How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

How not to say the wrong thing

When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? “This isn’t just about you.”

“It’s not?” Susan wondered. “My breast cancer is not about me? It’s about you?”

The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit. She was no longer covered with tubes and lines and monitors, but she was still in rough shape. A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie’s husband, Pat. “I wasn’t prepared for this,” she told him. “I don’t know if I can handle it.”

This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say. And it was wrong in the same way Susan’s colleague’s remark was wrong.

Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie’s aneurysm, that’s Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie’s aneurysm, that was Katie’s husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan’s patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.”

If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that’s fine. It’s a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.

Comfort IN, dump OUT.

There was nothing wrong with Katie’s friend saying she was not prepared for how horrible Katie looked, or even that she didn’t think she could handle it. The mistake was that she said those things to Pat. She dumped IN.

Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn’t do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.

Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don’t just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.

Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you’re talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.

And don’t worry. You’ll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.

Susan Silk is a clinical psychologist. Barry Goldman is an arbitrator and mediator and the author of “The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators.”

Fear itself is is based in transcendence

Feelings are about the body. They are immanent.

Emotions are about reactivity. They direct or tend.

Thoughts are about transcendence.

While fear can be understood as an emotion, it is also able to be understood as something which affects an otherwise functional (efficient) system. Fear is that which creates dysfunction through making its agency appear necessary to the functioning of the system itself, Or at least an integral part of it. It posits one’s arguing out of one’s limitations as a way to avoid what the limitation actually is in itself.

In this sense, Fear exploits a vulnerable teleological tendency or thread that runs through these three different aspects of Being. It then emphasizes or exacerbates the ideal of the unitive creature that Is the singular path among those things, that is, which presents those things as inherent and inseparable from Being.

It is not difficult then to see a correlation between identity, fear, scarcity and modern capitalism.

To overcome fear, one might see that fear itself is an agent which enacts operations, Or brings about and ordering to actions, as opposed to an innate (a part of, or inseparable from) feature of a functional (or dysfunctional) human being. Less as an evolutionary adaptation or trait, it is possible to use the same kind of ability to conceive in order to understand fear more as a kind of symbiotic or parasitic agent.

The dysfunction which might be said to arise around being-in-fear Is the orientation upon Being which sees the thread as granting the (only) source of valid coherence. As though the agent is necessarily a vital part of the human being it Self, which is to say The only agent that matters to identify an agent.

It is the emphasis on transcendence, the encompassment that thought wants (desire) to enact upon Being, which allows fear to color Being to a unique identity of truth, which is to say, fear inscribes subjective truth. Less to the ubiquity of opinion, and more that thinking does not notice how fear has co-opted its ability to discern what the truth is. The transcendence in which truth invests it’s self misses that there is even an emotion in play at all, and decides for itself And everything else in its imposed unity, what emotion shall be. The focusing and insistence upon thought as the designation of a true being Thereby nullifies emotion by making it subject to thought’s domain, as though thought can have an ability to know the essence of emotion outside of its own designation. Which is to say, as though thought— and only thought— is indeed being human. One might even go so far as to suggest that the concept of anxiety arises as thought continues to impose its dominion upon a body which essentially does not recognize its authority.

Fear is the thread which induces thought to link all human being processes together. Fear, in a manner of speaking, is the losing of desire. It is redundant in its operation in the sense of how we might use the analogy of a computer which has redundant operations; ie failures in one section will not cause or bring about the collapse of the whole system. Where the analogy fails for the human being though is that this idea of collapse is it self invested in the unitive being of fear. That indeed a collapse of the total system does not mean that the human being has died or ceased in its ability to be effective; on the contrary, what occurs ironically is that the human being becomes more effective because it exists no longer in an isolated fear-based world.

Why the Coronavirus does not ‘Want’ to Change Our Lives

On Covid-19 and the Actor-Network Theory.

How the Coronavirus ‘Wants’ to Change Our Lives

———- “of course the virus doesnt want anything…”

The tack I now take is towards people not being miserable; I am not really anymore trying to explain some grand sense of the universe into which everyone must fit. But of course those two kinds of approaches on sensibility can overlap.

