Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Food For Thought...

I just finished a book by Jo Nesbo, a Norweigan who is one of my favorite crime writers.  In it a consulting psychologist explains narcissism to detective Harry Hole, the central character in this series, as follows:  “Freud introduced the concept of a narcissist to psychology, a person with an exaggerated sense of uniqueness, obsessed by the dream of boundless success.  For the narcissist,  the need for revenge against those who have affronted him or her is often greater than all other needs.  It is called ‘narcissists’s rage’.

The American psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut has described how such a person would seek to avenge the affront - which may seem a mere bagatelle to us - with whatever means they have at their disposal...what might seem seem like a standard rejection might result with the narcissit working tirelessly, with a compulsive determination, to redress the balance, causing death if necessary.”  I checked the date of the book - 2002 - so it shouldn’t  be construed as a political commentary on anything that is happening in the world at present.  But it does give me pause to reflect…..hmmm….

– Ray De Lagrave

Monday, February 13, 2017

Psychotherapy And Politics

If anyone thought that psychotherapy was not political and never should be, take a look at the following questions, asked by Carl R. Rogers relative to the “philosophical orientation of the counselor" (quoted from Client Centered Therapy, 1951, relevant in 2017)

“The primary point of importance here is the attitude held by the counselor toward the worth and the significance of the individual.

How do we look upon others?

Do we see each person as having worth and dignity in his own right?

If we do hold this point of view at the verbal level, to what extent is it operationally evident at the behavioral level?

Do we tend to treat individuals as persons of worth, or do we subtly devaluate them by our attitudes and behavior?

Is our philosophy one in which respect for the individual is uppermost?

Do we respect his capacity and his right to self-direction, or do we basically believe that his life should be guided by us?

To what extent do we have a need and a desire to dominate others?

Are we willing for the individual to select and choose his own values, or are our actions guided by the conviction (usually outspoken) that he would be happiest if he permitted us to select for him his values and standards and goals?"


Monday, February 6, 2017

Waste Not Want Not

My grandfather used to save string, tying strands together and rolling them in a tight ball, which he kept in the drawer of an old desk. I can still see the fuzzy brown twine, matched end to end with a slicker, finer white string.  He also saved rubber bands. And tin foil. And once-used nails. 

The nails, which were often bent severely and rusted, were taken out to the oak stump that served as a chopping block for the chickens. There—the head of the nail left over the edge of the wood—he would hammer and turn, hammer and turn, until the old nail was straight enough to drive. I have reused many nails that same way.

My grandfather, who lived with us and we with him for periods of time, grew up in the shadow of WWI and the Depression. Waste to him was about as familiar as the rings of Saturn. There was no question that material things had more than one life and nearly everything could, and would, be used ‘til it absolutely gave out.

He, as well as Mom and Dad, didn’t think this way just about material things either. No use wasting your feelings about that. That’s a waste of time, thinking that way. Waste was one of the bad words, and concepts, in our household.

This morning I was thinking of my grandad and thought further about waste, specifically how we human beings waste our energy. I believe that thoughts are real, that they take energy, and that they lead us to places we may not be conscious of and may not want to be.

So, how do we waste our energy? Regret. Guilt. Shame. Hate. Self-doubt. Predicting. Reading others’ minds. 
I’m sure you have your own list of thinking in a repetitive way about yourself, or someone else, that has no real purpose, accomplishes nothing and will lead nowhere that will serve you. This is our little monkey mind, churning through the established ruts in our thinking. It’s this that we can be more aware of and about which we can give ourselves choices. This is the path to freedom.

I find that freedom is not so much from another person as it is from the tyranny of my own mind. “Save me from the tyranny of my self.” I am fond of saying. It’s that small self that is running around in my consciousness, tempting me with dreams of controlling others, getting revenge, feeling sorry for myself, defeating my wishes and thinking there is no love in the world. It takes a lot of energy to think about these self-defeating things in a repetitive manner.

I need to wake up to my own thinking and how I am spending energy in ways that don’t’ serve me.  This repetitive, negative thinking is a big waste of my best self. My grandfather would not have approved, although he might not have wasted words trying to change me.  


Monday, January 2, 2017

Telling The Truth

Organizations are dependent on the truth. 

The emergence of the truth relies on the culture of the organization and the values—implicit and explicit—held by organization members day to day. 

