Monthly Archives: October 2010

addictions counselling and employment counselling

i am currently taking a course on “core addictions practice”, a soon-to-be required course for people wanting to practice in the addictions field in our health authority. since i also work in the field of employment counselling, i thought it would be interesting to think about how ideas from addictions counselling can be applied to the work of a career practitioner. here is an example:

one “checkpoint” in addictions counselling is to consider “set, setting, dose”. “set” refers to mindset, “setting” refers to the physical and social setting, and “dose” refers to the type and amount of a substance used or behaviour practiced, and considerations of how set and setting affect dose. for example, if sue, who just had a fight with her parents and is upset over it (“set”), is going to a party with her friends where there is much drinking (“setting”), then before going to the party, she could think about setting a limit on how much she is going to smoke and drink (“dose”), because she knows that alcohol has a stronger effect on her when she is upset.

an interesting question here is, what is the equivalent of drinking in job search? excessive drinking is harmful. what are harmful/unhelpful behaviours in job search? possible candidates:

  • using only the computer for job search
  • doing many non-job search related activities on the computer during the job search
  • avoidance: excessive TV watching, eating, sleeping, etc.
  • distraction: cleaning, shopping, etc.

examples of helpful behaviours:

  • knocking on doors
  • staying in regular contact with networks
  • actively limiting non-job related internet use
  • learning about writing effective cover letters

mindsets – examples:

  • happy, serene, hopeful, positive, etc.
  • neutral, realistic, up-and-down, etc.
  • negative, depressed, hopeless, angry

settings – examples:

  • home (bedroom? office?)
  • knocking on doors
  • employment resource centre
  • coffee shop

an example might be: joe is sitting in a coffee shop where he reads that job openings in his industry are rising and feels hopeful. this prompts him to phone up an ex co-worker and invite him to have coffee.

questions for career practitioners:

  • would it be helpful for clients to know about set, setting, dose and how they influence each other?
  • we do a lot of work around positive behaviour, a little less about positive mindset, and very little about setting. what would it look like if we turned that on its head?
  • how about an exercise where we ask clients to physically visit a place that makes them feel happy?
  • at the most, our clients’ lives are 12% about job search (if they spend 20 hours a week on it); the rest is other things (at least overtly; they may spend quite a bit more time thinking about it). how are the remaining 88% influencing them? what would it be like if we thought about helping there in addition to with their job search, just like sue might be helped with her drinking if she had a better handle on how to approach conflicts with her parents?

health month

for the month of october, i’ve played something called healthmonth. it is a fun, useful and well-thought-out site where you can establish health rules you’d like to follow and then keep track of how you’re doing.

from the site:

health month is all about designing your own health rules, and then trying to stick to them. we provide the points and the motivation.
here’s how it works:
before the game starts
1. choose your rules
2. make your bets and promises
3. choose how you want to play
o– games with 3 or fewer rules are free
o– games with 4 or more rules are either $5 per game, or $50 per year to become a member
o– if you can’t afford to pay, you can also seek sponsorship. every paying player can sponsor one person per month, or they can choose to pay for you
4. introduce yourself to the other players and wait for the game to start
after the game starts
1. mark off your rules every day
2. get points
3. share your progress

we all know how to be healthy. this game is about finding your limits, giving you incentives to make new habits stick, and helping you learn what works for you.

there’s much more to it, like how well your rule is aligned with your heart, how easy or hard it is to follow the rule, etc. you can choose from a variety of rules and then establish how often you’d like to follow them. many of the rules are about physical health (limit alcohol; cook dinner; eat fruit; limit soda, etc.); some are also about mental health, like

  • list grateful things
  • limit internet usage
  • meditate
  • limit television
  • write in a private journal
  • read
  • relax
  • get quality time alone
  • quality time with kids

i’ve found it very useful, mostly because it helped me be more focused around things that i already do, more or less – and now i do them more. eating greens, for example, or flossing every day.

i was introduced to this by my twitter friend sameer vasta and am part of his little group at health month in october. but i’m thinking of maybe starting my own group. anyone care to join me? we could make it just a tad about mental health …

leave me a comment here or drop me a line if you’d like to participate. if i have three or more confirmed people by october 31 (hallowe’en!), it’s a go. it does cost $5 a month. great investment.

st john of the cross

a few days ago, i went to a fabulous workshop with rob des cotes of the imago dei community about st. john of the cross. i’d like to share my notes with you.

but just a bit of an intro. maybe this post could be prefaced with another preface, written by r. kirkham at amazon about another christian mystic book, the cloud of unkowing

it seems only proper to begin a review of this book with the warning given by the anonymous author in his/her prologue. my paraphrase of that warning goes something like this, “in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit, and in the bond of love i beg you not to read, copy, or look at this book unless you are ready. furthermore i beg you not to copy it, loan it out, or give it to anyone else to read unless they, too, are ready for this depth of spiritual growth, lest they misunderstand the things written herein and fall into error.”

