Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bitches and Hate

¡Hola! Everybody...
Remember when the color black (if not the race) was the it color? I know people who still wear black in spring and summer! Ewwwww...

So: how come no one sent me the memo telling me being a bitch is not out of style?!! I mean, c’mon, it might have been cool for a hot minute to channel devastatingly cruel childhood development issues as a personality disorder, but since when did being a biotch or a nasty old fart become the new black?

I’m just askin’! LOL

* * *

-=[ Hatred ]=-

Hatred has never conquered hatred. Hatred merely leads to revenge, and revenge leads to more hate. Hence, a cycle of suffering is set in motion that can go on and on. We only need to look at the world around us to see the sad evidence of this truth.

Hatred is an extreme form of anger. The teachings of the path I follow take anger very seriously, because anger causes so much suffering. I see hate as being rooted in fear. Fear being a powerful core emotion.

Even when anger is not acted out and seems controlled, a person who is inwardly angry can instantly change the atmosphere of a room she enters. There is an invisible, but palpable chill and anyone nearby becomes more guarded and less spontaneous. This happens without conscious effort. It seems to be a response at a very deep (cellular?) level to the quality of energy that anger gives out. You see this happen often in relationships…

When anger is acted out and results in violence, the damage is obvious. Some years ago, I read the words by the Cambodian monk, Maha Ghosananda, who observed “When this defilement of anger really gets strong, it has no sense of good or evil, right or wrong, of husbands, wives, children. It can even drink human blood.” This was a tragic comment upon a bloody civil war that had torn Cambodia apart and killed almost everyone he knew.

What is often not understood about anger is the harm it does to oneself. The first person hurt is always the one who is angry. An angry mind is a suffering mind. An angry mind is agitated and tight, constricted and narrow in its thinking. Judgment and perspective vanish. All good sense disappears. One feels restless and driven. Nothing is satisfying, everything is tense.

What happens during anger is that the sense of self becomes very large, and so the sense of the other. A major reason anger is so very painful is that it instantly creates a sharp distinction between self and other. An imaginary line is drawn that cannot be passed. For example, if I make the statement, “any friend of those assholes, is not a friend of mine,” I am drawing a line.

There is also an intoxicating effect to anger. There is a strong feeling of self-righteousness. Thoughts rooted in justification take over: “She abused me!” “Look at what he did to me!” This is combined with feelings of defiance and rectitude: “I am right!” However, underlying the intoxication of anger is the pain of a mind so narrowly constricted that it closes itself off from human connection.

The results of anger can be devastating. Anger is like a poison in the mind. It generates an unhealthy cycle of cause and effect. Every thought, word, or act has an angry after-effect. Like throwing a pebble into a pond, an act or thought sets into motion a series of ripple effects irradiating out in every direction. We are stuck with what we have done, and with the effects that w have caused.

I believe that the majority of harmful patterns of behavior are rooted in unconscious anger/ hatred. People will gossip about others, spread false accusations about others as a way of maintaining this angry state of mind. Existing in an environment of fear (lack of faith), hate, and anger, they lash out at others and create cliques in order to maintain their bloated egos. I guess the answer is not to respond in anger, but to generate love instead. However, one can choose to love from afar. We can choose to minimize our contact with harmful and negative influences.

And so it is with our decisions about whom we choose to surround us. I think what makes decisions skillful or not has a lot to do with intent. If one has an angry or hateful intent, then, like the ripples in the pond, you suffer the consequences. However, if the intent is based on compassion and an attempt to find serenity in life, then we can live knowing that we’re walking our path to the best of our ability.



Monday, March 30, 2009


¡Hola! Everybody...
Recently, I had attempted to apologize to someone here privately. I soon discovered that my attempt became something to ridicule on another site. In large part, the following is my response...

* * *

-=[ Making Amends ]=-

“As you start to let go, you let go of your desire to change what has already happened. What’s already happened is complete. That’s a big step, because anytime we want to change what has already happened, we re-create it over and over again in order to change it. So when that drops away, a lot of patterns drop too, because you no longer want to fix what’s already happened.”

“Most of us live our life as though our thoughts are both who we are and facts. But neither is true. Thoughts are just that -- not facts, and not true. The good news is you have the ability to let go of any thought, and thereby change both the way you feel and how you act in life.”

-- Hale Dwoskin

Recently, I sent a message of apology to someone here on the ‘Ply. There was a part of me that felt she deserved whatever I threw at her, but I know from experience that self-righteous indignation is the noise we make to drown out our own bullshit. Though I felt justified for attacking her and putting her hypocritical shit on Broadway, I also knew inside I had to let that go. So I sent her an apology -- privately. Shortly thereafter, someone informed me that my apology was the subject of a blog on another site-- something held up for ridicule. Again, a part of me felt hurt -- but I reminded myself I didn’t apologize because I expected anything from the person. I did so without even the expectation of an acceptance. I attempted to make amends because, 1) it’s what I have to do to forgive myself, and 2) because it came from the heart. These incidents reminded me of the following post I wrote a few years ago...

The path I follow, the path that sings to me, has a long history and set of cultural values that emphasize forgiveness. Actually, the path I follow is an integration of sorts of integral psychology, Theravadan Buddhism, and the good ole Twelve Steps. What follows here is part of my journey back to love.

During my first ten-day vipassana (meditation) retreat, our teacher led us through a meditation on loving-kindness (metta). She began by asking us to think about people we had harmed and ask for their forgiveness. In order for us to open to love, she said, we must forgive. We must empty ourselves of the resentments and guilt from the past so that we can fully open our hearts to love.

I remember thinking about ex-girlfriends, my parents and other family members, long lost friends, my mother-in-law at the time, even that lady that… well you get the idea. I breathed in the sorrow and I asked, “why did I hurt you?’

Next, we were asked to think of people who had hurt us. I settled in my breathing and the very same people came to my mind.

What was that about?

