In defense of “conscious uncoupling.”

Gwyneth Paltrow is in the celebrity news cycle again regarding her divorce from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. This time she is setting the record straight that she was not author of  the infamous term “conscious uncoupling.” She now credits the editor of her blog where she first made her divorce public.

But this time she is no longer backing away from the term as she first did after a hail of negativity following her initial announcement.

I haven’t formally cataloged the hew and cry over Conscious Uncoupling, but let me see if I can tap into why it became a furious object of derision.

  • Describing a divorce as a conscious uncoupling comes off as a little precious. Many people with complicated, angry, spiteful divorces might think, “I am barely surviving and these people sound as if they splitting up because they got a little bored with each other. Save your sympathy!”
  • In the court of public opinion celebraties often get a pass for all sorts of behaviour or else are judged twice as harsh. Here again envy could be at play. If someone can sound so civil about separating, shouldn’t they work harder at staying together?
  • Who does one root for in a conscious uncoupling? We are given no indication of who the bad guy is (let alone the bad actor, well maybe some have opinions on this topic). Judge Judy would lose all her ratings if she had to preside over cases like this.
  • For people from the East Coast there is a certain New Agey quality to the term that qualifies for a smug smack down. See The New Yorker March 26, 2014 for example of this line of attack.

And there in lies the rub. Whatever their shortcomings as human beings, their narcissism, their envied privilege, their function as repository and diversions for the public to gossip, speculate and, at times, live through their lives, Paltrow and Martin had a marriage that came to an end. We can make fun all we like, but 2 children are likely spending time between different homes.

True, struggling people won’t be sympathetic to various aspects of the money and class dressings that accompany a situation like this. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to be learned and possibly employed for the betterment of everyone.

As much as people think they know the personalities and lives of their idols, who are we kidding. Most of the time no one knows about the real intimacies and internal lives of even couples they are very close to. Do you really know what is said behind closed doors of your good friends or, say, even your brother and his spouse? I am not talking about the end stages of relationships where hurts compile so deeply and one or both parties lose all impulse control in a public and sad display.

No, I am talking about what the late psychologist and author Lilian Rubin referred to as “worlds of pain.” Just the everyday slights and misunderstandings that occur and eventually can begin to pile up in even the most seemingly together relationships. To borrow the title of an REM song sometimes, everybody hurts.

The difference in relationships that last is that commitment and love provide the couple the wherewithal to stop the the hurt piling upon pain. Or the discover such abilities in couples counseling in the best circumstances. Such couples have the skills innately or acquire them They are always using their skills for their own individual and couple benefit.

The way I feel about conscious uncoupling is that it feels like a worthy goal. Not every relationship lasts. 50% or so of marriages don’t last for all sorts of reasons. If being able to let go with dignity and respect in a relationship that was going to end wouldn’t that be a goal. Even when it hurt. If it were possible to honor what was once loving and sacred between two people, wouldn’t it be good acknowledge that feeling, sad as that may be.

I don’t mean to come across polyannaish. People have affairs, experience domestic abuse, suffer emotionally at the hands of one another. Sometimes the best we can do is to hold to the standard we wish the other could employ. Not an easy thing to do when a spouse’s attorney is turning up the heat.

My point is the spirit which animates a conscious uncoupling is a worthy goal. Even when it only takes one to fuck it up. If it is available to you get support. Get counseling form friends, clergy, or professionals. Practice. See what you can create and receive. Then move on.

Don’t let the derision of other’s keep you from finding the equanimity in agreeing to say goodbye as peaceably as one can. Elvis Costello sings a song written by Nick Lowe with a title that applies here. The song is, “What’s so Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding.” And I would add, “What’s so funny about Conscious Uncoupling” if I could add a verse.

For more information about my psychotherapy practice go to:

http://www.johnbogardus.com

PS As luck and serendipity would have it just, after posting this article, I came across the latest social trend in break up management referred to as “Ghosting” although I amn sure this was covered by Paul Simon in “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

Drop a line if your are interested in my take.

 

 

 

Shuggie Otis: City Winery, Napa Ca 7/5/15- Review

Shuggie Otis 7/5/15 City Winery Napa.

Shuggie Otis 7/5/15 City Winery Napa.

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the experience of rock and roll of my youth. By this I mean the primal, tribal, lustful, anti-authoriterean, pure joy of early rock.

I’ll start by way of a negative example of what is not rock and roll and that is The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While understandable as an institutional way of recognizing some wonderful talents and careers, the R&R HOF is corporate and and has about as much soul as a Hard Rock Cafe.

Another example of the loss of rock spirit in Today’s world came up in conversation with a friend recently. We were in agreement that The Grateful Dead would never have made it today. It took them 4 or 5 albums before they were commercially successful. These days moneyed interests would never support such a gestational period.

