Cognitive behavioral therapy

Dr. Aaron Beck, father of cognitive behavioral therapy, died this week, November 2021, at age 100.

Oddly enough, the best explanations of cognitive behavioral therapy that I’ve read is on a writing website. It talks about writing down all of the horrible thoughts and then going back and writing counter thoughts. Psychologists have been talking at me at medical conferences for years about cognitive behavioral therapy, but they never explained it. They said we could do it in clinic. I thought cynically that maybe I could if I knew what the hell it was.

And the explanation by the author is oddly similar to what I think of as the angel and devil on my shoulders. It turns out that I do do it in clinic.

When I react to some event, I let the devil out first. It has a fit about whatever is happening, writes poems, is reactive, paranoid and full of anger and grief. It often imagines over the top terrible things happening to the person or people that did whatever it is. Then the angel wakes up and says, wait. What are you saying? What you are imagining and cursing that person with is WAY worse then what they did. The angel writes the poems of forgiveness.

So I have been doing a homemade form of cognitive behavioral therapy.

However, I would say that it can be overused. We need to listen to patients carefully. If they are in an abusive relationship, it should not be papered over with cognitive behavioral therapy. A friend and I have been comparing terrible childhoods. His involved being beaten without reason.

I said recently that what people hit with in my family is words. They make grief and fear into stories, funny stories, that make people laugh. Shame and humiliation and reliving the feelings. I said that I am reactive and pay close attention to words. But I have reason, back to age 2. I said that books are my refuge because the words are not about me, they don’t shame me, they do not humiliate me, and if I read a book twice, it has the same words. Home, love and safe.

In my maternal family, if I said that I was not comfortable with a comment, I was told that I took things too seriously, that I have no sense of humor, that I can’t take a joke. Gaslight and then dismiss any objection. That is how one side of my family loves. I do not like it. Unsurprisingly, they do not love me, or at least I do not feel loved.

And my friend said, your family, your childhood, was worse than mine.

One of my talents in clinic is that I can listen to insane family stories. I can listen because my family is insane. They are cruel. At least, it feels like cruelty and horror to me. I didn’t ever try to find out if a family story is true. I listen and then say, yes. I think it is appropriate for you to feel angry/sad/horrified/appalled/scared/hurt/whatever.

Somehow that listening and validation is huge. I have people come in and say, “I NEED AN ANTIDEPRESSANT.” They want to supress the feelings. So I had time in my clinic: why do you need an antidepressant? Tell me the story. Fill me in. What are you feeling and why?

And more than half the time after the story, after validation, I ask, “Do you need an antidepressant?”

The person thinks. “No. I don’t think so. Let me think about it. I feel better.”

“Ok. Do you want to schedule a follow up?”

Half do. Half say: “No, let me wait and see. I will if I need it.”

Mostly they don’t need it. They have emptied out the awful feelings in the exam room and they aren’t so awful after all. I say that it sounds like a pretty normal response and I would feel that way too. Because I would. Once the feelings, the monstrous feelings, are in the light of day, they relax and evaporate, dissipate like mist, fly home to the Beloved. Goodbye, dark feelings. You are appropriate and you are loved.

Blessings, Dr. Beck, and thank you.

crossroads

Regardless of how the vote goes, I will keep speaking up.

It is so painful to have woman after woman saying, “I have stories too.”

And to the “nice” men who say, “I can’t believe that sort of thing. I can’t read about it. It hurts too much.” YOU are silencing too. YOU are part of the problem. As long as YOU refuse to listen, refuse to speak up, refuse to read about it: YOU PRETEND TO YOURSELF THAT IT IS NOT HAPPENING TO YOUR WIFE, YOUR SISTER, YOUR MOTHER, YOUR DAUGHTER. YOU PRETEND THAT IT ONLY HAPPENS TO “THOSE” WOMEN, THAT THEY ARE FEW, THAT IF THEY HAD TAKEN PRECAUTIONS IT WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED, THAT YOU ARE PROTECTING “YOUR” WOMEN.

Speak up, “nice” men. Are you ASKING the women in your life? Or are you silencing them?

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Joanne Little.

 

Advice to a college daughter

I am submitting this to the Daily Prompt: Careful.

I talked to a young woman recently who left the college that my daughter is going to.

And then I gave my daughter advice.

“If you are attacked or assaulted, sexually or otherwise, do not go to the campus police. Go to the city police. Or better yet, a State Trooper.”

Because, you see, the Campus Police work for the school. It is a conflict of interest.

