Friday, July 26, 2013

MY SEARCH FOR MEANING

God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?  (Author: David T. Lamb) is a relatively recent book about the Bible and problems associated with belief in the Bible as a book inspired from a righteous God. It also addresses God's apparent controversial behaviors throughout the ages found in the Bible.

About 15 yrs ago, I made a fervent promise to myself to re-read the entire Bible starting from Old Testament.  After a long time, with little exposure to religion since childhood, my adult senses were throttled repeatedly while reading how God allows (?) makes possible (?) initiates (?) despicable acts toward his “children!”

Someone close to me once told me, "If you have any questions about the Bible, please feel free to bring them to me and we can discuss it!  I will attempt to answer those questions!"  So, I got out paper and pencil and began making notations and writing my queries.  

It took me a very long time to get through the OT because, with almost every page, I was consumed with questions about the nature of God.  As I progressed through the book, I became more and more disgusted and shocked with what I read.  (They didn’t teach us all this stuff in Sunday School!)  

I ended up with a stack of notes and questions that almost could have become a book in itself.  Who was going to take the time and effort to explain away all, or even effectively answer most of my questions?  It became clear that there were no answers—at least no acceptable ones to my way of thinking.  Ultimately, I threw my notes away.

With my senses developed over many years, and my critical thinking skills honed, I still could not make sense out of God’s behavior.  However, the haunting refrain I remember people in church saying, “God’s wisdom is not our wisdom.”  (Or words to that effect…!) stayed with me. So I continued to use faith.

At the time I was struggling with belief in God and the Bible, I was living in Greece on an island without a computer. (Hadn’t even touched one until 1999.) I became very confused and frustrated with the cognitive dissonance I experienced while reading the Old Testament.  


I believed I had nowhere to turn for answers, except for a handful of fundamentalist Christians on the island.  Of course, speaking and trying to worship with fundamentalists truly made things worse!  I railed against their dogmatic style, the intolerance to my questions, the incessant singing of hymns, and other Christian songs, and the occasional outbursts of the “speaking in tongues.” Ridiculous. This was surely not what I was seeking. 


One member offered to have a question-and-answer session with me and 3 other fundamentalists. However, I was certain they couldn't answer my questions, especially because they believe every word of the Bible to be correct!  (Really?)

I was hungry for answers and for a more spiritual connection in my life.  So, when the local women’s expatriate group organized evenings with a Buddhist monk, I took the opportunity to learn more about it.

A young French man, quiet spoken, struggling with English, headed the sessions.  He seemed knowledgeable and intelligent, however, and kind.  I liked many aspects of Buddhism.  I wasn’t sure about the no-God theory, but after reading the OT, I was open to the prospect.  At least I wouldn’t be knocking my head against the wall feeling guilty for blaming an apparently contradictory, mean, sexist, racist, and murderous God, who needed to be obeyed, worshiped and loved all the time.  (And a God who was jealous and vengeful strained credulity!)  Anyway, the godless concept gave me some relief.

Buddhists main teaching is that all sentient beings desire happiness and contentment and that the “fly in the soup” is that we suffer because of our “attachment”.  So, to overcome suffering, we must learn “unattachment”.  The Buddhists believe that with unattachment we can still care and love because we are not dependent on love for anything, any concept, or anyone.  Voila, you are then open to finding happiness!  (Basically...I think that is their creed.  Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood the very complicated concepts of this religion.)

I liked many aspects of Buddhism. It is very clearly expressed and in very psychological terms; that, especially, appealed to me.  Yet, what I witnessed, what I experienced were the many trappings of religion:  special garments, a throne, incense, repetitious prayers, hierarchies, and some other very superstitious kinds of beliefs.  


Another major Buddhist belief was at once both hopeful and disappointing:  reincarnation.  I could see the concept perhaps working for humans, but the human to animal to insect thing was too much for me to swallow. Anyway, I wouldn't want to take a chance for another life.  I'm not that much of a gambler--or masochist!

As with every religion  I have investigated since (and there have been many), I discovered each religion required a vast amount of faith, and logic was, too many times, thrown aside or at least minimized (…or put on the “back shelf” as we were instructed in Mormonism).  We didn’t need to know all the reasons for everything, and everything would be made clear and just, eventually (after death).  A comforting thought. But that is just one price we pay for believing in a fairy tale like fantasy of a loving God who will save all the good people and let them live for eternity in happiness.  (No wonder it is so difficult for people to let go of their religions!)

