Booking “A-Head,” Cancellation-Watching, Headaches and Other Painful Stuff

If you have tried to make appointments with me (Paddy), you will see a busy online calendar. Most of the folk I visit with book several weeks or a couple of months in advance. And, they book 3-5 sequential appointments to make sure that they get the times they wish.

I recommend that couples, families and individuals work to obtain appointments every 2nd week for several months. Booking ahead is the only way this works. This takes planning. It is head-work. Since I only work Mondays and Thursdays, my limited schedule makes it difficult for some to get the time they wish. If you use your head, it should work out okay.

I know that not getting hoped-for appointments is frustrating. I have had a few headaches over this as well. I respect your time and the effort it takes to create these visits. And you do create the visits – I don’t.

Some kindly folk ask, “Why don’t you add a day or so?” I go on and on about my grandchildren and how they need me (etc.), or how old I am. So don’t ask. You will get a sermon.

Did you notice that I don’t have a lovely admin person answering your calls? But the good news is that my online booking pro never sleeps or takes lunch breaks and works on stat holidays. You can book any time you want. My booking system will never get mad at you. You can also cancel appointments without guilt (but give me 48 hours or time to replace the hour) and reschedule around your exercise class.

Here is some stuff you need to know to make working with me a bit easier, therefore, less headaches for both of us.

#1 Book online for the first appointment you can get, and then book a bunch later (say 3 or 4) when time works on my calendar and your schedule. By the way, it is a lot easier to cancel or reschedule than it is to book – you do this through the emails you receive from my primitive AI booking machine that I affectionately have named “Eh?”.

#2 Book “a-head.” If you need crisis counselling (urgent care within days) you will need to contact a crisis care line or Family Services. I used to supervise at a crisis line in Coquitlam and was a therapist with Family Services in West and North Van, and they are great. But for me, plan a head.

#3 Watch for cancellations at least once a day and especially on weekends when most people reschedule. Today is a Monday and I had 3 cancellations over the weekend and 2 were filled. So I had an extra hour that was visible on my calendar. Go ahead and grab it.

#4 If you cancel without giving me 48 hours notice, or if I cannot fill the time, 2 things will happen. You will get charged for the missed time (sorry), and somebody else misses their chance for the spot. This is where headaches happen. I ponder and ruminate and then send an invoice. Shoot! I hate to do this. But I do. Then you get pissed off and start dissing me. I hate that too.

Finally, my “book a-head” photo tells you that I am on holidays — you can tell by what I am reading including “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire”.

Back to vacating. See you soon.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Good Ideas on Marriage Therapy (I wish I thought of them.)

I have been reading a book by Wendy Plump entitled “Vow: A Memoir of a Marriage.” Because I mention the book does not mean that I recommend it for your reading. In fact, I do not recommend it particularly.

There is a chapter entitled “The Efficacy Of Therapy” where the author designs a kind of therapy instruction card for couples in crisis. I would like to give some comment to the several things that she says. (The author’s words are in italics.)

One, everything doesn’t have to be solved in one session. And, in fact, it will not! Short-term marital therapy is usually 8 to 12, one or two hour sessions over several months, when we want the problem solved immediately. Sometimes it takes a couple 10 to 15 years to create an “unsolvable” problem and then the expectation is that through a few short conversations that all will be resolved.

Two, be clear about your need. I often sit with people who think I am reading their minds. I find this humorous – or at least I used to find it humorous – that people submit their intelligence to someone who is looking at them with care and concentration. Please do not forget that you are paying for concrete advice and not just consolation, so get what it is you want and need.

Three, remember that it is the two of you who matter most. It is very easy to allow the therapist to intrude herself or himself into the marriage. No matter how well trained the therapist is, he or she will have opinions and judgments and it is very important that the couple understand that they are there for them only. As Wendy Plump says, “it is you and your spouse against the world, not you and your therapist.”

Four, each person in the marital dyad needs to take some responsibility for the efficacy of your therapy. The therapist may be marvelous in every way but the therapist cannot make the changes that the couple needs to make. As the author says “put some serious energy into it. I admit to being lethargic or overly daft in the therapist’s office.” Often times the couple will say, we are paying you, make it work! The couple is really the experts on how their marriage can work as well as how their marriage is unworkable. The therapist collates this information and provides direction and support in the progress.

Five, be willing to hear that you screwed up royally and need to make amends and then make amends. It is so common to use excuses, or explanations, or “context” to avoid personal responsibility. Apologies and forgiveness can be very difficult for most people and it is especially complicated in the intimacy of couple conflict. In my experience as a marriage therapist, no one moves ahead without consistent and thoroughly thoughtful apology.