As an addict in recovery, I had written a Fourth Step -- “a searching and fearless moral inventory” -- and I saw the same pattern: The people I hurt were, more often than not, the very same people who hurt me. This was no mere tit for tat; at least I didn’t see these patterns in that way. I saw it as an example of how intimacy triggers these struggles for me. I was seeing what my loved ones in recovery told me I would see in “working” the steps: the whole pattern of my life. I’m seeing more clearly today the essential entanglement of love and fear, of intimacy and alienation. The truth of this contradiction continues to unfold for me to this day.

During the time of my first retreat, I was married to beautiful and remarkable woman, let’s call her by my pet name for her: “Fo-head” (cause she had a prominent forehead). She was actually supportive enough to encourage me to go on this ten-day retreat in the first place. Now, for those here who have been married, you know that ten days is a luxury in married life. LOL! I am eternally grateful for that gift.

In loving-kindness (metta) practice, we took three types of relationships: with people we love, with those we feel neutral toward, and with difficult people. As I undertook this practice, I quickly realized that my wife fell into all three categories! I loved her dearly as my life’s partner; sometimes I barely recognized her as we passed each other; and sometimes she was the object of all my frustrations.

This is true...

Step Eight: “Made a list of all persons I had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

When I first read the above step early in my recovery, I wanted to skip all the previous steps and just go immediately to that one! Luckily, I had people in my life who acted as guides. They patiently explained to me that before amends can be made, one first has to go through a process of self-discovery and self-forgiveness in order for it to mean anything. We all say, “I’m sorry,” but how deep is that? If you can’t forgive yourself, then how can you forgive another? For those of you who say otherwise, I’ll tell you you’re only fooling yourself.

In making my list, I saw clearly, probably for the first time, the people there: my parents, my brothers and sisters, my exes, my wife, my friends, all the most important people in my life, all the people I loved the most. This showed me that the work I needed to do was here right now, in front of me.

My spiritual growth and personal development doesn’t hinge on reading a new book, or adopting a new esoteric philosophy, or reaching some transcendental mystical experience, but rather on something as seemingly simple as recognizing that the person laying next to me in bed was a precious gift in my life: she was my lover, my teacher, my friend. Still, how many times did I come into conflict with her? How many times did she push my button so that I felt anger and fear? How many times did I want her to think or behave differently, thinking she didn’t understand or appreciate me?

On and on…

It was a revelation for me because here again, I was confronted with the whole pattern of my life: what Zorba the Greek called the “Full Catastrophe!” The blaming, the judging -- the wish to control.

What my path teaches me about this is that these habits, these patterns, are the result of my past actions and that I can change these in this very moment. I can look up from my book and smile. I can start again with a fresh breath, a fresh kindness, right here in this very moment. If there’s something that any relationship requires, it’s this ability to let go and stop the war and begin again with kindness. I’m an expert on forgiveness, I was married. LOL!

If you can’t forgive, a relationship, whether platonic, familial, or romantic, won’t last very long. At most it will be a very painful one.

Step Nine: “Made directs amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

I didn’t speak to my father for more than ten years. And with good reason. He hurt me repeatedly, from the time I can first remember. Finally, as a young man and having endured another betrayal at his hands, I decided I would cut him out of my life. And I did… for ten years or more.

During all that time, my father made repeated attempts to contact me. He would leave the message that he loved me. Big fuckin’ shit, I would think. It was during my incarceration that my father began writing to me regularly and it was during that time we first opened the door to the possibility of reconciliation. I was in my first year of recovery, however, and I was cautious because I didn’t need to foolishly open myself to someone who had a history of hurting me. But I began to see this as a possibility. I became willing.

Two years passed, and I was married with my own son and wife. I knew that I would have to, for my own sake, reconcile with my father and that first phone call was difficult. I lay in bed and thought about it (never a good thing) and finally I called. We spoke, and he accepted my amends and offered his and we cried. I didn’t know it at the time, but at that time my father had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and he knew his time here was limited. We left off with the agreement that we would respect each other as son and father, but also as men.

After speaking to my father, something else came up. There was another messier resentment lurking inside of me that I carried. I had idolized my father, but he had failed to live up to my ideals. My father was an addict. I adored my father but he failed me somehow and these feelings complicated my relationship with him.

It’s these complications that make the amends process difficult. Painful relationships rarely go in just one direction. We hurt each other. Many times, I have found myself making amends to people who have hurt me -- oftentimes more than I’ve hurt them. And this is why we don’t go straight to Step 8. We first have to develop the ability to stay on our own side of the street. To resist the temptation to think of what others might owe us is the biggest step towards some measure of sanity in our lives.

Yes, my father was all that I can say he was, but here I was, a father myself, someone who had grappled with his demons. Who was I to judge? Didn’t I fall into my own addiction? Didn’t I also abandon my son? When we point the accusatory finger, my friends reminded me that there are three others pointing right back at us. This a good point for those here who enjoy defining themselves in relation to how much better they perceive themselves when compared to others.

Oscar Wilde said that “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.” When I finally got clean and wrote that first inventory, digging deep into the history of my resentments and the ways I acted them out, my feelings began to change. I began to see my own part in the problems I had with my father and I began to feel compassion for the difficulty he and my mother had in raising their children. They did the best they could with what they had.

In accepting my own failures, I learned to accept my parents’ failures. I realized that they too had parents that were less than perfect, and that they tried to be good parents.

As I continued going through my Step 8 list and making amends, something wonderful happened: I began to feel free for the first time in my life. Not all my amends were happy affairs. I still have people in my life who may never forgive me and that’s Ok because I have become willing to make these amends. Some of my amends stories are miraculous, like the time my son’s mother woke up from a coma and certain death while I was attempting to make amends to her. Other times, it was quite the opposite: I have had people curse me out and chase me from their lives -- some have even thrown things at me. To these people I totally understand, sometimes we can’t forgive and that’s OK, I just want to undo my part of that insanity. Others, after initially holding grudges have since reconciled and have expressed to me that the process was a healing force in their lives.

