Failure is the path to success


Failure is often filled with embarassment, shame, and sometimes guilt. Because of the shame mostly, we are motivated to avoid failure and sometimes to lie about it to save face. Of course this a perverse and pernicious priniciple because we learn from mistakes and failures all the time. Watch a baby learn to walk, How many times does the baby stumble and fall? Watch a person learn any skill like riding a bike. How many times must they fall before they learn to keep their balance?

Mistakes are a staple of life. Cursed is the person paralyzed because they are inert out of fear of making a mistake.

Creativity and success requires risk and the willingness to make mistakes, to fail.

I tell people to make as many mistakes as they like. My only rule is that when you make a mistake take respoonsibility for it and clean up your mess. Don't put it off on others by blaming them or leaving the consequences for them to repair.


Catastrophe sometimes brings sweet relief.

Divorce There is the idea in the substance abuse field, one to which I do not subscribe, that before things can get better, before an addict is willing to face his addiction, he has to "hit bottom." "Hitting bottom" is defined as catastrophe, something terrible, like a DWI arrest, a divorce, getting fired from a job, a life threatening event, perhaps even a death. Hitting bottom is the whack along side the head with a 2 x 4 but even that sometime is not enough to bring relief, to bring awareness, to bring the sobering encounter with reality.

In relationships sometimes me limp along knowing things aren't right hoping for the best and avoiding the final decision that changes need to be made. We move as Andrew Body writes in his little book, Daily Afflictions, "...from minor disaster to minor disaster, but it takes truly heroic stamina to see things through to total catastrophe." p. 41

Sometimes we are waiting for the catastrophe to occur because then the rationale for our release will be crystal clear  and our explanation for the change to others will be unequivocal. Everyone will understand why things couldn't go on the way they were.

As Andrew Boyd writes, "It's a catastrophe, but it's the one I need." and yet while it brings crisis, it is a crisis sweet with relief that things, as we knew them, are over, thank God. As people say, when they arrive at that point, "I just couldn't do it anymore!"

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]].

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

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.

It is in the darkness that we see the light

Dark_path We live in a society which falsely teaches that people should be happy all the time. There are all kinds of things you can do and products you can buy to "cheer up". Our society loves cheery people.

I was accused one time, in a psychotherapy session by a client, of having "rose colored glasses on." I was rightly criticized by the client for trying to falsely "cheer her up."

I have been intrigued by the idea that sometimes our depression is trying to teach us something. If we ignore its lessons, we do so at the peril of loosing touch with our soul. Sometimes the path is dark and difficult and it will not be artificially illuminated with a light and bouncy countenance. Sugar coating does not work. Not saying shit when we have a mouth full of it is not in our spirit's best interest.

In one psychotherapy session, I said to a client in a kind and understanding way, after he had told me a long list of grievances about what was going on in his life, "It sucks to be you!" He looked at me with a look of recognition and started to laugh. Finally, here was someone who understood how lost and desolate he feels.

Sometimes, rather than being cheered up, we need to explore the dark path. We need to get to the bottom of things so the darkness can be surfaced, the unconscious demons can be made conscious. It is in going into the darkness of our fears, our suffering, our loneliness, that we begin to see the light.

You've Got A Friend - James Taylor and Carole King

The Business of Being Born, the film

Childbirth My wife and I had 9 children. The last four were born at home between 1978 and 1987. We were way ahead of our time or way behind the time however you want to look at it, because during these years all babies were born in hospitals except for very, very, very, few. The people who gave birth at home either alone or with a midwife were considered to be very counter-cultural, or irresponsible, or crazy. Yet, 70 - 80% of babies in every first world country, except the United States, are born with a midwife, many at home.

Why is the United States with the second highest infant mortality rate of first world countries, so unusual in that it has professionalized and institutionalized one of the most natural functions in the world? As usual, follow the money. Birthing has become a big business even if it is bad for mothers and babies.

No woman in the United States should have a baby without seeing Ricki Lake's new documentary, released in 2008, The Business of Being Born. I highly recommend this film.

To watch the trailer, click here.

Link: The Business of Being Born (2008).

Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty

Death_penalty_3 If you are regular reader of this blog you know that I am against the death penalty for a variety of reasons. I am a father of two children killed by a three time drunk driver so I am no stranger to violent tragedy.

The Psychiatric News had an interesting article in the March 7, 2007 issue entitled "Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty" which reports on a meeting of the New York branch of the American Psychoanalytic Association where two brothers, one of a killer and one of a man killed, discuss their thoughts and feelings about the death penalty. Here is a brief snippet from the article:

At the latest death-penalty session, which was part of the winter meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association in New York City, the brother of a murderer and the brother of a murder victim presented their views on the death penalty. 

One was David Kaczynski, the brother of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (see Terrible Dilemma: To Tell or Not to Tell?). The other was Alan Pottinger, whose brother was killed in a pub shooting in 1991 by a man named Edward White. White had been serving a 25- to 50-year sentence for a 1989 murder when he escaped. After that, he entered the pub where Pottinger's brother worked as a bartender. White demanded money from everyone in the pub. Pottinger's brother attempted to intervene. White shot him, killing him. 

While Kaczynski's and Pottinger's experiences differed sharply in many ways, they resembled each other in one: each man was tempted to seek revenge for the psychological anguish he was experiencing—Kaczynski against the prosecutor who wanted the death penalty for his brother, Ted, and Pottinger against the man who had murdered his brother. Pottinger's desire for revenge was fueled even more by comments from friends and acquaintances, such as "You ought to kill that sonofabitch."

To understand the death penalty issue from a personal level, I recommend this brief article. To read the whole article, click on the link below.

Link: Those Most Affected Help Analysts Mull Death Penalty -- Arehart-Treichel 43 (5): 6 -- Psychiatr News.

Intimidation might stem from fear of rejection

Intimidation "I know I can be intimidating. I think it's because I fear rejection so I want the other person to know all the bad things that have happened to me in my life to see if they still want to develop a relationship with someone like me."

"That's interesting," I say. "How does this work for you?"

"I don't want to waste time on a relationship if later on when they find out the bad things about me, they are only going to reject me. So I tell them too much, too quick, right up front."

"And what do you think might work better?" I say.

"Like you said, probably if I relaxed and went slower."

"Are you going to try that?" I ask.

"Yeah. I couldn't do any worse than I am doing now."

Forever Ours: Real Stories of Immortality and Living from a Forensic Pathologist, the book

Forever_ours Janis Amatuzio, M.D., a forensic patholigist, has written a neat little book entitled Forever Ours: Real Stories of Immortality and Living from a Forensic Pathologist. It is a short book, beautifully and succinctly written about families she has known and experiences she has had as a coroner investigating the deaths of loved ones.

The stories she tells of afterlife experiences are believable, respectful, heart warming, and intriguing. If you are interested in this kind of subject matter this is a good book to start with. If you already have read books about life after death, there is little that will be new here, but the presentation is respectful, succinct, straight forward, and because of that presentation well worth reading.

I recommend this book.

Link: Forever Ours: Real Stories of Immortality and Living from a Forensic Pathologist: Books: Janis Amatuzio.