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Humanistic Hummings

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Seeking the rhythm within untold stories ... hummings from a psychological Being.

Author, Dwight Tolliver, Ph.D.
tollyphd@gmail.com


 
Becoming a Receiver: Part One

(In next month’s blog, I’ll discuss ‘Becoming a Receiver’ from a theoretical perspective. Theory is not abstraction. Theory is based on practical experiences. As such, the practical experience of a half inning baseball game presented below will guide Part Two.)

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It’s the bottom of the fourth inning (of a nine inning game). Our team, Wittenberg University, is up 2-0 against Dayton University. As I shuffle to my position behind home plate, the game is tossing around in my head. I’m preparing for the inning and considering the long game. The shuffle turns into a clickety stride as I tune into my body, knowing physical presence is as important as the mental presence. I warm up our pitcher and settle into my catcher’s stance, going over various aspects of the upcoming half inning.

I’m confident in our pitcher. He’s a senior and one of our two best pitchers. He has seven strong innings inside him today. I can tell. Since Dayton has been through the line-up already, I can sense his capacity to keep them scoreless for seven innings. His change-up is crisp and he’s locating his fastball well. The curve ball will be used as a junk or set-up pitch. He’s confident and focused. He needs me to be call pitches; he doesn’t need a motivational speech.

Let’s consider our opponent. From a big-picture perspective, they’re not happy we’re winning. We’re a Division 3 baseball team. Dayton University is Division 1, meaning their players receive scholarship money for their baseball talents. As such, Dayton’s coaches and players are turning up their focus energy, and there’s a renewed bounce in their step. I enjoy this moment. It’s healthy competition. If we focus on the process of competing, we won’t lose.  

Specifically related to this half inning, Dayton’s number three hitter will bat first. Typically, the third batter is the team’s most talented and consistent hitter. With my own eyes during his first at-bat, I can see he’s a really solid player. He had a single up the middle in the first inning on a 2-2 count. It was effortless, and he didn’t chase the pitches we wanted him to chase.

The fourth and fifth hitters in the line-up are dangerous, as with most teams, but I have a plan based on what I sensed during their first at-bats. My concern is the number six hitter in the line-up. He’s talented and one year away from being the best hitter and player on the team. In this inning, he’s a threat; he’ll be the fourth hitter. If he bats in this inning, it means there will be one or more of his teammates on base. Yup, he’s a threat.

“What else is going on?”, I ask Self. The weather is beautiful, and the grass smells like paradise. The umpire is giving each team an inch off the plate and an inch below the bottom of the knee; as such, it’s a pitcher’s game. My hamstrings are feeling flexible, so I can go as low as I need to for our pitcher. My arm feels strong and ready to make a play. Our team appears confident and excited to compete. Game on!

After going through those aspects while warming up our pitcher, the most important thought hits me. This is the most important inning of the game, which may sound strange given the fact we have five innings left after this inning. Our hitters, including me, are seeing the ball well and making solid contact. We’ll score enough runs if our starting pitcher can get through seven innings without Dayton scoring a run. My sense is we’ll find a way to get six outs in the last two innings with enough of a lead. We may not win the game, but we won’t lose if we compete in this way.

I yell, “Comin’ down!” and throw the ball to second base. Quickly, I turn my attention to the hitter striding to the plate. The ump yells, “Play Ball!” The hitter has a pep in his step. He wants to start his team’s rally and feels confident in his ability to do so. I place three fingers between my legs and tap my right groin, signaling a change-up on the outside corner. The pitcher nods and throws the change-up low and two inches outside. The hitter isn’t fooled but jumps at the pitch, hitting the top of the ball, and dribbling it into the foul ball area. Ok. Count’s 0-1. No advantage gained but none lost.

For the next pitch, I place one finger and tap my left groin, signaling an inside fastball. This is risky given the hitter’s talent. But, it’s a set-up pitch. We want it high and inside to change the hitter’s depth perception. We want it to be a ball. Our pitcher winds up and executes the pitch well. The hitter wasn’t fazed and didn’t react to the pitch being three inches from his chin. 1-1 count.

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Conventional wisdom would suggest a low, outside fastball or change-up on the next pitch. My gut tells me he knows this. So I mix it up and call for an inside fastball again. This time, though, we want it to be low and closer to the strike zone. Our pitcher hits the spot. The hitter turns on the pitch and slashes it hard and foul down the third base line. In fact, he almost drilled his third base coach. Ok. We got away with one there. Lucky. Too risky for this hitter. Lesson learned.

