Wednesday, August 30, 2017

mind the gap

A colleague is counseling the husband of my friend.  He has not met with my friend but apparently feels qualified to diagnose her as “borderline”.  My colleague (a psychologist) thinks my friend has abandonment issues and has in fact suggested that her husband end the marriage for his own mental health.

This infuriates me.  As a couple/family therapist I am trained to look behind the client’s narrative at the hidden perspectives it may eclipse.  Even with that training, I can only hypothesize, speculate and surmise about someone’s perspective if they’re not in the room.  There will be gaps.  If my advice is based on a bias, as in the case of my colleague, it will be misguided, if not harmful, to my clients and their significant others. 

Without the input of persons’ attached to our clients, therapists cannot see the big picture.  We are not qualified to give third part diagnoses or relationship advice based on assumptions which fill in the gaps. 

We should get out of the way.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

getting sober

I had the good fortune of speaking to the wife of my dear friend today.

She told me about what it was like for her as her husband struggled with getting sober.  She was really happy he was committed to the process, she said.  She was very proud of him.  But she felt unhappy.  “I’m always waiting. I’m always second. Before it was to his addiction and now it is to his recovery. I’m as imprisoned by his addiction as he is.” 

My friend's wife was beginning to understand the meaning of co-dependency; when you enable someone just by waiting for them to change. She came to the conclusion that she couldn’t do it anymore, “I will lose myself”, she said, “I have lost myself. I cannot wait any longer.”  She wasn't going to leave him, just stop waiting for him to get on with her life.

Often codependents are reenacting something learned in childhood, maybe a struggle for independence which leads to a lifetime of waiting for others to set us free.  The funny thing is: when you stop waiting for others to change, they start taking more responsibility for changing themselves. You leave the prison together.

Monday, August 14, 2017

take heart

A dear friend is struggling with an addiction.  He has remarkable self-awareness but still slips and falls sometimes.  Like we all do...

Today he was angry at himself.  He said he didn't know why he kept failing. He knew what his goal was, he explained, but felt like a "loser" for not being able to reach it.  "I want to win", he said, tearing up, "I have been working on this for years and I should know better".

Rarely have I seen such ruthless honesty, and I found him brave.  He didn't choose his life, his challenges or his addiction- but he was facing them all and choosing freedom.  I had only admiration for his quest.  Yet he was so hard on himself.  Talk about setting yourself up for failure.

Then I realized that part of the "loser" mentality was framing sobriety in terms of a battle you win or lose.  I saw something else and told him: courage.

The root of the word "courage" is heart, the ability to face obstacles especially when you feel pain or fear.  It is not winning.

It's keeping on keeping on.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

calling all men

The other day on Facebook, someone posted a sexist comment on a friend's timeline, something to the effect that he was sending him a dozen naked pitounes for his birthday.  Beyond the comment being insulting to the man, I thought it especially humiliating for his wife.

The comment was met with a few likes and guffaws by men but the large majority of the man's friends remained silent.  Only his wife attempted a humourous reply to the effect that pitounes would be promptly disposed of.

I was outraged and wanted to get up on my soapbox. But I knew it would do no good, just as the wife's comment did no good. I felt helpless and simply "liked" the wife's comment.  Weak.

I spoke to a male friend and asked why other men didn't speak up.  He said it was the woman's battle to fight, that she needed to defend herself; that it would take something away from her dignity if men intervened on her behalf.

Hm.  I imagined the woman flailing her skinny arms about in protest while a dozen churlish men laughed in her face.  It didn't look very dignified to me, let alone a battle she was winning.

We think it is the victim's battle to fight oppression.  It is not.  It is the bystanders'. The victim's cries can be strong and rational and brave but, unless others stand with her and outnumber the bully, the oppressors win.

You need power to fight power!

When it comes to sexism, men have the power.  Period.

Men, without you as allies, feminism will remain a muzzled and muted truth.  Would you please flex your muscles and mouths and stand up for us!