Monthly Archives: November 2011

Notes from the foxhole

(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey. 

That’s Bert at left, taking a mental health break.

Bert speaking:)

Forgive me if I keep this short. 

I’m in a foxhole, and it’s hard to write here.

It’s a familiar foxhole.  I’ve been here before. 

Steve dug it decades ago, soon after he entered the so-called helping professions.

He was like most neophyte helpers.  He roared into the profession determined to give and give, believing the giving would be its own reward.

And for a long time, it was.

So he gave and gave, and then gave and gave some more.  Then he collapsed.

It wasn’t a dramatic collapse.  He just woke up one morning and found he lacked the energy to get out of bed.

He went to a doctor, who told him he was fine physically.  No illness.  Just tired.

So he dug this place.

It’s not much, just a shallow mental trench that provides shelter from the bombardment of daily life.   A place to crawl into, curl up in, and nap.

Naps, by the way, are wonderful.

If you’re a professional helper — therapist, doctor, nurse, teacher, minister, mom — I hope you have a foxhole. 

I hope it’s deep enough. 

And I hope it’s nearby. 

Which is to say, I hope you’re smart enough to use it.

And if you’re not a professional helper, but a civilian…

 Same thing.

* * *

Want more?

 

A self-test for burnout.

 

Ten tips for stress management.

(Yes, I know you know.  You need reminding.)

 

A stress-relief song.

Advertisements

Bert and the 99%

Poster by Raina Dayne.

(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey.

That’s Bert at left, hiding in plain sight.

Bert speaking.) 

Steve and I were watching tv together when we got into a fight about the 99% movement.

On the screen people were marching and chanting and waving signs. 

“I like this,” Steve said.  “It reminds me of the sixties.”

“I remember,” I said.

“Back when I was too chickenshit to march for or against anything.”

“Well,” I said, “it wasn’t safe.”

“You didn’t think it was safe.”

I said nothing.  What could I say?  I’ve always been the scared one.

“Anyway,” he said, “we’re older now.  And I want to come out of hiding.”

“How?”

“I want to plug the 99% movement on the blog.  Maybe start with a video of the poem that guy read last week at Berkeley.”

“I see,” I said calmly. 

Then I leaned over and slapped him across the face.  Hard.

“What was that for?” he asked.

“Are you crazy?” I said.  “What if someone sees it?”

“That’s kind of the point.”

“Well, think about it.  Got any Republican clients?”

“I suppose.  I don’t really know.”

“What if they see it and get angry?  What if they quit therapy?  Or stop referring people to you?”

“That won’t happen.”

“Look around you.  Sure it could.  And anyway, aren’t you supposed to remain, whatchamacallit, anonymous?”

“That was part of my training, yes.  I was also trained to be emotionally authentic.”

“Authentic schmauthentic.  You need to make a living.  And I thought you wanted to start selling stuff online.  Ebooks and such.”

“I do.”

“Well, politicize the blog and you risk alientating half the damn population.  How many ebooks will you sell to people who hate your politics?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.  “But I don’t want to policitize the blog.  I don’t want to politicize anything.”

But he was starting to look worried.

“I just see people standing up for themselves,” he said, “and I like it.  It’s just what I encourage them to do in therapy.  It’s a  good thing.  Hopeful.  Worth celebrating.”   

We were quiet for a moment.  Then he said,

“You get what’s happening here, right?”

“What?”

“Relapse.”

Shit, I thought. 

I played dumb.  “Into what?”

“Into compulsive controlling.  Into the way you’ve had me live my life up until now.”

I said nothing. 

“Into being scared and careful instead of honest.  Into anticipating the worst, instead of listening to what we feel.  Into the opposite of faith.”

I said nothing.

Then he said, “I thought you were in recovery.  I thought you were tired of hiding.  I thought you wanted to grow past all that.”

Shit, I thought again.

