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April 05, 2005

Comments

Rachel

Lately I've been thinking a lot about where therapy and contemplative practice overlap. (This may be because, in my new routine, I spend every Friday morning doing an hour of meditation with my rabbi, an hour of Torah study, and then an hour with my therapist. I joke that by Friday lunchtime I am as serene as I get!) Both practices seem, to me, aimed at helping one become conscious of the workings of one's mind, in hopes of learning to approach the world more wholly and with fewer blinders on...

Anyway, the process you describe rang a bell for me, and I wanted to say so. Also, what a magnificent quote from CS Lewis! I am consistently impressed with him, especially now that (as an adult) I see the theological underpinnings of his Narnia books. (I missed the allegory altogether as a child. I suspect a lot of Jewish kids do -- we're not as in-tune with the Jesus story as y'all are, for obvious reasons... :)

Hugo

Rachel, that's a great subject for a post -- the intersection of therapy and contemplative practice. You've inspired me -- and gosh, I'll bet you are pretty darned serene by the time Shabbat rolls around...

Jeff

I wasn't paying too close attention to the earlier post, but although I agree with your idea that one should take responsibility for the things one can change rather than complain about the unfairness of it, I don't think that should be tied to gender-role language like "be a man" - not because it encourages exempting women from their responsibilities (though that can be problematic), but because it's almost impossible to differentiate between "be a man" as in "act maturely, be an adult" (i.e., be a "man" as opposed to being a "boy" or a guy) and "be a man" as in "act stoic, suppress feelings of insecurity or powerlessness, conform to the gender role" (i.e., be a "man" as opposed to being a "woman" or a "sissy").

I'm male. By definition, anything I do involves "being a man." (I just wish it hadn't taken so long to realize that, and that society sends a different message .)

craichead

I agree that taking responsibility is very improtant. And arriving at the difference between taking responsibility and placing blame on oneself is probably the most difficult and important part of that path. There is a difference.

But I'll add the caveat that as it is now, it can be nearly impossible for many men who've married the wrong person later to come to the conclusion of taking responsibility from actually doing that.

I mean, if a guy marries an emotionally or physically abusive woman, starts a family with her and then grows enough within himself o realize what's going on, it's pretty much too late. By this point he has a higher purpose in life to watch out for his kids and this responsibility can pretty much preclude him from setting things right if his partner's not willing. What should he do -- leave the kids with an abusive parent and visit them every other weekend, hoping for the best? In the end, his only hope could be that his wife goes far enough that she leaves a mark on him that'll stand up in court, but even then it's a gamble.

Hugo, this is where your concept of calling men to accountability, but not women, I think falls apart. I think we do have a right to call others to accountability, especially in protection of the vulnerable.

Of course the other elephant in the living room is the fact that his life will now be regulated by the government and that same instituion can regularly act as her accomplice in making his life hell.

Caitriona

> Hugo, this is where your concept of calling men to accountability, but not women, I
> think falls apart. I think we do have a right to call others to accountability,
> especially in protection of the vulnerable.


As a man, it isn't Hugo's place to call women to accountability. That is the place of WOMEN. The women who need to be taught accountability for their own actions are usually not women who will listen to a man telling them they need to be more responsible.

La Lubu

"I think we do have a right to call others to accountability, especially in protection of the vulnerable."

craic, I agree with you in theory here---but not in reality. The sad fact is, those most in need of being called to that accountability are solidly tone-deaf to that call. The analogy I draw most often is from twelve-step programs---that the addict is the only one who can change their behavior; that their addiction is not your responsibility. You can't change them. You can change you. Or change how you react to them. Or change your mind about where your toleration boundaries are. But you'll drive yourself crazy trying to get the other person to change.

and craic? Please consider some DV counseling. Seriously. My mother probably thought she was doing me a favor by staying married, and "keeping the family together". She didn't do me any favors (or herself for that matter, but I was a child and had no choice). Sure, eventually my father quit drinking, and segued into around a decade of dry-drunk syndrome (all the dysfunctional destructiveness of alcoholism, sans the booze to blame it on. I considered the dry-drunk far worse; at least drunk he would pass out after awhile. Dry-drunks are like the Energizer Bunny of violence and hate).

To make a long story short, I internalized a helluva lot of negative messages. I had a very warped sense of what love was. Please----don't let your kids learn what I did.

stanton

LA Lubu, what if your mother's only choice had been to leave you and siblings in the full care and keeping of your father, and hope that she would be able to get some visitation? Do you think you would be better off for it? While things are improving on this front, it is still basically the choice that a man faces, when his wife abuses their children.

J.J.B

Hugo,
This is a great quote.__I remember when my kids read these inspiring stories.

I think that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. You must be able to see yourself for who you really are, accept responsibility for your mistakes and refrain from blaming others. __My dad was a big influence on me. He made me see that when you trully love someone you see the shortcomings, but are willing to overlook them in order to reach the greater good inside them. None of us are perfect, but its important to know that we don't have to be perfect. Perfection is for the gods and we are all mere mortals.__ I loved my dad for his honesty,unwavering principles, and passionate devotion to the things he believed in. He was a big influence in my life..