Image copyright here

I am falling away from the belief and intention that there is a noble and knowable unity to which knowledge is attached. I lean towards what has been being told to us for a while, that whatever knowledge is, it is ultimately human knowledge and nothing else, Yet, and so much as it is “human knowledge and nothing else” these two facets necessarily inscribe a world that is not being recognized. 

This is to say that I’m pretty sure there is some grand noble big truth to which knowledge must be attached AND There is not. The truth is is that both of these situations exist simultaneously without having to fall or reduce into the other for another big T unity of truth. The truth is uncomfortable. The truth of the world is uncomfortable and uncertain.

The plain facts of the matter is that most human beings are not so open minded and flexible. Most human beings want to find a concept that Makes them comfortable. yet at the same time, Most human beings are rigid in their concept of self other, and world. And this is OK, but my job as a counselor is not necessarily to have a rigid formulation of truth into which these people seeking comfort must for themselves to be comfortable.

It feels and is becoming more apparent to me that it is this rigidness that is the source of most “amicable to the couch” mental disturbance or issues. It is not necessarily that the structure of one’s mind is incorrect or that the way that they are thinking about things is incorrect, or that there is some “illness” that is attacking them. But, it is possible that such formulations will help them to get over their mental situation that they find problematic.

Nevertheless we might say that mental issues arise from the inflexible ideal of self attempting to impart upon that in flexibility a certain flexibility in approaching that particular problem. This is extremely difficult enactment, and yet, if one could be just a little more flexible in their self-concept, the application would become rather simple.



Within this flexible notion of world in which we are not able to Become separated, by this flexibility, we should see that there are different types of human beings. Just as a human being is not the same as a child, is not the same as an adolescent, is not the same as a young adult, is not the same as an adult, nor an older adult, nor aged, nor near death. There is not one comprehensive human mental state or approach that works successfully to accommodate the human being from birth until death, just as there is not one manner by which we designate a human being must live, must think, the foods they must eat, the way they must dance, what they find funny…

AND There Are indeed systems toward helping human beings with mental issues that will work with different types and situations of human beings. For example, since my recent post had to do with psychoanalysis and particularly Lacan, there will be people for whom psychoanalysis will be effective, but it does not mean that the people  for whom psychoanalysis is not effective require them to work harder or something, or requires that the psychoanalytic theory needs to be better worked. 

The effort of counseling, seems to me, requires that the counselor be humble in their estimation of theory and practice, be amicable to the reality that their particular theory of what mental issues are and how they are treated is not true, that is, in so much as there may be another theory which will be effective for that individual person.

Now, this flies in the face of not only what and the majority of human beings think, how they think of themselves and their own thoughts and the world and universe and how they do for those various cosmological narrations to grand narratives, but also I’m sure very offensive to the counselors themselves.  The reason for this is people in general but practitioners of any sort of doing must believe that what they believe is true. And because of this self centrality socially speaking we have the idea of “opinion” and relativity as a grand narrative which coincidentally coincides with the physical contingency of 20th century physics as a colloquial explanation.

We know that even many counselors (but particularly psychiatrists and psychologists) for the most part are rigid in their ideals of what mental health is what mental illness is because hardly none (most likely) Will even take the 30 seconds to think about what relativity and opinion means for that pet theory, but will rather stick to their guns about “personal truths”; this is to say that Everyone gets to have their own personal truth as long as that personal truth coheres in and correlates with a grande system which tells us about the “big truth, the “actual truth” of what mental health is within the actually true universe that has been bestowed upon the big idea of humanity in general as we move through this big picture of history.

The point I’m making here is not that everything is not relative, but that we do not have a sensible and coherent philosophy of how relativity actually functions in application. Rather, we have a bunch of self centralized ideals attempting to assert upon one another and argue with each other which one has the better contact with the great transcendent big T truth. 

OK!

Now to the reason why I reposted that post on actor network theory.