After an exhaustive Step Nine, I began to think that there was something missing from my list. There had to be more than I remembered. I meditated on my list and on my life, and there was something missing. Then it came me: the person who had been hurt the most by my actions was me. Ultimately, forgiveness is not just about forgiving others. It’s being forgiven and forgiving ourselves. For many people, this is the most difficult task in spiritual development. In the final analysis, making amends to others is to make amends to ourselves, since while hurting others we hurt ourselves in the process.

My entire path can be seen in this way. Each step I take is an amend to myself, repairing my connection through spiritual means, becoming honest with myself and others, making amends, passing on the gift. For me going back to school after so many years was an amends to myself. So was picking up my meditation practice and learning to be more compassionate with myself and others, more forgiving.

To forgive ourselves means pursuing our heart’s true desire. The Buddha said that we could search the whole world and not find a person more deserving of love than ourselves. Is this a possibility for you? To see yourself as equally precious as anyone else on Earth?



Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Sermon (Eating Tears)

¡Hola! Everybody...
Got in late last night... repost! LOL

I decided to become a helper as a response to the world’s suffering. It just so happened that right before graduate school, I came across a book, How Can I Help? Stories and Reflection on Service, by Ram Dass. The book changed my life. Below is an excerpt from a section called “Suffering.” I call it “Eating Tears.”

* * *

-=[ Eating Tears ]=-

“I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.”

-- Mother Teresa, b. Agnes G. Bejaxhiu (1910–1998)

My idea was pretty simple at the beginning. I started to volunteer in wards with terminally ill children or burn victims – just go there and cheer them up a little, spread around some giggles. Gradually, it developed that I was going to come in as a clown.

First, somebody gave me a red rubber nose, and I put that to work. Then I started doing some elementary makeup. Then I got a yellow, red, and green clown outfit. Finally, some nifty, tremendous wing-tip shoes, about two and half feet long, with green tips and heels, white in the middle. They came from a clown who was retiring and wanted his feet to keep on walking.

It’s a little tricky coming in. Some kids, when they see a clown, they think they are going to be eaten alive. And kids in hospitals and burn units, of course, are pretty shaky. So it’s always good to lead with some bubbles, just blow some bubbles around the ward. Then I’ll move from bed to bed, just feeling out what’s appropriate: maybe checkers, or blackjack, or go fish. Or if they’re lying there with tubes coming out of them,

I’ll hit the kids with riddles. Riddles are great.

Later, if they can manage it, I’ll give them this paper bag that they can fit over their heads. When they put it on and sort of blow their lips together, they can make this funny sound I call the Funny Mantra. They turn into a living kazoo. I’ll say, “If things get too tough, just take that paper bag from under your pillow and sound off. Maybe that’ll help a little, and it’ll sure surprise the nurses.”

Because things do get very tough in there, I’ll tell you. They were very tough for me in the beginning – very. You see some terrible things in these wards. Seeing children dying or mutilated is nothing most of us ever get prepared for. Nobody teaches us to face suffering in this society. We never talk about it until we get hit in the face.

Like when I was starting out I was making the rounds one day at a children’s hospital. The shade was pulled on this one room so I couldn’t see, but I peeked in the door. It was a room with badly burned children in it. They had them in chrome crib beds with walls on the side, so they couldn’t crawl out or fall out if it got too terrible in there.

There was this one little black kid in one of them. He was horribly burned. He looked like burnt toast. Pieces of his face weren’t there. Pieces of his ears were missing. Where was his mouth? You could hardly tell who he was. There was no way of pinning a person to the face, what little there was of it.

It was just terrible, just mind-boggling. My jaw dropped, I gasped, and I came completely unglued. I remember flashing back to the anti-war movement. There was this picture of a napalmed kid I used to carry around at demonstrations. Suddenly here was that kid right in front of me. Unbelievably painful to behold.

I was overwhelmed. And my mind went off in all sorts of directions. “What’s it going to be like if he lives?” “What if I had a child this happened to?” “What if this happened to me?”

So there we were burnt toast and unglued clown. Quite a sight, I bet. And I’m fighting just to stay there, trying to find a way to get past my horror.

All of a sudden, this other kid comes whizzing by – I think he was skating along on his IV pole – and he stops, and kinda pushes around me, and looks into the crib at this other kid, and comes out with, “Hey, YOU UGLY!” Just like that. And the burnt kid made this gurgling laugh kind of noise and his face moved around, and all of a sudden I just went for his eyes, and we locked up right there, and everything else dissolved. It was like going through a tunnel right to his heart. And all the burnt flesh disappeared, and I saw him from another place. We settled right in.

“YOU UGLY!” Right. He ugly. He probably knows how ugly he is more than anyone else. And if he’s gotta deal with people hanging around with saliva coming out of their mouths, it’s gonna be extra horrible. But somebody meets him in the eye and says, “Hey, what’s happening? Wanna hear a riddle… ?”

So being able to look You Ugly in the eye… that’s done a lot for me. Because once I do that, I can go in and see what might be done that can ease things up. And you get all kinds of inspiration.

Like, some of us were setting up to show Godzilla in the kids’ leukemia ward. I was making up kids as clowns. One kid was totally bald from chemotherapy, and when I finished doing his face, another kid said, “Go on and do the rest of his head.” The kid loved the idea. And when I was done, his sister said, “Hey, we can show the movie on Billy’s head.” And he really loved that idea. So we set up Godzilla and ran it on Billy’s head, and Billy was pleased as punch, and we were all proud of Billy. It was quite a moment. Especially when the doctors arrived.

So I don’t know. Burnt skin or bald heads on little kids – what do you do? I guess you just face it – when the kids are really hurting so bad, and so afraid, and probably dying, and everybody’s heart id breaking. Face it, and see what happens after that, see what you do next.

