Nature is A Social Construct

Dear organic sea-sponges and other brethren creatures of the salty aquatics,

 

That’s a weird fish, amirite? One might even call it unnatural? Even though it, by every definition, lives in nature?

 

We have arrived on this fine day to discuss the use of “natural” as a term that has become bloated and indistinguishable due to overuse. Let’s discuss.

Language is Inaccurate

Our language quickly becomes shorthand, and most folks who inquire about the “kosher”-ness of a situation are not actually curious if the circumstances have been overseen by a rabbi. Probably they mean “is this acceptable to all parties” and not “has this been written   into Jewish law.”

 

While this misuse of language can range from inaccurate to annoying to feeling harmful, we are generally casual with language in a way that will preclude that somebody will get their feelings hurt. That said, people’s feelings matter, and if nobody insinuates that we should do better, we will never do any better.

Stop Using Nature to Justify Your Hang-ups

 

Due to a variety of cultural factors, it’s very popular right now to engage with things that are “natural.” While it is fine to want to wear cotton rather than polyester and attempt to find affordable organic produce, we are often not talking about produce or non-synthetic fibers.

 

When we refer to “natural” reproduction, for the most part, we are talking about heterosexual intercourse.

 

When we talk about meeting someone to date “naturally” we are talking about meeting through friends or pre-existing social networks, rather than utilizing the internet to locate people of our particular affinity group or activity preferences.

 

When we talk about the “natural order of things” most people are referring to gendered dynamics that fall hard on the side of normalizing abuse, or at the very least maintaining a status quo that does not ruffle anyone’s feathers.

 

When we talk about “looking natural” we are referring to someone appearing effortlessly beautiful, which allows us to imagine that the labor that goes into aesthetics is superficial and meaningless.

 

If we talk about appearing “natural” it means someone possesses confidence in things they are unfamiliar with, or we are willing to presume their competence at something. If you have ever known a woman working in STEM, you will know that has more to do with the audience than her actual capacity.

 

We talk about marriage as a phenomenon as being natural or unnatural, but please avail yourself of Marriage:A History and you may find that it, like everything else on this list, is socially constructed.

 

You Aren’t A Biologist, Probably

 

Nature is pretty weird, does unexpected things. I know that therapists are obsessed with using metaphors of streams, walks in the woods, and sometimes the ebb and flow of waves to describe people’s emotional wellbeing.

But once we step away from nature as an objectified metaphor, we can in fact come into the understanding that it does all kinds of weird things that you weren’t expecting. Evolution will occasionally get drunk and blindfold itself and trip over things just to see what happens, and then we wind up with dayglo fish and flat frogs and watermelons that can be convinced to be square.

 

Nature is a weird beast. Do not cast your eyes upon these bizarre-looking up snakes and fish and tell me that God only wants you to have one sexual partner in your entire lifetime. Those are bounds of logic that do not need to be leapt.

Most Things Are Social Constructs

Nothing is natural, and the use of the term ‘natural’ is inexact and unhelpful. We can describe things as being comfortable for us, or being produced literally without pesticides, or conforming to our expectations, but nothing is actually natural.

 

If you have been told one too many times that you are an unnatural creature and you would like to hang out in my Den of Unnatural Anomalies which is also my office, we can do that.

 

Weird fish brought to you by WTF, Evolution?!

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You Get To Be Mad At Your Parents

Hi sweetpeas,

It’s been a rough, smokey week, huh?

I IDENTIFY WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE.

Today we’re here to talk about a subject in which I’ve noticed plenty of folks making things rougher on themselves, and wanted to speak to those folks.

 

Many adults I know both as a friend, acquaintance, colleague, or client who struggles with their parents will at some point say, “My parents never hit me!”. To these folks, the burden of proving their experience of harm or difficulty in their parental relationships will struggle with what we define as “actually” abusive.

This means, that many people who have experienced harm or abusive things within their families of origin may feel unjustified in articulating their dissatisfaction or hurt feelings. Often their hesitance to disclose is reinforced by an invalidating environment or relationships. “My parents never hit me” may become their rationale for years for not naming boundaries, setting limits on their time and tolerance, or sticking up for themselves.

Identifying With Your Parents is A Survival Strategy

Human beings are hardwired to try to connect with one another. Small humans rely upon larger humans for care and will go to great lengths to stay safe. In this case, safety often means doing whatever you can to remain in the company and good graces of larger humans.

 

Also,  I understand that everybody is constantly giving parents, especially mothers shit for not giving birth to infants that know calculus. Trust that we are not speaking to you personally about the parenting you are doing right now. We are speaking specifically about the legacy of hard feelings that you have attempted to avoid in order to protect your parent’s feelings.

