to make a change for "the family" , the "children' , "ask not what the country will do for you but what you will do for the country', without noting that couples are usually a democracy and no individual necessarily made the other 'king' or 'queen' and neither has the 'moral high ground' genetically.  In raising children, mother don't know how to father and fathers don't know how to mother. It's true for so many other aspects of a relationships but arrogance by one or the other is common.  It comes out with statements like 'for this relationship to work you have to die, suck a rock, get rid of your friends, stick your head in the toilet, whatever. " However, no one appointed this person as 'objective' so really all anyone in a relationship can say is an 'I" statement which doesn't come out as a divine pronouncement but rather "I don't want you to call me names or threaten me anymore. Otherwise I can't be around you because I find you too dangerous to associate with. I am frightened when you call me names."
Not surprisingly when aberrant adolescent behaviour was adressed with cash rewards the dangerous little offenders rapidly did things that they'd never done before but other children did as 'normal'.  This raised the issue of which behaviours are agreed as 'community' 'norms' versus which behaviours are 'special'.  I don't want to have to pay my partner to flush the toilet and vice versa she/he shouldn't have to pay me not to pee on her/his side of the bed.  Yet this is the level that couples disputes descend to in the 'adolescent development' phase of relationships.
Today there are even catch phrases like 'emotional abuse' that have no real meaning and no agreement in any dictionary known to the world but can be used for all occasions whenever one person wishes to be one down and play the victim. Playing the victim is what is commonly done if there is hope for an audience (children, girlfriends, boyfriends, judges, socialworkers, judges, the dog or cat or goldfish) rather than acknowledging that couples are 'volunteer' arrangements even if at times they seem like a stint in the military or incarceration in a penal facility or asylum. My dog 'emotionally abuses" me but my cat 'emotionally abuses' me even more.
Some couples theorists have likened the development of the relationship to that of an individual roughly using Erik Ericksonian concepts for each phase of relationship development.  Baby relationships are all googoo, gaga with lots of physicality and focus on orifices and such.  Then come the terrible twos with whether to have the toilet seat up or down. Then the adolescent phase with it's 'I need my own space'. and "I can't be me with you" ad nausum.
Mature relationships aren't without their own unique issues and major trauma for a couple can fling them back into earlier stages of development just as fully grown adults will start sucking their thumbs when they see that multi billionaire bankers have squandered their total stock portfolio on cocaine and hookers causing them at 75 years of age to have to return to working when they had thought they could be at the bedside of their dying spouse instead.  No one is immune from regression. Even Jesus said, "My God why hast thou forsaken me."
Couples relationships grow stronger and deeper through facing crisis and working them through no different from military platoons that suddenly function efficiently after they have seen fire and each member has found they can rely on their fellow or shot the silly officer who thought it particularly good if the unit ran across a mine field so she could get a promotion.
Name calling is a particularly onerous behaviour.
Defensiveness is a further distraction. It's up there with the false accusations that 'shelter dogs' demonstrate. You go to pet them and they cower back like you're about to hit them. It has nothing to do with you but is a carrying over from that dog's childhood, their former owner or their institutionalized experience.  Commonly, especially today, where there is a lot of baggage as couples bring not only their family of origin with them but their failed relationships including all the abuse they took and all the dirt they slung.
Couples commonly are working through old relationships in the new relationship in addition to addressing the well worn old issues of picking one's same sex parent psychologically.  Smart couples therapists ask interesting questions like 'do you remember your parents ever doing such a thing" (eg. killing small animals in front of you).  Was this something you noticed other women didn't like about you (eg sleeping with their brothers, mother, sisters, fathers). Did other men complain that you wouldn't have sex with them after you'd been going out for decades and expecting them to pay for everything or is 85 yo John here the first bloke to ask about your virginity?
The "Rebound" relationship is not just where a person is 'opposite' the last one but where a person can be described as 'alike' or 'different' from the previous person. Probably the previous person was 90% okay for a link but the 10 % not okay caused the 'graft' to fail. That's what's seen with immunity issues and couples early break ups are more like 'transplant' reactions than they might care to realize.  The trouble with the 'rebound' is that a person who really would do well with a 'strawberry blond' picks a 'sandy blond' then rejects blonds for redheads only.  I know the example is simplistic but it's more understandble than trying to explain why "middle children' have been compared to "O" blood.
It was recognised early that some people do well in relationships and some don't which doesn't mean that some should be and some shouldn't be in relationship. It just may mean that poodles are easier to house train than pitbulls, regardless of gender.
Defensiveness is it's own 'accusation'.  I remember a head nurse pointing out to me how a mother was afraid to let any one hold her baby but herself. She said "There's one sick child in the making'.  The mother was paranoid though she held a great job and was married to a very fine man.  She was 'projecting' her own emotions onto others.  This kind of 'psychosis' is really common in relationsips especially when relationships go further than theyve ever been before. It's kind of like Star Trek, where we go where no one has gone before and find out that in our own idea about the unknown we've watched alot of Steven King and expect Carrie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Night of the Zombie.  It's not going to be William Hurt transforming into the light and energy in love if one or the other is basically 'afraid' and hasn't addressed their deep insecurities.
Controlling is a means whereby out of control people try to stay in control. It's why mutiny is common at sea when the least competent person won't address their fear but suddenly think they should be the captain.  It's why military have had to impose strict hierarchy because when there are external threats people normally become hysterical and psychotic.  The family drama is often likened to a pressure cooker or a blender, or any number of other kitchen utensil.