So earlier today I was tour guiding some friends in Napa when we discovered ourselves in front of the old Napa Opera House, now a club run by City Winery. A sign announced that Shuggie Otis would be playing in a couple of hours. Instantly I became giddy for here was a moment of something spontaneous and potentially revelatory.

For those who don’t know, Shuggie was a wunderkind of the late 60’s and mid-70’s and who subsequently disappeared for years. At the height of his early powers he turned down a request to join the Rolling Stones on tour in 1970s. He played bass on Peaches en Regalia for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats album (most people don’t know that Peaches en Regalia was the theme song of Saturday Night Live in its earliest years, contributing a great coolness factor for this early SNL fan).

Plus he penned the hit smash Strawberry Letter 23 by the Brothers Johnson.

And then he just disappeared for the longest time. There have been the usual rumors that he became a drug casualty. In the mean time his stature has grown among  cognoscenti partly because of his hugely influential 1974 album Inspiration Information.

So with both intuition and trepidation, I purchased the least expensive seat and was immediately upgraded to the VIP section, because sales were so low. The rock and roll Gods were already smiling on me. But simultaneously I wondered if so few people were in attendance because Shuggie had morphed into a combination of contemporary casualties such as Brian Wilson, or much worse, Sly Stone. I was hoping he’d be more like Rodriguez, the wonderful American folkie who became the “Bob Dylan” of South Africa in the 1970s only to disappear from scene completely until rediscovered and resurrected decades later. See my review of the lovely documentary about Rodriguez called Searching For Sugarman.

http://psychologyofeverything.com/2013/03/searching-for-sugar-man-2013-academy-award-winner/.

But maybe for Shuggie, all he could do now is suck.

I am happy to report that Shuggie Otis and band were compelling while also giving pause because of the rawness and unrehearsed aspects of the show.

This blog, known as Psychological Review of  the Arts, means that plenty of quirky concert oddness must be noted. His idiosyncrasies just made Shuggie that much more endearing while capturing that original rock spirit. Actually it was much better than if he had just revealed himself to be still competent after all these years (with no apologies to Paul Simon). It gave something to chew on.

We see so many perfect concerts on Palladia these days. Most performers come across as skillful, charismatic and surrounded by very good supporting talent. In fact if one doesn’t possess these talents, one usually doesn’t make TV.

Quirky is a word I use to describe all the feelings I have for Shuggie inside (with no apologies to The Association).

He was surprising right out of the shoot. Whereas the opening act had an announcer on stage to introduce him, Shuggie wanders on stage to start his show with his mates with no audience build up. I have to feel he wanted it that way. No puffed up diva here!

The opening song sounded like the first sound check of the evening. Volumes and balances were off and Shuggie was struggling with equipment at his feet. With no explanation he stopped the show for a few minutes before the second song, getting things to his liking with help from the bassist. This is typically roadie territory and so more evidence of Shuggie doing it his way.

Still it was apparent from the first song and really for most of the concert that Shuggie didn’t particularly care to connect with audience. He slowly revealed enjoyment while performing, but his joy was personal and not particularly shared. His fragility again drew me in. It is not my business to diagnose people I have never talked to, but it felt a little Asperbergery.

This tour seems new as he announced a couple of tunes with key signatures for the benefit of the band. The last time I heard a musician speak of keys was at the end of the live recording of Fingertips Part 2 by Little Stevie Wonder.

Then at the end of the show Shuggie walks off stage for a minute. While the audience has almost finished its applause, he saunters across the stage without acknowledgement. It seemed he preferred the other side. Next he returns for a first encore just when the audience finished making noise rather than the de rigger building to a crescendo, which was possible even with the small crowd.

Strangeness continued. With the show seemingly over for 5 minutes, the bass player comes back onstage to retrieve some equipment and signals to the audience for applause which brings out Shuggie for the second encore.

There were a number of musical highlights. Shuggie’s music is disarming in how it sneaks up on you. For example what starts out as straight forward blues morphs into funk while still being true to the original idiom. Funk is a key to many songs. And then there are the stunning ballads. Shuggie’s guitar still wails even if it gets lost in the mix because unlike an Eric Clapton, Shuggie often eschews high register solos. Let’s hope the sound man can make a better contribution in the future.

At one point it just hit me that Prince did not miss out on taking whatever he could from Shuggie. Maybe Prince wound up where he did and Shuggie is where he is because while quirky is an acquired charm, charisma is instant bonding with the audience and sells the tickets.

Perhaps it is the therapist in me that is often drawn to the wounded birds of Rock. I root for the Brian Wilson’s of the world. I saw Brian a number of years ago at the Neal Young’s Bridge School concert. He had just returned to touring after many years underground. BW looks at all the kids on the stage in wheel chairs, the Bridge School being for children with very severe birth defects, and mumbles something about it being special for him to play before all these “crippled children.” Touching and a bit cringe worthy.

Being true to yourself and showing up to reveal flaws as well as incredible talent, that to me is rock and roll. Thanks for keeping it real Shuggie.