What I needed was to believe in a reasonable God who was logical, all-powerful (with few constraints regarding physics, as I was taught?), who loves us unconditionally, and would not allow or cause his children to suffer. Surely, he could have thought up a better plan than for us to be victims of the freewill of others!   SEE POST:  "WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SO MUCH SUFFERING?"

The whole concept of prayer is another clincher.  Why grant prayer requests of some people and not others?  Yes, prayer works--in a way--it keeps hope alive, and that is important.

MY HIGHER POWER?
I also had the choice to do what 12-step programs advocate, and just assign anything, even a pencil, as God, as the higher power. (Oh, THAT makes sense…!) Or I could just hope that the Old Testament is really screwed up and that man's translations and personal, political, power interests (namely the Jews?) corrupted the Bible and left us with our 21st century mouths hanging open. That, however, sounded like an illogical, desperate and pitiful way to validate my early religious conditioning.  Surely, God would not leave us hanging in disbelief and in such a wretched state, at the mercy of the freewill of those misguided individuals!?  Nope.  Not good enough.

This whole concept of obedience and authority and mixing religion with money…ack…just feels like walking through a dangerous swamp.  My generation questions authority (or did). In addition, obeying authority without very good reasons is not even in my DNA!  I can’t help it.  I’m just not made that way!!  I hate to go against the beliefs of my childhood, and I desire to please my family, but I found too many impediments to swallowing these beliefs.

I read a debate between two very respected theologians discussing the nature of God—one of the greatest concepts that troubled me.  What I discovered was a lot of hot air, twisting, and turning, and rationalizing, and maybes!  Unsatisfying.  The same old, same old...

After researching many creeds and religions, I decided that no one really has all the answers, or knows what they are talking about, or can present any logical, reasonable grounds for believing in God and Christ, as described in the Bible.  That realization was heart-breaking for me.  I was often jarred at the thought that I had been deceived most of my life.  I felt grief at "losing my religion."

In my opinion, all religions have very few answers and rely heavily on FAITH.  However, they also rely on standard, universal moral teachings that can be found in EVERY major religion.  Somehow, THAT rings a bell.  It seems that people have learned, evolutionarily over thousands of years, that in order to live happily and peacefully together, we need to live by certain rules. (Nietzsche called it "the herd morality.")


Does that make any particular church "the only true one" because they offer more answers and more rules?  No!  The conclusion indicates that there is wisdom in many theologies and philosophies.  But, it also suggests that we may not need religion to live happily and peacefully, as many agnostics and atheists testify and demonstrate.

I tried to weed out flaws from the roots of my conditioning, always asking, "Is what I had been taught in my religion true?"

Suddenly, my eyes were opened by a YouTube video called “Zeitgeist.”  From there, I was inspired to study the books of D.M. Murdock.  And the pieces of the religion puzzle started falling into place!  It was as if a veil fell from my eyes.

SEE POST:  "...AND THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE..."

The following is for your enlightenment:

Bible
 
"If thou trusteth to the book called the Scriptures, thou trusteth to the rotten staff of fables and falsehood." ~Thomas Paine
*
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God." ~Thomas Paine
*
"If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane." ~Robert Ingersoll
*
"If a man really believes that God once upheld slavery; that he commanded soldiers to kill women and babes; that he believed in polygamy; that he persecuted for opinion's sake; that he will punish forever, and that he hates an unbeliever, the effect in my judgment will be bad. It always has been bad. This belief built the dungeons of the Inquisition. This belief made the Puritan murder the Quaker." ~ Robert Ingersoll
*
"I know of no book which has been a source of brutality and sadistic conduct, both public and private, that can compare with the Bible." ~Sir James Paget
*
"No other work has more often been blamed for more heinous crimes by the perpetrators of such crimes. The Bible has been named as the instigating or justifying factor for many individual and mass crimes, ranging from the religious wars, inquisitions, witch burnings, and pogroms of earlier eras to systematic child abuse and ritual murders today." ~Nadine Strossen
*
"The God of the Bible is a moral monstrosity." ~Rev. Henry Ward Beecher
*
"The obscurity, incredibility and obscenity, so conspicuous in many parts of it, would justly condemn the works of a modern writer. It contains a mixture of inconsistency and contradiction; to call which the word of God, is the highest pitch of extravagance: it is to attribute to the deity that which any person of common sense would blush to confess himself the author of." ~ Elihu Palmer
*
"It is like most other ancient books – a mingling of falsehood and truth, of philosophy and folly – all written by men, and most of the men only partially civilized. Some of its laws are good – some infinitely barbarous. None of the miracles related were performed. . . . Take out the absurdities, the miracles, all that pertains to the supernatural – all the cruel and barbaric laws – and to the remainder I have no objection. Neither would I have for it any great admiration." ~Robert Ingersoll
*
"The Bible, taken as a whole, can be used to praise or condemn practically any human activity, thought, belief, or practice." ~Peter McWilliams
*
"Let us read the Bible without the ill-fitting colored spectacles of theology, just as we read other books, using our judgment and reason. . . ." ~ Luther Burbank
*
"If you really delve into the Bible you will see that it is a maze, a mass, a veritable labyrinth of contradictions, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, poor mathematics, bad science, erroneous geography, false prophecies, immoral comments, degenerate heroes, and a multitude of other problems too numerous to mention. It may be somebody's word but it certainly isn't the product of a perfect, divine being. The Bible has more holes in it than a backdoor screen. In a society dominated by the Book's influence, all freethinkers should do what Adam and Eve did when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. They went out and raised Cain." ~C. Dennis McKinsey

