Category Archives: Social Science

Connection

on the road to somewhere

Being an introvert and ambivalent about interacting, I often keep myself folded up when I’m out in the world. This also increases my sense of disconnection and loneliness, and yet I persist. However, sometimes I relax, and life beautifully unfolds.

I was at the motor vehicle department to apply for a REAL ID, which is the federally-approved driver’s license that will permit me to fly without carrying a passport. For this I needed several types of paperwork to confirm my identity; to provide proof of address, I brought a life insurance bill. When my number was called, the associate who helped me was first struck by my purple hair and commented how much she liked it. I get this a lot. I’ve been purple for six years, and it seems to delight other people as much as it does me.

Then she began looking at my papers. She asked me what the life insurance paper was, and I replied it was a bill for my life insurance. She paused and said, “I told my husband the other day we really need to get life insurance.” Then she stopped her work entirely and began telling me about her life. She has two adult children who moved back home and who don’t get along. She told me about the stress it created, and how she couldn’t afford the fee to file evictions on them (they won’t move out). I listened and empathized. I mentioned how I’d had a fight with my 12 year old daughter the day before, and how she’d said something utterly disrespectful. The associate sympathized. We talked about how difficult it is to parent. She continued to tell me how her husband and son nearly came to blows in a recent argument and advised me to nip insolent behavior in the bud. Somewhere in the conversation she began working on my license application as she spoke. When our transaction ended, I thanked her for sharing with me and wished her well, and she returned the sentiment.

I stepped into the next line to get my photo taken, but when it was my turn, my file wasn’t accessible. The associate had forgotten to close it; the photographer couldn’t proceed. The associate had gone to lunch and left her station. So I stepped aside while they searched for her. The staff was apologetic, and I said it really wasn’t a problem. As I waited, several other staff members passed by, and one woman said I was “rockin’ the purple hair!” and high-fived me. It was altogether a congenial experience. What surprised me was the connection outside the business at hand. I marvel at this, at the serendipity that arises when I am relaxed and receptive while out in the world. It changed the tone of my entire day for the better.

Men Being Ladylike

“Hello, the men. My advice on modern masculinity would be to look at all those traits you believe are feminine and interrogate why you are so obsessed with being the opposite. Because this idea that to be a man you have to be the furthest away from being a woman that you possibly can is really weird.”

The quote above is just part of a brilliant observation by Hannah Gadsby, who was invited to tell men what she would advise them on behalf of women. Her message resonates so much with me that I am struggling with the temptation to copy and paste the entire thing in the post. Out of respect for copyright, however, I’ll just have to trust that you will go read it here: Hannah Gadsby On Why Men Should Be More Ladylike.

Middle School

Listening to my daughter talk about her feelings and the dynamics of kid interaction at school, I realize the following:

  1. Middle school is “Lord of the Flies” harsh even when it’s a good school;
  2. People can be really judgmental, including my kid;
  3. A middle schooler wants more than anything to be accepted; the hardest thing to do is to befriend someone who is an “outcast,” because you risk your own social safety;
  4. I suck at listening, despite being a psychotherapist (psycho therapist?);
  5. All my childhood wounds are activated;
  6. I have to WORK REALLY HARD to keep my mouth shut, my heart open, and to accept I do not have control over this.

BEING PRESENT with someone else’s suffering, especially when that someone is the most precious treasure of my life, is the hardest soul task I’ve encountered.

Cognitive Dissonance in Abusive Relationships

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“Victims living in a household where there is narcissistic abuse are living in a torturous war zone, where all forms of power and control are used against them (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion etc.). The threat of abuse is always present, and it usually gets more violent and frequent as time goes on. The controlling narcissistic environment puts the victim in a dependency situation, where they experience an extreme form of helplessness which throws them into panic and chaos. The narcissist creates a perverse form of relationship wherein the victim has no idea of what will happen next (alternating between acts of kindness or aggressive raging). This prolonged torturous situation is likely to trigger old negative scripts of the victim’s childhood internal object relations (attachment, separation and individuation). To survive the internal conflict, the victim will have to call on all their internal resources and defense strategies in order to manage their most primitive anxieties of persecution and annihilation. In order to survive, the victim has to find ways of reducing their cognitive dissonance, the strategies they employ may include; justifying things by lying to themselves if need be, regressing into infantile patterns, and bonding with their narcissistic captor. Most defense mechanisms are fairly unconscious, so the victim is unaware of using them in the moment; all they are intent on is surviving the madness they find themselves in.”