The therapist doesn't 'judge'. The last thing the therapist should do is  decide "I don't think these people should be togehter."  That is incredible arrogance but unfortunately it is extremely common.  "You know I don't think Mexico should be beside the United States. It would be better if France wasn't situated beside Germany. " Obviously the smart French would leave Europe along with the smart Germans and move to Indonesia.  It's not surprising that migration is notorious for being merely a 'geographic' solution that fails to address the fact that 'when you move, you take yourself with you'.  People are attracted by complementarity. Good men don't pick bad women or vice versa. The blind man finds the deaf woman and that's what makes them compatible.  The weaknesses not necessarily the strengths  are the glue of physics and human relationships.
A couples therapist in this regard, if trained is like a diplomat.  Obviously mainly relationships on first look would be improved with a neutron bomb but the couple's therapist like the trauma surgeon looks to see what can be saved and that to use the obstetrical analogy doesn't include first killing the mother so she doesn't have children any more.
A couple's therapist is there to assist the couple in finding new ways of reclaiming the spark and flame that brought the couple together. To this end it is a common 'structural and strategic' couples therapy recommendation to tell the couple to plan a 'date night'.  Indeed the planning of the date night might well include the therapist (lonely therapists don't go on date nights either) though not uncommonly the therapist is there to discuss why the date night was a disaster in the session following the first date night before the reasons for the date night failure are addressed and the second more likely to succeed date night is established.
Young couples with young family commonly are just 'tired' and 'overworked'. It takes a 'village' to raise a child.  When the debate about 'daycare' funding was going on and day cares were funded, it's long forgotten that the alternative resolution shafted by those who wanted day cares and women working was that mother's should be paid a full time salary , roughly $40,000 (one of the figures) for being at home with their children if they so wanted. The state was challenged to put it's money where its mouth was regarding mother hood and women's rights but instead introduced a further medium for state control and propaganda.  Women got the "choice' to work out of the home.
So many of the young couples with young children are simply exhausted and want to break up and can't get along because both are worked inordinate hours to pay for day care and high costs of children (minimum estimate, a child costs $10,000 to raise in Canada a year at least - consider people routinely spend thousands on their designer pets ) . When the context of the relationship is 'understood' and this often takes each person having a chance to tell how they spend their day to each other and the therapist, it's often the therapists task to help the couple find help for them raising the kids, supporting them getting parents to baby sit or friends with children to form a cooperative baby sitting endeavour so they can get a night off for a 'date'.  or just some sleep.
There's nothing wrong with the couple in these situations and many like them. It's society as a whole that sucks.  Often a couple comes in blaming each other and themselves and the principle first job of the therapist is to celebrate that they're actually making an effort at being more than superficial shallow narcisisstic hedonists like so many of todays 'players'.  Good time charlies abound. Few have the depth and character of the men and women who were revered for generations. Today's Hollywood would have us believe a 20 year old porn star is equivalent to Moses, Lincoln, JFK, Lester Pearson, Gandhi, or Diefenbaker.
I think Mrs. Bush is amazing.  Like Sarah Pailin she is pilloried yet both are mothers, daughters and have been great citizens like Hillary Clinton is too.  Queen Elizabeth is one of my all time favourite ladies but we hear little about these greats because there's more dirt in the stories of the muck ups.  What examples are we putting forward for young people.  I would love to read a parenting book by Bush and Queen Elizabeth. I still love Mrs. Roosevelt's writings on relationships.
I've asked couples who were their 'examples'.  It's often taken for granted that couples are together for 'idealistic' reasons. Often they just want to get laid.  Men and women will join the military for shoes or uniforms only to become great heroes. The lowest level of committment can lead to the strongest relationship. The question is what are your "ideals'. What examples would you like to follow.  I think this is a basic question. What do you want from your relationship now and forward.  Yet rarely have couples been asked this question before they have come to see me. Indeed they have often had counsellors who want them to re fight and re fight their disagreements but never look first at what they 'agree on'.  Often couples today don't have examples of successful relationships they can learn from. Yet if they do it's good to talk about this and it's good to identify what it is they want so the therapist can help them to achieve this idea of 'the couple'.
One of the basic 'homework' of couples therapy is to ask each to make a list of 10 things they like about the other without showing the other the list. This is usually a way of seeing who lacks boundaries too. As one person will weedle the other or sneak a peek or any of these things giving further grist for the therapy mill. However asking them what's wrong with the other is a common mistake and marriage breaker used by junior uneducated inexperienced therapists.  I can always tell you what's wrong with my partner when things are going wrong. I can tell you what's wrong with my dog when things aren't going my way.  The question that I need to be asked is 'what's right with the relationship'.  I might not see it now so I have to be asked what was right with it in the beginning.
Further I sometimes have to be 'accused' of 'buying the car' in the first place and acknowledge that I was stupid about buying this car and likely will make a similiar stupid mistake and someone who buys my car will probably think it's an amazing car that will run for 200,000 miles when they just add a pint of oil.  People commonly try to distance themselves from things they've broken including relationships.  The things broken down. It doesn't take a genius to tell you why you don't want it broken down. Couples come into therapists when the relationship is struggling. It's important to get a really clear idea why they were attracted to each other in the first place. It's usually not obvious to any therapist even the most experienced, educated and knowledgeable.
I personally don't even know why my parents were together and they were together for over 50 years and I can't doubt their relationship was a good enough one or I'd have to doubt my very existence.
Hence when people said "I should never have married" and they have kids, I commonly say, "how should we kill the kids?" since your relationship was a mistake they're probably become  mutants and their wrongedness will likely show up to the horror of the universe some time in the future.  Generally this gets a couple to realize they must have had something to produce their children even if as a therapist you might think the children are as ugly as the parents.  What it does do however is to get to the root of what was attractive about each other.  Commonly too what is attractive about a person will later be the thing that is no longer attractive about the person and this needs to be identified.  When that's 'shown' it's often an 'aha' moment and people have insight into their relationships seeing that it's not just his or her 'fault'.
