Tag Archives: stress

Ways To Contribute

Contribution6I have my finger in a lot of pots these days, all in an attempt to find ways to contribute my skill set to the issues of global warming. Currently I strive to be a background resource to others as I generally exhaust myself when I over-commit myself. I generally function best as a devil’s advocate, gently challenging others to stretch into their own skill set; I don’t function well in groups unless I have designated tasks to complete (or can function as devil’s advocate).

It has been a while since I have done a post, and periodically I have thought to get back to same. Mainly I have been sorting how best for me to respond to issues, as noted above, above all seeking a way to be at peace with the stresses of modernity.

I do a lot. Amongst other ways to contribute, I do a Listening Ministry at one of the church missions of the Downtown EastSide of Vancouver, the major district of homelessness and drug crime. I’m also part of the Social Justice committee of the same mission where we are current advocates for drug decriminalization. I am engaged in an international men’s organization (Illuman.org) and promote a variety of virtual men’s groups orientated to vulnerability and spirituality. I facilitate a Soul Matters group at the local Unitarian Church, exploring a variety of issues such as Awe, Vision, and Mystery. And I contribute to a Suzuki Elder Salon development of how to engage in difficult conversations. I used to also provide low grade security in Vancouver via the Peace Bearers organization — usually for crowd scenes orientated to demonstrations regarding global warming (my low back pain unfortunately led to limitations here).

I do all this because I am deeply aware of how precarious is the nature of human survival in this super-wicked difficulty of climate change and ecological threat. I actually have little hope we will survive as a species, and no hope our civilization will survive.

But I do not function from hope — I function from intention.

High intention; low expectation

This is the only way I have found to stay out of despair as to what we are doing on this planet. I have said many times to myself and to others that, as individuals we are capable of immense greatness, but as a species we are psychotic.

From my perspective, we need ways to shift this human dynamic at a species level. I have basically spent the second half of my life (from 40 to 65) as therapist learning to do so at the individual level, and in retirement wanted to tackle the societal level — wherein I came much more aware of my own limitations in contribution. But it did not mean that I would give up contributing.

I contribute because authenticity in relationship with others has become my best way to function with this insanity, and perhaps the only way in which we will find a path through the next hundred years. It is my wish that others find a way through their own despair and acedia so that we come to common ground in how we deal with the coming years.

The following links speak to these thoughts of mine.

How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet (20181126)

An excellent report by Bill McKibben (350.org) regarding the current state of global warming as well as the complexity of human relations over the past 60 years.

Finding Hope in Hopelessness (20181123)

Margaret Wheatley reflects on loss of hope, and yet finding her own stance to contribute within hopelessness.

I’d rather die than feel this. (20180608, reprinted from 2014)

An excellent article on why some choose suicide as a resolution of their pain. It reminds me of the spate of celebrity suicides (Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain as examples) as well as the numerous deaths within the Fentanyl crisis.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and the Legacy Museum

I’ve currently finished a brief workshop on White Supremacy Culture, part of a presentation within the Unitarian Church I attend. I hate the term White Supremacy and yet I recognize that the destructiveness of the immense power and privilege issues that have dominated European culture (and thus world culture) for the past 500 years (or more, perhaps as long ago as the origin of what we call civilization). Somehow we need to do much more in the nature of multi-cultural restoration.

The Fortune-Teller (20181105)

“how to save the world” is a blog written by a local BC resident, often regarding his chronicle of civilization’s collapse. Overall I find it well-written with interesting reflections (although from the perspective of a staunch materialist — not my preferred ontology). I especially like his present comment: “Lemonade is everywhere. Wisdom is scarce.”

The Role Harassment Plays in Climate Change Denial (20181102)

We are becoming more and more divisive as a culture, especially in the United States but also Canada. I assume it is simply a harbinger of the stresses of our current world, but it does not bode well for resolution of issues. I have long maintained that cultural anger is the canary in the coalmine of our demise.

Is Civility A Sham? (201810 TED Salon)

Why It’s Worth Listening To People We Disagree With (201804 TED2018)

How To Have Better Political Conversations (201609 TEDx Marin)

Three brief videos that look at the difficulty of conversation in divisive areas. They stress the need for basic civility and meeting the other in their worldview, all important points in coming to common ground. They all seem to operate from the presupposition that if the other person/people feel respected and acknowledged, then the other will want to find common ground — likely true in many cases.

What is missing for me is what to do when the other has no interest in finding common ground — this is the central breakdown point for me, especially when the other has powerful influence on the outcome (corporations, the fossil fuel industry, et cetera). Our culture usually operates from the seeking of consensus — and the weakness of consensus is that terrorists are not interested in consensus.

In this regard, I am currently reading Deep Green Resistance, a book which delimits the need for resistance beyond the attempt to achieve consensus. It is quite a dense read, and likely I will eventually describe it in greater detail in this blog. For now, I recommend it as an important study in the complexity of change.

