Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eatapuss Tex: Political Comments

I spent nearly 8 hours yesterday utterly engrossed by the filibuster taking place in the Texas senate, lead by Senator Wendy Davis.  I was impressed on many levels.  I was also thoroughly disgusted at times as well.  If you happen to have 3 hours to spare, I highly recommend watching the last three hours of the special session once it is posted online.  If my experience of watching the Senate was anything like the experience of people who enjoy sports watching a game, I think I get their...intensity.

Any situation that involves moving to ask the previous question on a motion to ask the previous question regarding raising a motion on a motion on an appeal of a ruling on parliamentary procedure is, most simply, insane.  Did you follow all that?  Yeah, it took almost an hour for them to sort it out too.  Bureaucracy at its best.  It would put a Vogon to shame.  The Senate majority decided to change the rules to accommodate themselves in order to put it to rest. They still failed to pass the bill.

In addition to the genuine enjoyment I got from watching the interaction of the Senate members, the comments posted on the live feed were absolutely hilarious at times.  I managed to collect a few of the more entertaining or interesting ones.  I did not change the screen  names, and I should point out it was a continuous feed of comments, updated approximately 75 at a time so there was no way to really follow any one person.

Chuck Bee:
sometimes i wonder what my children will learn about history, and then i remember our books come from texas

  • Everything is bigger in Texas, including the omissions, revisions, and lies.
Tess Devlin: 
I love that everyone who isn't doing something is running around trying to look like they're more important than they probably are.

  • Isn't that the definition of politics?  Not doing anything while trying to look important while not doing anything...?
Jorge Cruz: 
If abortion = killing babies, if I kill a baby can I say i had an abortion?

I like the part of the bible where Jesus forced everyone to bend to his will.

  • Or, like, when "God" commanded that his followers slay all men and then take the women and children and cattle of the dead for their own and wage war against those who sin.  That's real respect for life.  Kill the people you disagree with, and then take all their stuff.  It's not only the American way, it's the Christian way.

If you could actually control your own vagina... YOU WOULDN'T NEED TO MURDER BABIES!!!

    • I feel like this premise deserves air time as a CW show involving a superheroine who fights crime with a...tight*...control of her vagina.  Or maybe a porno (note: don't google 'superhero vagina porno' at work unless you are using someone else's computer).   
    • Totally right!  When men don't control our vaginas and instead women in the US have appropriate levels of control (i.e. rights) over their reproductive organs with stuff like abortion, we aren't "murdering babies" because abortion isn't illegal and it doesn't involve babies at all!  Of course, we could just start having sex with more women instead of men, that would fix the issue too.
    •   * For more mind-blowingly awesome Cheap Trick songs about sex, prostitution, suicide, murder, or drugs please listen to any and all of the four studio albums from 1977-1979.

    David Vargas:
    This reminds me of this Star Trek Manga where they met a Klingon that enjoyed what he called, 'the combat of words'.

    • This one gets a mention simply because anyone who can work Star Trek, Manga, and Klingon into a topic relating to a) women's reproductive rights, and b) politics in general deserves to be recognized.  If he had managed to make reference to the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition (aka, the Conservative's Handbook of Life), I would have made him my subject line.

    Indubitably, however, the BEST two comments were the following:


      • I'm pretty sure Don't Tangle with an Old Knarly Vagina is the 14th chapter of The Art of War.
      Eatapuss Tex:
      Ever wonder in the morning why your toilet bowl's gone dry? Republicans sneak in at night and slurp out all the water.

      • This is hands down the absolute winner of the night.  Not only for the actual comment, but for the screen name (I swear I didn't alter it, and I wish I could claim I thought of it).   