J.J.B

Hugo,
This is a great quote.__I remember when my kids read these inspiring stories.

I think that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. You must be able to see yourself for who you really are, accept responsibility for your mistakes and refrain from blaming others. __My dad was a big influence on me. He made me see that when you trully love someone you see the shortcomings, but are willing to overlook them in order to reach the greater good inside them. None of us are perfect, but its important to know that we don't have to be perfect. Perfection is for the gods and we are all mere mortals.__ I loved my dad for his honesty,unwavering principles, and passionate devotion to the things he believed in. He was a big influence in my life..

J.J.B

Hugo,
Sorry about the double message, I had a problem posting the comment....I don't know how that happened.

La Lubu

stanton, that's why I advocated DV counseling; one of the functions of DV counseling can be to help formulate a workable escape plan.

But in answer to your question, yeah, I actually would have been better off even in his custody. How so? Well, my mother was more strict about my comings, goings and curfew than my father; hence I was kept "in the line of fire" more often at home. If he had had custody, I pretty much would have been left to fend for myself, which meant that I could have just stayed away from home until he passed out.

I know that sounds all effed up, and it was, what can I say? But that was the best way for me as a child to handle his drunkenness---stay the hell away. It was a workable solution for a miserable condition.

If there is truly no way for craic to escape at this time, perhaps he can work out a "workable solution" of this type....getting the kids involved in something, and staying the hell away from home. It helps.

Also, staying in the public eye as much as is humanly possible usually helps minimize the DV; it won't eliminate it, but it can help. Abusers are loathe to have the general public know about their abuse. And if worse comes to worse, witnesses help. There are no witnesses behind those closed doors of home, except for the kids, and they won't want to testify against a parent.

bmmg39

"As a man, it isn't Hugo's place to call women to accountability. That is the place of WOMEN. The women who need to be taught accountability for their own actions are usually not women who will listen to a man telling them they need to be more responsible."

All well and good, so long as no women ever preach accountability or responsibility to MEN.

Caitriona

I've found it doesn't do any good to preach at *anyone*. I've also found that most men might (maybe) pretend to listen to women, but they only truly listen to other men, especially other men who've BTDT.

It's taken nearly 6 years for my husband and me to get to the point where one of us can say, "When you ___, I feel ____," without the other getting defensive. But we could each go to someone of the same gender to vent, and we could listen if our friends said, "Well, maybe if you approached that differently..."

stanton

LaLubu: Perhaps that would have worked for you, though it doesn't sound to me like a compromise your mother would have considered acceptable. And I assume you were not four years old at the time in question. Not all children can stay out of the house on their own until late.

So is DV counseling truly a viable option for men trapped in abusive situations now? Is there help for them to escape, with their children? There was nothing of the kind when I was under the heel of the courts. All such help was for women only, in my experience. If that has changed, then we really have come a long way!

Michael

Hugo said: "Thus in the aftermath of a divorce, it's wrong to rail about the speck in your ex's eye until you have first ruthlessly examined the log in your own. When you are focused on the wrongs that your former partner inflicted, you do nothing to help yourself grow up."


Pretty words, but extremely difficult in a lot of divorces to practice. I can't speak of your divorce(s), but.. Divorce can bring out a lot of petty vindictive behavior from your ex that is hard to simply accept and let go of, even if you are focusing on your own issues. The divorce/child custody process by itself, probably creates more genuine hatred than does the issues that caused the divorce in the first place.

Throw in a dose of greedy unscrupulous lawyers and things can turn out to be considerably more than a “speck” in someone else’s eye. I might be able to focus on my own shortcomings in my marriage (which are legion), but I doubt I could really turn a blind eye to behavior I would consider blatantly ruthless, greedy or immoral. The “anything goes” attitude that some people take after that split is pathetic and just plain wrong. And nobody suffers more than the children.

The time for “examining the log in your own eye” is before the marriage ever moves to the divorce stage..

stanton

When it is your children who are being wronged, it is NOT okay to just turn their other cheeks. You only have the right to turn your own.

Anne S.

Craic, let me just say that I'm sorry for your situation because I've been there--or rather, my father has. My mother was emotionally abusive, and my dad stayed with her until I was an adult because he knew he could not have taken me with him if he left (this was the '70's). He sacrificed part of his life, but he was a great stabilizing influence for me. We are very close today, while my mother, after their eventual divorce, just descended lower and lower into self-pity and inertia and bitterness. I'm grateful to him for not allowing her to drag me down with her. Your child will be grateful, too.

Hugo

Stanton, I haven't experienced divorce with children, as you know. But I have watched parents use children as pawns, pretending to act in the child's best interest when their real goal is wounding their former spouse. That troubles me, but it is not something that is necessarily true in every case.

stanton

Yes, I have seen this as well, and both men and women do it (though many do not - I hope MOST do not). It is completely inexcusable, of course, no matter who is doing it, but the children are better off if at least one parent has refuses to engage in that game. The trouble is, the courts and the enforcement organs have managed to create a system with plenty of incentives to do just that - particularly for ex-wives.