The count is in our favor at 1-2 (one ball and two strokes). It’s time for some junk pitches. I call for a low curveball, desiring it in the dirt. We just can’t hang the curveball over the middle of the plate. Our pitcher throws a low curveball. The hitter reacted a little but didn’t bite. Count is 2-2 now. In all honesty, it’s a hitter’s count. The batter knows this.

Our pitcher’s best pitch is his change-up. It moves from left to right, so we’ll try to locate the pitch a couple inches off the plate, on the outside corner. This will minimize damage, especially if he keeps the pitch low. We do this. The pitch starts off five inches off the plate as it starts turning toward the outside corner. The pitch is going to be close enough to be called a strike, forcing the hitter to hit defensively. This was the right pitch at the right time. The hitter placed the bat on the ball, hitting a line drive right at our right fielder. Out 1.

The pitcher gave me a nod, walked around the mound, collected the ball from the third baseman, and turned his eyes toward the plate as we moved on for our next challenge. The number four hitter in the line-up has a loop in his swing. In my experiences, I’ve learned loopy swings struggle with high, inside fastballs and love off-speed pitches. The high, inside fastball is the strike-out pitch. Yet, the beauty of baseball allows the hitter three strikes. We need to get two strikes on him before messing with the inside pitch.

I call for an outside fastball. I set up two to three inches off the plate. Our pitcher hits the mit, right where I line-up. I held my breath awaiting the decision from the umpire, which was a big decision at this time, for this at-bat. I hear a dramatic “Strite!” sound behind me, which means the umpire liked our pitch. It was two inches off the plate. The hitter was frustrated; their fans yelled obscenities; and their coach uttered something indetectable as he glared at the umpire. The count is 0-1. With angry emotions running high in our opponent, it’s time to improvise.  We don’t need a strike-out here. Let’s get him out right now.

He’ll jump at the next pitch. It’s time for a change-up. I set up outside again. The change-up is on the outside corner (in a good enough way, meaning not perfect). The hitter jumps at it. It hits off the end of his bat and knuckles its way down the third base line in front of home plate. I hop out of my catcher’s stance, corral the ball, get my body around the ball, alligator scoop the ball, and fire a strike to the first basemen. The throw beat the runner by four steps. In the world of baseball, it wasn’t a close play. Out 2. After this play, I nod to the pitcher. The infielders point their gloves toward me before holding up two fingers, informing each other there are two outs in the inning. We’re starting to believe. It’s infectious.

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With excitement running high, it’s time to refocus. I turn my attention to the number five hitter strolling to the plate. As I observe his approach to the plate, I acknowledge my uncertainty; I tilt my head and say (to Self), “he’s a bit of an enigma.” He’s talented and didn’t seem to have any major flaws in his swing. My intuition seems to believe we can lull him into a mistake by being boring. On the first pitch, I set up approximately four inches off the outside corner. I call for a fastball. Our pitcher delivers to the mitt. Ball one. On the second pitch, I do the exact same thing and call the same pitch. Same result. Ball two. Boring baseball.

Paradoxically, my intuition thought we could get him out if he was ahead in the count. Now, it’s time for a junk pitch. Let’s hang a curveball and see if he takes the bait. I place two fingers for our pitcher. He shakes his head no. I place two fingers again. He nods. The pitchers and I have a process we follow. If the pitcher shakes off a pitch, it means he is confused. If I call a different pitch, they know I’m confused. If I call the same pitch, he believes I’m onto something.

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(For Matrix Trilogy fans, Neo made an executive decision to enter the Matrix on his own to save Morpheus. In a dramatic scene, Trinity tells Neo he will not go alone and she will join him. In an ambiguous situation, they made the final decision together.)

In my mind, we want him to swing at the curveball even though he doesn’t need to swing. We put him to sleep with the two outside fastballs, trying to make his brain forget where he is and what he’s doing. The thought is that he’ll swing unconsciously, swinging without urgency. Our pitcher offers the curve ball for a strike. The hitter swings, making contact as he sends a lazy fly ball to our left fielder. Out three. Inning over. Our team strides to our dugout with energy and zest.

The inner circles of baseball distinguish between being a catcher and being a receiver. In that half inning, I knew I was on the path toward becoming a receiver. More significantly, the journey toward becoming a Humanistic Psychologist entered my consciousness even though it would take six years for the unconscious Realm to convince my conscious Being.

Speaking of practical, my beautiful Mallory Rose is 15 today. She carries earth energy, and she inspires my wind energy. Happy birthday, Mal Mal!

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Monty
The Emotional Energy of Anger

I love Aristotle. And Heidegger. Each discussed simple ideas about the happenings of Life without compromising complexity or ambiguity. Aristotle wrote, “Anybody can become angry ~ that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way ~ that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.” Beautiful. Heidegger asserted, “Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.” Absolutely.