What’s It All About? Part 2

Meaning2This is my second post about meaning, it being the essential driver of human behaviour. We are meaning-makers, story-makers, and if we do not know “what it’s all about,” we will not move into action. At the same time, the creation of our meaning is complex and sophisticated.

Not only is the creation of meaning complex, but often the information itself is complex. This is especially so with all the information available concerning global warming.

I said last post that I would give some updated information regarding global warming. Here it is.

First, I want to draw attention to a brilliant presentation by Jeremy Rifkin on The Third Industrial Revolution via UBC Connects (20180316) — it is a fairly long video, and a quick summary is available as The Zero Marginal Cost Society (unfortunately both present the information too rapidly to allow good processing). Rifkin identifies that every industrial revolution in the past has occurred with and requires new innovations in communication (management), energy (creation), and transportation (movement). We have that now with the internet (communication), renewable energy (energy), and electronic vehicles plus 3D printing (both logistical), and thus we are now capable of a new industrial revolution. However he remains hesitant because he does not trust that we have the maturity as a culture to undertake this — we must learn to cooperate and collaborate. processes are underway, and are in a race against the impacts of global warming.

Unfortunately, all this has been my primary emphasis throughout this blog.

And given all this, what do I trust? And, what to do? Especially in relationship to global warming. I trust the following links — they are also potentially troublesome — they offer meaning, likely painful! Yet, within the assessment of what I can do regarding global warming, they offer much; they are my attempt to offer appropriate meaning.

Climate change: An ‘existential threat’ to humanity, UN chief warns global summit (20180515)

The current Secretary-General of the UN notes “Everyday, I am faced with the challenges of our troubled and complex world. But none of them loom so large as climate change. If we fail to meet the challenge, all our other challenges will just become greater and threaten to swallow us. Climate change is, quite simply, an existential threat for most life on the planet — including, and especially, the life of humankind.”

Degree sparks necessary debate (20180517)

David Suzuki is often blunt in his critique of the societal issues of climate change, something I appreciate. Yet, as he notes, his bluntness often is subject to ad hominem attacks, rather than depth of dialogue — unfortunate, and part of the distortion that occurs in transfer of information to meaning.

Climate Reality Check (2016)

The Uninhabitable Earth (20170709)

Good information in both. Also scarey!

The Climate Mobilization Living In Climate Truth Guidebook

A draft document developed by The Climate Mobilization, presenting many good links as to the nature of the pending catastrophe as well as practical tips for self-care.

The Time Required To Scan

SystemChange2

This will be my last blog for a while — I am over-extended in too many areas, and need to cut back on some things. It takes a significant amount of my time to scan and briefly review the various news sources I look at, most of which are high anxiety in their content (which I mainly ignore), and I am not convinced of any significant shift in the issues.

For now, I am will simply focus on those areas of my life where I feel I can make a difference.

Climate Issues

We’re not even close to being prepared for the rising waters (20171110)

For years now, I have been aware that almost every new estimate of the consequences of global warming indicates that our current assessment is inadequate and that the dangers are worse than previously thought. This is another in this series. Our choices are immediate wartime mobilization (as advocated by The Climate Mobilization) or adapt to irreversible changes (with high cost). Rationally we could do the first; politically we are stumbling to the second. Good luck!

More than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issue ‘warning to humanity’ (20171114)

What will it take? When will we listen?

Humans cause growing heat wave danger (20171112)

The likelihood of death as a direct consequence of heat is increasing; interestingly (at least to me as a physician) is the elucidation of 27 different physiological mechanisms whereby life is threatened.

Miscellaneous

Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core (20171112)

The world of technology at its core! One of my favorite expressions is “technology is wonderful, when it works!” When it does not, it is dehumanizing and deeply destructive of what I value of the greatness of our species.

The Pain Of The World

Not a lot to report this week — just the usual pain of the world.

Global Warming

Scientists mapping Greenland have produced some surprising – and worrying – results (20171004)

Even more risk of sea level rise!

Federal government failing to put climate plan into action, environmental watchdog finds (20171003)

The Canadian government this time. Trudeau (like Obama) offered such hope, and such disappointment. I wonder what it will take for governments to do more than talk.

One Way To Respond

As Overdose Deaths Pile Up, a Medical Examiner Quits the Morgue (20171007)

Fentanyl overdose is so common now, and like all addictions and overdoses represents the attempt to get away from the pain of living. And Fentanyl is so appealing! As a retired anesthetist, I was very aware of its potency, but it was not until I had an anesthetic myself that I appreciated its appeal. I was given Fentanyl as part of the induction and had about a minute of pure bliss before being unconscious — if I were to become addicted to anything, I would certainly choose Fentanyl.

