Monday, December 23, 2019

How are attachment styles distributed in the U.S. population?

Levine and Heller in their book, Attachment, suggest that about 50% of the population in the U.S. exhibit a secure attachment style while 20%  exhibit an anxious attachment style, 25% an avoidant attachment style and 5% may be disorganized or some combination. These percentages are guesstimates and I don’t know at this writing of a better scientific basis for judging any different. There is some evidence that anxious attachment styles are increasing with the rise of social media resulting in poorer face to face interpersonal skills. Turning to social media for solace when upset does not seem to have the same physiological calming effect as physical presence and touching.

In the psychotherapy office, the majority of clients seeking consultation usually exhibit an anxious attachment style. It is less frequent to meet with a person with an avoidant attachment style unless that person is encouraged or coerced by another person to go for counseling. The most symptomatic clients seeking psychotherapy may have a disorganized attachment style and often they are diagnosed as suffering from Borderline or some other Personality Disorder.

The main benefit that people obtain from a psychotherapeutic relationship is to create a supportive relationship with a counselor who has a secure attachment style whom the client can use as a secure base from which to explore and experiment and make changes in their life.

This is post #3 in a series on Attachment Styles.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Attachment styles - definitions

Below are some definitions of the three main attachment styles. Some theorists also add a fouth style which is named "disorganized."

Being able to name one's own predominant attachment style, and those of others with whom one interacts, provides guidance for how to be manage those relationships.

Adult attachment designates three main “attachment styles,” or manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships, which parallel those found in children: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant. 

Basically, secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving; 

anxious people crave intimacy, are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back; 

avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness. 

In addition, people with each of these attachment styles differ in: their view of intimacy and togetherness the way they deal with conflict their attitude toward sex their ability to communicate their wishes and needs their expectations from their partner and the relationship

Levine, Amir. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love (p. 8). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This is post #2 in a series on Attachment Styles.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Attachment theory, part one, overiew

This is a first posting in a series on attachment theory.

 This first posting is a video providing an oveview of the theory.


Editor's note:

I have found attachment theory very powerful for understanding problems that people have in their relationships. Behavior which is confusing and appears irrational when perceived out of context, starts to be more understandable. Understanding the dynamics and motivations for behavior is usually the first step in conscious behavior change.

This post is #1 in a series.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Expressing gratitude in marital and family life is important for relationship satisfaction.

How important is the expression of gratitude in marital satisfaction? Turns out it is important.

As a family therapist, I find that gratitude is not only important between marital partners but between parents and children and between siblings as well.

It is hard for gratitude to become a family value expressed in all relationships in a family if it is not modeled first between the marital partners.

Be sure to express appreciation and gratitude for the small acts engaged in in your relationship and family life. It is a skill which becomes more natural with practice.

For more click here.

McNulty, James K.,Dugas, Alexander
McNulty, J. K., & Dugas, A. (2019). A dyadic perspective on gratitude sheds light on both its benefits and its costs: Evidence that low gratitude acts as a “weak link”. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(7), 876–881.
Research suggests gratitude benefits close relationships. 
However, relationships involve 2 people, and the interpersonal implications of mismatches in gratitude remain unclear. Is it sufficient for 1 partner to be high in gratitude, or does low gratitude in at least 1 partner act as a “weak link” that disrupts both partners’ relational well-being? 
We asked both members of 120 newlywed couples to report their tendencies to feel and express gratitude for their partner every year for 2 years and their marital satisfaction every 4 months for 3 years. 
Initial levels of own and partner gratitude interacted to predict initial levels of marital satisfaction and changes in marital satisfaction over time. 
Although own and partner gratitude were associated with higher levels of initial marital satisfaction when both spouses were high in gratitude, own and partner gratitude were unassociated with initial satisfaction if either spouse was low in gratitude. 
Further, gratitude was associated with more stable marital satisfaction when both partners were high in gratitude, partner gratitude was unassociated with changes in satisfaction when own gratitude was low and own gratitude was associated with steeper declines in satisfaction when partner gratitude was low. In fact, although initial gratitude was positively associated with marital satisfaction 3 years later if both spouses were high in gratitude, own initial gratitude was negatively associated with later satisfaction when partner gratitude was relatively low. 
These findings suggest low gratitude in one partner acts as a weak link that is sufficient to disrupt both partners’ relationship satisfaction. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Project based learners are life long learners.