I got the idea of traveling with popcorn. When a kid is crying I dab the tears with the popcorn and pop it into my mouth or into his or hers. We sit around together and eat the tears.



Saturday, March 28, 2009


¡Hola! Everybody...
I’m planning to make more business trips this year, accepting more offers to speak on a national level -- something I’ve neglected for the past two years. So, don’t be surprised if yours truly makes an appearance in your neck of the woods sometime soon... LOL

* * *

-=[ Desire ]=-

Langston Hughes

Desire to us
Was like a double death,

Swift dying
Of our mingled breath,
an unknown strange perfume

Between us quickly

In a naked
Room. (1964)

* * *

Love, Eddie

Friday, March 27, 2009

The TGIF Sex Blog (Cultural History)

Hola Everybody...
What never ceases to amaze me is how so many people who visited my sex blog, who vociferously claim to sexually “liberated,” often demonstrate what I can politely call “provincial” sexual attitudes. Aw heck, why begin being diplomatic and just call it for what is is: I’m sick and tired of people who like to claim they are sexually uninhibited (or even “normal”) when in fact they’re just some country-assed muthafuckas.

The thing is, they like to say shit that sounds nice, but their actions and attitudes actually contradict what they say! LOL!

* * *

-=[ Sex and Taboo ]=-

“Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go it’s pretty damn good.”

-- Woody Allen

Until very recently, you lived your whole life isolated into the culture in which you were born. Today, technological advances have changed this. We live in an era rich in the exchange of information and cultural practices. I have a passion for cultural studies and I’m always fascinated by the vast range cultural expression. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of human sexuality. While many people still think sex is something you do in the dark and only in one sexual position, or that sexual fantasies are evil, even a cursory glance at a cultural history of sex gives us a different picture.

We often take our own cultural practices as being the most “normal” or morally righteous when they aren’t. In fact, even within our own culture, there are inherent contradictions and sexual hypocrisies. Moreover, those who are most rigid in their thinking are those who would be most rigid in any cultural upbringing. So it follows that if American homophobic men were raised in a culture in which taking it up the ass was considered manly, these very same men would be fighting about who could take it up the ass best. I’m not joking. Think about it: if you’re narrow-minded and culturally intolerant in this context, why wouldn’t you be the same in another cultural context?


When I first began seriously studying sex, I came across many different accounts from many different cultures. For example, in one Papuan tribe, young men are made into “boy brides” as part of a coming of age ritual. When boys reach the pre-teen years, they are taken away from the tribe to live with older men. During that time, the boys are made to play passive roles, sometimes even performing homosexual acts with their “husbands.” When the boys are deemed to be ready (i.e., become men), they are reintegrated with their tribe and married to the daughters of their “husbands.” The homosexuality has no bearing on the boys’ sexual orientation, nor is there any stigma associated with it.

The South Seas have forever stirred the sexual imagination of the West ever since early reports of lush tropical paradises of the flesh inhabited by beautiful people were disseminated. While this fantasy distorts the real sexual practices of this part of the world, it is true that many of the sexual practices found in the Pacific and the Americas differed greatly from Christian/ Judeo morality.

Sexual promiscuity, for example, was tolerated and native women who would swim out to the boats naked delighted early explorers. However, further study shows that this sort of uninhibited sexuality was part of a strategy to keep the white foreigners peaceful. Only women who had a reputation for sexual looseness were allowed to participate in this form of sexual diplomacy.

A Tahitian society traveled about the islands as singers, dancers, athletes, and sexual exhibitionists. They were permitted promiscuous relationships wherever they went. What early explorers did not understand is that this group represented a religious institution and that much of their sexual behavior had a religious justification; after all, a God of fertility founded the society.

The Polynesian Islands is the area par excellence of public copulation, erotic festivals, and sex expeditions. While they unfortunately disappeared with the advent of Western colonization, ceremonies involving sexual license had been commonplace. Naked dances occurred on Easter Island and the Marquesas, for example. At the close of feasts, Marquesans would hold public group-sex displays. The women taking part would take pride in the number of men they serviced. One anthropologist recalls a nice old lady who boasted about having made the entire crew of a whaling boat happy.

Throughout Asia, there are unique customs also. In my post on cunnilingus, I wrote about a tradition reportedly started by the Tang Dynasty empress Wu Hou. It is said that she required, by royal decree, that all government officials and visiting dignitaries perform cunnilingus on her in public. In Mongolia, among the Mongour, certain “fake” marriages occur. If a daughter is offered to a guest (as ritual hospitality sex) and she gets pregnant, she is married to a belt, which must be left behind by the guest. The belt is simply symbolic of the man, who may never return. Similarly, in Mongolia, if a woman gets pregnant outside of sex hospitality, she is formally married to a prayer rug.

I guess what I’m trying to convey in a short (an inadequate) piece, is that sexual expression varies greatly across the human condition. And before you start giggling, or wagging the morality stick, please remember that someone from another culture would deem your own sexual practices just as funny and just as immoral. And perhaps, they’d be right...



Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shame and Violence

¡Hola! Everybody... Imagine having me as a student in your classroom. LOL! I went to university at a later age and I got my money’s worth. I challenged, and was often challenged in return, all my professors. If you didn’t have your shit together, I was mos’ def going to ream you a new asshole. Most

professors enjoyed my participation. Most professors were dedicated individuals deeply invested in intellectual development. Most...

::arches eyebrow::

In fact, I remember one professor catching me in conversation with one of her colleagues and she stopped and asked him, pointing to me, “Is this guy in your class?” When the professor affirmed that I was, she added, in these exact words, “Well, you better have your shit together because Eddie doesn’t play around!”


I loved that woman and she helped me tremendously.

I’ll be in prison all day, running my women’s prison workshop and running my men’s group at night. Make it a great day, it may be your last...