* * *

So here it is: the text of  Josh Healey’s (long) poem, When hope comes back: A poem for the 99%. 

But we suggest you click on the links (it’s in two parts) and hear him read it to the crowd at Berkeley on November 17, 2011.  The sound’s not great, but the energy is memorable.

(And thanks to Susan for sharing this with us.)

_____________________

When Hope Comes Back
(A Poem for the 99%)

when Hope comes back
he will be more than a campaign slogan
and a face on a poster faded red, white, and blue
he will not come from a presidential palace
bought and paid for like a Citibank stock option villa
he will put not forget to put on his walking shoes
and join the picket lines in New York
the bread lines in Baltimore
to shake the calloused hands
of everyone walking by

when Hope comes back
he might be named Barack
but he won’t be named Obama

when Hope comes back
he will be a Black Panther baby
who speaks Spanglish
and cooks Korean tacos
and does 180 sun salutations
to the soundtrack of Zion I
– yes, Hope is hella Bay

when Hope comes back
he will be a UFW farmworker
who loves his fields and his flag
more than he hates his foreman
he will be a runaway foster child
who forgives his parents
he will be an Iraq war veteran
who returns to protest in Oakland again
without tear gas canisters to his head

when Hope comes back
he will come back from the future
in a DeLorean like Michael J. Fox
and show us all the things we’d won
like people swimming across the Rio Grande
for fun rather than survival
and the only student debt being to our livers
rather than to our banks
and then Michael J would take us
for a ride back to the past
and show us this is not our first occupation
Flint, sit-down strikers in ‘36
Alcatraz, American Indian Movement in ‘69
Sproul Plaza, Free Speech Movement in ‘64
and every semester since then that was worth a damn
and reminded Berkeley what it means
to be called Berkeley

when Hope comes back
he will be one of my students
East Asia meets East Oakland
brilliantly cross-continental
even though he hates the ocean
speaks with the wisdom of Buddha and Mac Dre
really, he is my teacher
and I think he knows it
and we’re both ok with that

when Hope comes back
he will actually be a she
because hey, that’s who actually gets shit done
she will be a librarian by day, a DJ by night,
an Occupy activist in between
she will be thick hair and thick hips
and if you try to touch either one
you’ll get a thick hand to the face

when Hope comes back
she’ll show us to burn down the banks in our
hearts and love without lust or profit or restraining orders

when Hope comes back
she will be an OPD cop,
then NYPD, then UCPD,
refusing to follow orders
putting down their riot gear
and picking up a picket sign
cuz when the cops join the 99% they actually belong to
that’s when the banks will have nowhere to hide

when Hope comes back
she will be a midwife
in tune with the moon and the womb
an ancient healer who knows every herb in the redwoods
ready to help us birth a new world
one without bombs or borders or Michelle Bachman
a planet of peoples free to honor the earth
and each other like the God
in whose image we’re still trying to evolve into

when Hope comes back
she will be here
right here, right now
on the streets and plazas and parks
of New York and DC
Milwaukee and Austin
Portland and Nashville
London and Manila and Cairo
San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, CA
with the people and the hashtags
setting up her tent in the morning
paintings banners in the afternoon
attending ridicously long meetings in the evening
shutting down the port of Oakland
and reminding us all that yes,
Hope still lives here in America
she has always lived here with us

and now she is back before our eyes
marching head high, fist higher
and whispering to the millions amongst her,
“Thank you.
Thank you.
You’re bringing me back.
Take my hand,
feel my pulse joined with yours.
Trust my taste on your tongue,
my strength in your lungs,
and let’s see how far we can go
together.”

 

* * *

Want more?

 

Need answers?

Ask Hugh.

Protest song, by Hugh Laurie.


Thanks

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. 

~ Albert Einstein

 

1

2

3

3

Real life isn’t always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties. 

~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

1

2

3

3

 

If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice. 

~ Meister Eckhart

 

 

 1

2

3

3

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more. 

