Haymarket Sculpture

Happy May Day!

Today, most of the world celebrates International Workers’ Day with commemorations, demonstrations, and vacations. However, absent from this celebration is the United States, which is ironic, since the day has American origins. On May 1, 1886, workers in Chicago, many of them immigrants, walked out of their jobs, striking for an eight-hour work day. A few days later, at a labor rally in Haymarket Square, in Chicago a bomb exploded, killing 11 people. However, the Haymarket strike is reminiscent not only for the struggle of an eight hour day, but rather for the struggle of livable lives. For the struggle to be able to live and work, play, and love, to enjoy leisure and communities, and celebrations, so much so that work can be a part of one’s life, not the meaning of one’s life.

Most countries celebrate the memory of that struggle on May 1st. The United States, in particular worried about the political threat of anarchists and socialists at the time, consciously refused to celebrate Workers’ Day.  Further, President Grover Cleveland decided on another day to celebrate workers and proclaimed the first Monday in September as Labor Day in 1894.  Although there have been attempts to revive May Day, most U.S. unions, like the American Federation of Labor, did not pursue the cause. Further, in the 50s at the height of the red scare and left-wing radicalism, Congress passed a bill calling on President Dwight Eisenhower to proclaim May 1 as Loyalty Day, three years later proclaiming it Law Day, which we celebrate to this day.

Today, around the world, May Day has become not only a focal point for demonstrations in support of workers’ rights but also against the grievances of the day, whether political, economic or social.

It may come as a surprise to some, that CTC, as a psychotherapy center is blogging about May Day, as the connection between workers’ rights and mental health might not be apparent at first. However, one needs to be mindful that issues such as: exploitation, low wages, immigration, and work-life balance, to name but a few, are mental health issues because they affect the individual’s well-being, and the overall quality of life. We cannot talk about a well-balanced person, or society, without economic and political freedom.

Counseling people from all walks of life, including some who have lived through extreme cases of trauma and exploitation, namely working with survivors of human/labor trafficking, gives us a unique understanding about the effects of exploitation on the human psyche. But, one does not have to think of labor trafficking to think about exploitation. We at CTC, hear stories from folks having to work two or three jobs in order to support their families. We hear from the workers in the corporate world about the gruesome hours they spend slaving away, and the toll it takes on their mental health and the overall quality of life, including their families. We understand parents who unable to take (enough) maternity/paternity leave, miss their infants terribly. And we discuss the struggles parents face when trying to manage a full time career with a full time family. We talk with couples who are growing apart because they hardly see each other.  It is through these stories that we can begin to question the way our society values people, families and the well-being of each individual. What does it say that we consume, we buy, we spend, but we hardly have time to meet our friends and enjoy each other’s company? What does it say about our society that we need to pop pills like Adderall in order to be productive at work, and we fear that at any moment we could lose that job?

In her book White Collar Sweatshop, author Jill Andresky Fraser writes how American workers have become on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even as salaries and benefits decreased. As she documents, despite evidence to the contrary, our culture sends the message that working longer and harder will lead to great achievement.

Imagine instead, as Kathi Weeks, advocates in The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries, creating an “anti-work” rhetoric that recognizes the social, economic and personal value of the things we do in our off-hours. A culture that sees each and one of us as individuals with lives beyond work. Where, things like childcare, washing dishes and caring for our loved ones would be viewed just as valuable as working on Wall Street. To this end, she advocates for implementing policies like a four day work week and a universal basic income. The concept of a four-day workweek is not new, as it was initially introduced in the 1950s by American labor union leader Walter Reuther. Some research has shown that a four-day workweek increases productivity and job satisfaction and helps retain all talented workers. In fact, evidence shows that countries that work less are happier.

Whether we advocate for more leisure time, better wages, better benefits for families and individuals, or we envision different solutions altogether, we hope this May Day, as you celebrate the struggles that came before us, you continue to question the status quo and dream of a different world. A world more just, more caring towards one another, a world where we can enjoy our families, and friends, and work enough to enjoy its rewards, without feeling trapped.

Happy May Day! Happy Workers’ Day!

 

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This post is part of CTC’s Reflections from our Clinicians series. These series consists of blogs written in the first person narrative, meant to reflect our values of independence while ensuring a broader diversity of topics, styles and opinions.

 

New York, April 19, 2015

This weekend while attending the New York City Anarchist Book Fair I was asked whether or not I am an anarchist.  As always my reply was no, however the more the person, who ironically was also not an anarchist, talked about things such as the effectiveness of cooperatives, and human nature, the more I begun thinking how much I indeed hold in common with the anarchist tenants.

From my understanding anarchism is not a dogmatic system, as someone very dear to me often reminds me.  Rather anarchism is a practice based around a set of ethical positions and principles – the rejection of hierarchy and oppression, and the embrace of solidary, mutual aid, and non-coercive relationships.  As David Graeber states:

At their very simplest, anarchist beliefs turn on to two elementary assumptions. The first is that human beings are, under ordinary circumstances, about as reasonable and decent as they are allowed to be, and can organize themselves and their communities without needing to be told how. The second is that power corrupts. Most of all, anarchism is just a matter of having the courage to take the simple principles of common decency that we all live by, and to follow them through to their logical conclusions. Odd though this may seem, in most important ways you are probably already an anarchist — you just don’t realize it.

I agree with these ideals of anarchism, yet I get stuck at the implementation of it all. Meaning, how would it work politically? Maybe that is not a fair question, yet it lingers on my mind.

Like my anarchist friends, I also oppose inequality and exploitation, reject a capitalist economy, and aim for a society that is free, diverse, healthy, and beautiful.  I have some knowledge of Noam Chomsky, Peter Kropotkin, and Emma Goldman. And, I have witnessed the success of cooperatives – which many anarchists consider a promising feature of any post-capitalist society – but only in those instances where people truly care for each other and are genuinely interested in the community.  I have also witnessed the total anarchy (pardon the pun) that can occur in those cooperatives and other collective ventures.  And I also get impatient with the process of democratic decision-making, especially when things move so quickly in today’s world.