* * *

-=[ Shame, Guilt and Violence ]=-

“’How do you know so much about everything?’ was asked of a very wise and intelligent man; and the answer was ‘By never being afraid or ashamed to ask questions as to anything of which I was ignorant.’”

-- John Abbott (1821–1893) Prime minister of Canada

Some of you know that I work in the area of criminal justice. More specifically, for the last eight years, I’ve participated in the creation of a community-based model for supporting the men and women returning from incarceration. One of areas of interest is whether pure punishment, without regard to rehabilitation -- or in many cases, habilitation -- is an effective means of social justice. Of course, it isn’t. In fact, there’s an empirically strong case for shame as a major factor in violence and violent crime. I tend to agree with this, generally speaking. I actually see it all the time. Psychiatrist James Gilligan, who has worked in prisons for 35 years, describes an interesting experience. He was called in to resolve a running battle with a prisoner in which he would assault corrections officers and they would punish him. The more they punished him the more violent he became, and the more violent he became the more they punished him. Nothing they did (at least legally) could stop this man from assaulting the officers.

When Gilligan went to see this man he asked him what he thought was an obvious question, “What do you want so badly that you are willing to give up everything else in order to get it?” His answer astonished the doctor. Usually inarticulate to the point that it was difficult to get a clear answer to any question, he stood up, and with perfect clarity he stated: “Pride. Dignity. Self-esteem.” And then he added, “And I’ll kill every motherfucker in that cell block if I have to in order to get it.” He went on to describe how the officers were attempting to strip away his last shred of dignity and self-esteem by disrespecting him, and said, “I still have my pride and I won’t let them take that away from me. If you ain’t got pride, you got nothin'.” He made it clear that he would die before he would humble himself to the officers by submitting to their demands.

According to Gilligan, this wasn’t true of just this man. In fact, several hundred violent criminals in this country provoke their own deaths at the hands of the police in exactly that way every year. Indeed, this phenomenon is so common that police forces (and this is not counting the clear cases of police misconduct) around the country have given it a nickname: “suicide by cop.” In World War II, Japan’s kamikaze pilots behaved in a way that had much the same result, as do contemporary suicide bombers in the Middle East and elsewhere. In the prisons and on the streets of the United States, such behavior appears to be committed by people who are so tormented by feelings of being shamed and disrespected by their perceived enemies that they are willing to sacrifice their bodies and their lives to replace those intolerable feelings with the opposite feelings of pride and self-respect, and of being honored and admired by their friends and families and at least respected by their enemies. Such people experience the fear that they provoke in their victims as a kind of artificial form of respect, the only type they are capable of achieving.

Articulating a powerful insight, Gilligan adds, “In the prisons and on the streets of the United States, such behavior appears to be committed by people who are so tormented by feelings of being shamed and disrespected by their enemies that they are willing to sacrifice their bodies and their physical existence to replace those intolerable feelings with the opposite feelings of pride and self-respect, and of being honored and admired by their allies and at least respected by their enemies. Such people experience the fear that they provoke in their victims as a kind of ersatz form of respect, the only type they are capable of achieving.”

Here’s the travesty: we recreate environments, at an enormous social and economic expense, that exacerbate these feelings of impotent rage. Our prisons are filled with people whop have become part of a human experiment in how to further destroy destroyed lives. In other words, we take individuals who probably weren’t functioning well to begin with (addiction, abuse, illiteracy, etc.) and make them worse. The icing on the cake is that we do this at an enormous economic expense and that money gets taken out of, yes, you guessed it, luxuries such as education.

There has to be a better way. In fact, there are better ways. Gilligan has run an extremely successful prison restorative justice program utilizing his insights, for example. It is also known that education and supportive services (vocational training, employment assistance, family reunification, etc.) cost a fraction of what prisons cost and are extremely more effective. I believe social justice needs to be brought back to the community, but that’s a fuckin’ crazy idea, huh?

Not too long ago, while reviewing some literature, a colleague sent me the following snippet:

In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed at the center of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and everyone in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused. Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, recalling the good things the person has done in his life. Every experience that can be recalled with detail and accuracy is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully. This ceremony often lasts for several days. At the end, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.”

* * *



Wednesday, March 25, 2009


¡Hola! Everybody...
People: you may not realize it, but we’re in the midst of a huge historical transition. We have a president who’s doing his best to get his message out. Whether you agree with him or not, you should be paying attention. Fuck American Idol! Part of the reason you’re getting fucked without the consideration of a kiss is that you’re amusing yourself to death. We as a people have become the laughing stock of the world and with good reason... Best line of the night was Obama’s response to the reporter’s insistent question of why he waited two days to express outrage at the AIG bonuses: “Because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak, that’s why... ” Want a ghetto translation? Nigga Please! LOL!

In case you haven’t heard there’s a woman here in NYC who was married to a gazillionaire 30 years her senior. She signed a post-nuptial agreement that left her something like $48 million! She’s changed her mind because she claims she can’t live on anything less than $53 thousand a week (click here for a breakdown of her budget). She ain’t even that fine (she has that pallid constipated look most women who consciously starve themselves sport). I guess that poosie was good, I dunno. OTOH, she should be entitled half of the man’s net worth and she’s only asking for a third (he’s worth over $300 million).

Sometimes I’ll read something I wrote several years ago and I wonder who wrote it. LOL... (repost)

* * *

-=[ Problems ]=-

“Test pilots have a litmus test for evaluating problems. When something goes wrong, they ask, ‘Is this thing still flying?’ If the answer is yes, then there's no immediate danger, no need to overreact.”

-- Alan L. Bean(1932 – ) US Astronaut, Apollo 12 Moon-walk mission

The Wonderful World of Problems! LOL!

Stop to think about it: how would you feel, who would your friends be, how would you live, dress, walk, or speak if you had no problems? How at peace with yourself would you be if you had no bills, or hadn’t been sexually abused, beaten by your drunk of a father, or had a different job? How would you feel without hate for a parent, or with a different boss, or girl/ boyfriend, or engaged in a satisfying romantic relationship?

