Those of you who are keen-eyed will notice that picture of my office on the right has changed. I have been contemplating changing my office for a coupe of years and even went so far as to paint the walls of the room I wanted to use but somehow the impetus to actually do the work just never quite happened. Until a couple of weeks ago. Why now? For the last 9 years my office has been up a flight a stairs in a lovely room that seems almost to be in the trees. it is very nice space — cozy and quiet. But in the last year I have had a couple of people who, though they managed the stairs fine, clearly had a little difficulty. and I too, as I age, find the prospect of going up and down the stairs multiple times every day less and less appealing. So the time had come. And so last week I officially moved my space downstairs.
Here it is as seen from the door —
A few weeks ago I was in a group presenting some of my material from my book-in-progress. I am always a bit anxious when I talk about it with new people. This time, as has proven to be the case every time so far, rather than being at all hostile or critical about my ideas about fat, the group was interested, curious and supportive. In the portion I presented I shared my experience being a fat person. I talked about the assumption that fat people are compulsive eaters and said that I personally had no such history. One of the members of the group asked me if I were going to write about how and what I do eat as she was curious, especially in light of saying I am not and haven’t been a compulsive eater.
I immediately recognized the unconscious assumption that she was making — that as a fat person, I must eat differently from the way she eats or I would be slender like she is. I recognized it as unconscious as she was truly curious and overall not hostile to what I was saying. She was simply echoing the commonly held view that in some way, probably by what and how much we eat, fat people must be very different from slender people.
Mid-life could be seen as the opening of the issues of the last act of life. Certainly Jung seems to;
In the secret hour of life's midday the parabola is reversed, death is born. The second half of life does not signify ascent, unfolding, increase, exuberance, but death, since the end is its goal. The negation of life's fulfillment is synonymous with the refusal to accept its ending. Both mean not wanting to live, and not wanting to live is identical with not wanting to die. Waxing and Waning make one curve.
Midlife can be a time of stress as emotion breaks through ego boundaries – reflecting that which feel injured or neglected.
“Emotions are not chosen; they choose us and have a logic of their own.” James Hollis
One person may experience the fear of losing control and the sense of self that once worked. Another may feel the fear of further losing areas of self-expression. Frequently, there is the existential fear of mortality and diminishing time, the realization that half of life is gone.
Most people who know me know I am an ardent advocate of journal keeping. I started my own journal 40 years ago. A friend of mine told me about her neighbors, two sisters in their 90’s who had been keeping journal since they were young women in their 20s. My husband and I were about to begin our efforts to become parents which led me to realize that I, and indeed most people I knew, really had no sense of our parents as people, as people with separate identities from being Mom or Dad, people with dreams and thoughts and wishes of their own. It occurred to me that if I kept a journal, at least when I died, my kids, whoever they might be, could read and learn about Cheryl who was more than Mom.
That’s how it started anyway. In the spring of 1974, the year Nixon resigned, I began my journal. My mother-in-law, after learning I was planning to do this, sent me 5 beautiful red leather bound blank books, probably the nicest gift I ever received from here. And for the first three years or so, it really was a record of my life. Things like the effects of inflation on our lives, the experiences of my pregnancies and birth experiences, the ups and downs of married life. But sometime after my second child was born, my writing took a different turn and my journal became far more about my internal life. And by the time I started in therapy and then analysis several years later, it was all about my interior life. In fact reading my journal from most of the years since the mid-80s, the reader would be hard pressed to know much at all about my outer life or even that I had one!
This continues to be one hell of a winter. We have had days of below zero temperatures, snow storm after snow storm, rain, freezing rain, sleet. Yesterday we had snow in the morning, sleet in the afternoon, a thunderstorm and a huge downpour, all in less than 12 hours. Today and tomorrow we should be in the 40’s, Monday begins a plunge down down down as the Polar Vortex returns. All of this makes for a lot of time curled up inside reading and watching movies and not a whole lot of desire to communicate with the outside world.
