Stop the Madness

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I have many role models, but two of them are of the negative type: people who have made mistakes I want to avoid. The first is James Nasmith, the inventor of the game of basketball; the second is Thomas Jefferson.

The reason I don’t want to be like Nasmith is not because he invented basketball. B’ball is a wonderful sport. I don’t want to be like Nasmith because he exemplifies something I want to avoid. The tendency to become oblivious to madness. Continue reading

Freud, Explained

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Of all the figures in shrinkdom, Freud is the most revered and reviled, the most quoted and misquoted, and the most influential and ignored. It used to be that every shrink wanted to be like him, now we want to challenge him and be as different as we can. Perhaps this is what he gets from being first in the field. More than anyone, he broke the ground for what has become modern psychotherapy, turning over centuries of assumptions about human nature. We should not be blamed for wanting to see what we can grow on this plot. However, it pays to sometimes go back to first principles and relearn the basics.

It is said that the great golfer, Arnold Palmer, used to start off every golf season by stopping at a country club, asking to see the golf pro, and taking a lesson. Most pros must have been intimidated to have Arnold Palmer as a student, for he was already a better golfer than all of them. Nonetheless, he would insist on a lesson, going back to basics: the grip, the stance, the swing, before going on with his season. He needed to remind himself of the fundamentals.

In that spirit, let’s return to Freud and re-examine the first principles of psychotherapy, many of which have since been distorted. Continue reading

Am I a Christian Counselor?

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I sometimes get asked whether I’m a Christian Counselor. There’s no short answer to that.

If I were a Christian Counselor, and I’m not saying I am, for that would be a short answer, I wouldn’t market myself as such. I wouldn’t think that would be the right thing to do. Being a Christian is supposed to be a confession, not a branding strategy. Continue reading

Nouns

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Back when I worked at a large mental health clinic, the receptionist came into the lunchroom and said a vampire was asking to see a therapist. Who would like to work with a vampire? Everyone’s hands shot up because vampires are fascinating. The receptionist must have liked me best, because I got chosen. She would show the vampire to my office and I could meet with her when I was done with lunch. Continue reading

Is Your Doctor Going the Way of the Family Farm?

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I used to be a farmer. I should say, I used to be a farmer the way farmers used to be. I raised pigs, chickens, goats, and cows. I tried to raise ducks and geese, but they flew away. I had a quarter acre garden and grew acres of buckwheat and corn. I helped the neighbors put up their hay, cut their wood, and tap their trees for a share. I butchered my own livestock, made cheese, and picked and pressed my own apples. I built barns, walked fence, pruned grapes, and fixed my own truck and tractor when they were broken down, which was often. That’s how I used to be a farmer.

That’s not the way people farm anymore; not usually. Farming is now a big business. They have big tractors, big fields, big silos, and big, big, big debt. Farmers are often employees, answerable to people who are not farmers and have never seen the farm; who sit in glass towers in the big city and move money around. I had a small farm. The most livestock I had at any time was thirty-five pigs, a couple dozen chickens, ten goats, and a couple cows. Farms these days will have thousands of swine, tens of thousands of hens, hundreds of milk cows, and seldom any goats; but they will have only one kind of livestock on each farm. Everything is specialized and ruthlessly efficient. Continue reading

Helping Brains Talk to One Another

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Here’s something that’ll surprise you. Other people know you better than you know yourself.

It surprised you, didn’t it? That just goes to show that people can predict how you’ll feel.

Upon that counterintuitive claim rests David Schnarch’s new book, Brain Talk: How Mind Mapping Brain Science Can Change Your Life & Everyone in It. Shaky ground, if you ask me. We all have our blind spots; but, there’s no way anyone, even your best bud, knows you like you do. Schnarch goes through considerable pains to say that introspection, observing your own thoughts and behaviors, is rife with errors. True enough; but knowing the mind of others would be rife with those same errors. Continue reading

The Table

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Continuing my series on objects in my office, today I’d like to write about the table I keep my computer on. This table probably never thought it would bear a computer in a therapist’s office and be used to write such high-falutin stuff as this. It began its life as the kitchen table of my grandmother; we called her Grand Mae, and I think of her whenever I think of the table. Continue reading