For information about my Psychotherapy Practice go to:

https://www.johnbogardus.com

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Hand to God at Broadway’s Booth Theater 4/30/15

Hand to God is a spiffy, almost breezy, comedy in the tradition of Book of Mormon. That is, until it turns dark at the end.

Ordinarily this might be considered a blitzkrieg of a show ie popular with locals who will sustain it as long as they can, but for a tourist run who knows? The advertising in Times Square acknowledges as much. The billboard touts “No Stars and No London West End Run….pray for us.”

Thankfully the show is outrageous, irreverent and way over the top. It is keenly acted by an excellent 5 person ensemble led by Tony nominee Stephen Boyer. Boyer plays a duel roll as the timid son of a Sunday school teacher with an absolute kick ass alter ego in the form of his hand puppet named Tyrone.

Puppet Tyrone quickly comes to dominate any scene he is in. The audience quickly picks up that Tyrone is everything Boyer’s character Jason is not. With one glaring exception.

Otherwise where Jason is timid and painfully shy, Tyrone is dominant and a force of nature. From a psychological point of view Tyrone channels Jason’s id, ego and superego with insight and blazing ferocity. Tyrone comments on aspects on the musings of Jason’s psyche which the audience might only be dimly aware of. However the audience doesn’t stay dim for long as Tyrone pounds is commentary with increasingly brutal force.

It has been noted that one man’s comedy is another’s tragedy. In this case Jason has recently lost his father and Margery, Jason’s mother, is coping with life as a widow. Margery fends off the lecherous minister of her church. He has charged her with the impossible task of leading 3 adolescents into a church production whereby they make  hand puppets to act out scenes from the Bible. And act out they do. To the chagrin of teacher Margery, one student comes on to her while her giving the opportunity to act out herself. At times she uses her flairs her are as punchy as puppet Tyrone’s as when she calls out the  for example when she calls the minister out on his lame seductions by saying, “You are using the church to try to fuck me.”

But it is Tyrone who has the juiciest role. He gathers in strength and venomous observations. As Jason can’t own his own anguish and rage over the failings of his mother who tries to deal with her issues by imposing a false Up With People cheeriness on the children in her charge, Tyrone only becomes more incisive and able to call out the hypocrisy of everyone he observes. In the same spirit Margery has a moment where she perfectly zings her pestering preacher by charging, You are using the church to fuck me!”

In the climatic scene Jason is presented with a predicament not unlike Luke Skywalker fighting his father. As Darth Vader implores Luke to let his hatred flow unfettered and in so doing Luke watches his hand morph into a biomechanics facsimile of his father’s, so Jason realizes he is in a fight with tyrone for control of his own soul and identity.

Unlike Luke, Jason has not contemplated the hero’s journey a la Joseph Campbell. Jason is left with a dilemma. He can only rid himself of Tyrone if he can integrate Tyrone’s strength and power. However Tyrone has grown with rage unchecked. Jason cannot disavow Tyrone and retain Tyrone’s powers. He is left with the unsavory choice of besting Tyrone by destroying him. But the only way he can destroy Tyrone brings tragic consequences.

The clever writing asks the audience to accept the fate of each character.

Oh and the one exception where Tyrone and Jason mutual inexperience are actually in alignment. Let’s just say it involves hormone charged puppets doing what eventually comes naturally to them. New Yorkers and visitors see this show while they can and may Hand to God do well at the Tonys so it can stick around for the long run it deserves.

 

Downton Abbey Season 5

This being my 5th review of a season 1 episode of Downton Abbey, I’d like to give thanks for a few bits PBS got right.

First let’s hear it for keeping the preseason fawning to a minimum at least as far as hype immediately prior to the season opener. I love Laura Linney as much as the next person but at this stage of a hit shows theatrical release it is wise to avoid gilding the lily to death.

The sociological commentary on the life of the characters as representatives of their class roles was nicely inserted post episode.

People know the show and by now most people are only watching because they have been hooked, so any preamble explaining why we should like it would give regurgitation a good name.

The 5th season is a coin toss for many shows as to whether the will peak or if the fraying of plot becomes unmistakeable.  There is still room for Downton to find its downside slide even this season, but that would not be in evidence in this tight and compelling first episode.

The characters continue to evolve while wrestling with their given natures. Just when you feel Thomas is going to get his comeuppance for over playing his controlling sadistic streak he emerges victorious saving Lady Edith while involuntarily making sure that James’ goose is cooked. James is lucky in that he presumably won’t find out to what end he would owe Thomas for  aiding and abetting the consummated dalliance with an Upstairs Lady under Thomas’ watchful eye.

Lady Edith will again carry perhaps the most sympathetic theme of the year reaching out to her child born out of wedlock who is being raised by a local family. In true Downton form there is a also a whiff of infidelity being suggested between the custodial father and Edith.  Also present is the trademark Downton feature of a servant appearing at just the right moment to learn of something not intended for her consumption. In this case the redoubtable Mrs Hughes spies a ripple in the Force between Edith and the aforementioned  custodial father.

