Larry Nassar/A Historic Systemic "Look Away"

My Thoughts and Comments on

Larry Nassar/USA Gymnastics Coach:

This will go down as the largest systemic serial predator event in history, to date: bigger than Jerry Sandusky/Penn State event - and that was horrific.
As I have worked with abuse victims for the past 37 years, the trail of damage in this case is made all the worse because of the vile, "look aways" that occurred for decades, also known as the "enablers."
Chronic and repeat patterns of  abuse 
(in this case, 265 young ladies have come forward, which probably puts Dr. Larry Nassar's number of victims closer to 500)  indicate that a number of people and institutions, systems, failed these children. In other words, there was a multi-level system failure to protect, in fact, one could even argue, there was a promoting of sexual abuse and complicity that goes beyond simply putting blinders on and avoiding the obvious.
Whether we work in cubicles, executive environments, on group projects, or punch a clock in a factory, we know the twitchy patterns of our co-workers. 
We know what they eat for lunch, what music they like, their favorite restaurant, and the alcohol they prefer. We can smell it. Our spidey senses are well-aware of miscreant behavior when we are close to it.
For years, Dr. Larry Nassar was fed a human chain of young, healthy, ambitious, athletes (and let's not overlook the 37,000 child porn images and videos found on his computer).
Who, besides Nassar, is culpable here, within the USA Gymnastics  team?
Civil suits will rain down on the agency and changes will
surely be implemented, as three directors have resigned this week, appropriately so. 
The most recent press
states that the US Olympic Committee is asking that the entire US Gymnastics Board quit because of their negligence, lack of oversight, and the house of horrors that Nassar was permitted.
Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon (age 71, with an annual salary of $860,00), where Nassar kept his office and "treated" (his deviant grooming language) young patients, has resigned. 
N.C.A.A. has opened an investigation; Nassar was also the athletic doctor for MSU's members of the softball and cross country team.
The USA Gymnastics Team has severed ties with the  world-renowned Karolyi team, and their Texas training site, which additionally housed Nassar and afforded him privacy to carry out years of abuse.
Yes, please!
When an active duty service member takes his life, groups of people sit around a table and ask themselves: 

Where the fuck did we go wrong? We failed this young man!
This psychological autopsy is meant to take stock, inventory, count the bean cans; forensically accounting for all choices, decisions, commitments, priorities, agency resolve.
This is the post-mortem of the United States of America's Olympic hopefuls. We are poorer for this historical event.
Work place ethics, a company conscience that holds leadership and financial profit within a reasonable balance, should be the cautionary tale. 
Many clinicians like myself are often given the opportunity to come into a business and provide a mental health overview. Small mom-and-pop companies can be just as toxic as larger, remote businesses. The two-man flower stand is a work environment and the 100-employee company both have social responsibility to the care and well-being of the "little guy." 
Leadership. Leadership. Leadership.
The smart money is on being pro-active and cleaning house. Intelligent business owners benefit from workplace wellness; protecting themselves prophylactically is the investment; allegation-proof.
Corporate responsibility saves money and protects the longevity of business; just ask the Weinstein Company shareholders what they wish they had done differently.

Dr. Larry Nassar Was Not a Doctor


Recommended Parenting Classes

Parenting Classes in San Diego 

"I'm sorry for my kid. I want to apologize in advance for his rude behavior.
I'm sorry that he has chosen to wear his dirty pants again. He has clean clothes and we begged him to change. We throw out the bad stuff but still...

I'm sorry that my kid is so rude to you in line. We've repeated "Please" and "Thank you's" since he was born. We are civilized people and highly regard manners.
I'm sorry that he was defiant and contemptful to his terrific teachers this year. We raised him better than that. 
Let me apologize in advance for how he is ignoring your sweet kids. I see the effort they are making; he is disengaged. I encourage him to socialize and make new friends.
Let me say now, I am so sorry for my child's behavior this season. Your players love you and the parents have been great. We just couldn't implement teachability, even with groundings, consequences, and taking the phone away. 
I am sorry that my child didn't take you up on that great offer. I tried to force it but the motivation just wasn't there.
I apologize that my kid has blown such a great opportunity. It hurts my heart. 
I cannot believe that my child would behave this way. I don't understand it. We are good, hard working "normal" people. My other kids are not this way.
I am heart broken. What can I do? This is painful beyond belief."
says every parent at some point

The hardest job in the world...being a parent.


