Adult Children of Parent Alienation Syndrome

Pas On May 24, 2007 Deborah Harper on Psychjourney interviewed Dr. Amy J. L. Baker about her book, Adult Alienation Syndome: Breaking The Ties That Bind.

Dr. Richard Garner coined the phrase Parent Alienation Syndrome back in the late 70s and it has been a controversial contruct ever sense. As they say, "Seeing is believing" and over the years I have been involved with families where parent alienation syndome is present and in my experience this is a very real thing which is often misunderstood and made worse by our Child Protective System, our Family court system, and our school systems.

The podcast lasts about 50 minutes and can be listened to on line or downloaded. I highly recommend it if you are interested in this topic. You can access it by clicking on the link below.

Link: [[Psychjourney]].


There is an American Taliban in our military services

I have reported on this blog before on a troubling dynamic in our culture about the rise of religious fundamentalism in the major domains of our society.

Christoper Hedges has his book entitled, "American Fascists", and Michelle Goldberg has her book, "Kingdom Coming, the Rise of Christian Nationalism", and on May 18th, 2008, The Real News, has a report on the rise of Christian Fundamentalism in our military. The video lasts 8:30 and is well worth watching for anyone interested in the major constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.

It also is very troubling in a democracy to see religious belief become a requirement for military service. This, of course, is a real hot button in this year's presidential campaign as most candidates pander for the votes of the religious right who elected George Bush. I hope that all Americans will reflect carefully on this issue as we enter campaign season about what it means for an American Taliban to be attempting to take over our government and impose their religious beliefs on the nation and the world.


What's love got to do with it? Why so many marriages fail.

Love has very little to do with a happy marriage contrary to the romantic myths in our society.

Marriage is about committment, not love. We can love a lot of different people but we can't marry them all. Love, when it comes to marriage, is a decision, not a feeling.

Marriage has to do with reliability, dependability, trust, honesty, companionship, understanding, empathy, respect, loyalty.

If you want to know the kind of people not well suited for marriage, get a hold of the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, and read the section on "Personality Disorders". My advice is, in general, if you want to be happily married, don't marry somebody with a personality disorder, and yet people do it all the time and then wonder what went wrong to their love.

One of the biggest tragedies in life, and we rarely talk about it, is to marry somebody who isn't any good for you. It happens all the time. Over 50% of the time. If people were more aware, wiser, smarter, and didn't buy the notion that love is all there is to marraige, is the gold test standard for marriage, we would have far fewer divorces.

Love is nice. It is the icing on the cake, but not the cake. When love fades, when love fails, what's left? The traditional marriage vows say, "for better and for worse; in good times and bad; in health and sickness; for richer or poorer, til death do us part." How does marriage survive the worse, the bad, sickness, poorer when your spouse is an idiot?

Love in marriage is like the tide of the ocean, it comes in and goes out. Love in marriage is like the phases of the moon, it waxes and wanes.

Tina Turner had it right when she sang her great song, "What's love got to do with it. It's just a second hand emotion." There has to be a lot more to marriage than love.

Tina Turner, What's Love Got To Do It? Video lasts 3:44


The map is not the territory - How not to live life.

Wrong_map Us therapists talk about the map not being the territory. We carry around in our heads all these "shoulda, coulda, wouldas" and chastise ourselves because our models, the templates we have in our heads, were not good guides to our behavior and consequential experience.

What do you say to people who have made mistakes and messed up their lives because they have certain assumptions about how life should be and how life is that aren't accurate? As the teenagers used to say, "well, duh..........................!"

My gentle answer to disillusioned clients is to PAY ATTENTION, reflect, observe, and learn from your experience. Make your own maps, don't borrow or use other peoples. Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." How many people do you know are living examined lives? Most people are walking around in a fog trying to follow their maps and the map is wrong and they don't know it until life hits them up along the side of their head with a two by four.

Some wrong maps in our culture:

    1. Fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.
    2. Money will make you happy.
    3. Life, in the long run, is fair, or life is not fair, so stop your sniveling and suck it up.
    4. People in authority know what they are talking about.
    5. Be afraid, but don't worry, we'll protect you.
    6. You are a sinner and are going to hell if you don't believe and agree with what we tell you.
    7. You were born defective and inadequate and have to work very hard, be very smart, and please everyone to prove that deep down you're not the worthless person that you feel you are.
    8. Drinking, drugging, gambling, overeating, promiscuous and compulsive sex, religiosity, overworking, compulsive exercise, cutting, starving yourself to death will make everything OK.
    9. Taking a prescription drug advertised on TV for people who are unhappy will make everything OK.

