546. Power

Image result for powerless images“I feel powerless and helpless”, she said. “My dreams confirm it. I can’t lift a glass of water or even stand up. Evil attackers come after me and the kids, but I don’t know how to shoot my husband’s gun. I’m paralyzed. I tell the kids to run to safety as I try to figure out the handgun. My car flies off the road into an abyss, and I am remarkably calm, at ease. I don’t have to fight for control any longer. My situation has taken total control of my powerlessness. It’s not suicidal dreaming; rather it is soothing to feel the release of responsibility’s pressure. I can float care free.”Image result for car driving off cliff gif

“Your unconscious can be telling you something here, you know. Something wise and good.”

“Like what?”

“Stand up, for instance. To whom or for what would you need to stand up?”Image result for standing gif

“Oh, that’s easy. My father in law. He’s such a wild squirrel in our house. He watches the right wing news and yells at the developments they cover. It’s all bad to me. I can’t watch the news. ”

“So you need to stand up to your father in law? And maybe stand up to the world of the news.”

“I can’t. All the shootings and chaos paralyze me. I have no control. For years now the house work has been out of my control, and my kids are getting there too.”Image result for scared faces gif

“How about the glass of water you can’t lift? Does anyone in your house leave glasses sitting around for you to pick up?”

“Are you kidding? Like everyone– my husband, my kids, my father in law. Always. It makes me crazy.!”

“In your dream you can’t pick up one glass of water. We know in reality that you can lift a glass, but your dream says you can’t or that you should be able to. You get anxious that you can’t.” Image result for weak hands lifting a glass gif

“Yeah, that’s enlightening. Weird too. You’re getting a lot more out of my dreams than I am.”

“Well, I believe in the unconscious as a deeper, wiser level of self that shows us powerful images and symbols with intense feelings attached. Symbols are dense communication. Vivid dreams and repetitive ones strike me as the unconscious insistently knocking on the door to our conscious reality. Will you answer the door?”Image result for gothic door knocking gif

“I don’t know what to do. How to gather up control and be powerful…”

“You equate control with power. Define power.”

“It’s being in control.”

“But control of what? Chaos?”

“Yes, chaos is disorder. Control is order. Order is power, I guess.”

“Nice linkage. Did you know that chaos meant gas in Greek?”Related image

“No, I’m not a word nerd like you.”

“I’ll choose to take that as a tortured compliment. Anyway, harnessing a gas, propane or gasoline or steam, leads to power. And harnessing is essentially controlling the thing in the harness. In the process you extract or direct the energy in the harnessed thing.”Image result for harnessed horses gif

“I can follow that with my housework, but not my kids…”

“Well, they have lots of energy, right?”

“Tons, no, megatons.”Image result for nuclear mushroom cloud gif

“Okay, you harness their energy by providing order, structure, rules, pro-social values.”

“I don’t feel like I’m harnessing anything. I feel like I’m running behind a pair of huskies that got off the leash.”Image result for dogs running away gif

“Nice. You are reactive and can’t catch up.”

“Yeah, it was a lot easier when they were little.”

“Sure. Two hundred years ago we harnessed water power to run saw mills and grist mills. The natural stream mechanically powered a big wheel that ran an axle into the mill, converting water’s energy into a wheel’s energy via the harness.”Related image

“When the kids were little, that’s all I needed was a millstream next to my little stone cottage. [Deep breath.] Life was safer and slower and easier then, like an old oil painting.”

“Charming, but kids are a moving target. Once you have them potty trained, you need to train them not to bite and hit. Then you have to train them not to run in front of cars or run away to play hide and seek at the clothes store. Then they’re in school and you’re getting them adjusted to first grade. When you turn around, they’re in third grade doing fractions and you’re wondering why you can’t recall second grade.”

[Tears.] “I feel I’m missing so much of their lives and I’ll never get this time back.”

“Yes, but rolling around in a depressed state is not getting you caught up to speed with their rapid growth.”Image result for acorn growing time lapse gifImage result for acorn growing time lapse gif

“I worry about them all the time.”

“You’ve done a good job of meeting their needs so far, right?”

“I guess so. They are good kids.”

“And you are their biggest role model.”

“They say their biggest nag.”

“Good kids don’t just drop off the tree of good citizenship. You have molded them into goodness.”Image result for human face molds in clay pictures

“Okay, but now I feel they are beyond my control, my power.”

“Don’t underestimate your power.”

“What power?”

“The mom card. You drive them. You have the money. You have the rules and authority. You have wisdom and experience and love and affection.”Related image

“I never thought of those things as power.”

“Well, now you can. Ultimately you want to empower your kids to share control with you, to pick up their chores and self control, do their school work independently, drive themselves, pay for their own stuff.”

“I can’t see that far ahead. Actually, I don’t want to. I want things to stay the way they were when I was large and in charge.”

“Hmmmm. You want to crawl into that oil painting of the mill cottage next to the singing stream?”

