The Battle For The Sexes: Part 2

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These outdated ideas about gender need correcting if we are ever going to really solve a lot of the problems in society. One couple decided to raise their child genderless. They didn’t tell their family or even the school what gender the child was. The child was never given any gender biased signals from the parents. It played with whatever toys it wanted to play with. They referred only to the child as “the infant”. They did of course use the name, which was Sasha. The child was a boy. The mother made the following comments when questioned about her decision:

“I wanted to avoid all that stereotyping,” she said. “Stereotypes seem fundamentally stupid. Why would you want to slot people into boxes?”

“I don’t think I’d do it if I thought it was going to make him unhappy, but at the moment he’s not really bothered either way,” she said. “All I want to do is make people think a bit.”

Personally I’m a little bit disappointed that I was beaten to being the first to raise a child this way. I absolutely would want to do this for my child. Especially in the first few years that are so important. Society will eventually try and make us conform in one way or another because that is exactly what it does. Those that resist by dressing as they choose or behaving as they choose are derided. I’m even guilty of doing this when the reality is I don’t care. People can behave however they want within the laws of the country that they are in (and even sometimes break them depending on where they live).

The child will grow and have little regard for what it “must” look like. Maybe it will never look in the mirror and feel less than what it really is like so many of us do. Perhaps it won’t seek the impossible form that eludes most of us. As we lie our way through Instagram photos, with filters and tweaks (or the one of the many hundreds of apps on the App stores designed to enhance your selfies) trying to show the best, most fun version of ourselves to others did we never stop and think about what that says to everyone else? If you keep raising the bar ever higher there is an argument for the case that eventually nobody will be able to meet it.

In a society that sees so little merit in individualism or non-conformity is it any wonder that cosmetic surgery and body dimorphic behavior is on the rise now even amongst men? When we flick through the celebrity magazines and judge those who seek surgery are we not culpable for these actions they are forced to take? To what end will this pursuit of conformity lead us? Is it just really the case that one day we will all be designer babies?

Amazingly I can still bring this back to the world of comics. In the far off planet of Krypton there have been no natural births for hundreds of years. Everyone is born with a predefined role. Only those skills for those roles are acceptable. Those in power are stubborn and those who seek power are ruthless. You are not encouraged to be different. They finally destroyed their planet and everyone on it. It is a lesson that we must learn before we go too far.

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Musings From A Mental Health Professional

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This post is a peek behind the couch if you like. Stories from the therapy of real people. No names are used. The detail is kept vague in certain places and only altered slightly in other cases. All stories as told to me by a practicing therapist.

 

The man who is in his 50’s says his father always said he would never amount to much. He turned up in a designer suit, BMW and earning hundreds of thousands a year. He was in therapy because he was going through a divorce. He would also blame himself if other bad things happened to him in life like an underpayment on a gas bill or something.

 

The sisters who as children watched their very sick youngest sister being looked after in hospital. They saw her being lavished with attention and being bought gifts all the time. When then as adults she marries a man who has a very good job they become resentful because their husbands are either criminals and in and out of jail or just “ordinary”. The youngest has a nice house and goes on nice holidays. They have the feeling now that the youngest sister was spoilt and always gets what she wants.

 

These two examples above are really about perception aren’t they? The man who thought he had made nothing of his life was very wealthy and was just blaming himself for his marriage breaking down. He no doubt at the age of 50 had had many years of happy marriage. His father had long since died and he was now the one beating himself up, it was no longer his father.

 

The two sisters failed to see that their youngest sister was very ill and I’m sure would have preferred her health over repeated hospital stays and gifts. Who she choose to marry would have been pure chance. We all make decisions to a certain extent about who we pick as a partner. Rather than blame their sister for their husbands being jail birds perhaps the fault was closer to home?

 

The women who was afraid of dogs. She would walk down the road and see a dog then run home. She became agoraphobic she was so afraid to leave the house. She had been bitten as a child. When regressed she recalled the incident but she was mistaken. The dog had ran out of a house and knocked the pram she was pushing, with a doll in, over. The dog then nuzzled the doll with its nose and the head popped off the doll. Upon being told her memory of events were inaccurate she immediately lost her fear of dogs.

 

No real detail on this one but a soldier who fought in Afghanistan that was being called to go back and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

The woman who had been diagnosed by multiple doctors as being bi-polar. In reality she wasn’t but she grew up with a mother who was and had adopted some of the survival traits of her mother. Apparently it was a huge relief to be told this.

 

These last two are very different and while I feel sympathy for the soldier it really is the woman who must have been going out of her mind with worry. You would like to think the army would provide support for this man. Imagine being told by multiple doctors that you are bi-polar but not responding to the medication and becoming increasingly frustrated? Frankly I’d rather the war zone.

The Battle For The Sexes: Part 1

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We dress girls in pink and boys in blue. When girls show an interest in dolls we buy them prams and things with fake long hair to style. A boy gets trains, cars and Lego to build things. What we never stop to ask ourselves is this; does every boy like the same things? Does every girl? When she is 3 and her favourite colour is pink are we vindicated?, or, just failing to see that if pink was all she was ever surrounded by then of course it would be her favourite colour?

This has long been a bugbear of mine. Before I go any further some of you will throw out that easy line that gets trotted out by parents; do you have children? No I don’t have children but you don’t have to have children to feel something that may be in the best interests of another person. Otherwise we would never form any relationships in the first place. As I am continually reminded there is no manual for having kids, so just accept that we are all winging it.

Don’t also assume that because I am a man that I think women have gotten off lightly. I don’t. They are still disrespected in many workplaces that are not considered for them. The number of female board directors is pitiful. They are pushed into childcare and beauty courses because those are “appropriate” things for them to do. There is a huge expectation by some parents on their daughters to give them grandchild and this can lead to many women sacrificing a career (there is of course an argument there for helping women back into work that have children). They are often dismissed as “emotional” when they have genuine concerns about problems in their lives.

