Psychology

Follow Up – Aging without Makeup

On Tuesday, I wrote a blog post entitled Blogging without Makeup discussing some emails from a mailing list of Group Psychotherapists that I read. On Thursday, I celebrated my fiftieth birthday and wrote about turning fifty. Both blog posts have received a lot of comment and I would like to try and combine some of my reactions to this in a single, somewhat coherent blog post.

Anthropology Professor Dave Jacobson of Brandeis wrote about the question of what is the ‘real self’. Who is the self real to? Ourselves? Others? Some combination? How does it change based on context or time? To me, it seems as ‘self’ is a function of both our own experiences of ourselves and the experiences others have of ourselves and that it is constantly changing as we grow and have new interactions and experiences.

One experience that a friend from the mailing list suggested is blogging with makeup; that is presenting ourselves as something other than how we currently see ourselves. It seems to me that this is a valuable insight in how we might change ourselves into something we would like to be.

Another person brought up the image of Pygmalion and the modern musical version, My Fair Lady. It seems like this is a very powerful idea for therapy. To the mailing list, I wrote:

Your comment about Pygmalion particularly jumped out at me. In Pygmalion, like My Fair Lady, the hero creates someone else. Yet isn't that, in a certain way, what we do in therapy?

When I was younger, I resisted therapy because I was pretty happy with who I was, in spite of my own issues that I really needed to work out. At one point, however, I came to realize that these issues where impeding me and making me unhappy, and that I needed to, shall we say, recreate myself into an image closer to what I would like to be. In short, I was my own Pygmalion.

Isn't that what we want from people entering therapy, an exploration into who they could be if they addressed their insecurities, their inabilities to properly control anger, drinking or drugs, their need to be in the spotlight, their difficulties finding joy and happiness, etc? Yet doesn't this also bring up interesting issues of where transference and counter transference come in? Who is the patient trying to recreate themselves as? Their own vision? The vision of their therapist? A vision they gain from a group or society around them?

To return to My Fair Lady, perhaps we can change one of the songs just a little bit to
"The gain in pain is helpful to obtain"

In a discussion where myself and another person were being wished happy birthday, one person noted that so many of the birthday wishes focused on youthfulness. To this, I wrote:

It seems like we live in a culture that values youthfulness more than it values wisdom. Why is that?

Perhaps some of it is the fear of our own mortality. Each year the older we get, we are a year closer to death. As we get older, various parts of the body stop working as well as they used to, which can result in the loss of some pleasures and an introduction of new displeasures. I seem to recall Yalom talking about that in one of his novels and about how if he ever got to a particular difficult impasse, he would ask the patient how the patient would want to be remembered at a funeral. As an aside, this fits nicely into the Pygmalion thread, how do we choose to envision what we would like to be?

So, what about wisdom, or perhaps to use the words from another email, "being old in spirit"? I must admit, it is the wisdom of this group as opposed to any youthful spriteliness that I find so attractive.

Perhaps I am sensitive to this because here in Connecticut a reporter has brought an age discrimination suit against a local television station. The station is alleged to have repeated demoted women when they have gotten into their thirties to have younger, more nubile reporters. Personally, I think our news would be much better with the wisdom of older reporters.

With that, let me return to the emails and again thank everyone who shared birthday wishes. What a wonderful world it would be if we could aspire to the wisdom of older members of this list instead of youthfulness of the 23-year-old female reporters.

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Blogging without Makeup

They say that to be a great writer, you need to be a voracious reader, which may explain why my online nonfiction seems to be better than my efforts at novels, short stories or poetry. I spend a lot of time reading blogs, emails, tweets, op-eds and so on. What I like best is raw authenticity, and not the carefully packaged media we too often find.

This was brought to mind by an email I recently received on a mailing list of Group Psychotherapists. There had been a discussion of some group and a dear friend suggested it would be interesting for members of the group to remove their makeup during the session and talk about the feelings that emerged and how it affected their opinions of one another.

This prompted a fascinating reply by Marvin N. Kaphan, LCSW, CGP, Past President of the Group Psychotherapy Association of Southern California.

In his keynote address to their 53rd annual conference, he spoke about The Changing Face of Group Psychotherapy: Adventures in Fifty Years of Practice

He mentioned how many years ago some groups included nudity. Psychotherapist Paul Bindrim’s used this to explore the possibility that “a man's ‘tower of clothes’ is not only a safeguard for his privacy, but also a self-imposed constraint to keep out people he fears”.

On the mailing list, Marv related this story of one group

Many, many years ago when we experimented with nude groups, one woman in one of my groups said: I will take my clothes off, but you will never see me without my makeup. After weeks of the group enquiring about what her fear was, she grudgingly agreed to take her make up off. She went to the bath room and was gone for over a half hour. Finally, the group became concerned and someone went after her. They found her struggling with her fear of facing the group. When she finally appeared without her makeup, no one could detect a difference.