Humanizing the emotional energy of anger is a challenging undertaking, to say the least. There are many entry points into the conversation, all valid and relevant. So why not start with the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit? This particular story gazes into the eyes of desire. But, then again, so does the trinity Freud manifested with the id, ego, and superego. Or Maslow’s ideas around an hierarchy of needs. Or Heidegger’s despair. Or Jung’s collective unconscious. Not to mention six of the seven deadly sins~ wrath, greed, lust, envy, pride, gluttony~ converge on human beings’ excessive desires to satiate themselves through external means.

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(For Matrix Trilogy fans, the Merovingian makes a pleasurable dessert for the woman in the light pink dress. As he discussed pleasure, he arrogantly and insensitively stated, “There is no escape from it; we are forever slaves to it.”


Yes, the story of anger is everywhere. There’s a human reason for this. So let’s start there. From a humanistic perspective, wants and desires guide our short-term movements through the world, directing and structuring our experiences from a moment to moment basis. Survival is based in it; we die quickly and painfully without water or food. Once we locate and enhance sustainable water and food resources, we tinker with other wants. Oh no, this sounds like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

But it’s not... necessarily. Most human beings don’t live in the type of world where we need to live off the land for survival. Yet, it’s in our collective unconscious to hunt, find, and collect essential external resources because human beings are not Self-contained organisms. Which sounds like Carl Jung and Carl Rogers. Oh boy. It’s a challenge to discuss the emotional energy of anger. Let’s start over.

Whereas fear may symbolize a ball of energy fueling focus, the emotional energy of anger directs the movement of that particular ball of energy. Hypothetically, our desires direct and structure our short-term decision-making regarding how, when, and what to satiate and engage. For the sake of this discussion, let’s also assume the emotional energy of anger takes or uses something external to fulfill and satisfy an internal desire. Thus, satiating Self by engaging the Environment may be a simplified way to explain and understand our short-term desires. In other words, it’s a way to humanize the emotional energy of anger as a necessary part of being human.

There are various practical and conventional ways to humanize anger as well. For example, let’s use the well-known and insightful question of whether a tree makes a sound in the forest if no one is around to hear it fall. Certainly, it’s debatable. Uncertainly, it seems as though the falling tree makes a sound when it resonates and creates vibrational shifts within the forest it inhabits. Our desires and wants are similar to the tree falling. They matter internally; they exist internally. Our desires resonate on the cellular level and create vibrational shifts within our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, attitudes, etc.

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When the sensations resonate or create vibrational shifts, the “sound” holds information to be engaged internally. (So the tree makes a sound inside its surroundings.) For human beings, satiating and engaging begin at the cellular level and desire to be known at the Being realm. When the noise is loud enough, human beings turn their eyes toward their Environment for fulfillment. Desires are naturally human and motivational in that beautiful, inspiring, and energizing way.

Yet, our desires are a buffet of dimensionality that encroach upon each other. Human beings wreak havoc on each other because we just can’t help ourselves from forcing our way (paradise) of being onto others and the Environment. In other words, there’s natural and necessary suffering AND there’s unnatural and unnecessary suffering foisted upon human beings. Similar to human beings encroaching upon each other, the Environment also encroaches upon human beings. For example, quenching our thirst can lead to a painful, parasitic death. Also, we may fall prey to the falling tree or the jaguar stalking us from that very same tree.

In this blog entry, the rhythm of the discussion mimicked the necessary and shallow aspects of Anger. The patterned movement of the discussion was buoyant. The ideas bobbed and shifted, only to bounce and pop right back up to the surface. The emotional energy of anger is limited in depth even though it’s necessary. Yet, the emotional energy of anger continues to find new surfaces (e.g., different words to say the same thing) from which to propagandize and proselytize “Truth.” As such, the breadth of anger seems unlimited, uninspiring, and polarizing.

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Let’s end the blog entry where we started by integrating Aristotle, Heidegger, Adam, and Eve into the discussion. Certainly, the story of Adam and Eve is open to interpretation. THE interpretation bestowed upon us perpetuates the either/or psychological state plaguing the world within which human beings breed and polarize. It’s either paradise or suffering. Either righteous or unjust. Either agree or disagree. Growing within, through, and around the either/or paradigm requires an immersion into the depths of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Certainly, Adam and Eve tells a story about the tension existing within human beings’ desires, decision-making, right/wrong, and the plethora of possibilities our Environment offers for satiating Self and engaging Life. Uncertainly, Adam and Eve is a story about the ambiguous Nature of human development.  Could the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ represent the natural process of learning as our hearts, minds, and souls grow through normal mind and body developmental processes? Could the “evil” and “treacherous” serpent symbolize the bliss, cruelty, and ambiguity of puberty since the adolescent years are marked by significant changes, symbolizing the idea of “shedding old skin” for new Being-ness?