Rites Of Passage

LifeStages2I have just returned from an outstanding workshop called Men’s Rites Of Passage (MROP), provided by a men’s organization (Illuman) committed to becoming better men; it is based on spiritual traditions, but totally ecumenical and welcoming to all men regardless of personal characteristics. Over my years of therapy, I have likely attended more than 100 major workshops, and this one has clearly been one of the best, both in its organization and its clarity of work. For myself, the impact was somewhat diffuse (as noted, having done much work before); its impact on other men appears to have been profound, consistent with the quality of the workshop.

The workshop is based on the work of Richard Rohr, founder of the Center For Action And Contemplation, a Franciscian based spiritual center. Based on Richard’s book Adam’s Return: The Five Promises Of Male Initiation[1], the premise is that throughout the past, men have needed initiation rites so as to move them into community; otherwise men tend to be highly orientated to power dynamics. The premise makes sense to me, not that it is exclusive to men, but certainly it has been a factor in the basic power dynamics of our Western civilization.

Essentially, the workshop normalizes the pain of life journey. It is based on spiritual teachings, although non-religious and very ecumenical. It poses a variety of non-challenging interventions, yet is very powerful.

Various studies (I forget the sources) have suggested a range of life stages for men and women, the most common of which (if successfully completed) are:

  • early adult transition, usually in the early 20s, wherein mastery is learned,
  • mid-life transition, approximately age 40, wherein maturity is begun, and
  • eldership transition, approximately age 65, wherein wisdom predominates
    • this could also be called old age transition, but I dislike the connotations of this designation.

The current MROP is orientated to mid-life transition; workshops to emphasize the characteristics of the other statges are currently being developed.

From my perspective and as indicated in previous posts (my series on Mature Community, such as here), if we are to survive and thrive as a species, such work is essential to the maturing of our species. I cannot emphasize this enough, and I believe that Illuman has a major role to play in this process.

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Other issues of the week:

Global Warming continues to worsen (are you surprised?).

Increased awareness is key to resolving the climate crisis (20170518). A friend suggested that maybe they have been reading my blog.

AntarcticGreenThanks to global warming, Antarctica is beginning to turn green (20170518). Wow! I never conceived of the antarctic as being green.

Scientists say the pace of sea level rise has nearly tripled since 1990 (20170522). The rate of change is still very small, but the impact is cummulative. As well, the rate of rise does not take into account sudden shifts due to increased glacial calving, or loss of entire ice shelves.

The cultural status also continues to worsen (again, surprise!)

It’s tougher than it should be to impeach Donald Trump (20170517). It actually takes a huge effort (“only if the vice-president, over half the cabinet, and two-thirds of both houses agree to do so”).

There’s No Way Republicans Will Truly Confront Trump on His Scandals. It Would Destroy Their Party. (20170518). A dangerous situation

The Disappearing Data Project (20170522). As the Trump administation closes down various agencies, access to their data input becmes much more difficult.

Such is life!

[1] Rohr, R. (2004). Adam’s return: The five promises of male initiation. New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing.

The Busyness Of Life

The Busyness Of Life

Anxiety3As is obvious, I have not been doing a lot of posts in recent weeks. Partly, I’m lacking inspiration, and partly, I’m unclear what else to add to what I have already written. I strongly believe that the many issues within global warming are simply the tip of the iceberg of our cultural immaturity and expanding world population, but until we recognize this, little will change. So I have been pondering what else to write, with little clarity.

For now, I have decided to do a weekly post (more or less), with brief comments on various links that come across my desk. This is the first of such posts, noting:

  • books I’m currently reading
  • social movement victories in the first 100 days
  • recent examples of global warming
  • the age of stupid

Books I’m Reading

A major component of who I am is that I seek an integrated worldview — I’m constantly assessing my experiences and my sources of information for consistency. I am not per se interested in accummulating knowledge; rather I want to experience and live more authentically. I strongly believe that:

A science that does not incorporate spirituality is dehumanizing;
a spirituality that does not incorporate science is delusional.

As part of this ongoing search, I am always reading multiple books at a time, largely because I get saturated with one book, and shift to another to clear my mind. Currently I am reading (I recommend them all):

  • BlindSpots: 21 Good Reasons To Think Before You Talk, by Christian deQuincey[1]
    • Christian was my research advisor for my PhD, and I have a deep respect for his clarity of thinking. BlindSpots is an excellent overview of the many ways in which we become confused about basic issues such as consciousness, energy, time, healing, et cetera. It is somewhat repetitive, but otherwise excellent.
  • Scotus For Dunces: An Introduction To The Subtle Doctor, by Mary Beth Ingram[2]
    • As part of my current exploration of meditation and contemplative practice, I’m studying the Christian traditions, especially the Franciscan traditions. John Duns Scotus was a brilliant theologian of the early 14th century, especially focused on a profoundly mature understanding of the relational character of God. In particular, he illustrates for me that human beings of other centuries were not stupid; they simply did not have our technological sophistication (nor, in many cases, our hubris).
  • Musicophilia: Tales Of Music And The Brain, by Oliver Sacks[3]
    • Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes about the many human issues that occur with neurological defects; other than his strong bias to equating mind and brain, I always find his writings to be very insightful. I’m especially interested in this book because, with my own neurological issues, I have little awareness of music — I have almost no response, cognitive or emotional (a point of sadness for me).