 

Holding the Contradictions of Your Emotional Legacy

You can simultaneously acknowledge that:

a) your parents did the best they could and

b) there were things you missed out on that you wished that they had given you.

 

You can be grateful and also set boundaries.

 

You can acknowledge that your parents went to great lengths for you and in the same breath articulate a desire for a different, or greater degree of acknowledgement or validation or emotional engagement.

 

The fact that your parents were exhausted did not mean you wanted too much. It’s easy for parents to project their feelings of guilt onto their children for not being able to be more present/have more resources. That projection of guilt does not make your family situation, or their feelings of guilt any of that your fault.

You Get To Own Your Story

You are allowed to want what you want and also understand that maybe they did the best they could, and maybe they didn’t.

 

It is very painful to acknowledge that your childhood was not everything that you wished it could’ve been.

 

Most families have a story about their own exceptionalism, and your family may very well be exceptional, and that does not mean that they are imperfect.

 

Not everything is either/or.

You Get To Be Mad

Being angry with your parents is not a betrayal. You do not have to constantly make good on whatever they offered you. Certainly it is a tremendous gift and a worthy cause, but you are also intrinsically deserving of care. When you are small, you are entitled to be cared for. The fact that many children are neglected or harmed does not change this entitlement- it merely illuminates a failure and travesty that many children endure, and many adults endure in memory.

 

Anger is an emotion that can be harmful and destructive, but you are also entitled to experience emotions. Disappointment is something that is a natural response to your hopes being let down. Grief is an emotion, not a betrayal.  As an adult, you have choices how you respond to these feelings, but your experiencing them does not disrespect or eradicate the impact of your emotional labor within these relationships.

When you are an adult, your experience of parental relationships will shift over time, and you get to have your own differentiated experiences of these relationships and interpretation of events.

If you want some time to air your feelings about your parental relationships and not be told you’re overly sensitive, give me a call.

 

Photo from gratisography.

 

 

 

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Eat Some Late-Summer Produce and Listen to a Podcast

Hello, beauties,

SUMMER ISN’T OVER YET HOW DARE YOU

We have these once-in-a-while podcast recommendation blog posts, because I honestly like telling you about the things I like (Whidbey Island Ice Cream Company ice cream bars, books on queer or occult history, and the knitwear designer Stephen West’s instagram feed.)

 

The central theme of this podcast reel remains feminist by name or in spirit. Please enjoy, and have some late-summer produce to accompany your listening time.

Peach Plum Pear Podcast

No Sports Trivia

This is the humor runoff of a trivia game from San Francisco hosted by two folks (Ken McBenzie and Ben McKenzie, I think) who wear a bear and dinosaur mask respectively. They are charmingly queer, feminist, and sex-positive, and host regular guests who most frequently provide concrete instructions in how to be a person. They are brief, rapid-fire, and social justice-minded without often being super heavy.

 

Dear Prudence Podcast

 

Do you, like me, love and miss The Toast? Have you been stalking Mallory Ortberg’s instagram, but mostly have found her aspiration to be an Instagram model not the same thing as her quick wit and steely common sense? She is currently Dear Prudence at the Slate, and you can listen to the edited version of the podcast for free.

She has on her friends and family members as guests, but the upshot of queer, sex-positive, feminist, practical advice columnists is that you get the benefit of really solid advice from a middle-of-the-road publishing platform. No trips to the obscure newsstand for you, you get everything you need right here on the pod-catcher of your choice.

 

Levar Burton Reads

 

Did you grow up watching Reading Rainbow? Would you be charmed to learn that Levar Burton is maybe-not-so-secretly has some very progressive values around gender and race? Listen to him read short stories- he often favors sci fi and fantasy- and you may very likely have a total-body experience of relaxing while you listen to the low, dulcet tones of his radio voice. You won’t be sorry, but you don’t have to take my word for it.

 

The League of Awkward Unicorns

 

This is one I haven’t listened to TONS but it’s Deanna Zandt and Alice Bradley and they talk a great deal about their experiences of mental health.  They have rad progressive values, and many  interesting guests. This is probably a good one for somebody seeking some visibility of cool people with mental health issues, because if you’re new to self-identifying as having a mental health issue, it can help to see similar folks striving and thriving.

 

That’s all for this week! Settle in for the end of Mercury in Retrograde, maybe do a little something to unfuck your habitat if you can get around to it. Make some plans to go walk around a corn maze or go for a hike if you get autumn FOMO. Or just buy yourself some fancy pens on sale, because you get back-to-school season nostalgia. Be nice to yourself!

 

If you need the closest thing to an in-person advice columnist who is not really at all like Dear Prudence, give me a call.

 

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Not All Of Us Are Friend-Monogamous

Hello there, friends of various degrees!

Today we’re here to talk about valuing the further-out intimacies in your life.

