Friday, February 24, 2012

Patient Suicide: Part Five--Treat People Like They Matter

Between Light and Dark

This is part of an ongoing story about a patient suicide. Click here for Patient Suicide Part One: The Phone Call, here for Patient Suicide Part Two: 30 Minutes to Think, here for Patient Suicide Part Three: Fully Present, here for Patient Suicide Part Four: What's a Life Worth, here for Patient Suicide Part Five: Treat People Like They Matter, here for Patient Suicide Part Six--Leftovers, here for Patient Suicide: Part Seven--Training Monkeys/Herding Cats, and here for Patient Suicide: Part Eight--On Scarves and Lessons Learned

My patient who killed herself told me once that when she died she wanted no obituary, no service, no tomb stone--no marker of any sort that made mention of her life. She wanted there to be "no memory that my sad life ever existed on this planet." She was a woman who was suicidal for more than half of her fifty some odd years on this planet. She was a woman who faced an unrelenting depression that possessed such strong gravity that it was hard for any emotion to break free of the soul-crushing grip of its power.

I've been thinking her wishes a lot these last couple of weeks. From time to time I think I might be comforted by visiting her grave. My experience of her death seems incomplete. She was alive one day, coming in for twice a week appointments, engaged in future planning, and talking about her beloved pet. The next day there was a phone call and she was dead. Gone. There was no space between life and death for me. I'm beginning to understand that one powerful thing rituals surrounding a death provide is a space to experience this moment in time--the moment between here and there, life and death. 

I broke my long standing rule of never using Google to search for a patient. It appears that her family respected her wishes. There was no public funeral. No obituary appeared in the paper. No record of a burial exists anywhere I look. A few of my patient's friends are looking for her, hoping she is safe. Beyond that, it as if she was never here. She got her wish and was erased from the record of this world. Or did she?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Seven Blunders of Man

I recently followed a link on Twitter to a blog called Lists of Note. This was a list worth repeating.

Shortly before his assassination, Mohandas Gandhi gave his grandson Arun Gandhi a piece of paper with a list of seven blunders that human society commits. Gandhi saw this list as the source of violence in the world.

What do you think? More importantly, how might things change if you made a commitment to working toward these things?


  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice
  • Politics without principles



Sunday, February 19, 2012

Could you turn your child out onto the streets?

This short video clip made me particularly sad. Hearing parents turn their children out of the house because of their sexuality or saying they wished their children were dead is just so painful. I don't know how anyone can turn their back on a child. To turn one's family out into the cold world, to repudiate them, to shun them, seems to be such an utter failure of compassion and humanity.

The biggest failure here, I think, is a cultural failure. We are loosing our ability to express disappointment and anger in a connected relational way. Our either/or mentality (aka George W. Bush saying you are with us or you are against us) has narrowed the possibility of dialogue.

What do you think? Is there a time you could imagine turning your child out? Do you think there is a way you can stay connected in dialogue with someone who are angry with?


Downton Abbey Paper Dolls

Print them out and get ready for the season finale of Downton Abby on PBS's Masterpiece Theater.

Source: vulture.com via Jason on Pinterest
Source: vulture.com via Jason on Pinterest
Source: vulture.com via Jason on Pinterest
Source: vulture.com via Jason on Pinterest

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lady Gaga in China: Same Song, Different Context

When I first saw this, I found myself wishing I had some Mandarin language skills. I came across this video and couldn't look away. What's the context of this staging of Lady Gaga's song Bad Romance? I really want to know! Can anyone out there translate some of the text?

I've scrolled through some of the comments on YouTube. As usual, there was a variety of scary ignorant comments. There were also a few clues. Apparently it appeared on a very popular show in China and is in the Changsha dialect. Gaga, in that dialect, means grandmother. Some of the comments suggest it is a local variety show (big production for a local variety show, eh?). The band playing in the beginning is the Crystal Band. That's about all I know for sure. The rest is left to my imagination.

When Not Raising Your Hand is an Act of Courage

I came across this photo and story on a blog I occasionally read called en|Gender. The man in the center of the circle, August Landmesser, was part of a crowd gathered to watch a navy vessel be launched in 1936. Landmesser, who was believed to have been a member of the Nazi party, was expelled for marrying a Jewish woman. He was later sent to jail for "dishonoring the race." Upon being discharged from prison, he was drafted to serve in the war.