“I know it’s a fantasy world. I just get so sad that life moves so fast. I can’t keep up.”Image result for oil painting of mill by stream

“Okay, but you can’t live in this in between place that is neither now or the past. You are like an undelivered letter at the post office… unread, unrealized, unpotentiated.”

“So I need to harness the power, channel the energy around me?”

“Yep. Get turbo charged.Related image



543. The repetition compulsion and insurance ads on t.v.

Image result for mc escher cyclical imagesRepetition compulsion is a psychological phenomenon in which a person repeats a traumatic event or its circumstances over and over again. This includes reenacting the event or putting oneself in situations where the event is likely to happen again. This “re-living” can also take the form of dreams in which memories and feelings of what happened are repeated, and even hallucination.

The term can also be used to cover the repetition of behaviour or life patterns more broadly: a “key component in Freud’s understanding of mental life, ‘repetition compulsion’…describes the pattern whereby people endlessly repeat patterns of behaviour which were difficult or distressing in earlier life”. [Thanks 2 Wikipedia]

Image result for daniel tiger gifYep, it’s a thing. Why would anyone over the age of five repeat and repeat the same scenario over and over again?  You know little kids love repetition. They will watch the same episode of Barney or Daniel Tiger endlessly. It’s soothing and helps them feel secure. Admit it, Round Bale, when you watch old Mr. Rogers Neighborhood reruns, you feel almost as good as with two shots of bourbon while listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s classic guitar shreds. You know you like it a lot and curl up in your safe place. Image result for cat curling up gif

To some degree I think it’s like adults turning the same key in the same lock and getting the same expected results– ah, security, mastery, control. Especially if you are hatlessly outside in sixty mile an hour winds howling at night with sandblasting snow showers and you need to pee on the other side of the locked door in front of you. The same old thing is pretty cool and glorious when it works, and you don’t have to feel pee freeze to your leg and sock and shoe outside a locked door. Older men have these repeating nightmares, just so you know, until they wake up and find relief.Image result for sleepy faced old man gif

Ah, but television commercials. Do they operate on the same terms?  I mean they are cute at first, alluring, captivating even. And we chuckle and maybe even enjoy a clever commercial a dozen times or two. But then the day comes when enough is enough. Okay, no more freakin’ Farmers Insurance commercials with the guy from MASH and the insurance Hall of Fame, looking into the car trunk on fire. Related imageThere needs to be some sort of algorithm that ends at “enough”.  To push beyond this limit is to enter the land of diminishing returns. You know what I’m saying, it’s the land where you need to bet twenty two dollars to “win” two dollars. Bad odds if you ask me.

Image result for speed dating images cartoonsSo, why would any adult not in prison continue to repeat and repeat a non adaptive behavior?  Like your sister who keeps dating losers, charismatic drunks who somehow remind you of your ne’er do well father. She’s not stupid, for crying out loud. She is a nurse with a graduate degree. She works tirelessly until a quarter to three a.m. Been married three times to Dachshund belly low pedigrees. What the Hell is her malady? Unconscious repetition compulsion keeps her chasing the same narrative, hoping to finally make it turn out right this time, and get the love she wants from a short-legged hound.Image result for dachshund pictures

Well, let’s see. Above my toilet is a Van Gogh print called “A Man Going to Pee in a Field.”Image result for van gogh painting of wall and gate

Van Gogh titled it in Latin, “Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit”, which translates in English, “A wise man does not urinate against the wind”. This title informs me that the direction of the wind is understood to be blowing right to left in a north easterly flow, the direction he is “going in”. (Hold your applause, please. I learned this in art history class 101, the unit on determining wind and water directions in paint.)

Van Gogh presents a calm presence over the functions below. After a few beers it is comforting to meet this man’s back again as he finds a safe and hygienic place to void his bladder. “To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left”. The black metal gate opens to the three golden hay mounds at the end of a white crushed stone roadway.  Something special is captured in this painting, though what it is, I do not claim to know. What I do know is that faithfully for the last twenty something years, I have been reassured that letting go is okay as the peasant herald fades stage right and invites me to follow him. It is my safe place along the hedge line…Related image

And there is the subliminal association of Joni Mitchell lyrics,

Driving into town
With a dark cloud above you
Dial in the number
Who’s bound to love you
Oh honey you turn me on
I’m a radio
I’m a country station
I’m a little bit corny
I’m a wild wood flower
 Image result for key in lock gif
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Unlike the definition of insanity,whereby you repeat the same thing over and over while expecting different results, this sort of repetition produces something else—comfort, familiarity, control. The same old thing is expected and desirable. And one set of lyrics bleeds into another
So I bought me a ticket
I got on a plane to Spain
Went to a party down a red dirt road
There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone, reading Vogue
They said, “How long can you hang around?”
I said a week, maybe two
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I’m going home to California
California, I’m coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California, I’m coming home


No, these old songs don’t irritate or insult me. I bathe in their warm waters not from rigid compulsion but out of a luxuriously free will. Nice happy bubbles effervesce in this psychic hot tub experience. Hot champagne foams all around my time tripping spirit.