Current Comments on Global Warming

A recent article on CTV News Central and Eastern Canada face heavy flooding (20170505) describes the unprecedented rains and flooding occuring on the East Coast of Canada and the US. For me, it highlights the strange weather that is occurring — likely due to global warming (no one weather event can be proved to be due to global warming; it is on the trends of climate that are the main impact). Here, on the West Coast, our spring is very delayed — normally the streets are ablaze with flowering trees and shrubs, but currently theay are very muted or just beginning. For me, all this is simply the beginning of changes, many of which will be very difficult to accommodate.

It is so necessary that we respond to climate disruption in emergency fashion (see Blueprint For A Climate Emergency Movement), and I easily lose sight of progress. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the many articles about the Trump administration that simply incite anxiety — most of them are so illustrative of the need of the media to be theatrical, but some articles are important. The Top 10 Resistance Victories in Trump’s First 100 Days (20170427) identifies that progress is being made, especialy that groups are banding together to have a greater impact. For me, it remains a chaotic morasse without clear focus, more against Trump rather than defining a solid vision of the future, but it is much better than no response. The title ‘It can’t just be a march. It has to be a movement.’ What’s next for climate activists? (20170430) sums it up for me.

In contrast, I note the rise of populism (ant-intellectual political movements that offer unorthodox polices, frequently those that foster some kind of discrimination). Especially good is WATCH: Populism’s ‘backhanded service’ (20170505).

But it remains very difficult to get good information, the internet is so fraught with misinformation. As illustration, David Suzuki’s Research sheds light on dark corner of B.C.’s oil and gas industry (20170504) emphasizes how little I trust government these days. Currently we are in the midst of BC provincial elections, and I simply shake my head at posturing, and promises that likely will never be fully realized.

The Age Of Stupid

In Busy Is The New Stupid (20160720), Ed Baldwin notes I’ve found that the most productive and successful people I’ve ever met are busy, but you wouldn’t know it.  They find time that others don’t.” He notes the many difficulties that occur when we are too busy, and especially emphasizes “We’ve all been tricked into believing that if we are busy we are important.” From my perspective, much of this busyness also occurs because we are overloaded attempting to manage data (emails, reports, et cetera), rather than knowing how to organize information effectively.

Why we need to slow down our lives (20170430), Pico Iyer notes this massive influx of data, and proposes that we need a secular sabbath (given we so seldom keep a religious sabbath in our culture), “if only to regather the sense of proportion and direction [we will] need for when [we] go back online.” He also references an excellent TedTalk How Technology Evolves by Kevin Kelly. Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and an avid enthusiast of technology, yet notes “I continue to keep the cornucopia of technology at arm’s length, so that I can more easily remember who I am.”

In conclusion, I am reminded of a Zen story of the farmer who needs a horse. He is getting old, and now requires a horse so as to plow his fields. Bemoaning his life, he goes to the village master who says, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” So he goes home, somewhat dissatisfied. Yet the next morning, a stray horse shows up in his field. He goes to the master to express his thanks, and the master responds, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Puzzled, he returns to his farm, plows his fields, and goes to bed. The next morning, his teenage son sees the horse, and attempts a ride, only to fall and break his leg. In misery, the old man goes again to the master, who again answers, “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.” Again dissatisfied, the old man goes home, to find the local army commandeering all the young men and boys for its battles. His son, with his broken leg, is spared. The old man is elated, and again goes to thank the master, who only replies “Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

The single most important skill here, from my perspective, is that of mindfulness, just being present to what is.

So in the trials of life,

“Be at peace. Come back tomorrow.”

[1] deQuincey, C. (2015). Blindspots: 21 good reasons to think before you talk. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press (Kindle Edition)

[2] Ingram, M. B. (2003). Scotus for dunces: An introduction to the subtle doctor. St Bonaventure, NY:Franciscan Institute Publications (Kindle Edition).

[3] Sacks, O. (2007). Musicology: Tales of music and the brain. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf Publications

Anger #31 Loose Ends And Final Comments

Comment: The final email. Hopefully you have gained from this program. I wish you well!

MacQuarrie Email Program — Loose Ends and Final Comments

Happy2Congratulations.

You have completed the thirty emails of this program. I know that this has required a lot of work on your part. I also hope that it has been an effective program for you, and that you have obtained the outcome you wish from it (Email #01).

