Category Archives: Social work and psych and theory and all

Check Yourself

Facebook has been too appalling lately.  I miss the sense of experience shared with distant friends, and I miss the news feeds and humor — but the humans are getting me down.  A guy who is friends with most of my friends came out as having unmanageable depression and asked for recommendations for therapists in his area.  Most of the reply posts are his actual friends giving him shit for being a crybaby wuss, for being self-indulgent, for whining.  I only saw his post because one of my actual friends made a snide post about depression being a fashionable bandwagon he’s missing out on.

 

Is it wrong for a mental health professional to beat the crap out of someone?  Answer: yes, because the friend in question has recognized his own severe depression and has chosen to eschew treatment on the grounds that “I’ve got a perfect wife, a big house, and a job that compensates me handsomely.  I have no grounds to bitch.”  My friend worships strength and has bought into all its fallacies.  In the past year, he moved away from all his friends, to a town he hates, and has chosen to stay with his infertile wife instead of moving toward a nameless other who could make his dream of having bio-kids come true.   He’s an asshole of the first water and my heart breaks for him.  He has a sharp intellect but only slightly more self-awareness than a collie pup.

 

The Book of Faces is also delivering horrible statements from women I love.  White girls spewing out stuff they don’t realize is racist AF.  Bernie fans coughing up a whole bunch of misogyny on Hillary (along with the offensive BS about voting for her simply because she has a vagina.)  Gay friends making outright yucky comments about trans folk. On and on it goes, and where it stops, I’ll never know, because I’m on a intermittent Facebook fast.  When I get tagged I do glance at it briefly, and then I have to leave before I choke on my own vomit.

 

Part of this is the idiotic pseudo-therapeutic “Purple Clover”-type posts.  These are mostly motivational blurbs designed to keep us (especially women) kicking ass and loving life and not letting the bad stuff get us down.  A lot of them are fun and nicely cheesy, along the lines of “Don’t Sweat The Petty Stuff, Just Pet The Sweaty Stuff.”  Fine and dandy.  But there is a regular thread of nastiness, whose effects can be seen in the waxy buildup of thumb-sucking in the comments.

 

“Share This If You No Longer Tolerate Bullshit” is a relevant example, since the commenters mostly sound like high-maintenance bitches who have zero tolerance for the foibles of others, but expect others to cater to their BS.  You don’t get to have zero bullshit tolerance and then post, “If They Can’t Handle You At Your Britney They Don’t Deserve Your Beyonce.”  If you can get past the hypocrisy, then wade through the entitlement, there is the booby prize of negatively comparing Britney to Beyonce — and likening yourself to either — especially after the posts about “Don’t Compare Me To Others — There Is Only One ‘Me’ And I’m Perfect At It.” Ugly comparisons are common:  “In A World Of Kardiashians, Be An Audrey.”  Oh, fuck you.  The list of why that’s inappropriate is too long to unpack.  And do you really think Audrey Hepburn would be pleased to have her likeness used to sneer at people who might be tacky, but who are essentially harmless?

 

(Side note:  please stop using “classy” unironically.  If you mean gracious, gallant, generous, genuine, or good, say so.  If you mean tasteful, discreet, responsible, refined, or luxurious, say so. “Classy” is a term used to describe “broads” from Jersey to Vegas who “dress real nice and don’t act too slutty.”   It’s a term owned by the Real Housewives of Wherethefuckever and people who don’t understand why the rest of us howl at Ron Burgundy.)

 

Also irksome are all the people, the throngs of deeply butt-hurt people, on FB or Pinterest or even Etsy, who go into great detail describing the behavior of their exes, behavior well within the normal limits for your garden variety asshole, and then building up this mountain of (what they believe is) evidence for that ex having a clinical disorder:  he’s an abusive narcissist.  He’s a sociopath.  He’s a psychopath. On and on.  I’m not saying it’s likely or unlikely, possible or impossible.  I’m saying that untrained non-clinicians (problem one) trying to diagnose (problem two) people with whom they have a personal relationship (problem three) for the purposes of justifying their perception of self as “Horribly Victimized” rather than self as “Having Been Rudely Treated By Someone Who Seemed Cool” (problem four) or even asking themselves why they have such horrible taste in partners (problems five through eighty-seven) is itself an indication that the Horrible Victim has a problem unrelated to the ex.

 

Stitch it on a sampler:  CHECK YOURSELF.  That doesn’t mean “feast on self-doubt”, “second guess all your choices”, or “indulge in midnight reviews of mistakes and wonder if you’ll ever get your shit together.”  It means TEST YOUR LOGIC, against reality and perception.  It means IDENTIFY YOUR MOTIVATION, with honesty — and even if you can’t overcome your fears and self-rationalizations and defense mechanisms, you can learn to spot them and figure out why you need them — without despising yourself for that need.  It certainly means TEST YOUR VALUES, and if you don’t really know what your values are, you need to work on that before you make any judgments whatsoever.

 

 

 

 

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More Bitching About Things That Don’t Matter

They really don’t matter.  But bitch-bitch-bitching provides a minor release of tension brought on by bigger things which are likewise unchangeable, but are unable to be relieved.  I nitpick the small things to survive the real problems.  Anyone who wants to bitch about my bitching is free to take to her own blog and paint the town red.

