Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don't want to be Polaroid, or DEC

There have been many big companies around here since I have opened my practice.  Three that come to mind quickly were Polaroid, Digital Equipment Corp and Wang Labs.  I used to like them because they all had great benefit packages and tried to take good care of their employees while they were making money.  DEC and Polaroid were always two great companies to work for.

They only thing they did that hurt all their employees was go out of business.  None of these three companies, and many others, lasted, because they couldn't turn the corner.  They didn't see that a new world was taking shape around them.  They had a model of operating that was successful, and they just kept following that success.  Once you find something that works, its very, very hard to see when it's not working, especially if it did you so well in the past, and if there were always normal fluctuations.

When is a loss just a dip, and when is it the plunge of no return?  You can't really know until it's too late.

In psychotherapy, with all the new technologies, and all of the new science, there are now many models of how to deal with emotional, psychological and behavioral difficulties.  You can come and talk to me; which is the old model.  Or you can take some complex new chemicals that may (or may not) affect your mind.  You can take pictures of your brain with an exciting new brain observing machines.  You can dip into your genetic code and try to rearrange things to alter you basic tendencies.

Some of these models have not had the kinks worked out of them yet.  The odds are if you dip into your genetic code you may come out being a two-toed sloth, which may not be a bad life, but it is a risk.

But the model I have been using is old.  It is very low-tech and inefficient.  Some people come and see me for years and hardly change their lives that much at all. Treatment sometimes ends because I get bored.  For many people this "talk therapy" model just doesn't work at all.  For many cultures the idea of speaking about your strange inner thoughts to someone you don't know, to anyone really, would be a disgrace.

But so far, I continue to struggle along, using the same old model, adding a few new slide-steps, spin moves and slight-of-hand tricks to my repertoire, just to show that I keep up with the times.  I don't think I will be the one to determine when the time has passed and other things work better.

So far, I don't see it happening.  And the demand for my little dancing act is still strong.  But high demand from the masses is no way to determine truth or validity.  There is a high demand for the psychic around the corner, and she doesn't have to get pre-authorizations,
AND she does parties.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tech 4

There is so much stuff out there that just comes pouring in here, between newspapers, the too many magazines I still get, the web sites for all of them, all of the other news, science, psychology, web sites, chat rooms, list serves, journals, comments on the journals, etc, that it does get a bit overwhelming.

I am from the generation of having to go searching for information.  Every bit of it  seems like a find.  I keep piles of it, knowing I will probably never get back to it. Even if I do I get distracted by new things. I am not that good a weeding out, and staying with a few regular sources.  I try to get other view points, but there is so much noise out there.  Everyone wants to be heard, and the only way to really get recognized is to be extreme and ridiculous.

Donald Trump for President?  What could be more ridiculous?

Anyway, I read somewhere, I can no longer remember where, that it has become acceptable behavior, or at least commonplace, to be talking to someone who is with you, while at the same time holding a "text" conversation with someone else.  So many people are texting constantly.  Older people are constantly checking email.   Facebook. Beeps, chirps and chimes abound. Information flows in. Where are you? What are you doing?  What did you think of that? What is he saying?  Get this done,  Get back to me.  On and on in a constantly flow.

I sit in my office, one on one with people.  Most of them forget to turn off their phones until they ring, or beep or boop or rap, or erupt with heavy metal.  Even then they sometimes take the call, fearing it is about their kids, or their boss, or something very vital.  That has happened once out of about 200 times, that a kid was sick at school. Vital?  An instant response expected.

There is a lot of discussion now about doing therapy by phone, or Skype, or even just by instant messaging.  Is that better for people who can't reveal deep, dark secrets in a face to face setting?

But my profession, the way I do it, remains very low tech.  We assume that real, direct, in-person, interpersonal relationships are more telling, more real, and convey so much more emotion and intensity.  It is so basic to being human.