At this point, I would very much appreciate feedback from you as to its effectiveness, especially what parts have been most useful, and what not. Please email me at dave.macq@icloud.com.

My thoughts as to how you can continue:

  • be aware that as you learn your triggers and become more skillful in managing yourself, you will be changing the system within which you function.
    • people will not like this, and will attempt to sabotage you. Don’t violate them as they do so; play with the sabotage.
    • it is not likely that they want you to resume being angry; they may actually want you to be more healthy. However, your changes require that they themselves change. Perhaps your anger has allowed them to avoid their own anger, or served some other purpose within the system. Now they must find another way to cope, and are not prepared for this. Hence, they sabotage you and others so as to avoid their own issues — this is the nature of systems.
  • manage your energy. People won’t like it; manage yourself safely (Email #02 and #25).
    • as much as possible (safely), stop violations by others.
  • learn the messages of your anger.
  • deal with conflict. The only person who can initiate change is yourself.
    • practice the skills of creative communication, cooperation, and challenge
  • on occasion, dive deeper into your issues, perhaps with therapy.
    • be aware that these learnings of the past few months will fade. The activities and tasks must be practiced for an extended time before they become second nature. Expect this — come back (or find another program) in six months or a year.

And especially, recognize that you can act your way into a new way of thinking; you cannot think your way into a new way of acting (it is action that creates change). Growth is a balance of acting and assessing — risking is essential.

Challenge yourself. For me, I am often sad about the ways in which we have created ourselves as human beings, how traumatized we are. Learn how to step into the shoes of others so as to get how difficultly they live their lives, and why they may be criticizing you (Email #30 — Dealing With Other Angry People). For example, they have likely been traumatized themselves such that they are bitter; explore how the trauma arises for them in the present in your actual contact with them.

Most important — be a participant-observer of your own internal conflicts, watching for those sailors who demonstrate wisdom (Email #19 Why We Avoid). Develop your Captain.

I learned to deal with conflict by being challenged in how I functioned — overall a very painful process. When I had had my therapy practice for a few years, I was running a group within a community organization, supposedly an association with high integrity. Gradually I came to suspect that they had many undesirable characteristics, but I did not then have the skill to challenge them effectively. Eventually I refused to work with them, a decision that was hotly challenged. It took me three months to settle my anxiety, and come to terms that I was making a good decision for myself. But it was not easy.

Several years later, someone complained to the College who governed my license. I was able to defend myself, but it took me six weeks to settle my anxiety.

Again after a few years, another complaint — this time it took six hours to settle my anxiety. It was now simply an opportunity to demonstrate that I was living my own values.

I also learned how to function by requesting feedback from others. Much of this was part of the therapy processes I attended (as participant); later, I made it a habit to request feedback from the groups I was running. The skills of maturity are best learned through feedback.

If you want more from me, read my books (see below), subscribe to this blog, or ask questions of me (dave.macq@icloud.com).

If convenient, attend one of my workshops; usually they are listed on my website (A Place Two Be). I also do individual work with clients, usually by some kind of video conferencing such as Zoom (my preference compared to Skype). There is a cost for these, but I am open to sliding scale depending on need.

Keep well; you deserve it.

Thank you. I hope you have both enjoyed and benefited from this program.

Dave’s Books:

MacQuarrie, D. (2008). Blowing out the darkness: The management of emotional life issues, especially anger and rage. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

MacQuarrie, D. (2012). Acedia, the darkness within, and the darkness of climate change. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

Both are available from AuthorHouse, and there may be a Kindle edition on Amazon.

Anger #30 Dealing With Other Angry People

Comment: Angry people tend to attract angry responses, likely from other angry people. If you are to live otherwise, you will need to know how to respond to other’s who are angry.

MacQuarrie Email Program #30 — Dealing With Other Angry People

angerface3
Anger is a masque of deeper issues.

In Email #01, I indicated your anger will tell you there is a difficulty, but it will not tell you if the issue is within you (powerlessness — something inappropriate within your own beliefs), or in others (conflict — something inappropriate with those around you). The primary intention of the Blowing Out method has been to release the Energy and explore the Message — to empty the Pot, and reduce the likelihood of the Pot filling again.

Hopefully, by this point in time, you have developed considerable skill in managing your own anger. However, as you undoubtedly realize, you are not alone in having difficulty with anger. So what do you do when you encounter someone else who is angry?

Previously, you might have escalated with them, with a less than desirable outcome. Your task for this email is to explore what you can do differently in such circumstances.

You probably know already that it will not do much good to suggest that they check out Angry? Change Your Life in 90 Days. Actually, the best way to recommend this program is to demonstrate to others that, compared with a few months ago, you are now much more able to manage your anger — actions speak louder than words.