The more I sat with these thoughts the more I begun to realize perhaps whether or not I call myself an anarchist is not that relevant. Instead perhaps I can clarify my positon that is outside ideologies which carry names that incite knee jerk emotions, because we’ve been so indoctrinated for or against them.

As a psychotherapist I have listened to countless stories of pain, greed and the horrors of what humans can do to other humans.  I have also seen the potential for change and witnessed the love, and compassion humans can show towards other humans. In fact, the more I work with people, the more I am convinced of our possibility for both good and evil. I think within every one of us we have the potential for destructiveness and hate, as well as love and collaboration. Yet, there are instincts, if I can call them that, that are cultivated based on the society and environment we grow-up in.  In that sense the anarchists have a point, if we create more egalitarian relationships without coercive force, the more likely we are to be more compassionate and caring towards one another. Eric Fromm believed in this view of what he called the sane society, a society organized in small groups where people would work collaboratively, sharing control of their working conditions and the distribution of the fruits of their labor. Fromm believed that in this society people would be actualized and live to their fullest potential. But, unlike Fromm who believed that in such society violence and destructiveness would disappear, I, in line with the Kleinians, believe that those instincts will persist.  Based on Klein’s theory, I believe,  that through the sublimation of these impulses of violence and destruction, rather than disavowing/disowning them that we can repair and reconstruct.

Perhaps my experience as a psychotherapist over the years, has made me more of an anarchist that I am willing to admit. And if that means seeing the potential goodness in all of us, and caring for each other while aspiring towards non-coercive relationships then you can call me an anarchist any time.

Silvia

 

 

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This post is part of CTC’s Reflections from our Clinicians series. These series consists of blogs written in the first person narrative, meant to reflect our values of independence while ensuring a broader diversity of topics, styles and opinions.

 

New York, April 19, 2015

This weekend while attending the New York City Anarchist Book Fair I was asked whether or not I am an anarchist.  As always my reply was no, however the more the person, who ironically was also not an anarchist, talked about things such as the effectiveness of cooperatives, and human nature, the more I begun thinking how much I indeed hold in common with the anarchist tenants.

From my understanding anarchism is not a dogmatic system, as someone very dear to me often reminds me.  Rather anarchism is a practice based around a set of ethical positions and principles – the rejection of hierarchy and oppression, and the embrace of solidary, mutual aid, and non-coercive relationships.  As David Graeber states:

At their very simplest, anarchist beliefs turn on to two elementary assumptions. The first is that human beings are, under ordinary circumstances, about as reasonable and decent as they are allowed to be, and can organize themselves and their communities without needing to be told how. The second is that power corrupts. Most of all, anarchism is just a matter of having the courage to take the simple principles of common decency that we all live by, and to follow them through to their logical conclusions. Odd though this may seem, in most important ways you are probably already an anarchist — you just don’t realize it.

I agree with these ideals of anarchism, yet I get stuck at the implementation of it all. Meaning, how would it work politically? Maybe that is not a fair question, yet it lingers on my mind.

Like my anarchist friends, I also oppose inequality and exploitation, reject a capitalist economy, and aim for a society that is free, diverse, healthy, and beautiful.  I have some knowledge of Noam Chomsky, Peter Kropotkin, and Emma Goldman. And, I have witnessed the success of cooperatives – which many anarchists consider a promising feature of any post-capitalist society – but only in those instances where people truly care for each other and are genuinely interested in the community.  I have also witnessed the total anarchy (pardon the pun) that can occur in those cooperatives and other collective ventures.  And I also get impatient with the process of democratic decision-making, especially when things move so quickly in today’s world.

The more I sat with these thoughts the more I begun to realize perhaps whether or not I call myself an anarchist is not that relevant. Instead perhaps I can clarify my positon that is outside ideologies which carry names that incite knee jerk emotions, because we’ve been so indoctrinated for or against them.

As a psychotherapist I have listened to countless stories of pain, greed and the horrors of what humans can do to other humans.  I have also seen the potential for change and witnessed the love, and compassion humans can show towards other humans. In fact, the more I work with people, the more I am convinced of our possibility for both good and evil. I think within every one of us we have the potential for destructiveness and hate, as well as love and collaboration. Yet, there are instincts, if I can call them that, that are cultivated based on the society and environment we grow-up in.  In that sense the anarchists have a point, if we create more egalitarian relationships without coercive force, the more likely we are to be more compassionate and caring towards one another. Eric Fromm believed in this view of what he called the sane society, a society organized in small groups where people would work collaboratively, sharing control of their working conditions and the distribution of the fruits of their labor. Fromm believed that in this society people would be actualized and live to their fullest potential. But, unlike Fromm who believed that in such society violence and destructiveness would disappear, I, in line with the Kleinians, believe that those instincts will persist.  Based on Klein’s theory, I believe,  that through the sublimation of these impulses of violence and destruction, rather than disavowing/disowning them that we can repair and reconstruct.

Perhaps my experience as a psychotherapist over the years, has made me more of an anarchist that I am willing to admit. And if that means seeing the potential goodness in all of us, and caring for each other while aspiring towards non-coercive relationships then you can call me an anarchist any time.

Silvia

 

 

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Lena Dunham TFF 2012 Shankbone 3

Within the clinical diagnosis of childhood sexual abuse category, sibling incest is a common form of childhood sexual trauma in the United States (Brand & Alexander, 2003), yet often disregarded in public debates.  More recently, Lena Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl brought the topic of sibling sexual abuse to the forefront. In her book, Dunham tells stories how using candy she bribed her younger sister into giving her kisses and allowing her to touch her vagina. Public opinion went both ways… some condemned Dunham for her actions and labeled them as abusive, others, including Dunham herself categorized them as normal sexual exploration.

