Most of us like to believe we are rational and that any superstitions we have are humorous because we would not take such things seriously. This past week Jonathan Shedler had a really good post on how wrong we are, at least when it comes to antidepressants. Take a look — it is well worth the time.
This week has brought a couple of reminders that weight is the most important thing about any of us.
First, when Colleen Mccullough died, her obituary did not lead with a list of her remarkable accomplishments. As Regan Chastain described them, she
created the department of neurophysiology at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, she served as head of the department for five years. She worked at the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street. She taught neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurological electronics at Yale. She wrote the best selling novels Tim and The Thorn Birds and 23 other books including cookbooks, a biography, romance, family history, crime and seven-book Roman series. She was awarded the Scanno Prize for literature and several of her books have been made into films.
but these things were not deemed worthy of the lede in her obituary. Oh no. What really mattered was this:
COLLEEN McCullough, Australia’s best selling author, was a charmer. Plain of feature, and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth. In one interview, she said: “I’ve never been into clothes or figure and the interesting thing is I never had any trouble attracting men.”
And yes, this paragraph was in bold. Because her looks trump anything she did during her life.
If only this were uncommon, but it is not. Last fall the NY Times magazine did a profile piece on Chris Christie. Here are a few choice items from that piece:
The governor then sat back down to his nachos, which were dripping grease and piled prodigiously with three scoops of sour cream and guacamole over melted cheese. Diced tomatoes spilled onto the table. Christie, who has lost about 100 pounds since undergoing lap-band surgery last year, stopped drinking soda and rarely drinks alcohol, except for an occasional vodka “to take the edge off.” But he hasn’t relinquished some old delights. He surveyed the nachos and grabbed a large deck hewed together by coagulated Cheddar. “We don’t mess around,” he said, bringing the cluster to his lips. “I didn’t have breakfast today,” he added, as if by way of explanation. And then: “I had a little bit of ice cream around lunchtime.” When I asked if he felt better after his weight loss, Christie replied that he felt much the same physically but “much better psychologically.”
That was the third paragraph in a long article about a man who is a governor, the chair of the Republican Governor’s Association and widely believed to be a major contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. And his nachos were deemed worthy of this much attention — and they are mentioned again in the article too. In fact the word “nacho” appears 8 times in the article!
Later in the piece there is this:
I happily return to Jung. I am reminded of this quote:
It is generally assumed in medical circles that the examination of the patient should lead to a diagnosis of his illness, so far as this is possible at all, and that with the establishment of the diagnosis an important decision has been arrived at as regards prognosis and therapy. Psychotherapy forms a startling exception to this rule: the diagnosis is a highly irrelevant affair since, apart from afixing a more or less lucky label to a neurotic condition, nothing is gained by it, at least as regards prognosis and therapy...
The content of a neurosis can never be established by a single examination, or even by several. It manifests itself only in the course of treatment. Hence the paradox that the true psychological diagnosis becomes apparent only at the end. (C.G. Jung, Collected Works, Vol. 16, pp.86-87)
Jung argues that initially one must make an assessment of whether or not organic brain disease is present and I would add that it is important to assess for psychosis. But given that the vast majority of patients who show up for psychotherapy have already prescreened themselves along those lines so that it is rare for a therapist to see either in a new patient, most of the people we see are what Jung called neurotic. And isn't it interesting that despite the fact that psychiatry discarded neurosis with the DSM III, the term persists in common usage?
How different Jung's perspective is from what dominates today -- a fixation on diagnosis. In fact, if one is not assigned, then there is no third party payment. We may have rather hugely increased the number of potential diagnoses, but to think the process is actually precise or scientific is to labor under serious delusion. Following Jung's path takes patient and therapist to meaning of symptoms in the context of that patient's life.
You may have heard we had a blizzard here in Maine yesterday. A by-the-book definition of the term blizzard with large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours). We didn’t lose power at all so we stayed snug and warm in our house and enjoyed watching the snow and listening to the winds which howled around the house.
Looks like we ended up with something around 20-24” of snow. And more forecast for Friday. Ahh, winter in Maine!
There used to be a restaurant in Waterville, Maine called The Silent Woman.They had a large sign which depicted a decapitated woman serving refreshments on a tray. It was a terrible image, one I am happy to see is no longer there as both restaurant and sign are long gone.
In the garden in front of my house I have the figure above. She stands there year round, hair flying, dancing and in my mind celebrating life and herself. She is in her exuberance the very antithesis of the Silent Woman.
I was quiet about what it is like being fat and how I felt and what I thought for a very long time. It isn’t say to go against tide and speak up and speak out. So I began writing several years ago. And then as I became bolder, I submitted my essay to Spring and became a bit more public than I am here in my cozy blog.
I have a great passion for the work I do. Doing psychotherapy is far more than a job for me. I love doing the work, talking about it, reading more deeply in the field, listening and learning from others in my part of the therapy universe and from other parts that also look in depth.
It is cold today — never got above single digits and the wind chill had us below zero most of the day. Cold and beautiful.
That is arctic sea smoke over the water, an indication of how cold it is.
Bright sun aside, I decided this was a good idea to stay inside and read. So I have spent the day reading Rebecca Weinstein’s Fat Kids: Truth and Consequences. If you were a fat kid or have a fat kid or know someone who was a fat kid, I recommend you get and read this book. In Rebecca’s words as quoted on Amazon:
Fat Kids: Truth and Consequences tells the real-life stories behind being a fat kid. At this critical juncture, kids are struggling - fat kids, skinny kids, girl kids, and boy kids. The pressure to be thin is overwhelming. The devastation that is happening to kids because of weight, bullying, shame, fear, pills, surgeries, and profound pain is ever growing. The childhood obesity crisis around the world may be troubling, but not only because kids might be fatter. And everyone, kids, their parents, and all the well-meaning people trying to protect these kids from their fat bodies, needs to know the truth and consequences. We must not focus only on their fat; we must protect kids' hearts, souls, and sanity as well. These are stories of fat kids, former fat kids, and kids who think they are fat. Their stories need to be told. They will make you cry, and then they will make you think.