http://www.humanismbyjoe.com/religion_quotes.htm

HAPPINESS QUESTIONS

BOSS TO EMPLOYEE AT RAISE TIME SAYS:
I know that money doesn't bring happiness, so here's some Prozac.
 
A RICH GUY SAYS:
I spent my whole life making money, and now they tell me that happiness is in my DNA!
ERIC FROMM SAYS:
Happiness is the criterion of excellence in the art of living.


What do YOU say? 
Do you think you can train yourself to be happy?
What is the importance of happiness in the world, really?
Can people be happy without a spiritual life?
Where does the fault lie if people are unhappy?
Do you think that there are requirements for all people to be happy?
If you are happy but suddenly find yourself unhappy, can you explain why?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR SELF ESTEEM TAKES A DIVE


People talk a lot about raising self-esteem.  I think self-esteem is a myth.  It is based on doing, not being.  You become a human doing instead of a human being.  This theory of self-esteem is echoed by Albert Ellis, who created the REBT theory for therapy (rational emotive behavior therapy).  This therapy teaches clients about the mind, the feelings, and the behaviors of people and shows them the way to self-acceptance, to unconditional self-love, instead of self-esteem that is based on what we DO.  Self-esteem is a trap.  If we don't perform as we've been taught or conditioned to, we feel like failures in our lives.  In contrast, unconditional self-regard allows us to love ourselves regardless of what we do or who we are.

Self-esteem is one of the most talked about and one of the greatest myths of our time.  Are we not worthy of respect just because we are human beings?  Do we have to prove to the world, to our friends and our family, that we can jump through hoops they value in order to be regarded as valuable?

Improving ourselves is a worthy cause, and, I believe, one of the reasons we are on this earth.  Yet, regardless of what we accomplish, we can still love ourselves.  We just need to divorce ourselves from the conditioning from our societies and families.  "Is, not become": that is the answer!

Can't a baby be loved and respected?  Must he prove to us that he is valuable?  The same can be said of older humans.  Each person has their trials and their limitations.  Does that mean that they should be loved less because they might have impediments that hold them back from accomplishing what we think they should, or what they think they should?

People who claim to be Christians are often guilty (as are non-Christians--but they are taught differently so they are more off-the-hook) of accepting and valuing others depending on what they accomplish in life.  According to most Christians, this life is test to see what we can overcome, what we can learn, what we can accomplish.  These judgments hold true especially for people who are not related to one another.  It seems to be easier to love a child or relative, regardless of what they do in life.

Self-esteem is a myth!  Let us stop talking about self-love and acceptance in this way!!  Because we "are", we are worthy of love.  We must learn to throw away the antiquated ideas of "you are what you do", and supplant them with "you are who you are and worthy of love and respect under any conditions."

Does this concept sound strange to you?  Share your thoughts with us.  Challenge this concept, if you believe differently!

SEE POST:  LOW SELF-ESTEEM

Sunday, May 13, 2012

FRUSTRATION WITH ISRAEL

PICTURE CREDIT:  Deesillustration.com
Who is Rahm Emanuel?