It seems like this applies well to all aspects of life, including blogging. How many of us are afraid that we just aren’t good enough and have to hide behind some sort of makeup designed to make us look a little better? As bloggers, that might be the carefully chosen words, the frequently changing templates of our blogs, or even some sort of counter or demonstration of our page rank to validate our existence as bloggers. The idea that someone might see us as we really are, instead of as who we would like to be and how we would like to be seen, can produce a lot of fear and anxiety.

Yet there is something that might be even more fear invoking, the idea or realization that all our efforts to make ourselves up really don’t matter, that when we appear without our makeup, no one would know the difference. There may be some gender aspects to this as well. When I get a hair cut, very few people ever notice. More women than men tend to notice, and the same thing applies the other way around. I am much less likely to notice when someone else gets a haircut than my wife is.

Marv sums up the experience this way, “It illustrates the tendency of people to undervalue themselves and give the credit to something else (clothes, makeup, etc) for people being impressed with them. One of the great values of group is facing the contrast between our version of ourselves and what others see.”

On the group psychotherapy mailing list, I often try to explore the nature of group interactions online. I’ve learned a lot from the group of group psychotherapists there and have been fascinated by applying the lessons to online communities.

Many of us bloggers are members of informal groups that read each other’s blogs. We may find each other through BlogExplosion, MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, EntreCard, CMF Ads, Adgitize, or a host of other ways of connecting. When we comment on each other’s blogs and when we send emails back and forth, we can also experience some of that great value of groups in learning more about the contrast between our version of ourselves and what others see. With that, I want to encourage my fellow bloggers try blogging without makeup.

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OpenSim Takes a New Direction – April Fool’s Day in Perspective

I was stunned to read more of the reactions to the The Great 2009 OpenSim April Fool’s Prank. There have been people threatening legal action on the OpenSim Users mailing list. The most thought out reaction that I’ve found so far is OpenSim, You’re Losin’ Me, Punking is for Punks. I must say, I take a very different perspective.

I’ve already made my comments about being thankful for developers that give us something for free, even if they include a April Fool’s day pranks in the version of the software intended for developers. Yet the reaction seems to be so over the top, I thought I would try to put it into some context.

Back in 2007, I wrote 1994 all over again where I compared OpenSim with the dispersion of text based virtual worlds called MOOs back in the 1990s. People interested in understand online communities often read articles about LambdaMOO, the grand daddy of the MOOs, and, at least in my mind, the precursor to the three dimensional virtual worlds we now visit. Usually, they end up reading some variant of Julian Dibbell’s article A Rape in Cyberspace.

They move on to learn about how LambdaMOO dealt with community and governance issues. If they are diligent, they read LambdaMOO Takes a New Direction and the follow up LambdaMOO Takes Another Direction. One of my biggest criticisms of the folks at Linden Lab and also perhaps of many others going out and setting up their own OpenSim based virtual worlds is that they haven’t read what happened in the early text based days of virtual worlds and seem destined to repeat many of the mistakes.

Indeed, the uproar about The Great 2009 OpenSim April Fool’s Prank reminds me of so many discussions in LambdaMOO ages ago.

There is another aspect of history that people need to be aware of, and that is the history of April Fool’s pranks online. Perhaps Amy Bruckman said it best in the syllabus to a class she taught, The Design of Virtual Communities, back in 1998.

On the Internet, the most important holiday of the year is April Fools Day! Poke around the net today and gather your best April Fools' pranks. Bring them to our next class. On LambdaMOO, please note *ballot:AprilFools!

*ballot:AprilFools! starts off:

RATIONALE:
We used to have a lot of fun on April Fools Day, but now the wizards are afraid of being disputed, and wizardly pranks are minimal.

THEREFORE:
On April 1st each year, the LambdaMOO Wizards may freely make any temporary changes they like to the database and server for the amusement of the populace. These changes must be reversible, and will be undone on April 2nd. The changes also must not compromise the privacy of any individual in any way.

While @ballot:AprilFools! does not apply to OpenSim Developers, perhaps it should. I, for one, hope that every April 1st, there will be some developers prank, meeting the criteria described in the ballot.

So, with that, let’s go back to the earliest prank in a virtual world that I know of. In The Incredible Tale of LambdaMOO, Pavel Curtis, the archwizard of LambdaMOO wrote:

On the morning of April 1, 1992, when I first got to work, I checked out the transcript of my perpetual connection to LambdaMOO. Amid the usual paged questions and the like, there was a cryptic little message about how a major fire had just swept through the house. Curious, I began wandering around the core of LambdaHouse; it was marvelous. Clearly, some of my staff of wizards had been very busy preparing for this wonderful April Fool's Day hack.