Do we value the truth and put it above all else? Or is something else at the top of our priorities: profit, success, winning. Look at the overuse of the Vince Lombardi quote – “Winning is not everything, it’s the only thing”—to see this reflected in sports. And of course sports culture spills over to so many organizations. 

In business we only need to look at General Motors and at Volkswagen to see that, at some level, something other than the truth was at the top of the list. Individual employees—more than one—behaved in ways that distorted their product and their message, operating on the subtle (or not) belief that expediency, successes in the marketplace, profits or short-term reputation were more important. 

The truth is vital to any healthy relationship. Marriages, teams, organizations and societies all need for truth to be told, else they are operating on a house of cards, a reality that doesn’t exist, a reality that will eventually come down around their ears. 

“The truth will set you free” is more than a popular quote from The Bible, it’s a deep realization that applies to education, family, science, government and societies as a whole. It is an invitation to openness and learning. It is the bedrock of keeping a relationship stable and holding people accountable. 

When you hear on a soap opera (or in your own life) –“You mean I’ve been living a lie,” it’s the realization that the relationship was operating in a world that was not real.  The truth, suddenly and painfully discovered, changes everything. 

When you hear from Volkswagen that equipment has been altered and what you’re driving is not what you thought it was, a deep sense of betrayal sets in. You’ve been polluting the environment, working against the very thing you thought you were working for.

How to find and honor the truth— this is the commitment that we must make in each of our relationships if we are to thrive, to learn and to build a better world to live in. Our democracy, fragile as it seems, is dependent on informed participation, on the truth being known. How do we encourage that? How do we build marriages, work teams, companies, institutions and societies that honor the truth above all else?

For truth to emerge in any relationship or in any culture, it must be made clear that individual voices will be heard and respected. This becomes part of the cultural and part of the group’s stated values.  The individual will be respected and accepted for who she is and not who she is expected to be or wanted to be. Leaders and others will accept persons in their present reality. Only then will they change.  The consequences of trying to meet someone where they are expected to be is disappointment, of where they should be is anger and where you want them to be is frustration. Blame, which is not effective, quickly follows. 

This non-acceptance in its many forms suppresses the truth. 

Persons in authority or those who are perceived with more power must be real, must be transparent and not hide behind their role or their level of expertise in order to “win” dialogues. (I use the word must with the assumption that you the reader are committed to change and want to know the necessary conditions for relationships filled with truth.) When we engage each other in conversation, my words and my expressions must match my inner experience. This is defined as congruent. 

We will fully express empathy for each other, not sympathy and not pity. We will let the other know that in some way, at some level, we understand what it like to live in their skin for some moments, hearing what we are hearing from them. This empathy, on a basic human level, lets the other know that they are not alone. 

All of this happens even if you are not in agreement. The other is heard, respected and received. Then the dialogue can begin and you, the listener, perhaps the leader, can look for the same thing in the other. You will begin to see your communications as an event, a happening that lives between the two of you and can be examined and explored by both parties. In order to do this cleanly, you must be able to detach yourself from your own experience and see it as if it were out there on its own. (What did I just say?). And you must not be hooked, captured or attached to the message from the other. 

All of this will lead to the truth. As slippery and as elusive as The TRUTH is, a common reality will emerge. This common reality, composed of visions, missions, plans, skills, ways of behaving, feelings, wants, needs, ideas – all of this will be the building blocks for your relationship, for your work team, for your company, for your church and for your society. This is an ideal. It is something to be stated, talked about, revisited time and time again and reinforced by whatever leaders are in place and by leaders that come out of the woodwork as you move ahead. 

Everyone can lead. Everyone can be powerful. There is no restriction necessary and the energy of acceptance, openness, real communication and mutual understanding will give your relationship and your group vitality renewed.

We can say that an organization is a series of relationships. And that the power of the relationship is dependent on the qualities within. 

Tell the truth. Find the truth. Build yourselves the vessel in which you can thrive.

It will be well worth it.         

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dear Mr. Trump

Nov. 13, 2016

To: Donald J. Trump
From: John Thomas Wood

            I am a white, retired male who voted for Hillary Clinton for President. I am one of those many, many people who are angry at the process of the elections and at the job the so-called Washington establishment has been doing, especially Congress.

I am writing you to try and influence your thinking and behavior.

            I’ve got lots of opinions about issues: climate change, fracking, pipelines, campaign reform, rights for minorities, security, the police and minorities, cyber-security, Supreme Court appointments, health care. It’s a pretty long list. But I am not writing you about issues. I want to talk about personal qualities and values. I believe these are foundational for choices we make on issues.