Why are gov't officials allowed to have one type of dual citizenship--Israeli?


What does Israel think it's accomplishing by being such greedy, hypocritical bulldogs?


How can people swallow the concept of anti-Zionism being racism?


How can Israel justify the genocide of Palestinians?


I've read Israelis' pat answers for all these questions--all of which range from unsatisfactory to ridiculous.

At the risk of sounding negative, I don't think this situation will ever resolve itself peacefully.  And that frightens me...

DECLINE OF AMERICA



 Is America doomed to become another Greece?

Watch the video below and find out...

IGNORANCE: TO JUDGE OR NOT TO JUDGE?


I've been reading a long, somewhat confusing thread on ignorance and have distilled these thoughts:

I've concluded (for the time being) that there are two kinds of ignorance. (1) ignorance of ignorance, and (2) awareness of ignorance. I might be mistaken but it seems that those 2 categories cover all types of ignorance. And I think that we cannot be faulted for our ignorance unless it is willful.

I do allow myself to feel disgust of ignorance, but not of the "Ignorant" (though I'm not always successful).

What is the best way to think about ignorance? We cannot examine ignorance without considering another concept called "judgment".

I believe strongly that we cannot fully know others, therefore, we cannot accurately judge others. You might say,  "I know myself better, therefore, I can judge myself."  Well, yes and no. Because we are not objective, can we really know ourselves? Because we live in denial (and need to in order to survive), can we fairly judge ourselves?

Interestingly, the Bible says, "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (One of the wisest statements found in that book, I think.) It doesn't say, "You can judge yourself, but not others."

Because judgment includes concluding what is desirable or not, what is good or not, we risk condemning others (AND ourselves). Considering we all have limitations to understanding ourselves and others, judging has no place in a happy society.

"Ahhh, what about making decisions?" you ask.  "You need to differentiate, use critical thinking skills, come to some conclusion."  Yes, yes, yes.  But we need not judge; we need only decide on what we believe is best for us--and for society, if that is a role that is freely given and accepted.

Absolute, extreme, black and white thinking, poor ego strength, and a host of other aspects all contribute to poor judgments.  

And, as humans, we are just too ignorant to make valid judgments most of the time.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

YOU LOOK STRESSED!

If you are stressed, do you like it when others point it out?  Why?
Personally, I don't like it.  It's not a pet peeve of mine.  It doesn't cause a knee-jerk reaction.  It's not a huge thing, by any means.  I just think of all the things a person could say to another, pointing out how bad someone looks is usually not appreciated.

The message being sent is:  you look haggard; you look tired; you don't look so good; your work quality is slipping; or some semblance of the above adjectives. It's generally not positive.

It's bad enough to be stressed out, much less to hear about how it makes you look.  How about some help, instead?  How about suggesting a rest? Or some other diversion?  Like a caring conversation about how they are feeling...

I'm sure that most of these people don't mean anything negative by it.  They're not out to rattle my cage (usually).

It's just that we're conditioned to using certain phrases from our own cultures.  Yet, how many times would it  be better, nicer to have something positive pop out of our mouths?  

Friday, April 20, 2012

PRACTICES PRESENTLY PLAGUING MENTAL HEALTH THERAPY

The following is a discussion/rant of educational requirements and other serious issues presently plaguing the field of mental health.
 
PHILOSOPHY, PSYCHOLOGY, AND RELIGION:  Is training in these fields necessary for ultimate results in therapy?  The concepts of philosophy, psychology and religion are closely intertwined.  If broken into segments, the encompassing “picture” of mental health is lost.

For example, the philosophical concept of dualism vs. monism brings us into the realm of religion.  Therefore, the type of approach or modality used should reflect clients' belief systems.   How much do peoples' beliefs in “good” and “evil” affect their decisions and their moods?  How do these belief systems affect cognition and, therefore, the emotional lives of people?

Understanding the worldviews of clients opens doors to therapists' understanding of clients' philosophies of life.  Simply put, the more therapists know about their clients, the greater the potential to help them.

I believe a truly effective healer, a person needs to be educated in at least two of these three fields. However, this kind of academic discipline is rarely required of students studying to be therapists.  Therefore, their effectiveness is often limited (except in rare cases where the client is exceptionally astute, intelligent, and committed to their own continuing research and education.)