      Sunday, June 23, 2013

      Click, Click...: A Preview

      The cops were milling about the house, most of them doing their best to look useful.  One of them was inspecting the mantel, covered in various bits of kitsch and personal mementos.  The blood spatter on the faces of a small collection of antique alarm clocks was a stark contrast to the smiling faces in photos of family and friends that surrounded them.  The unmoving, dead hands of each clock behind the unnaturally stained glass were an ironic reflection of their owner.  
      There was a faint buzz in the air; the stereo was on, a record endlessly spinning on the platter.  The tonearm was patiently waiting in the last groove, hissing and popping.  A glance at the label would have told me April hadn't lost her sense of humor, side 2 of The Sounds of Silence.  Someone bumped the record player, managing to capture the attention of the whole house.  The needle skipped across the vinyl in a screech.  When it finally landed, Paul Simon lamented, "...s read: 'Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head..."   
      I suppose it was a somewhat common scene for most of them.  A body, a gun, blood pooling as it flowed from what remained of a human head.  They were asking questions.  I wasn't in a place to give them direct answers.  I can't say if I was more shocked by the violent death or the fact that she actually succeeded.  Well, maybe it wasn't that shocking; April often found a way to make things work the way she wanted them to.  Her ingenuity and enterprising nature were two of her more dubious core strengths.  April's recent actions, however, lacked her general tactful, subtlety.  Then again, death may not have been her ultimate goal.  I can only imagine that her intended outcome was something beyond putting a 9mm round through her frontal lobe...     
      I have a folder on my computer labeled "Premise Beach".  I have four stories outlined.  The last one reads:
      Story Premise:
      Grad student in Counseling Psychology fancies herself an actual writer in order to avoid writing her pre-dissertation.
      It's a wacky premise.

      Monday, June 17, 2013

      Counseling: Sunlight on Water

      Myths about what happens in counseling abound, and are sadly inaccurate.  Like many processes, counseling loses its essence when reduced to individual steps in an attempt to convey its mechanics.  I don't read minds, although I am good at asking people in many different ways to read their own.  I don't tell clients what to do.  I don't "fix" people.  I don't give advice.  I don't provide absolution.  I don't give false hope.  I don't analyze people like they are a science project.  I don't play games.  I don't give you a label and send you on your way.  I don't tell clients what they want to hear, and sometimes I tell them things they very much do not want to hear, but I try to do it when they are ready to at least try.  More often and even better, clients end up telling themselves, I just provide the space.

      My professional identity is founded on the notion that I am something akin to a purveyor of opportunity. When clients come for counseling, I see that as an opportunity (and a privilege for all involved). Some people do not have access to the opportunity that therapy provides, for example it is beyond their financial range perhaps or maybe they are simply not interested in it. However, when a person seizes the opportunity, I provide them with more. The client may not know where to go, or rather, they do not believe they know. I do not show him or her the path, I reflect many paths and illuminate different things. I do this by using the information he or she provides and the knowledge we develop together; the client chooses the avenue we explore. I envision therapy as being sunlight on water. Not the sun itself or the water but the interaction of the two. The sunlight warms the water, illuminates it, reflects upon it but remains stable while the water moves and flows. I also believe that therapy is more about growth or promoting growth than anything else. This frame helps respect the process of therapy and the work a client does.

      The second layer of my professional foundation is the concept that therapy is most effective when there is a convergence of person, place, and time. I call this the "Confluence Theory of Counseling". This incorporates a person’s willingness to change, which stage of change he or she may be in, the therapeutic match between client and counselor, and a client’s life events and external factors among other things. I believe that growth can happen when these factors are misaligned but it is most effective when they meet. Given my clinical experience working with involuntary clients, I would say that sometimes the convergence takes place after a therapeutic relationship is established.

      This layer of foundation is also mixed with my belief that everyone can grow. While everyone can grow, not everyone takes/can take advantage of the opportunity to grow. The reason a person might not grow at a certain time is because he or she has not experienced an overlap of factors yet. In addition to the belief that everyone can grow, I firmly believe that everyone deserves an opportunity to work toward mental health and growth. Inviting clients to grow by offering them an opportunity to share in a safe space is my short definition of counseling.  One of the other core beliefs I have regarding counseling is that mental health and mental illness are not dichotomous with each other.  It is entirely possible not to have a diagnosable  "mental illness" and still have poor mental health.  Conversely, it is completely possible to have a diagnosed "mental illness" and have impeccable mental health.  Just as physical health is comprised of a more global, general wellness, so is mental health.  The failure to recognize this distinction is one of the most limiting and harmful misconceptions about counseling and mental health.  

