A Call for Restraint in the Age of the Opinion (Guest Blog)

The following blog comes from a client-friend who finds listening lost in the world of unconstrained opinions. This has been helpful to me.


Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.[1]

I admit it; these days I’m as prone to get my news from my Facebook feed as I am from the New York Times. My hope is that trusted friends of mine will post legitimate links, and as I survey the field of opinions I may be able to wade through the myriad of information to arrive at some sense of an informed outlook.

Although social media is a helpful tool in this regard, I also cringe at the way many of us use and abuse our posting privileges. We are navigating new ground in this information age and many of us are making gut-wrenching mistakes along the way.

It seems to me that we need to recover the art of being slow to speak (or in this case post) about complex issues. Reading a few blog posts does not entitle us to expert-level truth claims. Though we are entitled to our opinions, too many of us project our minimally informed opinions as fact, unwilling to accept or engage with those who have researched the subject thoroughly.

What I fear is that, for all of our newfound ability to share information, we are losing the ability to communicate with one another. We don’t allow each other the space to sit with complexity, or the respect to disagree without breaking connection. With our quick-fire opinion bombs, we blow up our relationships for the sake of our truth. We unfriend our opponents, never having really taken the time to consider their perspective.

We amateurs ought to watch our words more carefully and hold our perspectives a bit more loosely. We do not know the extent of the harm our words may cause, or the relational cost we may incur in our unbending expression of personal opinion. Perhaps, in some cases, it is better to hold our tongue and keep our friends for the time being.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t speak up about injustice, or that we shouldn’t stand for equality or other important issues. What I am saying is that we need to acknowledge our own limited perspective and grant others leeway to do the same.

This age, with all its technological wonders, offers unprecedented opportunity to dialogue and inform one another. May we be those who foster grace and humility, rather than antagonism. In other words, may we be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry;” (James 1:19, NIV). Amen.

[1] This quote has been variously attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and Maurice Switzer. It’s more positively stated alternative is found in Proverbs 17:28: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues” (NIV).

Is Depression Treatable with a Mobile Phone App?

Now this is interesting to me. Can you do therapy without a therapist? Will I be out of work soon? (Smile.)

Thousands of new mobile phone apps have popped up to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. Though many claim to employ clinically sound methods, critics say that human interaction is key to mental health care.

Is it safe or effective to use apps to treat anxiety or depression? What do you think?

“ACTing”: A Model for Community Change

I don’t write much about my consultation work on these pages, but I think that “ACTing” is relevant for all of us that are going through some transition. E.G., I am of the age to begin retiring and I have just left the graduate school where I taught for 7 years.

This is a simple paradigm I use in my work with business leaders, community workers and church leaders. I think it for my own changes as well.

A stands for adjustment. The lowest level of change is to tweak what is not going well and hope that this is sufficient. Organizations might create a new logo, or a college might write a document intended to educate about sexual harassment. Even the most modest adjustments are potentially harmful; they lead leaders into the illusion that they and their organizations have changed. Adjustments don’t make change – they stop change.

C stands for change. Every system has a culture that resists change. We love the misbelief that we got it right the first time. Changes in organization are costly, impactful, hopeful and troubling. In changes we discard what does not work and design what does. We might change leadership in an organization; for example change is to design a work-from-home policy for the purpose of valuing parenting and child care costs or the time wasted in commuting.

T stands for transformation. The location of macro change is when we fresh-think purpose, mission and “way in the world.” A church I was consulting with decided to move from a central structure (e.g. Sunday morning at 11 am) to a simpler model where the people were disbursed into multiple “simple churches” of 20-30 people that met at various times of the week in various homes, coffee shops and other public facilities. This transformational change produced radical results and most of them positive.

Here are some ACTing questions for you.

  1. In the changes you are making in your life, are you adjusting, changing or transforming? Think of your partnerships at work, your marriage, how you interact in your neighbourhood.
  2. Most people are intentionally working their bodies. They may hope to gain muscle mass (not me) or lose weight (that’s more like me), or develop new hobbies like mountain biking, etc. How are you approaching your changes?
  3. Imagine a conflict you have that has been eating you up for a while. What changes are you making? How is it working out?

ACTing is a made-up verb. You change when you are in the verb tense.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

Read More

My “To Do” List (and Not)

Wash my hands in warm water always no matter how long it takes. Be a Canuck fan early in the season. Say to Carole “I love you” while holding her for 2 minutes. Ignore the “call” of Groupon emails and craigslist bargains. Get home on time and not bump into a bicyclist. Find 2 minutes every day to mindfully wonder. Respond more — react less. “Meet and greet the human condition” (I borrowed this from a poem by Kathi Wolfe.). Taste my breakfast. Remember what clothes I wore yesterday. Smile surreptisiously. Laugh with my heart-held convictions. Appreciatively wait at red lights. Move impulses from my limbic brain to my cerebral cortex. Wear orange. Retire restfully.