So, how to deal with someone else’s anger (explore these suggestions to see if you agree):

  • first, monitor yourself, especially your voice tone, muscle tension, and body language. You want to be able to engage (or not) by choice, not by your own reactivity.
  • minimize escalation
    • minimize eye contact, neither too little (often interpreted as weakness) nor too much (often confrontational) — be aware there are major variations within cultures. For example, sometimes lack of eye contact is a sign of respect.
    • assume a relaxed posture, and especially avoid pointing.
    • speak with moderate tone, and especially no profanity.
    • listen, listen, listen. Appreciate suggestions; be thankful for contributions.
      • if you will listen to them, they may be willing to listen to you.
    • invite time-outs to problem-solve; make an appointment to resume.
      • when safe, discharge your own energy so as not to contaminate your next event.

Angry#30-PPositionsWhen complete, the following is a way to explore what happened (especially useful here, also in many other circumstances):

  • as usual, act out the situation — when you utilize your body, you are much more likely to access your other-than-conscious mind, and obtain richer data.
    • first, step into your own shoes (#1) to explore the event
    • second, act out the event from the perspective of the other (#2)
    • then, watch the action from the side (#3), as well as standing on a chair as you move around the event (elevated 3rd). You will gain different information from different positions.
  • finally, if you were dissatisfied with the original outcome, consider what else you could have done, similar to the exploration of Email #20 What Gets You Angry?

Dealing with ‘difficult people’ is actually a very complex process, partly because conflict is both normal and essential to the development of relationship, be it a group of two people or of twenty-two. When groups are forming, people are unfamiliar with each other — conflict occurs as people honestly sort their needs, and come to agreements as to how to act. Honesty is needed; niceness is often not effective in resolution. Everyone is doing their best to cope, some less effectively than others!

Those people who could be called ‘difficult’ are simply those with less skill (and perhaps have grown up in less than ideal circumstances). Most of the time, such people are demonstrating limited skill when the group itself is immature in its development. As a general rule, I assume that conflict represents immaturity of a group until it becomes very obvious that the individual is truly interruptive to the functioning of a group.

From my perspective, difficulties need to be corrected when they interfere with long-term relationship and/or the performance of tasks. Such correction however requires considerable time, often up to ten hours (or more) for resolution — a lot of work. My standards are these:

  • if I am the facilitator of a time-limited group, I will identify interruptive behaviors (simply name them so others are aware), tolerate them, or stop them as feasible.
  • if a long-term group (marriage, friendship, or work group), I will resolve, challenge, or stop inappropriate behaviors. I will also work hard to identify the ghosts and hidden agendas that often underlie conflict.

Something more needs to happen with truly difficult people — those who continue to be interruptive (major immaturity) and/or those who violate others (toxic). Some thoughts:

  • although much has been made of the concept of empathy in modern therapeutic circles, my experience (and that of my mentors) has been that empathy is very limited in its use.
    • empathy is useful for the development of safety and relationship, especially that of trust. However, it does not encourage growth, and is often conducive to continuing immaturity.
    • challenge (frustration) is much more promoting of growth.
  • early in my career as a therapist, one of my mentors pointed out the need for what he called killer instinct, best summarized by a definition from the 18th century: A gentlemen is one who does not hurt the feelings of another, unintentionally!
    • If I need to stop someone, I do so calmly and deliberately — it is a stance of clarity, not of anger! And I stop them.
  • it is important to recognize that people who violate others are limited in resources, and therefore are likely to escalate when challenged, possibly to dangerous levels.
    • another mentor pointed out that toxic forces are responsive neither to reason nor to empathy. Thus, the risk of escalation — be careful.

Coming next: Closure

Anger #29 Responding To Children

Comment: Child discipline is fraught with ‘shoulds,’ and thus a place of major difficulty. Child discipline is more accurately discipline of the parent so as to provide consistency and nurturing.

MacQuarrie Email Program #29 — Responding To Children

Angry#29a-TasksI chose this topic as part of the program because children are a part of the lives of everyone. Children are a source of major joy, and also of significant anger. Children are developing into individuals, and therefore resist the efforts of others to manage them. Thus, responding to children is equivalent to managing the third limb of a triangle — fraught with difficulty.

The task in this email is complex — learning to parent with care and consistency. Be aware that it is easy to become overwhelmed with all the ‘shoulds’ in this field. The bottom line is safety and respect. What are your beliefs as to how children should behave? What are you seeking?

Although most people attempt to parent well, parenting is still an isolated phenomenon within the private family. As children, many of us have been traumatized in families; I certainly had been. As such, most of us received almost no training in emotional or relationship dynamics, other than the emotional field of our own families. Because of this, we are at great risk of recreating such patterns when we themselves have children.

There is a lot I could say about why our culture frequently traumatizes children, but it would take much space. I therefore confine my remarks to skills that are needed in responding to children.