Or, at least it was.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

client called

At least once a month I get a call from someone I have already seen, but who I have not seem for a while.  Many people come to see me for six months to two years and that's about all I have to offer.  But usually by then they have be transformed into amazingly creative, caring, successful, problem solving individuals, whom everyone wants to know a be around.

Often a new situation arises, or some of the fairy dust wears off and they find a reason to come back for a tune-up.  This can happen after one to five years, and often happens again, one to five years later. 

But while I was away I got a call from a woman who said that she had been waiting to call me for a while, and she was pretty sure it was me she wanted to see.  I had seen her once before for a few sessions and put her life on the right track, but now, she felt the need to see me again.

She left her name, but I didn't recognize it.  I called her when I got back, and she explained that she had left her married name, and I would remember her by her maiden name. Also, she is 50 now, and I had last seen her when she was 17, in 1978, and I was working on the other side of the state.

There are a few things she wants to talk about that have happened since then.

Fine, I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

away, and back

I keep planning to do this thing on a regular basis, just for the discipline of it all.  Sometimes I think it would really help me clear up my thoughts if I could write them here, trying to be coherent, two or three times a week (ha!).  Other times I think that the kind of writing that goes into blogs, including this one, is hardly disciplined at all.  It takes time and revisions to think through an idea, and to present it well.

It would possibly be more effective to blog regularly, once a week. To begin on Monday, add to it, review it, edit it and post it on Sunday.  But hardly anyone, including me, expects that from a blog, so most blogs are read quickly, and anything that takes more than six minutes to read hardly gets read.

But, so far, I have had a tough time doing either.

My excuse this time is that I went away.  That's a good enough excuse.

We packed up and got out of the long lingering cold weather and journeyed to the far off Southland.

First we visited that stately town on the bluff, Natchez, Mississippi.  When we got there people asked us why we had come.  They seemed a bit puzzled.  Natchez turns out to be a smaller town than I expected.  But otherwise, it was more than I expected.

We went there to see the river.  And that was reason enough.  A mile wide, muddy brown, swirling in seven directions at once as it pushed itself downstream, the mighty Mississippi lived up to its reputation.  The people in the town said they respected and feared it a bit.  It was not to be taken lightly. The currents were strong and unforgiving, especially at this time of year.

The town was charming, a beautiful example of the old South.  The people were friendly, more than approachable, willing to talk, and happy to have some Yankees walk through. We saw the stately old homes. We ate some great Southern cookin', We drove a few miles up the Natchez Trace, which is something we hardly knew about.  A beautiful road, that winds by itself all the way up to Nashville.

But then we turned around and drove south, following the river, through St. Francesville, La, a town of simple pleasures and unique treasures, right on the river.  Then we drove past the oil refineries, and the tallest state capitol building in the country, which is in Baton Rouge.  We also saw where the River takes a turn, and the oil tankers come and go, under yet another huge Mississippi River Bridge.

The rest of the week was spent in and around the Big Easy.  The French Quarter, filled with tourists, music, a great deal of alcohol, better music, more alcohol, and great food.  The Garden district, with funky Magazine Street, some of the best graveyards in the country, and  some still remaining houses that were ruined in Katrina.  We saw alligators in the Bayous, and ate shrimp, oysters and grits everywhere.

Now, we have returned to New England and are again, freezing our asses off.

It's great to get away.  It's fun to talk to people who I don't have to try to help.

Again, I am left with the perception that I do not think in the manner of many of my countrymen.  I do not immediately look for a business angle of for the faster pleasures. I always seem to feel that things are more complex than what is being presented.

Often, I am left feeling that I just make my own life more difficult, but it's too late to change that, and I don't want to anyway, because, even though I say I'm open minded, I know I'm right.

