Monthly Archives: October 2011

Bert’s therapy (#19): Depressed

bert (1)

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Feeling depressed?

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A little.

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How bad?

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Mild.

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therapist (3)

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My energy is low.

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therapist (4)

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My appetite is off.

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therapist (5)

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I’m not sleeping well.

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therapist (6)

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I’m anxious.

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therapist (7)

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I’m irritable.

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therapist (8)

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My self-esteem is in the toilet.

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therapist (9)

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And I feel like crying.

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therapist (10)

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bert (11)

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Jeez, Bert. 

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bert (12)

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That all sounds pretty painful.

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bert (13)

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If you call this “mild” depression…

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bert (14)

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…what’s “severe” look like?

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bert (15)

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Oh.

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* * *

Want more?

The depressed person is imprisoned by unconscious barriers of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” which isolate him, limit him, and eventually crush his spirit.  Living within this prison, he spins fantasies of freedom, concocts schemes for his liberation, and dreams of a world where life will be different. 

These dreams, like all illusions, serve to sustain his spirit, but they also prevent him from realistically confronting the internal forces that bind him.  Sooner or later the illusion collapses, the dream fades, the scheme fails, and his reality stares him in the face.  When this happens, he becomes depressed and feels hopeless.

Alexander Lowen, Depression and the body.

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Here I talk about the clinical signs of depression because I think lots of folks walk around depressed and don’t know it. I also discuss what you can do if you are depressed or sense someone you know is depressed….

This is hard stuff. Let’s take care of each other.

Dr. Susan Giurleo, Depression: Let’s Blow Up the Stigma and Help Each Other Out (6:41)

 

 

* * *

Recovering from depression requires action. But taking action when you’re depressed is hard. In fact, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like going for a walk or spending time with friends, can be exhausting.

It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery. The things that help the most are the things that are most difficult to do. But there’s a difference between difficult and impossible.

From Dealing with Depression: Self-help and coping tips, a nice overview of ways to help yourself at the helpguide.org website.

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Bert’s therapy (#18): Unstable

bert (1)

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therapist (1)

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bert (2)

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bert (3)

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bert (4)

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bert (5)

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bert (6)

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therapist (6)

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bert (7)

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bert

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4th

So tell me.

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bert

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When did you start…

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bert

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…having mood swings?

 

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Want more?

Unable to face his pain and the anger to which it gives rise, the neurotic individual strives to overcome his fears, anxieties, hostilities, and anger.  One part of himself seeks to rise above another, which splits the unity of his being and destroys his integrity.  The neurotic individual struggles to win over himself.  In this, of course, he must fail.

Failure seems to mean submission to an unacceptable fate, but actually it amounts to self-acceptance, which makes change possible.  To the degree to that most people in Western culture are struggling to be different, they are neurotic.  And since this is a fight one can’t win, all who engage in this struggle will fail.  Strangely, through the acceptance of failure, we become free from our neurosis.

Alexander Lowen, Fear of Life.

 


Bert’s therapy (#17): Guilty

 

Bad day at work.

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What happened?

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Boss yelled at me. 

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And how do you feel?

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Guilty.

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Why’d the boss yell?

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Having a bad day, I guess.  He’s like that.

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So why do you feel guilty?

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I don’t know. 

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That’s not guilt you’re feeling.   

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It’s not?

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No.  It’s anger.  Internalized anger often feels like guilt.

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It does?

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Sure.  Anger’s like poison.  If you don’t spit it out at the person who hurt you, it eats away at you and feels like guilt.

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I don’t know about that.  I’ve always been a pretty guilty person.

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4I see.  Tell me, what’s your boss like?

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He’s an asshole.

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How big an asshole?

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Big.

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Big?

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Enormous. 

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And how’s it feel, working for an enormous asshole?

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I hate it.  I hate him.  I hate my job.

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th12

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Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate. 

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therapist (13)

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bert (14)

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How you feeling now?

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Better.  Much better.  Not guilty at all. 

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th

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Does that always work?

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When the guilt comes from internalized anger, pretty much.

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bert (17)

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By the way, how’s your marriage going?

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bert (18)

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* * *

Want more?