            This letter may sound arrogant. Perhaps you can accept that. It’s the best way for me to get my wishes across in a direct way.

            Authenticity is one of the qualities people admire most in public figures and you apparently scored high on that with your followers. I hope you can balance your habit of being spontaneous and honest in your comments about others with a sense of empathy and compassion for those you’re talking about. Surely the presidency will humble you and that may make for a nice balance for ‘telling it like it is.”

            I mentioned compassion. I hope it’s something you consciously cultivate. It is perhaps the single most quality and practice that the world needs now. It is something a great leader must have; without it he cannot truly relate to the people he leads and serves.

            Please dedicate yourself to continual learning. If you see that asking questions and truly learning about the people and the issues that will surround you, you will begin to see learning as an act of leadership in itself and you will emerge from conversations with a new sense of respect.

            I feel certain that you want to be a great President. I also think you are heavily invested in power. You can consciously invest in a study of power and discover that you can use your considerable personal power to collaborate, nurture others and join in synergetic efforts. You do not have to compete in order to succeed, either at a personal level or politically.

            I hope your surround yourself with people who will both support you and challenge you. Choose carefully for individuals who value people over politics and know, that in the long run, leading this country is not about winning and losing. It is about doing things together. Any organization, including the federal government, is a series of relationships, a community of people working together and relating openly with each other.

            Leadership, in my view, is the shaping of power, my own and others. That means I help the others around me bloom.

            To realize our goals as a nation we must have shared values and priorities, an open, authentic way of communicating and solving conflicts, an interdependency where diversity of every kind is celebrated as a strength and the belief that reaching our goals will be beneficial to everyone involved.

            Ask for help, especially from women.  You will not be able to succeed alone. I know hundreds of people who can help you succeed, if you ask.

            I am writing this not for you and not for myself but for my grandchildren and millions of other young people who will be living in the social and physical environment that you and your administration will help create.

            Finally, you have been chosen by an electoral college representing half of the registered voters in the United States. As you know, nearly half of the country did not vote. Our country, as all democracies, depends on informed participation to be healthy. Your policies and your behavior will do a tremendous amount to either alienating people or bringing them back into the social/political process.

            Thank you for your valuable attention.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

This Is Who You Are

            We are blind to this fact, that we are in possession of all the necessary faculties that will make us happy and loving towards one another. All the struggles that we see around us come from this ignorance… When the cloud of ignorance disappears… we see for the first time into the nature of our own being.”    D.T.Suzuki

            You are by nature a loving, bonding being. This is how you started out. This is how you came out of the womb, reaching for another human in order to make contact and get your wants and needs fulfilled.
            Picture yourself hours old. You are not yet critical, self-defeating, cynical or discouraged. You do not believe that you are unworthy of real love. You are gazing into the eyes of your mother and father, loving what you see, and looking at the first human you see-- bonding.
            This is who you are. It is easy to look at yourself now, years and years later, and deny that. Even when you affirm it, the journey back to that self may seem unlikely. You have thousands of reasons and rationalizations for not loving and not being loved. You have scores of fears and ways you discourage yourself.
            Somewhere on your journeys things happened that told you to be wary, afraid, hurt, angry. You formed a belief about the world and, more importantly, about yourself. The creation of this belief about who you are is perhaps the most important thing you have ever done in your life. Out of that belief springs your attitudes and behaviors in your love relationships and your work.
            You have decided what you are capable of, how much you can give, how you love someone and what you do and don’t deserve, among other things.  You have gone through life mostly unconscious of this. You have been driven by the past, operating with some vague notion that things could be so much better.
            They can be. First you must choose. You can decide to change your belief about yourself. You can re-educate yourself; just as you educated yourself for all these years that you were one person, you can learn to be the “first” person you were—your original self.
            Think about walking into a room and seeing and hearing things that frightened you. People criticized you. They walked away. They told you you were not good enough. You stayed in that room. You lived there with those people.
            Realize now that all those things are not true. They were not true then and they are not true now. Those were things that knocked you off of your loving nature, your original core self, like being knocked down in a game of dodge ball.
            Your work now is to change your belief about yourself. Now you are a conscious, self-responsible human being who is much more powerful than you have imagined. It is now time to take a full assessment of who you are and what you want for yourself and begin the deliberate process of becoming a fully loving, grateful, graceful human being.
            That’s how you began. You can do it. 
                                                                                            John Thomas Wood