March 31, 2008
Reflections on therapeutic issues
I just read a definition of shame as suggested by Georg Hegel which is that shame is anger about that which ought not to be.
I read an example in Commons, Demick and Goldberg's (1996) treatement of adult development. Here's the gist. As a parent we get angry at our children for endangering their lives and punish them when they get hurt (e.g. falling out of a tree we might speak harshly and say "Didn't I tell you not to climb in that tree!?"), and so the parent's anger and the child's guilt are the recipe for the emergence of shame. From the parent's perspective there is a shame about failing to protect his or her child. Rather than deal with these feelings of failure (or more potently: vulnerability), the parent lashes out at the child. The parent blames the child for the parent's uncomfortable (or unconscious) feelings. Anger keeps the parent out of touch with feelings of vulnerability (which the child probably feels after having fallen from the tree) and in the move from helplessness to blame the parent finds it difficult to respond empathetically with care & concern.
June 10, 2007
Challenge of Parenting in Community
I think that there is an enormous tension between parenting and communities. Parents need communities and the interpersonal or financial resources that they represent (ECFE, church, civic groups, school programs, support group, etc.), but at the same time it is extremely difficult to join communities that understand and want to commit to you and your kids. Communities have to have some kind of vested interest otherwise their interest will seem superficial and agenda-driven. Something along the lines of, "I'm interested in helping out with [some parental support function] because I want to learn about how to help kids to grow and develop" is a set up for failure. The reason is that this kind of idealism does not consider the challenges of whatever support has been offered, instead this kind of support is a tentative commitment which seems to involve meeting the need of the supporter in learning about a process. It could be with your kid or a kid in a textbook, either way the supporter may not be prepared to make the kinds of sacrifices required to REALLY support the parenting process. A vested community knows that commitment to kids and their parents involves challenging and exhausting interactions. Every experience with kids look different. A simple trip to the grocery store is a now the journey of Odysseus! A conversation at a party now becomes one part genuine interest in what the other adult wants to talk about and one part keeping-an-eye-on-the-kid. Parties are no longer exciting and refreshing, because they leave parents frustrated socially and disillusioned from trying to do too much at once.
I think the only way that communities can offer the kinds of support and resources that parents really need is to think like a parent and to have nearly the level of commitment that a parent has.
June 7, 2007
Pick 'n Choose
I was in a focus group this week of other fathers in our family social science PhD program and a theme emerged that I think is irresistably bloggable! There is a supreme irony of being in a top-notch graduate program which is both galling and thrilling: there are unlimited opportunities and yet time is extraordinarily finite. Extraordinarily, because any graduate project (i.e. paper, course assignment, assistantship, teaching opportunity) takes far more time than any previous level of academic pursuit AND FURTHERMORE there is a built-in tug-o-war that privileges family over optional academic pursuits. Of course, it is these "optional" pursuits that will end up defining our scholarly voice and area of research interest and expertise. Yet, there is a ever present tug between these pursuits and nurturing one's family life and relationships. And hell, this is a graduate program aimed directly at examining the dynamics of family life that are so central to this tug-o-war.
I suppose we could chalk it all up to a grand lesson in 'putting first things first' and learning how to prioritize. We could even reframe it as an opportunity to experience the kind of extraordinary growth that ONLY occurs when the pressure is intense and one's commitments and sense of integrity are challenged. I think there is a deeper issue at work in the lives of graduate students who experience this tumultuous inner conflict: grief and loss. We live in a culture that advocates 'doing whatever it takes' to climb to the top of the ladder and achieve excellence, however, this makes it difficult to live with the grief of knowing that ideal opportunities will be relinquished in favor of "higher" priorities. The reality is that sometimes these lost opportunities center around academics or clinical work (as in the MFT program) and sometimes these losses center around family. There are losses in every realm. Losses like this are probably experienced, to some degree, on a weekly basis.
We don't grow up learning how to grow and heal through these kinds of losses. Our culture doesn't dwell on this phenomenon. That is why this pressure that students experience is so extraordinary. There is no template for how to cope with this kind of grief. It's a kind of ambiguous loss, I think, and I bet it takes a measurable toll on the quality of work students submit, as well as the type of relationships that are nurtured interpersonally.
