Archive for July, 2006



July 22, 2006

As a counselor/therapist, I am constantly aware that I cannot in any way compromise the relationship I have with my clients. Therefore, the items I post here are either extensions of what goes on in a “typical” counseling session, or they are my observations on the kind of human nature that I see regularly. If I keep doing that, it feels safer for me. That way, I don’t slip up and “out” some of my favorite people in this world.

The other side is what some of you have recently commented on privately: That I don’t share enough juicy stuff, not enough raw emotion, not enough personal experience. I know. That picks my butt as well.

After years of having to edit absolutely everything I say before it goes on public display, I have become accustomed to that editor being there. But that editor has a little help. Pills.

My closest friends know this, but for those who don’t, I am a regular medication user. I have Attention Deficit Disorder at a heightened degree. I cannot function well without the pills. But the pills have not treated me that well.

First there were several amphetamines, all clones of Ritalin. One didn’t do anything. Another caused my liver enzymes to shoot up. A third gave me headaches. I ended my relationship with all of them, concluding that I could use life-management skills to cope.

I had my stint with herbal remedies (Gingko, Vitamin B Complex and St. John’s Wort). They all helped a little, but not enough to recommend them. The Gingko in particular caused some severe side effects, most notably a tendency to bruise. Gingko helps the body produce more blood vessels, but it is believed that it creates weak blood vessels. St. John’s Wort only caused me to feel gorked half the time. I have stayed with the Vitamin B Complex for other reasons, but it hasn’t helped my inattentiveness.

My family can tell you that when I am inattentive, I get angry. When I get angry, it has one of three looks: 1) Sarcasm and Criticism; 2) Short, angry answers; 3) Moody alienation from others. Why do I get so angry? Because when I forget things, I cannot stand the feeling I am losing control of my mind. I get angry at myself, but it doesn’t feel right: I know it isn’t my fault, so I tend to blame others. I know that isn’t right, so I feel screwed.

So after breaks, I try other medications. I tried Adderall…it worked phenomenally. Except that it raised my blood pressure so high I had to take blood pressure medication. Out with the Adderall. Then I tried Wellbutrin (the candy of antidepressants) a recommended treatment for some differentials of ADHD. But it caused me to have minor manic episodes, so the toilet for them.

Finally, I tried Strattera which though it hasn’t worked as effectively as Adderall, is working. This week, I ran out of pills and Kaiser has not filled it post-haste; so I have had two days of non-Strattera experience. And I am angry. First of all, I am exhausted, which is what happens when you go off pills that raise your adrenaline and seratonin levels. Second, I am forgetting things (see above). Third, it has been as hot as Brownsville these days and I don’t handle the heat well.

Please get me those pills. I am not addicted, but I am definitely dependent. And I don’t apologize in the least.


A Vow By Any Other Name

July 20, 2006

For those with any Judeo-Christian upbringing, we are warned about vows. If you haven’t been duly warned, let this passage of Scripture be warning enough about letting casual promises to God slip out of your mouth.

Anyways, one of the fallacies about vows is that they have to be promises to God. More often, a vow is a promise to yourself. These can be much more devastating.

As I was going through therapy for lie-based thinking, I was lead to a very simple, almost mundane memory from third grade. During that class, I was caught by the teacher in a lie (“Yes, I did my homework, but I lost it on the way to school” I believe it was). In the memory, I stood in front of the class as she made an “example” out of liars. You would think that this was the source of the pain in the memory. It wasn’t. It was on the way home as I nursed my emotional wounds, that I said to myself “I will never let anyone make fun of me again.”

That is a vow. My life became bent around fulfilling that vow.

This meant I could never allow anyone to finish ahead of me. Think of how that would affect conversations, friendships, driving on the freeway. Marriage. And again, marriage.

My mother kept all my report cards. In the first three years of school I got average grades. And the comments were always variations of “Michael is a pleasant boy and enjoys lots of friends and life in general. He could put a little more effort into his work.” After third grade until post-graduate work I maintained near a perfect 4.0 average. And the comments about my happy-go-friendly attitude also left.

The friendly man finally came out again as I let go of that vow.

What vows do you have to let go of that you made early in life?


A Very Brave, Very Stupid Man

July 13, 2006

Ed Carpenter is an Indy style car driver, and he was interviewed yesterday and asked how he thought Danica Patrick (a fellow female indy driver) would do next year in NASCAR. I can’t say it more succinctly than he put it:

“I think Danica’s pretty aggressive in our cars,” Carpenter said Wednesday on WGFX-FM in Nashville.

