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14 entries from January 2011

Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent


Voluntary Madness is a disappointing book. I was intriqued by the premise of the book and the writing started out all right. Ms. Vincent "voluntarily" checks herself into three separate mental health organizations in attempt to bring down the system around our ears. She sets out to expose the big bad system. She doesn't actually pull it off, although she does get some points across well and manages to make a personal breakthrough in her last placement.

The interesting thing is that Norah Vincent just comes across as angry. Angry at the whole world. She slams the people who work in a mental hospital or ward calling them lazy and unsympathetic. She rants against the rules. She rants against this drugs. I actually wanted to agree with her on this one because I believe by and large we overuse drugs in our society and she made some valid points but they get lost in her anger. She blames the residents/clients who start coming to her with a sense of entitlement . The author ends the book with perhaps the best writing of the entire tome. She wonders about institutions being the way they are because of people or it is vice versa? She then turns her anger from the institutions to the people and asks,

“Why waste therapy and resources on people who will actively resist, and so derive no benefit from them anyway? Why not just medicate the bejesus out of people, when medication is the one thing that requires no effort or willpower to have an effect? If people arent’ going to heal, because they don’t want to heal, then containment is the most any system can do for them and for us. And containment is necessary.” (p. 275-76).

Ms. Vincent continues to philosophize in such a manner for a while before she flips the script and tells the reader that there is a bright side. People can help themselves. Ultimately, change is up to the individual, he or she must take responsibility for their own change. It is in this that I agree with the author fully. It is also this part that will cause thos
e entrenched “in the system” to become angry with her. This book is a quick read and not exactly a deep read. It’s a lot about the author and I never felt like I should care about her all that much. Some of her conclusions are interesting.

Ultimately, the value in this book came from being able to watch her work through her naivety (she even admits to it in the book). I’d be fascinated to meet her I suppose to see if her anger comes out in her personal life as it does in her writing. Right now, Amazon has this book for 6 bucks. It’s probably not worth a whole lot more than that, but at that price you might enjoy it. 2.5 Stars out of 5.

Parenting: Give Your Kids Everything They Ever Want...

One of the most dangerous things we do as parents is fail to be consistent with our kids. I'm not just talking about discipline here, although that is important too.  Some day, I will write about discipline but for today we'll just look at the consistent aspect of life.

I am always amazed that parents discipline their kids for disagreeing with them. I do not understand the logic. I do not understand disciplining someone, who obeys but verbally disagrees or expresses their displeasure. By the way, if you are a Christian who claims to follow the Bible you would seem to have a problem because in the Bible Jesus tells us that the son who disagreed but actually did what the father wanted was the one who obeyed. Part of being consistent with our children is teaching them to question things and yet do the right thing. When we punish them for disagreeing we are sending an inconsistent message.

Inconsistent messages tear at the fabric of any connection we have with our children.

I think the biggest area where we lack consistency with our children is simply doing what we say we are going to do. If I tell my children that I am going to read a book to them tonight. I had better make sure that I do it. Consistency builds your children's trust in you. Trust is the bedrock of healthy relationships. One of the biggest mistakes parents make is telling their kids that they are going to do something and then not doing it. Oh and excuses like:

    Life happens, I wanted to but something came up, I had to work, This was important, ________

do not cut it.


Sometimes things do happen, but these times should be rare and few. Here's the simplest test to ask yourself. If you tell your children that you are going to do something, are they more surprised if you come through and do it or if you don't do it.  Hopefully, they are more surprised when you cannot keep your word.

If our children are more surprised when we don't do something with them that we said we would, we need to make changes. We either need to change what we are promising. In other words, don't promise something that you can't deliver on.  If that isn't what we need to change, then we need to change our commitment to keeping our words.

If we can't keep our word with our children, we are teaching them a number of things. Two of the most disturbing things that we are teaching them is that it is OK to break your word. Worse, we are teaching them that they are not as important as they should be in our lives and that's just the way it is. They'll need to deal with it. 