If you are attacked, get a friend. Have them help you get to the City or State Police. Have them record your initial story on their cell phone. Have them photograph any injuries, torn clothes, you crying while you tell them. If you are raped, have your friend get you to the City or State Police and then to an emergency room for a rape kit. This is documentation of your story. Write out what happened the next day. Keep all of it. It is admissible in court. Name names. Tell every word that you can remember that the other person said. Try to figure out if there are any witnesses.

Because too many men lie. Men lie in our culture and the system dismisses what women and girls say, dismisses domestic violence, dismisses assault, dismisses rape. You do not want to be Cosbyed or Trumped. You will not stand for it. None of us should stand for it.

Fight back. Stand up. We will not tolerate this culture and we will make it stop.

safe enough to have a fence and roses

A friend said that he observed me for a long time before we got to know each other a little.

I asked what he observed. He said, “Thoughtful, deliberate and shy.”

I started laughing and said I am not shy. But….that is not true. I am guarded all the time with people. Even with him, still.

So what am I guarding and what is shy?

I have a little girl self that is very very shy. Hidden for a very long time. Now I have felt safe enough that she can play. I see her as playing in a wild place. Sun and a forest and a stream and a field. Sometimes it rains. She plays alone in the sun with rocks by the stream or runs in the field or climbs the trees.

I think many people have a small child hurt and hidden. I think it’s common. I think sometimes it’s so well hidden they can’t even reach it.

At any rate, my small child can’t be reached by any sort of force or intimidation. She could only be reached by gentleness. Another small child with daisies and even then, trust would take a long time. At first she would run away and hide. And I don’t think it will happen and I have given up, but I can still love her and protect her. And she is happy in her wild place, lonely sometimes, but happy.

Every time I see the pink soft romantic roses in my front yard I laugh, because those roses are for that little girl part, shy and romantic. She feels safe enough to have a fence and roses.

the photo is from my front yard and the rose is Betty Boop

Veracity

V for veracity in the Blogging from A to Z challenge.

I am thinking about veracity and my father. Veracity is truth, faithfulness, accuracy, correctness.

I was frustrated about how someone was reacting to something and asked my father about it.

My father said, “Most people don’t want reality.”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Most people work hard to avoid reality. They have a set of ideas and a world view and they get upset if something does not fit in it or if it is questioned.”

I have been thinking about a song that I learned as a kid. It falls into one of the “Dead Girl” songs, as my sister called them. I think of them as teaching songs. I am taking guitar lessons and my teacher says that he won’t sing those songs.

I will. I like the dark songs. And I am very ambivalent about this song:

There was a wee cooper wha lived in Fife,
Nickety, nackety, noo, noo, noo;
And he had married a gentle wife,
Hey, willy, wallacky, ho John Dougle
Alane, quo rushity roo, roo, roo.

She would na bake nor would she brew,
For spilin’ o’ her comely hue.

she would na caird nor would she spin,
For shamin’ o’ her gentle kin.

The cooper has gone to his wool pack,
And he’s laid a sheep’s skin on his wife’s back.

“I’ll no be shamin’ your gentle kin,
But I will skelp my ain sheepskin.”

“O I will bake and I will brew,
And think nae mair o’ my comely hue.”

“O I will wash and I will spin,
And think nae mair o’ my gentle kin.”

A’ ye what hae gotten a gentle wife,
Send ye for the wee cooper o’ Fife.

This is Child Ballad number 277 and has been recorded by Burl Ives and others.

Ambivalence. It’s a song about wife beating, I don’t approve. But it’s also a song about surviving. A cooper builds barrels. The job division was that the wife would bake and brew, card wool and spin. However, this wife is “gentle” as in gentleman, of “good birth” and rejects the work as beneath her. Does she expect to be served? In the stories of happily ever after, we are happy when the poor underdog poor person wins the love and admiration of the other person, but we don’t see what happens when they go home. In Disney movies, the girls are poor and win a prince. Or Aladdin becomes a prince.

Skelp is defined as “hit, beat, slap”. The song doesn’t say whether the cooper does beat the sheepskin tied to his wife’s back or only threatens to do so.

I love word play so I like the “alane, quo rushity roo, roo, roo.” Nonsense words delight me aside from the topic of the song and I like the tune.

I think that our culture has years of men dominating women and expecting women to obey. I dislike that intensely. At the same time, I don’t like it when people won’t contribute and when they avoid work, so I also have some sympathy for the wee cooper. And our culture spends too much time thinking “happily ever after”, trying to find just the right person. We do not enough time actually asking each other what “happily ever after” would look like. And anyhow, it doesn’t exist. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and health: that is the veracity. We all will have challenges and everyone will have illness and hopefully good times too.

I am thinking of the many people lost in the recent earthquake. Lost: killed suddenly. Enjoy each day and be kind to yourself and others. We never know when grief will strike.