To label a sexual interaction between siblings as either sexual abuse or sexual exploration is complicated and many factors play into how one understands these interactions. Specifically, how both siblings understand and process this interaction is equally important, as well as the family dynamics. Much like childhood sexual abuse, sibling incest is not often addressed in our culture. Oftentimes survivors are reluctant to reveal such a history because of guilt and shame. Research estimates that in the U.S. alone, the rate of sibling incest might be five time the rate of parent-child sexual abuse (Finkelhor, 1980, 1984), yet these rates are based on reports, and often survivors do not report these ordeals.

Some sexual curiosity and exploration is to be expected between children, especially siblings. Sexuality is a normal part of child development, and children will want to explore each other’s bodies and those of their parents, siblings and friends. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has some guidelines for caretakers on how to differentiate normal from abnormal behavior.  In simple terms, when exploratory behavior goes beyond exploration and forms a pattern, caretakers should intervene. Questions such as: is there a significant age difference between the children, what are the motives behind this, it is simply exploration, or an assertion of power, or a re-enactment of sexual abuse? In short, coercion is the difference between natural curiosity and abuse. Sexual abuse frequently includes coercion by older or more powerful brothers or sisters. Unfortunately because of our culture’s denial of sexuality in children, sexual exploration between siblings is also something we seldom discuss.

When assessing whether or not one is dealing with exploration or exploitation, issues such as coercion, interpersonal power differentials, family dynamics, and gender based differences need to be analyzed. Sexual contact between siblings is abusive when there is a large age difference between the children, yet sexual interactions between siblings can be harmful even when they are close in age. On average, girls are less likely to be sexually abused by a sister than by a brother. Differences such as sizes, strengths, and developmental stages influence the power dynamic. More studies on the topic reveal that sibling incest often occurs in more patriarchal families, perhaps because of the rigid power structure and the underlying message that the weak is dominated by the powerful. These families are characterized by physical and/or emotional violence, marital discord, explicit and implicit sexual tensions, and blurred intrafamilial boundaries (Asherman & Safier, 1990; Caffaro & Conn-Caffaro, 2005). Also in these families there is often a sexual climate in the home, and parents send double messages regarding sexuality (Daie, Witztum & Ellett 1989;  Smith and Israel 1987). Further some research links the incident of sibling sexual abuse with parent-child sexual abuse.

When sexual acts are initiated or conducted by one sibling without the other’s consent, or with coercion, research shows the long-lasting, damaging effects (Carlson, Maciol, & Schneider, 2006; Weihe, 1997). These effects included low self-esteem (Finkelhor 1979; Laviola 1992; Wiehe 1990; Abrahams & Hoey 1994), anxiety, depression, relationship dysfunction, sexual dissatisfaction (Daie, Witztum & Eleff 1989; Wiehe 1990; Laviola 1992), promiscuity, substance abuse and self and body image issues.

Most survivors do not talk or reveal the abuse until later on in life, perhaps because of the negative consequences (disbelief, family repercussions). Survivors are more likely to see themselves as co-conspirators and feel that they should share the responsibility, and the blame, and punishment for the behavior if the “secret” is disclosed.

When the abuse begun, survivors are often children who fail to understand that the relationship between an older brother or sister may be inappropriate. Often couched in the context of play, young victims are likely to find these activities pleasurable and therefore see themselves as co-conspirators. Consistent with other forms of childhood sexual abuse, there is a progressive aspect to the abuse such that in the early stages of the relationship, the sexual nature of the behaviors is less apparent, hidden in special hugs and games and play wrestling. Over time, these behaviors progress to be more sexual in nature. Most survivors report feeling “off” or “wrong” about what was happening, however, the victim’s participation in the activities to that point, the closeness in age with the offender, and the lack of a generational boundary between victim and offender too often lead to the victim’s confusion about responsibility for the behaviors.

As survivors carry this secret throughout their lives, they often remain confused when it comes to healthy boundaries in relationships, or understanding mutuality (Ballantine, 2012; Carlson et al, 2006). The therapeutic relationship can be a place where survivors get to explore their feelings, and make sense of the narrative surrounding their complicated relationship with their sibling. To fully understand the dynamic of such relationship the therapist has to be willing to suspend judgment and be willing to stand with the patient as s/he comes to understand this narrative. Whether or not the relationship started with coercion, or begun as an exploration of sexuality, factors such as: length of time, feelings associated with the incident(s) and the parents’ reaction or inaction need to be considered. Even when sibling incest is mutual, there are feelings of shame and guilt to be processed, and patients often dismiss structural factors, such as patriarchy, family abuse, gender roles that contribute and further complicate what might seem as a simple story. For perpetrators, the story is just as complex, often intertwined with their own history of previous abuse, or neglect. Unlike childhood sexual abuse perpetuated by an adult, these narratives are complicated, as children often rely on their caretakers for guidance and structure.

The secrecy of any childhood sexual abuse contributes to the victim’s inability to move on and to realize that s/he was not at fault. To be able to move from victim to survivor, the victim who has suffered childhood sexual abuse has to understand the trauma, process it, and turn it into a memory.  The therapeutic hour can become a space where, we lay the necessary groundwork for victims to reposition themselves regarding the abuse, to process and to understand that they were the victims not the instigators. Further, admitting that it can happen to any of us is important. We all have the capability to be hurt and to hurt others. This admission will create a dialogue rooted in compassion.

Whether or not Dunham’s interactions with her sister were abusive or not, it’s difficult to say, in the absence of family history and the lack of information on how her sister views Dunham’s actions. In short, we would be just speculating. Yet, Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl did launch a conversation regarding sibling abuse – an important and often unspoken topic.