~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

 

Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.  

~ Charles Dickens

1

2

3

4

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.

~ Buddha

 

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bert’s therapy: Hammer

I feel like crap.

1

2

3

4

Why?

1

2

3

4

I’m a failure.

1

2

3

4

How so?

1

2

3

4

 My wife says I’m insensitive, so I feel like a bad husband.

1

2

3

4

therapist (3)

1

2

3

4

 

I don’t make enough money, so I feel like a financial failure.  

1

2

3

4

therapist (4)

1

2

3

4

My son’s failing Math and my daughter’s socially anxious, so I feel like an inadequate father.

1

2

3

therapist (5)

1

2

3

4

I don’t have time or energy to fix what needs fixing at my house, so I feel irresponsible or lazy or something.

1

2therapist (6)

1

2

3

3

4

And you tell me I’m out of touch with my feelings.  So I’m even flunking therapy. 

1

2

3

therapist (7)

1

2

3

4

So I feel like crap.

1

2

3

4

therapist (8)

1

2

3

4

A big, fat piece of crap.

1

2

3

4

therapist (9)

1

2

3

4

A huge, stinky…

1

2

3

4

Hold on a minute.

1

2

3

4

bert

1

2

3

4

Might as well do this right.

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

4

Y

Here.

 

3

4

 

 

What’s that?

1

2

3

4

A gift.

1

2

3

4

What’s it for?

1

2

3

a

Give yourself a good whack on the knuckles.

1

2

3

Are you crazy?  That would break my hand.

1

2

3

4

Probably.

1

2

3

4

betr

1

2

3

4

But the pain would go away.  And the hand would heal in about six weeks.

1

2

3

4

 

 

 

 

What you’re doing now — calling yourself names, labeling yourself a failure…

1

1

2

3

4

bert

1

2

 

…that’s permanent.  And the pain is endless.

1

1

2

3

 

bert

1

 

 

z

z

At least put a bow on it.

 

 

 

a

a

a

 

a

 * * *

Want more?

 

Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.

~ Shakespeare, Henry V 

 

 

 1

2

3

4

Kristen Neff, Ph.D. answers the question,

What is self-compassion?

 

 

 

 

1

2

3

4

The relentless search for high self-esteem has become a virtual religion; and a tyrannical one at that. Our competitive culture tells us we need to be special and above average to feel good about ourselves, but we can’t all be above average at the same time. There is always someone richer, more attractive, or successful than we are. And even when we do manage to feel self-esteem for one golden moment, we can’t hold on to it. Our sense of self-worth bounces around like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to self-esteem that many psychologists believe is a better and more effective path to happiness: self-compassion. The research of Dr. Kristin Neff and others strongly suggests that people who are more self-compassionate lead healthier, more productive lives than those who are self-critical. And the feelings of security and self-worth provided by self-compassion are highly stable. Self-compassion steps in precisely when we fall down, allowing us to get up and try again.

Self-compassion: Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind by Kristen Neff, PhD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Bert’s therapy: Regression

I think I’m changing my mind.

1

2

3

4

About?

1

2

3

4

Getting in touch with feelings.

1

2

3

4

Oh.

1

2

3

4

I really don’t want to.

1

2

3

4

How come?

1

2

3

4

It’s hard.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s scary. 

1

2

3

4

Okay.

1

2

3

4

But I also don’t want to lose my wife.  So I need to get more  sensitive to her feelings.

1

2

3

Yes.

1

2

3

4

Isn’t there some way I can listen to hers without listening to mine?

1

2

3

Hm. 

1

2

3

4

bert (7)

1

2

3

4

There may be a way.

1

2

3

4

bert (8)

1

2

3

4

See that drawer on your left?

1

2

3

4

Yeah.

1

2

3

4

Open it.  Find the yellow oaktag and the duct tape.

1

2

3

4

Got them.

1

2

3

4

Give them here.