Often couples therapy is done by couples who have been together longer.  If a couple is seeing a couple they can actually look at each other and ask each other if they didn't have a 'similiar' disagreement and then tell the couple how they resolved their 'similiar' disagreement.  Self disclosure is a normal part of couples therapy. The taboo against 'self disclosure'  was developed originally as part of the Freudian experimental model in which the 'analyst' was establishing a kind of sensory deprivation experience with the person 'free associating' and the therapist responding to the patients "projections', the therapist being wholly unknown and hence a blank screen, or tabula rosa.  It's application outside of that realm has been as flawed as therapists who 'teach' like the cognitive therapist today who tells individuals and couples how to think and feel in the most pedantic and parental way without any thought about how offensive and belittling this might be.  Judicious and selective and moderate are words to remember considering all therapy.  
But couples therapists, as a couple,  have the opportunity to 'model' and not uncommonly couples who are long related or themselves in long term relationships with others have had extreme advantage over couple therapists who are individuals themselves, utter failures at relationships or don't even get into relationships coming from broken homes and believe couples should be lined up against the wall judging from their shoddy workmanship.

Couples are wise to ask a therapist , 1) What is your longest sexual relationship.  2) Are you presently in a relationship 3) Do you believe in relationships 4) Did your parents separate or divorce?  4) How many successful couples therapy have you done where the couples remained together?  5) How many unsuccessfull cases have you had?  6) Or simply, even, How many cases have you treated and what is the average number of sessions you have seen couples for?
Normally therapists would say that's none of your business. It was also considered nobody's business to ask a surgeon how many cases of a procedure he had done and how people lived. It's now routine for surgeons to offer this kind of information on request and many surgeons advertise 'their rates' of success.
The "Love Lab" is one of the leading couples therapy models today and they are happy to advertise their 'statistics'.  Jay Haley, a leading marriage therapist was happy to say he was married.
Dr. Paul O who was married to Max what seemed like their entire lives were extremely funny sharing stories of their relationship in therapy helping others to laugh at the challenges that face couples.
The point is there are many examples of self disclosure in the field of couple therapy.  It was seriously frowned upon in psychoanalysis, though people are often happy to overlook that Freud saw people in his home and that patients often smelt his wife's cooking.  Couples therapy hasn't established the 'rigidity' of 'orthodoxy' but there are guidelines.  Individual therapists doing couples therapy would be wise to not talk about their 'present' relationship or discuss the negatives in their 'relationship' since it's so easy to 'dissociate' under these conditions and it's not particularly helpful for the couple to watch a therapist breakdown sobbing remembering their one relationship with a house plant or to hear their best sexual experience was masturbation.
Unfortunately common sense is usually  uncommon.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Honda Big Ruckus to Harrison's Hot Springs

Laura has had her Honda Big Ruckus for a year now. She says it's great for driving about town doing her shopping. She'd not had it out on the highway till today.  It's about 100 km to Harrison's from Vancouver.
She set out on Hastings, taking the Barnett Hwy then heading out on the Number 7.  I was riding along with Gilbert in the back of the Harley Davidson Electraglide Classic.  He was my spotter.  We got a couple of pictures of Laura and the Big Ruckus along the route.  Then at the turn off to Hemlock Valley at Sasquatch Inn she pulled off.  Gilbert was glad for this. He needed a drink and pee break too.
Then it was back on the highway taking in the great countryside with mountains and farmland, lakes and trains before heading into the town of Harrison Hot Springs.  We had rooms at the dog friendly, locked underground parking Executive Hotel.  A hot ride.
The Honda Big Ruckus is a 250 cc scooter which weighs about 350 lbs.  I have a Honda CRF and it does 110 km on the freeway.  The Number 7 was 80 km.  My Harley Electraglide weights about 900 lbs and is about 1600 cc.  Laura likes to keep to the speed limit so we did 70 or 80.  I'll not say what my Harley does at full open throttle as it would invite a visit from NASA space agency.  I suspect Laura's Big Ruckus will do at least what the lighter Honda CRF does but I expect it will be a while before Laura does full open throttle.
 The tripe reminded me of the first time I rode the 600 cc Buell Blast up here with Laura meeting up with me in her car. I'd been caught in a downpour that time while Laura this time was nearly clam baked in today's heat.  It gets a bit tricky coming down the steep mountain side so it's a pretty neat ride overall.

Gilbert wasn't around for the Buell days but loves the Electraglide.When we're ready to go he jumps up on the seat before climbing into his strapped on box.  Laura used to ride behind me and then he had to go to the very back of the Harley riding on top of the luggage. He's glad he's next to me and likes that she has her own motorcycle for road trips . Gives him more room for stretching out and styling. He was wearing his Harley Davidson faux leather today. I saw a pretty minature pomeranian strutting her stuff for the big biker dog.  DSCN9612.  IMG 2121DSCN9619IMG 2125IMG 2122IMG 2123DSCN9614IMG 2124DSCN9619IMG 2119

Harrison Hot Springs Village

Laura, I and Gilbert motorcycled up the number 7 from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs today.  Laura was on her orange Honda Big Ruckus while Gilbert and I were on the Harley Davidson Electroglide. We were able to book rooms at the Executive Hotel which is dog friendly, has locked underground parking, and all the amenities while being right in the centre of town across from the public hot spring pool.  Doffing heavy protective gear in the room we headed for a walk around town, Laura in sundress, me in shorts and t shirt, while Gilbert was stripped right down to the naked dog.  We stopped for fish and chips with onion rings first.  Gilbert was thankful I didn't forget him. He had a burger patty on the side which Laura broke up into bite sized chunks for him.  He was busy dog watching when he wasn't eating.