So we are always trying to get to the impasse, and find the point where you believe you have no choice of survival because you don’t find the means within yourself.  When we find the place where the person is stuck, we come to the surprising discovery that this impasse is mostly merely a matter of fantasy.  It doesn’t exist in reality.  A person only believes he has not his resources at his disposal.  He only prevents himself from using his resources by conjuring up a lot of catastrophic expectations….  “People won’t like me.”  “I might do something foolish.”  “If I would do this, I wouldn’t be loved any more, I would die,” and so on.  We have all these catastrophic fantasies by which we prevent ourselves from living, from being.  We are continually projecting threatening fantasies onto the world, and these fantasies prevent us from taking the reasonable risks which are part and parcel of growing and living.

Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim.

 

therapist (18)

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Bert’s therapy (#16): Self-esteem

I have low self esteem.  I want high self-esteem. 

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therapist (1)

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Can you help me with that?

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Nope.

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Why not?

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I don’t believe in it.

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High self-esteem?

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Right.  It’s a myth.

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Why?2

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People think they’re supposed have it.  Then they feel inadequate when they don’t.

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bert (6)

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But I’ve never had it, and I’ve never known anyone who has.

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Really?

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Really.

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Some people say they have it.

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Yeah.  I don’t believe them.  I assume they’re lying.  Or… 

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… they’re narcissists, hiding a secret emptiness.  Or…

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…they just lack self-awareness.

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How so?

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Anyone with self-awareness knows how screwed-up they are.

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ber

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They know how often they operate out of ignorance, and selfishness, and fear… 

 

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bert

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…how regularly they fall short of their own aspirations…

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bert

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…and they can provide you with a long list of their mistakes, failures and disappointments.  1

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bert (11)

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If they can’t, they’re in denial.  Because screwed-up is the human condition. 

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And “high self-esteem” is an unrealistic goal.  So stop chasing it.1

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What should I chase instead?

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Try self-acceptance. 

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What’s the difference? 14)

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Self-esteem says, “I’m wonderful.” Self-acceptance says, “I’m not wonderful, but I can live with it.”1

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Sorry to disappoint you.

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….

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I can live with it.

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Want more?

The mess of life is our mess.  Questions of self-esteem are a waste of time, a diversion we can ill afford.  There is more mess of things to make ahead; some of them will be our great teachers, some will cause us to grow, and some will bring the fullness of failure to bear on the encounter with the mystery.  Great meaning will often come from such dismal moments; they are our moments, our meaning, and we will be entitled to them because we have paid dearly for them.   

James Hollis, in Creating a life: Finding your individual path.

 

 

 

 


Bert’s therapy (#15): Predictable

 

bert 1

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So, you’re married?

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Yes.

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And her name’s Felicia, you said.

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That’s right.  But I call her Babe.

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Bert and Babe.  Cute.  And you have a son?

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Yes.  Bud.

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And a daughter?

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Brittany.

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Sensing a pattern here.

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We have a dog, too.

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Named…

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Bonzo.

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Of course.

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Excuse me?

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Just curious.  Favorite color?

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Brown.

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Favorite sport?

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Baseball.

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Favorite music?

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Blues.

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Composer?

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Bach.

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Holiday?

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My birthday.

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Favorite meal?

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Burgers.

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Favorite coal?

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Bituminous.

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(Sigh.)

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What’s wrong?

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Has anyone ever described you as predictable?

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Bite me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Want more?

Once you have a character, you have developed a rigid system.  your behavior becomes petrified, predictable, and you lose your ability to cope freely with the world with all your resources.  You are predetermined just to cope with events in one way, namely, as your character prescribes it to be.  So it seems a paradox when I say that the richest person, the most productive, creative person, is a person who has no character.  In our society, we demand a person to have a character, and especially a good character, because then you are predictable, and you can be pigeonholed….

From Gestalt therapy verbatim by Fritz Perls.

* * *

On the difference between control and power:

 

No, they’re not the same.

In some ways, they are opposites.

 

One difference: power is possible, but control is usually an illusion.

 

Another: seeking power can set you free, while seeking control can make you crazy….

 

Control looks outward, mainly at other people, places and things. Power looks inward, to your own feelings and needs. So control-seeking pulls you away from yourself, away from self-awareness and self-care.

 

Control operates paradoxically. The more control you need, the less in control you feel. Which means if you depend on getting control to feel safe and happy, you don’t feel safe or happy most of the time. Chasing control is a lot like chasing a train you can never catch.

 

Power, though — rooted in healthy, intelligent self-care — is a real possibility.

From Have yourself a healthy power trip by me, published in Together magazine.

 


Bert’s therapy (#14): The wrong something

So let me get this straight.

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therapist (1)

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Trying to control life means fighting reality…

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therapist (2)

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…which becomes an endless battle… 

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therapist (3)

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…you can never win.