“I mean, you know especially if you catch her at the right time of the month, she might be trading plenty of paint out there,” he said. “But I think she’ll hold her own.

If Ed thought he was living on the wild side driving on the track with her, he hasn’t seen anything yet. He is married and he drives a car for his mother. Doesn’t he remember the first rule of marital bliss: Husbands are not allowed to blame anything on PMS or PMT, end of discussion.

Fortunately Danica’s comments were soothing: “That sounds like a good joke to me, it’s pretty funny to me,” she said backstage. “No big deal. Ed is a really nice guy. There’s no drama there. I think it’s funny. I’m glad he’s showing some personality.”

Personally, if I were Ed, I would watch my rear out on that track from now on. I think she is lulling him to sleep with her comments (fitting: he lulls us to sleep with his driving). And I wouldn’t leave my mother around my car unattended the night before the race either.


Movies I Love With No Redeeming Value

July 11, 2006

This is a weird list category, but it’s my blog. For a movie to make it into this category in my mind, it must meet these criteria:

1. I must love it and would watch it over and over.
2. At no real level of measurement can it have value to a wide range of moviegoers
3. It was not treated with respect by movie critics by and large

So, with that in mind, here are my favorite movies that have no redeeming value.

In no particular order:

1. Ishtar: The classic story of singer/songwriters who can’t: a) sing, b) write even mediocre songs or c) tie their shoes. It is unbelievable to me that Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty would have agreed to this flop at such a high point in their respective careers. The movie was so poorly viewed that they didn’t make enough money to pay the salary of even one of their two stars. But I loved it and laugh incredibly every time I watch it. I just don’t know why.

2. Kill Bill Classic Quentin Tarentino. This is just a compilation of all his favorite “B” horror and martial arts movie favorite scenes in one movie. Add to the mix an all-star cast and more fake blood than has ever been shown in a movie and you have this absolutely unredeemable great movie.

3. Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy. I refuse to use the word “classic” again. Generally the work of the SNL cast members from about 1990 onward leaves me cold. I don’t know why this one strikes me as hilarious. Maybe it is the fight scene between all the different news broadcast crews and one guy has a grenade (“Link, where’d you get the grenade?”) that does it for me. I don’t know.

4. Waiting For Guffman: The only one of the “mockumentaries” I will watch more than once. There has never been any scene in a movie funnier than when Chris Guest is practicing his Cockney accent and says, ” ‘ow are ‘ou? ‘ow do I get out of this ‘ell ‘ole?”

5. Saturday Night Bath in Apple Valley (for those going on Netflix or IMDB, it is also called “Saturday Night in Apple Valley”): One of the great “spaghetti” westerns of the 1960s starring Phil Ford as a developer who wants to buy up all the land in Apple Valley and make it into a casino destination resort. I watched this movie when I was ten and can still remember the “endless stairway” scene that cracked me up.

6. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Every comedian known to the world in 1970 was in this movie and many of them didn’t have a mention on the credits (that’s how many were in it).

7. The Spanish Prisoner: One of the only movies that Steve Martin ever starred in which he doesn’t do a single gag or joke. Unbelievably hard plot to follow, and the stupidest premise for dialogue: Off camera, there is a metronome clicking (you can’t hear it in the movie). All the actors had to say their lines in unison with the metronome.

8. Earth Girls are Easy: If for no other reason, this film shows Jim Carrey before his stardom as a dorky alien named Wiploc (that is Colpiw spelled backwards btw…) and for this reason alone and for all the other reasons I can’t think of, I like this movie.

9. The Truth about Cats and Dogs: Because even though I won’t explain it, I like: a) Jeanine Garofalo; b) Uma Thurman; c) Big dogs in movies. For those reasons and actually a great plot marred by lousy writing, I like this movie.A.lot.


Why Harry and Not Jack?

July 11, 2006

The fearless editors of the “Out of Ur” blog have posted this question: Why have Christians attacked Harry Potter movies and have said narry a word about Pirates of the Caribbean. Here is a portion of their assessment:

So, I wonder if fictional pirates and wizards really can be good. The issue is whether the phenomenon of heroes emerging among pirates and wizards is truly corrupting and dangerous to our youth, or if it’s simply good storytelling. I suppose each parent needs to make up their mind on that issue.