Zucchini duck is glad for the two times of year you see each other but is comfortable with current level of closeness in your relationship.

There is a particularly popular trend these days toward insularity. We’re centering our attention on a few significant people in your life. This lands on being really centered on the human that is your best friend.

This can create a pressure to find or cultivate or identify a best friend, if one does not appear organically. If one does appear- great! This relationship will take communication and reflection as much as any other significant emotional relationship.

If one doesn’t, these can leave folks feeling like the last kid picked for kickball. It feels like everybody is best-friend paired off with their inside jokes and matching sweatshirts. There’s a particular kind of loneliness, observing the uneven intimacy that exists in the world, and perpetually feeling on the outside of it.

Not Everybody Needs to Be Best Friends

It’s also simply true that people have uneven intimacies. We are more and less close with different people at different times. The ebb and flow of friendships is a pretty innate aspect of the human experience.

Sometimes, however, when we focus really intensely on a central relationship, it can eclipse many other things. There can become this pose of actively not caring about people we aren’t very close with.

This can become tricky! While we don’t need to feign affection for people we’re not interested in, aggressively not caring about people usually doesn’t bode well for the world at large.

We don’t have to impose intimacy onto relationships where it hasn’t developed. But, we can also have a generalized concern for other people! This is where community care comes in. Community care is an effort with a very broad scope.

 

There are many layers of connection, and people don’t have to be your best friend or share all of your values to be helpful. We are multifaceted, needy creatures, and we need things from more than just one or two people in our lives.

Zucchinis need a lot of room to grow, and you will as well over your lifetime.

Sometimes in the pursuit of privacy and boundaries, we neglect to show up as a person in community. Being a person in community doesn’t necessarily mean giving money to every person who runs a gofundme, or walking dogs for every sick person ever. But it may mean having an openness to that, or stretching yourself to participate.

 

None of this is a moratorium on people who do the majority of the community care and emotional labor. This is an invitation for folks who habitually withdraw and disengage to consider what it would be like to turn their focus outward more frequently.

More Connection Ideally Means More Sharing of Resources

The purpose of exercise is to experience a breadth of intimacy, and increase the range of access to resources everybody has! Also, the upshot of these casual relationships is that they don’t necessarily require the anticipated upkeep of other kinds of relationships.

 

What I mean by all this is: It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to ask somebody to teach you to knit, to show you how to use a drill, to pick your neighbor’s extra plums when you are invited to do so, to share what you have when you have extra, and to accept other people’s excess.

 

Also please bear in mind; none of this is intended to nag you into a community involvement you don’t want to participate in. But sometimes, feeling that connection to other folks can ease some sense of scarcity, even if the way that connection and abundance shows up is in your neighbor’s superfluous zucchini. You deserve all the zucchini and connection you want.

I have no zucchini but if you need to connect and talk about how you feel like you show up in community, give me a call.

Images sourced from here and here.

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The Internet Is Real

Hi sweet peas,

 

What a week, huh? I hope you’re someplace cozy to sit and have something nice to drink, or at least a plan for when that’ll happen next. Today we’re going to talk about how our feelings interact with the internet, and the ambivalence a lot of folks feel about that.

 

Something that happens frequently in therapy is that folks talk about their interactions with other people or content on social media. This isn’t surprising to me, because so many relational things happen on social media. However what often also happens is that folks quickly scuttle their feelings by muttering something like “I can’t believe I’m talking about Facebook in therapy.”

When nobody on the internet agrees with you about anything, including bear slippers.

I am here today to tell you friends, that the most people do this. The feelings you have on the internet are real feelings, and as valid as feelings you have in other places.

The Internet Is New

The internet is a phenomenon that has shaped history and culture in dramatic ways for, let’s say generously, 30 years.

While for a very long time the internet was the purview of social fringes- many weirdo-type folks found themselves at young ages on the internet (and found a lot of other things as well, probably), it has since moved into the center.

We have a deeply immoderate relationship to the internet in general. There are so many interesting and expansive things present on the internet, but it also gathers a thick crust of the lowest common denominators.

 

The Internet is Real

 

The internet intersects with how most of us gather information, meet dates, seek like-minded individuals out, and acquire goods and services. None of this is news to you. It is integral to how many of us operate in the world, and while op-eds may want to argue about how terrible of a thing this is, we nonetheless find ourselves here, very frequently on the internet.

 

We do a lot of our socializing over the internet. Folks that post on our walls for our birthdays are not any less sincere than the person who says it in person. We have no way of knowing which person has summoned up an innate feeling of enthusiasm for the day upon which you were born.

However, we approach our social interactions on the internet as entirely more circumspect- as meaning a great deal more or less than we might assume in person.

