Books - Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

What happens when parents suddenly die in a car crash and leave a 17 yr. old son, a 16 yr. old son, a 7 year old daughter and a baby daughter in a rural farming community in Northern Ontario, Canada?

Grown up Kate, now in her 20s tells most of the story.

It is a narrative full of love, sacrifice, loyalty, persistence, projection, and descriptions of attachment styles that are fascinating.

Kate certainly has become avoidant although she had been every attached to her brother, Matt the youngest son. This attachment dynamic is the plat of the book. While Luke the oldest, and Bo the youngest are interesting characters, the primary creative tension revolves around Matt and Katie, 16 and 7 when tragedy strikes the family.

This novel is an extraordinary description of sibling relationships and the significant role they play in our growth and development.

I give Crow Lake a 4/5 and recommend it if you are interested in family dynamics especially those between siblings who are thrown upon their own resources to care for one another. 

I would recommend this book to students entering the helping professions especially for its depiction of attachment styles.


Books - The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

There are plenty of slave narratives. Do we need any more?

Colson Whitehead's novel, The Underground Railroad, tells the story of a young slave woman, Cora, who escapes the Randall plantation in Georgia with a male companion Caesar and makes her way north and west on a literal underground railroad whose tunnels have been dug by abolitionists committed to undoing the bonds of slavery.

The scenes about slave torture and killings are terrible and offset to some extent by the kindness of strangers who help and conduct the slave escapees to freedom.

This is a story about the tenacity and perseverance of the human spirit against the evil of economic forces and power which exploit, subjugate, oppress, and terrorize to maintain power and dominion. It is a more extreme story of what is happening in America today with Trumpism and the championing of racism, mysogony, xenophobia, deceit and using fear and terror to undue civil liberties and the rule of law.

The Underground Railroad is an old narrative going back 300 years in the United States and continuing on in more subtle and insidious forms in our country today.

Cora and her companions seeking freedom and human development in the face of life threatening terror and domination is a souce of inspiritation and hope. The people who help her and her companions are the unnamed saints and martyrs for the cause of human dignity and respect. While a difficult book to read because of intentional pain and suffering deliberately inflicted to dominate and subjugate human beings, it is more importantly a book not only of resistance, but of endurance, hope, and triumph.

I give The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead a 4.5 on the Markham Behavioral Health 5 point scale.

 


Attachment In Therapeutic Practice

I just finished Attachment In Therapeutic Practice by Jeremy Holmes and Arietta Slade.

 

Attachment In Therapeutic Practice is about attachment theory and how this understanding of human development and behavior can be used in psychotherapeutic practice. Even with 49 years of experience in the mental health field as a Psychiatric Social Worker, I am still learning more every day. Many of the ideas that Holmes and Slade describe I have been familiar with, and their way of connecting the dots is very helpful.

A human beings attachment style gets set in the first two years of life and is determined by a number of factors. The primary factor is the interaction between the infant and the primary caregiver. This interaction contributes to four attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. I have come to realize that I have an avoidant attachment style which was formed by a relationship with my father in which I was afraid of him, and a relationship with my mother which was somewhat secure but at times questionable.

There are many components of attachment styles and one of the most significant is trust. Here's how trust plays out in attachment styles:

  1. Secure - I usually trust that people will like me and I can depend on them.
  2. Anxious - I never know for sure whether people will like me and I can depend on them.
  3. Avoidant - I know that you can't depend on other people. The only person you can depend on is yourself.
  4. Disorganized - I know people won't like me and bad things usually happen to me.

These "internal working models" IMWs, are usually unconscious. They significantly affect our relationships with ourselves and other people. Which pairings do you think might be the happiest on long term committed relationships like marriage?

Also, the client's attachment style has significant implications for work with a psychotherapist which involves developing a helping relationship. A psychotherapist must be aware and skilled to develop different relationships with clients based on the client's attachment style.

This is article #1 in a series on attachment theory.