Updated September 2015

44 Years — Still Surprised

In about a week, Carole and I will have been married for 44 years. We made a covenant back then in which we promised to love and obey. We’ve been fighting over that ever since and mostly in good humour.
September is a time for promising. Much less glamourized than January, September is a time for covenant making and renewing promises. Kids begin schools in sparkling clothes and lunch buckets, workers return from holidays with renewed vigour (one hopes), church initiates newness remembering its traditions and stretching for hope.
I am glad for this September. 44 years is a wondrous marker for someone who was surprised that he was still married after 20.

Welcome to David Ducklow

Carole and I have two children who have been adults for years but we think of them as our “kids.” Christine is a mom of 3 of the best small people ever and a forgiving wife of a compulsive mountain biker — they both do other stuff too. And one day Christine might join us in our shared work in journeying with people.

David who has been a spiritual director and intentional tutor for many years has recently graduated with an MA in Spiritual Formation from Carey Theological College. He is also Special Education Coach and tutor with kids with “dif-abilites” (his word). He also has a degree as a Special Education Assistant from CapU plus a BA degree in psychology and theology.

We welcome David to our shared practice. You can reach him at http://www.davidducklow.com. He works out of his home office and local libraries in North and West Vancouver.

I encourage you to read his blogs to get a sense of his deep life (http://davidducklow.blogspot.ca). And, by the way, he has “dif-abilites” too.

Counselling Can Be Expensive

Now that is a truism. Sometimes I tell my clients that I can’t even afford me! (I am never sure how they take that.)

But how you feel about the expense of counselling depends a lot on what you get out of it.

My fee is $170 per hour. Carole’s fee is $145 per hour and David’s fee is about $50-75 per hour. I usually see someone for about 10, 1-hour sessions, so the total is about $1700 over several months. That is a lot of money, perhaps what you pay on car insurance. And then you take that car in for a tune-up (actually they don’t tune up anymore – they download computer upgrades) or sign up for a course at Capilano U.

Here is what I do about fees:
• I charge $20-25 per hour less than the going rate for Psychologists ($200 as of January, 2012). I want to give back to you. And my rate has not increased for over 5 years.
• Many of you can have your fees covered under an employee assistance plan or an insurance program. Make sure that you check your coverage for “Psychologists” before you visit with me. By the way, Carole’s fees as a Registered Clinical Counsellor may be covered under your plan as well.
• By the way, if both you and your spouse are both covered under your EAP or insurance program it may mean that you have twice the number of appointments for couple counselling. Imagine how many family appointments you can have!
• Keep your receipts for your income tax – some of it may be reimbursable. Ask an accountant.
• I also create my own assistance plan with your church or community group. You pay a portion (about a third) of the fee and they pay about a third, and I will reduce my fee to correspond. And this for a maximum of 10 sessions. You would be surprised how many caring people want to provide financial assistance.

I am happy to say that most of my client-friends consider therapy to be good value and many recommend their family and friends. Counselling can be a valuable investment and worth much more than it costs.

(Updated from 2009)

Fighting: We See Things as We Are

Anais Nin commented that “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Acknowledging this – that our life and especially our pain, skews our seeing and our thinking – is the first step in mediation and conflict resolution.

If the psychologist observes this when two parties are deeply stuck and viciously divided, she challenges her client-friend’s way of being in the world, his world view.

The second step is to appreciate the other’s point of view – to see that it has merit.

The third step in mediation is to find an agreed upon goal that both parties can strive towards. This is popularly known as a ‘win-win’ solution and puts the combatants on the same side.

These 3 steps result in a ‘success’ that is seldom better than 70%; in other words, neither party gets the perfection they think they are due.

Acknowledging, then appreciating and finally agreeing. And that seems right to me.

Is My Marriage Worth It?

Conflict and relationships go together. A conflict-free marriage is an oxymoron.

Why? People mature at different rates; they have different values (some they don’t even know they have); and people see and experience the world differently. And all of this leads to tension that can result in conflict. And sometimes we wonder if marriage is worth it.

These are the kinds of issues my clients bring to couple therapy. Think about these questions for you and your marriage.

• If you had to create a short list of people you could spend the day with, would your spouse be on that list? Do you genuinely enjoy each other’s company? Do you laugh when you’re together?
• Do you have the same or similar values, goals and interests? Do you and your spouse enjoy doing some or lots of things together? Do the two of you want the same things out of life?
• Do you express a lot of affection and appreciation for each other? Or is there mostly indifference, negativity and hostility in your relationship?
• Do you feel understood when you are talking with your partner? Does your spouse try to see your point of view? When discussing things, does your husband or wife listen to what you have to say?
• Is your relationship usually based on fairness? Does your spouse see you as an equal? Do you feel you are treated with respect? Or do you feel used, exploited, or taken for granted?
Do you feel that your spouse will be there for you in a time of need? Can you count on your spouse for help when the going gets tough?
• Do you feel comfortable sharing your private thoughts with your spouse? How easy is it for you to talk to your spouse about sensitive issues?
• When you disagree with each other, do the two of you work together and try to resolve your differences? Or is there a lot of hostility, disregard and contempt when disagreements arise?
• Does your spouse care for you sexually? Do you make love pretty regularly? Or are you disappointed or frustrated with your affection?

The pain can be huge. This happens when conflict spikes and shared pleasures plummet. And even at these times, working on your marriage is always worth it.

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