SLEEPING:  Jesus, Honey, the sheets!  No wonder I sleep like an innocent rock and you fidget like a whore in church.  When you are composing yourself for slumber, make sure the sheets / blankets / whatever is on top of you is evenly distributed over your surface mass.  If this sounds like ridiculous focus on trivialities, keep in mind the alternative:  when you have a huge pile of laundry on top of you, it creates excess warmth in some areas, light coverage in others, and breezy gaps where your body least expects them.  Even the differences in weight confuse your senses and put them on the alert.  This is the same principle applied to sauteeing vegetables:  regular knife cuts allow uniform distribution of heat and even cooking.  It’s the same damned thing.

COMPASSION:  I’m a social worker.  I do not want to hear from shitty social workers who say things such as, “Oh, I know what they want to hear on the test, and it’s bullshit!  You just have to tell them what they want to hear and do your own thing anyway.  That twelve year old girl who is sleeping with that 25 year old guy down the block?  You don’t need to earn her trust.  You just need to tell that little slut to go do her homework.”  I am ashamed of people who think this ass-hattery is professionally appropriate “tough love”.  Some ways teenish girls act out when it comes to control issues:  shoplifting; starving themselves; sex.  Yeah, I’m sure she’s not getting enough judgment at home.

JUDGMENT:  my boundaries are weird because my SW values are real and my personal history is real, too.  I am stridently anti-IPV/DV, but I saw my grandmother goad my (drunk) grandfather mercilessly on enough occasions to make me wonder if she wasn’t doing it to feel even more self-righteous when, after an hour of being screamed at and put down, he hit her.  He was in the wrong all the way, no question — but she was not stupid and her actions seemed deliberate.  Even though she was the wage earner, she felt powerless because her father, whom she adored, died when she was a young teenager.  She never believed a man would stay.  Are we all trapped, or what?

TRAPPED:  getting over the death of the old friend’s husband has been wracking me.  A part of me is laying low and thinking Hey, at least this is some sort of stress inoculation for when some other friend’s spouse dies…but that’s no good either.  For now, it’s just the DEATH reaction — eat too much, drink too much, sleep too little, worry about the unlikely disaster with fresh energy due to the highly unlikely having happened to him.  To Them.  So better to race to the grave, which I dug with my teeth, because that is a certain outcome.  And death is the one thing we all have in common; the one thing that awaits the healthy and unhealthy, the rich and the poor, the stupid and smart, the prudent and foolish.  Living healthy might buy me some time, but it doesn’t get me off the hook.

ON THE HOOK WITH MORE JUDGY JUDGY:  I would never say this to my friends, for the main reason that anyone’s opinion other than your own doesn’t matter two hoots in a thunderstorm.  But I still feel lip-curling disdain and sickness at the tum when I see certain things, and I get to condemn them here (or generally holler WhatTheFuck?! to the high heavens) because It’s My Goddamn Blog After All.  That caveat in mind:  a friend…not a real friend, but a Lovely Associate In A Different Town, one I could feel really close to given opportunity but am staunchly in favor of as a human, has done one of the things that makes me gnash my teeth. After her joyous union to the person of her dreams, her partner, her soulmate:  she changed her name to hyphenate hers to theirs…and he didn’t change his name at all.

I get ladies who take their husbands’ names, absolutely, but hyphenation puts me on alert to see if both spouses made the change.  When the answer is no, I get really bitch-snarly.  There are a lot of reasons to cater to tradition and take your husband’s name:  sentimentality, superstition, enjoyment of tradition itself, convenience in dealing with insurance, schools, property ownership, hospital care, banks, and inheritance.  There are very strong reasons to keep your birth name, your so-called maiden name:  a woman is not a man’s property, and her birth name should not be erased.  The marriage of two individuals shouldn’t require each to change…

…or it should require both to change.  And therein lies the itch.  The reasons to hyphenate a birth name with a partner’s name are very good.  It shows partnership, equality, commitment of both parties.  And when a woman hyphenates and her husband does not, I get the strong message that she wants an equal partner…and he is not as committed.  Or perhaps he is a weak suck who thinks “men don’t change their names when they get married!” or even the classic pathological Butthurt that she didn’t take his name (as a Real Wife™ would do). To give the anonymous guy credit:  for all I know, he argued that she should not change her name at all, but she insisted. I am not holding the husband accountable for the wife’s decision.  I’m just saying that it sucks, that’s all.  “I’m joining with you!  I’m taking your name even if I’m keeping my own, too!  And you’re…letting me do it!  Without making any changes of your own!  This will be a 100% equal partnership, I’m SURE of it!”  Sigh.  Cool, old chum; do your thing.  I will try to keep my blush, my cringe, and my snarl to myself.

