Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010
The last couple of days I have been working with mature students in graduate education at Carey Theological College on the UBC campus. This is my “day job” where I am the professor of marital and family studies. One of my several tasks at the beginning of an academic year is to interpret the psychosocial assessments of first year divinity students. These tremendously capable people are in the midst of making personal and vocational life changes, many of them in midlife having succeeded at other professions. One is a chaplain with the Canadian forces, one is a building contractor, some are in education and health sciences, one is a police officer, and all these folk are looking for work success in something new.
I gave them three psychosocial assessments. The first is the Strong Inventory for assessing vocational interests. A classic test, this is outstanding for figuring out your personal preferences in the myriad of alluring opportunities. The second is the California Psychological Inventory, a personality assessment that measures the test-taker on more than 25 personality variables. This one can feel a bit intrusive – it may tell you more than you might want to know about yourself. The third assessment is the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Inventory and this assesses (surprise!) how you handle interpersonal stress and conflict.
And I have a deal for you: since I have done a bunch of these and I have already paid for several more sets, I am willing to reduce my costs so that you, my client friends, can get the benefit. Normally these tests cost out at more than $200 and I will offer them to you for $150. And that’s a deal.
For more information on my work in psychosocial assessment, please see a previous blog entitled “Life/ID: Identifying Your Life.”
Monday, September 13th, 2010
A client friend talked to me about the power of labels, diagnoses and names. I asked her to write a brief blog as I wanted you to hear the thoughtfulness of her words. I think that this follows up well with my last blog on “Someone Else’s Opinion of Me is None of My Business.” The subject is “differentiation.”
“When we give something a name it acquires a weight of importance that may become too heavy. So, if I cannot sleep at 3 AM, I resist the inclination to say, or even think, “I have insomnia” and instead say, “How curious, it is 3 AM and I am wide awake.” Somehow, being “an awake person” is far less worrisome than being an “insomniac.” This inclination to deny some of life’s realities the right to a title can become a little comical. Announcing one is not going to have a “A Mid-Life Crisis” is a good way to get a laugh from your counsellor.
“Un-naming something is not ignoring it, but rather a deliberate effort to retain a personal identity that is larger than any label or diagnosis. One can seek help without saying, “I am depressed” or “I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” or whatever. The initiative to seek help can be found in naming the result I hope for as much as it is found in naming what I wish to change. If others want to give names to what they see in me, that’s alright as names can help with understanding. However, I am under no obligation to add this name to myself and carry the weight of it.”
Friday, September 10th, 2010
This oft-repeated phrase in AA and Alanon is profound in its simplicity. The capacity to define oneself in spite of the approval or judgment of another is a sign of emotional maturity and a quality that makes life work better. “Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.” Say it to yourself.
Differentiation is about knowing who you are, about your purpose. It is about distinguishing between the business that is yours and the business that is others. It is about self-definition and the management of opinions.
Trying to live up (or down) to others opinions of you is undifferentiation. Needing others to have your opinion is also undifferentiation. These are patterns of immaturity. Lots of conflict comes from this.
A client friend said to me this week, “I have spent my life working for my father’s approval that I have never received. I am unhappy, overworked, compulsive about everything and I no longer know who I am or what I enjoy.” He is a doctor, newly married, often angry, lost in compulsivity – what used to give him pleasure is now bland. Undifferentiation is a trap that can take years to close.
A few questions for you:
• When do you most feel yourself? When are you most in control of yourself?
• What relationships most allow you to be you? What relationships trap?
• Does your faith mostly freeze you with others, or free you for God?
Sunday, September 5th, 2010
Most of us feel lonely sometimes and sometimes often.
The other evening I went to see the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” with my son David. He is outside of a relationship at the moment and sometimes feels lonely, though his life is full and vibrant in lots of other ways. Still, to have a “primary other” in his life would be wonderful for him and, I think, spectacular for whoever the “her” is. And if you have seen the movie, it is all about exiting relationships and entering them.
Watching the movie David felt lonely. In response to his experience he sent me this wonderful YouTube video. It is lovely, focused and meaningful to a depth we don’t often plumb. It is called “How to Be Alone”.
Thinking about loneliness, I remembered what Mother Teresa said: “When Christ said: ‘I was hungry and you fed me,’ he didn’t mean only the hunger for bread and for food; he also meant the hunger to be loved. Jesus himself experienced this loneliness. He came amongst his own and his own received him not, and it hurt him then and it has kept on hurting him. The same hunger, the same loneliness, the same having no one to be accepted by and to be loved and wanted by. Every human being in that case resembles Christ in his loneliness; and that is the hardest part, that’s real hunger.”
In another writing she said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”