1

2

3

4

bert (11)

1

2

3

4

Now lean forward, and sit still.

1

2

3

4

bert (12)

1

2

3

4

therapist (12)

1

2

3

4

bert (13)

1

2

3

4

therapist (13)

1

2

3

4

bert (14)

1

2

3

4

Th

1

2

3

4

1

2

3

 

4

There.

1

2

3

4

S

1

2

3

4

How’s that feel?

1

2

3

4

Artificial.

1

2

3

4

Yes.  Well.  Can’t have everything.

1

2

3

4

I guess.

1

2

3

4

Go forth and listen.

1

2

3

4

5

I think I’m changing my mind again.

1

2

3

4

5

6

 

 * * *

Want more?

A quick guide to healthy communication blockers, by Larry and Linda, aka the Untroubled Couple.

 


Bert’s therapy: Bull — chapter three

(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey.

“Bert’s therapy” is the session-by-session saga of a control addict trying to learn healthier alternatives .)

* * *

 

2

“Bull in a china shop.”  What’s that mean?

1

2

3

4

That you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

1

2

3

4

Emotionally speaking.

1

2

3

4

Right.

1

2

3

4

Because I’m numb to my own feelings.

1

2

3

4

Yes. 

1

2

3

4

Which leaves me insensitive to everyone else’s.

1

2

3

4

You got it.

1

2

3

4

So what do I do now?

1

2

3

4

Well, you start by getting interested.

1

2

3

4

In feelings.

1

2

3

4

That’s right.

1

2

3

4

I’d rather not.

1

2

3

4

I don’t blame you.

1

2

3

4

You don’t?

1

2

3

4

Nah.  Getting into feelings is no picnic…

1

2

3

4

bert (9)

1

2

3

4

…if you’ve spent your life trying to bury them.

1

2

3

4

Do I have a choice?

1

2

3

4

Sure.  There’s always choices.

1

2

3

4

What are mine?

1

2

3

4

You can do nothing, hope your marriage survives and your kids don’t grow up emotionally stunted.

1

2

3

4

bert (12)

1

2

3

4

Or you could graduate from bull to bully. 

1

2

3

4

By…

1

2

3

 

By insisting that your family accept you as you are.  Some guys try that.

1

2

3

4

Is there a third option?

1

2

3

4

Develop symptoms.  Anxiety or depression, mainly. 

1

2

3

4

I’m already started on that one. 

1

2

3

4

I know.  Or you could develop an addiction.

1

2

3

4

I don’t drink or drug.

1

2

3

4

There’s always food.  Or work.  That’s a popular choice.  

1

2

3

4

bert

1

2

3

4

Or spend your life in front of screens.  TV, internet.  Games, Facebook, chat rooms, porn.  You know.

1

2

3

4

Yeah.

1

2

3

4

So.  What’s your preference?

1

2

3

4

bert

1

2

3

4

 

Good choice.

1

2

3

4

 

 

* * *

Want more?

 

More recently, men tend to identify themselves by their careers.The Industrial Revolution sent the man out of the house to work, and into a hierarchy of competition and obedience. Assembly line production necessarily discouraged individuation. The man became aware of the possibility that life is not necessarily going to be a series of triumphs.

 

He knows he is not going to see the end of his work. He knows his company is polluting the environment. He is humiliated by his boss. The alternative may be to join the sales staff, working on commissions, which requires him to put on a smile and mask his true feelings even more. Whiskey may not suffice.

 

He comes home from work weary and frustrated. He has suffered the pain of being devalued and feels pressured to achieve more and more power and possessions. His children are rewarded with possession and privilege, if they are obedient. Even in school they are graded not on actual achievement but on how well they do what they are told.

 

The average man spends maybe 10 minutes a day with his son, mostly admonishing him. The parents manipulate each other and the children for control of the possessions. The mother feels closed out by her husband and often uses the children against him. She condescends or “puts him down,” and may use sex against him. The sexes fear and shame each other so easily.