      The two pieces of my foundation were distilled from reflection and experience. It was my work with sex offenders that prompted me to think about the necessity of a convergence of person, place, and time. Some of them take to therapy well, utilize it as much as they can and make an effort to grow. Conversely, some are cognizant of the fact that they need to change their lives and one way of doing that is through treatment but they resist it. It might be that they are in the right place geographically/physically (a treatment facility) and the right time developmentally but there is a personal reason that is keeping them from fully engaging. For individuals still imprisoned, they might be in the right place personally but the space and time are not conducive to growth. There are multiple possible combinations, and I have seen many of them.

      I have found that almost everything that people come to counseling for, and one of the largest controllable factors that stops people from seeking counseling, is fear. Fear of failure, fear of exposure, fear of betrayal, fear of relationships, fear of confirmation (aka fear of rejection). The fear of confirmation is a more accurate descriptor of why rejection is painful, I think. When we are rejected, it confirms all of the insecurities and negative perceptions we hold about ourselves. A rejection confirms that we are stupid, unattractive, not good enough, damaged, unequal, inferior, a terrible person...crazy, weak etc.  One of the really nice things about counseling is that a person gets to explore these concepts and decide which ones are actually worth paying attention to.

      It is important to note that while I strongly believe everyone can benefit from counseling, sometimes that benefit comes at an initially painful and challenging price that some people cannot move past.  In short, sometimes people feel worse in counseling before they start to feel better.  As a client typically has full decision making power over continuing in counseling, sometimes they stop before coming to the other side of distress.  We have psychological defenses for reasons.  If they are not examined carefully, with respect to the protection they provide, harm is possible.  To undergird the removal or restructuring of the defenses is an integral part of what a counselor does in session.  These concerns are also a large part of why Counseling Psychology has a code of ethics, and a central ethical duty of Psychologists is gatekeeping.

      It can be intimidating and uncomfortable for many people to recognize the responsibility and power they have over their functioning. Many people fail to make this distinction regarding counseling. Counseling is not for the benefit of the therapist. Sometimes in an effort to "best" the therapist, some people manage to outwit themselves in counseling, not realizing that by being guarded and indirect they are only impeding their own progress. Someone with a cracked tooth would be ill-advised to visit the dentist and provide inaccurate information about their situation. A lack of openness with their dentist would likely result in a lower quality of care, and a lower quality of life as a result. It is no different with counseling. The most effective way of sabotaging the positive effects of counseling is by not engaging openly, or by being a less genuine form of oneself. Therapists don't "fix" people, a) because someone seeking counseling is not "broken", ever, and b) it's the client who makes or breaks the growth process.  Counselors attend to the client's empowerment, and their willingness to make changes.  Ethically, if someone seeks counseling but remains resistant to the process, a frank, and often powerful, discussion about reconsidering counseling at a different time in life should happen.

      One of the most integral realizations from my professional life that has impacted my conceptualization of counseling is what function a therapist serves. Each practitioner has their own style, and theoretical orientation.  However, it has been my experience that people working in mental health are frequently labeled “helping professionals.” This is problematic for me in many ways, although I appreciate that the label is not meant to be, and is instead supposed to be representative of something positive. In my professional perspective, I am not a helper. Helper implies that someone is unable to do something and that he or she must have assistance. It also means that there is something fundamentally wrong that must be rectified; a helper helps the person fix him or herself. I also feel that “helper” debases the therapeutic relationship, i.e. it does not respect the profound nature of people connecting in such a way. For me it is a partnership and there is tremendous work, most of which is done by the client. To say that it is “helping” discounts that perspective. I am also not a guide necessarily, it is not my journey although I am a part of it. How could I guide someone on their path? It is not about me guiding them, it is about opportunity.