Clients' beliefs regarding philosophy, psychology, and religion helps determine the type of approach used in therapy.  In other words, the theories and methods employed would be those therapists decide are most effective for the particular client.

So how effective can therapists truly be without an education in the liberal artsTo be a truly competent therapist, I believe (with some reservations), a person may need to be as disciplined and educated as a medical doctor.  (How often does that happen?)  

A common belief is that, in psychology we aren’t dealing with the nuts and bolts of body parts and instruments and, therefore, do not directly impact life and death. However, within the realm of the mental and spiritual life of clients, the therapist can be effective in enhancing the quality of life and even in helping to prevent early death and suicide.  Considering this, appropriate therapeutic methods and qualified therapists are indispensable!

Some therapists appear naturally intelligent and emotionally in tune with others' emotions.  They seem to have incredible instincts when it comes to what to say and do with a particular person.  They seem to have a natural talent.  Yet, without adequate education, I still believe even the most intuitive therapist is at a disadvantage.  

In providing effective therapy, counselors need to ask themselves a number of critical questions.  For example, how does providing therapy affect clinicians' emotions?  (Consider burn-out.)  Can they effectively manage their involvement with others?  Can they keep their boundaries?  Have they learned tools, backed by good research that are most effective in particular cases?  Can they conceptualize their clients' cases more fully due to their additional training in philosophy and/or religion?

Being a therapist is one of the most difficult professions. Considering the financial aspects alone, even if students are minimally trained, the cost of education is daunting and can be at par with training medical students.  

Medical doctors are usually paid well (partly because of the AMA’s artificially limiting the number of doctors allowed to practice and other unsavory practices).  The therapist, in most cases, is ubiquitous and underpaid, and that is anathema considering that they are involved in the delicate process of helping heal human minds and souls.

There are many therapists who do the minimum and who are relegated mostly to social work activities within their community mental health centers.  That is a sad truth.  However, in all fairness, this truth extends to most fields of endeavor.  It is like a continuum, with the least capable, unlucky, or unwilling at one end of the continuum and the brightest, most committed, lucky, political, educated and driven at the other.  

There are, however, exceptions:  bright, committed, motivated therapists who are unwilling to cave into the political expectations of a mental health organization.  There are those who are not willing to bend on ethics, as well.  I guess those therapists go into private practice.

While good and stimulating opportunities for medical doctors are many, therapists’ chances of finding fulfilling work where they can be maximally effective are minimal.  LPC’s and MFT’s are a dime a dozen.  They are usually the last resort of choice when hiring at community mental health centers, licensed clinical social workers (LCSW’s) being preferred.  Even though the state examinations for licensing are the same, the real work and expertise required for therapy differs greatly from social work.

A community health center is a bureaucracy.  That means lots of red tape.  That means lots of paperwork.  That means lots of involvement with other agencies.  That often means money shortages.  

Most therapists’ time (regardless of titles) is spent dealing with these areas.  Can they still be effective in therapy?  Yes and no.  

Those who have enough time and energy to do so, those who are willing to sacrifice personal beliefs, conform, and are capable of working within very political environments seem to be the the ones who are most "successful" at their jobs. It also helps to have flexible values.

At least, therapists are usually able to give much-needed, minimal band-aids on clients' issues.  However, the price therapists pay is often the sacrifice of their personal value systems, significant frustration with organizational politics, dissatisfaction with low-success rates, and paying for their own books and tools, often resulting in career apathy and early burnout.

If clients' issues are minimal, the help they receive is often perceived as great.  However, most clients who frequent MHC's (mental health centers) have grave and complicated issues that most therapists are inadequately trained to deal with.  This situation easily inflates the actual good MHC's do.
  
Another issue is that poorly supervised trainees and interns are often pressed into giving therapy they are not qualified to give, increasing the likelihood of poor quality therapy. Those issues, combined with time constraints (allowing only 6-8 or 8-12 sessions, which is usual), can only serve to scratch the surface of the clients' issues.  If clients are lucky, the therapeutic band-aid is applied, and they generally feel temporarily relieved.

Most clients have additional frustrations with the time limits of sessions (45-60 minutes) and the general structure and artificial nature of conducting therapy in offices with their therapists. The hassles and costs of keeping appointments put an additional strain on clients struggling with just getting through the day.