The Internet Is Always On, And We Are Supposed to Also Always Be On

We also have increased expectations of availability and presence in these online spaces. If people don’t text us back, we have evidence of how long it has been since we last made contact.

Many people assume this has something to do with themselves- how much people do/don’t like them, are they in a fight, etc. This may be true, but it as likely that the non-texters are wrapped up in their own lives, not thinking about you. (which may be a painful truth to acknowledge!)

People Use the Internet in Different Ways

We are all operating with different expectations of other people. There are as many unspoken social norms on the internet as there are off the internet. Some people perceive a failure to respond to a comment as a grave slight and a direct hit, where others assume this is a sign of flakiness/business/distractibility.

 

It is impossible to know the causes and motivations of other humans, but when we have receipts for the minutiae of our interactions, it gives us the opportunity to analyze them after the fact. This can often be a strategy folks working through anxiety or seeking a particular sort of evidence will utilize.

Feelings Happen On the Internet

We take the interactions we have in all human relationships- projection, hope, rumination, etc- and channel it through our online interactions.

Our feelings don’t always necessarily give us good information about other people’s intentions, but they are good information about where you’re at and how you perceive these relationships.

 

Here’s a way to think about it: if you feel excluded because people hung out without you, it’s okay that you felt excluded! If you feel hurt that you can see pictures of your ex with a new girlfriend, it’s fine that you feel hurt and angry!

 

There is a separate conversation about internet boundaries that we will have one day; suffice to say, it is always acceptable to block/unfriend/unfollow. Sometimes it can be helpful to examine how reactive this choice is, but you’re always entitled to do so.

 

Your feelings get to matter. It can be helpful to notice and attend to those feelings (in therapy, or with a friend) before you decide how to strategize around these things. Some folks proactively post pictures whenever they do fun things, other folks get good at making a lot of plans and only looking at social media when they aren’t already feeling bored and lonely.

 

We often look at social media when we are already feeling bored and slightly out of sorts hoping to be encouraged or distracted; this typically increases whatever feelings we were carrying around beforehand.

 

Because of the stigma the internet has historically carried, we have an attraction/revulsion relationship to it. With this push/pull dynamic, we aren’t able to interact with it as a value-neutral thing.

Sometimes Other People Are Clumsy With Our Feelings On The Internet

All this is to say; the fact that we have a screwed up relationship to the internet does not make it fake. The emotional experiences you go through on the internet are real, as anyone who has ever been a teenager with an online crush/date/girlfriend will tell you, or any person who is unfriended as a result of a fight with a friend online that felt like an indictment of the entire friendship. Anyone who has asked for help on social media to have people respond with,” Hearts!!!!!!” but no one has actually shown up to do the thing that needed doing knows.

The way we interact online impacts how we think about each other and how we think about our relationships. As I mentioned, we have a greater expectation of our relationships as a result of these increased online presence- and some folks are better stewards of this presence than others.

 

Your personal habits and expectations of others notwithstanding, the internet is in fact basically integral to many of your relationships if you participate in social media at all. It is where relationships and social capital are brokered even if you fail to participate. All that is to say, it’s fine if it brings up hard feelings for you. How could it not- it is a very real aspect of your social and familial relationships.

 

If you have a hard time acknowledging the validity of your feelings on the internet or off, give me a call.

 

Pics from gratisography

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Other People Are Not Adulting At You

Hello, fair denizens of the internet,

 

This week we’re here to talk about people trying to get their life together, and the many responses we each may have to it.

WE BOUGHT A HOUSE OKAY

WE BOUGHT A HOUSE OKAY

So let’s frame this: as time goes by, often with age and reflection, we get more information about what kind of a person we are. This means we change over time! This is why “phases” are necessary, even though folks can be so condescending about them.

 

As time goes by, we develop different ideas of what kind of a person we are. Perusing the internet recently, I realized that 4 years ago I was somebody that wore cowboy boots most of the time. They’re still cute, but it’s not as much my thing as it used to be- we all get to contain multitudes.

 

As we develop different ideas of the kind of person we are, we often develop a concrete story about what we do, what our priorities are, and where we are headed. This is where adulting comes in.

 

Adulting Looks Different from the Inside and Outside

Adulting can be broadly defined as executing life admin, (laundry, bills, etc) and developing expertise in various life areas to increase efficiency and competence. This can include: small home repairs, personal finance, developing emotional intelligence, career development, etc.

 

When observing from the outside, we often fixate on the visual cues of adulting rather than the internal work people may or may not be doing. This may include: buying a house, having kids, getting married, and other assorted items that are often culturally endorsed in a broad sense as the “right” thing to do.

 

The trouble is, we can’t necessarily tell when folks are doing any of these things because they feel a genuine impulse or responsibility towards these tasks, or if they are doing them out of a sense of duty or “that’s just what’s done.”