My reflection on this makes me think that we spend too little time naming this kind of loss in our academic circles. The pressure is front and center and always a part of the family conversations and self-talk that help us navigate the process, but the sense of loss and associated grief is outside the conscious periphery. I don't have any solutions, but I imagine that community is one way of helping to process these experiences. When students and families come together to describe their experience and process there is a sense of solidarity and support that tends to emerge. Even when this kind of community is informal or transient. Community not only offers normalizing support for students, but it offers spouses or partners or family members a chance to see their connection to a wider network of pressured fathers/students just trying to navigate their way through a time of enormous potential. Community.
April 18, 2007
Academia's Culture of Criticism: Vicarious Relationship Impact
** How to balance the developing need to think critically about research and what others' have researched with an active affirming viewpoint that as equally discipline to identify "helpful intuitions" that research has contributed.
** The power of affective attunement to the person of the researcher as opposed to focusing primarily on the paper of the researcher. This is a postmodern sensibility that doesn't pretend to adopt a perspective of objectivity; instead, this heightens the awareness that one's critique always involve a personal researcher who has a context and background that should be considered in appropriate ways.
** How to integrate the person of the therapist into research academic environments and interpersonal relationships.
** Therapists have a parallel delimma in developing the skill of being "emotionally present" for clients, but then not transporting those same capacities of affective attunement into personal relationships. Is there an ethical mandate behind the onus to integrate one's emotional "skills" with one's interpersonal relationships?
February 25, 2006
A Serious Work - Life Issue
January 11, 2006
It shouldn't surprise me, but every time I'm in a hurry and I have to dig into my pockets to get my keys I refuse to take my gloves off. Somehow I repeatedly convince myself that I can retrieve my keys without removing my glove. This happens every time. I'm loathe to expose my hand to the bitter chill, so I leave my gloves on and stubbornly dig a finger or two into my pocket in hopes of excavating the loot, but it never works. Oh, I get a finger or two to touch the keys, but that's just a finger tease. As soon as I attempt to plunge my entire gloved hand in for the job I am met with an unwelcoming pocket opening. I think maybe once I accomplished this maddening feat and so I subconsciously feel compelled to repeat that past success. But it hasn't happened in a long, long time and I keep trying.
Am I just a thoughtless creature of stubborn habits? Am I overly optimistic? Am I painfully scared of a little cold air?
Sometimes I am just mind-boggling to myself.
April 18, 2005
General College Diversity
Just a few incomplete thoughts about the General College issue. What I don't understand is how diversity can possibly be sustained if the GC is assimilated into other colleges. Just as a person of color both is distinctively different and yet shares commonalities, so too the GC is distinctive in its approach to usher in a class of students who might otherwise miss out on education at the U and yet the GC shares many of the same educational objectives as other colleges. In fact, it has developed an expertise, as I understand it, in helping nurture the kind of learning that more elite students--masters of the white linear educational system--are a step up on. If we take a "Wholes approach" (see Hanson, B.G., 1995) to diversity at the U, we have to consider the entire education system.
April 16, 2005
trinitarian metaphor of Husband-Wife-and the new "Boss"
I wanted to show the contrast between my son, my wife and I a few days ago. Of course, we are all human becomings and so I know that someday (probably too soon) this photo will seem like a distant memory. xx xx
Gavyn Elliot is a most welcome addition to our family, and I'm sure he'll be the source of much self-differentiation in the years to come! xx x x
trinitarian metaphor for God-world relationship
Theistic proponents of evolution have developed many ways to conceive of how God and the world can be compatible in a dynamic processual relationship. Panentheism is the idea that the world/universe is contained in God, but--unlike pantheism where the two are equally correlated--God is more expansive than the world. This is consistent with the scriptural principle that all things exist in God and through the power of God (from Acts 17:28) and yet this is consistent with the continuous emergence of life from patterns of complexity which the natural sciences have helped identify. Seems contradictory, I know...
April 4, 2005
iTunes to blame for musical boredom?
It seems wholly insance, but true-iTunes breeds boredom. I'm not sure I can prove this, but I can slurp up a mouthful of anecdotes that meet the criteria, I think. I'll start with my own observation mere moments ago. While at my computer, I stole a look at several pile of CD's, perched in precarious Jenga-like mounds around my room. The CD's are still recovering from a volcanic surge of ripping that occurred once Tena and I had our first child. I had some extra time (note: I made some extra time) so that I could finally achieve the iTunes dream and have my entire CD collection stashed away on my computer and, subsequently, to my iPod. Well, I still have fully 1/4 of my collection to go, but I still have 9 days, 6 hours, 41 minutes and 37 seconds worth of musical deelight....And yet...