Project based learning seems to be superior on many indicators to traditional schooling. Learning the process and skills of PBL make a person a life long learner with enhanced satisfaction and fulfillment. Unfortunately, many people leave traditional schooling with no motivation or skills for life long learning. How about you?

Monday, November 18, 2019

Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs

Another wonderful model which helps people understand what makes them tick. This model is always in the back of my mind when I meet people and consider what their needs are and what primarily motivates them in their lives.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Erik Erikson's eigh stages of human development

Erikson's model is a basic part of every human services professional's graduate program. It's basic framework helps the practitioner orient themselves at a very general level to the basic developmental task of the client.

Failure to achieve a developmental task creates variable symptoms the most common of which are depression and anxiety. One of the ways of thinking about good psychotherapy is to consider the ways in which pursuit of developmental achievements can be nurtured.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Is the current impeachment process a culmination of centuries of American genocide and racism?

On 11/14/19 I sent this letter to my colleagues regarding the impeachment process we are currently witnessing.

Dear Collegues

I have been thinking about the current morality play being performed in Washington for the entertainment of the masses from many perspectives.

The spectacle and drama is great for the media outlets who get to monetize, the public fascination with the gladitorial combat taking place in the Capitol similar to the spectacle depicted in Hunger Games.

The prime character of Donald Trump who is depicted both as a bully and as a victim triangles would be rescuers and allies into the conflicted drama with people cast as perpetrators of violence who are victimizers. We are seeing domestic violence depicted on a macro scale in our national family.

If we were to call the police in, to provide structure and constraint on the parties engaged to prevent further violence and destruction and insure safety, from where would they come?

In a democracy, based on the idea of self governance, this structure and constraint supposedly comes from the people so governed to regulate themselves because there is no "deus ex machina" who will come from external places to save us. We must save ourselves or perish.

Are Americans up to the task?

What role, if any, do we as psychotherapists have to play, in ameliorating these dysfunctional dynamics in our national family?

First, according to Bowen theory of emotional systems, the therapist must have a highly developed sense of a differentiated self. The therapist must be a nonanxiouis presence in the face of emtional arousal. We can't help anyone else if we are not okay ourselves.

Second, according to Bowen Theory we attempt to detriangle the triangles. How do we help the Triumpian enablers quell their anxiety? Anxious people often attack to defend themselves. This is an emotional process not a rational one. You cannot convince, rationally, hurting people that they are not hurting. The Repbulican defenders/enablers of Trumpism are hurting and fighting to protect their egos. Will further attack help them or only make them more desperate and venemous? As therapists we, more than anyone, know the answer to this.

Third, working to change the form of the current government does not get to the root of the problem which lays in deep seated anxiety over social change which gave rise to Trumpism to begin with. Knowing that the current problems are the result of a multi-generational transmission process which began with the American Indian genocide and the enslavement of Africans, we, in the current generation, must come to acknowledge and make amends for the racism, mysogeney upon which our nation was founded and which still fuels at an unconscious level so much of our current politics.

Fourth, as Ruby Sales, the public theologian says, "Ask first, where does it hurt." and then go from there.

Americans are hurting right now because of the reflection of ourselves we are seeing in our elected officials whom we put into office. Rather than blame them, we need to examine and understand what it is that we have done to ourselves.

In the end, I have faith that we will be okay. All it takes is a few good people to light the way. There are many good people among us we can count on.

Fred Rogers said that his mother told him that if he found himself in a crisis look for the helpers. Who are the helpers you ask? Find a mirror, look into it, and enjoy the image.

David G. Markham, LCSWR
Brockport, NY

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Talking circles contribute to interpersonal connection and understanding.

Yesterday, 10/26/19, I went to the From Conflict to Collaboration workshop at St. John Fisher college in Rochester, NY, sponsored by PiRI, Partners In Restorative Initiatives. The keynote speaker was Dr. Lauren Abramson whose talk was entitled "Biology and Restorative Practices." On the handout which Dr. Abramson provided was the video below about "Daily Rap Dialogue Circles."

Talking circles is one of the fundamental restorative practices which are implemented in all kinds of settings for all kinds of situations. "Talking circles" is a respectful way to structure talking and listening experiences. Talking circles enable participants to communicate with one another in respectful and heart felt ways which foster interpersonal connection and understanding.