 

Just Because You Bought a House Doesn’t Mean You Have Good Boundaries

 

It’s unfortunate, because we are assessed on our external and material developments, and that may or may not give information about what’s going on for us internally.

 

Buying a house and remembering to stay hydrated throughout the day can both be significant developments, but they are assessed very differently by our peers. Both of these are adulting.

 

It’s also tough, because in the face of things like house-buying and baby-having, folks may respond to this news with a swell of shame, because they themselves are not doing those “right” things. This creates this false binary of adults doing the “right” things, and everybody else.

 

It’s not reasonable to frame all folks who live with roommates and have less professional jobs as carefree spirits living with reckless abandon and perpetually in a state of passion or intoxication. As a parallel, framing people doing more conventional adulting as tedious, beige and suburban is not reasonable or accurate.

When some folks do things like create a budget, they can develop a paralyzing worry that suddenly they are trapped in a suburban housing development with wall-to-wall beige carpeting and a husband they resent. Their worry about social pressure to conform overwhelms any potential helpful changes they might be ready for.

 

Your Choices Obviously Matter

 

We can certainly tell some things by the external structure of someone’s life: whether they have roommates, live in the suburbs, how they get around the city, do they go to therapy- but they don’t tend to give us a lot of information about what kind of a person they actually are.

 

Buying a house doesn’t mean somebody is financially solvent or evolved as a human. It also doesn’t mean people who make strategic financial choices in order to do so are materialistic and invested in nuclear-family values.

All joy has fled, there are no more tubas, only the dullness of responsibility.

All joy has fled, there are no more tubas, only the dullness of responsibility.

 

Most of Your Choices are Actually Value-Neutral, But The World Is Not

 

Most of your choices are actually value-neutral, and it’s not really anybody’s business if you want to have no partners or three, or no kids, or five. But we don’t live in a value-neutral world, our choices are shaped by economics and extensive other circumstances.

 

People can be living lives they don’t like on either side of the coin. What’s important to check in about in all these options are figuring out:

 

Are my choices consistent with my values?

Am I making these choices out of social pressure?

Am I avoiding certain things because change feels scary?

Can I develop a sense of myself in a different context?

Who am I afraid will judge me or leave me if I change?

 

Give me a call if you’re figuring out this adulting thing. We can piece out what parts you can let go of, hold on to, and grow toward. There doesn’t need to be shame for living in whatever your truth is.

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Invalidation vs Gaslighting

 

Hello there, friends!

 

I apologize for the brief interlude, it is summertime and I have been fuzzy-headed and not had brainspan for much besides reading terrible romance novels and staring into middle distance.

Wasn't joking.

Wasn’t joking.

Today we’re here to talk about a nuance of emotional abuse that some folks get confused about, because most folks have a limited amount of words with which to talk about these things.

This is a conversation about definitions, and one of those semantical pieces of “all rectangles are squares, but not all squares are rectangles.” You with me? Great!

 

We’re here today to define the difference between gaslighting and invalidation. Both are harmful, both are abusive, but they’re not the same thing.

 

Gaslighting has gotten a little more airtime in the recent past, so I’ll begin by defining invalidation, or creating an “invalidating environment.”

Compare/Contrast

Invalidation is chiefly the practice that other people engage in that is based in fundamentally disagreeing with someone. This may begin with simply disagreeing with a person’s stated feelings or needs, or denial that they exist at all.

 

Gaslighting goes one step further, by attempting to convince a person that they do not in fact feel that way.

 

Invalidation can sometimes be framed as a positive, along the lines of “You don’t really mean that!” when someone expresses a mean-spirited thought, or “Cheer up! It’s not that bad!” when people (often as children) are upset by things out of their control. (which is often)

 

Gaslighting is often a more deliberate manipulation- whether through active manipulation of the environment, denying that they said or did certain things that they absolutely have done.

 

Invalidation says, “You’re overreacting!” and gaslighting says, “I didn’t do that!”

 

Invalidation allows for a slender thread of accountability or acknowledgement while trying to tell you otherwise, while gaslighting wholesale wants to shut down any difference of opinion.

Knowing the Difference Makes a Difference

While neither feel good, it may be helpful to parse out the difference between gaslighting and invalidation. Articulating the difference between behavior that feels bad vs behavior that is abusive gives you good information about yourself!

 

When we don’t have good information about what feels bad to us, (vs what is explicitly abusive) we respond to all negative emotions or interactions in the same way. Given that trauma often has the impact of smashing people’s capacity for discernment, this is understandable.

 

However, in your particular trajectory of healing, the more specific information you get about yourself, the more capacity you will have to engineer something different in the future. A different future might look like more boundaries in invalidating relationships, or seeking out new ones entirely that have more spacious room for your needs and feelings.