The effectiveness of therapy depends heavily on the therapist developing a good relationship with the client.  It is estimated that 30-50% of effectiveness depends on this aspect of therapy.  However, trying to establish this kind of relationship in so few sessions is a challenge for even the best therapists.  To complicate matters, many clients have serious trust issues; therefore, more sessions are needed to establish that kind of trust.

To sum up, lack of education, proper training, and time with clients, the structures and constraints of MHC's, and the high cost of education severely limits therapists' effectiveness for those who suffer from mental illness.  

It is past time when society needs to throw out their prejudices about mental illness and therapy and place it on par with medical help, giving therapists and therapy students at least the same level of support.  After all, considering the mind/body connection is crucial to effective therapy.  Poor physical health is often caused by poor mental health and vice versa, either directly (e.g. by self-medicating) or indirectly (e.g. by depression and loss of hope.)

I ask out of frustration, how long will it take before the stigma of mental health abates?  How long before enough money is available to set up effective mental health centers?  

How long before the majority of educational institutions incorporate and require a more thorough, well-rounded education for its mental health practitioner students and train them adequately, thereby treating clients ethically and effectively?

Are you familiar with any of these issues?  Have you ever struggled with the mental health system and the level of therapists expertise?  I am very interested to hear about it.  Please blog your experiences, and share any ideas for improvement in the field of mental health.

Thank you!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

COGNITIVE THERAPY: REFRAMING

Some years ago, I was talking to a good friend of mine who asked, "So, how are you feeling these days?"

I quickly answered, without thinking, "Well, I've lowered my expectations, so life is actually more tolerable."

Having struck us so absurdly funny at the same time, we laughed about that for a long while.  After the conversation, I thought my comment sounded negative and morbid--like I've given something up.  And then I realized I did:  my perfectionism.

This is what is called REFRAMING in Cognitive Therapy.  It's a good thing.  But I still think back on that conversation and feel torn.  Yes, I know the world is not perfect and neither am I.  However, when you are young, you have a tendency to look at the future with much more hope and anticipation.  People tell you, "Anything is possible!"

But as you bump along in life, you find out eventually (or very quickly!), that your opportunities are shrinking and life is usually NOT what you had imagined it might be.

This situation can be worse for people who are told they should set goals, and work for them, and they will accomplish their dreams.  Sounds nice--and productive; however, unless you are willing to re-set your goals along the way, willing to be very flexible, life may seem like one disappointment after another.

By middle age, in times of grief and loss, I found myself working hard on looking at the glass half-full, counting my blessings just to stay balanced and not go off the deep end.  It really worked! (Usually...) It got me through some very tough times and I learned to survive.

Now, I'm grateful for knowing how to change my perspectives; I'm grateful that I know perfectionism and rigidity ("thinking errors") are unhealthy, and I can avoid them.  I'm grateful to have found a way to be content most of the time, even though I realize that I am working through my subjective reality and not objective reality.  (I believe there IS objective reality, but who is to say what that is for sure? ;0) But I'm getting Existential again...back to Cognitive!)

Some people are suspicious of reframing, saying that it is just a way of fooling yourself.  If that is how they see it, it probably is--for them.  As a therapist, we try to get clients to see that there are different ways of looking at the same situation.  Certainly, as humans, that is what we all do naturally--we all have our personal perspectives.  Just ask any group of people who have witnessed a car accident...

While it makes sense to me, it can be difficult to teach this tool to some clients who use black and white thinking (another thinking error); things are all one way or the other for them.  Other clients snap into reframing quite quickly.  I have seen the "miraculous results" of cognitive therapy often.  So, I believe in its power.

And yet--I still somehow feel uncomfortable at times trying to teach reframing or reframe things for myself.  If we are recreating our own reality, how far is it from actual reality?  I mean, are we just becoming Pollyannas?

Some of the latest therapeutic approaches emphasize heavily the positive approach--think positive, be positive, avoid negativity whenever possible, and life will become oh-so-wonderful.  When I see people really "up" like that, my first reactions are that they "drank the Kool-aid", that the person is not "genuine", living in a world of their own. (Well, it's THEIR perspective, right--isn't THAT OK?) (I sometimes wonder what would happen if objective reality ever crept into their lives. They might explode--or melt!)

I want to be "realistic" with myself and my clients.  I think a worthy goal, existentially and theoretically speaking, is to bring objective and subjective reality together as closely as possible, so that we can live a practical life in the real world and reduce the denial in our lives.  That sounds harsh, though, too, doesn't it?  For me, it is often a balancing act between Existential and Cognitive principles. (After all, not much occurs in a vacuum.)