At some point in my wanderings, a worried player paged me to say that it really, truly wasn't his fault, but he seemed suddenly to be a wizard! I didn't believe it, of course, but I checked it out just the same and discovered to my shock that it was true; when I inspected his player object, it clearly had the "wizard" bit on! He pointed to the latest article in the LambdaMOO newspaper; that article, written by my wizards, described the fire and said that, in order to hasten the repairs, all players had been made into wizards so that they could help out. I was utterly aghast.

There may well have been other great virtual world pranks prior to 1992 and I’m willing to bet my Google Chrome 3D Glasses and my Google TiSP spindle that there are going to be more great pranks in the virtual worlds to come.

I’m also willing to bet that the humor impaired will gripe as much about them as they have about The Great 2009 OpenSim April Fool’s Prank, and the many directions the wizards of LambdaMOO have led their community.

Meanwhile, I’ll sit back, observe, comment, and try to have as much fun myself, as I possibly can.

Igniting Dreams

I’ve been pretty busy with a project for Toomre Capital Markets for the past few weeks and my social media activity has suffered as a result. However, there are a bunch of different updates I would like to highlight.

A few days ago, Fiona and I made brief video about Hamilton Island. This is the Australian island that is look to hire a blogger, a job they’ve descrived as The Best Job In The World. A few days ago was the last chance to upload a video, and I tried to get our video in under the wire. Their servers were very slow, but today, I got an email that they had received the video. You can see it on their site, Aldon, United States – The Best Job In The World. In about eight days, they will announce the top fifty videos. Of that, eleven will be selected to travel to Australia for an interview.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten two interesting emails about other opportunities for people searching for new jobs. The Network of Executive Women is currently accepting applications for undergraduate scholarships for women residing in or attending schools in Fairfield or New Haven Counties. The deadline for applications is March1st.

On a lighter note, I received an email from another group offering scholarships.

According to The Wall Street Journal, more than 70% of former Bush officials are out of work, and an online Poker training school is offering them free Poker lessons from non-partisan twenty-year olds earning 7 figures a year. To qualify, simply fax in a letter describing your former position in the Bush Administration, along with phone and e-mail contact information, to (623) 889-5670 to process a 30-day subscription to www.BluefirePoker.com.

Sure, these guys helped to dismantle the American economy – and gambled away our futures – now they may want to consider gambling for a living (legally of course).

For online communications, there are two important sites that I want to highlight. Most importantly, my friend Carol continues her battle with leukemia. You can read her story at Carebridge. Currently, they are looking for people that can donate platelets in the St. Louis area. If you can, please check out the Pheresis Donor Program at Barnes Jewish Hospital.

Another friend has just started blogging. Peter Howie is the Managing Director of The Moreno Collegium for Human Centred Learning, Research and Development. He has started the Moreno Collegium Blog.

His first entry is the President’s Report that he wrote for the Australian and New Zealand Psychodrama Associations. It is a wonderful blog post, talking about "We are the ones we have been waiting for" and this is not the time for lone wolves. and promoting Moreno's dream of dreaming again to the world..

In and of itself, it is a wonderful blog post. Yet as I tie it into the fanciful dreams of blogging from a wonderful island, the very real dreams of being able to afford college, and especially the very hopeful dreams of winning a battle against leukemia, and so many other dreams, it becomes all the more powerful. In it, he links to Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’.

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

I think of Carol. I think of all the people that are trying to fix her leukemia, who are trying to provide lights to guide her home and to ignite her bones, or at least her bone marrow to return to making the blood cells she needs.

Years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about his dream and for many people, the recent presidential election and inauguration in the United States was the culmination of this dream.

Yet as I think of Carol in her hospital bed, as I think of our economy as it struggles and the struggles of so many without jobs or without health insurance, when I think about the environment, and all the challenges ahead of us, I realize we are not at the culmination of a dream, but at the beginning.

There is so much more dreaming to do and I wish Peter luck with his blog and with The Moreno Collegium for Human Centred Learning, Research and Development that they may join with many to ignite bones, ignite dreams, and help others to dream again.

Postscript: As I finished writing this blog post, I received an email from one of my daughters, “This guy comes off as really crazy, but is probably one of the happiest people in the world right now. http://www.caboodleranch.org/About_Us.html

Social Dreams and Blogs

Years ago, I worked with an organizational consultant who was steeped in the Group Relations tradition, and through her, I developed an interest in the work of Wilfred Bion, Tavistock and many aspects of psychology and group dynamics. One area that particularly caught my attention was the work of Gordon Lawrence and others in Social Dreaming.

The idea is to share a dream in a social context, and instead of focusing on the interpretation of the dream, focus on the free associations to the dream to gain insight into social situations. It is with this in mind that I share three dreams that I had last night.