There are many, many more maps that people mistakenly take for the territory but, perhaps this is a good start for now. Maybe I'll mention some more in future articles. If you have some of your own suggestions add them to the comments.


Triumphing over misery in dysfunctional families

Dysfunctional_families Growing up in a dysfunctional family has its advantages. Children learn how to deal with dysfunction. Children learn what they don't want to replicate when they grow up in their own families.

Oldest children in dysfunctional families often enter helping professions like Social Work, Psychology, education, nursing, criminal justice, fire fighting. They often make great EMTs and cops because they love bringing order out of chaos.

Children who grow up in functional, happy families often don't know much about life. They are innocent and naive and don't understand why and how hurtful, evil things happen. Children who grow up in dysfunctional families know these things only too well.

I don't wish a dysfunctional family life on anyone. A dysfunctional family life is fraught with hurt, pain, anger, fear, sadness, and tragedies of various types. Dysfunctional families wreak all kinds of havoc from abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction, mental illness, crime, bankruptcy, hunger, incest, exploitation, intimidation, domination, subjugation and terrible, heart wrenching unhappiness. And yet, people who grow up in these situations are either scarred and wounded for life or they thrive and become very vibrant, determined, compassionate, and enlightened people.

In many ways I like people who grow up in dysfunctional families better than people who grow up in functional, happy families. They are much more interesting and have fascinating stories to tell about the resiliency of the human spirit as well as the pathos of evil. Of course, I am a therapist, and being the oldest child in a somewhat dysfunctional family, and the husband and father in a dysfunctional family that I tried to fix for 35 years, I suppose, as the old saying goes, misery likes company, but more than that I like the hopefulness of people who have seen misery and triumphed over it.


Through depression and into sorrow

Sorrow So much of what gets diagnosed and called "depression" in our modern society is really a disguise for sorrow. Sorrow is the emotion we feel when we experience loss. It is normal. It is appropriate. It is not pathological. It is not abnormal. It is not a psychiatric disorder. Sorrow is part of our human existence.

The more we love, and the more attached and bonded we are, the more sorrowful we will feel when we loose the love object. Our sorrow is a testament to the significance  and importance of that which we have lost.

Depression leaves us listless, uninterested in life, perhaps even wishing to end life, but sorrow is a rich diamond mine of cherished memories and rich experiences which honor relationships developed in a life well worth having been lived.

The challenge in our modern culture is to go right through the depression - forget the antidepressants- and go right into the sorrow. It is in sitting with it, observing it, relishing it, as painful and awful as it is , that we touch the deepest part of our humanity, of our souls.

Grief, sadness, and sorrow require understanding, consoling and comforting. It requires crying tears of sadness and shoulders to cry on. It requires a willingness to sit in the heart of darkness until it lifts and the sun appears once again.


Bad Therapy: Master Therapists Share Their Worst Failures, the book

Psychotherapy_session Bad Therapy: Master Therapists Share Their Worst Failures by Jeffrey A. Kottler and Jon Carlson was published by Brunner-Routledge in 2003. They interview 20 of what they call "master" psychotherapists some of whom I have heard of and some of whom I have not and ask them to describe a case of "bad" therapy which they conducted.

Some of the therapists made a distinction between "failed" therapy and "bad" therapy. All therapists, if they are honest, have cases where the therapy failed, but "bad" therapy implies more than just "failure". It implies that the therapist did something "bad" to cause the failure.

There also is a distinction between "bad" therapy and "unethical" therapy. Unethical therapy is blameworthy because the therapist intentionally misbehaved, and broke a code of ethics which they have promised to comply with and uphold. None of the therapists interviewed reported unethical therapy.

Bad therapy are the cases where the therapist blew it, bungled it, made mistakes which alienated the clients, and clients quit therapy feeling unhelped, disrespected, misunderstood, etc.

The most common cause of "bad" therapy is the treatment based on protocol or mental models in the therapist's head which he/she were hell bent on imposing on the client and the client's situation whether they were appropriate or helpful or not. Now days the debate is over "evidence based practice" vs. "client centered practice". The drive by a therapist to impose models of practice onto his/her work with clients is based on arrogance, narcissism, and insecurity. Rather than listening to clients and being responsive to the client's needs, concerns, and preferences, the therapist proceeds thinking that the therapist knows best leading to bad therapy.