We probably don't mean either one of those but that is exactly what we are saying and teaching. If you want to live wild and dangerous, ask your children how well they feel that you keep your promises to them. Ask them if they feel you spend enough time with them. Ask them if the believe you when you tell them that you are going to do something.

Listen to their answers and if you need to make changes, do it. Your family is worth it.

Book Review: Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders by Gregory Jantz

Dr. Gregory L Jantz’s book, Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders deals with both “eating disorders” and “disordered eating.”  As a Counselor I was immediately drawn to this book. It seems in our society, overweight people are the last  people group that it is OK to mock and make fun of for our enjoyment. I actually had a guy tell me that he enjoyed me being at the poker game because I was fat and it was not only OK but it was expected that people would make fun of people. For some reason, I had no desire to visit his faith community. 

In another conversation I heard someone use the terms overweight and glutton synonymously.  When I asked about this, I got a rather convoluted answer—in my opinion. What does this have to do with the book? Well, a lot of people who talk about food intake are rather judgmental about it. Rather than admit that they are selling out to our society’s obsession with being thin, they are cloak it in spirituality and science, which is usually a parroting of the latest book/DVD/commercial they read or saw. The truth is that body image is a huge issue for almost everyone. Many people are struggling to answer core questions about themselves through their management of food and their body image. Some try to answer this question through exercise and food control, while others choose to answer it through over-indulging.

This book deals with eating disorders without becoming judgmental about them. He points out that there are people who look healthy, who have disordered eating.  A great quote early in the book is “Some people suffer from a diagnosed eating disorder and some suffer from a debilitating pattern of disordered eating” (p. 27).  He points out that it’s not just people who have bulimia, or anorexia that have food disorders. If food has moved from being about nutrition to some sort of control in your life, you probably have an eating disorder. I found this perspective to resonate powerfully.

He comes at these issues from what is essentially a Family Systems approach first and foremost.  There is nothing wrong with that necessarily, but I do think there are other issues that factor in from an existential point of view, which he doesn’t seem to address but that could be because I tend to view almost everything from a search for meaning point of view.   He also deals with the issue of abuse and how that factors into eating disorders/disordered eating.  These two aspects are the strength of the book. He offers hope and guidelines to help people through these disorders. I do wonder how helpful a book can be on its own merit. It seems to me that eventually a person dealing with these will have to enter into Therapy.

Overall, I think this book is an excellent read. There are a few minor points where he and I would part ways but I am not the one of us that is running a successful recovery institute.

3.5 out of 5 stars

 I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255


Lessons from College | Psychology Today

"Many students lack acceptance of internal events like sadness, anger and anxiety," says Jacqueline Pistorello, Ph.D., of the University of Nevada at Reno. She sees such widespread problem behaviors as drinking and self-cutting as attempts by students to dissipate sadness and anxiety.

College mental health directors report that the last four years has seen a "huge upswing" in students engaging in self-mutilating behavior, cutting their wrists or burning their hands. Says Rivier's Graesser. " It's the best coping mechanism they can come up with. Most are seeking relief from unpleasant affect."


If you haven't read it, pick up a copy of Miriam Grossman's book, Unprotected where she lays out exactly why she thinks we see such a high increase in depression and self harm behaviors on campus. What are your thoughts? Why do you think that college is such a dangerous time for people?

7 Habits That Make You Fat

According to recent research, the average person makes 200 decisions every day that will influence his or her weight. And most of these decisions aren’t monumental choices, like “Should I become an elite marathon runner?” or “Should I move to Wisconsin and live entirely on bratwurst and cheese curds?” Most, in fact, are tiny little choices—habits, really—that over the long run, lead us down one of two paths: The road to ripped, or the freeway to flab.And guess what? That’s great news! Because it means that you don’t have to run marathons—or even give up bratwurst—to start losing serious weight. You just need to break 7 very simple, common habits—tiny changes that have nothing to do with diet and exercise, but have everything to do with dropping pounds, looking great, and making a huge improvement in your health.


You can eat bacon!! :)