Nevertheless, in my mind, if we are going to pick on Potter, we must pick on Pirates. Otherwise, perhaps Christians should keep their mouth shut about both.

Here is the complete blog entry…read the comments as well!

My daughter won’t watch either, since she doesn’t like SciFi and fantasy. My boys and I love both for the opposite reason. Each person has their genre of literature that speaks to them. For my wife, it is historical fiction. One of my sons loves mystery novels, the other really gets a kick out of classic lit. I like SciFi and Fantasy, but I also love poetry. In every one of those genres, I can show you a dozen novels that have unbiblical and downright heretical concepts. And many of these are in Christian books as well. At the same time, we all find value in reading a wide range of books within our favorite climes, if for no other reason than to test our chosen “answers” against the answers of some of life’s best thinkers – even when we don’t agree.

Once again, “reader” (or in the case of movies, “viewer”) be wary. But it is never a rationale for not watching or reading.


The Cribbage Conundrum: Lie-based Presenting Problems

July 4, 2006

For those reading this who are not familiar with cribbage, the analogy might fall down so let me give the 30 second cribbage player’s manual (or you could go here). In cribbage, there are two ways to score…through combinations of cards (pairs, three of a kind) and cards that add to 15 (ten and five, king and five, etc.). These are counted at the end. The second way to score is playing against your opponent. You play all the cards in your hand, and the one who gets nearest to 31 scores points. That’s basically the rules.

My dad would regularly beat me at cribbage, even if I had better cards. He knew how to “point” much better than I. (Pointing is the counting to 31 part). In cribbage, you can take any combination of cards and end up at the same place. Or you can take the same hand and get much different results (as my dad and I proved). This is very similar to “presenting problems” in the understanding of lie-based thinking.

The theory of lie-based thinking teaches that lies we believe as children (which we do not discard entering adulthood) will cause problems in the present day. These are called “presenting problems”. For instance: If we believe that everyone is going to abandon us, we may find ourselves entering relationship after relationship and having everyone abandon us. (See this entry on “Projecting our lies“). The lie manifests somehow in the present moment.

But here is the conundrum. Some lies may have different manifestations, and much different lies can have the same manifestation. Just as in cribbage, you can score differently with the same cards, you can have different results from the same lie. This is why it is unwise to try and guess what someone’s “lie” must be based upon their presenting problem. In the same way also that in cribbage you can get the same results using much different cards, you can have vastly different lies that all show up with the same problems in a person’s life. This makes it difficult after doing a Theophostic session to determine if the person is completely set free. They may continue to have some of the same presenting problems that are manifesting out of different lies. Let me use some case studies to illustrate.

Let’s begin with a universal lie: The fear that we will be rejected. Most people struggle with that lie some of the time. It is a difficult one to try and “diagnose” because it can take many forms in the present. The person may develop workaholic tendencies (to fend off rejection disasters). They may become a “clown”, making people laugh (to divert rejection tendencies in others). They may carry low-level depression, become a people-pleaser, take illegal drugs, cut themselves off from others, develop a fantasy world, struggle with marrying abusers – all from the same lie. This is why I warn those I am training in Theophostic not to try and predict what a person’s core lie might be before going through the process with them.

But let’s look at the other side of that conundrum. Can you have different lies manifest with similar symptoms in the present in the same person? It happens very regularly. Primarily it happens with people who tend to maintain a lot of control over their lives. They allow themselves certain “problems” and not others. Therefore, every lie will manifest with those problems. This can happen with certain eating disorders as an example. Assume a person has these three core lies: They believe something is wrong with them; they believe people are going to hurt them; they are afraid of others taking control of their life. Each of these lies can result in anorexia as a presenting problem. How?

Lie 1: Something is wrong with me. This is the easiest one. Every time this person looks in the mirror, this lie operates. They see a fat person and therefore they stop eating to compensate. The lie leads to anorexia.

Lie 2: People are going to hurt me. This releases fear of relationships. The fear of relationships fights against the need for intimacy. So they go back and forth pushing people away and wanting people to come near. When people do draw near, they must do something to push them away. The fear of being hurt triggers an emotional response to want to take control of their life. Since they do that most regularly through anorexia, they go back to it.

Lie 3: I need to take control. Every time life seems out of control, instead of controlling those factors, they ignore the factors and control what is easiest to control: intake of calories.