Related image

But don’t take it from me; listen to Al Pacino plead my case for ever.


235. Dry eyes

 I’ve had numerous clients over the years who have complained that they cannot cry or sustain weeping if they ever do have tears. What’s up with that?  The problem is not a lack of sadness, fear, trauma, or chaos. It’s a lack of direct connection to their feelings. Crying is a natural physiological reaction to certain stressors or mood states. How then do some folks manage to override nature and shut down the crying reaction?  You can find out about types of tears on the internet. Go ahead, no, wait, well I’ll just tell you. There are three types; the first two are not connected to emotions but to basic physiological functions of lubrication and defending against irritation. The third type, emotional tears, is what I’m talking about.

One person I know claims that she cried so much when her father died that she resolved to never be that vulnerable again. As a result she built up psychological walls and filters to prevent her from crying at all. If a tear should ever surprise her, as it has on occasion, she distracts herself, looks away, and reverses gravity somehow to reel her tears backwards, like rewinding an old videotape.  Any emotion in the sadness neighborhood is locked down also, so her range of emotions is narrower than most folks. You see, you can’t just trap one emotion without trapping a cluster of them, a constellation if you will. Emotions are like mice scurrying about your psychological cheese. Think about that for a moment. As a result she laughed a lot and maintained a helium balloon persona for the world to witness. Something was/is wrong, though. When adults strike you as cartoon characters, something is missing.

PhotoThen there’s Justin. He is proudly stoic. “Tears are weakness”, he says without any hesitation. “My mother abused me as a kid with anything that was handy… a wooden spoon, clothes hanger, toys. It didn’t matter. She was determined to make me cry. I refused and it made her all the madder. She’d say, ‘ I’ll make you cry!’ But I just bit down on my lip and gritted my teeth. I was not gonna let that witch see tears on my face. Not then not now. Nobody makes me cry, ever. When I was older, I’d laugh in her face. It pissed her off so much. It was like me spanking her.” Well, that’s the mechanism to shut off the tears. Problem is that emotional tears need to be shed. No matter how many you suck back or blink away, there are millions ready to burst forth. Tears have a job to do

Emotional tears are different from lubricating or anti-irritant tears. Apparently they are full of components lacking in  the other two, like red wine compared to plain water. It’s funny that such tears would be chemically different under analysis, something we know intuitively when somebody’s eyes are smoked out or under the influence of onion vapors. Emotional tears work in conjunction with facial expressions and vocalizations, body language and gestures that tell of the feelings connected to the tears. There is a matching context usually. Tears are the blood of emotions.

Sometimes at death tears won’t come to the grievers. Some may be in shock while others are tangled up in complex mixtures of fear and anger and love. At my father’s funeral I could not find a tear. I was stoic and reserved. My conscious mind was in “fix it” mode. What to do with our mother? What were the new expectations after my father’s death?  He was such an odd duck that it would be hard to grieve his passing at 68 years of age.  He smoked himself to death with Camel cigarettes over 50 years. My mother labeled him “an emotional cripple”, incapable of appropriate emotional articulation. He did not, however, cripple himself; he had help.

I think it was two years later that I was overcome with a delayed wailing  and whimpering of grief while watching the baseball movie “Field of Dreams” in my family room.  I got sucked into the story and the emotions involved as the protagonist tried to fulfill a mission given to him by an other worldly message coming out of a rookie farmer’s cornfield. “Ease his pain.” “If you build it, he will come.” “Go the distance.” My father was my baseball coach and originated from Boston. One of the clues involved in solving the mystery was obtained at Fenway Park… and I came unglued. Thought I was losing my mind. Fortunately my wife was consoling and wise. She sat with me and said, “You never cried at your dad’s death.” However this attack was not only tears but an intestinal tearing of emotional tumors that I spewed up. I was prostrate, gagging, emotionally vomiting.  I could not understand this horrific upchucking of undigestible dead animals dislodged from my stomach walls.

I asked God to take it from me; I didn’t want it anymore, though I was not certain what “it” was at that time. My head throbbed; my throat was raw; and my tear ducts were pumped dry. How could this be? Well, there’s a lot more to a human being than the conscious world, folks. You can carry disease or tumors or parasites in you all your life and not know it. It’s not such a big jump to memories and ungrieved losses hanging around the storage bins of your mind. Remember the mice analogy?  Well they were running wild all over my being when I saw Burt Lancaster tip his hat, knowing that he was dead and the heroes of this ballgame were all long dead. The infamous Black Sox of 1919, my dad would have known that story well. He would have known the weirdness of unfulfilled dreams that Lancaster’s character portrayed. He would have wept easily and often throughout this film, completely unable to articulate his feelings further than lachrymosity.

I watched the movie again a couple of nights later. I had a similar reaction at the same places in the movie. I was convinced that I had tripped onto something profound in my psychic life. Grief pressure poured out the second time, but it was not as crazy scary as the first go around. A little finch of wisdom sat on my shoulder, chittering, “It’s okay”.