 

It may well be that men have not intentionally closed women out from their feelings, but that they just don’t know what their real feelings are. The man has stuffed his feelings down so deep that he looks within and draws a blank. He feels numb. He has had no role model for the male mode of feeling. Or at least the ones he has had were probably celluloid characters that barely saw him through adolescence.

 

From Emotional isolation: A guy kind of thing (author unknown)

 


Bert’s therapy: Bull — chapter two

(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey. 

“Bert’s therapy” is the session-by-session saga of a control addict trying to learn healthier alternatives.

If you missed it, here’s Bull — chapter one.)

***

11

1

bert

1

2

3

4

Remember when I complimented you on developing some empathy?

1

2

3

4

Yeah.

1

2

3

4

I may have spoken too soon.

1

2

3

4

What the hell is “empathy,” anyway?

1

2

3

4

Awareness of another person’s feelings.

1

2

3

4

And I lack that.

1

2

3

4

Apparently.  But it’s not your fault.

1

2

3

4

bert.

1

2

3

4

You’re a man.  Most men are trained to be emotional dunderheads.

1

2

3

4

“Dunderhead”?

1

2

3

4

Emotionally stupid.

1

2

3

4

How does that happen? 

1

2

3

4

Well, we teach men to ignore or hide their feelings…

1

2

3

4

bert

1

2

3

4

…so they can go to war and go to work and do other stuff that feelings tend to interfere with.

1

2

3

4

Because big boys don’t cry.

1

2

3

4

Exactly.

1

2

3

4

bert 10

1

2

3

4

And once you lose touch with your own feelings…

1

2

3

4

bert (11)

1

2

3

4

…it’s hard to be sensitive to anyone else’s.

1

2

3

4

Like a wife’s.

1

2

3

4

Yes.

1

2

3

4

So she’s right.  I am insensitive to her feelings.

1

2

3

4

So it would seem.

1

2

3

4

Now I feel like a jerk.

1

2

3

4

I wouldn’t say that.  Just think of yourself as…

1

2

3

4

bert (15)

1

2

3

4

…a bull in a china shop.

1

2

(To be continued.)

x

x

* * *

Want more?

Having spent half his life trying to find fulfillment outside himself, he awakens to discover that it has not worked. For the first time in his life, a man may turn inward for answers.

He may begin to realize that his unhappiness is not caused by his failure to find the right woman or the right career, but by who he is and the way he is living his life.

Rather than blame others, he may ask, “How have I caused this to happen? Perhaps I need to change and develop greater self-awareness before I can have a healthy relationship or a satisfying career.”

This is a very difficult and courageous step for a man to take. Having successfully mastered his life on the outside, he is now forced to acknowledge that he needs help to explore difficulties encountered in his inner life.

From Real men do therapy by Jerry Magaro.

 

* * *

Most men grow up with an emptiness inside them.  Call it father hunger, call it male deprivation, call it personal insecurity, it’s the same emptiness. 

When positive masculine energy  — a male mode of feeling — is not modeled from father to son, it creates a vacuum in the souls of men.  And into that vacuum demons pour. 

Among other things, they seem to lose the ability to know how to read situations and people correctly.

Richard Rohr, in From wild man to wise man: Reflections on male spirituality.

 

 

 


Bert’s therapy: Bull — chapter one

b

(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey.

“Bert’s therapy” is the session-by-session saga of a control addict trying to learn alternatives to controlling.)

1

2

bert (1)

1

2

3

4

So, besides your snoring, what else is your wife mad about?

1

2

3

4

She says I’m insensitive to her feelings.

1

2

3

4

Why does she say that?

1

2

3

4

I don’t know.  I’m a pretty sensitive guy.

1

2

3

4

therapist (3)

1

2

3

4

Every birthday I buy her a card.

1

2

3

4

therapist (4)

1

2

3

4

Every anniversary I buy her flowers.