Then we made our way around the malacon.  Everyone loves the lawn and beach here. Familes galore from all nationalities. I especially loved the little white bonnet wearing chubby bodied babies wading with their bikinied bodacious mothers.  The folksinger, songwriter, guitarist Glenn Chatten was playing and his words and music were simply wondrous.  I've paid to hear Dylan, Cohen, Lightfoot and happened on Arlo Guthrie playing in the park with Pete Seegers.  Coming across Glenn Chatten at Harrison's was that kind of experience. Magical.
We'd last walked Gilbert around the town here in February.  There was lots of snow then. Now it was blue sky, blue lake, hot sunshine and miles of beach.  I picked up some soft drinks for the room and then we stopped at Savy Fashions.  It's one of several amazing high end well thought out stores that take advantage of the continuous flow of discerning tourists from all over the world.  Today we were getting Laura another bathing suit, reminiscing she'd bought one early in the summer of last year,DSC 0282 here.
DSC 0258Now back in the room it's time to read before " taking the waters."  I don't know where that expression came from but it sure beats 'working out'.
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Executive Hotel, Harrison Hot Springs

We love the Executive Hotel in Harrison Hot Springs.  We've motorcycled up from Vancouver a few times and stayed here. Other times we've come in car or truck. It's incredibly dog friendly and has locked underground parking which is just what a Harley Davidson Electriglide wants.  The staff are great.  The rooms are clean and elegant with lots of space, internet, refridgerator, cable tv and dvd.  We've watched late night movies here. and the lake views are terrific. We especially love the in house sauna, whirl pool and work out room.  Despite staying here countless times I've really only enjoyed the sauna and whirlpool. I just keep meaning to try the work out room next visit.  The hotel has a delicious Rockamole's restaurant on the main floor.  I've taken out and had room service from there as well. The best pizza place in town is next door.  Across the road is the Harrison Hot Springs public pool fed from the famous healing underground spring the town is named for.  DSC 0282 DSC 0256DSC 0255

Couples Therapy 2

When doing couples therapy avoid going over old territory.  Couples  are like jail house lawyers. These are criminals who with just a little bit of law training 'make their case'.  To this end they invariably show themselves in a good light, forget all their own negatives, and focus wholly on the error of the other even if it's minor. So don't "make their case'.
Couples commonly come in to session wanting to 'make their case'.  Don't let them.  In contrast to some of the wishy washy, pink vanilla laissez faire individual therapies, where the therapist is an 'observer to the individual' , the couples therapist is very active and interventionist.  Note how mediation, a form of couples therapy, models itself after a parent with two squabbling children bringing their fight to mommy or daddy.  This is what is supposed to happen, but the therapist must remain 'neutral' in a the way the United Nations with it's Security Council remains neutral.  The therapist avoids taking sides at all costs and probably should discuss their desire to take sides with an outside therapist before doing so.  Taking sides is like 'invading' a foreign country.  The United Nations can do it but only if it has a majority vote in the Security Council.  However hearing the dispute and identifying the components of the dispute does not involve taking sides. To this end a therapist is 'reframing' from the 'get go' in couples therapy whereas 'reframing' in individual therapy might wait days or weeks.
For example:  "My wife is a bitch who won't put out and all she wants to do is watch tv and read her fashion magazines. She won't clean up the place either. I do everything and I don't get any reward so I'm leaving her. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for my mom either."
Reframed:  "It sounds to me like you want to get laid and you want your wife to clean up the place a bit."
The therapist would in this case ask the wife to comment and she'd say something like.
"Ask him what he was doing with my sister at the party last year. You just ask him.  Ask the little shit."
Now, boys and girls, isn't couples therapy fun?  To a "trained' therapist this would be seen as a potential 'derailment".  Note that the therapist has an 'agenda'.  THe therapist 'agenda' is to avoid a blood shed in the office.  If a therapist goes.
"Well, Henry just what were you doing with her sister,"  this would be 'taking sides' and getting into 'blaming and shaming'.  Couples love using 'blaming and shaming' but therapists should at least make a half hearted attempt to stay above this particularly attractive entertainment.  Couples also like to be defensive so that they can get into a better position to take pot shots from.
Ideally the therapist should also be registering the underlying message. This is usually happening at light speed while what is being said "for the recording' and "and the court" ( since some invidiuals bring hidden tape recorders into the sessions so they can give them to their lawyers to help their case ') occuring in real time.  The couple is also trying to 'score points'. They are individually trying to make an ally or an enemy of the therapist so they can together beat up the other or have a further excuse to get out of dodge.
The therapist isn't a 'referee' and couples therapy isn't a sporting match.  Junior therapists love to take sides and play referee. This is what high school girls do when their friends argue.  These are often the ones who come in and say 'everyone thinks I should be a therapist'.  Somewhere someone with a great sense of humor has already made a cartoon "so you want to be a couples therapist' with this starring 'peacemaker' coming from a dysfunctional family with her own dysfunctional relationships wanting to make everyone love her like she was some kind of Sister Teresa.
So keeping on track, not taking sides, not losing control of the interview (it's your office, you're paying the rent, they can fight on their own time and they'd done this bad sitcom segment - from the wife's account for a year - a good therapist would have already registered this couple has real 'strengths' because they both sound like real losers as everyone does when they argue with their spouse, so one should be trying to keep the couple together and the room undamaged long enough to find out what do these two love about each other and how is this 'glue' so crazy that's its stuck this couple together.'