what follows is of course not nearly as important as what was written in the cloud of unknowing; however, what i want to get across is that this experience was in the spirit of mysticism, which means that the words and ideas expressed need to be seen from a point of view of that is curious, open, wondering; and at the same time, it needs to be infused with wisdom. so when there is talk of surrender, for example, it should not be seen as the oppressive surrender that, for example, the highly politicized catholic church of the 16th century wanted to see in its believers in order to use them better as pawns in their machinations. rather, i invite you to see it as the strange, awe-ful, incomprehensible surrender that accompanies the moments of first falling in love …

here are my notes.

st ignatius asks: what’s god’s job, what’s mine?

st john of the cross: passive purification – letting god do the job. there’s nothing for me to do but accept god. it’s god’s initiative. i make myself as nothing, and present myself to god. god gives us freedom – and invites us to submit. let myself be created. jesus says, “your job is to remain in my love”

we cannot “do” contemplative prayer. st john: “contemplation is none other than a secret, peaceful and loving infusion of god, which if the soul allows it to happen, enflames it in the spirit of love”. the best way to start praying: lord, show me how to pray. the illusion is: “when i don’t pray, prayer isn’t happening.” in truth, god prays us.

“the dark night of the soul” – the darkness an owl experiences as she flies into the light. darkness is good. darkness is faith: you don’t need to second guess. in moses, there is talk of “the thick darkness where god is”

embrace the poverty of spirit. very different from the idea of enriching our spirit that is practiced today. we strive to become less so that god can fill us up. take me back to my emptiness.

most of us have a spiritual sweet tooth. we like the hymns, the icons, the lovely feeling of relaxation in meditation. then we mistake the sweetness for god. are we following god or the warm fuzzies? our sense of god can eclipse our relationship with god. “i’ve lost god” can mean “i’ve lost the feeling (the warm fuzzies) for god”. similar with art. art can be the garment of the spirit. just don’t confuse the garment with the spirit. in the end, even st john is just a garment.

the life i live is not my own, it is god’s life. i want to be possessed by god, commingled: “i in you, you in me”. if i give myself to god, i will lose myself and at the same time gain myself, just like the trinity is simultaneously unified and distinct

withdrawal into god as a martial arts move: rather than fighting, i step aside and “let god”. go blind to our attachments, don’t react to them. the dark night of the senses – sometimes when our appetites http://www.ocd.or.at/ics/john/dichos.htm get too big, god quenches them by taking them away. the dark night is a good thing. it lets us fall into god’s abyss. trying to grasp it causes us to lose it. go deep, descend into god.

we have access to our senses, we don’t have access to our soul. according to scripture, the soul is (approximately) the place where i reflect god (in a clean window, the light and the window appear as one)

“if i just get angry enough with myself, my relationship with god will get better” – no. better a blind faith that is not defined by how we feel. how much energy are we spending editing ourselves? why are we striving? why are we tiring ourselves out?. rest in the trust. no need to immediately snap into problem solving mode. just trust. just allow it to play out. we take a good thing and add too much to it. let it die. if it’s meant to be, god will resurrect it. god makes us restless until we rest in him. give god free rein to be god. let’s get to the point where god’s actions prevail. “shouldn’t i be doing more?” <– leave that alone. how does the apple ripen? it just sits in the sun.

the seeking for god is love for god. it is god who gives me the desire for god; i can pray for the desire.

single and simple minded: cultivate the beginners mind, over and over again.

the ticket: the recognition that we need to be saved. saved – salvation: making whole. we come to god to have him set us right.

the new covenant eclipses the 10 commandments.

my thoughts after all this:

christ and hekate ARE one. julian of norwich and majaraj-ji ARE one. iaveh and lugh ARE one. bill w. and st john of the cross ARE one. meister eckhart and eckart tolle ARE one. robert mugabe and i ARE one.

curious how this very christian workshop strengthened my conviction that god IS one.

and

the stream that brought me here,
strong,
gushed me out at the mouth of your river,
the mouth that opens
wide
to your sea.
your stream, your river, your sea.
me, a loose bag of
drops,
spending myself
into your stream, your river, your sea.

“just stop it!” comments on alcoholism

back in august, i wrote a little post about addictions. here are two things commenters had to say:

#1  thanks for sharing this. i believe too much alcohol can’t help you better to stop it, you have to love your health and love your life. do something better, you can do physical activities instead of drinking too much.

