Discernment: Consolations and Desolations

People come to therapists for discernment at the very least. They want to understand and to be understood. They want wisdom or insight and perhaps a plan for change. Some therapists will talk to them about “consolations and desolations,” a skill that Carole is familiar with. Most evenings before going to bed, she asks me my consolations and desolations of the day.

I find it easy to find the desolations, the things that have gone wrong or where I have failed. I can isolate my criticisms without much effort and I can deeply feel the criticisms of others.

But consolations? What do you mean? Something went right?

Consolations and desolations are about our orientation to our lives and the direction our life is going — upward and outward toward God [consolation] or downward and inward away from all things divine [desolation].

Here are some of the main symptoms of desolation and the most commonly experienced blessings of consolation. (See LINK HERE)

 

Desolations are downward and inward slopes

  • turns us in on ourselves
  • drives us down the spiral ever deeper into our own negative feelings
  • cuts us off from community
  • makes us want to give up on things that used to be important to us
  • takes over our whole consciousness and crowds out our distant vision
  • covers up all our landmarks
  • drains us of energy

Consolations are upward and outward slopes.

  • directs our focus outside and beyond ourselves
  • lifts our hearts so that we can see the joys and sorrows of other people
  • bonds us more closely to our human community
  • generates new inspiration and ideas
  • restores balance and refreshes our inner vision
  • shows us where God is active in our lives and where he is leading us
  • releases new energy in us

 

What to do…

In Desolation:

  1. Tell God how you feel and ask for help.
  2. Seek out companionship.
  3. Don’t go back on decisions you made in consolation.
  4. Stand still and remember your inner map.
  5. Recall a time of consolation and go back to it imagination.
  6. Look for someone who needs your help and turn your attention toward them.
  7. Go back to 1.

In Consolation:

  1. Tell God how you feel and offer thanks.
  2. Store this moment in your memory to return to when things get tough.
  3. Add this experience to the narrative of your life.
  4. Use the energy you feel to further your deepest desires.
  5. Let the surplus energy fuel the things you don’t like doing and do them.
  6. Go back to 1.

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

Sex Therapy on Skype

I just got off a Skype call with a lovely couple who can’t make their sex life work. Married for just a few years and with a couple of kids, their intimacy is interrupted by occasional porn, premature ejaculation, and anxiety by self-judgement.

So I troop out lots of stuff that I know and some that they know, too. Though on Skype they look a bit aghast by the objectivity of the ideas.

  • The brain is the sex organ and that the genitals are just the conduits.
  • Everybody has fantasies, its just that they are so often different.
  • Porn breaks trust but this has as much to do with the self-critical spouse as the partner.
  • Shared masturbation is a great idea when intercourse is a bit complicated.

I recommended that the couple talk about their fantasies and good memories. I suggested that the woman stimulate herself for several minutes each night before falling asleep. I helped them create a shared fantasy that was about their dating prior to marriage. I told them about the best positions for sex during pregnancy and how oral sex is often better for the wife than penile penetration. I advised them to give up the “ideal” of simultaneous orgasms for something more realistic. I told them that the woman should probably climax first to avoid premature ejaculation for the husband.

And then I remembered a great Harvard Medical article on “Tips to Improve Your Sex Life” and, sure enough, it says a lot better what I was thinking.

Still I was amazed what you could get accomplished on a cross-Canada Skype call. I hope the lines were secure.

 

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

Goodbye Clyde, it’s been nice to know you.

On December 31, 2018, I will be vacating my Clyde Avenue office to inhabit the warmer sanctuary of my home study in Gleneagles / Horseshoe Bay. This has been Carole’s therapy space for several years, so we will have to balance our days so that we are not stepping on each other’s schedules.

This will make some difference for some of you. It will mean a larger trek if you are coming from lands East, but closer if you are coming off the ferries or from Squamish / Whistler. People can still come on transit.