LAST: vaguebooking.  ENOUGH of that shit.  We all think non sequiturs all day long.  If you feel the need to publish those random phrases, those symbols without referents, you are either pathologically needy or secretly invested in punishing those friends not catering to your passive-aggressive demands for attention.  The most generous response to vaguebooking is to ignore it and move on; any related response is begging for more information, and that is codependency of the purest ray serene.  The least generous but still non-negative response is to reply with another non sequitur, just as mysterious — after all, it matches the post — but it can be taken as a hostile act by the person who thought a post saying “THANKS A LOT UNIVERSE I REALLY NEEDED THAT RIGHT NOW” would be appropriate to share with friends rather than keep private.

And I do understand that some people are helped by vaguebooking, by throwing things out to the ether in a way visible to all but pointed at none.  I get it; I do.  But this is where I share my irks, and it irks me.  As we say at social work happy hour:

“I am a therapist.  I am not YOUR therapist.”

(We’re usually saying it to each other.)

Tagged

SOCIAL WORK AGAIN

For the first time ever, I had a bad dream about my adored husband dying.  Normally I would never mention such a thing, being just superstitious enough to want those words kept out of the universe’s ears, so let me move on by saying that the point of this sad dream was that social work saved my life.  It gave me a support system, it gave me clients who needed me to show up for work, it gave me positive feedback and visible successes as a trail of breadcrumbs back to life – even though it was a life without my heart or self.  I never stopped being sad in this dream; never had a life of my own again.  All I did was throw myself into my work so I wouldn’t have to go home to the Honey-less house.

Thing next:  though I grew up in a home that emphasized self-sufficiency, my single working mother tried to hone discernment in her boy-crazy daughter (me) by teaching me to judge men, in part, by how they treat subordinates, behave toward the weak, and care for dependents.  On a date, how does he treat the server?  Does he big-dog other men, especially men of short stature or men perceived as socially less-than?  Is he dismissive of women who aren’t beautiful or young?  Does he mimic or mock people with disabilities or impairments?  Does he describe himself as a cat-hater, or hater of anything?  Basically, if this man esteems himself for being higher on the pyramid than other people, he is just a bully looking for an excuse.  Chances are good he doesn’t kowtow to those higher up the pyramid than he is, but he expects it from those lower.  Sign of a hypocrite and a scoundrel.

From a social work perspective, why can’t we judge a society the same way?  This does not clash with my bootstrappy childhood because even though we never depended on other people to help us up, we were deeply committed to helping out people who needed it, be they strangers or neighbors.  You work hard and plan well for yourself, but we all know that Mother Nature can wipe you out in a single day, a single moment, and you could be the one in need.  Users and abusers go to the end of the line or out the door – their kids don’t, mind you – but if you don’t give help, you don’t get help.  Again, why not judge society this way?   How do we treat our widows and orphans, our physically and mentally frail, our marginalized populations?  How do we treat the animals in zoos and factory farms?  How do we treat the children in our schools and streets?  How do we treat the populations we control, such as the jailed, the institutionalized, and the military?

Consider the high number of people with moderate mental illness who end up in jail because they can’t afford the treatment or meds that keep them functional, and end up shoplifting or squatting in order to obtain food and shelter and clothing – basic survival needs.  Life on the streets is not safe or healthy.  Neither is life in jails and prisons.  But incarceration offers food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, and a life out of the elements.  It’s cheaper to provide services outside of prison, and it’s fundamentally wrong to imprison people for crimes committed only for the purpose of survival, but that is not how we run things.

I love the United States and I am proud to be an American.  Individualist culture is my preference.  But individualism is defined by the divisions between people rather than ties that bind them, and it is a mistake as a society to let individuals fall into the cracks.  I have too much pride to enjoy living in a country where fat rich people can be chauffeured past starving homeless children.  This indecency is un-American to me.  We should care for our own.  If people are looked down on for living in slum tenements, but the people who collect their rent are not looked down upon as well, something is radically wrong.

As with individuals, society must be judged by how it treats its weakest members and those in its control.

Okay, more social work WAG:

As I read the Freud and the Jung and the Winnicott, rejecting quite a lot and thinking so much is dated, so much was true at the time, and some little is everlasting, here is the thread of my thoughts:

Social sciences can call themselves “science” in that they try to make an organized study.  I’ll try not to hold against them the lack of much valid scientific method, or how irrelevant so much of their empirical data are.

As we study these hysterical women, with their penis envy, and these castrated males, with their Oedipus complexes, I wonder:  did anyone think this stuff applied to non-Westerners?

An 80 year old Chinese woman from a wealthy family… a 35 year old male Afghan who is illiterate, has the Quran memorized, and has been a guerrilla fighter since age 12…a 50 year old Inuit from Dutch Harbor…a 9 year old Yoruba girl…are they going to be psychoanalized the same way?  How CAN they be?  With such vastly different cultures, values, life experiences…you can’t nail a person into hysteria simply because she’s female, for example, and you also can’t say, “Oh, she’s an ‘X’, she must feel ‘Y’.”

What we need is a reliable way to learn the person.

After we have that, we need to develop a reliable way to diagnose the problem.

From there, we need reliable techniques to alleviate the problem.

Finally, we need ways to train individuals to do self-maintenance.

There are other things on my “want” list, such as parenting processes to create healthy young persons who mature into healthy, self-healing adults, but for now, the abovementioned items would be wonderful.