Not Doing Christmas This Year

I was at a Christmas party last weekend, and enjoyed a terrific conversation with someone I don’t know very well; a lovely older woman. 
She told me that due to a recent difficult family circumstance she has decided "not to do Christmas this year." 
It was painful for her to get to this emotional resignation, the deep acceptance, that she just didn’t have it in her this peppy holiday season to provide food, purchase gifts, socialize, mail Christmas cards, cook, or decorate. 
She said, "I have given myself permission."
 It was such a graceful and self compassionate (she was not boasting in a selfish manner, and I could still hear some longing) but it was mature and wise and intelligent. 

Three points for the holiday that have been made clear to me recently, and you certainly don’t need my permission but, just in case...
1) December 25th is just another 24 hour day. Of course, it may have significant religious or spiritual meaning for you but we still have 364 other days of the year to celebrate our faith. 

2) If you were invited to a gathering, you can simply say "No, thank you for thinking of me." And if you choose to say yes, you don’t need to say,"May I bring something?" I don’t know about you but when I bring food or gifts there is always an over-abundance of food these days. 
Sometimes it’s smarter to show up empty-handed (I learned to say this after I had my second baby: "May I come empty-handed?" Otherwise, I began to dread the social commitment, and would cancel altogether). 

3) And finally, may be the greatest act of celebrating the end of the year is maintaining a small footprint, giving yourself a present, laying in the sun for 20 minutes, ordering a fancy meal to go and taking it to the beach, planting some flowers, writing a silly poem to an old friend, giving the dog a bath and a pretty red bow. 
Honestly, if that’s all you do on December 25th, or December 31st, or January 1st, those are extraordinary, lovely, meaningful, gestures. That's enough.

