Inclusive Books with an Upward Slant

Occasionally people ask us about what we are reading. Those who know us well also notice that our theology has morphed quite a bit. We have moved from Biblical certainty to relational inclusion, from diagnosing from a distance to wondering with an upward slant about most things.

Changing perspectives is hard and sometimes confusing. I think of perspectives as “slants.” Looking down on life and people carries with it an inherent superiority even when you don’t feel it. That’s the downward slant of certainty and correctness. Looking at people, understanding their narrative, hoping for their betterment and, sure enough, one develops an upward and hopeful slant about them and most things they are involved in.

Here are some books that have led the way for us. All have been helpful and some have been life-changing.

Carole is more the reader these days and many of these are books from her Wednesday morning study group. Ask her for her personal comments. She would be glad to offer her thoughts. (carole@theducklows.ca)

❏ A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, and Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovlitz (a current favourite)
❏ A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass
❏ An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor (our son David loves this one)
❏ Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found it Again Through Science by Mike Hargue
❏ Kingdom, Grace Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus by Robert Farrar Capon (Paddy’s personal all-time best)
❏ Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships by Tim Otto
❏ Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
❏ Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller (interfaith reflections on all things spiritual)
❏ Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
❏ Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott (everything by Lamott is good or great)
❏ Take This Bread: The spiritual memoir of a twenty-first-century Christian by Sara Miles
❏ Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle (this as well as “Barking at the Choir” made me weep buckets)
❏ The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns (thoughtful and sharp)
❏ The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr
❏ The God We Never Knew by Marcus Borg (get over judging him as “liberal” and read him)
❏ We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation by Brian McLaren

By the way, I have been buying books (psychology and theology mostly, but novels too) for a lot of years and now I am giving them away at a rapid pace. Let me know what you are looking for and I will check to see if I have a copy. You never know.

[You are welcome to comment on this blog or anything else you see on my website. Please suggest improvements or ideas, or just dialogue. Thanks.]

 

Ever Been Stuck?

Of course, you have been.

Charlie Brown got totally stuck when the little red-headed girl walked by. I don’t think he ever got unstuck!

Family Systems Theory considers three indicators of “stuckness.” The first indicator is like tire-spinning, the trying experience when you (or a committee) keep trying harder and predictably producing banal results. Trying to stand up is a lot more difficult than standing up.

A second stuckness is when one thinks in either/or categories, like “I win, you lose.” Binary belief systems produce teeter-totter relationships where if someone is “in” then the other is “out.” Reminds me of couples in conflict. Religions do binary thinking a lot, as do political parties. Makes quitters of even the most faithful. In marriage its called divorce.

The third stuckness is cramping answers into predictable questions, rather than recasting questions in fresh contexts and perspectives. “Business as usual” is all about this — thinking we know the questions, so our task, we figure, is to find answers that fit, rather than “appreciatively inquire.” (Appreciative Inquiry is a great way to focus on new questions.) Of course, its usually more about the question than the answer.

For more Family Systems Theory wisdom see, Edwin Friedman in “A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix” (pp. 40-46).

———————————————-

I wrote this post in 2011 and I am updating it now because so many of my clients describe being unable to decide. How do you decide to marry, let alone who to marry? Stuckness in marital conflict is a recurring theme. New clients are signing up to do vocational assessment. What job works best for him or her? How does personality relate to occupation? What about call?

It is easy to get stuck and harder to get unstuck.

[You are welcome to comment on this blog or anything else you see on my website. Please suggest improvements or ideas, or just dialogue. Thanks.]

Our Online Office for People “Out There”

I am apparently slow to the online therapy world. Life coaches, eye doctors, dieticians use online resources to bring their skills to people “out there.” However, my client-friends are educating me as they ask for psychological therapy on Skype or FaceTime or Google Duo.
Here are some reasons why lots of people would rather Skype than meet face to face:
  • Some live out of town or are on vacation. I have clients from Seattle, Hong Kong, New Hampshire, Calgary, Vancouver Island, and San Francisco. Long commutes to say the least.
  • Some folk need to save time travelling to our wonderful Horseshoe Bay office. They may work in Vancouver or Whistler or New Westminster but would prefer to consult from their computer.
  • Some people view counselling online as an adjunct to seeing us “live.” A pretty good combination for many.
But there are some things to consider in this online world:
  • One is whether you have an interruption-free location. I have a private space where confidentiality is assured. You will need to find something that allows you a quiet space to think and speak.
  • Couple counselling and family counselling are a bit problematic, though I once had 2 parts of dispersed family video connect for our session. Worked pretty well.
  • The intimacy and ethos are different. I can’t offer you a cup of coffee, but I can still empathize and challenge. It just feels different.
This way of connecting is different and for some, it is preferred. You can book online sessions as easily as you would in-office times. The payment transaction is done online through our booking system or with an e-transfer.
If you would like to learn more about online therapy or coaching online session with Paddy or Carole, please email us at life@theducklows.ca.
By the way, did you know that Skype was invented in Estonia, for which they are greatly proud?