The needs of children are age-dependent; difficulties occur because of inherent age-related tasks. Children have more dreams; parents are more orientated to reality. Younger children are focused on family, learning to model family dynamics; teens are relating to peers, and learning independence. Note the directions children are moving (young children towards parants; teens away) People can only hear you when they are moving towards you; thus younger children listen; teens much less so.

Angry#29b-SECFor me, the simplest way to describe all these needs is in terms of safety, energy, and choice (the primary characteristics of the Triune Brain — Email #04). All children need safety (not rules, but boundaries within which they can explore), extensive nurturing (energy which adds to safety), and age-appropriate choice (risking within the boundaries of safety). Between ages 0-2, they principally need safety and nurturing.

Difficulties usually begin with the ‘terrible twos,’ and the ‘trying threes.’ Here the primary need remains safety — children between two and ten simply do not have enough life experience to make good decisions of safety; however, the additional need is to educate them towards good choice. This is called child discipline; however, it is more accurately ‘parent discipline,’ the need to provide consistency of safety and nurturing. Parents have difficulty usually because they want to control energy (the expressiveness of children), rather than safety and choice.

There are two systems I advocate for the younger age group: 1-2-3 Magic (Tom Phelan) and Inner Discipline (Barbara Colorosa). 1-2-3 Magic emphasizes the energy management (positive energy to encourage appropriate behaviours, and absence of energy to discourage undesirable behaviours (criticism is negative energy, and a form of energy reward — as is too much explaining; remember, children want energy, and negative energy is better than no energy). Inner Discipline emphasizes age-appropriate choice. Both systems emphasize safety; both require discipline on the part of parents — consistency of caring, rather than energetic negative reward.

For the age group of 10-18, the child is gradually allowed to assume responsibility and accountability for both safety and age-appropriate choice, transferring safety issues to the older teen — such that adult-adult relations can develop as the child enters their 20s, perhaps as a form of mentoring on the part of the parent. Sometimes, such consistency is encouraging that of risk-taking, and other times is restrictive due to safety concerns.

Angry#29c-PACThe most useful way I have of thinking about responding to children again arises from Transactional Analysis, the therapy I introduced in Email #13 Who Are My Sailors? (TA is generally very good at explanations). There I suggested each person consistently has five sailors (nurturing parent, NP; critical parent, CP; adult, A; adapted child, AC; and natural child, NC).

  • The Parents operate from beliefs, the Adults from thoughtful evaluation, and the Childs from feelings.
  • ‘Grown-ups’ have all five states; ‘children’ only C states.
  • CP operates from ‘shoulds;’ AC is the sneaky Child.

In general, effective communication is with equivalent sailors (e.g., P-P or C-C), and poor communication when levels are crossed (e.g., P-C, P-A, or A-C). Thus, the most difficult situations occur between CP (‘you should’) and AC (‘I don’t want to!’).

Most parenting conflicts occur between CP and AC, a crossed transaction, in which the parent attempts to control the behavior of the child, independent of issues of safety and choice. Given that we all have Child sailors, younger children are predominantly Childs and teens are often Childs (while learning to have Parent and Adult sailors, eventually Captains — effective Adults).

Such crossed transactions are recipes for difficulty, especially with teens. The essential parenting need is Adult — set clean boundaries that you yourself can manage. The most effective way that I know is to ‘out-child’ the child — the skill of playfulness, together with an Adult (to provide safety). Can you be in a state of wonder? Do not lecture (P-C); do not argue (C-C). In each case, you will lose. Set boundaries (A), and wonder how the teen will respond (C).

For example, the teen wants to borrow the car, but never contributes gas. Set the car keys on the table with the instruction that the keys are available when they are replaced with $20 (to be refunded if the car is returned with a full tank of gas); otherwise the keys remain on the table. What will the teen do in response? Probably argue — do not engage. Possibly sulk or cajole — do not engage. Do not lecture. The discipline is to stay with the parameter of: Keys = $20.

Some other reading material to consider. Tom Phelan’s Surviving Your Adolescents is excellent; if possible, find the first edition — better information from my perspective. Also read Change: Principles of problem formation and problem resolution by Watzlawick et al.; it is the primary source whereby I learned to play.

Coming next: Loose ends

Anger #28 Intimacy And Relationship

Comment: In some fashion, we all want intimacy, but we are unwilling to risk, and thus we shift to psychological games with predictable negative outcomes. “Here we go again!” Sad.

MacQuarrie Email Program #28 — Intimacy and Relationship

Angry#28c-Relating
The Skills Of Relating

A friend of mine, a cultural anthropologist, asked approximately 40,000 people how they wanted to live their lives? Essentially everyone said they wanted a sense of aliveness, personal integrity, authentic relationships, and the ability to contribute — to be able to gift to others. My friend also noted in his research that our culture is characterized by domination, greed, and self-righteousness — essentially these are the same 40,000 people, just different sailors present.