The disclaimer in that post that I quoted above, “of course coronavirus doesn’t want anything”, is a blatant statement of how actor network theory is being commandeered toward the faith in the big truth, and not conveying a proper understanding what actor network theory is actually saying about the condition of the human being of knowledge.

For my question would be: why is not the coronavirus wanting anything?

And I’m going to leave you readers with that, that is you readers who are actually trying to think…

…I’ll also leave you with the strange idea that what I’m talking about above does not mean that counseling has to do with “whatever works”.

🌈 have an excellent corona day. 🌏



x

Experiments in Human Kindness

The logic of being human.

The next time someone annoys you or when you get angry at someone for something they do…

Attempt to change your viewing. Of course, first acknowledge that you are feeling whatever way.

Then consider the possibility involved in their “wanting” with relation to why you might be annoyed or angry.

Ponder that they cannot but want in that way. That the connection between thier choice and their doing or behaving is not contingent but is necessary.

That their want is actually reflecting an imperative of their Being that they are unable change in that instance.

That they did not choose to annoy you or make you angry, but neither did they choose to do the thing or behavior that upset you—even if they say they did it deliberately, they could not have done otherwise.

The Modern Problem

The problem is that we’re looking at everything sideways. 😁

(again, from James Hillman’s bOok re-visioning psychology) 

This book is turning out to be such a treasure of explanation and sense, but I almost dare say that any philosopher who has not read re-visioning Psychology is at best a cleric, a priest of the modern religion.

And that’s totally OK!

The problem, though, comes because these priests of the modern religion don’t see themselves in any sense as religious.

Yeah; and will deal with that at another time. 💙

The Conventional Limit

–from “Re-visioning psychology” by James Hillman.

The modern idea of ownership permeates into every thing that we think. This preoccupation with one’s “owned” ideas manifests world as some thing to be or to have as owned. Hence we have the eternal problem for the modern individual which shows up in one instance as rational subjective opinion in a world of argued relative opinions, and in another instance as mental illness. We might even begin to discern what mental health is by understanding how it seeks to commandeer the problematic modern individual which is — by the plain evidence of all the problem it vomits everywhere by simply being itself — ideologically and institutionally mentally ill, by placing it in a “positive spin”. For I think the most salient and pertinent issue of philosophy and not only psychology is: What exactly is mental health?

We tend to ignore this question as well as ignore the absurdity involved in the object of mental health by trying to reduce it to some physical state of brain or some organizational state of some “pure” mind, by trying to bring about various conceptual apparatuses, or simply talking about “ways” or practices that we can do to thus be mentally healthy by the doing of them. But none of these ever really tells us what mental health is except maybe a sort of stillborn fetus of modern science to poke and prod at.

And the people who are really suffering are the ones who mostly get to remain in a state of suffering overall.

Why do we continue to remain so myopic towards a problem which doesn’t seem to be responding very well to these narrow idealistic methods? 

But this is not really to make any sort of criticism against processes, interventions, and other efforts to help; for sure, we have to try.

 Here, we are taking on the interface or relationship between psychology, activity, and philosophy. 

The most pertinent philosophical discussion of modernity in this regard was made by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in their book “capitalism in schizophrenia”, but indeed their work is saturated with the attempt to come into a plural solution to the problem of the singular self. 

The issue, though, that we find permeating philosophy, or what I call conventional philosophy, can be viewed through the adjective pronoun “we”; for, what those philosophers pronounce in their philosophical works, in their psychoanalysis in one sense, is exactly “not” we, but indeed that group of people which is only able to understand humanity as a generalized and common, modern, “we”: Meaning, not the We that arises as world to form the contours of self, but indeed the modern We which is the presumed isolated self within a world of individual isolated selves “out there”, huddling in cold groups, and indeed only of beings associated with the category that we call human. The We doesn’t think of the We which involves rock formations, buildings and quarks. Anything that lives outside of this, what I call, religious and theological designation, we label and denote as ethically inferior and or in need of correction due to its epistemologically implicit error of cognition.

We might then ponder what indeed the idea of correction is manifesting around in this regard. What is this idealistic calcification attempting to protect?

*

I’ll stop there. 

The Gift

on the non-fixity of world identity.

It is not a definitive world by which reality is understood as a singular and fixed truththat is significant. The various opinions, attitudes and mentalities based in subjective meaning upon the stable ground of reality are not the issue.  Rather, it is the relationship that we have with things which is truly significant. 

*

I had a moment with a young individual today.

I don’t know how it is in the rest of the world, but in the US it is a strange kind of trend of adolescents who are depressed to self harm. I don’t know if this is a global thing but I know it is a United States thing.

It seems that there is a rash of depressed and or anxious young people who, lacking any particular sharp tool, such as a razor blade or perhaps a knife, will scratch themselves in one place with their own fingernail, often short, until The skin finally breaks and a wound develops. They will continue to scratch that one place longer and wider until some unknown threshold is achieved and then they will produce another one right next to it, often parallel and sometimes in squared or triangular designs. And they will do this, many of them, until their arms are covered with these kind of burn sores. When you get a bunch of these children together, it is at once striking and at the same time strangely of no concern; for in part, one might be just as inclined to wonder why a group of kids will start smoking tobacco or in our current situation, vaping. One has to admit there is a certain amount of fad or trend or whatever you would want to call it. Because anxiety and depression does not necessarily mean that you have to self harm, and indeed when I was young there was many kids my age, many who were depressed or had problematic families who were friends of mine, who never thought of self harming in the way that seems so trendy and ubiquitous for our children nowadays. It is sad and strange.

*

My intention for this post was not to discuss the philosophical fixtures of mental health theories or to offer any sort of help necessarily to these young people.

I really brought it up because this one person I was talking to today used to self harm, and then stopped for a couple years and only recently had started again because of some sort of life event that was triggering.

This person was also depressed but having more issues with anxiety. I was talking to this person and they happen to mention how they are not suicidal because their best friend had committed suicide a few years prior, so they never contemplate killing themselves.

It struck me how they said this so matter-of-factly, for it is common with people who suffer from great and long lasting general anxiety as well as depression to have to also battle with intrusive suicidal thoughts.

And I said to this person:

You know, that’s kind of amazing, in a strange way, when you think about it. What you just said…

Your best friend died? I said.

And so you never think about killing yourself, you simply don’t have thoughts about killing yourself? I said.

Then I said, you know, in a strange way, your friend gave you a gift, for he gave you a reason to live.

And this person began to slowly tear up, as I did also, with compassion in my heart.

They were looking down but then they kind of looked up at me through the tops of their eyes and gave a sleight little smile On top of that kind of frown that you get when there’s a deep hurt that just quickly surged to the surface, when your face can’t help but strain into an childish ugly grimace. A kind of embarrassment and yet of connection.

Yeah; maybe… they said.



Sometimes we need a different way to look at things. Sometimes we can hold what seems as two opposing sentiments for the sake of at once mourning and yet celebrating, missing and yet respecting.  and yet, sometimes when we see it, it seems so obvious. Like, why didn’t I think of that.

I think some of it may be not so much that this person didn’t think of that, but they did not allow themselves to think of it because of the polemically reductive fashion by which we arrive with our ethical selves to the encounter with the world. We are often not permitted to think but in specific ways about specific things.

Often we just hold the sadness a certain way because we think that’s the only way that sadness is allowed to be, holding it so dear that we fear that person is going to be disrespected, as if it is this supremely fragile thing. Whereas actually it could be a source of the most profound strength and Resilliance. 

The modern ideological and ethical sense sometimes misleads us into seeing tragedy as one way, into what Kierkegaard calls the “either/or”, which is the mentality of fixation, of limit, of finitude. 

*

How much does my identity depend upon this either/or reduction towards self and world, as if indeed they either have to be 100% intertwined and subjective, or 100% separate, psychological and objective?

Maybe the relationship changes under various conditions.  maybe it is both.