It's a good reminder of how courageous it can be to not follow the crowd. To read  more about Landmesser check out this Washington Post article

The Human Face of Same Sex Marriage

I recently became involved in a discussion on Facebook about same sex marriage. I generally avoid these sorts of situations. Discussions such as the one I got myself involved in generally become banal and rather frustrating. They usually don't end up very well. Sure, the back and forth is interesting, for a while. In the end the narrative is always the same: one side blames the other for being (circle one: ignorant, uneducated, defensive, stupid) while the other side generally resorts to accusing the other as (circle one: ignorant, uneducated, defensive, stupid). Facts are provided. Facts are disputed. Both parties, in the end, become something akin to a dog, tied to a stake, running around in circles tearing up all the grass.

The end of the conversation went something like this:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Shoes for Diversity

Last night I had trouble locating a suitable pair of shoes to put on when I took Maggie outside for a visit to her favorite patch of grass. I settled for less than fashionable look. Glancing down at my feet encased in crisp white socks and stretched taught between my toes by the canvas of my flip flops, my mind tumbled backward in time.

Simple images can sometimes trigger very complex memories. My shoes took me almost 35 years into the past to a particular day in Kindergarten. I remember my teacher clearly (or perhaps, I remember her clearly through the memorabilia saved by my parents). Mrs. Haag was someone very exotic and exciting in my young life. 

on my way to Kindergarten 
These are the things I most remember about kindergarten: I remember my first few moments of my first day of school. It was warm and sunny. My mom walked with me to school and guided me toward an orderly line of children who waited along a well groomed hedge of privets. I remember how much fun I had talking with people. I'm told I was much more interested in socializing with my classmates than just about another other activity. I remember my very patient teacher and some very patient friends tying my shoes. Bunny ears, bunny ears, playing by a tree. Criss-crossed the tree, trying to catch me. Bunny ears, bunny ears, jumped into the hole, popped out the other side beautiful and bold. 

Most of all, I remember one very special day. Rather than coming dressed in the colorful polyester pant suits that were popular in the day, Mrs. Haag came to school wearing a kimono, geta shoes, and tabi socks. She talked about her summer in Japan while showing us slides of what she experienced on her vacation. 

waiting for class
We each got to have a taste or two of some Japanese candy. We used a soroban (Japan's version of the abacus) to learn and practice a few basic math lessons. We looks at slides of trees, animals, and flowers and got a lesson about the natural world. My favorite was the slide of Mount Fuji. Mrs. Haag actually hiked up the mountain. How cool is that? I'd not yet seen a mountain--let alone a mountain in another country. It all seemed so exotic. So interesting. So exciting.

Mrs. Haag provided me first lesson on diversity. Before knowing about the culture wars, hearing fear peddled about people who are different, and before meeting someone who lived outside my home town, my kindergarten teacher helped nurture and stoke my curiosity about the larger world. 

Since those first lessons I've studied with some of the greatest scholars in the world that focus on multicultural issues. While each of them had something special and important to teach me, none of them offered the powerful gift of Mrs. Haag. 

How easy it is to forget that at the heart of diversity is curiosity. When we are able to open to the experience of another, and be open to the notion that each of us experiences the world differently, a richness can be found that no single viewpoint can expose.

Thank you Mrs. Haag. I'm so glad I thought of you last night while I was looking at my shoes while standing outside in the cold winter air.

top row: David Ezat, Lynn Cook, Shawn Mallory, Joe Rizen, Sandra Jones, Sylvester Harris; 3rd row: Patricia Pratt, Frad Fronek, Charles Whitemore, Jason Mihalko, Jeff Glem, Anthony Pugh, Debra Presley; 2nd row: Rebecca Farley, Brian McKlovie, Michelle Chmura, Daniel Engstrom, Missy Davis, Andrea Zander; 1st row: Danielle Felton, Bridgette Lakner, Shane Castner, Keith Rufin, Carrie Rulong, Andrea Weeda, Lorri K.; helpers: Mrs. Waldrop, Mrs. Semelsburger (missing); teacher: Mrs. Haag; missing: Robby Prunella, Tina Harness

1st report card of the future Irreverent Psychologist