It is very difficult to know where to draw the line with others; how much reality can they digest?  Some denial is a healthy stop-gap measure to keep us going until we are ready to face certain realities.  Some people really limp through life, so it is imperative NOT to take their denial "crutches" away from them.  Gently guiding, leading, over time is better.  (Or, in some cases, never may be better.  We don't want anyone contemplating suicide.)

So, maybe reframing can be defined as using a new perspective that is still feels REAL (whatever that is), but feels more HOPEFUL.  I do think we can reframe ourselves to a place close to objective reality, if we do it skillfully in conjunction with the personal issues of the client.

Personally, I continually check myself and weigh sides to make sure I'm not just living in a "fool's paradise".  Cognitive therapy, done well, can be a very tricky road; but until some other better mode of therapy comes along, I'll stay on that highway!

AARON T. BECK, M.D.

"The philosophical origins of cognitive therapy can be traced back to the Stoic philosophers" 
 
~ Aaron T. Beck, father of Cognitive Therapy

See...how philosophy and psychology overlap?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

WHY HATE GILAD ATZMON?

Every once in a while, I post articles that I especially like and want to share.  No amount of writing on my part could communicate what this article says.

www.gilad.co.uk

Why Hate Gilad Atzmon?

By Kevin Barrett
March 9, 2012


Gilad Atzmon is one of the sweetest, funniest, most charming and likable people I’ve ever met.

He’s also one of the world’s best saxaphone players. Gilad’s music is not only gorgeous, but uncommonly accessible for music in its class.

His writing, which includes two novels, a nonfiction book, and countless essays, is grounded in the highest humanistic ideals, invigorating laughter, and an irrepressible joie de vivre.


In short, Gilad is outrageously easy to like.

So why is he hated so much?

Why are his appearances protested by angry picketers? Why is the most vicious and mendacious kind of calumny being hurled at him in such quantities? Why is there an organized effort to make this gentle, loving free spirit out to be some kind of deranged Nazi?

His detractors say his writing invites it. But they’re wrong. The proof is that the anti-Atzmon brigade has to resort to lies (or to be charitable, gratuitous distortions) to make him look bad.

There must be some deeper reason why they hate him.

Maybe it’s because he’s such a powerful symbol of – and argument for – the end of Zionism.

Gilad Atzmon grew up in Israel in a Jewish family that included Holocaust survivors. He fell in love with jazz as a teenager, so when it came time to serve in the IDF he joined a military band. During his IDF service, Gilad awakened to the horrors of Zionism and its brutality toward Palestinians. Shortly after leaving the IDF, he also left Israel and never returned.

Now London-based, Gilad Atzmon is considered one of Europe’s top jazz musicians – and, increasingly, its leading ex-Israeli anti-Zionist voice. He has published two acclaimed novels, and his new book The Wandering Who? has endured vicious attacks, smear campaigns, and boycotts by such Zionists as Alan Dershowitz, and is becoming a worldwide bestseller.

In all of this, Gilad Atzmon is quite the anti-Zionist success story. His creative output, both musical and verbal, challenges arbitrary boundaries and celebrates freedom. (Jazz, the greatest art form America ever produced, is at its root a celebration of musical freedom by once-enslaved African-Americans.)

Today, more and more Israelis are lining up to get second passports and asking themselves, “Is there life after Zionism?” Gilad Atzmon offers a perfect example, with plenty of supporting arguments, of how ex-Zionist Israelis can liberate themselves from the shackles of a brutal, abusive, and ultimately doomed ideology and identity.

So that’s why they hate him. He’s the walking, talking, saxaphone-blowing embodiment of the joy of life after Zionism.

You see, most of the people who hate Gilad are radical Zionists; all (including the handful of “pro-Palestine” phonies) are prisoners of Zionist ideology. They have been trained to heap mountains of hate on anyone who crosses the one meaningful line in the whole Israel-Palestine debate: The line that separates those who support or accept the existence of a “Jewish state” in Palestine from those of us who do not.

As Norman Finkelstein inadvertently pointed out, Israel – despite its horrendous human rights record – is not going to be changed by people focusing on ephemeral abuses of human rights. The Zionists (like Finkelstein) will simply respond, “There are, and have been, human rights abuses elsewhere that are just as bad; so anybody who focuses on Israeli human rights violations must be an anti-Semite.” (Most murderers don’t get off by pleading to the judge that someone else committed an equally bad murder; but we’ll let that slide.)