It will also mean better tea in fancier cups, mugs of fine coffee, and even carbonated water in wine glasses. It will mean that you will no longer see the torrents of the Capilano River while the eagles fish, but you will be sitting in front of the good feelings of a warming hearth.

So goodbye to Clyde and hello to Fox in 2019. (Throughout 2018, I will continue to visit with you on Clyde.)

Once you have visited in our home space, you will find it a step up in hospitality and a friendlier drive. Just down the hill in Horseshoe Bay you can have lunch or tea at the Butter Lane Café (our favourite), or the Olive and Anchor for dinner. There is still Trolls, Starbucks and other standards, but the local spots are best.

The extra time is about 10 minutes from my Clyde office. Our home is close to Whytecliffe Park, BC Ferries, Gleneagles golf course, and a half hour sprint to the Chief at Squamish.

So, if you are coming to visit with me anyway, plan on making a day of it. Walk on the beach, take some photos, drive the Marine Drive curves on the way home and stop off in Dundarave to shop.

Goodbye Clyde, its been nice to know you.

 

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

IWLA — “I Will Love Again”

A woman approached me after I was speaking at a conference. She was wearing a bright yellow pin that proclaimed “IWLA.” She told me a story about her husband leaving her for her best friend. That was bad but that wasn’t the biggest problem for her — they were next door neighbours! Her husband moved his stuff over the fence and into a new woman’s bedroom and kitchen and bathroom.

She bumped into this new couple at Safeway and on Facebook and she found herself examining every car that drove into their shared cul-de-sac. Hate was being nourished.

There is a lot to the story, much of it tough and some of it inspiring; but to be brief, she made the decision that she would love people again, especially people difficult to love. She would even love men. She would even love best friends. And that takes trust in oneself and every other self she might meet.

We all know that once love has been betrayed, people will be less trusting the next time and some will never get over the betrayal. The degree of mistrust that is engendered varies between individuals and with the enormity of a particular betrayal. However, trust can be rebuilt with repeated positive experiences.

Note this: trust and distrust are experiences and not feelings. To cry, “I just don’t trust anymore!” is to more truthfully say, “I am still royally pissed off and I have not recovered!” The experience of broken trust produce fear – hurt – anger (this amalgam is “bitterness”). But trust is the practice of getting over through these emotions without overwhelming residue. If you have been abused by betrayal, you have to do something for the feelings to change.

Here is what I tell people who are trying to figure out trust and re-trust.

The first step of re-trusting is to do anything with your bitterness. This is the process phase. Talk it out, pray it out, forgive it out, run it out, write it out, garden it out — just get it out. Just don’t nurse it or hook others into saying, “Oh poor you.” Nourishing distrust and un-love builds a narrative that will never set you free.

Step two: do something you have not done before that is better than what you have done since you were betrayed. This is the initiation phase. It is the beginning of loving again. Take up bowling (5 pin is fun); drink lattes in designer coffee shops three times a week and write an online journal with pics about the best and worst; join a cult (that is not really a good idea); do stranger interviews (see another post). The thing is, if you think of yourself as a Victim in life, then you will surely become one. Change your narrative. Get a tattoo that says IWLA and tell yourself that you can overcome rejection and stupidity — yours and the others.

Step three is the toughest step: forgive the rat. (You can tell by that description that I am undifferentiated and totally on your side.) This is the new beginnings phase. Forgiveness is hard. It is not a transaction (“I forgive you, you rat!”) but a thought-out behaviour change. You decide to experience your pain, own it as yours, and do something with it (see step two). Forgiving is bearing pain, deciding to face it and determining to change. Bearing-deciding-determining — verbs of re-trusting.

So you get into an intimate relationship and you are afraid, or you avoid intimacy because you are afraid. What do you do? You initiate. This is what loving and trusting is. You start something rather than wait for the world to change. You make decisions based on character and consistency. You re-trust in increments over time. You let yourself feel love and you wonder about the future.

I think you can re-trust. I see it in my practice and sometimes in my own life. Take ownership and step-by-step face life. You can trust again.

 

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