"That's a very interesting question, Mrs. Woods, but I'd like to save that question for later."
Right now I'd ask you what you want from him?
He said "He wants to make love to you and he wants to live in clean surroundings.  Personally I can relate to his wanting to live in clean surroundings and most couples get together for sexual relationships so what would make this relationship work better for you.?"
Note how we too want to castrate the little shit for doing whatever with her sister.  Even going there at this point would let this guy have his excuse for saying screw the wife and screw the mother. But at this point we really don't know why this girl puts up with this guy and yet I probably have heard of a hundred relationships broken up in the first session of counselling by untrained inexeperienced individual counsellors.  I see individuals coming into my individual practice routinely telling me they had one session with a couples therapist.. I ask what happened and one or the other 'walked out'.
This can happen to an experienced therapist.  Several times  I havehad  a man 'drop off his wife' and say' you fix her', like she was a broken weed eater.  I thanked my teachers and 30 years experience to getting them to stay.  I knew intuitively that if I let him leave and the dejected defeated woman stayed he'd go to the family and friends and make up a glorious story about 'her being mentally ill', the psychiatrist not needing to see him, and that he's suffered long enough so he can leave and find another woman to make her life miserable.  Recently I had a powerful and famous pant wearing wife drop off her husband and the best I could do with this new twist on an old story was to insist if I saw him she'd see my colleague. She certainly didn't need any therapy because she was making all the money and he wasn't pulling his weight in the relationship.
In couples therapy neither individual is well.  In alcoholics anonymous with the obvious bad woman or bad man drinker it was recognised in the 30's that there was a need for Al Anon the organizatin for those people who are attracted to or stay with sick people.  The whole issue of co - dependency and 'sado-masochism' is core to couples therapy. I personally belive like most people "I"m okay and you're not".  I really like it when a therapist says "you're right' and then we can both get together and put the nazi boots to the person who if they take it really revels in self loathing and if they don't is showing the world they are healthy to leave a sick person and their sick therapist.  No healthy person would multiply their abuse unless perhaps they clearly understand why the increased 'pain' as with cancer therapy will have the much wanted gain.  In this case a therapist has to lay out up front why they and the spouse are asking this person to be flogged publicly and what the reward of humiliation is.  Personally I've not seen this approach work and what I've seen is punitive therapists getting their rocks off instead. Theoretically though I can see there might be some benefit and I've utilized techiniques to get a couple back in which we all agree to where  the man, usually, needs to do something terrible, like live in ahotel for a few months before he's going to be welcomed back into the home because the wife needs some space. In recent years this has had to be documented with a lawyer or notary as a strategy or the absence from the marital home is used by her conniving psychopathic lawyer as 'evidence' she was 'abandoned' and therefy he 'forfeited' his million dollar home and now he wants to kill the therapist.  Strong survival instincts help couples therapists immensely.
Ultimately what you want to find out is a) what does she want b) what does he want for 'today and tomorrow'. The whole aim in couples therapy is to shift from 'past focus' to 'future focus'.
At the same time there will need to be a discussion about what he and the sister did a year ago.  Further we will probably want to know what she did in retaliation because he doesn't know this at this point or we all would have heard about it.  This information is usually best arrived at in the session which is scheduled for meeting with each person as an individual.  Scheduling then returns to couples therapy .  Individual sessions are scheduled and I usually only have one in the course of couples therapy. I want this to hear about the woman's affairs.  I want this to hear about the man's affairs.   i want to hear about the previous sexual relationships from each so that I can learn which pattern is being re enacted in this relationship and further to find out what each person learned from their parents.  The error which so commonly occurs for individual therapists doing couples therapy is that once they see the individuals they want to go back to doing individual therapy.  Give a boy a hammer and everything becomes a nail. So de facto the therapist starts seeing them, especially the sexy young wife who is either attractive to a male therapist or is sympatico with a female therapist.  This sends the message that the 'couple' is really 2 individuals and that their individuality is being celebrated. The individuals see the benefit of being individuals and that whole hard and tedious and really advanced thing called being a 'couple' is scrapped like any hard work might be.  If  I were to suggest my colleagues at student mental health faced with individuals having trouble with university and study take their clients to the bar and party they'd laugh at me but no one questions individual therapists doing couples therapy and turnig it  into easy highly lucrative individual therapy.
Couples therapy is hard work. It's like being a Canadian soldier on a UN mission in Bosnia Serbia.  These people aren't nice people. They are at war and it's the couples therapist job to change ghenghis khans and mata haris  into gandhis and saint theresa.  I am always amazed when I meet junior therapsts and they talk blithely about how easy couples therapy is. I first wonder what they're smoking and then try not to think about the menage e trois that this person must be indulging in.  The truth usually comes out in the stats and can usually be gleaned when the therapist speasks glowlingly of their helping facilitated couples who are separating.
Trained couples therapists are like great obstetricians who love mothers and babies. The first baby of a couple is their relationship,  It is a glorious dream. I took no pleasure when I was delivering babies saving a mother but looking down at a dead baby.  The only time for great celebration as couple therapist is when the relationship and the individuals survive. I don't feel good about calling in the UN Security Council because I think the couple is going to literally kill each other themselves or their kids if they stay together.  On those rare occasions I have felt the best thing was for the couple to break up. Then I 'm just sad looking at the death of their glorious dream.  .