It is a testament to thew writers that a few short seasons ago I was ready to write off for being such a shit to sister Mary. And now waterworks appear to be looming as she tries for a relationship with her son in the days before open adoption.

Daisy, Mrs Patmore’s assistant who everyone seems to love, but whom I can barely understand through her mumbles, is fighting for an identity as an adult as well as a career for what we know will be the demise of this way of life that won’t last much longer. Her combo of humility and spunk must be why people root for her.

Bates and Anna after having been giving compelling stories in earlier seasons are trying to escape a dreadful subplot that has him trying to free himself of vestiges of the murder of Lord Gillingham’s valet. Nothing would make Thomas happier than to have that juicy little tidbit fall in his lap.

Carson seems to be enjoying something of a last hurrah. When it comes to protocol, he is in full command. He handles the slight of Lord Grantham being passed over to head a WWI remembrance committee with proper deference. We hope the potential romance with Mrs Hughes, alluded to last year, has legs. Mrs H is a favorite of ours because she is the epitome of decency.

Michele Dockery has made Lady Mary a fully realized character. We get her strengths and flaws. And isn’t that the point for all of us who have stayed with the show. The acting is at the level where the actors have succeeded in finding their character. Now we just depend on the seamless writing to keep the plot engines humming. With any luck the shark won’t be jumped any time soon.

Addendum to the Tim Lincecum story

Two days after my original post on Tim Lincecum of the SF Giants comes the following  story from the San Francisco Chronicle. As you will see, the gist of the story is that Lincecum is humbly accepting his role as the last pitcher to be called on out of the bullpen these days in the playoffs.

On the one hand this should not be remarkable. A cynical fan might observe, “Well for 17.5 million a year they can do with him whatever they wish! Why shouldn’t he have a good attitude?”

However ego and pride are the very attributes most players have either acquired via hard work and/or natural talent by the time they reach the big leagues. One could even make the case that ego and pride are the very qualities  that protects the player from the abyss of abject failure which lurks behind just one bad pitch or one misjudged fly ball.

In any event people relate to Lincecum as portrayed in this article because he is gracefully accepting his lot. Giant fans pull for his success because he is putting the team above his ego. In this day and age such a development is refreshing and grounding whenever one has the good fortune to encounter it.

For more information about my psychotherapy practice go to:

http://www.johnbogardus.com

Tim Lincecum handling loss of spotlight with aplomb

By Ann Killion
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    As Jake Peavy watches, Tim Lincecum works to stay sharp during a bullpen session Wednesday. Lincecum has not pitched in the 2014 playoffs and last appeared in a game Sept. 28. Photo: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press / AP

Photo: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press
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As Jake Peavy watches, Tim Lincecum works to stay sharp during a bullpen session Wednesday. Lincecum has not pitched in the 2014 playoffs and last appeared in a game Sept. 28.

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San Francisco Giants pitchers Madison Bumgarner, left, and Tim Lincecum stand in the outfield during a team workout Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, in Pittsburgh. Bumgarner gets the start against Pittsburgh Pirates’ Edinson Volquez in Wednesday night’s National League wild card baseball game in Pittsburgh.

ST. LOUIS — Sports can be so humbling.

One instant, you’re the most important player on a team. And then, suddenly, you’re not.

How athletes handle that fall in status is one of the fascinating things to watch in sports. Their humbling happens publicly, in the spotlight’s unforgiving glare. Some pout. Rage against the fates. Blame managers, media, teammates.

And others handle their demotion with grace. Sometimes the toughest moments reveal the strongest character.

We’ve seen it in the Bay Area. Alex Smith handled the loss of his starting job with the 49ers with more poise than most of us could imagine mustering. In 2010, Barry Zitowas left off the postseason roster, worked tirelessly to be ready in case he was needed, and was redeemed in 2012.

This year, it’s Tim Lincecum’s turn. In five postseason games, he hasn’t been used. One of the most popular Giants in history, one who personified the team’s championship run, has become an afterthought.

But he displays no bitterness. No anger.

“I’ve got to do my best to be a good teammate,” Lincecum said. “What these guys have been able to do is pretty special. Not to be a part of it didn’t really take any skin off my back. Because everyone did something good, something special and we won.

“That’s the ultimate goal.”

Winning pitcher, Tim Lincecum is lifted up on teammates shoulders as the Giants celebrate on the field after winning the final game of the World Series.The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.  Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Winning pitcher, Tim Lincecum is lifted up on teammates shoulders as the Giants celebrate on the field after winning the final game of the World Series.The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.

Manager Bruce Bochy said he wants to get Lincecum in a game. Bochy said he’s comfortable using him in long relief, to get a big out or in extra innings. But it’s clear Lincecum has become the last option out of the bullpen.