THE PLACE OF “COGNITIVE DISSONANCE” IN NARCISSISTIC VICTIM SYNDROME

Shame-Based Family

“If our primary caregivers are shame-based, they will act shameless and pass their toxic shame onto us. There is no way to teach self-value if one does not value oneself. Toxic shame is multigenerational. It is passed from one generation to the next. Shame-based people find other shame-based people and get married. As each member of a couple carries the shame from his or her own family system, their marriage will be grounded in their shame-core. The major outcome of this will be a lack of intimacy. It’s difficult to let someone get close to you if you feel defective and flawed as a human being. Shame-based couples maintain nonintimacy through poor communication, nonproductive circular fighting, games, manipulation, vying for control, withdrawal, blaming and confluence. Confluence is the agreement never to disagree. Confluence creates pseudointimacy.”

–John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You

Indivisible: Resisting Trump

This is making the rounds.

Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda

We wrote this guide because we believe that the coming years will see an unprecedented movement of Americans rising up across the country to protect our values and our neighbors. Our goal is to provide practical understanding of how your MoCs think, and how you can demonstrate to them the depth and power of the opposition to Donald Trump and Republican congressional overreach. This is not a panacea, nor is it intended to stand alone. We strongly urge you to marry the strategy in this guide with a broader commitment to creating a more just society, building local power, and addressing systemic injustice and racism.

The Plan Behind the Safety Pin

While the idea of wearing a safety pin as a symbol to the marginalized that one is a safe person, it’s more than a symbol. This article provides excellent guidance about the intention behind it and how to act. Such as:

  • Are you willing to help all marginalized groups? You don’t get to pick and choose.
  • Do you have a plan? Who will engage with people, and who will film what’s happening?
  • Do you know how to de-escalate situations?
  • Are you willing to be beaten defending another person?
  • If you have children with you, are you willing to risk their safety?

The author says, “…the safety pin is a good idea but if you are going to wear it, you need to know that it is more than an idea. It is a visible, tangible announcement of your commitment to defend the rights and dignity of your fellow human. If you are not willing to follow that announcement up with action, rethink making the announcement.”

So You Want to Wear a Safety Pin

I Cannot Believe

This is not the United States I thought I lived in. I am ASHAMED of this country.

What I learned on #ElectionNight: Being a racist, bigoted, prejudiced, lying sexual predator is still more acceptable than being a woman.

-Allen Clifton

What’s even more demoralizing is knowing how hard Hillary’s worked and how qualified she is, and yet… And every woman knows this feeling.

-Anne T. Donahue

A perfect ending to the tale that asks how averse is America to being led by a woman who they don’t want to fuck.

-Paula Pell

I Am a Nasty Woman

Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton “such a nasty woman” in the last debate, and with that, women rose up to embrace what he meant as an insult. In fact, calling her a “nasty woman” is just a shade cleaner and more acceptable than saying what he probably thought: cunt. When men feel viscerally threatened and rendered powerless by a woman they often resort to dismissing her by reducing her to that one body part.

If having agency over her life, speaking up, insisting on the right to take up space and be heard, asserting her rights as an equal, deciding that only she can make decisions about her health and body, and refusing to be defined by men’s expectations makes a woman nasty, then count me in. I am a nasty woman too.

I finished this painting just before the last debate. I called it The Alchemy of Feminine Wisdom. It is available for purchase. Just inquire.

the alchemy of feminine wisdom / 12" x 24" canvas with acrylic

The Alchemy of Feminine Wisdom / 12″ x 24″ canvas with acrylic

I’m With Her

I don’t post about politics. But this election is critical.

Here is a list: Hillary Clinton’s Record of Accomplishments.

Another record of Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments.

Trump is: a narcissist, pathological liar, sexual predator, sexist, and a sociopath.

Characteristics of a sociopath:

  • Glibness and superficial charm
  • Shallow emotions
  • Grandiose sense of self
  • Pathological lying
  • Manipulative and conning
  • Lack of empathy/callousness
  • Impulsive nature
  • Promiscuous sexuality
  • Contemptuous of others
  • Authoritarian
  • Has an emotional need to justify their bad actions
  • Unable to feel remorse or guilt
  • Desire for despotic control

Hillary Clinton should be our next president.

Learning to Be an Includer

Experiencing bullying at school is traumatic. When a child comes from a loving, stable family with empathetic parents, it is still hard on a child. When a child comes from a family system that is authoritarian or neglectful, the distress is even worse; often there is bullying ongoing in the home as well, and the people from whom a child would get support don’t provide it.