Let’s not lose sight of the bliss and cruelty of learning, growing, and making mistakes. Human beings will make mistakes unwittingly and lose innocence when there are consequences (e.g., being expelled from the paradise that is the Garden of Eden) for those mistakes. Certainly, each human being loses innocence with Self and others because all human beings make mistakes. Certainly, Adam and Eve existed metaphorically (I know this because science knows they weren’t White and not necessarily heterosexual or cisgendered). Certainly, Adam and Eve tell a great story about the complexity and ambiguity of being human, especially the suffering involved in becoming more and more human.

Instead of being expelled from paradise, the story could have been offering the idea that human beings are released from paradise naturally and necessarily. Instead of viewing suffering as the cage that limits us, pining for paradise could be the cage. Then, we could entertain the idea that paradise exists only after we stop questing for it and when we stop trying to get back to the Garden of Eden. Uncertainly, Adam and Eve do not tell a story about perfection, fairness, and justice; it could tell a story about growing through imperfections, unfairness, and injustices while being at peace with the truth that human beings and our Environment have limited resources and natural constraints. As such, we need to plan wisely and experience uncomfortably.

Better yet, maybe we can keep ‘Anger’ in perspective; it’s necessary yet shallow. To understand Aristotle’s quote, you’ll need to understand the necessary AND shallow parts of Anger.  Unfortunately, Heidegger helps us understand the way in which language, as the master of human beings, perpetuates the shallow part of anger as we explore the breadth of experiences while preaching about depth (and profiting from it) when, in fact, we’re just regurgitating the same old story.

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This blog was inspired by ‘Earth Week’ and influenced by the courage (and suffering) of my clients. Then again, each entry is inspired by Mother Earth and expressed for my clients...




Dwight Tolliver, Ph.D.
Poking Positive Psychology and Extending Carl Rogers

Over the years, I’ve picked up on a certain phenomenon. It hasn’t been researched (as far as I know) so feel free to peck away at the legitimacy and/or unscientific Nature of the phenomenon. When the weather is grey in Ohio, most people easily and comfortable blame the weather for their blah-like mood. As many blame the grey, they pine for the sun. Weather blaming and sun pining are normal, conventional, and socially acceptable ways to vent frustrations. Yet, the blaming of the weather isn’t the interesting phenomenon. Instead, I’ve picked up on what happens when the grey goes away for a few days.

February seems to be the time of the year when this phenomenon manifests most loudly. Just this past week, the sun has been shining. It’s been setting later and later each evening. Result? More interpersonal conflict and tension. I received various stories where the storyteller was either directly involved or indirectly around arguments, disagreements, frustrations, etc. The interpersonal conflict didn’t discriminate between home, work, or play.  The tension was everywhere. The pining for the sun was replaced by angst-y energy. Fortunately, I escaped the “bug going around” this week because my youngest daughter, Lindsay Marie, turned eight on Monday, February 25th. Happy birthday, Lubird!

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If you noticed the “positive reframe” as I shifted abruptly from the paradoxical yet unproven scientific phenomenon of ‘Sun Angst’ to my youngest daughter’s birthday, you’re following along quite nicely. My finger is pointing toward Positive Psychology (“PP”) and ready to offer a subtle yet respectful jab at the PP machine. As an entry, PP emerged in the 1990’s. Unfortunately, PP emerged in the 1990’s.

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During the advent of PP, happiness became the marker of one’s mental health status. Ugh. There are some, not many, psychologists who have asserted the idea that rhetoric, institutionalization, and industry are the culprits behind the mistaken beliefs about happiness in our culture. Stated simply, PP offered easy answers and comfortable guidelines to and about mental health, which solved the problem of ambiguity and uncertainty. As soon as psychology and educational leaders backed positive psychology as a science, the intended or unintended consequence was industry (business) could sell positivity easily. In other words, rhetoric rode on the coattails of the binary movement, galvanized by the polarization and Self-righteousness embedded within the collective unconscious of our Environment.

On the surface, PP seems like a humanistic approach. Yet, PP criticizes the negative aspects of Life. Good/bad and agree/disagree found a new companion with positive/negative. Instead of happiness being a natural yet impermanent emotional state, happiness became an achievement holding the potential of permanence. PP makes happiness a goal for which human beings reframe, trick, deceive, manage, or quest. What happens when you quest for something only to figure out it was there all along? Carl Rogers, the father of Humanistic Psychology, offered the beautiful antidote below.