#2 taking alcohol occasionally is okay but being addicted to it is not healthy anymore. health is wealth, so better start doing something about it. stop it and enjoy life.

both of these comments illustrate the typical mindsets of people who either know nothing about addiction or who are afraid of addiction (or both).

truisms
people who don’t know much about addiction don’t understand that people who are struggling with addiction already know things like “too much alcohol can’t help” or “health is wealth”. in fact, at least half of them beat themselves up with that knowledge a hundred times a day. once you’ve been using for a little while, guess what, you’ve figured out that it’s unhealthy and that it would be a pretty darn good idea to stop or at least decrease it.

advice
it’s the same with advice. let’s take “stop it and enjoy life”. once again, the thought of stopping it has occurred to the person a thousand times.

and enjoying life? what if it feels like enjoying life seems impossible without the alcohol (or drug, or gambling, or whatever the person is dealing with). what if the person couldn’t enjoy life to begin with, and stopping the addiction would just bring her back to an unbearably bleak and painful life?

words such as “you can do physical activities instead of drinking too much” are supremely unhelpful for a number of reasons, e.g.

  • as said before, the person who is addicted already knows that
  • at least at the beginning, you don’t get nearly as much a kick out of the physical activity as the addictive activity (that goes for other activities as well)
  • substitutions only work under certain circumstances. how’d you like it if i said, “you’re boyfriend just died? don’t worry, just get yourself another one – here, take john, he’s got a moustache, too”

attitude
the most troublesome part is the attitude, and the unthinkingness (nice word, huh?) if the person offering these comments thought for a moment, they could realize that the person with the addiction already knows that stopping would be a good idea. implicit in truisms like the ones above is the message, “you’re too stupid/naïve to have figured this out on your own, so now i’m telling you something that everyone else but you knows.”

the above and the lack of thoughtfulness portray disregard. the message is “this person i’m talking to is not worth thinking about; what i have to say is more important”.

what comes with all of this is a lack of empathy. “i’m not going to stop and reflect on how i would feel if someone gave me unsolicited advice about something painful in my life.”

fear
and why? most of the time it comes down to fear. fear of having my life entangled with the difficulties of another when my own may already be difficult to bear. and fear that by getting closer to the addiction, i might get “infected”. humans have a deep-seated fear of “catching” diseases not only of the body but also of the mind. the fact that this is irrational drives the fear even more underground, which just makes it more potent because it gets to roam around uncontrolled. (now there’s an interesting thought – the parallel between that suppressed fear and the underground, uncontrolled drug trade).

thoughts?

purple wednesday, with a story

Rainbow of colors
okay, so here’s my purple story.

many years ago, i bought myself a nice, comfy, fleecy track suit. i came home with it and proudly paraded it in front of my husband. he gave me one look and didn’t talk to me for two days.

at the end of the two days, i finally found out. you see, the track suit was purple. and purple was the colour of the very outspoken lesbians and feminists in berlin, where we had just moved from. it turns out that, clad all in purple, i was aligning myself with those man-haters and therefore man-hating my husband.  (logical, huh?)

reason #359 why, a few years later, i got rid of him and traded him in for a much better model.

and what’s all this purple about?

tweeting the sunrise

i like to wake up early in the morning, sit down in the living room and watch dawn turn into sunrise through the big balcony door. and then tweet about it, like this:

morning! been wanting to tweet the sunrise for days now, finally getting a chance

it’s actually the dawn that has been particularly beautiful these days. deep, deep blue

right now the sky is steeped (and that’s exactly the right word) in a crazy orangeish-blue soup – there’s almost something manic about it

and how quick it changes! it looks more like a dirty white now, especially with the trees’ black contours in contrast against it

the houses across the road sit hunched against the half-darkness. there’s a feeling of nervous expectation

amazing how tense that particular blend of blue and orange was. now the orange is starting to be stronger. relief.

i can kinda see my keyboard now. i’d say dawn is over. the birds definitely have woken up, looks like they’re going to work

i’m getting impatient. where’s the sun, where’s the sun?

darn. gotta go have my shower. maybe if i’m quick i can still the see the sun rise?

aha! there’s some rosiness between the trees now.

interesting how far the sun has moved over the months. about 1.75 window panes of my balcony door 🙂

the sun takes so much longer to rise now. probably makes sense given that we’re moving towards winter. should look that up.

(a retweet) helenaartmann incredible sunrise in #canmore… blue bird skies, red mountains and yellow trees… i can’t stress enough how much i love the fall colours!

i think we’re almost there. there’s that piercing quality to the bright golden spot in the sky

writing an email while i’m keeping an eye on the sun.

there’s a tiny spot in the trees that is illuminated by the sun already.

this is a bit like an orgasm. almost there, almost there!

the bright spot is not a spot anymore, it’s a part of the sky. but dammit, the sun still isn’t up

now there is a twinkle on the balcony window, and you know what? my keyboard is golden

and here it is!!!!!! welcome sun!!!!!

blog action day: water poem #15

for blog action today, october 15, 2010, i am posting 15 water poems in 15 hours. this is the last one:

moon is slender
and sober is
my meal.
grey cloth
and scrubbed wood.
silence.
afterwards
water runs quietly
over the plate.

by isabella mori

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