As a parent, when my child encounters “mean girl” (or “mean kid”) behaviors, I struggle often with my own wounds from childhood. I did not have an empathetic, supportive family, because bullying also occurred within our home. All the parts of myself that I call “young stuff” — that didn’t get needed support — burst to the surface. Sometimes I parent from a state of panic and urgency. I’m working on this.

This article, Raising Girls Who Are Includers Instead of Mean Girls, felt timely and wise. I related to the author’s experiences in childhood and enjoyed reading how those experiences created in her a desire to become an “includer.”

She wrote a list of stories she hopes our daughters will someday say as they reflect on how we supported them during their struggles. I’m sharing here so I can return to it, to read and remind myself of my aspirations.

I hope all our girls will someday share stories like:

~ “My mom would listen to me as she stroked my hair, as she lingered with me and I shared what was happening and how I felt.”

~ “My mom wouldn’t jump in and try to fix it. She wouldn’t freak out and panic out of her own fears and hurts and unconscious stuff she was holding. She would sit with me and ask me for my ideas and what I needed. She would wait and listen – listen to what’s said and unsaid, creating safe space for me to navigate the inner landscape of my own feelings and heart so that the right actions for me to take would arise from within me.”

~ “My parents would advocate for and alongside me in situations that required adult intervention. They wouldn’t act out of fear or anger. They would wait and discern and pray and watch.”

~ “My mom wasn’t about ‘sweeping me up and saving me.’ She was about empowering me. She knew when to step in front of me and be the mama bear, protecting me. And she knew when to sit behind me or alongside me, abiding with me.”

~ “I learned to say, “THAT’S NOT OK!” and “Stop” and “I am walking away now.”

~ “I learned how to see clearly. I learned to not think there was something wrong with ME. I learned to not turn on myself but rather have regard for myself.”

~ “I learned to name with compassion – for myself and others – what is happening. I learned to name it, state it, and own my response.”

~ “I learned ways of working through difficulties with other girls and women in ways that honor and regard each girl and woman’s body, feelings, experiences and needs.”

~ “I learned to find my tribe of women. I learned to ask for help. I learned to be with others who uplift and honor each other.”

~ “I learned to speak up. I learned to speak up for myself and for others in the face of injustice – on the playground, in the hallways between classes in middle school, or in international peace negotiations.”

~ “I learned to be an includer. I learned to mindfully abide with whatever I am experiencing within my own inner landscape. And from such a place of inclusion, I learned to include and walk beside others.”

-Lisa McCrohan

Step by Step

We need to remember that an appreciation for challenge, and a belief that we can find a way to change, learn and grow, can’t itself be fixed in place. Instead, we all struggle with fear and discouragement at times. Sometimes we run toward new experiences. Sometimes we have to find a way to learn something we really did not want to learn. Sometimes, some part of us is always on the floor, sobbing: “I can’t. I’m bad at this. I’ll never get it.”

So how do you raise a child with a growth mind-set, along with a nice healthy appreciation for where it came from and the will to keep it strong? By applying the encouraging messages of the growth mind-set to yourself. I’ll borrow, out of context, another phrase from Dr. Dweck: “The point isn’t to get it all right away. The point is to grow your understanding step by step. What can you try next?”

-K.J. Dell’antonia, ‘Nice Try!’ is Not Enough

The Incident on the Bus

reflection

Reflections of Long Ago

I am not a fan of public transportation. In most places I have lived, it is an inefficient means of getting around. For instance, if I had to commute from my home to Mountain View (25 miles away), a one-way trip would take two and a half hours via light rail and bus. Public transportation also poses other challenges. One memory came up today.

One winter evening when I was 21 and my brother was 13, I took him to a play at a local theater. I lived downtown without a car. I probably cooked him dinner beforehand. After 5 p.m., the buses ran only once every hour; they lined up along a major intersection downtown. We boarded our bus and moved toward a seat in the back. I selected a seat that faced toward the front of the bus and sat by the window; my brother was next to me.

Behind me, perpendicular to my seat, sat a bunch of young men. Directly behind me, a man sat with his elbow jutting over the edge of my seat, preventing me from sitting back. I tried a nonverbal approach at first by simply pushing myself back, hoping he would get the hint and move his arm. He resisted; his arm didn’t budge. I pushed slightly again, and the elbow shoved back. The guys were talking among themselves. I turned around and politely said, “Would you move your arm, please, so I can sit?”

He replied, “NO. And if you ask me again, bitch, I’ll hit you.” I turned around, fuming. I could have decided to move us to a different seat. I decided instead to assert myself. What followed occurred so quickly.