Whether an "epidemic" or a "war," children are in midst of a battle for their lives, for their physical, emotional, and social existence. As fat kids, those who are perceived as such or even just those who simply feel fat, children, as they grow into teenagers and adults, are struggling in ways more profound than the media or even the medical establishment would lead us to believe. And it's not primarily because of deadly pounds; the issues are far more complex then that. Although discussion is at a fever pitch now, it has been decades in the making. There is nothing new about children on diets, children on diet pills, children in intense weight loss programs such as camps and schools. But now it is in the news, and the message is one of life and death.
Whether that message leads to weight loss, lifestyle changes, responses from the food industry, and happier, healthier children, is certainly unclear. In fact it is so unclear, the truth and consequences are rarely discussed. What is even more hidden is the struggle, often lifelong, that is burdening these children. From shame, to bullying, eating disorders, feelings of self-defeat, lack of self-esteem, and all of the emotional and physical costs of what is so often a frustrating and even futile battle - fat kids are impacted by being fat, and the expectation of becoming thin, in ways most people cannot comprehend.
It is time their stories are told.
Fat Kids: Truth and Consequences is a narrative nonfiction account of people's life experiences growing up fat and being the parents of fat children, the methods that were used to cause weight loss, and the outcomes of these experiences. Heartfelt and often heartbreaking real-life stores are paired with expert discussion of important issues of the day, such as stigma and bullying, the psychological ramification of being a fat child in our culture, and the medical science behind weight. The book includes honest and forthright portrayals in a memoir-esque storytelling style, used to illustrate the serious information presented by subject matter experts.
I was a fat kid. When I look now at pictures of myself, I see I was not all that heavy, probably more chubby than fat, but that is a distinction without a difference when the only options are to be average, i.e. slender, and therefore good or fat and therefore bad. Reading many of the chapters brought back vivid and painful memories of experiences from my childhood and renewed awareness of how I came to rely on being smart to escape as much as I could from the burdens of being outside the acceptable norm for weight.
I know I promised a post yesterday, but here I am a day late and with another post coming tomorrow.http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/22/dr-mark-gerald.html
I have written here several times about where we do therapy and the meaning of that space. Most recently I wrote here about changing my own consulting room. And no doubt I will write about this space again in the future. Today I offer you a lovely piece from The Daily Beast about the ongoing project of psychoanalyst and photographer Dr. Mark Gerard, In the Shadow of Freud’s Couch. To date Gerard has gone to and photographed 70 different psychoanalysts’ offices, space that as the piece points out is not open to the casual visitor. Do follow the link above and visit. You can find more photos from the project here .
What do you think? Which spaces seem most inviting to you? And which not at all inviting? Annie Bergman’s would drive me nuts because it is so visually busy. And to my delight there is at least one Jungian among them — Andrew Samuels.
It is obvious that I have not been posting here for quite a while. This blog will be 8 years old in a few weeks. And it seemed time for me to step back and consider what I want to do here going forward.
I thought about discontinuing the blog altogether and changing my efforts over to Facebook and Twitter. But Facebook, while it is a good place to sort of keep track of things my family and friends notice, it doesn’t feel like an especially good place to put out more serious concerns. As for Twitter, 140 characters just isn’t my style.
You can expect at least two posts every week from me. One more or less related to the world of Jung and psychotherapy and another on the matter of weight and fat. And now and again some thoughts about aging and other matters.
So here we are at a new beginning. Come along with me. If you have things you’d like to see me talk about, please leave a comment. I LOVE comments!
See you Thursday!
Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture, Vol. 91, Fall 2014
Nancy Cater & Patricia Reis, Co-Editors
This volume was inspired by When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by American writer, naturalist, and environmental activist Terry Tempest Williams. We are honored that Terry Tempest Williams agreed to be interviewed in this issue. The interview with guest co-editor Patricia Reis opens this issue and sets the tone for the articles that follow.
In When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams asks, "What needs to be counted on to have a voice? Courage. Anger. Love. Something to say; someone to listen." The sixteen contributors to this volume recognize and demonstrate, directly or indirectly, the truth of Terry Tempest Williams' observation. Articles address the psychological issues that arise when women attempt to express themselves, the obstacles faced, the obstacles overcome (or not), the creativity that may released. Included are both clinical articles, as well as personal and more academic papers.
One of my favorite movie lines comes from “Little Big Man” when Chief Dan George’s character comes down after the mountain after going there to die and says, “Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.” This line comes to mind when I see the magical thinking in much of what many believe will make everything different for fat people.
For everything problematic, and much which is not problematic, in fat people’s lives the universal remedy is to lose weight. Lose weight and there will no longer be any of the stares or other negative emotional effects of being fat.Therapists routinely urge fat patients to lose weight in order to be “healthy”. And given the massive stigma, common sense would seem to suggest that losing weight would make people happier. Except for one little thing. New research suggests that losing weight does not improve mental health, a finding entirely unexpected by the researchers Sarah Jackson and colleagues. In their study, they found for fat people who are otherwise healthy and not depressed, at the end of 4 years the proportion of participants with depressed mood increased by almost 300% in the group that lost weight (about 15% of participants) compared to a rather modest 85% and 62% increase in mood problems in the weight stable or weight gain groups, respectively. This flies directly in the face of what is commonly believed and in fact what most therapists would believe to be the case. These researchers suggest that these findings arise from: