Mothballing Your Parents

Last night, we were out at our favorite restaurant, celebrating my daughter Emma’s birthday. After a fine meal, we came home and sat up late, discussing, as we often do, the fact that she seems more like 26 than 14 — not precocious in a pseudo-mature way, but genuinely older than her age. People with New Age tendencies have referred to Emma as an “old soul”; I think of her as a born psychotherapist, with insight and intuition that are remarkable for one her age. She enjoys adult conversation and loves to talk about what makes people tick.

While this is wonderful on one level, on another, it makes Emma’s life difficult. With her intuition and good people skills, she gets on well with just about everyone at school, but her emotional maturity also makes it difficult to find true peers in the Eighth Grade. Last night, she talked about feeling a little isolated and alone; she said she couldn’t bear to imagine a time when her parents wouldn’t be around. Unlike many teenagers I’ve known, she loves to spend time with us and our friends; she still enjoys hiking with us in Colorado, hanging out on the deck in the evenings and making “pleasant conversation,” as she calls it. She told us she was afraid she’d feel completely alone in the world without us.

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‘Butterfly’s Child’ by Angela-Davis Gardner: A Review

For the last 12 years, I’ve belonged to a writer’s group that meets every Thursday afternoon for two hours. We read our works-in-progress, giving support and constructive criticism to each other; we spend years reading and listening to different drafts of our books, so it’s an important event, something to celebrate, when a book by one of our members comes out in print.

Butterfly’s Child by my friend and classmate Angela Davis-Gardner was first published in hard cover last year; today is the release date for the paperback edition. Random House, her publisher, has organized what they call a “blog tour” — a number of reviews by influential bloggers coordinated with the appearance of the novel in bookstores. I’m not one of those “influential bloggers,” but I’m showing my support by joining the blog tour and letting you know about this wonderful book.

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Why I’m a Therapist

When people find out I’m a therapist, they usually assume I chose my profession because I want to help others. While I derive a deep sense of satisfaction from doing just that, I mostly chose to become a therapist because it was the only line of work I could envision that would support me and a family, while at the same time holding my interest for a lifetime. Human beings are deeply intriguing to me, at least once (if) you get past the veneer, and I can’t imagine a more fascinating job. During my last vacation, I thought more deeply about the work I do and the ways it satisfies me. I came to some new insights about myself and how I feel about my clients which didn’t entirely surprise me, but that shed some new light on the way the practice of psychotherapy “feeds” me. I believe many therapists feel the same way.

For the most part, I find social conversation and even many friendships to be a less-than-satisfying experience. If you’ve read my post on narcissistic behavior, you already know how I feel: most people regard parties and the making of a new acquaintance as another opportunity for self-display, to talk about their own amazing experiences, success stories, etc., to elicit admiration from other people and make themselves feel good. Because I’m deeply curious about other people, I’m often eager to hear those stories; but when the narcissistic self-absorption feels too intense, I get tired. It also feels very lonely when the other person shows absolutely no interest in getting to know anything about me.

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The Narcissistic Mother

Before I decided to stop writing my ‘Movies and Mental Health’ blog, I had intended to do a video about the narcissistic mother as portrayed in two different films, Black Swan and The Fighter; in this post, I’ll be referring to those films but I won’t include video clips. If you haven’t seen them, I recommend both movies for their psychological insight into family dynamics and, in particular, the role of the narcissistic mother.

There’s a degree of narcissism inherent in the relationship between most parents and their children: we take pride in their achievements and feel they somehow reflect well upon us when they do succeed. I’m very proud of my kids and take pleasure in recounting their latest achievements to my friends, and those friends in return (the ones who have kids of their own) appear to feel the same way about their offspring. “My son the doctor” … you know what I mean. On some level, I suppose we view our children as a type of achievement of our own: we’ve spent so many years raising and caring for them that we feel pride in ourselves, as well as in them, when they turn out well.

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The Shame-Based Divorce

In an early post about winners and losers, I discussed how underlying feelings of shame often lie behind hyper-competitive and triumphant behavior. One of the less obvious ways this shows up is in relationships and marriage. Some people — usually those who tend to display other kinds of narcissistic behavior, as well — link up with partners because they believe such a bond will make them ideal. Just as some men and women want to be admired for their looks, or how much money they have or the size of their house, others want to be envied for their relationship. They look to an ideal marriage to cure underlying shame and to disprove how they feel about themselves. If I’m married to X and we have this amazing marriage, then I can;t be a total loser.

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