This video depicts how talking circles can be implemented in school settings. In Baltimore schools they are called "Daily Rap" dialogue circles.

Daily Rap dialogue circles in schools with students of all ages and with staff from on Vimeo.

Monday, October 21, 2019

What do peer kinship care navigator's do?

Editor's note:

I see many child caregivers who are grandparents and aunts and uncles who have raised children belonging to their adult children and siblings. This is very common especially because of the substance misuse of the parents.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

If your project doesn't have a deadline make one up

From Harvard Business Review Tip of the Day on 10/02/19
If Your Project Doesn’t Have a Deadline, Make One Up
It’s easy to prioritize projects that have deadlines — you know exactly when they’re due. But how do you motivate yourself when a project doesn’t have a deadline? Try making one up. Pick a date that you want the work done by, or set aside a certain amount of time for it each day or week. You can also create accountability by enlisting positive peer pressure. Tell a colleague what your deadline is (even if you picked it), and send them updates regularly. For additional motivation, incentivize yourself. For example, you might decide that after spending a morning on the project, you’ll treat yourself to lunch. Or you could let yourself work from your favorite coffee shop — as long as you finish the project’s next step. If those incentives aren’t powerful enough, try penalties. Decide that if you don’t complete the task as planned, you won’t be able to listen to your favorite podcast or watch your favorite TV show tonight.
This tip is adapted from How to Motivate Yourself When You Don’t Have a Deadline,” by Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Female sex offending

From The Conversation on 09/24/19:

The majority of sex offenders are male. Research suggests that between 1% and 9% of those who offend sexually worldwide are women, depending on the source of data. Most estimates settle on 5%.
In surveys of people who have been victims of sexual abuse or assault, 3% of female victims and 21% of male victims report that the perpetrator was female.
However, official data of arrest and conviction rates may underrepresent the number of female sex offenders, as those who have been assaulted by a woman are less likely to report the abuse. Female offenders are also less likely to be arrested and convicted. If they are convicted, they receive shorter sentences than male offenders.
For more click here.
Editor's note: In my practice and experience, women are often what are called "co-offenders," meaning that they often don't act alone but in concert with another person. The article above describes this phenomenon.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Making a plan makes it more likely that personal goals will be achieved.

Planfulness leads to success. In other words, people who makes plans to achieve their goals are more likely to be successful. Seems like common sense doesn't it?

The old saying, "Plan your work and work you plan," is validated by social psychological research.

For more click here.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Suicide rates vary widely by state in the United States with twice the rate in red states as in blue states.

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on suicide rates by state in the United States in 2017.

In 2017, the U.S. age-adjusted suicide rate was 14.0 per 100,000 population, but rates varied by state. The five states with the highest rates were Montana (28.9 deaths per 100,000 population), Alaska (27.0), Wyoming (26.9), New Mexico (23.3), and Idaho (23.2). The five with the lowest rates were the District of Columbia (6.6), New York (8.1), New Jersey (8.3), Massachusetts (9.5), and Maryland (9.8).

Editor's note: Suicide rates are twice the rate in red states the five highest as compared the the suicide rates in the lowest which are blue states. Makes one speculate how political ideology is correlated with suicide.

The states with high suicide rates also tend to be big gun states has compared to states with low rates that have lower gun ownership rates and tougher gun control laws.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Pscyhotherapeutic fads