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Dr. Rogers and I didn’t see eye to eye at first. His brilliance sunk in over time. Specifically, Dr. Rogers referred to human beings as organisms. Organisms? C’mon, Doc. Early in my doctoral training, the idea of human beings as organisms felt incongruent and seemed dehumanizing. Rogers coined the term congruence in his humanizing work. So how could this eminent scholar and leader of the humanistic movement refer to human beings as organisms? I didn’t like it. (I blamed the weather.) I held onto the feeling of incongruence because it seemed important to receive the words of Rogers, even though the language didn’t make sense initially.

Then, the power of the words struck me one night while I laid with my second daughter, Mallory, as an infant. Mallory slept on my chest, the nightly routine of giving Shan respite from her breast-feeding responsibilities. In those moments with each of my kids, I tried to receive their infancy. On that particular night with Mallory, I became aware of the subtle shifts she made with her body: for the purpose of gaining air, warmth, comfort, security, or belonging. She moved naturally, as she was built or designed to contort.

Yep, I understood Carl. His views on congruence and use of the word organisms resonated finally. Human beings are organisms that involuntarily and voluntarily (unconsciously and consciously) move toward comfort, safety, and security ‘cause survival and adaptability matter for human beings. In other words, human beings nestle into the neck of Mother Nature for warmth and comfort while creating enough space to breathe and feel confident in their Environment.

Congruence becomes a viable option for human beings experiencing and seeking Self in a way that allows abilities, interests, or capacities to manifest naturally. As an infant, Mallory shifted involuntarily. During development, I became a humanistic psychologist the very moment Mallory nestled her head into my neck. In fact, it’s our ability to fight for our lives that inspires Self and others to choose Life.

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(For Matrix Trilogy fans, Neo wasn’t ‘The One’ until he rescued Morpheus from Agent Smith. Neo needed to believe in something (e.g., that Zion needed Morpheus) before he could manifest his capacity of dodging, and not needing to dodge, bullets.)

Congruence catalyzes confidence and trust in Self, extending or expanding beyond the “fake it ‘till you make it” jurisdiction. Shit, when you’re blind-sided; you may actually feel an incredible burst of energy instead of feeling defeated. Congruence sounds simple and easy even though it can feel frustratingly elusive as well. Speaking of frustrations, human beings’ fixation on time, in the short-term, unnaturally limits congruence. Instead, congruence unearths short-term and long-term bursts of energy. Time is finite and quantifiable. Time focuses on tasking more so than experiencing.

Extending Carl’s humanistic work, the paradox he presented earlier was the idea of change through acceptance. Yet, the paradox begs the question, “what do I accept, and what does change mean?” Hypothetically, congruence holds two primary characteristics; it unearths energy and offers the stability of subsistence. Energy is different insofar as it isn’t burdened by time. Energy seeks and discovers space.

For example, the ‘Sun Angst’ phenomenon wouldn’t blame the grey as seriously or pine for the Sun so desperately.  As a result, we may flow with less resistance (thaw out more quickly) when the Sun rejoins our world. Since congruence unearths energy; we become younger and healthier as the energy pours out of us. We don’t disguise our interests, hide our talents, or mask our unique characteristics. We co-create, which enables our capacities to move toward the Sun and away from conflict, tension, and Self-righteousness. Magically, releasing our energy creates more time. Beautifully, we find acceptance.

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(With energy, Neo found the energy to save time, speed up, and save Trinity.)

Moving along, unearthing energy and manifesting our Nature moves human beings toward subsistence. Practically, subsistence refers to Self-supporting at a minimum level. Philosophically, subsistence can exist outside of space and time. In other words, subsistence means human beings can Self-support in a way that isn’t dependent on or contingent upon the objective realities of cultural conventions (space) or standardized rules (time).

In other words, subsistence leads to sustainable change. Subsistence redirects the power to the inside, rendering the outside world less powerful and ruthless. For Carl, a primary tenet of Humanistic Psychology is the idea that human beings (organisms) don’t need to be managed or controlled. YEP! Can you sense the change, where ‘Sun Angst’ mutates into solar power?  

Furthermore, congruence embodies flexible and fluid movement. The path of least resistance may result in movement away from barriers. However, fluid and flexible movement may result in moving against or moving toward various aspects of the Environment as well. Congruence exemplifies movement that varies per context and across situations. Human beings extend or expand into this type of fluid AND crystallized movement. Carl discussed the idea that human beings are driven by the process of becoming. The becoming process seems to be related to the union between fluid and crystallized intelligences, the fusion of non-linearity and linearity, or the synthesis between chaos and cosmos.