Six, there are many ways to get out of the woods. If you are not going forward in your marital therapy with one counsellor, you can switch. There are times when you need consolation and support and there are other times when you need confrontation and challenge. One counsellor may be able to do both but your therapist cannot read your mind – say what it is you want. Also, therapy is not necessarily better or more efficient then good friends, a supportive community, and the consolation and direction from healthy parents. There are many ways to get out of the woods.

Seven, and most important, understand that you can bear it. Of course, most of us do not want to bear the responsibility or challenge of change. We also do not want to bear the pain of the loss of ideals and covenant. But flailing about looking for relief will only make therapy more difficult and less helpful. A competent therapist will help a couple defuse their emotion and increase their thinking. At least, that is the goal. (Tell me if I am doing this!)

Wendy Plump summarizes that “therapy has its value, but it remains a stubbornly limited one. Even in the concert with all of our best intentions, therapy could not rescue our marriage. I’m not sure that therapy can rescue any marriage…. A therapist will listen and listen and listen, which is one of the things you need most. Rescuing the marriage seems a tall order. But there is a chance that therapy can rescue you. Perhaps the expectation should end there. It does seem like enough.”

“Vow: A Memoir of a Marriage” by Wendy Plump, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Gays (LGBTQs) are Welcome Here

This probably doesn’t need to be said. It is 2017 after all. But maybe I need to say it for me more than you need to hear it.

All our psychology and therapy work is gay valuing. We accept, affirm and advocate for all genders and make no discrimination. (Actually, I discriminate on smoking.)

Not only do we understand and accept gay people and their relationships, we advocate for men, women and children to be who they are, not what others think they should be.

No big deal in this culture and this generation. But it is a big deal for others, especially from other societies (e.g. African and Asian) and prominently religious communities.

Churchly people (Jewish, Christian, Muslim and others) are slow to accept newer forms of gender understanding and resist inclusion for lots of reasons. Mostly I think that religious folk are trying to please God and obey Scriptures as a priority, and misreading ancient, biblical documents is easy to do. Some read that the bible seems to argue for exclusion rather than welcome on gender matters, though that is not my opinion and is not the opinion of many world class scholars and ethicists. This makes faith groups more “homeostatic” (resisting change) than “morphogenic” (wanting change) to use Family Systems Theory words.

I think another reason is that the church has been a hospice for “ego dystonic” (this was a diagnostic category in the DSM) gays and lesbians. These people know they are gay but prefer to remain closeted and single, meeting their intimacy needs mostly within the church fold.

Clergy-led marriage is a big thing for church people (and many are persuaded that it is a pivotal dimension of the nature of faith) and they would argue that this is a privilege for men with women and women with men. I am not sure that church people oppose “pairage” (a term to distinguish gay marriage) as much as they are confused or uninformed. And the clergy don’t do much to clarify.

Speaking of uninformed, I have some decent references for those who want to follow up. The connection between psychology and theology is an interest of mine, so the resources below engage that fruitful tension.

So that is where I am. Out of date as I may be, and slow to understand as I am, I accept, affirm and advocate for the LGBTQ people who wish to accept our therapy and care.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Notes:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/13/living/gender-fluid-feat/index.html

Richard Mouw and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott — Gay Marriage: Broken or Blessed? Two Evangelical Views

 

 

 

 

I Am Especially Fond of You

Carole and I speak of our love for each other often. Sometimes too much for me, but still appreciated. She also speaks of what she likes of me – that I am attentive to her, that I think outside the box, that I am freer than I used to be. And, of course, I tell her that I am especially fond of her and those particular ways of which I am especially fond of. It always evokes a smile in us both. I feel secure and I think that she does too.

We have been married a long time and I am glad for it. I expect her to love me – what choice does she have after all these years? – but to be fond of me, that is something more.

I loved “The Shack” when I first read it. It made me question, wonder and weep. I love the idea of a black, matronly woman as God! Paul Young wrote this book for his kids as a Christmas gift and in a short period of time many thousands wanted to know what he was telling his children: that God was especially fond of them. I think that is what I want in my life – to know that God is especially fond of me. I know that this is what I want from my wife and my children. And I want them to know that I am especially fond of them too.

I know that I am not especially fond of me. Perhaps that is why to have God and others orient toward me in this way is a wonder.

Many people I see in my counselling practice don’t have anyone that they think is especially fond of them; spouse or child or friend or God. So they try to be perfect, hope to cause no offence, work to be right most of the time, hide from any conflict, all in the hope that someone might read through these adaptations and, perhaps, that the someone will discover something to be fond of.

Sound like you? Maybe sometimes.

Like the beautiful woman I met who had all the augmentations done to her face and body but could not find a man who was fond of her – the inside her. Or the painfully narcissistic young man who entranced everyone but could not make a relationship that would last. Or the grandfather who criticized his children and grandchildren and could not give up “correction” (as he called it) for fear that his loved ones would turn out as empty as him. How un-fond of a man to himself and his progeny.