“He’s been handling it great,” said Ryan Vogelsong, who went through his own demotion from starter to long reliever when he pitched for Pittsburgh. “It can’t be easy at all. It’s a much different scale than it was for me because I didn’t have the success he’s had. In that situation, it’s hard to feel like you have a purpose.”

Lincecum has found a purpose: to be a good teammate.

“I just try to be myself, to keep the mood light,” Lincecum said. “Obviously, it’s under tense circumstances. We’ve got to remember the game is fun, and that along with the grind, we can celebrate our small accomplishments.”

Lincecum learned something from the way Zito handled himself in 2010.

“He was so composed, and showed a lot of character,” Lincecum said. “I could see what that meant to everybody. This is a huge time to be a good teammate. There’s a lot of emphasis on energy. You need to keep morale up.”

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Lincecum is observing this postseason from a very different perspective: not just from a seat in the bullpen, but through the lens of experience. Now 30, this is his eighth season in the majors, his third postseason. He and Matt Cain are the old men now, watching rookies like Joe Panik and Hunter Strickland.

“It’s fun to watch the young guys shine,” Lincecum said. “It’s surreal, because you look back on what you did at a young age and these guys are doing it on an even bigger stage. And it’s hard not to be proud.”

Lincecum laughed at his words.

“I mean I’m not their dad or anything, kind of more a brotherly way,” he said. “Yeah, I’m the wise old man. I’m still learning.”

The last game Lincecum started in the postseason was Game4 of the NLCS in St.Louis in 2012. He gave up six hits and four runs that night in an 8-3 loss.

“I didn’t have a good one. I was all over the place,” he said. “They whacked me around early and I didn’t last very far. I put us in a big hole again, but we dug ourselves out again.”

Lincecum was terrific coming out of the bullpen in that postseason, pitching 41/3 innings in relief to get a win in Cincinnati in the NL Division Series and adding two masterful

For more information about my psychotherapy practice got to:

http://www.johnbogardus.com

 

 

Regarding the decline of Tim Lincecum, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants

Yikes! A quick check of Wikipedia shows Tim Lincecum turned 30 this year. At the risk of sounding an old coot, how did that happen?

Properly speaking I should be analyzing Lincecum from the perspective of a sports psychologist and I will get to that but I want to start with a physical observation.

Timmy’s moniker of Freak, has everything to do the with the lithe, slight body that needed to bend the rules of physics to generate the torque which created the unhittable pitches he delivered early in his career.

As is noted frequently by San Francisco Giants announcer Mike Krukow, Lincecum has the stride toward the plate that someone 6 feet 6 inches would typically generate. And this for a guy I guess breaks the tape at 5’10”. Freak indeed.

His fondness for weed creates a secondary meaning for those going back to the 60’s when many smokers called themselves ‘freaks.’ Clearly an antiquated concept regarding pot’s status in the country these days

But I digress. My insight into the ravages of age and its possible correlation with Timmy’s  losing 4 feet off his fast ball has to do with his vaunted flexibility. A couple of years ago I noticed something in his follow through. Upon entering the majors Lincecum finished his pitch with  a leg kick that appeared to extend a foot literally above his head. Today from my same TV set the foot finishes that much below his head. The entire pitching motion remains unchanged so the actual positioning of his foot is easy to escape notice.

Others may have picked up on this but I have never read about it anywhere. So there it is, my case for a key metric that I will say accounts for his diminishing results.

As for the psychological piece I feel Lincecum has been ill served in a way a by his ability to still finish off hitters. That is, this has been the case over the last several years as well as earlier this season when it became obvious he would be lit up even in the minors. But for God’s sake this is the same guy who looked like Robert DeNiro on L-dopa in the movie Awakenings for 4 weeks in the middle of the season. After all he did chuck his second no hitter during this belle epoch.

However like an alcoholic, who after a layoff, has a drink and doesn’t go completely to pieces, this resurgence reinforced in Lincecum’s mind that he still had it.

If he could throw a no-hitter as well as make a reasonable number of hitters swing at balls in the dirt, there is no need to channel Greg Maddux and remake himself into a finesse pitcher. Heck use the picture of Maddux someone hung in his locker for motivation as a dart board.

Timmy’s downfall at this stage of his career is the legacy of his unorthodox delivery crafted by his pitching coach father. It was designed to bring blaze a fastball off of which he could throw a split, curve or change up. But without the 94+mph fastball, the other pitches became mortal for Tim and, alas, not his opponents.

Lincecum has around $17.5 million due next year. If there is a graceful way for he and the Giants to come to terms with the cruel realities I wish them well in finding it and let Timmy go out holding his head high. We all deserve to see that.

For information about my psychotherapy practice in San Francisco and Sonoma, Ca go to: http://www.johnbogardus.com

 

What’s up with MSNBC Chris Hayes and his new “voice.”

Has anyone else noticed the strange change in the speaking style and voice of Chris Hayes?

This week I was startled to hear All In with Chris Hayes sounding like the  the eponymous host had been taken to the woodshed by the powers that be at MSNBC.

Gone were the good natured antics and speaking patterns of Mr Hayes that have been his trademark over a fairly meteoric rise up the news cast pantheon from talking head, to featured guest, to occasional substitute host, to “Jesus how did I get my own show!”

I suspect many listeners to cable news form their impressions of the hosts based on how much they agree with the host’s politics. Or even how willing they are to let form the basis of their water cooler discussions the next day (if that isn’t a too 20th century reference) be shaped by said host.

Rachael Maddow may be catnip to a liberal and nails on chalkboard (another 20th centuryism) to those who fancy Fox News.

This is not totally true as for whatever reason Ed Schultz vocalizations remind me of Rush Limbaugh.

For whatever reason some producer thought Chris Hayes was too puerile to be taken seriously. It is almost painful to watch him accede to a producer’s notion of what gravitas is supposed to sound like. I mean for Christ sake, Chris Matthews can “heh” all he wants, no one is telling him to knock it off.

I imagine Chris H. as having formed his on air persona and style from a fairly straight forward playbook. My fantasy is that young Chris developed a fair amount of self confidence and by the time he made it to the big time he had confirmed a combination of adages. Something like a cross between, “Be true to yourself” and “Go with what got you here.”

It’s as if he was told to repudiate his “Chris” persona in order to become a serious anchor person. The current version does not work for me. Maybe he will get better.

Good help us if audience research and polling formed the basis of this metamorphosis.

To Chris I say, Fight the Power (guess I am hopelessly routed in the last century for my cultural references in this blog segment), stick it to the man, and go back to being who you were. Don’t conform, you were alright as you were. It ain’t gonna work if you try to be someone else!

For more information about my psychotherapy practice go to:

http:// www.johnbogardus.com

When No Plan Is Pro-Plan: At an Intersection of Control Mastery Theory and Mindfulness

The simple paradox I explore in this entry is the intersection of psychotherapy, which is often at its best when it is goal focused, and meditation, where the instruction is to be present without thought and to not seek a desired end. Let’s see how we can understand the seeming contradiction suggested here. After all both psychotherapy and meditation can be helpful and without out being at odds with each other.

I posted a blog entry from summer ’14. I explore the intersection of therapy and meditation and one simple paradox in particular: Psychotherapy, which is often at its best when it is goal focused, and meditation, where one is to be present without thought and to not seek a desired end. Let’s see how we can understand the seeming contradictions suggested here.

In my psychotherapy practice I am an enthusiastic proponent and practioner of Control Mastery Theory which was originated by Joe Weiss MD and researched in conjunction with Hal Sampson PhD and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. The earliest tenants of the theory began perculating in Joe’s mind as a medical student. His thinking gained traction as a response to the the main orthodoxy of psychoanalysis 1950’s and 1960’s which  dominated Joe’s intellectual and practice milieu.

Control Mastery Theory grew out of Joe’s clinical work in which he noticed that patients often functioned in ways not predicted by, if not at odds with, major aspects of Freudian theory. Joe’s seminal observation as a very young man was encapsulated in the observation of when people cry at the happy ending, eg of a movie. Traditional psychoanalytic had a cumbersome explanation involving instinctual forces overwhelming defense mechanisms.

Joe had a simpler, more penetrating observation, that when people felt safe they could face emotions such as sadness without being overwhelmed. Overtime he added many observations that added coherence and depth to his vision of how the mind worked and how a psychotherapist might be positioned to help clients in therapy.

One of Joe’s major ideas is that that clients come to therapy with a plan on how to get better. On the face of it, this statement might seem confusing. One might think if people planned to get better would they even need therapy?

The plan concept makes more sense when we realize that plans as well as many aspects of mental life often operate unconsciously. For example, let’s say a client who grew up with a very critical father, comes to his first therapy session late. The client may not realize it, but he has created a situation where he is going to learn quickly about whether the therapist possesses traits similar to his father. If the therapist reacts with a sense of irritation to the client’s tardiness, it could signal that the therapist might share a need for perfectionism like his father. Or he could be hard to please. Or he could be seen as controlling etc.

In Control Mastery Theory terminology what is taking place in this vignette is a test the patient is conducting in relation to his new therapist. Because the test is unconscious,  the client does not recognize he is conducting testing by entering the therapist’s office late for the very first time. That is, it is highly unlikely that he is consciously thinking, “I think I’ll show up late see if this therapist has any traits like my father.”

As a result of this and other unconscious tests, the client may form an impression of the how the therapist operates and by extension if this might be a person the client can find as helpful. Sometimes the impression is immediate. The patient might leave the session saying to himself, “I have a good feeling (or bad as the case may be) about this therapist.” Or it may take many months and repeated unconscious testing for the patient to get a clearer idea.