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Monty
My Surrenderings

It’s time to celebrate THE New Year again! It’s time for resolutions, reflections, strategies, goals, and changes. Suffice to say, the New Year highlights the passing of time. Which causes a chain reaction inside the cracks and crevices of the human system. Sometimes we overcompensate by trying to make up for wasted time (e.g., become highly productive and goal-directed). Sometimes we overreact (create fictional narratives) by becoming too critical of Self (e.g., “you’re a lazy piece of s*#t) and/or our Environment (e.g., “you’re a lazy piece of s*#t). (nope, there are no typos in the previous sentence.) Sometimes we sink into the oblivion of despair and hopelessness...

Speaking of time passing, let’s awkwardly shift to birthdays before proceeding. My son, Nathan Thurman, turned 12 on January 11th. He’s a beautiful kid who smells like 12 year-olds smell! Happy birthday, NateNate…

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And to my life partner, Shan, who celebrated a birthday on January 16th… I love you! (By the way, Nathan and Shan consented for their birthdays and my paintings, as gifts to them, to be included in the blog.)

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Ok. Back to the New Year’s stuff. Let’s start a movement different than overcompensatory and overreactive New Year’s sentiments. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, how ‘bout New Year’s surrenderings?  I know. It’s not as marketable as New Year’s resolutions and doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily. In fact, most clients cringe, recoil, and/or shutter when the idea of surrender is interjected into the therapeutic journey. I get it. Surrender is associated with weakness and viewed as un-American. On top of that, the word surrender is normal in religious communities, used historically within Self-help circles, and entrenched in step programs within the mental health world. So surrenderings are weak and/or dogmatic. Ugh…

Each January though, clients remind me of the need to surrender, highlighting the importance of learning what to release, yield, and let go of during the therapeutic journey. Clients yearn for the surrendering process as the passing of time causes them to rethink who they’ve become and how they’ve learned to relate to their Environment.  As various clients have stated throughout the years, “I’m tired of being me.” In truth, the feelings of weakness accompanying the mental/emotional states leading to the surrendering process can be painful and highly uncomfortable. For example, these mental/emotional states may lead to suicidality and/or a suicide attempt. Vulnerability is no joke; it’s a sinking sensation where human beings feel small.

Speaking of feeling small, I’ve committed to writing more fully about Humanistic Psychology, trauma, and neurodiversity over the past six years. The writing projects have extended my understandings of Beauty, Pain, emotional triggers, and therapeutic processes. I’ve felt inspired and deflated. I’ve experienced a distrust of others, Self-doubt, AND a sense of empowerment. I’ve felt small and tall. I’ve experienced the limitations of Self and others and become more grounded in humility. In essence, I’ve surrendered to my neurodiverse and unconventional ways of experiencing and relating to the Environment…


Surrendering #1: I’m not different just to be different. I’m different because I am different. Do you see the difference?


I sense human beings inside-out. Certainly, I’m not alone with this way of experiencing other human beings, yet it seems to be a minority group of people who relate to others in this manner. So let me try to express what sensing inside-out means. Inside, human beings possesses a tiny, hesitant, or deflated voice. These voices seem to be unknown within and outside of clients. I smell them; they want the wind to carry their scent. They scream to me, without raising their voices. I taste their innocence and digest their curiosities. I touch the internal impulse longing to “jump in my lap” in order to be nurtured.

These disempowered parts experienced a tremendous amount of Pain while growing up and weren’t safe to exist in the world due to their encounters with unhealthy and unhelpful (or downright cruel) parents, authorities, and societal systems. As such, most human beings develop defenders who keep the disempowered parts shielded from the pernicious undercurrent of oppression and protected from monsters. In other words, defenders neutralize taste and smell with baking soda.

In reality, the defenders don’t trust the therapeutic process easily. They don’t trust the world to nurture them. I can’t blame them. It makes sense. The protectors need to trust the therapeutic process for the unknown parts to be more known. Most importantly, the protectors needed to believe in me. For that to happen, I need to believe, more wholly, in Self. Being different, neurodiverse, and unconventional accumulates Pain and struggles to believe.


Surrendering #2: Releasing the accumulated Pain feels vulnerable.


Over time, I’ve learned other human beings love/hate, hate to love, and love to hate the part of me that senses them internally. Relying on validating or invalidating feedback from others is a confusing and ambiguous process (mess). Yet, the writing projects began with the intention of reducing Pain and enhancing Beauty outside of me. Ironically, writing created enough space for me to realize I was hiding from a truth… I need to release my Pain. I need to recognize the parts of me projecting Pain and a sense of victimhood into the world.