[If you would like to comment on this blog or anything else on our website, you are invited to do so. Send a message via life@theducklows.ca]

Masks of Melancholy

“Masks of Melancholy” is the name of a book on depression written by a friend, Dr. John White, who was a psychiatrist and a church leader (he died several years ago). This phrase has always struck me as a great description of depression. John was bipolar and he knew a lot about “The Masks People Wear” (see an article on my web site about such masks).

Depression puts on a mask. The mask can look needy or agitated or “pissed off” or apathetic and all kinds of other miserable things. The mask depends pretty much on our genetic wiring and what was emotionally practiced in our family of origin.

I have been depressed lately. I visit this state periodically like I am checking in with how bad life can really be. My mask is “agitated anger.” People I love bug me. I long to be left alone but I am lonely when no one is around. I ask for help in a way that keeps anyone from really caring. I isolate when I want to connect. Even coffee and chocolate (both vital food groups) fail to inspire me. “Pissed off” pretty much summarizes how I feel it. “Stay away” is what my mask reads to others.

So now that I have told you more than you want to hear, let me refer you to some resources that might be helpful to you.

So now that I have told you more than you want to hear, let me refer you to some resources that might be helpful to you. Visit Wing of Madness – this is a great sight. As well, this is where I would start with consuming anxiety. This is a blog spot so you get lots of interaction with real people.

The assessments will give you a pretty accurate reading of where your emotions are right now. Print off the results and take it to your doctor or counsellor if you wish. (If you are visiting with Carole or me, do bring the results with you.)

As for me and my treatment, I think I am going to take off my mask (it doesn’t fit very well, anyway), visit Crema Café a few blocks from my office in West Vancouver, eat a piece of their wheat-free chocolate cake, and drink a grande latte. It won’t cure my depression but it does put a smile on my face.

[Updated in March, 2019.]

[You are welcome to comment on this blog or anything else you see on my website. Please suggest improvements or ideas, or just dialogue. Thanks.]

1 Out of Every 2 Couples Divorce? (Happy Valentine’s Day)

I have people tell me that “1 out of every 2 couples divorce.” The tabloids say it often so you think it must be so. But it is not my experience — and I am a marital therapist who sees people who might have lots of reason to divorce (and, of course, some do).

My bet is that over 80% of couples who seek marital therapy revive and even thrive. So happy Valentine’s day.

Statistics Canada (2005) tell us that by the 30th wedding anniversary 38% of couple divorce. About 16% of the divorces include people who had already been divorced at least once. The probability of divorcing for a first marriage is lower because remarriages have a higher divorce risk than first ones.

Concerned couples starting out in marriage are sometimes worried about the reported divorce numbers and it surely does not help that we are inundated with “media divorces” who break up on a seeming whim, perhaps to obtain more glitz and blitz.

The Vanier Institute reports that the divorce rate for first marriages is about 30% throughout 30 years of marriage. In other words, first marriages have a 70% chance of surviving and even thriving for 30 years!

I have seen in my practice several variables that affect marriage stability. Let me give you a few:

  • How well the couple was brought together. Was a decision really made or was the couple in a romance trance (limerence) where they felt they could not interrupt the process?
  • Will the couple participate in premarital counselling or mentoring? My experience is that this process allows couples to differentiate, that is, to thoughtfully and even prayerfully decide if marrying this person and at this time is what they wish to do.
  • Location of where the couple lives has an impact. Urban and suburban life can have a negative impact on the survivability of the marriage. However, this is ameliorated by participating in an intentional community (e.g. a church, community network).
  • The willingness to obtain early marriage counselling when conflicts become wearing and unsolvable.
  • And another key factor has to do with the couple redefining the relationship with their respective families of origin. For the parents, this involves a kind of relinquishment and for the marrying couple, it requires a new definition of themselves with their parents.

Get the word out — marriage still works and the numbers are getting better! And your marriage can work well even if you come from a divorced family or had a previous marriage.

[You may respond to this blog or anything else on this website by contacting us at life@theducklows.ca. Paddy wrote this blog in 2010 and updated it for 2019.]

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 Amazon.ca bargains. Get home on time and not crash into a bicyclist. Find 2+ minutes every day to mindfully wonder. Respond more — react less. Tell my grandchildren stories when I tuck them into bed. “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 surreptitiously. Laugh with my heart-held convictions. Pray thankfully more often. Ride me Volt eBike in the rain. Appreciatively wait at red lights. Move impulses from my limbic brain to my cerebral cortex. Wear orange or paisley. Go to bed with a smile on my face, even if I don’t feel like it. Chew. Collect rocks with Tessa.

Updated February 2019

[You can respond to this or anything else on my website through email: paddy@theducklows.ca. I look forward to the chat.]

Go Easy, Go Gently, Go in Peace (a prayer for my clients)

Most of us pray sometimes and some of us pray a lot. I know that we have different hopes and expectations of how we journey in our lives, and I also know that most people appreciate the prayers of others when we face crises and challenges.