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Yep.

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So chasing control means a life of frustration and disappointment. 

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Sure.  That’s the problem with any addiction.

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bert (6)

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You spend your life chasing the wrong thing.

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I always knew my life was missing something.

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therapist (7)

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But I thought that something was more control.

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Think again.

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What else could it be?

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Peace of mind?

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bert (10)

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Real intimacy?

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bert (11)

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Personal power?

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bert

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Joy? 

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All of those sound good.  Why do you mention them?

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They’re four things you can’t experience as long as you’re chasing control.

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Really?

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Really.

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Shit.

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therapist

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Have I been shopping at the wrong Wal-Mart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Want more?

 

 

Your goal is not to stop it.  Your goal is to get to know it.

From Happiness means getting to know disappointment, an interview with (and brief profile of) Pema Chodron.

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We’re all hiding the exact same secret from each other.  That we suffer.  That we’re not perfect.  That we’re confused.  It’s like being at a masquerade ball all the time, trying to pretend that we are someone other than we are.  As if we’re embarrassed by our humanness.

From The open secret by Elizabeth Lesser.


Bert’s therapy (#12): Ordinary monkeys

 

 bert (1).

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 So what do you want out of therapy?

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Two things, I guess. 

To be less lonely…

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therapist (2).

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…and to be more in control.

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Huh.

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What?

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 That’s a line from a movie.

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What I said about control?

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Right.  Ordinary People,1980.  Depressed kid says it to his therapist. 

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What does the therapist say?

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He tells him to come twice a week.  “Control is a tough nut,” he says. 

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You agree?

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Actually, no.111

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bert (8).

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It’s an impossible nut. 

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Why impossible?

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Because we can’t have it, and we can’t stop wanting it.

 

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bert (10)

 

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Like a itch you can’t stop scratching, but scratching only makes the itch worse.

 

 

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I know.

 

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You know?

 

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33344

 

Yeah.  I’ve always wanted more control than I had.  I guess I always will.

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Sounds familiar.

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 What’s wrong with me?

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You’re a control addict.  A.k.a., a normal human being.

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An ordinary people.

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Correct.  Well, it sort of solves your other problem.

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My loneliness?bert (15).

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Sure. 

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bert

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Welcome to the majority.

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Bert’s therapy (#13): Attached

So you think I’m addicted to control.

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Yes.

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Because you think everyone is.

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I do.

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And why is that? 

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Because we’re unsatisfiable.

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We carry this picture in our heads of the reality we want…

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…which we constantly compare to the reality we have.

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And when the two don’t match — which is most of the time — 

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…we try to change the reality we have.

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Which means most of the time we’re fighting reality.

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Which is a fight we can’t win.

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And that’s “controlling”?

 

 

 

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Well, that’s what I call it.

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Buddhists call it attachment.

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So I’m unhappy because I fight reality… 

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…instead of learning to live with it.  Right.

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Well…

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…I think that’s crap.

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I think your theory is New Age bullshit.

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And I think I’m in therapy with the wrong therapist.

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See?

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There you go again.

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* * *

Want more?

And all the time the thing is coming — it’s coming, it’s coming, the great thing, the success you’re working for — and then one day you wake up at about forty years old, and you say “My god, I’ve arrived.  I’m there.”  And you don’t feel very different from what you’ve always felt.  And you feel there’s been a hoax.

The unsettling truth about life by Alan Watts (animation by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of “South Park”). 

 

 


Bert’s therapy (#11): Chess

Life is just like a chess game.

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How so?

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Well, it’s all about learning to be careful…

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…and planning ahead…

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…and anticipating what’s going to happen…

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…so you can make the right moves…

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…and get control of the board.  Which is what the game’s all about, ultimately.

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Control of the board.

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Right.

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And that’s the goal of life.  Controlling the board.

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Of course.

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I see.  And when you get control of the board, what happens then?

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You win.

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And then what?

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The game ends.

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And then?

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Then nothing.  Game over.

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Oh.

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What are you thinking?

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Just that the goal of all that controlling is…nothing. 

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What do you mean?

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Getting control doesn’t leave you with anything.  In the end, I mean.

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I don’t follow.

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Whether you get control of the board or not — whether you “win” or “lose” — the game ends.   For both players.

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Oh.  Yeah.  I guess. 

 

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So I guess I agree with you.

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About what?

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When it comes to controlling…

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…life’s just like chess.

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* * *

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