Owning our own narcissism

October 8, 2018

1503683533549It’s the last day of holidays here and I’ve been thinking (again) about narcissism. Particularly about how important it is to own our own narcissism. Perhaps it’s prompted in part by watching the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and then reading and watching the reaction from liberals and conservatives alike.

Kavanaugh outraged at having his confirmation (and integrity) seriously threatened at the last minute and being accused of sexual assault and also drunken boorishness as an adolescent and young adult. Democrats outraged that someone whose integrity can be so seriously at question and who lied under oath (at least about the extent of his drinking) can be shoe-horned into the Supreme Court with a sham of an FBI investigation. Women and men outraged that getting a Conservative swing-vote on the US Supreme Court appears to be more important than taking allegations of sexual assault seriously. And so on.

I think it’s easy as Democratic supporters to get outraged and discouraged. And I’m not downplaying the importance of righteous anger. Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad looks like an excellent recent example of how to harness the power of anger.

But what calmed me down in part was realising that my own anger has as much to do with my own expectations, hopes and ideals for the US and the world as a whole. As someone wisely said, haters are gonna hate, and by extension conservatives are gonna carry on being conservatives, and the privileged will continue to protect their own privilege. Socially and politically, the answer seems to be to keep on taking responsibility for whatever influence we have. To keep on trying to change things for the better. And also, paradoxically perhaps, to be more patient of the slow pace of transformation.

People’s ideas and also political systems won’t change easily in our increasingly partisan information bubbles. But if we accept that lasting change takes time, perhaps we can all be more patient and tolerant with ourselves (as we sensitively challenge others).

 

 

 

 

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Why psychotherapy?

August 16, 2018

This short video clip from the London-based School of Life is really excellent. I’ve never actually heard of the School of Life until I click on the link and am enlightened that they are a “global organisation dedicated to developing emotional intelligence”. I see that they have a whole complex (is that the collective noun for therapists? how about a whole interpretation) of therapists and teachers etc. Very professional-looking.

But that is all by the way. What psychotherapy videos do you like?

 

 


5 Stages of Cape Town’s water crisis

January 30, 2018

With Day Zero looming, Capetonians are getting increasingly anxious about the day when the taps run dry. I have mixed feelings about this. I’m very concerned but there also times when I feel reassured by the spirit of “we’re all in this together” and the resilience and innovation that Capetonians are showing.

Of course one thing that helps (apart from 1-minute showers and not using the washing machine very often) is humour. So here’s my take (with borrowings naturally) on the 5 stages of Cape Town’s water crisis.

5 stages of water shortage

On the innovation side, I’ve noticed that at our local spring, there are a few “water guards / water carriers” who are earning a brisk trade fetching people’s water for them.

I think we also need a playlist of Water Songs for inspiration. Any ideas?

 

 

 

 


Learning from The Donald

September 21, 2016

Fascinating article on the upcoming Clinton vs Trump debate at The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/10/who-will-win/497561/).

hilary-vs-donald

I was feeling quite anxious about the upcoming US presidential election but on reading this I feel a  bit more reassured. Trump does worry me, but if you look more closely at his body language and his statements there’s a pattern there – of domination, bullying etc. He is powerful because his message (both verbally and physically) is often very simple. James Fallows shows in this article how Hillary can win the debates (and by extension the election).

More broadly it also got me thinking about how I relate to bullies. How I am intimidated by them, how they get under my skin, how I get rattled and irritated. But I also started thinking about how I relate to dominance in general – whether it be a dominant male boss or a controlling parent! And when my partner is dominant and controlling, do I sometimes feel intimidated and annoyed as well? What about using our own dominance, and learning from the bullies (without being insensitive though)?

What I also found interesting was seeing the narrow band that dominant women have to operate in . It’s easy for Hillary to fall into the trap of being too shrill or harsh. She’s much better (and more effective) when she’s powerful AND relaxed. When she’s able to joke – and also deliver some put-down lines at the same time. Thanks James Fallows for a stimulating article. I’ll report back here after the debate on the 26th.


On reading and not writing

August 30, 2016

I’d sort of given up on blogging, since life was just too hectic and I wasn’t finding time to do anything much at all. But then I found that life without blogging was not necessarily more productive than life with blogging. So I’ve decided to start again. Even if it’s just a way of checking in and saying “this is what I’m reading and not writing”. So to make it sort of easier to write, I’m doing a Q&A.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?

winnicott A: I’m reading Winnicott by Adam Phillips. I’m enjoying it but it’s definitely harder to read this on Kindle. I lose the thread and it takes days to pick it up again. I’m interested in Winnicott because he’s more hopeful than Freud or Klein. He was also one of the first clinicians to stress the primary importance of the mother-infant relationship. He says there’s no such thing as a baby, only a baby in relationship with its primary caregiver.