I pushed back, and he didn’t move. I turned back and said, “Really, please –” BAM! He backhanded me in the face and my glasses flew off. I gasped and grabbed my glasses from my lap. I was stunned, and reality felt like slow-motion. I told my brother to get up and move. The other men taunted him, asking if he was going to protect his girlfriend. The buses were about to depart.

My heart pounded, my arms and legs shook. I strode to the front of the bus and told the driver what happened. Behind me, I heard murmurs of discontent and complaint. I was holding up the bus. The driver said, “I can’t do anything about that.” He called the dispatcher, who arrived a moment later and said, “I can call the police if you want. Nothing else to do.” I could feel the annoyance from other passengers on the bus. I declined to pursue that option.

T and I sat right behind the driver, perpendicular to him. I was very scared, shocked, and outraged. I felt helpless and alone. I fought tears, not wanting to weep in public. I was flooded with shame. I stared at nothing, shaking, my mind reeling. A couple blocks onward I glanced toward the back of the bus. The man who’d hit me saw, rose, and walked to the front. He stood in front of me and said, “You want to start something, bitch? Huh?” At this point I was frozen in terror. I stared straight ahead and didn’t respond. He turned around and went back to his seat. We got off at the next stop, several stops early, and trudged the rest of the way through snow and slush to the theater.

All this time, my brother hadn’t spoken. Neither had I. We arrived at the theater, I put on the happy big sister persona (or tried to) and said, “Let’s forget that and enjoy the play.” I spent the rest of the evening feeling removed from the experience. I have no memory of the play, or of how we got home.

Do demographics matter? It was 1984. I was an angry 20-something white woman who identified as lesbian. My attacker was an angry late teen/early 20s black man probably part of a gang. Of course he hit and threatened me. I was only a woman, an uppity white woman. I wasn’t even a woman; I was a bitch. I felt completely unsupported in the situation. Lonely. I had asserted myself, was attacked for it, and NOBODY helped me. I appealed to authority; they didn’t care. Not only did no one help, people complained about being delayed. I was responsible for my brother’s safety. I felt utterly powerless. I felt waves of shame, fear, anger, and sorrow.

For years after that, I never sat further back than the middle of the bus. I avoided eye contact with black men. And to this day, my brother and I have never discussed it.

The Risk of Assumption

Last year in first grade, Claire adored her teacher. Her teacher was wonderful, warm, funny, and had high expectations. She loves kids.

At the end of the year, though, Claire began saying that her teacher hated her. This total 180 in her perception startled me. She also said she didn’t love her teacher anymore. Claire even told strangers — while being sworn in as a Junior Ranger, for example, when the ranger asked her if she liked school — “Yeah, but my teacher hated me.”

I met with her former teacher today for coffee, because we also became friends over the past year. This teacher was assigned to teach second grade next year, so there was a possibility that Claire would have her again. I told Mrs. G about Claire’s story, and she was surprised, puzzled, and concerned. Now, my girl can hold a super glue grip on a grudge, and I was puzzled too but had made a shoulder-shrug peace with it.

This afternoon I told Claire, “Hey, I saw Mrs. G today for coffee!”

Claire: “Why?”

Me: “Because we’re friends. I mentioned to her that you think she hates you. She was sad about that, and surprised. She said, ‘I love Claire!’ What could have I done?'”

Claire: “Well… I’ll tell you what happened. [pause] I told Mrs. G, ‘Next year I really hope I get a different teacher.’ And she said in a stern voice — but maybe it was just her accent — ‘Well, then I’ll make sure you’re not in my class next year.’ And so I thought she hated me.”

Ohhhhhhh! Wow! So I had the opportunity to clarify, and say that Mrs. G was actually giving Claire what she wanted. Claire said yes, she understood, but it was the stern voice. And I pointed out that sometimes people have a serious tone of voice but that it doesn’t mean they are mad. Claire is very sensitive to sternness — it makes her anxious and then she becomes defensive, or even goes on the offense, to protect her feelings. (Her assumption is similar to the phenomenon of bitchy resting face. Sometimes women are assumed to be angry, unfriendly, or bitchy because they aren’t smiling and sparkling. Here is something women with BRF would like you to know.)

After this, Claire said, “Tell Mrs. G I must have misunderstood. And that I think she understands that sometimes you have to move on.” I asked if she thought Mrs. G still hates her. “No,” she replied, “I think she feels loving to me. When can we have a play date with her daughter?”

claire presentation

The Face of a Miserable Student