My youngest son and the crazy man, 2004


Common Myths About Therapy

By Christina Neumeyer

 Therapy takes years: I will lie down on the couch and we’ll talk about my mother – a lot. This is a hold-over from the psychoanalytic days of Freud and often satirized in Woody Allen movies. I don’t know any therapists that have clients lie down on a couch. Most clients want to get in and out of therapy as quickly as possible. Having said that, earlier events in one’s life often have meaning - maybe not all of the meaning - to the current dilemma at hand; how we have been shaped by our experiences and how we live and breathe in the world. Therapy can always begin with the here and now.
A counselor can talk sense into my son/spouse/mother/son-in-law. Bringing the substance abusing adult son into therapy is a worthy task, but magic isn’t sold there. The most painful situations, those that heavily weigh one down with sadness and grief, are those hours spent with the loved ones of someone who is refusing help. We help the helpers and always remember that therapists are one humble instrument in the orchestra of healthy living.
  Counseling is an intense self-analyzing, navel-contemplating process. Self-reflection is what separates lizards from humans; we are designed to ponder our meaning on planet earth, but, it is not an exercise without a goal in mind. Efficient therapy combines action steps (behavioral changes), with verbal processing (“How did it go?”), sideline cheerleading (“I remember how difficult that might have been six months ago. Great job!”), and the occasional different perspective offered from an unbiased party.
 I’ve tried it before. It doesn’t work. This may be the hardest distrust to overcome, but, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. With any event, whether it’s finding a good handyman or hiring a math tutor for your kid, coming to believe that help is available becomes a critical leap of faith. If my neighbor has a good mechanic, and I need a mechanic, I will likely begin believing that Bob the trusty mechanic can fix my car problem. In much the same way, if I can emotionally somersault into “I think there are people who understand my condition,” I am veering towards improvement. For this reason, once the phone call is made, recovery often begins in that moment. Therapeutic techniques matter, but the relationship between client and therapist equally contribute to positive outcomes.
 A counselor will only tell me to find my passion/quit my job/walk away from my relationship. The sixties heyday of me-me-me, when therapy developed a reputation for not taking anyone else’s feelings into consideration, are over. Individual needs are best served within context to what we know brings us meaning and purpose. Freedom of choice is soundly measured against decisions we can live with; abandoning our families and emotionally cutting off from those things that challenge us do not produce peace of mind. Human beings are social animals that seem to do well when paired up, enjoying warmth and well regard from others. Any intelligent clinician will be helpful only when taking into consideration the ecosystem that the client inhabits - this is of primary concern.
 Only people with severe problems need to see a counselor. I don’t know how to defend this misbelief, and even my dearest friends will comment along these lines. To them I say, all great leaders had counsel to sort through what was troublesome; even the strongest knife cannot sharpen itself. Counseling helps the 84-year old widow who lost her spouse of 62 years, with wonderful but busy grown kids that forget to call enough. She has led a great life, but has a story to tell; her siblings have passed and her life-long friend has beginnings stages of dementia. Gracefully accepting of life’s short road, we might review old photos together and discuss the many chapters she experienced. How wonderful! Or, the young couple navigating another deployment; a young mom with a new baby and no familial support nearby. The 19-year old college student that was assaulted; or the executive couple that has grieved four miscarriages, now making a decision on how to best move forward. Normal people fighting a good fight benefit from outside professional help from time to time. Psychotherapy is a healing art, and a lot like midwifery; silent observers, willing the very best outcome to present itself.
Therapy is all about feelings. Well-balanced people are able to identify their inner emotional landscape (“name it to tame it”), and language skills paired with an emotion is the most direct way to get one’s needs met (“I feel so appreciated when you bring me flowers at the end of the long week. I feel loved and remembered.”). While we often encourage folks to “get in touch with their feelings,” (the opposite of expression is depression) that is simply one part of self-understanding and personal growth. With solid research showing us that beliefs matter too, there can be a fair deal struck between how we feel and how we think (they are not the same). Personal insight is critical to optimal mental health. Tolerating gentle prodding and curiosity of one’s internal world is a sign of a healthy system. In fact, present-day therapy is a good fit for the thinking person. With the popularity of best-selling authors Daniel Pink, Daniel Khaneman, and Malcolm Gladwell, and advances in sports psychology, there is a blossoming marriage between corporate leadership psychology and interpersonal intelligence that should earn respect from any project manager or critical thinker. 
We can’t afford counseling. I know it may seems as if all roads begin and end with the mighty dollar, but I remain convinced that there is both low-cost counseling as well as free counseling in most areas. In my neck of the woods, several non-denominational churches offer free counseling, without being a church member. Often times the church has partnered with well-seasoned agencies and therapists (NAMI, for example) to offer free support groups. A second low-cost option is utilizing registered interns - they are trained but not yet fully licensed (even to be an intern, one has several hundred hours under his/her belt and a graduate degree). Interns are overseen by supervisors within an interdisciplinary format (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers) collectively participating in the case management. This is good news for those wanting to deal with big problems at an affordable cost. An intern opening up their first private practice often provides 1970’s rates as their practice is building. The third option available are low-fee clinics who are granted funding for affordable care and counseling, with sessions as low as $15 per session or as much as $50.00. Many local low-cost medical clinics have incorporated an integrative behavioral health section in their effort to wholly meet the needs of the community. I have interfaced with a few of these and they have been great. Never give up on striving for a healthy life. Be persistent.


