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.