But they sure do have some big boats going up and down that river.  I could sit in that warm sun, with a beer in my hand, and watch them go by all day.  Not much complex about that.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Pissed off

Back at work, and the pressure of cramming it all into three days still makes me uneasy.  It gives me the luxury of being selective. I have to give some people more time between appointments.  It forces me to choose even more; who to see and who to make wait.  In many ways it's healthy for all of us.  I can't just see people who want to unload on me.  I want to put the time into those who will use the opportunity, whatever it is we do together, to move forward.

But so many people are so angry these days.  There is such a feeling of distrust.  People feel that their employer cannot be trusted, many are angry at the government, for reasons that are never clear, they are angry at the pressure they feel for money, with rising prices and stagnant wages.  They are angry that so many people are angry.  And everyone feels entitled to be angry in response.

For thirty years I have sat with couples who scream a each other, but now there are lines that are crossed much more often.  Words are used that would never have been mentioned, very sharp verbal knives come out much quicker and cut much deeper.  So many people seem to feel that relationships are just temporary.  This city is very diverse, and yet this seems to cross many cultures.  Men slip away; women are quick to pull back, they detach and give-up on the relationship quickly.  It's not worth the effort to save it.

The drama of adolescents is much more intense also, and seems to be much meaner.  Kids always found ways to put each other down and define a pecking order, and those on the bottom always suffered, but there seems to be a relentless need for some kids, often young girls, to destroy others, to drive them out of the group, to completely humiliate them.  Everyone is at risk.

Tell me if I'm wrong.  Maybe I just saw too many people today, after doing nothing yesterday.  Nothing was kind of fun, but not very exciting. This is very exciting, but not really fun.

Friday, April 01, 2011

I worry, but...

I go back to work now, and only work three days.  It's very strange.  I am trying to adjust but it is difficult.  I take Monday and Friday off, so if the warm weather ever comes I will have long weekends to make sure the tide comes in.  But on Mondays I still feel guilty.  I wonder who gave me permission to stay home.

But work is easy.  Three days is nothing.  I could probably see a hundred people in three days, but I stop at 27.  That's enough.  Then I begin to get tired.  But, by them, I'm done.  I have a long weekend!.. It's a vacation!

I've been seeing a lot of people in their late 20s and early thirties, and I worry about them.  The ones that reach me, here in this struggling old mill city and struggling themselves.  Most of them are either still taking courses to finish college, have finished after five to ten years, or have dropped out.  They have jobs they don't like, and make enough to pay the rent if they live together.  They don't really make enough to get married and have a family.

They come from families that fell apart in their youth.  They have fathers they rarely see. Their mothers have had several relationships that seem to last three to eight years, but are destined to end badly, or to just fade away.  Many of those who I see really don't know how to expect something better.

Today's economic situation does not help. High paying jobs are scare and need specialized training.

So many of my clients, who are now 28 to 42, still live the life of a 23 year-old.  They drink too much.  They roll in and out of bed with friends and neighbors they hardly know. They rack up credit card debt that may or may not get paid in their lifetimes.

I see about five or six people like this now.  Each of them seems to have six to ten friends who are really worse off then they are, but are too scared to come to treatment.  Most of the ones that come to see me do so because they really want to do something about it.  And most of them do.  They slowly grow up, and do the difficult and/or boring things that growing up requires.

But it sounds like many, many of their friends don't.  They continue to drink too much, to give-up on themselves, to let life just drift by.

I worry about them.  There are many, many, of them who take too many drugs, still play too many video games, and skip work at Target or the supermarket or the call center, where they get paid $8.50 an hour.

But. in truth, although it seems as if our society is terrible, mean and demeaning, it has always been this way.  In fact, it is probably better now.

Things were worse fifty years ago, much worse a hundred years ago, and inconceivably bad before that.  But then, many people just got sick and died, and that was the way it was.

Now, with health care, machines,  and the marvelous new technology, there is not only the expectation, but also the capability of finding ways for so many more people to live decently, and become  comfortable and productive.

But, really, there is not the general will to care about too many people, especially if it may make you, me, or anyone, a bit more uncomfortable.

This is not new.  It seems to be part of who we are.