For her part the therapist may not know exactly how she is being tested. A CMT therapist does recognize realize that testing is a ubiquitous phenomenon both in therapy as well as in life outside the consulting room.

Many therapists pass all kinds of patient testing just by being inquisitive, respectful or non-judgemental. CMT trained therapists, following Weiss’s theory try to learn what kinds of testing a patient might exhibit in therapy by gaging the unconscious plan for therapy revealed by the testing. So a patient with a critical and rejecting parent might engage in behavior or statements that could give the therapist cause to criticize the client like the parent.

The therapist who understands that a dynamic such as this is being re-enacted is alerted to the patient’s plan for therapy, which initially might be to test if the therapist will traumatize the patient in a similar fashion as the parent had.

In CMT parlance one way the therapist helps his client is by passing the client’s unconscious test. Anything the therapist says or does which passes the test is said to be “PRO-PLAN.” In the case of the client who came late to therapy, the therapist did not act irritated or even subtly belittle the client was on some level being pro-plan for that particular patient.

I could hypothesize a case where a client with very neglectful parents might require attention be paid as to why she was late for a first appointment. If she feels the therapist  glossed over her tardiness, it is possible she might conclude that this particular therapist is too reminiscent of her parents. The unconscious plan for this particular patient might be to give careful consideration to her actions and utterances so that she can feel reassured that she is taken seriously.

We see from these examples how highly case specific are the needs, tests of the therapist, and the unconscious plans for therapy and specific stance and interventions the therapist must have to be Pro-Plan for each patient seen in treatment.

Mindfulness

Meditation, which is the practice of mindfulness, instructs the participant to focus on the flow of breath and to leave the contents of thoughts out of that fundamental awareness. Over and over if one becomes aware of a thought, one is instructed to “let it go” and return to awareness of breathe.

Thus meditation encourages and helps cultivate awareness of the present moment by returning one’s attention to the present moment. The quieter the mind, ie by being devoid of thoughts, the more one can be present.

Even if one is not a meditator, it is possible to see how the meditative state encourages a quiet mind. A quiet mind is less like to be a highly reactive mind. Often therapists help to quiet their client’s minds by understanding and empathizing with the hurts and traumas which give rise to powerful feelings and internal states that are painful in nature.

When meditating there is no goal to achieve in the sense of trying to cultivate a particular state. People learning meditation are told not to expect any particular result. Being in a state of “presense” leads one to awareness of subtler and subtler realms.

So for the purposes of this article a therapist, who is practicing traditional goal oriented therapy, whether it be down-to-earth short term problem solving or 4 time a week psychoanalytic personality restructuring, may initially see meditation or even a mindfully based psychotherapy as potentially relaxing but not particularly efficacious or helpful. For some therapists their feelings about mindfulness might be because it is viewed as lacking structures where goals are one type of structure.

For the therapist without a meditation or spiritual appreciation sitting quietly, whatever benefit the meditation holds for the practioner, is just not psychotherapy.

For a practioner of Control Mastery Theory the idea that having no plan for meditating could be somehow “pro-plan” for a therapy client would require the therapist to be curious about the nature of the experience of the meditator.

From the point of view o f curiosity it might not be a particularly great leap to see how No Plan (of meditation) could be Pro-Plan (in the CMT sense). Many therapists who understand meditation, often recommend it to their clients either as adjunct to the therapy being conducted or perhaps to facilitate states where becoming aware of stress and finding a way to be present and thus be able to let go becomes a way to access new feelings. Or at least consider a different orientation the constant chatter of the mind.

Joe Weiss never wrote about about meditation or “presence.” In fact he was largely oriented to plans as being an essential component of human nature. He saw critiques questioning whether people in therapy conduct unconscious planning as being naive in certain way. Scaresly a day goes by where even the Dalai Lama has no plans, even if his plan is to spend the day in contemplation. We can also imagine that there those in his employ who take care of his plans when he doesn’t.

Joe also felt that having a bad plan was preferable to no plan. While this point can be debated, I feel confident having known and consulted with Joe over many years that no part of Control Mastery Theory or therapy would be hostile to meditation or meditatively oriented therapy. In fact I could imagine a fine and mutually informative conversation, which would be a great idea for a conference. Such a conference would have to be planned, hmmm.

For more information about my psychotherapy practice go to:

http://www.johnbogardus.com

 

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Sarah Jarosz Review, Mystic Theater Petaluma, Ca 5/2/14

A great treat for any music lover is to catch an artist when she is young, talented and on a trajectory that will be fun to watch for quite some time. For those really into the experience, an identification with the singer occurs and a one-sided relationship, perhaps even a feeling akin to love affair can ensue.

Artists have their needs of an audience as well. They crave what only an audience can provide. The tracks are not parallel, but a symbiosis gets created where each side can say, “I Am Nothing Without You.”

