Archive for therapy

The Esoteric Art of Communication

Posted in opinion, politics with tags , , , , on May 17, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

In a world of instant communication–Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages, blogging, cell phones–it’s amazing how much we still suck at it. It’s one thing to talk to someone; it’s a completely different thing to communicate and be understood by someone.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with this website called Shrink Talk, a blog written by Dr. Rob Dobrenski, using sometimes humorous, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes thought-provoking anecdotes about clients he or his colleagues have worked with. (Also, congrats on the book deal, Dr. Rob!)

Browsing through some older articles, I found this one about a guy who was in therapy because he was having some problems with his marriage. After the client had used the word “upset” to describe how he was feeling, Dr. Rob made this observation:

The word “upset” is kind of a basket term for emotions. It doesn’t really tell us anything other than something doesn’t feel right. It’s like ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘distressed.’ We use them socially without a problem but they are basically empty words. They don’t describe what you were feeling….

Progress was made when the client started attributing concrete emotions to his feelings, and was able to work out more successfully what was going on in his mind.

Granted, this is a specific instance with only this specific solution to the specific problem. But if we dare to extrapolate the situation, we can see a lot of empty words floating around, words like “Conservative,” “Liberal,” “Socialist,” “Communist,” “Fascist.” Even words like “Nazi,” which used to strike fear into the hearts of people throughout the world, have less and less meaning the more they’re used. Word choice makes a huge impact in being understood, as evidenced by Dr. Rob’s client in the example above. He was “upset,” but it wasn’t exactly describing anything.

Back in the day, a Nazi was someone who was mindlessly devoted to Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, determined to eradicate anyone who was not a blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan Christian. Today, a Nazi is a Democrat who believes in global warming and helping other people. Just ask Glenn Beck.

Even outside of politics, communication is poor. With everything so instantaneous, sometimes people say things they don’t mean, or they don’t take the time to think about the wording of what they’re going to say and are completely misunderstood. Misspellings in emails (or jokes that aren’t caught when in text format) can make or break relationships.

Though, many times the “miscommunication” comes from people not wanting to understand where someone is coming from. This happens in the world more often that people care to admit: two sides having an argument, neither one wanting to accept what the other says, so they slide down their slippery slope and try to destroy an argument that isn’t there. And honestly, I could spend a whole month writing articles using different examples of people just plain not listening, which is an essential component to communication.

What can we learn from Dr. Rob’s client? We can definitely learn that the words we use are powerful, but also that over time, the words that we use that used to be so powerful are essentially useless. It is no longer scary to be a “socialist” if everyone is a socialist. It’s not longer infuriating to see a “Conservative” when you learn that they’re not really a threat to our way of life.

Of course, we can also learn that we can have a much better discussion if both sides are listening and understanding. If Dr. Rob would have just accepted “upset” as an emotion, nothing would have happened. But it is by digging deeper that we get to the root of–and are able to solve–the problems of the world.

What is Wrong with MomLogic?

Posted in opinion with tags , , , on May 10, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

In my boredom, I like to take advantage of StumbleUpon, a cool feature that you can download or add on to your Firefox browser. You set up topics that you’re interested in, and then you just click the “Stumble” button, and you’re instantly taken to a page based on your interests. I use it sometimes when I’m stuck for blog ideas, and it’s great when there’s nothing else to do.

However, I don’t know what topics are selected to take me to this website called MomLogic. Sometimes, the articles are interesting, sometimes funny. But most of the time, the articles are nothing but a mixture of aggression and complaining, and all completely unwarranted.

Take this article that I stumbled on entitled “I Want to Give Our Marriage Therapist the “Little” Finger.” Thinking it was going to be a humorous article, I dove headfirst into it. Unfortunately, I dove into a shallow pool.

The self-entitlement that the author of this post has is ridiculous. She starts off strong (“After months of begging my husband to go to a counselor so we could work on our relationship issues, he finally obliged.”), but then turns the very next second (“I went into the session armed and ready for victory.”). While it appears she was concerned about what was going on in their relationship, as you read the article, you can tell that she’s more concerned with being right. The following section just proves to me how self-centered this woman is:

…[T]he therapist — let’s call him Bill — asked us to explain an incident that we wanted to bring up. I started …

I talked about how after a long day of work, I had taken our baby on a walk to the store to pick up Dick’s favorite meal. When he walked in the house from work I said, “Honey? Guess what’s for dinner!”

His response, “No.”

I again said, “Seriously. Guess.”

He again, said, “No.” He then opened the refrigerator, saw the meal and said, “Oh! Lasagna!” Needless to say, I was very hurt and when I told Bill the story, it felt great to get this off of my chest.

Then, as I waited for Bill to give Dick a good talking to, he instead instructed me to ask my “Little Maria” why I cared so much about his reaction….

… “I care because he’s my husband — he’s disrespectful, unappreciative and frankly — rude! I don’t want this for my life. How about that?”

So much for wanting to work together. There was so much contempt for the therapist (she goes on to describe him as a “quack” and the session as “bullsh*t”) that she completely missed the point of the session. She claims that it was their own hard work that brought them together, but I think it was just “Dick” seeing that the only way to please her wife is to bow down to her every whim and avoid having a fight.

While not every article is that intense, it does seem to come up fairly frequently whenever MomLogic appears on my screen. I know that the site is a common ground for mothers everywhere (and I hate complaining about it the day after Mother’s Day), but are all mothers out there so bitter?