At various points during the writing projects, I asked the simple question,“what have I found during the writing process?” The answer became clearer. And experienced as gut-wrenching. With outstretched arms and an extended consciousness, I found an infinite understanding of and relationship with insignificance. I felt the truth beyond separateness, not the victim lurking within it. I felt small. And weak. I regurgitated the acidic bile of writing through the guise of inspiration and selflessness. I acknowledged my fear to be free. A relationship with insignificance created enough space for the unknown parts to challenge and stand up to the defenders and protectors hovering within.


Surrendering #3: Co-creating matters. The process of expressing transcends writing projects.


I call the defenders and protectors bullies these days. They throw temper tantrums every once in while as they attempt to pull me away from neurodiversity and toward conventionality. In other words, surrendering to a relationship with insignificance means it doesn't haunt me as much. You may ask, “Given the insignificance, why do I continue to write?” With a smile, I bridge the question with ideas such as “I don’t write. I express. I co-create. I paint. I feel color within and see the color of others.”

(For the Matrix Trilogy fans out there, Morpheus stated, “You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”)


I continue to express and co-create because I reclaimed the truest and purest form of validation. Which is the beginning, not the end. The source not the outcome. The external thing from which my human system receives energy, motivation, and/or inspiration is the Life-affirming and validating experience. Co-creating acknowledges this internal and intrinsic validation by extending (offering, responding) in kind. I don’t need anything more after the offering. And I remain open to the more…

I understand the difference between passion and fighting. I can spar with defenders and protectors (within and outside) while receiving the disempowered parts of Self and others. I've felt, sensed, and experienced more fully since I allowed insignificance and the selfishness of mattering to be Truths in my Life. I engage until people leave or shut doors. Others will question me and my intentions. Always.

Today (January 24th), I turn 45. As time passes, I create space and am at peace flowing within the neurodiverse world of Wonderland. Objectively, I continue to co-create on my 45th birthday. Subjectively, co-creating freed me from the shackles of outcomes, external validation, and extrinsic rewards. Space breeds possibilities.

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Monty
‘Just Say No’ to Burnout

In 1986, First Lady Nancy Reagan championed the phrase “Just say no to drugs and alcohol” while President Ronald Reagan’s administration made “War on Drugs” a primary aim of his presidency. In actuality, Reagan expanded on the battle Nixon fought in the 1970’s, which wasn’t about drugs at all. In truth, Nixon’s administration battled “hippies” and “Blacks.” In other words, Nixon staged a war on differences and diversity.


The humanistic movement of the social sciences, starting in the mid to late 1940’s and ending in the mid to late 1970’s, contributed to the legislations and judicial rulings that offered rights and freedoms to minorities and disenfranchised communities, most notably African-Americans. Predictably, the “War on Drugs” in the early 1970’s was about criminalizing, decrediting, and weakening the human beings and movements threatening the power and authority of privilege.


Former President Jimmy Carter, who seems under-appreciated as a leader, tried courageously to remove some of the unfairness and injustice of Nixon’s administration. Then, the charisma and Hollywood charm of ‘The Gipper’ and Nancy captured the Hearts and minds of Americans. Stereotypically, Nancy gave Americans a cognitive, internal script while Ronald played the role of the “knight in shining armor” who was punishing and battling the wrong-doers of our world. Yup, Mom and Dad were making us feel strong and keeping us safe.

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In the humanistic spirit of transparency, this writing is about the psychology of burnout not about political ideology. The idea of ‘Just Say No’ as a behavioral and situational strategy doesn’t work long-term. It’s an internal script that works some of the time. It’s too simplistic and cannot navigate the situational intelligence human beings need within ambiguous experiences, especially in duplicitous human relations and hoodwinking human encounters. Furthermore, even when other human beings aren’t trying to deceive you; encountering human beings who relate differently in the world because of known or hidden diversity markers may knock your script on its bum.


Once the wind escapes the staleness of Nancy’s message, we’re confronted with another psychological barrier. Which is to depend on the leaders in our Environment to protect us. Former President Reagan, a.k.a. The Teflon President and The Great Communicator, projected an image of being unflappable. Stoic. Strong. Sure. Confident. In this way, there is no burnout because nothing sticks. Reagan and his administration seemed to create a perception of safety and illusion of protection, maybe to deflect attention from the excessive number of scandals, indictments, and convictions directly related to his administration. Suffice to say, at various times, our protectors and Environment will fail us and/or not be around to keep us safe.