1

2

3

4

therapist (5)

1

2

3

4

Every Valentines Day I buy her chocolates.

1

2

3

4

therapist (6)

1

2

3

4

I even started wearing a snore strip.

1

2

3

4

therapist (7)

1

2

3

4

Which itches.

1

2

3

4

therapist (8)

1

2

3

4

And I go to work and I pay the mortgage and I mow the damn lawn.

1

2

3

4

therapist (9)

1

2

3

4

What else does she expect from me?

1

2

3

4

therapist (10)

1

2

3

4

bert (11)

1

2

3

4

You two talk much?

1

2

3

4

All the time.  We talked tonight.

1

2

3

4

What did you talk about?

1

2

3

4

I said, “I’m leaving for therapy now.”

1

2

3

4

therapist (13)

1

2

3

4

And she said, “Good.”

1

2

3

4

 

 

(To be continued.)

 

* * *

Want more? 

The woods are burning. The roof is falling in. The guy can’t sleep, can’t think and now he’s having panic attacks.

 Maybe it’s time to consider therapy.

 Then again, maybe not….

 “We teach men to be almost the opposite of what’s required for therapy.”   

 “By the time they’re in elementary school, boys have gotten the message that showing sadness or fear is a sign of weakness.”  

The men who enter therapy of their own volition have often hit rock bottom.  The despair they’ve denied or stifled with alcohol or overwork has spiraled until they can’t fake it anymore. Often, it’s the collapse of a marriage—unexpected, because months or years of warning signs have been ignored.

“These men are in a daze.  They don’t know what hit them.”

From Therapy: Man’s Last Stand by Carl Sherman.   

 

 

 


Bert’s therapy (#20): Empathy

 

bert (1)

1

2

3

4

Any thoughts about why you’re depressed?

1

2

3

4

Sure.  Lots.

1

2

3

4

Care to share?

1

2

3

4

I’m unhappily married.

1

2

3

4

What’s that mean?

1

2

3

4

It means I’m married to an angry woman.

1

2

3

4

Does she have reasons to be angry?

1

2

3

4

Sure.  Lots.

1

2

3

4

Work with me here.

1

2

3

4

Okay.  I snore.

1

2

3

4

Ah.  How bad?

1

2

3

4

How would I know?

1

2

3

4

Good point.

1

2

3

4

Bad, she says.  But it’s not my fault.  I don’t mean to.

1

2

3

4

Ever sleep with a snorer?

1

2

3

4

No. 

1

2

3

4

Let’s try an experiment.  I’ll be you.  You be your wife.

1

2

3

4

Excuse me?

1

2

3

4

Close your eyes.  Pretend to sleep. 

1

2

3

4

Oh.  Okay.

1

2

3

4

Ready?

1

2

3

4

bert (12)

1

2

3

4

therapist (12)

1

2

3

4

bert (13)

1

2

3

4

therapist (13)

1

2

3

4

bert (14)

1

2

3

4

therapist (14)

1

2

3

4

bert (15)

1

2

3

4

therapist (15)

1

2

3

4

bert (16)

1

2

3

4

therapist (16)

1

2

3

4

b17.

1

2

3

4

therapist (17)

1

2

3

4

b18

1

2

3

4

th18

1

2

3

4

 

Holy mother of god.

1

2

3

4

th19

1

2

3

4

 

Why hasn’t she divorced me?

1

2

3

4

Congratulations. 

1

2

3

4

 

b

1

2

3

4

That feeling is called “empathy.” 

2

3

4

* * *

Want more?

Are you a snorer?

Anyone ever complain to you about it? 

Want to develop some empathy?

Hear what they hear here.

 

 

* * *

Empathizing yet?  Good.

 

Now go here for help: 5 Different Cures for Snoring.

 

And check out the rest of the Snoring Remedies and Solutions website.

 

 


%d bloggers like this: