My Writing

I’ve done a lot of writing.

Book cover 2Last year, I published a book that can help you deal with conflict, Constructive Conflict. It’s available in paperback, Kindle, and Audible from Amazon.

I also have two novels: Fate’s Janitors: Mopping Up Madness at a Mental Health Clinic and Intersections.

My blog is below. I’m currently posting two series: The Shrink’s Links once a week, alternating with a series on forgiveness, The Road to ReconciliationClick here if you would like to read this series from the beginning.

Narrative Therapy

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If someone pointed a gun to my head and forced me to admit what my preferred counseling method was, I could not say I was a reflective eclectic. That would get me shot. It’s not really an answer. I would have to confess that I have a soft spot for narrative therapy. I might get shot anyway because few know what that is. Continue reading

Living with Stress

workshop_6933-1_edited-1You’re not supposed to choose to have stress, but many people do, for good reasons and bad. For many, very many, stress is an acceptable price they pay for values they hold dear.

I’ve known people who are so dead set against having stress that they don’t try anything new because it’ll make them nervous, they don’t go anywhere because people might look at them funny; they continue smoking cigarettes because they’ll feel like crap if they quit; or they don’t get attached to anything because, when they lose it, they’ll grieve. For a while, sometimes a long while, they are gloriously stress free. It looks as though they’re doing well. They don’t give their families any trouble. They are not spending their days in misery.

The problem is that their lives are getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller. The day will come when they see the price they paid to be stress free and, guess what? They’ll fall into despair. They will have dug themselves a fox hole so deep, they can’t get out of it.

Contrast that to the person who works so hard at his job that he drives himself into the ground, not eating, not sleeping, not even caring how he feels as long as he meets his objectives. He doesn’t want to destroy his health, but he accepts it because he’s doing something important. Compare it to the wife who sticks with an alcoholic, abusive husband, determined to bring him around to fulfill the promise she sees in him. She may prefer not to be hurt, but she will accept being hurt if it means that she is good. Or look at the performer who endures stage fright before each show. It’s no fun puking up your guts in the dressing room, but the applause makes it worth it. There are people, plenty of people, who do hard things. When you do hard things, you get stress, because there’s only so much a person can take. It’s the cost of doing what is difficult, if not impossible.

Those people might come to see a therapist, too; hoping to alleviate their stress. But their stress isn’t going anywhere because they won’t do what they have to do to get rid of it: quit trying to do what is difficult. The won’t quit doing what’s difficult because only the difficult really matters. This is how they make their lives mean something.

When they put it that way, I don’t blame them.

The moral of the story is that you can put up with anything, even stress, as long as it’s meaningful. Additionally, if you are putting up with stress, it had better be.

You’re 36 Questions Away from Romance

Bringing you the best of mental health

Can falling in love be as easy as asking and answering 36 questions?

Well, no; they have to be the right questions and you also have to have at least four minutes of eye contact.

Social psychologist, Arthur Aaron, needed to create a sense of emotional closeness in subjects for an experiment to work. He devised a list of 36 questions for them to ask one another, followed by four minutes of eye contact. It worked well; so well, in fact that it was the start of a romance for several subjects. Some got married.

If you have someone you would like to share the questions with, the best way is on this website. Click here to get things started.

Three Men in Prison and a Bee that could Help them Escape

workshop_6933-1_edited-1I know it’s hard to believe, but I was once the owner and operator of the Bonny Hill Lumber Company, a maker of pallets, onion crates, and garden stakes, sawn from trees that once stood on the hills of Steuben County, New York, until I cut them down.

Long after I sold off my equipment and went out of business, whenever I looked at a tree, I would automatically calculate the number of board feet that I could get out of it if I cut it down and sawed it up. I knew there was more to trees than that, but that’s what I saw.

When I began to study psychology, whenever I went to the grocery store and observed people, I would study their faces and manner and try to guess what their diagnosis might be. Most people, you see, could have a mental health diagnosis if they saw a shrink and got one. I knew there was more to people than that, but that’s what I saw.

This is really not unusual behavior, no matter how peculiar it may seem. You probably do it, too. You bring your preoccupations with you when you look upon and interact with things and people. When you never get past those preoccupations, you never learn anything more than what you already know.

There’s nothing wrong with that, to the extent that those preoccupations are relevant to the matter at hand. If I was being called upon to deliver a diagnosis or make an offer on standing timber, it makes sense to have that information ready. But this way of looking at things limits you. It’s like you’re in prison, but have no idea of the world outside, or even of the cage that confines you.

We see this with the sex addict, who can’t look at an attractive woman without thinking about anything but sex; or the anxious person, who can’t step into a room without thinking about how she might be humiliated; or someone spoiling for a fight, waiting, just waiting for someone to piss him off.

Here’s a case in point. I know a guy who’s a heavy drinker. When I asked him how he became a heavy drinker, he said that he grew up in a small town where there was nothing else to do. Now he no longer lives in a small town, but a medium sized metropolitan area of almost a million people, chock full of history, culture, sports teams, schools, music, libraries, restaurants, lectures, galleries, festivals, trails, skiing, boating, golf, tennis, and classy museums. I said to him, you must love it here, with so much to do. He said he didn’t know about those things. All he does is drink.

What does it take to break out of this prison? I think it takes imagination, curiosity, spunk, and a willingness to be surprised by something you never expected. Sometimes it requires a fortunate accident.

I knew another guy who was not dealing well with a forced retirement. I saw him a year after. He was severely depressed. He had nothing to do and plenty of time to do it in. He grieved his old job. All meaning and purpose was gone from his life. He even contemplated suicide because he didn’t know what the point of going on might be.

Then something wonderful happened. He got stung by a bee.

He had never paid much attention to bees before. He avoided them whenever he could. He preferred sugar to honey. But he got curious about bees after he got stung. He read up on them and developed a fascination for everything about them. Next, he began talking to beekeepers. Before he knew it, he had bought a hive, then another. Two years later, he had twenty. He had found something engrossing to do in retirement.

When I talked to him years later, he said that his life was better now than it ever had been. What made the difference, he said, was not the bees themselves, or getting busy with bees; it was the fact that, at an advanced age, he knew that something still was left that could surprise him and arouse his curiosity. Just because you’re old, doesn’t mean you can’t be new to something.

He understood what would come next. The day would arrive when he wouldn’t be able to tend to his beloved bees. He would be limited to a room, and then, to a bed. But, he was prepared. He expected that something new would come along again to show him that the world is bigger than you can even imagine.

May that bee sting you, too.

The Clock

IMG_1396I’d like to continue my series about the things in my office. Today, let me introduce you to the clock.

My relationship with the clock is a troubled one. Sometimes it’s my savior, my teammate, my partner, other times it’s my rival. It’s a valuable tool and a necessary evil. It’s the symbol of all I hate, but it, of course, doesn’t have any feelings about me. It just ticks steadily, no matter how I feel. Continue reading