approaching therapy

musings as they come, and as they evolve …


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Written by David

May 25th, 2017 at 12:48 am

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Alain de Botton

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Loved Krista Tippett’s interview with Alain de Botton.


Choice excerpts, relating to themes of expectations, and the reality of how challenging it is for people (crazy as we all are, in our own ways) to get along:

. . . . .

My view of what one should talk about on a first date is not showing off and not putting forward one’s accomplishments, but almost quite the opposite. One should say, “Well, how are you crazy? I’m crazy like this.”

. . . . .

If we start by accepting that of course we’re only just holding it together, and in many ways, really quite challenging people — I think if somebody thinks that they’re easy to live with, they’re by definition going to be pretty hard and don’t have much of an understanding of themselves. I think there’s a certain wisdom that begins by knowing that of course you, like everyone else, is pretty difficult. And this knowledge is very shielded from us. Our parents don’t tell us, our ex-lovers — they knew it, but they couldn’t be bothered to tell us.

. . . . .

I think getting into a relationship with someone, asking someone to be with you is a pretty cruel thing to do to someone that you love and admire and respect because the job is so hard. Most people fail at it.

. . . . .

I think one of the nicest things you can do to someone you really admire is leave them alone. Just let them go. Let them be. Don’t impose yourself on them because you’re challenging.

. . . . .

“Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.”

Written by David

May 11th, 2017 at 10:54 pm

Posted in couples

less traveled

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Just re-read M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled.

Written in 1978.
I read it in 1984.
It blew my mind at the time. Was somehow relevant to my first long-term relationship. Explained things.

Wanted to see what I would “see” upon a second read, 33 years later, with all the couples therapy perspectives I currently hold.

The first time, I remember reading something about the culprit of expectations.
I was surprised this second round to read so much encouragement of differentiation and blasting of forms of dependency.

Scott goes so far as to call a person who says, “I can’t live without you” a parasite.

He goes on to suggest that “you would be better off being dependent on heroin.”

Finally, this made an impression on me that I’ll never forget:
Love is defined as loving someone when you don’t feel like loving him or her.


Written by David

May 11th, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Posted in couples

in spite of – redux

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I keep coming back to this…
Loving people IN SPITE OF who they are.

I so much appreciate people telling it like it is, shining light on the ordinary, saying what everyone knows, but for some reason, no one has spoken up and said it. With intelligence and humor.

People are ridiculous.
Don’t pretend to try to love people as they are.
Instead, love them in spite of who they are.

I Know What You Think of Me
June 15, 2013


Written by David

May 11th, 2017 at 11:31 am

Posted in couples


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A nice blog post from Figs (Fiachra O’Sullivan) in SF:

I just love how down to earth this guy is. Love his use of language.
Love his simple guidelines for folks.

He has three steps to help people come to their senses:

1. Notice your reactivity ASAP
2. Become curious about what’s happening inside you
3. Share it the moment you’re able

But I would add a couple other steps in there:

1a. Breathe; take some deep breaths
1b. Feel your feelings

I like how the focus is on yourself and how you can share about yourself, and what your experience says about you. It’s a different sort of consciousness. It’s about sharing rather than struggling.

Written by David

December 4th, 2016 at 11:46 pm

Posted in couples


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I highly recommend checking out the book The Relationship Handbook, by George Pransky.
See his website page here.

He turns things around. Focusing on attitude, and letting communication take care of itself.

Another version of taking responsibility for our experience, at least seeing how much of it is informed by our thoughts and where our attention is at.

Instead of couples therapy and talking about problems, which makes everyone feel worse, try the “Happy Experiment”: What if we tried to be positive and nice to each other?

Simplistic? Perhaps. Try it. As he writes, a change of heart can happen in an instant.

Written by David

December 4th, 2016 at 11:33 pm

Posted in couples

feeling feelings

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People report that they find it beneficial when a therapist tells them to stop and go inside and feel their feelings. And sometimes they are asked to be curious, about whether it’s familiar, and what it reminds them of, and to see what about them and their past it has to do with. Something shifts.

It’s that thing about getting out of your head and being present with what’s in the body. Strange how that can result is a shift, but it does.