 

 

 

 


The Silenced, the book

The following synopsis comes from the school library journal posted on the Amazon web site.

The Silenced begins with Marena running late for her bus that takes her from her readaptation community to her Youth Training Facility. Classes are lead by instructors of public enlightenment and consist of recitation of Zero Tolerance Party propaganda. Stern, silent state officers patrol the halls. As the book progresses, Marena begins to remember things that she was somehow made to forget. It becomes clear to her that her father was there when the state officers dragged her mother from their home years before. As regulations tighten, she isn't sure who she can trust besides her boyfriend, Dex, and newcomer Eric. She realizes that, like her mother, she cannot remain silent in the face of state oppression. The three friends choose graffiti as their primary form of rebellion. DeVita's novel has many of the same character types and situations as other dystopic works—the enemy who has a change of heart, the unsympathetic character who nevertheless proves to be brave, and the friend who is a traitor. While readers may not find any conceptual surprises, this is a gripping read and young adults will certainly empathize with the characters' conflicts between self-expression and a desire to fit in. They will find the Zero Tolerance credo that the state's first priority must be the safety of its citizens to have a chilling resonance with statements in the news today.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

While The Silenced is marketed for grade 7 and up, many adults have enjoyed this novel by James Devita. I heard about the novel on the NPR radio show To The Best Of Our Knowledge. Having read it, I am chilled by the similarities to the Bush Administration which we have lived through in the last 8 years. I think this is an important book that all Americans read who are concerned about the direction which our country has been going in especially in the last 8 years.


Capitalism out of control

I have started reading Naomi Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine, and it is one of those epiphany experiences where the light bulb goes on and I think to myself, "Holy Shit, that explains it."

Shock doctrine is a very exciting book for me because Klein brings a lot of events together with government policies which finally make sense for me. My initial impression is that the title of the book could also have been, "Capitalism out of control: How greed destroyed America and wreaked havoc in the rest of the world."

In the name of capitalism, the U.S. govenment has been increasingly privatizing previous government functions by outsourcing these services to private companies making political supporters rich on the public's dollar. It is a neat scheme to keep the politicians in power giving the public's money away to their cronies crowing about less government while they rob the public coffers and turn power over to the corporations to run the country.

It is time that Americans became aware of the new paradigm since they are ones paying for it and suffering under it.

I will be writing more about this topic in coming weeks and will tag these posts "Capitalism out of control".


Money For Nothing, the book

Money for nothing Edward Ugel has written a light breezy memoir entitled, Money For Nothing: One Man's Journey Through The Dark Side Of Lottery Millions. Ugel describes his career as a lump sum salesman to lottery winners who rather than wait for the annual annuity check decide to sell their win to a financial investment company for a lump sum.

Ugel describes how the lump sum salespeople prey on the weaknesses and character defects of winners to make their sales and collect thousands in commissions. Turns out Ugel has a gambling problem himself and so part of what makes him a successful salesman in this bussiness is that "it takes one to know one."

The thing that makes this book palatable is Ugel's self denigrating stance, his humor, and his humility. He is aware of his problems and he knows that at once they are his greatest assett and his greatest deficit. He makes no bones about it and seems honest in a way that is refreshing and kept me reading to the end.

The book is disjointed and written like a high school term paper, but enjoyable nonetheless and gives the reader an inside glimpse of the underbelly of state lotteries, the people who play them, and the people who prey on the unfortunate winners.


On Chesil Beach, the book

The year is 1962 and Edward 23, marries Florence, 22 and both virgins go to Chesil Beach on the Dorset Coast for their honeymoon. Edward is horney as hell and Florence is scared out of her wits, and though they love each other ostensibly, their first attempt at sex is a disaster which sets off a round of recriminations that dooms their once hopeful marriage.

Ian McEwan's novella is a masterful description of human emotion, interpersonal dysfunction, and tragedy entirely of our own making. It would be a wonderful book to use in a course on Marriage and Family Therapy.