5 Myths About Couples Counseling

by Christina Neumeyer

1) The therapist is a referee, with the task of weighing in on who is right and who is wrong; the clinicians are there to take sides. Weigh in, rip me a new one and point out my numerous shortcomings. False. In reality, therapists rarely “offer advice” and there is rarely a right side and a wrong side, unlike Judge Judy. Most of life’s difficult is in the gray area. Between adolescent and parent, each side usually has valid points, between two partners, each has a position and unique experiences that are worth acknowledging. With Dr. Phil and other popular tv shows that introduce the idea of “counseling,” it’s understandable how lay culture has Jerry Springered the view of the counseling office; what is intended to be a safe and sacred space for sincere pain and recovery to occur. 
2) Counseling cannot possibly help. In fact, counseling may make things worse. It is often the case that bringing issues into the light may feel worse in the short term, with long-term pay off. If anxiety and panic attacks have shrunk my world, and now I am exposing myself to those triggers (crowds, stores, driving), necessary steps to recovery will be provocative. Taking stock of our lives, reviewing past events, is often walking into the lion’s den, and avoidance has kept the angst to a manageable level but the cost has been great. With guidance and a collaborative treatment plan, the short-term distress will diminish with great rewards over time. Therapy absolutely helps. People who are motivated to learn about who and what they are make the most satisfied –and enjoyable! – clients. 

3) Female therapists side with women. False. Males don’t stand a chance in the therapeutic environment. False. Tongue lashings and confrontations ahead. False. Effective treatment does not include male bashing. I can make a strong argument that a good therapist is hyper-curious: why else would we ask a million questions? In other words, inquiry about your experience in this challenging world is the trailhead of being helpful to you. Counseling should not be aggressive, harsh, or disrespectful.  Counselors should be quick to admit where they are wrong, may be off in their perception, or are not adequately grasping the problem at hand. After all, any business model that disrespects a paying customer is a short-lived endeavor. Therapist behaviors that make everyone present feel heard and respected are communicated via expressions, body posture, vocal tone, and verbal reflections that indicate comprehension (“Am I hearing you correctly?”) as well as therapist’s own self-awareness. 
4) Therapists are anti-religious and will not honor our values. A good clinician will work in alignment with your values, towards your goals, in this highly collaborative treatment process. Period. It is irrelevant what customs and values the clinician holds; in fact, anything else is poor patient care. Busy clinicians work with a wide range of clients, ages, stages, cultures, and communities: that is what makes our job so fabulous. Standard business practices assumes cultural and religious humility with a position of counselor equality; not superiority.
5) We can’t afford counseling. Divorce costs more. Moving out and establishing a new home costs more. Breaking up families and sharing custody of the children costs more. There is low-cost counseling available. Additionally, there are weekend boot camps, couple’s day retreats, and several other options (i.e. Gottman Apps, Marriage 365) that can educate a couple on how to better get along, communicate, and re-connect. Most couples want a new marriage with the same person and statistics indicate that 50% of divorced couples regretted their decision to leave the marriage. Never underestimate how difficult divorce will be. 


Setting Limits With Your Counselor

Made a new video about how clients can best steer therapy towards topics that feel helpful. 

Video Here


Holiday Volunteer Opportunity

Interfaith Services  


If you are looking to combine the exciting experience of travel with that wonderful feeling of purpose, this group may be perfect for you.

My lovely neighbor recently lost her adult son, and, as part of her grieving process, she chose to fill her cup through volunteerism. Throwing a garage sale to supplement the cost of airfare, she spent 10 days on Matangi Island, Fiji on a helping mission.
No medical experience needed; just willing hands and an open-mind. http://www.lolomafoundation.org/


Optimal Mental Health in 2018 // The Invitation

2018. Start the New Year off with a great class. Dedicate yourself to optimal mental health. Here is one suggestion; anything offered by UCSD Center for Mindfulness (suggest the self-compassion or stress reduction class). Or perhaps the highly recommended workshops coming up soon with Kristin Neff.

Guided Meditation Affectionate Breathing (audio)


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a free 12-week class for family members living with a mentally ill loved one. 

North Coast Calvary Chapel will be hosting NAMI – Family to Family Education Program.
This is a free, 12-week course for families and friends of adults living with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders and borderline personality disorder.  Course participants gain vital information, insight and understanding of their loved one that many describe as life-changing. Registration is required and limited to 25 participants. To register or for more information, contact the office at info@naminorthcoastal.org or 760-722-3754

Here is a powerful poem I heard read at a funeral recently:

The Invitation

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Ted Talk - Being a Misfit

The Long Shot on Netflix