How would you act without your problems?

Yesterday’s responses to the set of “who’s responsible” questions I posted are the self created road blocks we habitually identify as problems. Along with everything in our lives, we perceive our problems to be the result of fate -- therefore impossible to change. However, as much as we anguish over our problems, the truth is, no matter how much better we think we would be without them, the idea of liberating yourself from your problems is terrifying. Sounds crazy, huh? But no: problems give us our identity.

I remember becoming deeply upset when someone said that there are no such things as problems, only our attitudes towards living. It was one of the few times of my life I can remember possessing a sincere desire to kill. I am exaggerating, but I think you can identify. There I was, my world was collapsing around me, I’ve barely had my recovery by the skin of my teeth, and this asshole was telling me there are no problems in life?! Looking back now, the fact of the matter was that my collapsing world was my life. It was all I knew. It was my identity.

We think we are our problems. In other words, we think our problems are a part of who we are. Well, they’re not, and that’s why I began with the “who’s responsible” questions, so that we could see that all those hurts, blames, and regrets are what we think we are (or what we think we have to be), when in truth they’re nothing more than our own limited thinking born from a false belief system and thought constellation. Our problems are how we create our identity, the image we present to the outside world.

(Now please! Do not try to over simplify what I am saying by pointing to the suffering in the Gulf area and laying the blame solely on the victims of what is a horrifying nightmare come true. Some “problems” are more intense that others. My point is – how do WE become fixated on the problem and not the solution!)

Having problems is a chronic habit. Limited thinking is a habit and as addictive as any food or drug. Like alcohol, or bingeing, we give our problems priority in our lives. We live by them. We are them. In addition, we create them with the same consistency as an assembly line to give us the identity we think we need to have.

Limited, or faulty, thinking in any sense is not good for our happiness, except in the sense that we glorify our manufactured identity: the who of what we think we are. Let’s say, for example, you’re sacrificing your life for your child, that’s limited thinking (limited in the sense that it’s like a frozen thinking: there are no options in frozen thinking). This is also a manufactured identity: “suffering parent, that’s me!” Another example: you can’t get ahead in life because of your lack of education, another limited and manufactured identity. Or, here’s a popular one: you only attract jerks for lovers -- also a limited and manufactured identity.

Problems become real because we doubt our true selves. We believe in the myth of ourselves as limited and without power when in actuality we are walking miracles endowed with a divine spark. Simply put, because we have no faith in our true selves, we have created “identity shells.” Out of feelings of worthlessness, or fear, we create identities -- personas -- to bring meaning to a life without apparent purpose, a life with out a true understanding of its own reality. Problems, folks, give us that purpose. Problems create for us our own imagined reality.

Just look at how we live with problems. They consume our thoughts. We plan around them, and for them. We talk incessantly about them, go to shrinks over them, and spend a huge portion of our lives totally obsessed by them.

What would we be without our problems?

Our problems are so dear to us that in the unlikely event one might get solved, instead of being grateful, we run right out and find another one, right now! “Hey! It’s my problem, and while it may bring me pain, it’s the only existence I know and it’s better than the unknown,” someone might say.

Living life at the mercy of our problems is living life as a victim.



Tuesday, March 24, 2009


¡Hola! Everybody...
Let me be one of the first to state publicly that this isn’t the end of civilization as we know it. I do think the recovery plan has huge holes in it, and I stand with some economists (Krugman, for example) in the critique of Obama’s plan. The thing I don’t get is 1) who said Obama was ever a liberal? At best, Obama has been a centrist in the Clintonian mode. And he’s missing a once in a lifetime opportunity by holding to his centrist ideology. However, I do think he will list to the left when it comes to re-regulating the market.

* * *

-=[ Who’s Yo Daddy?! ]=-

“A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.”

-- Simone Weil

Yesterday, I briefly mentioned the concept of transference. Transference is one of the cornerstones of psychoanalytic theory. Literally whole libraries could be filled on what has been written on transference, so it would be hard to give a simple and straightforward definition without falling into the trap of oversimplification. But that’s never stopped me before right? LOL

Transference is important when attempting to understand online behavior and relationships because the potential for transference is huge. One year, I was able to organize an online group for a weekend in NYC. Over 100 people participated. People came from as far as the Artic Circle, California, Puerto Rico, Florida, Hawaii, and Texas, just to name a few places. We had a great time. However, there was a small group (that didn’t participate) that began accusing me of the most ridiculous things. I was shocked when it was brought to my attention that at least one or two people were spreading the rumor that I was hypnotizing people! LOL

I wish! I’d be cracking some major female anal sphincter if I could do that! LOL Similarly, I’ve been accused of many, many things by people I have never met in person.

::blank stare::

Simply put, transference is the tendency to recreate in our current relationships the patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that were formed early in our life, most importantly in the relationships with our parents and siblings when we were children.

Let’s do a quick exercise:

Think of your significant other, or your romantic relationship, or even a close friend (even me! LOL!). Think about some important personality characteristic of that individual -- a characteristic or trait in that person to which you have a strong positive or negative emotional reaction. Now think about one of your parents, or perhaps a brother or sister. Do they have that very same characteristic, and are the reactions you have to that aspect of them similar to those concerning your current close relationship?

I don’t need an answer... it’s an exercise. I’m just trying to better illustrate a concept.

I’m no Freudian (who is?) and one of the more salient critiques of psychoanalytic theory is that it places too much emphasis on the effects of childhood and family dynamics on the evolution of one’s personality. I happen to agree with that critique. Certainly, one’s personality continues to develop and change throughout the lifespan as a result of our friends, lovers, and new life experiences. It is not solely determined by how our parents raised us as children.