No surprise couples therapy fails as often because of the couples therapist, as because of the couple. In fact if a couple gets to a couples therapist it's a pretty good indication there's still a whole lot of love "glue" left in the relationship.  Love isn't something that should ever be squandered.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dear God, E=MC2

Dear God,
Energy and matter are one as water and steam.  In the east they speak of individual and greater self.  Christians speak of this world being the shadow to the real world of spirit.  Earth sphere experience is transitory whereas the heavenly realms are eternal.  I am in the kindergarden or dungeon and hell is here if I am without you.  Hell isn't necessarily some physical place of burning and lust, like a prison today where drug dealers, terrorists, murderers and rapists can live together creating their own rules without the rule of law other than that of might is right.
This world can be a world of mind where I think I am alone when you are with me.  But to not know you is to not know hell as much as it is to not know heaven.  I am thankful for the dreams.  In my dreams I am with loving friends and family on adventures reminiscent of childhood.  In that I am reminded that this world is it's own adventure. I make it comedy or tragedy with my mind's eye.  I play my emotions across the landscapes of reality.  How I think of things is as much to do about how I feel about things.  This too shall pass and tomorrows event may make this event appear different in kind.  Ecclesiastes is the wisdom of the ages.
This day is sunny and warm and walking the dog I felt like I was in Winnipeg as a child.  Days I'd spend on my bicycle looking as far as the eye could see riding till I was tired and went home.  Sunny days like this were days of adventure and exploration.  I was curious about what was ahead.
Today I am curious about the day.  I am excited about the weekend. It's Friday and friday is when I'm finished my work for others and can set out to see what's over this next hill, around this next bend, across this body of water.  I went into medicine to find where things came from, to study the interface between energy and matter, mind and body.  I believed in surgery of all places that what we thought was what we became and that if we could pray and meditate we could come together with ourselves in peace.
Now aging I'm faced with wear and tear and eventual death.  Death is a door , I know.  Yet I'm desiring perpetual youth and to avoid death and decay and find immortality.  Which is odd because I don't particularly like this life in old age and the vehicle of my existence hurts most days in ways I'd rather not and I see a lump or bump on my skin and it's just what we call an age spot but I seem to have little control over this.  I don't know what control I ever had.  So little really.  Since where and when I was born was a decision made, to the best of my knowledge independent of me.  So I'm aging in a country and time when youth is all that matters and the media celebrates the beauty of strength and smooth skin and I'm facing years more of increasing threat of cancer, injury, decay, corruption.  All around me now there are those that are 'breaking down'.  Friends have heart attacks or strokes and I self centeredly consider that their age is my 'batch'.  My 'shelf life'. my group is facing gravity finally.  Everything is sagging and Alistair Munro wrote in Medical Post he's controlled by his bladder making mad dashes for 'urgency'.  We celebrated other causes.
It's a lottery, Lord.  I am facing my powerlessness. I am completely overwhelmed by not only not having found a cure for cancer in my life, found a way for people to get along for world peace and now I can't even find the elixer of youth and immortality, let alone get a leprechaun to find me a rainbow and pot of gold.  I'm in your hands and all my machinations and worry and conniving and struggling and believing and not believing and such, well, I think Immortality in this world is a bit above my pay grade.  Maybe if I could give the equation my undivided attention but I'm distracted by day to day business, keeping my boat afloat, paying the bills, feeding the dog and cat and staying out of the way of those angry folk that either stab in back alleys or lock people up.
I heard Ghadaffi killed thousands in a prison in under 2 hours.  That must be some kind of record.
People criticize Harper and Christy Clark. I rather like the man and woman.  Neither have killed two thousand Canadians in a prison during during their term.  Yet to hear some speak they're evil incarnate. Those people seem so far removed with their good life in Canada to actually know the choices aren't that great.  Harper compared to Ghadaffi is Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Clint Eastwood rolled in one with even a touch of Oprah and Angelina Jolie for good measure.  Yet maybe another like our now dead Jack Layton would have been marginally better. There's so much drama and hyperbole.  I look back and historically Canada has gone along time since we paid Indians to kill another Indian tribes.  We're 'decent'.  Canadians are 'decent' folk in general despite what Americans might call us.  We're a bit like a large Oklahoma in the US or Brighton in England.  More vanilla than pepper spray.
Yet I've been living the good life here while over there in Sudan people are starving.  How can I know real happiness 'alone'.  It's said that Jesus and Mohammed and Moses and Abraham and Krishna and everyone that matters in history came back and are waiting for the rest of us to stop thinking evil of our neighbours .  This is some sort of world where we go to learn to love one another and all the great men of history and the son of God himself are now waiting till we realize that none of us is alone but our happiness is limitted by the saddest of the least person on the planet.  No matter how many porche I can have I'll not know true happiness if a child is being raped in downtown Eastside vancouver because some one on drugs mistook the child for a porn star.  As Steppenwolf sings, Goddam the Pusherman.  We don't shoot each other with AK47 but use needles with heroin and pipes with crack to kill ourselves. We abort the next generation and put our money into cigarettes rather than education.
Lord, how can i help others today. How can I be of most service.  How can I forget about my death and live life in love.  Help me to do thy will. Help me to be of most service to you.  God, you are the CEO, supreme commander, the little flower and greatest sky, you God are my higher power, my all, my hope and I long to be closer to you and know my ways are your ways.  Guide me today.  Let me be the most I can be. Let me be my true self in you and for you.  Let me put aside childish things and become like child again trusting in you as my father and mother and know I am safe in your arms.  Show me where I'm to be and help me to do what it is you want of me. Let me not complain or be negative but rather reach deeper into myself to where I can find whatever it is I need to know thee more fully.  Touch me Lord.  Hold my hand today.  Help me be your eyes and ears and feet and hands and use me Lord.  Let me be a tool and channel and servant of yours.