In each of these scenarios, a different lie with a different set of memories is involved. If you go through a Theophostic session to deal with lie-based thinking, you might think that by getting rid of the first lie that anorexia will disappear. Then it shows up next month and you might conclude that the Theophostic process does not work. But wait: If you check yourself to see if it feels true that there is something wrong with you, you find that this lie does not feel true any more. That is when you must come to the understanding that several different lies can have the same presenting problem. This will help to then focus on the lies and not the presenting problems when measuring progress.



July 3, 2006

I was watching Fox 40 news tonight as they broadcast a story about a brush fire which was the result of an errant firecracker. The reporter was showing a fence that surrounded the yard of a home owner. The fence was seared by flames from the brush fire.

The reporter, in commenting on the closeness of the fire to the house says, “The flames literally were knocking at the door of this Elk Grove house”. Come on! Literally? The word literally means that it is not a metaphor or a figure of speech, but it actually happened.

So this is the way I see it. The flames went up to the door and knocked, saying “I have an appointment…this is the Land Shark”


A Negative Reaction to Bill Gates’ Generosity

July 1, 2006

This entry may make me seem like Chicken Little, but I am worried about the impact of Bill Gates announcing he is going to spend all of his time, as of next year, managing his charitable affairs. Actually, that is not what I’m concerned about. It is the gift of Warren Buffett to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of 31 Billion Dollars that I am reacting to. Actually, it is not the 31 billion dollars…it is the announcement.

I have been involved in charitable fund-raising in one way or another for about 26 years. This includes raising money for churches certainly, but also for organizations as far-flung as Sexual Abuse Awareness assocations to School Foundations. In that time, I have seen a curious trend that I really pray does not happen in America. When people give to a charity, they do it with two things in mind. First, they are cognizant of their place in society and the need for themselves, as individuals, to overcome fear and selfishness with money. From the child who gives a quarter to the Muscular Dystrophy can at the corner store, to the father who writes a check to the church, each one of them believes they are making a difference. If they thought their act was meaningless, they would not do it. Part of the mystique of giving is that generally we do not know what other people are donating. I think most of us are aware that people give much more than we do, but because we don’t know the specifics, it shelters us from the thought that we would have to give several thousand times more than we are giving to match the generosity and financial impact of a large patron. That ignorance allows us to treat our own giving as it should be treated; with the knowledge that we did the right thing for the right reason.

But here is what happens when large “public” gifts are made to charities. I was the fund-raising coordinator for a small charity many years ago. We struggled to raise $10,000 per year to keep our operations going. We had no full-time employees, just a few faithful volunteers. But we were well-known in that small town as a group that got things done. People did not give us much, but our donors were regular and committed. One year, a local entrepreneur was approached by a member of our committee about making a donation. For some reason, he gave $100,000. This instantly dwarfed every donation made in the six years we had been in operation. It was lauded and applauded in the local newspaper. It allowed us to hire a full-time Executive Director, who spent most of her time raising more funds. These funds then came in from larger donors and major corporations. That sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But the other results were not so wonderful. We lost most of our smaller donors, who reasoned (perhaps correctly) that we no longer needed their money. They also stopped volunteering their time. Our all-volunteer organization had to hire other workers. In the end, when I resigned from it, most of the original members were gone because it was no longer serving the need it was originally created for. We could have kept the large donation more private and it would have helped us better in the long run.

This is almost always true in churches as well. If one very large donor comes along, giving gifts that overshadow the gifts of all the rest of the congregants, many people will stop giving. It is human nature to become awed by a large benevolent offering, no matter how well-intentioned and humble the giver might be. But it also makes our comparatively small gifts seem ordinary, plain and perhaps useless. Only the widow with her two coins might be brave enough to give in face of the onslaught of the Pharisees’ large public offerings.

If you combine the 31 Billion dollars of Buffett with the tens of billions of dollars in the Gates Foundation, you have a formidable charitable impact on our society. I hate to say this, but I predict that even though more money will go to society’s charities now, the average individual will begin to see that their giving become marginalized. At that tipping point, we may see very few people willing to give into the public trust. If that happens, then we will submerge ourselves as individuals further into the sea of selfishness. So, in essence, though I applaud the heart of Gates and Buffett, I think it would have been better for us all if their right hands had not known what their left hands were giving.

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