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 re-posting old favorites, called the Old Posts series. This gives me time to prepare my next book for publication, The Road to ReconciliationClick here if you would like to read the latest draft of that work.

Pain

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

Your feelings tell you about the state of your body. If you’re putting on a roof, carrying shingles up a ladder, swinging a hammer until your hand falls off, sweating it out at a hundred and ten degrees, your body will have a lot to say. You may not want to listen to it. You’ve got to cover the roof before the rainstorm comes; but, your body is trying to tell you something. It would be in your interest to listen sometimes.

The feeling of pain is the way the body speaks to you when it wants to say, cut it out, you’re exceeding limitations. When you swing a hammer until your hand is ready to fall off, tendonitis is developing. That’s why the old guy on your job, who used to swing a hammer all day, can’t anymore. He ruined his hands swinging that hammer, so now all he can do is talk to customers, write up estimates, and yell at you that you’re doing it wrong. He’d like to be on the roof and show you how to do it, but he didn’t listen to his body when it told him to stop.

I’m not saying you’ve got to do everything your body says, the instant it says it. Sometimes you have to talk back to your body and say, I hear you, but we’ve got to keep doing this. For instance, when you’ve been lifting weights, your muscles get sore. That’s because you tear up some muscle fibers lifting those weights, so the muscles will come back stronger. When you lift weights, you’ve got to be the boss of your body and push yourself a little further each set; but, you also have to listen to your body, so you can tell the difference between normal soreness and when a muscle is pulled. It does no good to push through a pulled muscle. It may set you back days or weeks, making you worse off than if you never lifted those weights at all. The ability to tell the difference between normal soreness and a problem only comes by paying close attention to your feelings.

When you were young, your body did what you told it to do, for the most part. You could work all day, party all night, and be ready to go again the next morning. Because your body was always there for you, you took it for granted. Bodies don’t like that. So, the body starts to talk a little louder. The way your body talks to you when it really wants you to listen is pain.

Here’s another example. You feel pain when you touch a hot stove. That pain is there to order you to take your hand off that burner before it gets burned to a crisp. You might not do it, otherwise. There are people who have a rare condition where they don’t feel pain. It’s called congenital analgesia. You might think this would be a good thing, but it’s not. These people don’t live long. They break their bones, burn their skin, and go months with an abscessed tooth they know nothing about. Be glad that you can feel pain, even though you might not enjoy it when it happens.

Suffering is a different matter. In the next post, we’ll look at the difference between pain and suffering.

Introduction to a Field Guide to Feelings

Photo by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

I get it if you don’t think it’s important to talk about your feelings. I really do.

You see, I haven’t always been a therapist, asking people about their feelings. I used to do hard work: building things, cooking things, and growing things. When I was younger, I played sports that had me hurl my body towards other bodies and make them hurt. Having done that, I know there are many settings where feelings are out of place. Continue reading

What’s the Best Form of Therapy?

workshop_6933-1_edited-1

The easiest method of doing something is not always the most effective; but it is the easiest, so that’s saying something for it. Easy is more effective than the most effective if the most effective is impossible for you to do.

When it comes to treatment for mental illness, if I were to rank the forms of therapy in order of effectiveness, meaning how thoroughly and reliably they can solve your problems, I would put it like this:

  1. Group psychotherapy
  2. Individual psychotherapy
  3. Medication
  4. Reading self-help books

But, if I were to rank them the easiest to hardest, it would go like this:

  1. Reading self-help books
  2. Medication
  3. Individual psychotherapy
  4. Group psychotherapy

Continue reading

What Anger Really Says

Old Posts

I once facilitated a therapy group for perpetrators of domestic violence. The group was made up of men who had gotten in trouble with the law and were ordered by the court to attend. These men were not happy to be there.

It was our unenviable duty to teach them that violence is not necessary. We had help from what we called the Duluth Model.

Continue reading

The Perils of Understanding

workshop_6933-1_edited-1

I once worked with a deaf female client by having her type what she wanted to say to me, and I typed to her. I didn’t know much sign language but was eager to show off what little I had. As she wrote about herself, I kept making the sign that I thought meant, “I understand”. She looked at me funny until she told me that the sign I kept on making was for “horny”.

Mistakes were made, by both of us.

The mistake she made was when she jumped to a conclusion, without thinking for a moment that there might be some other meaning to the sign I made. She thought my sign had to mean “horny” because that’s what it means, apparently, in American Sign Language. It didn’t occur to her that the sign I made only meant I wasn’t fluent in American Sign Language.

I made many more mistakes in this interaction than she did. I was mistaken by the sign and I was mistaken in believing I could use sign language to communicate with her. I should have stuck to typing. But, the most serious mistake was in saying and believing I understood when I didn’t. I have an excuse. This was before I learned about hermeneutics.

Continue reading

Project I am Not Ashamed

shrinbks-links-photo1

If you have a mental illness, you know stigma. There’s stigma in the shame you feel if you say you have a mental illness. There’s stigma in the way people react if you say you have a mental illness. There’s stigma in the way mental health coverage is still something that needs to be fought for. There’s stigma in the way people blame you for your illness as no one would ever blame you for any other illness. When people with mental illness are blamed for every bad thing we can’t do anything about, you know there’s stigma.

We know a lot now about how to overcome stigma. We can see the way people who are gay, for instance, once stigmatized, are now more accepted. When I was a kid I thought homosexual people were strange and unnatural. I didn’t think I knew any. As I got older, and Gay people came out of the closet, I recognized homosexuality was really quite common. I knew dozens and, in knowing this about them, I discovered they weren’t strange or unnatural at all.

The same thing could happen with mental illness if mental illness came out of the closet, if the people who were mentally ill could be brave enough to say, this is a part of me. Then we could see how common mental illness is. We would see that people with mental illness are not raving lunatics, or scary gun-toting maniacs, but ordinary people with struggles. What person doesn’t have struggles? This is just a particular kind.

It is not my job to out anyone, nor is it to reassure you if you are afraid to out yourself. It’s a brave, brave thing to come out of the closet. It some circumstances, it may be dangerous and foolhardy. It may actually be crazy to say you’re crazy. But, for some people, it may be the right thing to do and the only way they can overcome their own shame and self-loathing.

That, apparently, is the case for Ross, a 38-year-old mental health advocate with Borderline Personality Disorder. Ross has come out of the closet to some extent (we, on the web, don’t know his last name). He has a plan to end stigma. Here’s his plan:

On Saturday, August 18th, 2018, we will go to the streets of our own community for 4 hours with a sign that simply reads “I have (your mental illness) and I am not ashamed. Break the Stigma #ProjectIAmNotAshamed.”

This is unquestionably the right thing to do for our society, but you’ll have to answer for yourself whether it’s the right thing to do for you. If you would lose your job, custody of your kids, or suffer any of a hundred other consequences of coming out of the closet, then please don’t do it. Other’s can blaze this trail. But, if the only thing that stopping you is fear or shame, then consider setting that fear and shame aside for a few hours on August 18th. It’ll be good for you.

If you don’t have a mental health diagnosis, but care about those who do, you can help, too. In the same way that family and friends helped to fight the stigma of homosexuality  by admitting they were connected, you too can come out of the closet. Just don’t violate the privacy of the person you’re trying to support.

As Ross says:

This event is not limited to those with mental illness. If you are not afflicted, your sign can read “I am a supporter of those with mental illness and I am not ashamed.”

For more information, go to Project I am Not Ashamed