While we are not simply the products of our families, it still stands that our parents (or other parental figures) and siblings did indeed spend a great deal of time with us during our formative years, when our minds were young, impressionable, and eager to learn about how we humans relate to each other. Based on our relationships with them, we created maps or templates in our mind about what makes up the expected ways in which people will behave in relationships. Modern neurological research seems to bolster this claim: Our neurology is like a feedback loop and there is a strong “neurological imprint” created in early childhood. In other words, how we are nurtured has a direct impact on how our brains are formed, which synaptic connections are created, and in that way we are literally created.

We formed basic impressions about the kinds of needs, wishes, fears, and hopes that shape relationships and our image of ourselves in those early relationships. Often we don’t realize these are our own maps. They may be very different than the maps taking shape in the heads of other people. I had a good childhood friend of mine who was Irish-American and he was shocked and even surprised at how demonstrative my family was emotionally. He came from a family that rarely indulged in public shows of affection. I’m not pointing this to say his was a better or lesser upbringing, but to show that his expectations in relationships would be different from mine.

As we grow up we take these maps with us and, operating at an unconscious level, they affect the choices we make in the kinds of people we get involved with as well as how we experience those people. For example, think of your first boyfriend or girlfriend, and how similar that person might have been to one of your parents (usually your opposite sex parent). This is expressed in popular culture: there was the song that claimed the man wanted to marry someone just like their mother, for example. We often attach parental-like labels to our loved ones (“Who’s yo daddy, now?!! LOL!).

These maps also shape how people select and experience things in their lives that are not human, but closely speak to our needs and emotions that we want to instill them with human characteristics. As humans we can’t help but personify the objects of the world around us. It’s in our neurophysiology. We use our internal maps to humanize and shape our experience of cars, houses, pets, and yes, computers.

Yes, I said computers. Computers can be a basic object for transference because they may be perceived as human-like. Unlike TV, movies, or books, computers are highly interactive. We ask them to do something and they do it -- at least, they usually do. With the new generation of highly visual, auditory, and customizable operating systems and software applications, we also have a machine that can be tailored to reflect what we expect in a companion.

Computers, especially when used to access social networking sites, are especially enticing objects for transference because they are vaguely human in that we believe there are humans at the other end attached to the computer. We develop relationships with people, read their “text,” and then create an image of those individuals. However, without ever meeting these people, where do we fill in the gaps? We fill it in from our experiences -- especially our early childhood experiences and subsequent important experiences. In short, we transfer our inner maps onto the text we’re reading.

One of the first things you discover as a therapist is that if you maintain a relatively neutral posture with your clients, the clients would begin to shape their perceptions of the analyst according to their internal models from childhood. When faced with an indistinct, seemingly malleable “other,” we automatically fall back on our familiar mental maps about relationships and use those maps to shape how we think, feel, and react to this new, somewhat unclear relationship. This whole process often is unconscious. We are so used to these old maps that they automatically start to mold our perceptions and actions without our really thinking about it.

If you don’t know me except for what I divulge here, then how can you attach any personality characteristic on to me? Sure, there are actions that take place via cyber space: people meet, have sex and sometimes play out those confrontations in very ugly, humiliating, and public ways. But I am not one of those individuals. No one here as ever fucked me (at least no one here knows this for sure). My personal life has not been played out like some bad episode of Jerry Springer, so all you really know about me is what you read here. Everything else is made up.

According to people I have never met, I am a hypnotist, a racist, a sexist, and a pedophile (there are more, it’s hard to keep track). But are any of these labels true? No one here can attest to the validity of any of these labels, they are actually projections -- transferences -- of the people doing the finger-pointing. In effect, the individuals who go through extremes are merely expressing their own experiences as filtered through their transference issues.

In this way, a woman suffering from low self-esteem who was physically or sexually abused by an alcoholic father may react disproportionately to something I might write about sex. To her, I am a pedophile. There is no corresponding action to corroborate her hysteria, except for the action taking place in her mind. Furthermore, transference can be used to understand how persons play out there sexual lives in often humiliating and (online) public ways. How many of us have witnessed a real life meeting gone awry and the subsequent blogs detailing those meetings?

Or, if I write about racism, transference may compel a reader to call me a racist. The same can be said about anything we write. When you attach a personality characteristic to someone you’ve never met, you’re actually saying more about your own experiences than anything even remotely resembling reality.

Those who demonstrate the most transference are the first to label it as “psychobabble.” However, I would submit that transference is important for understanding online relationships because the experience of the “other” person often is limited to text, there is a tendency for the user to project a variety of wishes, fantasies, and fears onto the figure at the other end of cyberspace.



Monday, March 23, 2009

The Secret of Life

¡Hola! Everybody...
I use stories to engage people -- a lot. I love stories and this is one of my favorite ones. I’ve posted this before... Perhaps you’ve heard it?

* * *

-=[ The Secret of Life ]=-

“There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.”

-- Richard David Bach (1936–)

The Great Spirit called together all the Gods to discuss a most important matter. She had decided to create human beings but knew that they would not be able to cope with The Secret of Life and so needed to keep it from them. She gave the Gods the task of finding a place to hide The Secret of Life.

The Gods met, discussed, argued, and debated but after several weeks, they could still not think of a place to hide The Secret of Life.

Eventually, one of the Gods came up with a solution that met with the approval of most of the Gods. He suggested that they hide The Secret of Life deep in the roots of the highest mountain because humans would never be able to find it there.

The Gods were pleased with themselves and were about to go and tell The Great Spirit their solution to the problem but one God spoke up. He said that although it would take them a long time to find The Secret of Life, they would find it. Eventually, they would find the highest mountain and climb it. Eventually, they would build a drilling machine and dig into the roots of the highest mountain. It might take them thousands of years, but they will find it.

The Gods were now in despair. The Great Spirit was going to create human beings very soon and they hadn’t found a solution to her problem.

After some time one of the Gods concluded that if it were not the roots of the highest mountain then why couldn’t it be the depths of the deepest oceans.