I recommend this book, Ian McEwan's, On Chesil Beach


Addiction to attention which turns into promiscuous sex

Loose girl On June 11, 2008, Deborah Harper, President of Psychjourney interviewed Kerry Cohen, the author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity about her book, her life, and her work as a psychotherapist.

Ms. Cohen talks about her addiction to attention which she obtained by projecting herself as a sex object for numerous boys. As Ms. Cohen says it wasn't about the sex as much as the hope in getting their attention that they would make her whole.

This interview lasts about 30 minutes and is well worth listening to by any psychotherapist working with young women, and/or parents of young women, or young women themselves who crave attention and use their sex appeal to obtain that attention.

I am reminded of a client of mine, a 17 year old young woman,who told me "I'd rather be used than be alone."

I recommend this interview. You can go to the psychjourney web site by clicking on the link below.

[[Psychjourney]]
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Jon Stewart asks McClellan how our politicians lie to us

Jon Stewart does a great job interviewing Scott McClellan about his book , What Happened. It is interesting to hear the administration's representatives say things like "this isn't the Scott we knew". Jon asks McClellan insightful questions about how the administration developed the strategy of obfuscation which they employed to lie to the American people.

If you are interested in the immoral behavior of our polticians as they go about their activities in pursuing their own agenda which is contradictory to the interests of the nation, and the world,  Jon's interview is well worth watching.


Stupid Americans prefer comfort to truth, myth to facts. This amounts to denial at a national level.

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

John F. Kennedy

With this epigram, Rick Shenkman opens the first chapter of his book, which I wanted to write, entitled, Just How Stupid Are We?

Shenkman writes, "Even after 9/11, when fresh thinking was needed most, we neglected as a society to confront the harsh truths about the limits of the public's wisdom. Busy spreading democracy around the world,we refused to reflect bravely on the defects of our own. Instead of admitting our flaws, we settled, somewhat defensively, on the myth that we a good and great people with noble aims." p. 12

Of course this is highly questionable. We had just elected two convicted drunk drivers to the highest offices in the land, President and Vice-President. That alone should give any thinking person pause in considering the wisdom and intelligence of the American people. We not only elected them, we re-elected them rejecting a decorated war hero for two leaders who avoided and dodged military service.

As Shenkman points out, when the American voters are faced with the truth or the myth they vote for the myth that gay marriage is bad, and that abortion is ruining our nation even when the bulk of the information from a public health perspective is the opposite. However, facing up the truths which fly in the face of fiercely held myths  is not something the American public has proved itself good at, and disaster has occured and continues to develop as most Americans aren't smart enough to understand how they have been had by their politicians and the corporate media.

It is easy to blame the policticans for fear mongering, lying, manipulating, spinning, and being bought off by lobbyists, and it is easy to blame the corporate media for skewing the news in their desired directions and not asking the tough questions and digging for the real facts behind the public relations spin, but few people have questioned the myth of the wisdom of the American people. The fact of the matter is that the American public is stupid. We get what we deserve. Perhaps working together we can look at our myths and start questioning "authority" so that we can come to a functional and healthy understanding of our national and international situation.

The American peple are in denial as surely as the alcoholic and drug addict are in denial about the nature of their disease. When first confronted, the alcoholic says, "Screw you. I don't have a problem." But as more negative consequences occur, the alcoholic can't avoid and deny any more. Reality starts to set in as the alcoholic hits bottom. America is hitting bottom. The myth that we are fighting pre-emptive, immoral wars like Viet Nam and Iraq for freedom and democracy around the world because we are morally superior while we loose democratic freedoms at home, and working people become poorer as the rich become richer, is becoming contaminated.

As Shenkman points out, it is not the lies that harm the most, but the belief in the underlying myths which make the lies necessary to maintain order and compliance of a people who otherwise might object to the policies of those in power.



Video with Rick Shenkman lasts about 6:42