I have been to my second New Directions weekend, which like the first was exhausting, challenging, stimulating and wonderful. I am getting very positive feedback on my book project which encourages me to keep on with it. I hope to finish it within this year. More on that as we go along this year.
While I have been holed up watching snow fall, this blog reached its 7th birthday. That amazes me. Now I feel like I need to give it some more attention, which I started today by redecorating a bit. I am aiming for 3 posts a week so stay tuned.
Here on the coast of Maine we have been pretty occupied by a lot of winter weather, not the least of which was the ice storm which hit us last week, leaving some people without power for most of last week. Though we were fortunate and only lost heat and lights for one day, the effects of the storm linger on. It is fiercely cold and the ice is still on the trees today, a week later. The effect is one of great beauty, so for now I leave you with photos. I'll be back in a day or so with food for thought.
I used to think I had a pretty good grasp of what it means to be or call oneself Jungian. I was drawn to analytical psychology because the notion that symptoms and behavior are meaningful made sense to me and seemed to me a more optimistic view of what it is to be human. Rather than focusing on pathology or seeing symptoms as being all about pathology, as I saw it analytical psychology looked for meaning and for the freedom that can accompany working to understand and take in the meaning of symptoms and behavior. Further the notion that in analysis, the analyst is in the soup along with the analysand and both are changed in the process of the analysis, for the analyst is indeed a wounded healer.
Recently I was asked to be part of a group of feminist Jungians in an online seminar on feminism in the Jungian world. The seminar itself ended several sees ago but the discussion goes on. But it goes on in a way that I cannot really relate to with debates about the nature of humanism and other philosophical issues that seem far removed from the world of bodies and dream and fears and wounds that are after all the stuff of what we see and hear and deal with in the consulting room.
As Ragen Chastain noted yesterday, "The American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the Obesity Society released new guidelines urging doctors to be “more aggressive” in urging fat patients to lose weight."
Here are the guidelines(from Ragen's blog post linked above):
At least once year, calculate patients’ BMI, measure their waists and tell them if they are overweight or obese.
Develop a weight-loss plan that includes exercise and moderate calorie-cutting.
Consider recommending weight-loss surgery for patients with a BMI of 40 or for those with a BMI of 35 who also have two other risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Refer overweight and obese patients who are headed for heart problems to weight-loss programs. Specifically, discuss enrolling them in at least 14 face-to-face counseling sessions over six months with a registered dietitian, psychologist or other professional with training in weight management.
For all the reasons Ragen cites, these guidelines are boggling, but as a therapist, I zero in particularly on the "14 face-to-face counseling sessions over six months". Such precision -- 14 sessions in 6 months -- how was that magic number arrived at? And since when has therapy or as they call it, counseling, been shown to be effective in producing or maintaining weight loss? All kinds of counselors and therapists that I know or have read about believe that therapy should lead to weight loss, but I am unaware of any approach that produces long term maintenance of the weight loss. in my personal life, though I have worked diligently in analysis, the insight gained and work on complexes has certainly made my life better but there has not been the slightest difference in my weight.
If like me you are interested in writing from a depth psychological perspective, do I have a program for you!
A couple of years ago I read something that referred to a writing program for therapists and others interested in writing informed by depth psychology. Then this spring I looked for it and found it and applied to New Directions: Writing With a Psychoanalytic Edge. I had some trepidation because it is psychoanalytic and when I asked, I discovered I would be the first and so far only Jungian. But really, where else would I find a program like this on writing?
I have written since I was a kid. I have kept a journal for 40 years. I wrote a decent masters thesis and doctoral dissertation. I write this blog. I have had a couple of articles published. But thinking of myself as a writer is new for me and I had taken only one writing workshop before and no classes or courses in writing. I tried creating a writing group for myself a couple of years ago but the people who came write fiction and really don't read much non-fiction. I wanted a writing group of my peers, people who are curious about the kinds of things that attract me, people invested in their inner lives. New Directions looked like it might fill the bill.
My daughter found this on Facebook --
This cat should be mine!