Question: When it comes to psychotherapy why do some therapists seem drawn to techniques which are fads that come and go?
Answer: Having been in the field 50 years now I have watched so many fads come and go with all kinds of trainings and certifications and egotistical claims that my type of therapy is better than yours because I have learned this recent technique and have been certified to deploy it.
The belief in magic is alive and well in our psychotherapeutic field among practitioners who have forgotten what Helen Harris Perlman taught us back in the 50s that good “casework” as it was called by Social Workers way back then is all about the “helping relationship.”
I have been reading Stephen Bacon’s book about Practicing Psychotherapy In Contructed Reality in which he suggests that the therapeutic variable might be the therapist’s “charisma.” Using Bacon’s idea, I suppose that if a therapist thinks his or her certification in the lastest therapeutic fad gives him/her more confidence and “charisma” and it fits for the client, then maybe the certification is an advantage, but I suspect that this misfounded belief in a magical technique just as often, or even more often, undermines a therapeutic connection especially if the technique is not perceived by the client as all that relevant.
I had a client tell me last week that she left her therapist because all the therapist wanted to do to her was EMDR and she didn’t see the point. The therapist, she said, didn’t seem to want to listen to her so she sought help elsewhere.
I got a PESI brochure last week for a workshop leading to certification in “tapping”. Wow! I guess if EMDR doesn’t work, there is always “tapping.” It seems odd that professionals with at least a Master’s degree and sometimes a Doctorate are enamored with this snake oil.
It is difficult to find good psychotherapy, sometimes, in the psychobabble hurricane which surrounds us.
What works in psychotherapy is not techniques, but the attentiveness and listening skills of the therapist. Does the therapist want to hear your story and ask you questions to further clarify the events, experiences, and meanings in your life? Does the therapist ask about and seem interested in helping you develop a preferred story in which you envision your better self and your better life? This exploration of your existeing life story and preferred story takes time and attentive listening. In this process, therapist and client, couple, family, group join together to pursue a better life free from egotistical concerns that can frighten, sadden, and anger. Good psychotherapy should result in peace and joy and a significant reduction in chronic anxiety and tension levels.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Staying sane through the primaries

Editor's note:

A tenth item would be to check your source. Be media literate. Be skeptical of what you fear and read until you have verified the information from credible sources who provide accurate, true information. Beware of what the Trump whitehouse calls "alternative facts." There is no such thing. There may be alternative interpretations and opinions, but there is no such thing as alternative facts. Be aware of false equivalency. Are there two sides to the question, "How much is 2 + 2? "What atoms comprise a molecule of water, H2O?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Why are people in the U.S. living shorter lives?

Editor's note:

Life expectancy in the United States has dropped for three years in a row. Why?

Because of the increasingly fragile safety net and decreased quality of life because of low wages due to income inequality.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

John and Johnson fined 572 million in opioid crisis.

Editor's note:

400,000 opioid deaths in the U.S. since 1999. 6,000 in Oklahoma. Johnson and Johnson get fined 572 million dollars.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The bias in medicine based on sex and race.

John Oliver, 08/18/19

Gotta Keep Reading

Editor's notes:

There are plenty of studies that show the benefits of reading. People who read books tend to more mentally healthy than people who don't. In fact, the opposite is true - Beware of the person who doesn't read books.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Bullying increases suicide risk 3 times in 12 - 15 year olds

From Science Daily on 08/15/19
A new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry(JAACAP), published by Elsevier, reports that bullying victimization may increase the risk of suicide attempts among young adolescents by approximately three-times worldwide.
"Globally, approximately 67,000 adolescents die of suicide each year and identifying modifiable risk factors for adolescent suicide is a public health priority," said lead author Ai Koyanagi, MD, and Research Professor at Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Deu, Barcelona, Spain.
The findings are based on nationally representative data collected through the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global School-based Student Health Survey, which is a school-based survey conducted in multiple countries across the globe.
The study included 134,229 school-going adolescents aged between 12 and 15 years from 48 countries across five WHO regions, including Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia, and the Western Pacific. The sample was comprised of nine high-income-, 33 middle-income-, and 6 low-income-countries.

For more click here.

Editor's note:

I see a lot of middle school kids who are bullied usually in school. There are many aspects to these situations but the two that are biggest are first, that is the shame attached to other people watching the bullying and sometimes egging it on and joining in with excited shouts and derrogatory laughing and cat calls, and the second, is helping the victim stick up for himself and get out of the victim role. There are many ways to do this and the victim usually needs coaching and support.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Do you play the victim? Want to give this game up?

Editor's note:

Sometimes people are victims and need understanding, consolation, and compensation for the harm that has been done to them. This is NOT what Dr. Marks is talking about in this video. What she is referring to is a habitual pattern of dysfunctional behavior which is manifested in the complaint, "Why do these things always happen to me?"

A statement like "Why do these things always happen to me?" indicates a familiar rut, a familiar pattern of behavior, a "thing which the person seems to repeatedly do." This is the major schema of what is called a "personality disorder."

"Playing the victim" is an maladaptive attempt to get one's needs met. This method or strategy is usually below the person's level of conscious awareness. Becoming aware that one has a tendency to play the victim is the first step in escaping and changing this long term schema or way of behaving in one's interactions with other people.