Let’s expand that conversation to include analyses of institutions such as: schools, military, family, etc., which promote patriarchy and strict gender roles, the two variables linked to childhood sexual abuse. We can all effect change in these institutions starting with critical self-reflection, and drawing connections between individual acts of abuse and systemic forms of oppression. By analyzing how patriarchy and strict gender roles contribute in a systemic way to the abuse, we can begin conversations that envision egalitarian, nonexploitative relationships with little abuse.

References

Abrahams, J., & Hoey, H. (1994). Sibling incest in a clergy family: A case study. Child abuse & neglect, 18(12), 1029-1035.

Ascherman, L. I., & Safier, E. J. (1990). Sibling incest: a consequence of individual and family dysfunction. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic.

Ballantine, M. W. (2012). Sibling incest dynamics: Therapeutic themes and clinical challenges. Clinical Social Work Journal, 40(1), 56-65.

Brand, B. L., & Alexander, P. C. (2003). Coping with incest: The relationship between recollections of childhood coping and adult functioning in female survivors of incest. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16(3), 285-293.

Caffaro, J. V., & Conn-Caffaro, A. (2005). Treating sibling abuse families. Aggression and violent behavior, 10(5), 604-623.

Carlson, B. E., Maciol, K., & Schneider, J. (2006). Sibling incest: Reports from forty-one survivors. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 15(4), 19-34.

Daie, N., Witztum, E., & Eleff, M. (1989). Long-term effects of sibling incest. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,50(11), 428-431.

Finkelhor, D. (1979). Sexually Victimized Children. New York: Free Press

Finkelhor, D. (1980). Sex among siblings: A survey on prevalence, variety, and effects. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 9(3), 171-194.

Finkelhor, D., & Hotaling, G. T. (1984). Sexual abuse in the national incidence study of child abuse and neglect: An appraisal. Child abuse & neglect, 8(1), 23-32.

Laviola, M. (1992). Effects of older brother-younger sister incest: A study of the dynamics of 17 cases. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16(3), 409-421.

Smith, H., & Israel, E. (1987). Sibling incest: A study of the dynamics of 25 cases. Child Abuse & Neglect, 11(1), 101-108.

Weihe, V. R. (1997). Sibling abuse: Hidden physical, emotional, and sexual trauma. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Read More...

Lena Dunham TFF 2012 Shankbone 3

Within the clinical diagnosis of childhood sexual abuse category, sibling incest is a common form of childhood sexual trauma in the United States (Brand & Alexander, 2003), yet often disregarded in public debates.  More recently, Lena Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl brought the topic of sibling sexual abuse to the forefront. In her book, Dunham tells stories how using candy she bribed her younger sister into giving her kisses and allowing her to touch her vagina. Public opinion went both ways… some condemned Dunham for her actions and labeled them as abusive, others, including Dunham herself categorized them as normal sexual exploration.

To label a sexual interaction between siblings as either sexual abuse or sexual exploration is complicated and many factors play into how one understands these interactions. Specifically, how both siblings understand and process this interaction is equally important, as well as the family dynamics. Much like childhood sexual abuse, sibling incest is not often addressed in our culture. Oftentimes survivors are reluctant to reveal such a history because of guilt and shame. Research estimates that in the U.S. alone, the rate of sibling incest might be five time the rate of parent-child sexual abuse (Finkelhor, 1980, 1984), yet these rates are based on reports, and often survivors do not report these ordeals.

Some sexual curiosity and exploration is to be expected between children, especially siblings. Sexuality is a normal part of child development, and children will want to explore each other’s bodies and those of their parents, siblings and friends. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has some guidelines for caretakers on how to differentiate normal from abnormal behavior.  In simple terms, when exploratory behavior goes beyond exploration and forms a pattern, caretakers should intervene. Questions such as: is there a significant age difference between the children, what are the motives behind this, it is simply exploration, or an assertion of power, or a re-enactment of sexual abuse? In short, coercion is the difference between natural curiosity and abuse. Sexual abuse frequently includes coercion by older or more powerful brothers or sisters. Unfortunately because of our culture’s denial of sexuality in children, sexual exploration between siblings is also something we seldom discuss.

When assessing whether or not one is dealing with exploration or exploitation, issues such as coercion, interpersonal power differentials, family dynamics, and gender based differences need to be analyzed. Sexual contact between siblings is abusive when there is a large age difference between the children, yet sexual interactions between siblings can be harmful even when they are close in age. On average, girls are less likely to be sexually abused by a sister than by a brother. Differences such as sizes, strengths, and developmental stages influence the power dynamic. More studies on the topic reveal that sibling incest often occurs in more patriarchal families, perhaps because of the rigid power structure and the underlying message that the weak is dominated by the powerful. These families are characterized by physical and/or emotional violence, marital discord, explicit and implicit sexual tensions, and blurred intrafamilial boundaries (Asherman & Safier, 1990; Caffaro & Conn-Caffaro, 2005). Also in these families there is often a sexual climate in the home, and parents send double messages regarding sexuality (Daie, Witztum & Ellett 1989;  Smith and Israel 1987). Further some research links the incident of sibling sexual abuse with parent-child sexual abuse.

When sexual acts are initiated or conducted by one sibling without the other’s consent, or with coercion, research shows the long-lasting, damaging effects (Carlson, Maciol, & Schneider, 2006; Weihe, 1997). These effects included low self-esteem (Finkelhor 1979; Laviola 1992; Wiehe 1990; Abrahams & Hoey 1994), anxiety, depression, relationship dysfunction, sexual dissatisfaction (Daie, Witztum & Eleff 1989; Wiehe 1990; Laviola 1992), promiscuity, substance abuse and self and body image issues.

Most survivors do not talk or reveal the abuse until later on in life, perhaps because of the negative consequences (disbelief, family repercussions). Survivors are more likely to see themselves as co-conspirators and feel that they should share the responsibility, and the blame, and punishment for the behavior if the “secret” is disclosed.