So how then do we get what we say we want? It is not easy — it is risking being vulnerable so as to give permission to the other to be vulnerable also. I summarize it as: 3Rs:

  • Reveal self,
  • Risk not knowing what will happen, and
  • Requesting closeness — Let me know you. Please risk with me.)

The task of this email is for you to explore your vulnerability, and if you are willing to risk. How willing are you to have a successful relationship? Always it requires effort, and risking.

Vulnerability is the willingness to be powerless, bringing a clean thoughtful stance to issues, risking criticism (not knowing what will happen, and able to pick oneself up if the attempt does not work). Overall, men in our culture repress their feelings, and lack relationship skills; underneath this, they are actually terrified, especially of being criticized by women. Thus, the best example I have of men risking is in sexual approach. (What if the woman (or possible mate) says No?) Women in our culture experience the pressure to nurture, and do the dance of deception; generally, they are more emotionally mature than men, although they are often indirect, and act as victims. For women, the best example of being vulnerable is when they are willing to express unpleasant feedback directly. These features may be changing for younger generations; however, I do not have enough evidence to judge.

Be that as it may, we all want intimacy and connection. In Email #12, I identified what I call the three laws of experience: We want positives, it is easier to get negatives, and negatives are better than nothing. These laws determine the difference between intimacy and psychological games.

A therapy that helped me make clear distinctions here was Transactional Analysis. (Briefly I indicated this therapy in Email #13 Sailors On A Ship.) TA is about transactions — interaction.

In TA, intimacy is an unpredictable transaction with a possible positive payoff. It is high energy, high contact, and high risk, but when successful, it is very satisfying. In contrast, a psychological game is an other-than-conscious transaction with a predictable negative outcome. It is high energy, high contact, and low risk. Notice the differences between these interactions:

  • intimacy: high risk, positive outcome (very satisfying), unpredictable.
  • psychological game: low risk, negative outcome (negative is easier to get and better than nothing) , predictable.

Throughout these emails, I have repeatedly emphasized that life has required many of us live with major blocks to awareness, living into acedia rather than wisdom. Thus most people derive the energy they want via psychological games, keeping the process at the other-than-conscious level so as to block awareness of predictable negative outcomes. Sad. If you can say “Here we go again . . .,” you are a participant in a psychological game!

Angry#28a-Drama1The classic game is known as the Karpman Drama Triangle. Here there are three roles: the persecutor (P), the victim (V), and the rescuer (R). P is criticizing V (giving energy to V), R comes along and attempts to stop this “obvious” inappropriate behavior, thereby giving energy to both P and V. Suppose each starts with 100 units of energy, and each transaction is 60 units.

Angry#28b-Drama2Persecutor (P) blames victim (V), transferring 60 units. Rescuer also gives 60 units, 30 units to each of P and V. At the end of this round, P has 70 units, R has 40 units and V has 190 units. The basic question is: Who is winning? The victim always wins! But the game is unstable (sooner or later, someone runs out of energy). So, in order to keep the drama going, the players alternate roles. For example, Victim becomes Rescuer, and Rescuer becomes Victim. The game goes on. As an example, husband comes home drunk; wife (P) blames husband (V). Next morning, husband has a hangover (V); wife (R/V) says: “Stay in bed; I’ll get you breakfast. You had a rough night, so somebody (i.e., me) has to take care of you.”

As for resolution, Eric Berne (the TA therapist who studied psychological games in detail) stated “The only way to stop a game is to stop it!” Simplistically, you cannot play tennis with yourself (it takes two to play)! So when one player walks off the court, the game ends.

In comparison, effective relationship requires hard work. A host of skills are needed:

  • maintaining values — the groundwork, with often subtle differences between the individuals.
  • communicating and cooperating. Couples need to do much more than communicate — especially they need to cooperate in problem solving.
  • Angry#26b-Options1caring and resolving conflict. Caring is sometimes just as much work as resolving conflict. Problem solving (#27) is essential.
    • relationships do best when there are at least five positives for every negative.
    • blame has no place in relationship — blame is based on a right-wrong mentality, whereas everyone is always doing their best. When inappropriate behaviors exist, the basic question is whether the action was intended, or not. And do the individuals wish to act into better behaviors.
      • Sudden start-up of conflict is especially harmful.
    • it is necessary for the individuals to reveal themselves, especially their differences (a potential source of conflict) as feedback (not criticism).
    • Feedback (healthy) says “This is who I am;” criticism (unhealthy) says: This is who you should be.”

All of this, especially cooperation and gift-giving, is the basis of effective relating. Repairs of harm (e.g., authentic apologies) are essential. Management of energy (Emails #25#26) is mandatory.

The essential stances are:

  • if one of us has a problem, it is our problem! It is simply where the pain surfaces.
  • the person who has the pain has the responsibility to initiate discussion.

Coming next: Responding to Children