As I like to say, "If you can't name it, you can't change it. But once you can name it and are aware of it, you can imagine other ways you might manage your emotions and the circumstances you find yourself in. Dr. Marks suggests five possibilities. Maybe you can imagine five more.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Longest married couple in America

In 2015 the longest married couple in America were 99 years old and had been married 81 years.


In 2018 a couple had been married 83 years.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What difference does locus of control make?

What the difference between saying to someone:

"Wow, you sure got lucky on that one!"


"You did a good job positioning yourself so you were in the right place and the right time."

Friday, July 12, 2019

Trump has them coming for you. Who wll be next?


From The Week, 07/12/19
Raids targeting undocumented immigrants loom
Federal agents are gearing up for raids targeting undocumented families set to begin Sunday, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing two current and one former homeland security officials. The details of the project still were not fixed. The raids reportedly have President Trump's support, but have been delayed partly due to resistance from some immigration officials. Democratic lawmakers and activists criticized the plan and reminded immigrants of their legal rights. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) issued a statement providing information about a state-supported immigrant legal defense group, while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted that "you do not have to open your door" to law enforcement or ICE agents "unless there is a signed judicial warrant." [The New York Times, CNN]

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Thursday, June 20, 2019

President Trump's behavior is not okay in New York State

Donald J. Trump make think it is okay for celebrity, rich males to grope women's genitals and kiss them uninvited but lawmakers in New York State don't think it is okay.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fatherhood has changed over the last century

As an old guy at 73 who became a father for the first time at age 20 and then went on to have 8 more children, 9 total, yes, with the same woman, very unusual in this day and age, I will acknowledge, I have seen drastic changes in the role of fatherhood in our society from the time of my grandfather who was born in 1894 and my father born in 1918, and my time born in 1945, and my youngest son's time born in 1980.

The role of fatherhood significantly changed when Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973 and abortion became legal in United States and motherhood and fatherhood became optional when a pregnancy occurred. The current curtailment of abortion in Repulbican States has sigfiicant impact on women who have the right of abortion or are losing it, but the "rights" of fathers, if there is such a thing, is rarely recognized and acknowledged. Fathers, when they have impregnated a woman, have no rights unless the child is born and then they are frequently contested.

Fathers have been rendered impotent by the state when it comes to whether a pregnancy will be carried to term or aborted and with that decision comes a great deal of angst and what Freud might have called "castration anxiety". This social event of whether to carry a pregnancy to term or to abort leaves most men marginalized and disenfranchised by the legal system because they have no rights and thus many men take what the attachment theorists an "avoidant" or an "anxious" stance. It is rare for a man in this situation to feel secure.

In this day and age, unlike my grandfather's, father's, and mine, a man is not even required for impregnation. Women are quite self sufficient in regards to whether she wants to become a mother or not, and men who donate semen to a sperm bank may not even know the extistence of children they have sired.

It is a new world, we are living in, in this day and age, a world in which fatherhood has become a luxury and a privilege if a mother will allow it and wants it, but men have been rendered ancillary and no longer primary when it comes to the role of fatherhood.

Parenting, of course, is another topic. There is a distinction between being a father and being a parent. I don't know if fathers are doing more parenting now than they have in the past. I suspect, if studied, we might find that the type of parenting males do in our current culture is quite different than the parenting of my father and grandfather. I changed diapers, burped, bathed, feed, supervized, and played with my children something that neither my father or grandfather ever did, nor would have thought of doing, because it was "women's work."

Fathers who also parent deserve repect and honor for the roles they play in nurturing the suceeding generation. Grandfathering is important too and many of my clients report that while their own fathers were M.I.A. their grandfather not only took an interest but were there for them.

In my practice, parenting for fathers is a constant theme, usually surfaced as we discuss the genesis of their symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger, fear, and demoralization. It is interesting how the focus on "social issues" in our politics largely ignores the role of fathers as parents unless it involves father bashing as portrayed in our media like TV shows and movies where fathers are portrayed as imcompetent morons like Homer Simpson, Family Guy, Archie Bunker. It is interesting how fathers are so easily made the butt of jokes, satire, and sarcasm.

