Asking for Consent / Teaching our Sons / Phineas Gage

The New Sex Ed Talk

As the mother of two sons, I am beginning to accept that I must introduce the topic of consent, consent pertaining to asking for a verbal approval prior to engaging in any physical contact with a future female romantic interest. 

I see this is a win-win: One, the basic premise is communicated and established that another person is in charge of his or her own person, not to be touched, moved or handled without her verbal consent. Silence is not consent; the cautionary note to all aroused young men.

e.g. "If you are feeling romantic and affectionate towards a girl, it's normal to want to touch her, but you must ask. Can I put my arm around your shoulder, kiss you...take off your sweater?" Yes, it feels Jimmy Stewart 1950's, but the consequences of being misunderstood are grave and we must impress that each and every person holds the right to yes or no over their body.  Might I add, if you expect your son to possess the wherewith to speak of such topics - with his romantic love - as birth control, STI's, and condoms, it seems equally reasonable that they should speak to issues of consent as well. The communicative family additionally addresses the importance of premarital sex and unwanted pregnancy as soon as their young adult is able to grasp the meaning. 

The second win here is that my son, if learned early on, will hopefully minimize liability and avoid the potential that he might be accused of malicious aggressive or unwanted advances. I want my kids to be real men, like, Be a Man! But not just any man, be the right kind of man. 

The influencing and determining qualities that hold men in success throughout their lives are self-control and impulse control. Prisons are made up of men who lacked in impulse control; it's the common denominator. Newspaper headlines and toppled ivory towers are made up of men, fallen from grace, who lacked in self control; that is what decimates one's financial, professional and psychological empire. 

Yes, it is obvious that I am motivated by a incidents that have occurred in over the last several months. Specifically, the news media reported the facts of a Stanford college student who has been accused and convicted of rape of a female college student while she was unconscious. The media uproar over his pitiful sentencing was enough to motivate me and several other attentive mothers and fathers to bring this conversation to the dinner table. 

There was a time when this kind of conversation would've been taboo. But I believe that ship has sailed and, in fact, if there's any silver lining to that high-media case, it is the idea that we can learn from it and incorporate ideals and expectations for model citizenry of our sons. Perhaps the first step is normalizing the power of sexual cravings, with the understanding that curbing ones desire in the moment is necessary and expected self-control. Anything less than self-control is impulsive and dangerous.

The other public reporting news incident has been along the lines of the presidential election and the candidates. While I cringe to think that my adolescent son is becoming acquainted with the Presidential election in such a cloud of language that feels dark and creepy ("groping," and "pussy," to name two) it is a fabulous opportunity to discuss the seriousness of unwanted sexual advances as well as the way we speak about each other when we're with friends and no one is looking, as well as the consequences of desire and infidelity. 

No matter which person is your candidate I hope that you are able to find some kernel of value in this muck swamp of an election to bring an open discussion to your young adults and implement values of your family. 


Our Meditation for Everyone class just finished at Mira Costa College. What a great turn out, with 23 students! Here's a solid article on the beginnings of Meditation. Look for my next class, Spring 2017.

Here is an article on the most famous brain injury patient, Phineas Gage; we thank him for his critical contribution to the professional advancement of understanding human brain development and the field of psychology. 

In 1848, Gage, 25, was the foreman of a crew cutting a railroad bed in Cavendish, Vermont. On September 13, as he was using a tamping iron to pack explosive powder into a hole, the powder detonated. The tamping iron—43 inches long, 1.25 inches in diameter and weighing 13.25 pounds—shot skyward, penetrated Gage’s left cheek, ripped into his brain and exited through his skull, landing several dozen feet away. Though blinded in his left eye, he might not even have lost consciousness, and he remained savvy enough to tell a doctor that day, “Here is business enough for you.”


The Value of AWE // Healthy Ego

What a great Sunday article!

"Feeling Awe May Be the Secret to Health and Happiness"

What are the traits of a functionally healthy ego:
  • The maintenance of a realistic and stable view of self and others
  • The ability to maintain stable relationships
  • The ability to experience and regulate a full range of emotions  
  • The ability to integrate a regulated sense of morality into day-to-day life.

(condensed from The Value of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Conceptualizing Clients: by Whitney keefner, Hilary Burt, and Nicholas Grudev)


Bruce Springsteen on Depression

When Love Isn't Enough

Listen to this: Becky Hill, California Dreamin'

*Why We remember The Negatives

hint: We are more upset about losing $50 than we are happy about gaining $50.

I heard Krishnamurti speak in Ojai, under the glorious Pepper Trees, over 35 years ago.
Not sure when he said the above, but probably around that time. Still true, no?


After seeing this recent article in the Huffington Post, "To The Couple Who is Staying Together For the Kids" 

I couldn't NOT respond. The author's leap from "emotional disconnection" is harmful to children got my attention. Given that the current divorce rate is hovering at 50% percent (and higher for second marriages and blended families), I would say that people are divorcing quite regularly. Anything that fails more than half the time would be considered a high-risk gambit. 

I'd like to introduce you to Ester Perel, who studies our modern day sex-starved marriage, with a strong suggestion that Americans uniquely hold unreasonable expectations that all of our needs be met by one person (he/she/they must be a hands-on parent, hard worker, stay fit, personal expansive, talkative like my friends, willing to do yoga on Sundays, interesting, sexual, romantic, able to throw in laundry and cook up a nice meal. Phew!)