For your particular case, the only cheeks involved were your own, so you could take that higher road more easily. I commend you for doing so, and I admire your determination to learn from the experience, rather than than blame your exes. However small your role in the breakups may have been, it is wisdom on your part to seek to understand exactly what that part was, in order to avoid the same errors.

craichead

"and craic? Please consider some DV counseling. Seriously. My mother probably thought she was doing me a favor by staying married, and "keeping the family together". She didn't do me any favors (or herself for that matter, but I was a child and had no choice). Sure, eventually my father quit drinking, and segued into around a decade of dry-drunk syndrome (all the dysfunctional destructiveness of alcoholism, sans the booze to blame it on. I considered the dry-drunk far worse; at least drunk he would pass out after awhile. Dry-drunks are like the Energizer Bunny of violence and hate)."

Actually, been to four counselors so far -- some together, some alone. I'd have to say that of the four counselors, all were extremely gender biased in some instances actually making the situation worse than it was before. Thr fourth one finally caught on when she lept from her chair and grabbed me by the hair. Even after that, though -- and the incident involveing laying our daughter down behind a running car in the driveway -- the counselor said something like "well you're both pretty good parents so maybe sharing custody could work out." I mean seriously, do you think someone who lays a two year old down in a driveway is a good parent?

But I also don't mean to give the wrong impression of where things are now. Yes they're still bad, but I've also experienced a sea chang in how I look at the world and my place in it. She's still manipulative and emotionally abusive, but in many ways I feel unmoved. In fact I often feel sorry for her in that she has everything anyone could want and still is miserable. Not to mention that the closest person to her in the world -- me -- has very low expectations for her behavior or emotional maturity. Pretty sad, don't you think?

But after working through all this and in a way the challenge of the gender bias of the couselors, I came to realize that I had to take responsibility for everyithing in my life including the direction of the counseling. I don't even see a relationship like this as a victim/perp one. It's really that one actor has a need for control while the other has a need to give up control. She can say or do anything she wants, it no longer has much to do with me.

And I try to approach my relationship with our daughter in the same way. Last week I was getting ready to leave on a business trip and we were playing in our still soggy yard. I'd just set up the glider on her swingset and she was taking it for the first spin of the season. She said to me, "I'm not going to miss you when you're gone" in a kind of teasing way kids can. So I said to her, "now why would yousay something like that? You know that hurts my feelings and I'm gonna miss you terrible."

She thought for a second and said, "Well I guess I said it because I'm nervous that you're leaving and I WILL miss you and I won't even be able to play smackdown with you." Pretty astute for a 4 year old. I stay because this is bigger than me.

La Lubu

Jeez, craic, I don't know what to say. I went to three different counselors when I was married, before he refused to go to any more. Gaah! What a grind. Ultimately, all the mental techniques I tried to use to minimize the deplorable situation I was living in, didn't work. I wish you better luck.

There are DV counselors who help men also. They're not as easy to find, but they do exist. I'm not saying you have to leave, or that you have to do anything! Just knowing that you have more options than you think you do can help. I know for myself, I immediately started feeling better once I made the choice to get out. It was a while before I could put my escape plan into action, but just having one was the light at the end of the tunnel.

You know your situation better than I do. Keep your head up, and those eyes in the back of your head.

Michael

Quoting Craichead:
"Actually, been to four counselors so far -- some together, some alone. I'd have to say that of the four counselors, all were extremely gender biased in some instances actually making the situation worse than it was before."

         My wife and I also saw some councelors some years ago. I actually went into the whole thing thinking that finally, an unbiased person could help us work through some issues that we had. Our issues were minor to some people, but caused undue stress in our marriage for years.
         We both felt that before it got worse, we needed to work something out between us. A better method of dealing with our disagreements. It wasn't that what we disagreed about were any big things, but the way we tried to work them out was causing problems that were big things.
         I was naive enough to think counceling really worked that way. But it doesn't. The councellor and my wife were getting along great. I however, was the bad guy. My wife got the sympathy she desired and I got the responsibility of working on "my issues" in a "more positive way" The councellor was a woman. Her bias was pretty obvious from my end of the couch. My wife loved it and continued so see her for some time. I however, dropped out.
         It wasn't until we started seeing a counceling "couple" that we started seeing positive results. By results, I mean we were treated more evenhandedly and taught ways of solving our issues. The councelors were comparing notes and were coming to some much more interesting conclusions. I found their advice extremely helpful. However when my wife lost that sympathy card, she also lost interest in going. But I learned a lot. Both about her, and more importantly, about myself. It helped us tremendously.
         Sure.. I guess they all had biases one way or another. The difference was that the "couple" was more professional and able to put those biases aside. The first councelor was a hack.

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