Once again, the Gods were happy and about to go to The Great Spirit. But once again, the same God stopped them. Eventually, humans would find the deepest ocean. Eventually, they would create submarines. Eventually, they would put the drilling machine on to the front of the submarine. Eventually, they would find The Secret of Life. It might take them thousands of years, but they would find it.

By now, the Gods were really worried. The Great Spirit was about to create human beings the very next day and they had still not solved the problem for her.

And as often the case, it is during those quiet moments of reflection that the answer emerges, for if we stay quiet long enough The Littlest God can be heard. She is always there, sitting quietly in the background, saying nothing, taking everything in. When She finally does say something, it is always worth listening to.

And this is what The Littlest God suggested they tell The Great Spirit: to hide The Secret of Life inside human beings because they would never even think to look there.

Inside/ Out?

Isn’t it true in life that often the answer to a problem we’re struggling with is already there inside of us? Still, we spend so much time focusing on others or external events and situations. We go on about how we have little or no time, nor the resources, to consider other possibilities. All this time spent is time you coul have spent being happy.

I once had a teacher describe the psychological concept of transference as an inner map we use to help us navigate reality. We create this map as a response to our internal and external reality and we use it to navigate our world; but it is not the same map others carry around inside their heads.

Transference can serve good purposes, but sometimes our maps are outdated -- created as a response to a reality that doesn’t exist any longer. We also confuse our map for reality. In addition, however good your map, the map is never the territory itself. We fall into the trap of believing that our internal world and the external world are identical, when in fact they do not match at all.

The Secret of Life found within all of us, if we can see through our transferences and in that way release our potential -- and maybe even help others release theirs.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Semon [Terminal Uniqueness]

¡Hola! Everybody...
The weather is slowly changing -- becoming milder, the days growing longer. I’ll be scarce, looking for a Spring Fling with the possibility that it will become a Summer Romance that will eventually die a tragic and dramatic death in September.

I love life!


* * *

-=[ Terminal Uniqueness ]=-

“Oh, that? Girl, I stopped suffering from terminal uniqueness a long time – thank GAWD!”

-- Overheard on subway, IRT 6 train, NYC

Part of the reason why I love this city so much is that there is a human interaction here. You hop on The Train and that’s the ultimate equalizer: poor, working class, and upper management all rub elbows on the train and no one is allotted more than another on The Train: your $2.00 gets you the same seat whether you’re homeless or the mayor (he takes the train everyday). There’s human interaction: you come face-to-face with fellow human beings – strangers even. You ride the train and you will hear at least three-four different languages spoken. Living in this city is being exposed to the diversity of the human condition in ways you will never experience in Armpit, USA where everyone lives in homogenized complexes.


Anyway, part of the enjoyment of living here is that you’re always catching snatches of conversations, like the one quoted above. Two women discussing men and heartbreak. I loved that phrase “terminal uniqueness.” And there was a lot of wisdom in what that young lady was saying. I actually break taboos in NYC: I make direct eye contact all the time and speak to strangers on a daily basis. It’s a lot of fun, actually, trespassing invisible boundaries, it’s what I do for a living, actually LOL!

Anyway, terminal uniqueness is the feeling that many of us get when we’re going through rough times: nobody knows how I feel. No one has ever felt what I felt. My pain is unique and therefore no one can understand what I’m going through, and I’m gonna die a wretch.

I’m exaggerating a little bit here, but I think we all go through this thought process to some degree. We feel our problems are unique to ourselves and in that way, we develop an attachment to our pain: my pain is unique! We seem to be saying. And so it is: we have our own little unique crosses to bear and bear them we do: proudly, like scars earned in battle.

Fact is, however much you’re hurting, someone has you trumped, sweetie. There’s that old cliché about having mourned going without shoes until seeing someone with no feet. Sure, it sounds a lot like what our parents would say about eating all the food on our plate (“Do you know there are people in Africa… ”), but the thing about clichés is that they become clichés because they are often true. We want to hold on to our pain, as crazy as that sounds, because for many people our pain defines us, makes us unique.

This is true: some people will even apply Kubler-Ross’s stages of grieving to loss to the point that all they do is process. Don’t get me wrong: processing is important, but there comes a time that “processing” becomes another excuse to stay stuck. After a while, it’s merely disguised indulging. I have a sister, love her, but it’s really hard to be around her because all she does is complain (“process”) about her childhood and my mother, and the way we were raised, and blah blah blah! Jesus fuckin’ Christ! When will it be over for her? Never?

I’ll tell you this much: there’s a big difference between feelings and emotions. Emotions are the “Drama Queens” of our inner life. Feelings are the reality. Yes, we have pain, it’s part of life, but then we also have what we bring to that pain. If you’re “processing” the drama, you will continue processing until the cows come home. All the crying, gnashing of teeth, ripping of clothes, loss of hair, will not get you through life with any measure of sanity.

Much of our neuroses is merely a substitute for real feeling. In order to feel genuinely, we have to drop the drama and get to the feeling – the core. And we have to feel completely, without fear, without contraction. Crying? If you think crying is an indicator that you’re moving through the “stages” of grief, you’ve merely taken a concept and distorted it. You have to feel -- really feel, completely and totally, opening up to whatever it is so that you become more and more transparent, allowing the love within you to shine through.

I recently had a client come to me and tell me, before we even started our session, “Please! Stop telling me to open up my heart, because I’ve been opening and opening and the shit is still hitting the fuckin’ fan, Eddie!” LOL!

I had to laugh, because I totally understood. It’s part of life. There are no guarantees and just because we’ve decided to effect a shift, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the world will now dutifully conform to our perception and roll out the Red Carpet! Now, that’s the process! Co-workers, lovers, relatives will all “conspire” to fuck up our little strategic plan for better living. It’s their job, actually. Our job is to drop the terminal uniqueness and realize that taking it all so deeply personal is the true source of our suffering.




[un]Common Sense