I found this prayer somewhere (I can’t remember) and it has been meaningful to me. It is like a benediction (meaning “a good word”). It is called “Go Easy, Go Gently, Go In Peace.”

 

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

You may have to push forward, but you don’t have to push so hard.

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

Do not be in so much of a hurry. At no day, no hour, no time are you required to do much so frantically. Move, but move faithfully, decisively, and deliberately in the plan of God.

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

Be urgent about the things that are urgent. Be easy about the things that are not essential. Pursuing the wrong urgencies may cause you to overrun the essential… and the important.

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

In tragedy look for God when you can’t find meaning. In hopelessness find meaning when you can’t see God. Either way, you will move ahead.

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

The frantic and stressed actions of uncontrolled urgency are not the foundation for the wholesome walk. Nor does such anxiousness reflect the gracious intention of the Creator. The frantic cause you to fall further away from the calming confidence of God’s calling.

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

Know God’s identity for you and in you. You are His creation and His people. Allow your soul to be immersed in the many joys of God.

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

Go generously and walk thankfully into your work, your relationships, your leading, your family. Meet God in your hours, in your days. Let the pace of your life flow naturally toward its unforgettable completion.

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

Beginning or ending, planning or reflecting, hurting or healing, cherish each moment. Savor God’s guidance. Seek what’s really important. Surrender your soul to the simple peace of God’s leading and urging, to His beginning and ending.

Go easy. Go gently. Go in peace.

Now go, with easiness towards yourself, with gentleness towards others and with peace in God.

Amen

 

[You may respond to this or any of my blogs, ideas or writings at life@theducklows.ca. Thanks for reading.]

MailChimp — I quite like monkeys

Hello friends,

I am switching from WordPress to MailChimp. What does this mean to you? If you wish to continue receiving my occasional blogs, you will need (#1) to delete your current email address by clicking on “Unfollow” at the top of the feed from Blogtrottr or Specific Feeds and (#2) to re-subscribe to my stuff, here. Enter your data and you will receive my posts as I get around to it, about once per month. And you can unsubscribe easily.

If you don’t want my blogs anymore, just do #1 above and “Unfollow.” No hard feelings. I won’t even know that I have been dumped.

I am changing to a different feed because I was bugged by all the advertising you were getting on WordPress. MailChimp eliminates all that. The new design is simple and straightforward. And I quite like monkeys.

So if you are still with me and have signed up for MailChimp, you will get a couple of posts in the next month or so. I am just working out the final computer bits.

I said that I was working out the computer bits, but mostly it is Kenton MacDonald-Lin who helps me stay up to date on my communications and site needs.  I highly recommend him if you wish someone to help in your digital media storytelling, design, stock photography, video, website development and the like. Find Kenton here. And you will usually find him at JJBean on Lonsdale, meeting someone, editing or rewriting a movie script (Yes, he has done a movie!).

And as you know — at least many of you will know — I have given up my Park Royal office and I am now working out of my home office. You can find maps and descriptions here.

Happy New Year to you all.

 

 

Q — What do you want to work on today?

What do you want to work on today?

This is a frustrating question for many of my client friends, though they hear it most every appointment with me. Some deflect the question and talk on about the events they have experienced since they have seen me last. Some ask me outright, “don’t you know me well enough by now?” Others look at me with a placid glaze hoping that I will answer my own question, which I sometimes do, especially later in the day.

My clients are smart. They are intuitive. And manipulative.

Some want me to set the agenda — many people find it easier to follow than to lead, or maybe they are worried about making a mistake. Some of my client friends think that I am the omni-competent professional and that I should be able to tell them what it is that they should work on. Some people must simply think that I can’t think of a better opening gambit.

Here is what the question means to me and why I have used it for 40 years.

  • The question is addressed to you, the one sitting in front of me. It is not about what someone else wants you to work on, or why someone else want you to visit with me. The session is entirely about you.
  • It is about want, not the oughts – shoulds – musts you carry around in your head. It is not so much about what you need to do or what someone else thinks you need to do. The responsibility is yours to figure out what you want.
  • It is not about sharing or chatting or being a sounding board. It is about mutual work towards a particular goal decided by you.
  • It is about today. It is not about tomorrow or yesterday or sometime far, far away. It is not about your genogram history, though that is relevant. It is about right now and how that fits into the continuity of your life.
  • Also, it is an important question to me when I go for help. It assumes that I am responsible for myself. I like that. Maybe it’s a compliment.

So that is why I ask this quite predictable question. And while I am asking it, I am watching you and thinking. I want to see what efforts you will make to manage me. I want to see if you will avoid work by talking about the past or projecting to the future. I listen for your subjunctive tense [“well I would’ve done that if…”]. I wonder if you will start in blaming your partner, or your trauma, or your family of origin.

I listen to what you want to work on and what you want from me, so that we can work together in the complicated narrative of your life.

See you next time.

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.]