Tag Archives: psychoanalytic themes

Letter to a therapist friend

 

Hi, sent you a message a few nights ago, haven’t heard back, which isn’t like you. I’m not taking that personally (unless I should be?), but I thought I’d reach out again, imagining you may still be feeling hopeless, as you were last month, mostly because of work. 
I hope this doesn’t sound self-serving, but I think my modest, self-published book about drug rehab and community mental health as a whole does provide hope to those who work in this business. Many like yourself are smothered by the platitudes of directors, administrators, and so on while otherwise feeling technocratic shards of glass pierce into their sides. I felt in your reaching words something(s) unachieved in our world: passion, bravery; risk inflected with humility. I could feel it in your depiction of that unsatisfying exchange with your manager. A “nice” man, you said. It reminded me of something an old SN once said to our group of supervisees in the three-year program: “there’s nothing nice about being nice”–it was in response to a fellow student who was struggling to manage frame issues, and justifying a lack of confrontation by declaring that confrontation was…well, not nice. In my book I am scathing, I think, about rigid adherence to procedure–the tyranny of the HR manual–when not just common sense, but common thoughtfulness, decency, but above all realness, is called for.
 
There are times when I think that the Masterson model can truly be distilled into these qualities. I reflect on my caseload at any one time and I think, with whom  do I feel spontaneous? who do I really know? what connections feel real to me? More often than not, the best work feels like a jazzy, flowing sense of knowing…something that feels right. That may sound a little soft, and a lot unreliable. It certainly doesn’t sound very “evidence-based” or scientific, or “quantifiable”. But the thing is this: it sounds reliable to me. The reason? I trust myself, whether others do or not. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Doesn’t it sound like a gift, or a real achievement, if I’m to give myself the credit for doing the work. I’m not saying I’m getting it right with all my patients. I’m saying I can tell who I’m getting it right with, and who I’m not getting it right with.
 
I agee that being in the quadrants is tantamount to being unsober. I think this was the basis for our original discussions about blending the Masterson model with a 12-step program. I’m working on myself as I flit in and out of defenses; my therapist is fighting me, I think–thinks me defeatist in my self criticism. Among other things, I defend the hard but fair pronouncements that KS made of me last year. I realize that his cool yet cutting approach stirred something vigorous yet frightened in me. It all lingers, the hurt. I was surprised to read that you “identified” (with being seen? or the “bad” experience you referenced), as I specified being seen in a manner that felt menacing, even sadistic. Did I misunderstand you? Were you writing of being scrutinized, and by KS in particular?
 
You wrote of vulnerability in your last e-mail, “to the toxic foolishness”. I identify with this vulnerability, though I think I have some of the detachment you crave. I’m not entirely free of bad systems. Indeed, there are one or two that are threatening to ensnare me in a fight currently (perhaps more on that in a later e-mail). But TR is nearly two years in my rear view mirror, and completing the book has been, dare I say, cathartic. Anger is draining, despite the sneery, superior tone sometimes evident in the book and especially within this accompanying blog. Whether a handful of people read it (the book), or hundreds more do so, I have cleaned my own internal system of the toxic entity that once dogged me. I have gotten some peace. Like a Schizoid personality, I also have a fantasy, which I’ll share with you: you see, in the future, I imagine achieving a modest, measured (compromised?) fame for my lengthy missive to my peers. I’ll be asked what I think should happen in drug rehabs for adolescents; perhaps what should be happening in all community mental health settings. On the specifics I’ll defer, I think, as I choose to disentangle from Gordion Knots, practice something like a second step, and wait for help from those on the inside. I don’t want to abandon. I don’t want others–least not people like yourself–to give up hope. I just think I need back-up. I need the real selves to present in numbers.
 
Graeme

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Disconnect/Reject

My novel, Crytal From The Hills, is looking for a place to live. Give it a home, readers. Or give it an agent, or this blog a directory. Otherwise, it might become a rejected story of rejection, about a guy named Chris Leavitt who’s left home, looking for a place to stay in the aftermath of an accident, a disappearance, a trauma, and a mystery–the novel’s pitch. Irony? Actually no–it might be apt, this quiet response, this absence of yours. You see, this is a tale of disconnection/rejection; disconnects and rejects; relationships with the absent highlighted by absent relationships with the present. Longings: dream about longings, why don’t you. I thought about all this when I started this thing three years ago. That’s planning, I say. That’s contrivance, some might think. Anyway, I sought feedback. Really. I made calls, wrote e-mails, did what you’re supposed to do–I connected, and asked what others thought. But phone calls get dropped, and e-mails sometimes land in junk. Sorry, says the world: we didn’t get that.

Here’s another passage from CFTH:

“So, what are you gonna do after you check your phone.” Chris thought for a moment that she was mocking him, referring to his phone task like it was his major chore of the morning. Jill flung her purse on her bed—the only major piece of furniture in the unit—and stepped over to a desk to check messages on her land line. Almost simultaneously she pulled out her IPhone and began checking its messages; multitasking, like she was showing how it was done. To her left was a several square foot space she’d created against a wall. She gestured towards it, indicating several of Chris’ belongings. Chris had already moved in, it seemed like; he’d colonized her space with his motley collection of goods, things he’d once thought he couldn’t live without: a backpack made of hemp; a Nick Drake CD sticking out the top. Inside, there were several smaller items, such as another Ziploc bag, filled with Percocets. There was an IPhone that had been “blown up” several times, such that its memory was now full. Taking up the most space was an oft-malfunctioning laptop and a seeming trail of electronic dependency: wires, cords, stray flash drives. Somewhere in the backpack were a toothbrush, a bottle of arnica gel, and a thin squib of a soap-bar. His clothes, which included two shirts, a spare pair of jeans and one extra pair of socks, were strewn in a pile, looked aged and stiff. Chris appeared to be aiming for a staleness wherein some items would soon be able to stand by themselves, encrusted with dirt, dust, the curled up lint that hovers above tufts of carpet.
It all came back to him now, the minutes he and Weed had spent here the night of the accident. Chris and Jill had one argument that night amid the flurry of plans and excitement. To her he’d seemed manic—spun, in all likelihood, despite his subsequent denials. Weed stood in the background, grinning, watching them bicker, and staring at Jill especially. Greasy strands of hair stuck out from beneath his baseball cap. They actually looked like weeds, thought Jill, catching sight of him. Chris had a poster of James Dean which he’d plucked from a tube that he wanted to place next to the bed. Jill vetoed the plan, said it didn’t go with anything. Chris stared in protest at the sparsely decorated walls of her apartment, and appealed vainly for “logic” on the matter. Jill was having none of it, either the poster, or the premise. Logic? She’d swat that notion away easily enough. But the real issue, the underlying divide, was something else. She didn’t want him to feel at home.

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