Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"School Violence"

Correction

" School Violence"

AFFECT AND ADOLESENCE

ON THE TRAGEDY IN LITTLETON and other shootings.

I am a family doc and I am supposed to know everything and so if someone asks me about  the school shooting is LittletonColorado or other shootings I am supposed to have an answer. Several years ago I would not have had a very good one. I do now. I wrote this originally sometime near the time of the Columbine shooting and am still working on a much longer work concerning school shootings. 

So the piece  is based on the simplest of concepts. It is not gun control, it is not more security, it is not mostly everything that is being said over and over again. It is about not hurting people. But we must start at the right place. It is about not hurting our children so they do not hurt others. A man I can now count as a friend and mentor, Donald Nathanson, M.D devised what we can here can call "a compass of hurt." When we are hurt we either withdraw, attack others , attack ourselves or  try and avoid the situation, these four ways, in the main, only cover up the hurt, they do not address the hurt.

There is a fifth way and that is to examine the hurt. To come and appreciated it and its roots. To deal with it, to take the hit and then ask the question why did this or that hurt me so much that I would attack another or berate myself or use drugs? The hurt we feel can come from an idea, a thought, a memory. The hurt comes because we are interested in life and things get in our way. We are interested in having loving parents, but don't. We are interested in having loving siblings but don't. We are interested in having loving classmates but don’t. The teenage years are some of the most vulnerable to feeling hurt. It is that time of great definition in our life. What is important is, I firmly believe, not the influence of radio, TV or movies but the influence of those people that we have great interest in. If we are attentive parents, teachers and friends we will not produce people that will take murderers as our example.

To be sure this is not a simple journey and I wish not to hurt the parents of these two boys. I know little or  nothing of them. I do not accuse, as we, who expound this theory, also believe that unfortunately life can be and is quite capricious. Single instances of intense emotion seem to be able to dramatically effect ones actions and outlook on life. Thus we know that a child can be very easily damaged. The trick is not to point the finger at the parents but at all of us; parents, teachers, doctors, friends and neighbors need to care about each other’s hurt. We must ask and make it clear that it is OK to show emotion. It seems, in the main, that the "trench coat Mafia," was seen simply as esoteric. That group that the two boys that did the shootings where a part. We do not want to expunge individuality but we believe that it is imperative to become sensitive to such isolation at this age, or truly at any age, and ask ourselves are they withdrawing due to hurt and might that withdrawal revert, at anytime, to attack? To quote Dr. Donald Nathanson, attack comes when " if there is nothing we can do by our  own hand or mind to raise our self esteem, we tend to reduce the self-esteem  of anybody available." Or are they withdrawing due to an intense interest in something constructive?

If you listen to many of the comments of the students we hear that these kids where outcasts, we hear them referred to as "geeks" and such. We cannot simply brush such comments off as "that is the way kids are." No, kids do not have to be this way. What happened, in part, in Littleton was that a viscous cycle of alienation was set up. Those on the outside ended up more and more on the outside and the burden became too great. This is the way we are, the way we have always been and the way we will always be unless we understand that reason is no match for hurt and hurt no match for love and interest in others and so much easier  if love and interest start early and are consistent.
Brian Lynch  Please see  School Violence: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzxHrZvUeZo (maybe I can get James Earl Jones to do the narration some day.)
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090

"Heart attack"

"Heart attack"


I was recounting to a patient how when I get the chance, usually on a plane, I like to  read through several newspapers, if I think of it, and if I concentrate on it, it will be a pretty sure bet that I can pinpoint an article with a "shame" theme in short order.  Point being that shame is always right under our noses. Again and again why do we ignore this valuable information?

So in this case I was reading, I believe, the “Wall Street Journal” and there was an article about cardiac resuscitation and the long and short of it was that at the end of the article it was noted that lives could be saved if people were not “embarrassed” about calling 911.

Not "embarrassed" about calling 911? We would rather die than have the paramedics show up or get to the ER and have someone tell us that it is an upset stomach or a panic attach than a heart attack.
 

So how important is the teaching of shame and humiliation. You can bet your life. I am not pointing the finger except at everyone including myself as I can see myself doing this very same thing.

Now the article used the word “embarrassed” instead of “shame” and might well have used “ashamed.” Have you ever really thought about why we have these different words for this similar feeling? I often say in my more than several years of philosophy studies I remember maybe but one conversation about these words. I think that odd.

Well, it seems to be that shame is a feeling we all must suffer simply because we all want things. It is a message to us that things are not going well. In the sense used here there is no moral tone whatsoever to it. Ah but to be embarrassed or ashamed or to feel guilty is a whole other world. I and others think that this is shame gone haywire. In all three cases it is the sense that not only something has gone wrong but that somehow I am to blame for it and that I will suffer some consequence.