Only a snippet of the first dream remains. In this dream, I was participating in some sort of group and the group leader asked why I was not sharing anything. My reaction was that my thoughts were not well formed enough to be shared. Yet as I thought about the dream, I realized what really matters is sharing the not yet well-formed thoughts so that people could work together and we could all form even better thoughts.

To a certain extent, this is part of my philosophy of blogging. I perhaps do it best when I write about technology. I describe a project I’ve been working on, what works, what doesn’t, and then ask other people to share their experiences. Sometimes people share their experiences via comments, emails or instant messages and when this happens usually both of us learn more.

The same thing should happen, perhaps, for politics, education, and for that matter anything else that interests us. Yet this is very different from the dominant model. Newspapers, politicians and educators seem to believe they have to get it right the first time. They need to be the ‘sage on the stage’ and tell everyone what to think, instead of sharing information and encouraging people to think and to share their own thoughts. Perhaps the Internet will help change this model.

Yet this sort of change could have massive results, and it takes me to my second dream. In this dream, I am near a river that has been flooding. Coming down the stream are all kinds of object from the flood. Much of it household objects. I gather these objects out of the stream to repair and use. Another person owns some sort of market on the side of the river and is retrieving objects to barter or sell. I work out a deal with this person to gain access to the river across his property if I help bring in additional objects from the river for him. From this, I get to choose the five best objects that he has.

The final dream was also a water related dream. Instead of a river, I am at the shore of an ocean. There is a storm and the surf is high. Some people are out playing in the ocean. Off to the right there is a small cove, where the surf is not as high that seems fairly safe. Straight ahead is the expanse of the sea and the surf is rougher. People are playing in this surf as well, and at times people get pulled out to sea. Some get rescued, others do not. During this, a bright golden sandbar emerges going out into the sea, and some people go very far out on the sandbar playing safely. I know they are safe as long as the sandbar is there, but I know that the sandbar could easily shift and they could all be in peril.

Unlike the first dream, to which I have some clear reactions, my reactions to these later two dreams are less clear. What comes to your mind when you read these dreams? I’m perhaps more interested in related dreams, songs or movies that it makes you think of, or other things going on in our society, then I am in interpretations about what it might mean, but I welcome all comments.
Years ago, I worked with an organizational consultant who was steeped in the Group Relations tradition, and through her, I developed an interest in the work of Wilfred Bion, Tavistock and many aspects of psychology and group dynamics. One area that particularly caught my attention was the work of Gordon Lawrence and others in Social Dreaming.

The idea is to share a dream in a social context, and instead of focusing on the interpretation of the dream, focus on the free associations to the dream to gain insight into social situations. It is with this in mind that I share three dreams that I had last night.

Only a snippet of the first dream remains. In this dream, I was participating in some sort of group and the group leader asked why I was not sharing anything. My reaction was that my thoughts were not well formed enough to be shared. Yet as I thought about it, I realized what really matters is sharing the not yet well formed thoughts so that people could work together and we could all form even better thoughts.

To a certain extent, this is part of my philosophy of blogging. I perhaps do it best when I write about technology. I describe a project I’ve been working on, what works, what doesn’t and ask other people to share their experiences. Sometimes people share their experiences via comments, emails or instant messages and when this happens usually both of us learn more.

The same thing should happen, perhaps, for politics, education, and for that matter anything that interests us. Yet this is very different from the dominant model. Newspapers, politicians and educators have to get it right the first time. They need to be the ‘sage on the stage’ and tell everyone what to think, instead of encouraging people how to think and to share their thoughts. Perhaps the Internet will help change this model.

Yet this sort of change could have massive results, and it takes me to my second dream. In this dream, I am near a river that has been flooding. Coming down the stream are all kinds of object from the flood. Much of it household objects. I gather these objects out of the stream to repair and use. Another person owns some sort of market on the side of the river and is retrieving objects to barter or sell. I work out a deal with this person to gain access to the river across his property if I help bring in additional objects from the river for him. From this, I get to choose the five best objects that he has.

The final dream was also a water related dream. Instead of a river, I am at the shore of an ocean. There is a storm and the surf is high. Some people are out playing in the ocean. Off to the right there is a small cove, where the surf is not as high that seems fairly safe. Straight ahead is the expanse of the sea and the surf is rougher. People are playing in this surf as well, and at times people get pulled out to sea. Some get rescued, others do not. During this, a sandbar emerges going out into the sea, and some people go very far out on the sandbar playing safely. I know they are safe as long as the sandbar is there, but I know that the sandbar could easily shift and they could all be in peril.

Unlike the first dream, to which I have some clear reactions, my reactions to these later two dreams are less clear. What comes to your mind when you read these dreams? I’m perhaps more interested in related dreams, songs or movies that it makes you think of, or other things going on in our society, then I am in interpretations about what it might mean, but I welcome all comments.

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