John Gottman, our leader in marital studies and research, states that short of *contempt or *abuse, marriage can almost always be repaired. Most couples, post-infidelity, still want to stay married. Feeling "emotionally disconnected" is not a strong enough reason to divorce; you won't feel connected when your wife, new baby and 4-year old son have had the flu for 8 days, which then turns into post-partum blues, or depression, even anger.

In any marriage of duration, there are long periods of emotional disconnection: health challenges, financial hardship, births, job stress, everyday fatigue, death (literal and figurative), boredom, strong dislike and disappointment. Marriages in the "rearing young child" phase will experience their lowest marital satisfaction in their lifetime. Because it's freaking hard!

Carl Jung said that we must swing from in-love (feeling) to loving (action); a mature and Herculean transition that is not culturally reinforced or admired, sadly. Weddings, great sex and being in love are early stages of romance...not a marriage do they make). 

I will never forget a powerful interview with Sting, happily married for a second time to his powerhouse wife going on, maybe 30 years, with a few children under his belt. He said that, to this day, he has not recovered from his first divorce, citing guilt and the enormous sense of failure.

I will match the writer's expert opinion to "not stay just for the kids" with my 35 years in social services working with families. A divorced mother's lifestyle diminishes post divorce. And yes, children suffer post-divorce across every metric (education, delayed pregnancy, gang and drug involvement).  That motive alone will NOT sustain a bad marriage but having children should motivate us to put our best foot forward - even crawl through broken glass to make it work. 

Marriage is the unintended journey. 
80 percent of couples post-divorce wish they had tried harder and sooner.good therapist will encourage change, insight, personal responsibility, and new communication skills. We know that people want to be loved and feel contented - and fast.

Ann Rice (noted author) says that she was married and divorced many times, to the same man. People usually want a new marriage BUT with the same person.  Yes, sometimes we are solely married to the commitment of marriage. 

A good book is The Divorce Culture.  
Watch this Sue Johnson video, as she enables a couple to express themselves succinctly and hear one another fully. Or, Dr Bader
Freely Youtube Wm. Doherty or Michelle Weiner-Davis: both marriage proponents that offer a way to go for those with something to salvage (this does not include physical or verbally abusive relationships, active substance abuse or active infidelity).

Like organized religion or not, it is often the only support system that advocates efforts for "making it work." In other cultures, shame is a useful tool in keeping societal structure. Do we want that? Of course not, but one must see that we economically suffer with each divorce and threads of safety for our offspring diminish. Non-biological caregivers contribute to greater risk and less personal investment.

In a parenting group that I currently facilitate, we have discussed how few parents have child-care. Many times a couple cannot even attend therapy because there is no relative or trusted close friend on-hand to watch a young child. Our culture has not embraced "it takes a village" - and we often navigate marriage and child-rearing as a solo extreme sport; a very lonely passage.

The large majority of couples want to preserve their marriage, for a variety of intelligent reasons. When dismantling a business, the business owner, if he is compassionate and thoughtful, will think long and hard about the personal outcome to his employees and their families. I have watched business owners lay off or close an entire outfit, with tremendous pain, guilt and shame. We would call that being caring and and moral. 

Repair involves a deeper understanding of the other persons feelings. Mostly we want to be heard and understood. 

Can I get some of my needs met elsewhere? 
If my partner is not a good listener, or traveler, do I have a friend who is? If I love to hike and my partner doesn't, can I join a hiking club? (does it suck that we can't experience that together? Yes, but look at the other things he/she/they are so good at!) Am I giving 5 verbal positives to one negative criticism?

What's often on board is unreasonable expectations. Or, a lack of understanding about the other guys position, perhaps frequent disagreements on how to spend money or leisure time. Opposing parenting styles, rules of conduct with the opposite sex, in law conflict, substance abuse - all part of the co-existing challenge, Marriage 101.

Expect lengthy affection-droughts. There will be very dark months. Don't take your marital temperature every 15 minutes. 

Ending a marriage should not come down to barely-rinsed, unscraped plate in the dishwasher.

Global frustration (everything is dismal: displeasure or boredom with job, kids, friends, ‎family, life) is a sign that you are not in a good place. Divorce may remove tension and conflict but it will not make you feel better fast. Try a weekend marriage encounter, boot camp, couples conference, or personal retreat. 
The next step would be to work with a skilled clinician that can guide you through a structured separation, with an intentional goal of preserving the marriage and family, with changes and new ways of interacting. A separation is very different than simply living apart to see how that feels. We know how it feels - easier!

If leaving your marriage is ultimately in the cards, leave at the top of your game...make sure your health is solid, your faith and spiritual life have been watered; ensure that your job is fulfilling and your financial spending is fiscally sound. 

If you decide to call is quits on your youngest child's 18th birthday (yes, people do that), do not burden your child with "I stayed because of you." Staying married is a daily choice. Own it and do not make anyone else responsible for your unhealthy marriage.

When I was lumbering pregnant, I was told, "Don't cut your hair. It's not your hair you want to change." What good advice. 

Contempt: Disdain, the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.

Physical abuse: Includes property destruction, physical assault, holding one against their will, rage, explosive anger.

Verbal Abuse: Name calling, cursing, yelling, demoralizing language, threats to safety or well-being.