In either case, certainly you deserve better than outright gaslighting or well-meaning invalidation. There is room for all of you. Give me a call if you need help believing that.

 

Queer of La Vista may be found here.

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When Your Parents Are Against Therapy

It’s a season of lots of weddings and next to the holidays, people are often seeing more family than usual. I hear from a lot of clients is that their parents have some very reactive responses to hearing about:

 

WHAT ARE THEY SAYING ABOUT ME

WHAT ARE THEY SAYING ABOUT ME

  1.  why they are in therapy
  2. what they talk about in therapy
  3. fears about what the therapist is saying about them, as a parent.

 

 

 

People Don’t Really Get What the Point of Therapy Is

People who don’t spend a lot of time in therapy often fundamentally misunderstand what therapy is for.  This includes my relatives, so I have recently had conversations with people I am related to about:

  1. What is anxiety anyway? (All humans have experienced this, but let me explain.)
  2. Is everyone who sees you just sad and mentally disturbed? (No? What a strange question.)
  3. Does your work make you super sad? (Sometimes, mostly I really enjoy what I get to do.)
  4. Why would somebody go to therapy, anyway? (The human experience, mostly.)
  5. Do you mostly only talk to gay people all day long? (Ha! Some days yes, other days no.)

 

 

I can’t answer questions for every irate relative who thinks that cognitive behavioral therapy is a scheme to steal your money and blame your parents.

However, this is a primer to offer some potential responses for bewildered relatives who want to talk to you about your personal business. (your relationship, your therapist, your skin care regime, when you’re going to have kids, all that stuff that is actually none of their business)

 

What is the point of therapy?

Having a person who doesn’t exist in the context of any part of your life whose sole purpose in their relationship to you is helping you out and being on your team is something most people could use.

Some folks need help processing old patterns, want to feel heard around things people couldn’t bear to listen to, or they need somebody to believe them.

Some people need to be validated because their heart is still broken.

Other people need to hear what happened to them was not their fault and was not okay.

Often, people need to be reminded to take care of themselves.

There are lots of reasons to be in therapy!

Therapists blame everything on the parents.

 

Most people inherit traits and narratives from their parents. If a person grows up and their story differs significantly from their family story, they often spend some time reconciling those two things. If you, as their parent, have no space to hear them, they will talk to a third party, often friends or a therapist.

 

Individuation and differentiation is a really normal developmental aspect of adulthood. Even if you did everything they could, there will be gaps in the ways that you try to love your kid. They will have to reconcile those things on their own.

 

 

Regardless, many young folks go to therapy to make sense of their young life and their family of origin, and the broader world that they are finding out is really different than whatever their natal backstory provided.

Many of us need language and reflection to understand our experiences, and if we don’t get it from familial relationships or friendships, therapy is not an unusual place to seek that out!

Therapists just want to take your money!

 

There is an interesting tension around the cost of therapy, because it is effectively emotional labor, and something that we are not accustomed to valuing in a financial way. It is often expensive, but many therapists are doing what they can to make it affordable via sliding scale payments and accepting insurance payments. We care about you, and we also need to pay our rent. Those are not mutually exclusive.

 

Just talk to your friends!

 

Have you ever had a friend listen to you talk for as long as you wanted without telling you what to do, directing the conversation back to whether or not we were going to get nachos, and validate your feelings without encouraging you to steal your ex’s tires?

Dog is a magic friend but other than dog I don't have magic friends.

Dog is a magic friend but other than dog I don’t have magic friends.

If you did, lucky you, you have a magic friend. Many of us have a couple of magic friends, but magic friends go to work and have to do their dishes and are not always in the mood for our shit.

Therapists are on the clock to hear about your stuff and be magic in that particular way for the duration of your time together.

 

It seems self-indulgent.

 

Certainly the time and resources can make going to therapy prohibitive for some folks. That said, spending the time and resources to invest in your particular thoughts and feelings can be leveraged in such a way that it can simplify many other aspects of your life.

 

Meaning, a therapist cannot make you stop wanting to date emotionally unavailable people, and cannot make the floppy-haired queermo of your dreams skateboard into your life.

But, a therapist can remind you the next time you are wrung out over somebody who won’t text you back, “Remember that thing we talked about anxious attachment?” and “Their failure to text you back in a reasonable time frame means nothing about how much you deserve love! You deserve all the love! And also we can’t make them better at texting! So what are we going to do for you, right now?”

Therapists Are Not the Enemy of Parents

There are lots of things that make therapy worthwhile, and your parents might not get it.

You can tell your therapist about it, and we can trace some of the reasons why that might be. (intergenerational trauma, cultural relationship to the idea of mental health issues, a pervasive habit of minimizing your feelings- could be lots of things!)