In this enviornment, men struggle to understand what it means to be a man in our current culture, and fatherhood and parenting are fraught with ambivalent and ambigous messages. When it comes to fatherhood and parenting, men need to be empowered by clearer defintions of the role they can and should play. There is a lot of work for us psychotherapists and family therapists to do.

Best wishes to all the men who are not only fathers but parents,

Friday, June 14, 2019

Irrational societal fears can paralyze parents and cripple their children.

From Dr. Peter Gray's article on Psychology Today on 06/14/19

Children are designed, by nature, to spend hours per day playing with other children, independently of adults.  

In such play they practice all sorts of physical and mental skills; discover and pursue their passions; and learn how to create their own activities, solve their own problems, get along with peers, and control their emotions and impulses.  

Depriving children of independent play inflicts serious harm on them.  

For documentation of such harm, see: The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental DisordersAs Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their CreativityDeclining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges; and How We Deprive Children of the Physical Activity They Need.

For more click here.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Psychotherapeutic humanities, Book, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Book Review

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage is a novel about a young black couple who get married who are from different social classes. The wife, Celestial, comes from a wealthy upper class family while Roy comes from a working class family. They both are college educated but coming from different backgrounds seem to have different values, beliefs, and preferences.

Roy gets arrested and is falsely accused of rape and sentenced to twelve years in prison after the first year of his marriage to Celestial.

Celestial stops visiting Roy after about three years saying that she can’t live like she is, as a single woman, while Roy, her husband, is incarcerated. Celestial has taken up with Andre her childhood friend who also was Roy’s best friend and is the person who introduced Roy and Celestial to begin with. Roy is released after five years when his case is overturned on appeal. Roy’s homecoming to find that Celestial and Andre are planning to marry when Celestial sues Roy for divorce brings the plot, the love triangle between Celestial, Roy, and Andre, to a climax.

The ambivalence each character experiences about these love relationships creates the creative tension that gives this novel its appeal.

The subplot deals with the injustice of the criminal justice system as it pertains to prosecuting and incarcerating black men and the damage this does to families and the communities beyond the injustice done to the alleged offender.

Tayari Jones is a good writer but the story is a bit like a soap opera. The moral of the story is a muddle. Whether Roy and Celestial would have made a go of their marriage had Roy not been incarcerated is hard to tell. It may have dissolved anyway, but after a year of marriage the bond was not strong enough to weather the enforced physical separation.

Celestial and Roy had talked about having children but had put it off. Had they had children one would wonder if this would have made a difference.

Why the novel is entitled “An American Marriage” is not clear. What makes the marriage between Celestial and Roy “American” is never addressed. The dynamics of the plot involve an African-American couple, but would be similar if the couple were white, or Hispanic, or Asian.

Reading “An American Marriage” reminds me Stewart O’Nan’s novel, “The Good Wife” which has a similar plot except the wife is pregnant when her husband is incarcerated and she stands by him and raises their child for 28 years.

An American Marriage gets a 6.5 on the MBH 10 point scale.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Psychotherapeutic humanities - "You Choose" by Linda McCullough Moore

Chapter three
Where do divorces come from?

Linda McCullough Moore writes in her story, "You Choose" in her book of short stories, An Episode of Grace, on pages 1-2,

I turn the wipers to fast swish and purse my lips and hunch my shoulders, as though these nods to ritual and posture might give me better traction.

“Where did this weather come from?” I say.

“Heaven,” Adam says. “God. Same place as every weather.”

Adam is six and the only member of our family who is unfailingly religious.

McCullough Moore, Linda. An Episode of Grace . Thornapple Books.pp.1-2


Is Adam’s comment about the weather coming from God because he is “unfailingly religious” or because he is still innocent and hasn’t been corrupted yet by the socialization and conditioning of society?

Linda McCullough Moore always seem to inject a spiritual consciousness in her writing which makes it full of grace. The title of this book of Moore’s short stories is entitled, “An Episode Of Grace” and here, in this first story, as the family gets stuck in a snowstorm on their way to meeting with the children’s father so that he, and their mother, driving the car, can share with them the news about the death of their marriage, their intention to divorce, and breaking up the these two young boys family as they have known it, we read about a moment of grace which the mother calls "religous.".

The mother’s question, “Where does this weather come from?” is more than just a question about the weather. It is a question about the purpose of their journey, the purpose of their intended mission, the purpose of life.