But to be found as a person who is fond of others and to have others be fond of them. That is amazing.

The Shack movie is coming out shortly and I expect to be disappointed. Unless I discover again that God is especially fond of me and of you. I hope so. I believe so.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Who Are You Going to Please?

Most of us are people-pleasers. We will please almost anyone if it keeps us from pain or adds some “bling” to our lives. Ministers can be terrible people-pleasers; but they don’t seem to know who to please, so they try to please everybody or ignore anybody.

One pastor I know would lie in a fetal position behind his office desk on bad Sundays after his sermon, crying and hiding, hoping that no one would find him. Not only was he not found, he almost lost himself and his family.

Today we speak of “boundaries” – that is, to think and reason who you will let “get in” your soul and in your face; who you will trust and who you might wish to please.

Here is something about Jesus that reflects on this: “All [in the synagogue] spoke well of him [Jesus] and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” [and then, a little later] “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this [what he said]. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill … in order to throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:22,29 NIV).

Interesting isn’t it? We may try to please people and then they inevitably turn on us. At least they did for Jesus and they probably will for you if you stand for something worthwhile.

Psychologists say that people are motivated by the appreciation of others, especially significant others, like parents or bosses or God. But not everyone will be pleased by how you live your life and so you have to choose who matters. Who will you please?

When I was hired as the team-leading pastor of CapChurch in North Vancouver, I boldly said that I would do all I could to please God, and satisfy my elders but I wouldn’t overly labour to please the pew-people generally. I figured that I would dissociate running after all these people’s whims, worries and wants. 16 years later I think that was a good decision. And I have learned that pleasing your spouse is a good idea and in so doing you are often pleasing God in the bargain.

This is not to say that we (those who decide who they will please) need to be rabble-rousers or demagogues. But it’s not like the English bishop who once remarked, “Everywhere Jesus or Paul went, there was either a revival or a revolution. Everywhere I go, they serve tea!” (An old preacher’s story. Who knows if it’s true.)

I don’t want to be like that. At the end of the day, I want my life to count for something and for a long time. This will mean I am going to run into opposition somewhere along the way. And, knowing me, probably a lot of it.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

What Star Are You Following? (David Ducklow)

I received this Christmas blessing from my son, David Ducklow. David is a chaplain in training at Vancouver General Hospital and completed a Masters degree in Spiritual Formation. Here is his blessing to me and now to you.

Isn’t it amazing how, because of our work and efforts in preparing for Christmas, we ‘crash’ soon after the meal is finished, the presents have been opened and the relatives have left? I don’t imagine the wise men doing the same thing. The joys of seeing a newborn King probably made sleeping the last idea on their minds.

The gospel of Matthew follows them on their marathon mission, and though they had good reason to be tired, remarkably they show no hint of it. Matthew says they spent two years following the star, hunting Jesus down. I have never followed a star before, let alone for two years, but I can imagine that it may be like trying to find the hypothetical pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Next to impossible. So I would probably talk myself out of this on the first day.

However, the wise men had enough energy and motivation, not just to walk for one day, but for seven hundred and thirty days! Their reason? “When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!” (Matthew 2:10)

How would you react if you saw a star that moved? Would you refuse to follow it? “Not today. Maybe tomorrow. I had a bad night sleep and I have a crick in my neck.” The wise men most definitely had this option during their two-year pilgrimage. Or would you be so excited that nothing could keep you from getting to that pot of gold?

What star are you following? Where do you think it will lead you? How long have you been following it? Are you willing to follow it to its end or are you about to crash? I am sure these are questions the wise men asked themselves. They certainly had enough time to discuss their reasons for doing such a crazy thing.

But, what was their motivation? Who had told them to do this crazy thing? What would they receive in exchange for their gold, frankincense and myrrh?

(David also is a Spiritual Director and an “Intentional Tutor” especially for kids with disabilities. You can reach him on our web site.)

Just Thinking with Jasper

Jasper, my first grandchild, had a stunning insight recently. We were driving from a movie (Kungfu Panda) at a downtown cinema in Vancouver. We saw some obviously poor people on the sidewalk and I said to him that the church tries to help poor people. He asked me, “How does all the singing we do at church help the poor people?”

Interesting.

I was thinking of trying to answer Jasper’s question and then I remembered what I have taught for years; that an unanswered question can open a relationship for a lifetime. Answers often close down conversations. They certainly close down thinking.

Jasper surprises me how intelligent he is. He is 6 years old and has superpowers like his dad, who is really smart. Brent is not from our side of the family. We are more attachers-emoters than thinkers. (Christine, if you read this, you are really smart and have superpowers too.)

I have come to think that the church is great for attachers-emoters that need to believe something or lots of things, to keep their attachments in check. Otherwise, they would jump on their high horses and ride in all directions at once.