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In essence, burnout emerges when internal scripting/strategizing AND external leaders/managers each fail to help us in a certain context (e.g., relationship, job, decision-making about substance use, tense conversation). As a result, we feel as though we’re being attacked and victimized. Ultimately, we become angry. Underneath burnout lies the searing emotion of unhealthy anger. Of course, anger has various ways of boiling over and burning Self and/or others. Many clients seek therapeutic services when they feel burned out, using phrases such as, “I’m shutting down,” “I’m done,” “I feel stuck (trapped),” “I’m tired of being me,” or “I’m damned if I do AND damned if I don’t.”


In other words, our scripts fail AND our Environment fails us. Over time, the Pain accumulates, and our Hearts begin to ache. Human beings start saying “yes” when we should say “no” and “no” when we should say “yes.” Since we live in an either/or, binary, all-or-none culture, we become contrarian and overcompensatory. Many times, we do the opposite because doing what we’re supposed to do leads to rejection, humiliation, punishment, the silent treatment, etc.  As a result, we rebel against the script, rule, convention, expectation, or standard. All of a sudden, we’re in a full-fledged burnout phase.


For many human beings, December represents the accumulation of resentments, frustrations, and irritations as we are forced back into familial and socially acceptable conventions. In other words, the Holiday Season shifts between the survival strategies of scripting and inhibiting AND the rebellious desires to ‘Just Say Yes.’ In fact, December has been the most inconsistent and unpredictable month of the year during my career as a psychologist. Clients seem more spacy, numb, forgetful, and/or jaded during this time of the year. Paradoxically and simultaneously, clients seem the most appreciative (grateful) of real, genuine connections during this time of the year. Given the paradox, it’s important to seek a greater understanding of burnout, instead of regurgitating the simple strategy of ‘Just Say No to Burnout.’ So let’s take the dive...


I get it. From a personal perspective, there have been many instances throughout my life when I have written a note or letter to another human being, spawning from the depths of my heart. Typically, the heart-felt letters were accompanied by a monetary or actual gift, and, most of the time, the recipient of the letter and gift thanked me for the gift. Regarding the heart-felt letter… radio silence. In many instances, we experience little to no payoff for being vulnerable and sharing our hearts. As such, the survival strategies and rebellious reactions are the best we think we can do to protect our Hearts. Either survival or reactivity are primary ways to manage burnout.


Optimistically, there is a middle way through the deleterious effects of burnout. Which is to follow your Heart. Following your heart means to lead with your heart and to allow your heart to receive the situation, question, conflict, tension, decision, etc. and trusting that your Heart can handle the hurt it may endure. If my Heart leads, I’ll send the heart felt letter regardless of payoff. Instead of protecting our Hearts through Teflon, we allow it to lead because our hearts are strong and can guide us more wholly, seeking the wisdom to know when to say yes or no and how to wiggle through ambiguity. Which, I know, seems counterintuitive when burnout starts knocking at the door.


Following your heart is similar to Alice following the White Rabbit. We open the door to a magical, beautiful, and tender place where the unexpected and unknown are embraced.  

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(For the Matrix Trilogy fans out there, Neo was guided to ‘Follow the White Rabbit,’ which led to Trinity, generating a fuller knowing of Self and the Matrix)

 

Yet, it would be hypocritical (and uninspiring) to end this writing with the internal script and idea of ‘Just Follow Your Heart.’ Even though I dressed up the script with a reference to a complicated and complex movie that’s anything but simple, it’s still hypocritical. As such, please allow me my heart to lead as I share more wholly and fully…


December 13th (today) is the anniversary of my dad’s death. In the image below, I was 12. Less than a year later, he died. The image below captured the last Christmas I experienced with my father. I loved my dad with all of my Being and miss him in ways that cannot be expressed through language. When he died, my heart endured a devastating blow that knocked me down in unspeakable ways.

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Yet, here’s how you know for certain I’m leading with my Heart… my dad didn’t and couldn’t (probably) teach me about how to follow my heart. He died from a heart attack. Most likely, burnout and shame were the culprits of his Heart attacking him. I didn’t learn the power of vulnerability or the strength derived within honesty and transparency from my father. Looking back, I believe he struggled to be vulnerable and couldn’t find the strength to share and express his Heart.


And, my heart said ‘Yes’ to the unflappable Love between us. And, my heart said ‘No’ to his premature burnout in Life. In my heart, I know he would be proud of me for learning to follow my heart AND for living differently than he lived.  


Which is the hardest thing my Heart has ever had to admit...








Monty