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Author: lsblmft

The Legacy of Childhood Abuse

The Legacy of Childhood Abuse

No child deserves to be born to a cruel, self absorbed, and dangerous parent. Sadly, there are some families who fit this description. Children born to drug addicted, violent, or seriously mentally ill parents are at risk during childhood of chronic hunger, physical injury, disease and neglect, emotional cruelty, and early death. Their lives are like a living hell. There is no way to survive this childhood intact. Our social safety net of child abuse laws that make it possible to…

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Good Pastors, Bad Congregations

Good Pastors, Bad Congregations

Parish ministry : It’s good I left when I did. I was shaped as a congregational leader in the 1960’s and 70’s: heady days of steady church membership, confident budgets, and familiar ethic traditions holding everyone together. Despite the daily pain of Viet Nam, race riots, assassinations, and a rising violent drug subculture, middle class Americans believed in the power of their institutions. It was this general optimism that brought the votes to ordain women in my Lutheran tradition in…

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Racism and Trauma

Racism and Trauma

For decades, family therapists and other mental health professionals and researchers have believed that trauma in one generation can be expressed in the genetic code and passed as psychological suffering and vulnerability in following generations. This fact has been demonstrated in animal studies for years, but few human trials have followed. A research team at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, studying the DNA and mental health of survivors of World War II Nazi atrocities and their children, have newly…

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Do People Ever Really Change?

Do People Ever Really Change?

The final episode of the season of AMC’s Mad Men has aired, and many of us who have watched the series have spent some time in reflection on its many observations about human behavior. The main character Don Draper, a premier ad man in New York City during the 1960’s, is such a deeply flawed character, it was often painful for me to watch. But with such wonderful writing, I was compelled to watch hour after hour, as I would read a…

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Why I Told My Clients about My Surgery

Why I Told My Clients about My Surgery

Years ago, when I was 6 years old, my family was in a massive car accident. That event, which nearly killed my parents, is a nodal life event for me. It is the source of many years of mental suffering, as well as the focus of eventual healing and my interest in psychology. I was seated behind my father, who was driving, when the drunk driver hit our station wagon head on. The driver’s seat slammed into my knee, and…

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When Empathy Goes Awry : Mirror Touch Synesthesia

When Empathy Goes Awry : Mirror Touch Synesthesia

How do we come to understand another person’s emotions? Within our brain are a cluster of nerve cells that scientists call “mirror neurons.” These cells and circuits turn on and develop when, as infants and toddlers, our primary caregivers express on their own faces what they sense in us. We are wailing because we are in pain? A caring parent has some of that same suffering in their facial expressions. We laugh and smile when we begin to recognize our…

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What Every Husband Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

What Every Husband Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

Nobody likes to hear someone close to them be critical, blaming or shaming. It feels bad. And sometimes scary. It turns out that when women talk like that to their husbands, contrary to popular opinion, most men feel this intense criticism very strongly in their bodies. And because male bodies “rev up” faster than women’s in stress (heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, tunnel vision), in order to protect themselves and their relationships from too much emotion, men frequently, readily,…

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What Every Wife Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

What Every Wife Ought to Know about Marriage Conflict

If I had the opportunity to share one essential marital tool with every wife in America, I know exactly what I would say: Learn to bring up difficult topics with your partner in a calm, quiet and focused voice. Marital researcher Dr. John Gottman has studied tens of thousands of marital conversations over 30 + years. He has found that there are 4 distinct communication habits that are poison to happy relationships. He calls them the “Four Horsemen,” like the…

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Men Have Emotions, Too

Men Have Emotions, Too

“Men seem to have a mental file drawer where they can store unpleasant experience. Open it up, drop it in, slam it shut. Done.” One of my friends was talking about her own experience in her marriage, and wondered if I agreed. Well, it’s complicated. I do think that in western culture, men are expected to be problem solvers: movers, shakers, thinkers. This is what it takes to succeed in a market economy, where competition for work and other resources…

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Long Term Marriages are Different

Long Term Marriages are Different

From Madeleine L’Engle’s Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage:  Speaking of her 40 year marriage to her husband Hugh Franklin: “We were not a latter-day Heloise and Abelard, Pelleas and Melisande when we married. For one thing, the Heloises and Abelards, the Pelleases and Melisandes, do not get married and stay married for forty years. A love which depends solely on romance, on the combustion of two attracting chemistries, tends to fizzle out. The famous lovers usually end up…

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