People like this.

Some people don’t know what this means, this feeling your feelings thing. Think of it as sensations, that’s all.

Written by David

December 4th, 2016 at 11:26 pm

Posted in couples,individuals

Tagged with

Relationship 101 and 201

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Before I turned 30, I came to the idea that Relationship 101 is about not trying to change your partner.
I still forget that. It’s a meditation to see the person as s/he really is, rather than how you wish s/he would be.

Now that I’ve been working as a counselor, I’m thinking that Relationship 201 is about taking responsibility for our experience. It’s a shift in consciousness that really can make things fly. Without it, it’s going to be round after round of the same thing. You guessed it. Reactivity, blame, struggle.

Other things come to me. Relationship 301. Speaking up. Asking for what you want instead of expecting the other person to unilaterally act on some prescience.

I guess all this in some way relates to what it is to be an individual and to let the other person be the individual that s/he is as well.

Written by David

May 31st, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Posted in couples


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I like to sort things out.
The needs from the hurts.
Where does it all come from.
So you might not get your needs met. That’s one thing. Not the end of the world. In fact, you can probably count on not getting your needs met as much as you’d like, as much of the time.
So we might be bummed out. Ok. Disappointed. Perhaps. Profoundly. Perhaps. Deeply let down. Ok.

But why feel hurt over it?

Probably because we think the other person doesn’t care about us?
That starts to point to it.
Whether they care or not probably says more about the other person than it does about us, but that’s how we take it. So it’s about how we take it; the meaning we make of it.

I think it’s so unnerving to us because when we think that the other person doesn’t care about us, it touches that part of us that believes we are not worthy of caring. That’s a painful thing. Again, going back to what John Welwood talks about.

Here are words from someone describing their experience:

It’s about distinguishing between needs not being met (and how one responds to that), and one’s own sense of self and self-worth (and how one cares for that piece), and how one inhabits that space as “mine” – as one’s own, and owns that, so it’s not so easily penetrated by someone whose actions may have meant to hurt you, or not. It gives you a lot of freedom and helps you see what’s yours and what’s theirs and helps you see them – as people with their own struggles.

So remember, even if someone doesn’t respond the way you might really have wished for, and even if someone really doesn’t really care about you or “honor” your needs, your needs are always valid and you are always worthy of love.

Written by David

April 2nd, 2015 at 11:43 pm

Posted in couples,truth

more reasons

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There was a billboard sort of sign in the Mission some years ago. It read “17 Reasons Why”.

It was on Mission and 17th, above what is now “Thrift Town”.
It used to advertise for the now-defunct Redlick’s Furniture store.


I particularly like this one from Michael Thomas Angelo on his Flickr page:

17 Reasons

17 Reasons Mission SF

A friend of mine got married some years ago, and her husband did a play on that notion, listing reasons as part of his proposal. Good idea, I thought. I think it gave me the idea.

I first started doing counseling at test sites in SF for HIV and other STDs.
This was with the AIDS Health Project.
I spoke with people about their concerns and behaviors before I administered a test, and then met with them a week later to give them results and talk further.

Over the years, I collected reasons why people “put themselves at risk,” as we say.
Some of the reasons are poignant.
It relates to my previous post, about our actions, and what they really reflect.

It’s a rich subject. Everything’s a risk, including walking across the street. So it relates to things like perceptions, sense of self, and even spirituality.

Here’s the poem I wrote back then:


  1. It was the heat of the moment
  2. You were drunk or high
  3. You just weren’t thinking
  4. You couldn’t help yourself
  5. Everyone’s doing it
  6. No one’s doing it
  7. It felt good
  8. Condoms suck
  9. You’re not concerned
  10. You were bored
  11. You were confused
  12. He took you by surprise
  13. You were abused as a child
  14. You wanted to see what would happen
  15. Sounded like a good idea at the time
  16. Someone had to
  17. You’ve always done it
  18. You already did it once
  19. Why not?
  20. You didn’t want to die without doing it
  21. You wanted to manifest god

Written by David

December 7th, 2014 at 11:54 am

Posted in Uncategorized