It seems that most therapists mean well. They want to do good work and be helpful to clients, and they are saddened and embarrassed and sometimes feel guilty when they fail. A number of therapists say that they became humbler and were better able to learn from reflecting on their practice as they got older and had more experience.

Another thing which was apparent to me was the appreciation that good therapy is very very hard work. It takes an ability to be attentive and empathic in sustained ways with people who are emotionally distressed and often times with significant problems in functioning in important areas of their lives. I am struck how psychotherapy is marginalized, trivialized, and ridiculed in movies and popular culture and yet is soul saving and life saving in its mission and accomplishment. Perhaps psychotherapy gets marginalized because it makes people uncomfortable to think of our imperfection and difficulties in living our lives and achieving happiness as human beings.

Bad Therapy is not a great book. It probably holds little interest except for psychotherapists. I am somewhat disappointed with it and yet I find it interesting because it presents psychotherapists struggling with their own practice in helping people and that presentation puts a human face on the enterprise which is something of significant value as we strive to understand the practice of psychotherapy better. Kottler and Carlson and the 20 brave therapists who participated have made a contribution to the field for which I am grateful.


Appreciating our natural world - In Living Color

Weisman Another one of my favorite radio shows is To The Best Of Our Knowledge, TTBOOK, which is an NPR show produced by Wisconsin Public Radio. On 04/13/08 TTBOOK broadcast a show entitled "In Living Color". Here is a brief description of the show from the TTBOOK web site:

Imagine the world as we know it, only without us. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, a writer imagines a world reinventing itself without human beings. He sees the New York subway system returning to its watery origins. The re-absorption of carbon into the earth, and endangered wildlife coming back from the brink. Also, one man finds the extraordinary in encounters with birds. And, garbage island - the bobbing plastic wasteland that's plaguing the Pacific.

It is a fascinating show in three segments which lasts about 55 minutes. In the first segment Alan Weisman talks about his book, World Without Humans. I was so fascinated I went out yesterday and bought his book. What would happen if the earth suddenly had no humans?

In the second segment, Thomas Morton described the Pacific gyre. I didn't even know what the pacific gyre is. It is the place where the ocean currents coalesce way out in the pacific and fills up with garbage. Mr. Morton hires a boat to take him out to the gyre and he describes his experience. Also, Sam Keen describes his spiritual experience with nature through bird watching, and Erec Toso describes his experience of being bitten by a rattlesnake in his front yard in Arizona as he was walking home one night in the dark with his two little kids.

Overall, a very good radio show and I recommend it. You can listen on line by going to the TTBOOK web site by clicking on the link below.

Link: 080413A In Living Color.


935 lies by Bush Administration lead U.S. to war

935 lies by Bush Administration lead U.S. to war according to the Center for Public Integrity. Is this evidence of war crimes and a basis for impeachment because of high crimes and misdemeanors? It is this kind of mystification that makes a whole nation crazy. When government is in bed with the corporate media and the military/industrial complex, fascism is real and present, and any sense that we live in a democracy becomes self delusional. Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow give an overview. Video lasts 6 minutes and every American should watch it.


Feeling like your real self.

My_real_self I remember reading a story that Peter Kramer tells in his book, Listening To Prozac, when Dr. Kramer said he prescribed Prozac to a young woman who didn't meet the criteria for the diagnosis of depression. When she returned for a follow-up six weeks later, she told Dr. Kramer that Prozac had changed her life. He asked what she meant and she said, "For the first time in my life, I feel like my real self." Dr. Kramer said he pondered her statement for some time. What does it mean to feel like your real self?

We are all expected to play certain roles, to behave in certain ways, to pretend to feel certain ways to please others. After awhile we loose touch with what is genuine, true, real, deep down. Does it take a drug to help us get back in touch with our soul?

It is very difficult to find our real self, the truth, after we have lost our way. I believe that psychotherapy is a better way to do this than by taking drugs but then who am I to judge?

Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. How many  people do you know who are living examined lives? The two places in our society that I have met them are in my psychotherapy office and in twelve step rooms like Alcoholics Anonymous. Once in a while I might meet them at Church or at the University, but that is rare. If we are blessed, we have this opportunity to come to realize our true selves in our marriages, families, or very close friendships.

One of the most important challenges in life is to become aware of and facilitate the development of our true selves.