WeConcile

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One factor that commonly limits the effectiveness of any kind of counseling is that fact that, at the most, you are only in your shrink’s office for an hour every week or two. If long term behavioral change is called for, you must identify what change is necessary and practice it long enough and frequently enough to make it stick. An hour every week or two just ain’t enough time.

In couple’s counseling, the problem is worse. When you come as a couple, there is at least twice as much to talk about in the sessions. When a couple is trying to change their behavior, both must be willing to change at the same time. That’s a lot of moving parts to get going in the same direction at once.

This is why I often give homework. There’s not enough time in the sessions to talk about everything, much less try anything new. What you do in between sessions contributes far more to success than the sessions themselves. Continue reading

Better Angels

shrinbks-links-photo1Last week, which was the second week of the government shutdown, was the week in which a large proportion of the clients I saw complained about the stress of having a government that, not only can’t get along, but does not seem to even want to get along. I didn’t bring it up; they did. These clients see me for all kinds of problems and issues; but for many, this was one of their issues last week competing or even eclipsing other concerns.

The stress might be similar to that a child might feel when his parents are fighting; when they are fighting so much that dinner never gets made, baths are never drawn, and bedtime is forgotten; except for one thing: my clients are not children and Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi are not their parents. The government is at odds because the people are at odds; at least the noisy ones. And they are at odds because they value the point they are trying to make more than they value getting along.

If you value getting along or at least having a civil dialogue and not making hostages of federal employees, then you could start yelling, too, and add to the clamor; or you could get involved with the Better Angels, a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. I’ve been involved for a couple years. Just before the holidays we tried to get a local event going, but simply lacked enough people to plan it.  I know there should be more who are willing to speak up, not to add their voices to the din, but to get everyone else to settle down.

Click here to go to the Better Angels website.

Mental Illness Happy Hour

shrinbks-links-photo1If you have ever thought you were the only person who thinks the thoughts that you do, in the way you do, I would recommend that you listen to the Mental Illness Happy Hour. There, you will hear yourself think.

The weekly, hour-long audio podcast of interviews with artists, friends and the occasional doctor is hosted by Comedian Paul Gilmartin.

Paul hopes that you hope, that the show and its website give you a place to connect and smile. So look at the website, listen to the show, fill out and read the anonymous surveys, and watch for hope returning on the horizon.

Click here to start.

Project I am Not Ashamed

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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

 

How Big is the Brain?

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The Brain—is wider than the Sky—

For—put them side by side—

The one the other will contain

With ease—and You—beside—

 

The Brain is deeper than the sea—

For—hold them—Blue to Blue—

The one the other will absorb—

As Sponges—Buckets—do—

 

The Brain is just the weight of God—

For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—

And they will differ—if they do—

As Syllable from Sound—

 

Emily Dickenson wrote this. She had a big imagination, even though she lived a very restricted life, rarely leaving her bedroom in her parent’s house in a small town in Western Massachusetts.

To read more poems by Emily Dickenson, click here.