And thank you Lord for the sunshine and sky and nature and the people. Thank you for this day, Lord.  Dear God may I make the most of this precious gift of time.  Yours truly, your servant.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Saltspring Island 19th Annual AA Round Up

I was at the Whitecliff Thursday night Meeting with George when Bill reminded me the Saltspring Island Rally was that weekend.  Bill had sailed with me one weekend to Silva Bay. We've a lot more stories over the water and under that bridge than that, though!  Hearing about Saltspring from him seemed a message I should go even if everything would be last minute.
The fact is, I love Saltspring Island. I especially love the AA Rally every summer there.  I've been more than a half dozen times, sometimes arriving on motorcycle, sometimes  tenting with everyone else, or sometimes arriving on my boat or staying in one of the great Salt Spring Island bed and breakfasts. Everyway has had it's own unique pleasures. For a couple of years the Brians have made the trip memorable. Great friends and great fellowship. Then there's been the guitar playing around the tents,  singing campfire songs.  There's always great outdoor musicians and talking sticks too. The lamb roasts have been beyond the gourmand!  Kiwanis breakfasts have been the best.   All that plus reliable August weather,  Ganges Harbour,  great meetings and oftimes speakers whose stories illicit tears of joy and sorrow.  We celebrate life, joyous and free!
I'd hoped to get away Friday but I forgot about an interview which I foolishly got caught up in. I must schedule interviews early morning rather than end of the day at the end of the week. Fridays now .I'm so often utterly exhausted, mentally and even physically with the sometimes chronic pain.   I rarely feel like more than watching tv and eating pizza and literally can't think.   Yet,   it just seems like yesterday I was crossing the Strait every Friday night, motoring or sailing through the wee hours of the morning, so I could wake up Saturday in some scenic Gulf island anchorage.  Those days were mostly 5 or 10 years ago.  These last couple of years of accidents  remind me my body is actually aging or at least taking longer to heal.  
I didn't get away Friday. I crashed in bed and slept the sleep of the dead.  I ran the errands I had to do early Saturday morning.  That caused me to missed the tidal window. So I  got away late.  I was optimistically thinking I'd maybe get to Saltspring for the evening speaker.  Then I had to fuel up.  But really, I didn't care, once I'd untied from the dock I on the water just loving the boat and the glorious August sunshine. The view of mountains and city from English Bay is always utterly beautiful.
I motored.  The day was spectacular, blue skies, light winds.  I eved slowed enough to troll.  I didn't catch any salmon this time.  So many times in the past I've been more than blessed.  My crew were as lazy as I was, though.  I had a "good guy saves world from terrorists book, adult male comic reading, lots of gingerale and snacks. The Yanmar engine Jim had fixed again was working just fine.  The new exhaust manifold appeared to be doing the trick.  The autopilot turned my boat trip to as close to a train ride as solo sailing gets.  Mid Georgia Strait I was alone for hours sunning nude on  deck with  cat and dog buddies along,  loving the sea, blue sky and great BC outdoors.
Late evening I made Active Pass.  I had a bit of excitement going through the east end watching the depth sounder ,  chart, radar and occasional angry whirlpool.  Round the bend though it all got easier, the ebb helping me along.
Soon I was through and  headed for Ganges Harbour on Saltspring. I'd been this route so many times at night I actually knew my bearings despite the  confusion  that night entrance can be.
10 30 pm  I dropped anchor.  I'd missed the Saturday program but was really contented I'd made it. I made a light dinner before falling asleep at anchor.
Morning in Ganges was glorious. My cat, Angel, loved being on deck early.  Gilbert, the dog was really pleased when after coffee I got the dinghy in the water.   A trip ashore is dog heaven. He only tolerates  his life jacket because of what it means.
Pretty soon I had  the 4 hp Yamaha engine on the dinghy and left first mate Angel in charge of the Giri. The sun was already filling the sky and warming the day.  We tied up at the municipal dinghy dock and walked on up the hill past the High School Gilbert's friend, Robyn, attends.
The Farmer's market field and building really isn't that far from Ganges.  Tents, campers, people and coffee machines flourished.  We'd arrived just as the speaker was being introduced.  Gilbert and I sat at the back just like we had last year.  A half dozen other dogs and owners were there about the rear entrance much to the dogs entertainment.
The speaker, great on service, shared a wonderful tale of inspiration and life, leaving us all laughing through tears and thankful to be alive together.  As the hundreds or so stood to close the meeting in prayer I was so thankful I'd made it another year.
The coordinator announced that next year will be the 20th Annual Saltspring Rally so that's going to be a landmark year. I'll really want to arrive Friday night for that.
Leaving I saw Brian with his new Big Foot camper. He's living the dream planning on heading south for a road trip by to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. He's achieving all the things he'd once only talked about.
A half dozen of us who'd been together the year before carried on those continuing conversations that happen among friends.   So much had transpired in the time since we'd last met sometimes months since a meeting or even a year or two, yet it's like it was just yesterday.
Waving in departure I felt again how much  I belonged.  It was good having friends who shared a common journey.  There was no need for that terrible aloneness that still sometimes could haunt the night or make the crowd seem terrifying.  Hugs, smiles, fond words, and always 'see you again next year!"  We sure do hope so!
Enjoying the summer day even more, Gilbert and I walked back to Ganges Harbour. Ripe red and green  apples were falling off the trees along the road. Beautiful yellow, white and red  flowers were being pollinated by big gold and black bumble bees.  Birds flitted everywhere.  
