If you have ever been to a sawmill like the one I used to run, you have seen one of the most fearsome objects you are ever likely to meet: a saw blade at least three feet in diameter with teeth as big as a tiger’s whirring loudly just a couple feet from the operator. There were no safety guards on my sawmill. I’m not sure how there could be. I frequently had to reach close to the blade to remove boards and some debris.
One day while I was working, the thought entered my brain that I could just dive onto that saw blade and have it cut me in half. This thought frightened me so much I shut everything down, went home, put the covers over my head, and talked to no one. What was going on with me? I wasn’t suicidal. Until this happened, I was happy with my life. Was I going crazy? Continue reading →
In the peculiar land of shrinks, evidence-based therapy is a phrase we use a lot. It’s supposed to refer to therapy that’s backed by scientific evidence. But what they call evidence-based therapy is not evidence-based therapy. It’s a term for a standardized, manualized, commoditized therapy protocol. It’s not necessarily the best therapy for you.Continue reading →
No matter how much you love your loved one, you also hate him; no matter how much you depend on him, you can’t completely trust him. This, surprisingly, turns out to be a good thing; not a confusing, frustrating thing, as you might suppose. Continue reading →
As a therapist, I could’ve had a specialty; but I wouldn’t be the kind of therapist I am.
I did some post grad work in family therapy and some more in substance abuse. I sought for ways to address the desire my clients had to quit using tobacco back in the days when few others were doing so. I ran therapy groups for sex offenders. For more than thirty years I had a caseload full of victims of trauma, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder. I sought clients with borderline personality disorder, when most thought they were untreatable. I could have specialized in any one of these conditions and turned away clients without them, but I’ve always resisted specializing in anything.
In the middle of everything, there’s this deep, dark, depressing hole. It’s a chasm, really, and when you fall in, sometimes there’s no climbing out. When we call it anything at all, we often call it death, brokenness, or despair. I like to call it the abyss, or, more familiarly, the hole or the pit.
A lot of us like to believe the hole is at the end of everything, not in the middle; but there it is in the middle, right in front of us. We walk around it, gaze into it, slip into it, and watch others fall into it all the time. We don’t like to think about it. It’s impolite to even acknowledge its existence.
We live at the edge of this hole; some, dancing at its rim; others, peering carefully in; most, with their back to it, as if it’s not there. We often find ourselves reeling, dizzy at the edge. We cling to something to prevent falling. Clinging to something enables us to live at the edge of the abyss more comfortably. We think, if we start to slip, we can haul ourselves out. Unfortunately, anything we cling to starts to fall into the hole, too, taking us down, with it. Everything must fall in the hole, eventually.
There are nine bushes that grow at the edge of this hole. Nine things to grab if you feel you’re about to fall. Nine supports that offer the illusion of security as long as they hold. Nine kinds of madness when they begin to give way. Continue reading →
If you’re ever struggling with a feeling, try to put it in words. Words will reduce the feeling to a manageable intensity. It’s a magic trick they do. But watch out; words will trick you, too.Continue reading “Feeling words”
We live in remarkable times. For decades, heterosexuals have been fleeing the institution of marriage; first, by divorcing in great numbers, then, by living together outside of marriage and by delaying it to later in life. At the same time, homosexuals have won the right to marry. They understand the benefits of committing yourself to someone, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live. Go figure.
Now that seems to be settled, despite the deep social and political conflict and polarizing culture wars of the past few decades, I would like to float a proposal.
I bet you never expected to hear someone say that one of their role models is Machiavelli, a man who has come to represent deceit and lack of scruples, but here you are. I admire him because he was the first proponent of Reality Therapy.
If you look it up, William Glasser gets all the credit for inventing Reality Therapy. He was a psychiatrist who lived five hundred years after Machiavelli. Glasser didn’t believe in reaching into a person’s psychological insides to root around for what was wrong like the Freudians do. He thought problems arise when the person is not getting her needs met. He preferred helping people discover what they really want and showing them how to behave in a way that leads to success.
Nowadays, you don’t hear much about William Glasser or Reality Therapy. You heard it from me because, being a reflective eclectic, I possess a vast storehouse of unfashionable therapeutic methods. Glasser’s ideas have become mainstream, after having mated with others and evolved into present day forms of CBT, ACT, and DBT, which you may heard of, if you traffic in therapeutic methods.
Glasser probably did not realize how Machiavellian his ideas were. Niccolò Machiavelli is not often associated with therapy. We don’t study him in shrink school. His very name conjures up images of bare-knuckled political realism, duplicitous bad faith, and self-centered expediency. There’s even a theory that the Devil is called Old Nick in reference to him. But Machiavelli was a counselor, a counselor to princes.
As a counselor to princes, Machiavelli did what I like to do with my clients. He got them grounded. I don’t mean grounded in the sense of meditate-on-your-breath-till-your-thoughts-stop-racing type grounding; I mean grounded in reality: the basic knowledge of what is. You see, if we don’t pay attention to reality, we’re not going to know how to thrive within it.Continue reading “Machiavellian Therapy”
In 1968 the Sunday Times announced they would give a prize to the first person to sail around the world, non-stop, alone. The newspaper would make a mint, covering the race. The prize they would give to one out of many who risked their lives, would be a relative pittance. The result was tragedy and a salty adventure tale that illustrates a choice we all make, even us landlubbers.Continue reading “Will the Madness of the World Make You Mad?”