But thinkers are in trouble at church. Most preachers work to have you believe stuff, not think stuff through. This has resulted (humble opinion only) in a paucity of thinkers and a plethora of believers.

Seminaries train their seminarians in how to believe and to convince others on what to believe. Sermons might take 5 hours a week or 20 hours a week to prepare, depending on whether we are more OCD or less. Sermon prep is a thinking process. But then sermonaters preach it like like listeners are to believe it. Not think it.

I have a yearning to preach a sermon or many sermons first saying, “I don’t think I believe what I am about to say, but I am thinking it. Will you think with me?”

I would like to call my churchly friends “thinkers,” rather than “believers” as in “I love being at church with fellow thinkers.” Jasper Patrick McLaren would probably like this kind of church more. So would his dad.

And I don’t think there is a connection between singing and helping.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Called to Move (David Ducklow)

As we look around at the world, we are encouraged to “do this,” “love that,” “be more” and “expect all our dreams to come true.” But once we have them, we no longer appreciate them as much as we did when they were simply desires.

Life can look greener on the other side of the fence, and our current realities never match up to them. How do we get out of this cycle? How can we take our desires captive, before they do this to us, and we experience an unexpected and inevitable calamity? The answer is: move.

This does not mean that we change vocations, associations or relations. But, as priest, professor, Henri Nouwen writes, we must listen to our call. “You are called to live out of a new place, beyond your emotions, passions, and feelings. As long as you live amid [them], you will continue to experience loneliness, jealousy, anger, resentment, and even rage, because those are the most obvious responses” when we desire what we see, just beyond the fence.

The idea of living from a new place, while physically living in our present place is a challenge that is avoided by many. But those who attempt to make this move realize that heeding its call is exactly what is needed. Then we realize that moving was the best decision we could have ever made.

What does it mean to you to live out of a new place?

(David Ducklow, Spiritual Director / Chaplain)

Standing for the Relationship

I am used to conflict both in myself and with those that mean the most to me. I read somewhere (a Family Systems Theory book) that conflict is most likely a result of too much closeness (as in smothering) or too much distance (as in cutoff). Either way, people then often blame, attack or hide and get all emotionally flooded. We stop thinking. Emotional ruminating is not thinking.

Even when we hide from the other who we feel has hurt us, we probably fight with them in our heads. We imagine beating them into powerlessness with our wonderfully practiced attacks. Our opponent is probably doing the same thing right when we are.

It seems to me that when we attack and defend, we ignore our relationship. How we are covenanted suffer-ers in the elusive benefit of defeating the other.

Who stands for the relationship?

I visited with a couple in noisy conflict yesterday. Like pugilists whacking and hacking, they listened only to their “inner dialogue” not to each other and thus projected rage and hurt to their partner.

I asked them “how is your hatred working for you?“ The husband complained that he didn’t hate his wife, but she agreed with the word “hatred.” I said, “how is your hatred towards your marriage working for you.“

Hmmm.

When couples bicker they bleed the goodness of what is between them. The couple may harangue each other thinking that it is just about them. But it is the marriage — a distinct entity — that loses most.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Grief: Part 2 – Grief is Another Way of Remembering

“Grief is another way of remembering,” said my pastor friend who died too young (see previous blog). She said this at my father’s memorial. He died from drinking. For many years all I could remember was the slovenliness of drunkenness. Grieving, like remembering, takes time. It is a process, never fully accomplished.

But slowly I remembered finer memories. Looking at photos helped me to discover what was also there. I see sober Christmases and I can hear telephone conversations when I worked in a mining camp and I had something to say that impressed him. He would call me “son.” I remembered him putting together my green CCM bike with ribbons falling from the handgrips.

I was afraid of my father and I felt hurt and anger much of my life. That was the core of my grief. Grief is often a mush of fear and hurt and anger – all primitive emotions. When I experienced some of this over time, I discovered the tenderness just below. Sorrow needs to be wept out or sobbed out – it can hardly be thought out. Tears help us drain the pain.

If my unconscious carries an unexpressed wound from my past, I will always be black and blue inside. I will not be able to approach life with my eyes looking forward for fear they will trigger the repressed pain. Have you met people who cannot look into your eyes for fear that you will look into theirs?

People have said to me, “It was the way you looked at me. You didn’t take your eyes from mine.” I have learned to see grief and the emotional mush that is behind it.

The grief that I carry stowed away has great power over me. More than ruminating, I become a rumination. Until I feel my grief and allow myself to know it, I will not be free of its grip.

You may know the song, “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton as he grieved the accidental death of his young son. He sings, “I must be strong and carry on, ‘Cuz I know I don’t belong, here in heaven.” This grief connects him to the child he loves.

Until I know how to grieve with my heart and my soul, with my voice and my time, I will never know how to love with all my heart either. Jesus gives us a model to follow. And his words are true: “Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

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