 

Regardless, therapists are not the enemy of parents, and people spend so much time in therapy talking about their parents because they’re such enormous relationships that take up so much emotional and imaginative space.

We spend a lot of time sorting out the enormity of these relationships, and it can feel crushing to have those efforts belittled, so please be kind when taking offense to people’s efforts in therapy.

 

If you need help justifying or sorting out your complicated relationship to your parents, give me a call.

 

Images from gratisography.

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Pizza Toxic Masculinity Dad Issues

Hello little sluggers and barbeque-ers,

My butch side is my left side, I told you.

My butch side is my left side, I told you.

We are at a moment in the year when everyone is preoccupied with the fathers in their lives, or lack thereof. Thusly we are encouraged to buy ties, and plant pizza herb gardens, (oregano and basil I guess?) and hang out with our dads.

The cultural story about fathers is complicated, because our relationship with masculinity is complicated. (and also maybe your dad is not that great?)

 

Masculinity has a tough time because the way we engage with it culturally is literally the worst. The embodiment and presence of masculinity does not have to be intrinsically toxic or dehumanizing, but you wouldn’t guess that based on the way we talk about it.

 

Engaging in masculinity without conscious awareness and resistance to the cultural undertow leads to an inevitable participation in the dehumanizing and toxic pas de deux.

Patriarchy Ruins Everything

Let’s also be clear- it’s dehumanizing for everybody- both the folks getting steamrolled by toxic masculinity as well as the folks embodying it. The cost is often higher for folks surviving under the impacts of toxic masculinity. It’s a little more complicated to tease out the variety of influences and interactions that shape toxic masculinity than it is to specify acts of violence and consent violation that are the result of toxic masculinity.

 

However, when we fail to examine the inner lives of masculine folks, we re-enact the same dynamics of toxic masculinity that reduce their capacity for change. Many folks embodying toxic masculinity lose out on much of the breadth of connection, feeling, and humanity that we’re all capable of.

 

Biology is Real but Not Inevitable

 

So much of the conversation about masculinity is framed around biological determinism. This theory maintains because there is a predominance of certain kinds of hormones in certain bodies, it predetermines a particular personality or incapacity to resist base urges. As in, if you’re a person with higher levels of testosterone in your body, you cannot be expected to manage your anger or sexual impulses or other reactive responses.

 

What any human can tell you is that resisting reactivity is challenging, but it is also a personal choice. Everyone experiences emotional overwhelm and sudden urges. Toxic masculinity maintains an  lack of responsibility around engaging in these (reactive, violent) responses.  This often happens while

Grrr. Argh. Bears have no impulse control. Maybe you should though.

Grrr. Argh. Bears have no impulse control. Maybe you should though.

simultaneously quelling most impulses toward softness, connection, and emotionality. The impacts of these forces are devastating internally and externally. It bears repeating, though: toxic masculinity and the violence it encourages is always a choice.

 

 

You Don’t Have to Become Your Dad

 

Many people have experienced violence enacted by masculine folks- whether their fathers, brothers, peers or partners. This also holds true for transmasculine folks.

There is a particular anxiety that comes with the trajectory of moving toward the thing you fear, that you increasingly resemble. The particular dysmorphia of embodying a masculinity that feels accurate but also fraught is disruptive to the gentle hearts of many transmasculine folks.

This is not to say that transmasculine folks are incapable of enacting toxic masculinity- because that’s not true- but it is fair to say that they often get caught in a particular bottleneck of a deeply ambivalent relationship to masculinity in a way that isn’t necessarily true for cisgender masculine folks.

 

The Upshot of All This is Choice

 

The more we separate masculinity itself from it’s mean cousin toxic masculinity the easier time we will have identifying the space between the two. When we do that, folks have the opportunity to both occupy masculinity as well as culturally prescribed ideas of what masculinity is in less problematic ways.

 

Things that we typify as masculine- such as confidence, the capacity to take up space, a quality of physicality, etc can exist without their toxic aspects, if we commit to doing so thoughtfully. One does not need to exhibit power-over in order to be powerful.

 

 

Masculinity has had so little opportunity to be an innate sense of self or an embodied response without having all the historical garbage thrown at it. Figure out who and how your masculinity wants to exist in a world determined to poison it. You have figured out how to own fraught aspects of yourself in the past. Consider this another reclaiming of the self.

 

If you have some feelings about toxic masculinity, give me a call.

Images from gratisography.

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How to Spot a Fake Psychic Trash Panda

Hello, dreamers and journey-makers,

 

This week we’re here to talk about fake psychic trash pandas, or more concretely, the use of woo to avoid accountability, boundaries, or reality.