The harbour soon opened  in front of us with ships and sailboats at anchor, the marinas full,  and a sea plane taxiing  to take off.  It's a really bustling summer vacation spot.   I sail over in winter sometimes when it's not nearly such a bustling place.  I love Ganges everyway though.  I could get lost in Mouats but only made necessary stop at the book store for more summer reading, looking in the shop windows at the fetching island fashions before heading back to the docks.
I bundled Gilbert into his life jacket for the dinghy ride back.  More boats were leaving and with another plane taking off I had to keep my eyes open to avoid getting in their way.  What a lovely day to be on the water though.
Back on the Giri, Angel made her report, giving her Siamese cat opinion on all that had gone on while we were off gallavanting. I wrestled the outboard motor and dinghy on board while Gilbert rubbed noses with her, licked her ears and telepathically relayed all the sights and sounds he'd experienced.  She wasn't interest ed in the dogs he met and chided him no doubt on not paying more attention to the cats.
Soon I had the anchor up and was steaming out of the harbour too late to catch the turn in Active Pass.  I headed up Trinicolli Channel instead  to cross at Porlier Pass.  The wind was perfect for sailing and I could have gone wing on wing for a while like I have so often before but the autopilot isn't well set up for sailing right now. I'd have to balance sails and autopilot and run around on deck like a deck monkey and.....well.... instead I made another cup off coffee and decided I was a motor boat.  I was enjoying sunning with my book looking up at the occasional circling eagle.
Porlier Pass was a cakewalk even though I was off the turn but catching some of the flood to move right along. The current even high was only 1-2 knots this day when Porlier can actually be running 6 or more at other times.  Then the chop and whirlpools can be exciting.
At first there was a little wind in Georgia Strait, mostly 5 to 10 knots,what the weather station means when they say 'light and variable'.    That's easy pleasant sailing though 15 to 25 is best.  With my anticipated return ETA around midnight I preferred the iron jenny steady  5 knots speed.  My book was exciting and my hands were free to eat salad and fruit on the way back.
There was a beautiful sunset on Georgia Strait.  Before too long I was in English Bay heading under night lit Lion's Gate Bridge at First Narrows.  I got confused by a tanker docking and was hailed by a tug to go round its stern.  Only then did I realize the tanker was going to sandwich me if  i continued on that side of her.  Night can be so confusing.
Thankfully my neighbour was away so I had lots of room to dock.  Midnight then, I was all tied up with power cord, attached.  Both Gilbert and Angel running up and down the dock. I got them back in the  boat so I could to to sleep  having had a great weekend on the water.
Making the AA rally even if only for Sunday morning was still worth it.  There's comfort in traditions.   It just felt good to celebrate and share in gratitude.  Angel and Gilbert had a great time but unlike humans they 've got the bar set low for good times.  They both  aren't as likely to be restless, irritable or discontent. If Angel is, it's usually because of something obvious like her litter box needing changing.  
That night I fell asleep with the cat at my neck and the dog resting his head on my leg.  I'd been really glad to see my friends.  I do  look forward to Salt Spring 20th Annual Rally next year.  IMG 2087
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dear God Today

Dear God,
I'm afraid again today.  You know I have courage. It's got me this far but I don't think you remember that I'm also afraid.  I fear that when there's a tough job I go because I volunteer.  I'm tired today, God.  I'm worried about the economic situation in the world. I'm worried that we're all working harder and that working harder isn't working smarter.  I worry that you're letting evil trolls, bad bankers, sick politicians, evil gambling stock raiders and communinists, don't forget the communists, control things with ease from the top and I'm working myself silly to stay out of debt and get by.  I worry I have these desires that I pick up from the past and the media that I should have a house or a pension or some kind of security and I don't have security but what security I have education, some money in RRSP's, years and years of towing the line and being a good boy, years of gritting my teeth and not riotting in the streets when riotting seemed as good as the next thing, that all this is making some bad guy rich. I feel like the police in communist nazi countries and Libya and places like that where maybe I wouldn't know that I was really just keeping a fat cat fat.  I want to know I'm working for you God and not Satan or whatever lower power image of greed and lust that reigns.  I'd like to think the gang I'm on is better than the other gang but I don't know Lord. Some days I just don't know. I pray that you guide me. Keep me right on track.  Help me to read the media which increasingly has news that purely entertainment and more fiction than fact.  Help me make sense of politics which confuses me. Help me be less afraid of the future and worried that the things I did in the past which I thought were right then were wrong.  Help me Lord be the best I can be today and serve you.  Help me God do the next right thing. Help me do my utmost for your highest.  Guide me in my speech.  Help me elevate and soothe and reassure and bring saniety to the chaos I confront daily. Help me guide others from paths of darkness to light.  Help me stay calm in the frightening terrifying places I go each day. Help me to be unafraid.  Help me to know you when I'm with someone who is so far from happiness or peace that their eyes are saucers and there's no threat in the room.  Help me Lord.  Let me know truth from lies.  Help me come to terms with growing older and losing the naivity and stupidity of the certainty of youth and tyranny.  Help me to use my intelligence for good rather than just criticizm. I need you to be with me today God.  If I stray, pull me closer.  Keep me aware that I'm not alone.  Help me to do what needs to be done and accept that what I can't get done is beyond me. I have so little time and feel so rushed and overwhelmed with so many demands every minute and everyone shouting and screaming and threatening and punishing me to do more in every minute but I have to say no and regardless of what they say help me lord priorize and order the cacophony of demand and complaint and aggression and violence that haunts my every working moment.  Remind me that I believed in peace and goodness and hoped that people not machines, people not lizards, people not sharks, sheepdogs not wolves would win out in time and let me live to see that time. Help me to not become everything that I didn't want to become and be what I most want to be.  I need you God.  I need you today.  I know you as Love.  Love, your distant relative.