He stresses the importance of playing, of creativity, of holding (physical and emotional), and of transitional objects. He’s interested in aggression, in real and false selves, and in many other things as well. I just wish that I had more time to read and think.

I’m also reading “Towards an Emancipatory Psychoanalysis: Brandchaft’s Intersubjective Vision”. brandchaftIt’s long, it’s good, it’s dense. I’m reading this for our self-psychology reading group, and so it’s one chapter a month. I’m also reading this electronically since the physical copy was very expensive. Even with the pound taking a slight dip with Brexit fears, books are still outrageously expensive.

I need to find a good novel to read. Maybe a re-read. The last novel I read was “The Little Paris Bookshop” which was good but not great. I always feel a little guilty saying that. Is it me? Is it the book? A combination of the two? Seeing a Goodreads rating of below four stars also tends to make me think that it’s not just me.

 

Q: What are you writing at the moment, if anything?

A: I tend to write a lot of concussion reports since it’s rugby season. To be honest, I really dislike them. I write the minutes of meetings. I write off and on in my journals (both electronic and book-form).

Q: What would you like to write?

A: I would like to write some sort of memoir, but I know that that’s not possible at the moment for a number of reasons. Firstly, I could never bring myself to write about my family knowing that they might read it. And secondly, I need to work on my writing fitness.

Just today I thought that I would like to write about my mother. It’s a difficult topic but it just feels right. For a long while I thought I should write about my dad. Since he is the more well-known of the two (famous even, one might say). Sons writing about their fathers seems more logical, right? But actually the more difficult story would be the more interesting one. But I can’t write about it here. Part of me thinks that I would have nothing to say. But I know that’s not true. I also have a whole drawer full of journals which I could trawl through. *sigh* It’s complicated.

And you? What are you reading at the moment? And writing?


Homophobia, Islamophobia and toxic masculinity

June 15, 2016

Orlando news collage

I’ve been so shocked by the tragic events in Orlando (the mass shooting at an LGBT club in Florida on Sat night) that I’ve been reading obsessively to try and get a handle on how to think about these events. I’ve watched the vigils on TV and I’ve read the updates and the opinion pieces and the analyses. How can such a terrible thing happen? What motivates someone to such hate and violence? What can society do to prevent such atrocities?

There are many themes which are emerging: the radicalisation of marginalised American Muslims; the dangerous mix of homophobia, mental instability and ‘toxic masculinity‘. The possibility that Mateen himself was struggling with a gay identity. The shocking lack of gun control in America. As more evidence emerges I’ll see what the psychologists have to say. For now I think the most powerful research comes from Sarah Lyons-Badilla, a social psychologist who has researched radicalisation in America.

If I was a journalist I’d want to interview the local Muslim authorities about what they teach their followers about tolerance and diversity. Is there tolerance or acceptance of different ways of life from those permitted in Islamic scriptures? I guess, as with Christianity, it really depends who you ask. I’m sure the media could do more to publicise the views of liberal Muslims (athough the cynic in me asks why they would do that if sensationalism is more profitable).

 

 

 


The mind of Donald Trump

May 25, 2016

The mind of Donald Trump

Interesting article. Dan McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, has crafted a detailed psychological portrait of Donald Trump, the reality-TV star and real-estate mogul who would be US President.

 He looks at Trump in terms of the Big Five of Personality Variables:

Extroversion: gregariousness, social dominance, enthusiasm, reward-seeking behavior

Neuroticism: anxiety, emotional instability, depressive tendencies, negative emotions

Conscientiousness: industriousness, discipline, rule abidance, organization

Agreeableness: warmth, care for others, altruism, compassion, modesty

Openness: curiosity, unconventionality, imagination, receptivity to new ideas

 

How does Trump stack up? High extraversion plus “off-the-chart low agreeableness”.

“People low in agreeableness are described as callous, rude, arrogant, and lacking in empathy.”

“Anger can fuel malice, but it can also motivate social dominance, stoking a desire to win the adoration of others. Combined with a considerable gift for humor (which may also be aggressive), anger lies at the heart of Trump’s charisma. And anger permeates his political rhetoric.”

A tendency to lie and distort.

Fascinating comparison with Andrew Jackson (who was the source of the donkey as the symbol of the Democratic Party). Similar populist appeal and driving personality. Brashness and anger.

Authoritarianism (associated with prejudice towards minorities or outgroups)

Disgust

A textbook case of narcissism

Archetypal warrior

But what is the purpose of fighting to win? Make America Great Again, says the Trump slogan. But what does that mean?

Great conclusion: “It is always Donald Trump playing Donald Trump, fighting to win, but never knowing why.”