Chris Hedges might respond to Finklestein that nowhere else do army snipers lure children into range of their guns, then gut-shoot them for sport; and British Medical Journal might add that the more than 600 children sport-shot during the interval they examined, who were essentially hunted and killed for fun by IDF soldiers as a de facto national policy, died from a specific and horrific type of human rights abuse that has never been seen anywhere else. But these events will be buried by the Zionist-dominated media; and no matter how horrific the abuses, there will always be different sufficiently revolting examples of inhumanity from other times and places to relativize the Israeli atrocities.

There is only one argument the Zionists cannot possibly win: The argument over whether there should be a “Jewish state” in Palestine in the first place.

Defenders of this bizarre notion must argue that it is perfectly fine for a religious-ethnic group to invade and occupy another group’s land, halfway across the world, on the basis of the aggressor group’s ancient mythology. And that it is perfectly fine for the aggressor group to dispossess and destroy the people living on that land, and to create an ethnic-specific apartheid system under which the invaders are first class citizens, while the victims are either second-class citizens or permanently exiled from their homeland.

To defend Zionism, you would also have to grant American Celts (like me) the right to invade, occupy, and erect a “Celtic state” in the Baltic or Western France or wherever our mythology says we originated. You would have to allow Andalusian Muslims (another ethnic-religious category I identify with) to invade, occupy, and ethnically-cleanse Spain. You would have to allow Protestants, whose mythology tells them that they are the true Christians, to invade and occupy the Vatican – and Palestine, for that matter. You would have to allow virtually all of the 3,000 ethnic groups on earth to invade, occupy, and ethnically cleanse someplace halfway across the world that they can claim is their “ancient homeland.”

Obviously, any and all “invade-and-occupy-our-mythological-ancient-homeland” projects are equally indefensible and equally insane.

Zionism is genocidal insanity.

It must be ended.

No more Jewish state in Occupied Palestine.

Period.

This is the bottom line. This is the line that all the Zionists, from right-wingers like Netanyahu to left-wingers like Chomsky and Finklestein and Amy Goodman and Matt Rothschild and Michael Lerner and Rob Kall and Chip Berlet and all of the hundreds of other Zionist gatekeepers that dominate the “alternative” as well as mainstream media DO NOT WANT YOU TO CROSS. These are the Police Lines that the Zionist thought police have erected, and are working overtime to maintain.
Because if you ask that one little simple question – “is the Zionist project, and the Israeli ‘nation,’ legitimate in the first place?” the whole thing crumbles to dust and ashes.

That’s the real reason the Zionists want to nuke Iran. The Iranian government is the only government in the Middle East to have, as its official policy, exactly the same position as the vast majority of the people of the Middle East: The Zionist entity in Occupied Palestine is not, and never will be, legitimate; and it must be ended, preferably by nonviolent means, as soon as possible.

And that’s why the Zionists are getting more and more hysterical in their denunciations of “delegitimizers.” (How can you delegitimize something that was never legitimate in the first place?)

And that’s why they’re hate-swarming all over Jenny Tonge, who correctly pointed out that Israel won’t last forever.

And that’s why they hate Gilad Atzmon. Not only is Gilad forthrightly anti-Zionist, thereby showing the “peacenik Zionist” phonies up for what they are; but he is also fearless in his analysis of the way Jewish identity politics fosters the delusion that Jews are an “exceptional people” who should be allowed to do things to Palestine that no other ethnic/religious group would ever be allowed to do to its mythological ancient homeland across the seas.

Worse: The guy expressing these taboo but obviously-correct views, and setting such a beautiful example as an ex-Israeli anti-Zionist, is an energetic and fabulously talented Renaissance man – a superb musician and writer and mesmerizing public speaker. This must gall the Zionists to no end.

No wonder they hate Gilad Atzmon.

Maybe someday, when they get tired of hating, they’ll drop their Zionism (itself an ideology of hatred, starting with self-hatred) and embrace the love, joy and liberation Gilad embodies so beautifully.

SEE POSTS:  "DOES CRITICIZING ISRAEL MEAN YOU ARE AN ANTISEMITE?", "SETTING THE ISRAELI QUESTION STRAIGHT" and "ILLEGAL TO CRITICIZE ISRAEL?!"