This is messy business then because all these feelings just might kill us as they get in the way of our acting on information that is right under our noses and that technically should be reserved for “shame.” I want my heart to work and by golly it just might not be working so I better fix it. That is “shame” enough for me.

“For one interested in shame the problem is not that it is difficult to find examples worth study. Rather, the more significant puzzle is how it has managed to elude us until now. The most common of unpleasant experiences is also the lest discussed." Don Nathanson from "Shame and Pride."

Brian Lynch
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Self Esteem"

"Self Esteem"

What is “self esteem?” Over the last twenty or more years it has been a buzz phrase that has garnered much attention, especially in the school environment. 

At first blush it would seem that no one could argue the worth of someone enhancing his or her self-esteem.

This has lead to many, many good and not so good innovations. Many places have de-emphasized competition. Probably the best outward sign of this is in athletics where, especially in the younger years, everyone leaves the “competition” with a trophy or ribbon. On the other hand, for the most part, there has been lip service to these ideas. Competition is more than alive and well.

But what of “self esteem?” The down side has been a curious unintended consequence of children in effect, and putting it in plain language, “thinking too much of themselves.”  The emphasis switches to “I” should feel well or have a right to feel well at all costs or I  “deserve” to feel good and any pain and suffering is now a new defeat.

It is a vicious circle as the whole point of “self-esteem” programs is to make you feel good about yourself but if this threshold is crossed and I get the screwy idea that I am now entitled to no problems, well, as someone said “When desire outruns reality shame ensues.” When we want too much, care too much, reach too high we fall on our faces. “Self-esteem” in short is a weak concept. It is important but falling on your face is inevitable too.

I see it as a need to teach young people from the earliest ages to be aware of emotional problem solving.  This simply translates to “problem solving” in general.  The core of this teaching is that one is always going to feel the pangs of defeat and that the way to feel good about oneself is to “Solve the problem!”  We then learn to combine our suffering with “self-esteem.” I get interested in the problem and thus do “work.” Get interested in the pain and it will go away. Interest plus work = JOY! “I” did something. “I” participated. I either succeeded or I did not but put the emphasis on trying, nothing better than “A” for effort if we are going to have such judgments. “Self-esteem” is one of those many slights of hand that we have come up with to make us think there is a “Royal Road”, an easy way, to “Happiness.”  

 A central part in teaching “doing it right” is to emphasize not only interest in self but also in how others feel.  Feeling good is a joint enterprise.  We want to have “mutual interests.”

Again “self-esteem” can be a very dangerous concept that can lead me to believe that I should always end up “smelling like a rose.” Then on the other hand I am not telling anyone to tell anyone to “toughen up.” I would rather not use the concept at all. I think the whole thing is solved by understanding that we all need our interests our “joys” and hopefully we will have our interests that we will have with others. These will be tasks that we can complete with others and this will lead to moments of pride and joy. We will have failure but we will have been taught that that is part of the process, part of the learning process.

Brian Lynch
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090


"But where does worry get you?"

"But where does worry get you?"

One day a patient said that she was “worried” about her son. At that moment it occurred to me to stop her and ask her if it was not more the case that she was “interested” in her son.

I work with the idea that we have “basic” feelings that we are born with. One of those feelings is “interest.” Interest has never been taught to us as a basic feeling. Most people think that we just “think” about things we are doing. I am going to go buy some milk or I am going to buy a car. We think we just “decided” to do it and ignore all the emotional aspects involved in such tasks.  Yet there are so many emotional aspects to our actions, of course “worry” is an emotional word.

So I ask this, doesn’t it sound a lot better to say I am “Publish Postinterested” in my son? It occurred to me that “worry”, for one, was not on my list of basic feelings. I asked myself what worry was and came up with the idea that it must be “contaminated interest.” It is interest bogged down with fear and distress or anger and maybe even shame. Well, with all those emotions dragging down my interest in m son it might be hard to get going and do something for him!

I used the example with this patient of paying one’s rent. We might often say that we are “worried” about the rent money. But where does that get us? Are we not better served by saying we are “interested” in paying our rent? In finding the rent money no matter how bad the situation is?  If it is not available it is not available as we all have heard “worrying is not going to solve the problem” how true! But being interested in the problem just might!

In the therapy called “cognitive therapy” this is what is taught.  In short that “negative thoughts” are not productive. Thinking about, “worrying” about all your unpaid bills do not get them paid. Getting interested in making money in whatever way you can (I guess legally)  gets the money to pay the bills.

Brian Lynch
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
www.brianlynchmd.com
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090