When the abuse begun, survivors are often children who fail to understand that the relationship between an older brother or sister may be inappropriate. Often couched in the context of play, young victims are likely to find these activities pleasurable and therefore see themselves as co-conspirators. Consistent with other forms of childhood sexual abuse, there is a progressive aspect to the abuse such that in the early stages of the relationship, the sexual nature of the behaviors is less apparent, hidden in special hugs and games and play wrestling. Over time, these behaviors progress to be more sexual in nature. Most survivors report feeling “off” or “wrong” about what was happening, however, the victim’s participation in the activities to that point, the closeness in age with the offender, and the lack of a generational boundary between victim and offender too often lead to the victim’s confusion about responsibility for the behaviors.

As survivors carry this secret throughout their lives, they often remain confused when it comes to healthy boundaries in relationships, or understanding mutuality (Ballantine, 2012; Carlson et al, 2006). The therapeutic relationship can be a place where survivors get to explore their feelings, and make sense of the narrative surrounding their complicated relationship with their sibling. To fully understand the dynamic of such relationship the therapist has to be willing to suspend judgment and be willing to stand with the patient as s/he comes to understand this narrative. Whether or not the relationship started with coercion, or begun as an exploration of sexuality, factors such as: length of time, feelings associated with the incident(s) and the parents’ reaction or inaction need to be considered. Even when sibling incest is mutual, there are feelings of shame and guilt to be processed, and patients often dismiss structural factors, such as patriarchy, family abuse, gender roles that contribute and further complicate what might seem as a simple story. For perpetrators, the story is just as complex, often intertwined with their own history of previous abuse, or neglect. Unlike childhood sexual abuse perpetuated by an adult, these narratives are complicated, as children often rely on their caretakers for guidance and structure.

The secrecy of any childhood sexual abuse contributes to the victim’s inability to move on and to realize that s/he was not at fault. To be able to move from victim to survivor, the victim who has suffered childhood sexual abuse has to understand the trauma, process it, and turn it into a memory.  The therapeutic hour can become a space where, we lay the necessary groundwork for victims to reposition themselves regarding the abuse, to process and to understand that they were the victims not the instigators. Further, admitting that it can happen to any of us is important. We all have the capability to be hurt and to hurt others. This admission will create a dialogue rooted in compassion.

Whether or not Dunham’s interactions with her sister were abusive or not, it’s difficult to say, in the absence of family history and the lack of information on how her sister views Dunham’s actions. In short, we would be just speculating. Yet, Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl did launch a conversation regarding sibling abuse – an important and often unspoken topic.

Let’s expand that conversation to include analyses of institutions such as: schools, military, family, etc., which promote patriarchy and strict gender roles, the two variables linked to childhood sexual abuse. We can all effect change in these institutions starting with critical self-reflection, and drawing connections between individual acts of abuse and systemic forms of oppression. By analyzing how patriarchy and strict gender roles contribute in a systemic way to the abuse, we can begin conversations that envision egalitarian, nonexploitative relationships with little abuse.

References

Abrahams, J., & Hoey, H. (1994). Sibling incest in a clergy family: A case study. Child abuse & neglect, 18(12), 1029-1035.

Ascherman, L. I., & Safier, E. J. (1990). Sibling incest: a consequence of individual and family dysfunction. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic.

Ballantine, M. W. (2012). Sibling incest dynamics: Therapeutic themes and clinical challenges. Clinical Social Work Journal, 40(1), 56-65.

Brand, B. L., & Alexander, P. C. (2003). Coping with incest: The relationship between recollections of childhood coping and adult functioning in female survivors of incest. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16(3), 285-293.

Caffaro, J. V., & Conn-Caffaro, A. (2005). Treating sibling abuse families. Aggression and violent behavior, 10(5), 604-623.

Carlson, B. E., Maciol, K., & Schneider, J. (2006). Sibling incest: Reports from forty-one survivors. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, 15(4), 19-34.

Daie, N., Witztum, E., & Eleff, M. (1989). Long-term effects of sibling incest. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,50(11), 428-431.

Finkelhor, D. (1979). Sexually Victimized Children. New York: Free Press

Finkelhor, D. (1980). Sex among siblings: A survey on prevalence, variety, and effects. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 9(3), 171-194.

Finkelhor, D., & Hotaling, G. T. (1984). Sexual abuse in the national incidence study of child abuse and neglect: An appraisal. Child abuse & neglect, 8(1), 23-32.

Laviola, M. (1992). Effects of older brother-younger sister incest: A study of the dynamics of 17 cases. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16(3), 409-421.

Smith, H., & Israel, E. (1987). Sibling incest: A study of the dynamics of 25 cases. Child Abuse & Neglect, 11(1), 101-108.

Weihe, V. R. (1997). Sibling abuse: Hidden physical, emotional, and sexual trauma. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Read More...

CTC decided to introduce a couple of posts reflecting some of the opinions and perspectives of our clinicians. This new endeavor will consist of blogs written in the first person narrative, meant to reflect our values of independence while ensuring a broader diversity of topics, styles and opinions.

NYC. February 17th 2015

News headlines: Fans don’t accept Alex Rodriguez written apologies for using performance enhancing drugs.  Newspapers, lead stories on TV news channels.  Over and over and over on NY 1.  The best part — on the street reactions.  Very informative.Alex Rodriguez 2008-04-19

I can get to the men getting pedicures and knitting news next time.  Perhaps the notion that this is a progressive gender transgression will have surpassed the A-Rod shock and outrage by then.  I want to thank the news stations and papers for taking my mind off of Kent State, body bags of boys and girls across the world mutilated and burned and beheaded and bombed and starved and people with curable diseases dead and filthy water supplies and massacres and a semi-automatic handguns free for all and holocausts and radical racism and, hmm… one more… climate change.  One more, the slaughter of non -human animals and complete annihilation of their habitats and the gentrification of the Amazon. There.

One correction, Kent State.  Apologies, that happened back in history and I mistakenly added that now relatively minor protest and then slaughter of college kids by the US government’s para military forces in with current mass slaughter.  Live and learn.

But, back to Alex Rodriguez and the art of the news — You awful man.  So long to the art of reporting or welcome to the fine art of ignoring.  Which brings up me… I’m a psychotherapist so I look forward to next time when I reveal my thoughts on women and hysteria (and I honestly love Freud to death) and men and knitting.  My art is the analysis of the spoken narrative.  The reading of what appears to be — the ignored.

However, unlike the news, the psychotherapy/analytic space hopefully brings forth the ignored in order to reveal, not conceal, what lies beneath.

Ultimately, the lack of the ignored pulls the wool up, not over the eyes of those in pain — potentially revealing a personal trauma or historical horror.  The patient feels the pain of the horror in order to get better.  Psychotherapy is then the anti-ignore/ant.

Spring training is here, play ball.

 

 

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Manhattan_at_Dusk_by_sloneckerHappy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s Day is often associated with love, especially romantic love.  Yet love is much more expansive than romantic love, for love encompasses care and connection, and it does not require romantic feelings.  In the days leading up to February 14th this year, and while looking at the bright red lights on the Empire State Building right in front of our office windows, we at CTC began conversations about love and psychotherapy.  For example we discussed things like: what role does love, if any, have in psychotherapy? Do we and how do we love our patients? Should we? Could we?

Google scholar generates about 372,000 results on the topic of love in psychotherapy. A random sampling of those articles reveals that most, like most therapists, adopt an impersonal and clinical approach to the question of love in therapy.  Although the articles discuss the multiple complexities of being in therapy, and things such as erotic love, countertransference, etc., the question of how do we, as clinicians approach love in sessions with our patients is avoided, if it is even recognized.

Love is an essential human emotion present in countless daily interactions of care, solicitude, empathy and solidarity.  Yet, our society seldom talks about love without connecting it to sex or romance.  Our contemporary society recasts relationships of love and responsibility such as those of parents to children as relations of authority; it recasts relationships of empathy and solidarity, as charity for those less fortunate.  Society – according to the dominant capitalist ethic – has shifted the focus of care from another, whom we love and want to share things with, to an erotic or romantic fantasy to be consumed and possessed – a fantasy that is easier to market and turn to profit.

For our patients, love is often a complicated topic.  Having survived long histories of trauma and abuse, coupled with the fact that we live in a world that seldom talks about cooperation, mutuality and love, it is no surprise that the topic of loving is difficult.  Yet, it is there, always already present in our daily interactions, oftentimes unrecognized, “like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and its bureaucracy, capitalism and its waste….” to borrow a phrase from Colin Ward (1973).

Reading through the countless articles on the subject of transference and erotic love as it enters the therapeutic hour does not offer much guidance, serving only to highlight how much more complicated is the study of the reality of non-erotic love.

As Bodenheimer (2011) points out:

There are many reasons not to discuss or study the reality
of non-erotic love in the psychotherapeutic relationship.
These include conceptual struggles regarding the actual
meaning of ‘‘non-erotic love;’’ linguistic difficulties that
are byproducts of the evocative tenor of the word ‘‘love’’
itself; and the obstacles produced by researching a concept
that is so largely defined by its subjective nature. But
perhaps the most powerful reason to avoid the complicated
presence of love in the therapeutic relationship is the very
reason it must be deeply understood and scrutinized: It is
an ethical minefield (p. 39).

Perhaps this minefield comes from the fact that to talk about love in psychotherapy from the therapist’s perspective, is to talk about ourselves, and our professional boundaries, it requires honesty and a lot of self-awareness and reflection.

For Freud (1993), although recognizing the importance and centrality of love in our lives, love was seen as a distraction and he wanted to practice therapy free from what he saw as a counter-transferential emotion.  When urged by Ferenczi (De Forest, 1954), to question his beliefs regarding the role of love in treatment, Freud quickly rejected Ferenczi (Cabre, 1988).  Perhaps Freud’s reluctance at the time, might be explained as fear, since he was writing his 1905 piece called Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, where he explored the case of Ida Bauer, or ‘‘Dora.’’ This case was difficult for Freud, especially since his own countertransferential feelings were not fully processed or analyzed.

Ferenczi went on to speak about love in psychotherapy, and in 1920 at the Hague he discussed his own approach to therapy.  He understood “the progress of the cure bears no relation to the depth of the patient’s theoretical insight, nor to the memories laid bare.’’ (Stanton 1991, p. 133).  Instead, his method was ‘‘developed to the fullest when he recognized that genuine sincerity and empathic attunement were the essential ingredients to reach a traumatized individual’’ (Rachman 1998, p. 265).

Ferenczi believed that unless the therapist is willing to bridge the distance between him/herself and the patient, cure is impossible.  Whereas Freud saw distance as part of the therapeutic technique, Ferenczi saw it as a defense.  He argued that most of our patients, are often deprived of love and care, and indeed it is through an experience of love and care that cure and healing is possible.  He believed that treatment outcomes were directly related to the amount of love given by the therapist to the patient.

Since then, research on this mutuality has flourished, especially within the interpersonal field of psychoanalysis.  And Shaw’s (2003) historical analysis of the understanding of analytic love brought him to the belief that ‘‘analytic love is indeed complicated and dangerous, and like all loving, carries the potential for devastating disappointment… [But], he goes on to say: “at the heart of this endeavor, I believe, for both analyst and analysand, is a search for love, for the sense of being lovable, for the remobilization of thwarted capacities to give love and to receive love’’ (2003, pp. 252, 275).

In critical therapy, love develops over time.  In the early stages of therapy, as patient and therapist discuss issues related to family history, intrapsychic conflict, sexual desires, the transference develops.  In line with traditional psychoanalysis, and Freud, the therapist in the early stages of treatment maintains a certain distance from the patient, who invests power with the therapist. This investment of power is necessary to facilitate transference relations, much needed for the intrapsychic part of the analysis.

Transference is an important part of this therapeutic phase. The patient’s feelings for the therapist, who slowly becomes a significant figure in the patient’s life, are used to show how the patient understands, interprets, and responds to present relationships and situations in similar ways s/he responded to significant persons in the past.  By understanding how this past behavior influences and determines present behavior, the patient can learn to make more appropriate decisions.

Establishing trust is also an important part of the therapeutic process, especially when working with highly traumatized individuals (such as survivors of violence, sexual abuse, persecution, and other forms of trauma), who have been deeply wounded and lost faith in human relationships.  To achieve trust, the therapeutic relationship needs to encompass a level of accompaniment and transparency (Fabri et. al., 2009).  The practice of accompaniment challenges traditional clinical boundaries (Fabri, 2001) because it criticizes the stance of a neutral therapist.  Accompaniment is an umbrella term that includes a family of related practices: equality, listening, seeking consensus, and exemplary action” (Lynd, 2013; 2012).  It literally means “to walk with, or alongside people” (Gates, 1988).  In simple terms it’s a praxis of being with the patient, rather than being for the patient.

As the therapy develops, and the relationship deepens, there is a switch towards more collaboration, a sharing of power and a practice of overcoming authoritative tendencies – located within the initial therapeutic set-up, as well as within the patient, the therapist and the world at large.

The notion of love and mutuality emerges.  And in the last stage of critical therapy, much in line with Ferenczi, love becomes more apparent, as it is one of the ingredients of therapy.  Having spent countless hours together, sharing stories, developing trust, interrogating the world together, love is part of a real connection between patient and therapist.  Love with another, love for the world, and for humanity.  At this stage, the therapeutic dialogue is built upon humility, faith in each other’s humanity and love, as the therapeutic relationship becomes one of cooperation, where two subjects meet to name the world (Freire, 2000, p. 167). Through this process of naming the world together, both patient and therapist change.Hearts in San Francisco

Love for the patient and with the patient is the ultimate gift of therapy. Both patient and therapist change as a result of this intimate relationship developed over time and withstanding stories of honor, anger, shame, fear, as well as beauty, hope and healing. Communicating, learning how to be with an Other in the therapeutic hour is the blueprint of the art of loving; the art of being with someone, of accepting the perfect imperfections of anOther, of being together.

In closing, we at CTC want to thank all our patients for the trust you give us and the love we share.  Merry Valentine!

 

References

Bodenheimer, D. (2011). An examination of the historical and current perceptions of love in the psychotherapeutic dyad. Clinical Social Work Journal, 39(1), 39-49.

Cabre, L. (1998). Ferenczi’s contribution to the concept of countertransference. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 7, 247–255.

De Forest, I. (1954). The leaven of love: a development of the psychoanalytic theory and technique of Sándor Ferenczi.

Fabri, M. R. (2001). Reconstructing safety: Adjustments to the therapeutic frame in the treatment of survivors of political torture. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32(5), 452.

Fabri, M., Joyce, M., Black, M., & González, M. (2009). Caring for Torture Survivors: The Marjorie Kovler Center. New Humanitarians, The: Inspiration, Innovations, and Blueprints for Visionaries, Volume 1, Changing Global Health Inequities, 157.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. M. Bergman Ramos (Trans.). New York, NY: Continuum.

Freud, S. (1993). Observations on transference-love: Further recommendations on the technique of psycho-analysis III. The Journal of psychotherapy practice and research, 2(2), 171.

Freud, S. (1997). Dora: An analysis of a case of hysteria. Simon and Schuster.

Gates, A. (1988). Letter fromAlice Gates.

Lynd, S. (2013, 2012). Accompanying: Path to Social Change. Oakland, CA: PM Press.

Rachman, A. W. (1998, December). Judicious self-disclosure by the psychoanalyst. In International Forum of Psychoanalysis (Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 263-270). Taylor & Francis Group.

Shaw, D. (2003). On the therapeutic action of analytic love. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 39(2), 251-278.

Springer, A. (1995). Paying homage to the power of love. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 40(1), 41-57.

Stanton, M. (1991). Sándor Ferenczi: reconsidering active intervention. Jason Aronson.

Ward, C. (1973). Anarchy in action. George Allen & Unwin.

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Happy New Year! January 2015 marks the three year anniversary of the Critical Therapy Center. We are having an amazing journey as we continue to grow, learn and think about ways psychotherapy and psychology interact with everyday life.

Throughout 2014 we have served an even broader range of people struggling with an array of issues. We have also helped executives and companies seeking to foster organizational change. While doing all this work, we have continued to learn and expand our understanding of critical therapy as a theory.

2014 came with opportunities for growth, as we begun to train clinicians. This training has provoked questions such as “what is a critical therapist?”, a question that became the topic of two presentations this year, one at the NASW 2014 National Conference and the other at the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society – 2014 Annual Conference.

We’ve sponsored several events, perhaps most notably The People’s Climate March. Studies have shown how climate change will negatively impact Americans’ health and psychological well-being. Reports show how the increase in the frequency and severity of natural disaster and other climate change related problems, will cause psychological symptoms such as stress, anxiety, depression and loss of community identity. Climate changes will likely leads to more cases of PTSD and other mental health conditions.

While expanding our outreach and trying to spread critical therapy ideas into mainstream culture, we’ve been interviewed and featured in several news stories. As we continued to support human rights defenders and victims, in partnership with Physicians for Human Rights, we also have conducted pro-bono assessments and affidavits supporting victims of torture to obtain asylum in the United States.

As our blog readership continues to grow, we continue to share with you our thoughts, ideas and theory. We hope you’ve subscribed (either through email subscription or RSS Feed) to our CTC Blog and find our stories compelling.