Dr. Freud taught us about the unconscious mind and that what we think we are doing consciously often has little to do with what our deeply held  unconscious  thoughts and feelings are.

Our will and God’s will are often two different things. The joke pointing to this truth is “If you want to hear God laugh, tell God your plans.”

The mother’s question, “Where does this weather come from?” can be said in many ways such as merely a comment on the fact of the matter, or a sigh of victimization, and perhaps with a laugh at the absurdity of the situation with their trip being disrupted in an uncontrollable way.

Adam, at the age of six, still thinks about situations with a concrete innocence that still believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Adam reminds me of the little about a young boy in Sunday School drawing a picture. The Sunday School teacher asks him, “What are you drawing?”

The little boy says, “I am drawing a picture of God.”

The teacher says, kindly, “Well, nobody knows what God looks like.”

The little boy says, “You will when I am done.”

The mother chalks up Adam’s comment to religiosity. It might be better understood in terms of his stage of cognitive, social, and emotional development. Adam is still innocent and thinks that the weather comes from God. When he is told about his parents’ divorce, where will he think that comes from?

To be continued.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Psychotherapeutic humanities - "The Maid's Story" by Adam O'Fallon Price

The story in the June, 2019 issue of Harper's Magazine is "The Maid's Story" by Adam O'Fallon Price.

The story is about a hotel maid, Hannah Kohl, who is afflicted with kleptomania and steals small items from the hotel guests' rooms. Hannah steals a ruby brooch, a piece of cheap costume jewelry, from Annette Gerson who was staying for a few days on vacation with her husband and two children.
Hannah is terrified of her thefts being discovered and being fired from her job.

When Mrs. Gerson catches Hannah stealing her brooch, Mrs. Gerson enters into a scheme to blackmail Hannah into coming to her home and staying over night by offering medical care for her son, 8, suffering from polio.

As the story progresses Mrs. Gerson sexually molests Hannah and then manipulates the situation so that Hannah is fired from her job and has little choice but to move to Manhatten and become a live in nanny for Mrs. Gerson's children.

In this age of #MeToo, this is a story of sexual exploitation outside of the usual male/perpetrator - female/victim motiff. In this story a female becomes a perpetrator in a lesbian assault. What makes the story work is the class difference of a rich women preying on a poor one.

While sexual abuse makes the news and public outrage is fanned, class differences which often make the exploitation possible are overlooked. What appears to be sexual exploitation could not occur if class differences were not part of the situation.

As is so often the case from a psychotherapeutic perspective, the sex is the minor part of the offense in which domination, exploitation, and abuse of power is the root evil. Domination and subjugation robs the person of his/her right to self determination and agency.

This is how the story ends.Hannah Kohl is called into her supervisor's office and fired. She is told there is a message for her at the hotel desk to call Mrs. Gerson.

"How horrible," the woman's voice boomed in response to the news of her termination.

"Yes, I was reported."

"How horrible," she repeated. "Well, perhaps this is kismet. Mr. Gerson and I have just been discussing the need for a live-in nanny. I have so much to do, and only so much time-" she went on, but the maid was only half-listening, aware of herself as a guest watching might have aware of her: a slight woman in a sweater and long skirt and cheap brown shoes, shoulders shaking, bent over the desk in a posture of utter submission.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Psychotherapeutic humanities - overview

Medical humanities

Psychotherapeutic humanities
There are many activities that are involved in training psychotherapists. The main activities are academic learning about various aspects of human functioning: biologically, psychologically, sociologically, spiritually. The disciplines of study are varied and many.

Aside from the academic learning comes the practice, through internships, and later through clinical supervision, which consists of discussing one’s work with a more experienced psychotherapist. Learning for a psychotherapist is ongoing and lifelong.

One of the activities that may provide the most learning is the study of the psychotherapeutic humanities, a branch of the medical humanities,  which are the arts such as novels, films, plays, art, and music. The humanities have much to teach physicians, nurses, the psychotherapist, and other human service workers about human nature and life.

On Markham’s Behavioral Health we describe works of art which are helpful in our understanding of human nature and our lives. It is this understanding that contributes to the maturity and wisdom of the psychotherapist.

Over the next few weeks, material from Linda McCullough Moore’s book of short stories, An Episode of Grace will be discussed. It would be informative and enjoyable if people were to read the book and join in the discussions by commenting on the articles posted.