 

***Disclaimer- we are not here to interrogate the validity or value of woo. Woo can be a cathartic tool for healing and transformation, and people get to use it (minus gross cultural appropriation) and believe in whatever they want, as long as they are not messing with other people.***

 

What is a fake psychic trash panda:

In this moment, it is a person who utilizes their own perception of their spiritual capacities to justify their behavior. Unfortunately since in this case their behavior is that of a raccoon (trash panda) they are destructive, cause a mess, and just generally remain unaccountable for the impact of their behavior.

Lil raccoon if you throw that trash everywhere nobody will agree it's for your own spiritual development.

Lil raccoon if you throw that trash everywhere nobody will agree it’s for your own spiritual development.

 

This is adjacent to spiritual bypassing, but a form of being more actively harmful and destructive. Let’s talk about spiritual bypassing! What this basically means is that people talk about spirituality to avoid engaging their more painful wounds. This shows up a lot of different ways, sometimes with avoidance:

 

Avoidance

 

Folks who won’t have conversations about things that bring up a lot of “negative energy.” This is particularly relevant as we live in dangerous times, that are particularly dangerous for specific folks, and there is a great deal of exchange happening that could be coined as particularly ‘negative.’

 

Not everyone has the capacity to stand under the full blast of the evening news, but in times where there is such truth-telling about harm being done to people, it is negligence and avoidance to ensconce oneself against knowing any part of things.

 

Certainly we all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and manage what we can manage. But if you’re going to check out, better to articulate this as a strategy of avoidance rather than indicative of spiritual purity.

 

But it feels bad to say I messed up and I don't want to.

But it feels bad to say I messed up and I don’t want to.

Deflecting

 

If we have a disagreement with someone, indicating “it’s all an illusion anyway” or “they just need to grow spiritually” rather than taking ownership over our own feelings or participation in the conflict.

Boundary-crossing

 

We can agree that there are many ways of knowing. However, “knowing” something about someone does not constitute them giving you permission to share that with them. Such as:

 

If you have a dream about your ex who has specifically asked you not to contact them, do not contact them.

No. Don't do it.

No. Don’t do it.

If you have a “feeling” about a person in a store, but they appear preoccupied and do not appear to be actively consenting to engaging with you, do not try to tell them about this feeling.

 

You may have certain community norms around how we interact with other people’s bodies (norms around touch and nudity come to mind) and it’s fine to have norms and interact within those. Keep in mind though that norms are not the same thing as license to do exactly what you feel like at any given moment.

Regardless of your spiritual powers or inclination, boundaries that have been articulated by words and intentions still apply.

Compassion as Codependence

 

Compassion is a deeply powerful practice to engage with oneself and others. However, just as boundary-crossing is an established acceptable practice, tolerance of these boundary-crossing may be habitually framed as compassion.

 

It often takes people who are used to having their boundaries crossed a LONG time to unlearn this behavior. It’s often a strategy reinforced by patterns of emotional enmeshment. Framing this emotional pattern as ‘compassion’ or ‘tolerance’ only reinforces further harm and distance from the strategy of setting and holding boundaries.

Karmic Bullshitter

 

There is this story in the land of woo that bad things happen to bad people (or “negative people” with a “negative mindset.” This is a short kick of the can away from a bootstraps mentality indicating that one does not achieve success in capitalism due to a lack of motivation and hard work.

 

This idea may be mostly attributed to “The Secret”- the idea that like attracts like, and that your thoughts and feelings manifest the reality you live in. So that is a tricky half truth: perception absolutely matters, and sometimes folks can create a self-fulfilling prophecy informed by anxiety and negative self-talk.

 

However, there are many people in a generations-long spiral of trauma or whose quality of life is diminished by the many hydra-heads of structural violence that folks live with. There lives have been informed by trauma and not a failure to “think positively” and “attract positivity.”

 

I Like Astrology Too But Tell Me How You’re Feeling

 

Astrology can be such a powerful tool! The skies are constantly moving! What an incredible way to gain insight. However, knowing what’s going on amongst the celestial bodies is not the same thing as being in your own body and articulating your own emotional state. I’m vaguely aware that things are conjuncting and retrograding each other, and I’m happy to hear about it, but let’s bring it back to you.

People Use Spiritual Bypassing to Avoid Their Own Suffering

Now, folks often utilize the strategies of spiritual bypassing because they are suffering, or trying to strategize in a world that feels overwhelming, and spiritual bypass is often a kinder gentler strategy than others. However, it can evoke a lot of confusion and is rich with opportunities for gaslighting.

 

You get to access tools for your growth and healing, but stay in the know about whether you are using them for growth, or as cloud cover for your deeper fears and insecurities.

 

If you or someone you know has spiritually bypassed their way into another dimension and you don’t know what to do about it, give me a call.

Trash pandas found here, here, and here.

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