On a more personal note, 2014 has been an amazing year as I’ve watched CTC grow, while having opportunities to learn both theoretically and practically. I thank both Carolyn and Monica for their on-going support and for always being by my side in this endeavor. I also want to thank my friends and family, who continue to support me and without whom I could not do what I do. Lastly I am forever grateful to the patients I work with and see day in and day out, for challenging me, for teaching me, and for giving me the privilege to be a part of their lives.

Thanks and here’s to another year!

Silvia

 

 

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Happy New Year! January 2015 marks the three year anniversary of the Critical Therapy Center. We are having an amazing journey as we continue to grow, learn and think about ways psychotherapy and psychology interact with everyday life.

Throughout 2014 we have served an even broader range of people struggling with an array of issues. We have also helped executives and companies seeking to foster organizational change. While doing all this work, we have continued to learn and expand our understanding of critical therapy as a theory.

2014 came with opportunities for growth, as we begun to train clinicians. This training has provoked questions such as “what is a critical therapist?”, a question that became the topic of two presentations this year, one at the NASW 2014 National Conference and the other at the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society – 2014 Annual Conference.

We’ve sponsored several events, perhaps most notably The People’s Climate March. Studies have shown how climate change will negatively impact Americans’ health and psychological well-being. Reports show how the increase in the frequency and severity of natural disaster and other climate change related problems, will cause psychological symptoms such as stress, anxiety, depression and loss of community identity. Climate changes will likely leads to more cases of PTSD and other mental health conditions.

While expanding our outreach and trying to spread critical therapy ideas into mainstream culture, we’ve been interviewed and featured in several news stories. As we continued to support human rights defenders and victims, in partnership with Physicians for Human Rights, we also have conducted pro-bono assessments and affidavits supporting victims of torture to obtain asylum in the United States.

As our blog readership continues to grow, we continue to share with you our thoughts, ideas and theory. We hope you’ve subscribed (either through email subscription or RSS Feed) to our CTC Blog and find our stories compelling.

On a more personal note, 2014 has been an amazing year as I’ve watched CTC grow, while having opportunities to learn both theoretically and practically. I thank both Carolyn and Monica for their on-going support and for always being by my side in this endeavor. I also want to thank my friends and family, who continue to support me and without whom I could not do what I do. Lastly I am forever grateful to the patients I work with and see day in and day out, for challenging me, for teaching me, and for giving me the privilege to be a part of their lives.

Thanks and here’s to another year!

Silvia

 

 

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There are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which . . . I never intend to become adjusted to — segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self-defeating effects of physical violence. – Martin Luther King Jr.

 

This year, January 19 marks the observance of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Almost fifty years ago, on March 25, 1965, Dr. King Jr. helped organize marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., bringing on conversations about race, inequality and civil rights. The current movie Selma dramatizes the Montgomery voting rights marches, reminding us all of the struggles and victories of the civil rights movement.   Dr. King participated in this movement alongside with Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichaeland Bayard Rustin, and organizations such as:  Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee( SNCC). The civil rights movement is an unfinished movement, as the principles of peace, equality, and justice that Martin Luther King Jr. among others, stood for are still not fully realized in our society.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is known for winning the Nobel Prize for Peace. Yet, today his aspirations towards peace are almost non-existent in the current political climate. We are a country with over 2.6 million people who served in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars alone. Many of these soldiers have served for multiple deployments and for significantly longer amount of times than in previous wars. We have created a global military culture that encourages veterans to be tough, to silence their post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and mental health problems, and nudges all of us towards competition, materialism and violence. Through movies, video games, narratives of war and destruction, our access to weapons, our ideology reflects a discourse of aggression. Perhaps as Dr. King points out we need to

get on the right side of the world revolution [and we] as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.

 

As one of the many leaders of the civil rights movement, Dr. King also spoke and stood for racial equality. His vision of equality however has not been realized as systemic racism still exists. Practices such as racial profiling, police brutality, income inequality and lack of housing, among other things, are disproportionately impacting black folks. As communities of color confront an alarming level of racism and homophobia, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. resonate.

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.

Research shows how racism negatively affects the mental health status of African Americans.  Ideological and structural racism perpetuates itself at both the macro-(e.g., group, institution) and microlevels (e.g., interpersonal). Further, racism in society leads to limited socioeconomic mobility, which in turn results in lack resources, poor living conditions and adversely affects mental health. Experiences of discrimination bring about physiological and psychological reactions, leading to adverse changes in mental health status.  Worse, acceptance of negative cultural stereotypes by people of color leads to unfavorable self-evaluations that have deleterious effects on psychological well-being.

Further, experiencing discrimination leads to a higher likelihood of major depression, anxiety disorder and social phobia during one’s lifetime. These associations were present for both African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans, for males and females.

Martin Luther King Jr. also addressed poverty in America. From a mental health perspective poverty is the prototypical risk factor for infant mental health, and research documents how mental health outcomes are related with social class. By being poor one is more likely to be exposed to dangerous environments, work in stressful, unrewarding and depersonalising work, lack the necessities and amenities of life and most likely to be isolated from information and support. The inverse association between socio-economic level and risk of disease is one of the most pervasive and enduring observations in public health (Kaplan et al, 1987).

Persistent economic inequality is undermining some of the most important achievements of the civil rights movement. Although American schools are integrated, in practice, research shows how they are becoming more segregated. As Emily Badger points out, white and black children in kindergarten are much more likely to be separated from each other than whites and blacks in the population at large, this is because black families still can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods with the best schools. As Dr. King eloquently pointed out, true equality needs to encompass economic equality as well.

For we know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?

Although segregation between neighborhoods has been decreasing, the events in Ferguson, Mo. show how the economic results of decades of racially biased business practices and government policies keep low-income blacks from finding a way out. Our current economic system is continuing to cause inequality. As Dr. King said, this might be the time to

civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.

This Martin Luther King Day we urge you to remember the civil rights movement, celebrate the successes while remembering that it is our job to continue the struggle. To remember not only Dr. King but the countless individuals who took a stand against racism and inequality and dared to envision a different world.

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