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.