Saturday night Grammy nominee Sarah Jarosz made the trek to little Petaluma as she snakes her way on her West Coast tour from LA to Seattle.

I like the Grammy’s for one reason in particular. For every teen sensation who gets more adulation perhaps than undeserved, there is some niche obscurity such as “Best Tejano Album” or “Best Regional Roots Music Album” which will give some struggling up-and-comer their due.

So at tonight’s concert Ms Jarosz winningly remarks that she is surprised people show up in an area where she has never performed. I wonder if Justin Bieber ever felt anything analogous, or if he did, if the feeling lasted more than 5 minutes.

Sarah’s music fits comfortably in the contemporary folk, roots, Americana scene. Newgrass if you must, but isn’t that term only slightly better than Smooth Bluegrass? She  appeals to a wide age range typical of this genre which in this case was decidedly tilted north, and in many cases, way north of 40. This shouldn’t be a total surprise for someone who has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. It also says something about demographic trends of boomer centric Sonoma County. Only 40 miles  from San Francisco but existing in a different galaxy.

Possessing a pure voice, singing without vibrato as to be expected, staying close to an octave range while  occasionally wandering off to hit some sweet high notes, it’s Sarah’s writing that that is responsible for many of her beguiling qualities.

Take the second song of the evening, the title track of her current album, Build Me Up From Bones. Here is a that captivates from its first bars. It wouldn’t be fair to say that it is a Hookfest from the beginning but you wouldn’t be wrong if you felt that way. She sings of a new love, what is the “One I Always Known.” How uncynical and refreshing, the listener can relate to the concept and perhaps the experience.

Accompanying her on tour as well as much of her new album are Alex Hargreaves on violin and Nathaniel Smith on cello. Fiddles, of course, are a cornerstone of the folk and bluegrass traditions, but how inventive and unexpected is a cello. The interplay of the the 3 stringed instruments with Ms Jarosz covering guitar, banjo, and mandolin was complexity in motion. Often while Alex was playing a melody at varying tempos, Nathaniel would bow or pluck with percussive enthusiasm. And vice versa.

At times all 3 would hit unison lines, coming close to ecstatic reveries, particularly when Sarah played mandolin, an instrument not meant for slacking.

I found myself frequently hearing influences that I surmise Sarah may have encountered either directly or by osmosis. I would not be at all surprised if she has listened many times to Darkness, Darkness by the Youngbloods. I caught a whiff of that. Or her song “Gypsy,” inspired by a New York subway encounter with a mysterious rider. The instrumentation here sounds like an hommage to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. One song had me thinking of “Sing This  All Together,” from by The Rolling Stones from the height of their brief psychedelic period. Could it be possible, she is that well versed?

I can imagine other audience members of a certain age finding their own idiosyncratic references in songs that combine such depth and artistry. She can even play bluegrass funky.

Of course when half the concert contains covers, outside influence abounds. Who at this stage of their career does that? Ms Jarosz has more than enough material to feature her own music and could not be blamed if she did. One or two cover and no one would have batted an eyelash. But it speaks volumes of her confidence as well as as her unadulterated love of music that she constructed her show with 2 Dylan songs, including Simple Twist Of Fate from her latest album, instrumentals by John Hartford (Squirrel Hunters) and another by Bela Fleck. Also Tom Waits. Even the finale was a cover.

One thing that can’t be covered is Sarah’s inner beauty and genuineness. She even observed how “well behaved” the gray beards and gray lasses in the audience were. The good people of Petaluma appreciated quality when they saw it.

For information on my psychotherapy practice go to: http://www.johnbogardus.com

For a look of my review of the Wood Brothers, who could play the same festival as Ms Jarosz,  go to:

http://psychologyofeverything.com/2013/02/wood-brothers-at-the-mystic-theater-petaluma-ca-1513/

Build Me Up From Bones:

Gypsy: (Can you hear Harvest Moon?)

 

Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Version of Hendrix’s Little Wing

I don’t think there is any song in rock that swings as much as this one. The interesting thing is that for a version that bears so much fidelity to the original, it also adds something not found in Jimi’s. All in all a remarkable achievement. 

As Linda Bartley Kittler has pointed out, if you were to play the Hendrix and Vaughn side by side you would hear similar licks and harmonics as would be expected in any cover. However Stevie Ray’s changes are subtle, allowing one to tune into a place where the tiny changes create nuances for the connoisseur to savor.

Little Wing is an iconic song. Artists, many of whom are guitarists out to measure and pay hommage their play with the master. Sting naturally emphasizes his vocals. However even his version doesn’t neglect the guitar. I include the following for you to compare and enjoy.

Jeff Beck:

Derek and the Dominos (1970) Live at the Fillmore East:

Sting, which from the looks of the video, it seems like he’s made a trip to Pandora to create this travel log:

And of course:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9-2vjzhwrs

Go to http://www.johnbogardus.com for information about my psychotherapy practice.