As a comic book fan I see a lot of irregularity in that world. Women are often drawn (by men) with large breasts. If they are not doing anything particularly sexy they are still given them. There was a huge fuss two years ago over a drawing of Catwoman in both a physically impossible pose and being drawn very sexually. Have we never stopped to wonder why Superman is dressed head to toe with just his head, hands visible when Wonder Woman has her chest, arms and legs out?

I’ve sat in my place of work and heard mothers tell their little boys that of course they behaved this way or that way because they are “a man”. Am I the only person who can see how harmful that is? On the one hand the child will associate perceived negative traits with being a man (not healthy) and on the other he will blame perhaps some of his own genuine character flaws on just “being a man” and never seek help. Statistics show that men are far less likely to seek help and enter therapy than women. I can’t help but feel a big part of that comes from the assumption that men should not speak about feelings.

Why do we never stop and think to ourselves; “what are we doing”? We still frown upon promiscuous girls in a way that we don’t for boys. In the media a woman who sleeps around is labelled badly but a man gets much more favourable words used for him. I would take “love rat” over many of the names attributed to women in those situations. Whenever a woman sells her story with a footballer she is immediately derided. A man chats about it in his book and nobody says a word. It is repeatedly the case that the women in these affairs often come out worse off than the men even if she was single and the man was married.

Finding Fault In Inadequacy

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“It’s not my fault” was all I could keep saying in my mind over & over. Every time I thought it I burst into yet more tears. I cried all the way walking to the bus & nearly broke down a few times on the bus. I think what I was referring to was the way that I had been in my life to some of the people I had met along the way. It was nothing concrete or tangible. It was a feeling that had crept over me in the few days preceding it. I walked into therapy & just started crying. My therapist looked at me & said “what is not your fault”?

This, believe it or not, was me yesterday. Today I feel absolutely fine. As it turns out I have this small issue called “the feeling of inadequacy”. It affects a lot of us. We all at some time or another feel less in the presence of another or perhaps just not able to measure up to our peers. That we somehow haven’t made the best of the opportunities that were presented to us or we failed to even notice them. That the world is just more demanding than we could ever live up to. Rather than even attempt to figure out if the world, or perhaps those around us, are setting ridiculously high standards we just assume that we are the failure. We fall short.

As I wrestled with the question that he had just asked me & the question to follow which was “who would you like to apologize to”, I started to realise that unlike a lot of things in my life I seem completely unable to rationalise or be logical about this feeling. I stopped & thought for a while about why I felt this way. Everything I threw at him, which admittedly was feeble, he just explained was human & normal. He kindly reassured me that I was not my mother & that he had been prodding & poking me for months to discover if I was truly a bad person. Again he pointed out the holes in my, as we established already, feeble argument. I stopped crying.

We seem so unable to be logical about our place in the world. We only have to look around us at the muscle men searching for the perfect body that are in the nutrition aisle at the supermarket, looking like they could pop the lids off most of the canisters with just a flick of their finger. I have known people who have struggled with body image & eating. Now I am not saying that these things are easily solved with logic. What I am saying is that perhaps on the way to that stage if we were better able we could apply some logic & the problem would simply never go on to exist. If only we could all rationalise a little bit more.

My therapist & I established that some of my “problems” are actually very helpful. I will often take a problem on board & solve it before giving it to a loved one to become concerned about presenting them with simply the solution(s). We determined that this came from me being a toddler, having problems, going to my mother & my mother simply pushing me away from her with her hand. If I fell she didn’t want to know. If I banged my head she was indifferent. I learned to fix my own issues no matter how big or small. A handy trait, no? Well as an adult I feel bad that I might be shutting people out.

We are so quick to see the negative in ourselves that we very often overlook the positive. Every flaw we see we have has an equal positive. Selfish? Well that is perfectly normal. We get engrossed in things. Who hasn’t passed someone in the street that didn’t see us even if we shouted “hello”? When we get ill with a cold or flu we look after ourselves. Selfish is survival. Now I am not saying it is correct all of the time but very often we mistake the extremes of selfish behaviour of others as what we can sometimes do ourselves. This is not the case; extremes are often something else entirely. In my own case my Mothers selfishness is narcissism & not “selfish” in the way I view selfish.

So here we are a distorted view of ourselves & the world. People use words like “childish”, “petulant” or, yes you guessed it, even “selfish” to label other people. They do this because they do not agree with our behaviour at the time. If they stopped & thought about it logically for a moment they would see that we are not being labelled fairly or that it does not apply in that instance, they do not know (or care about?) our motives. When we label people with things we find distasteful about them, in that moment, we are harming them.

Daily Prompt: Breathing Room

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They say that on these Daily Prompts you should add a twist if you want. Well today’s prompt reminded me of something I had almost forgotten. So here is my twist.

 

When my Dad had finally succumbed to vascular dementia after three strokes, I rang him one day as normal and had the strangest conversation with him. He was in quite good spirits (if a little confused) because he knew there were three more bedrooms in the house but he just couldn’t find them. Now given that my Dad being ill was extremely upsetting over a seven year period, this amused me greatly.

 

He had genuinely spent all day searching a dorma-bungalow for these three additional bedrooms. He said he knew they were there somewhere but he had no luck in finding them. He was slightly frustrated at this. I have no idea if he wanted to put something in them or whether wanted to rent them out. I was trying very hard to stifle my laughter on the other end of the phone.

 

I did ask him several days later about this conversation and to my surprise he was still confused by these missing bedrooms. Often with these episodes they do not remember a few days later or if they get some oxygen to the brain or a little sleep. He was still perplexed by these missing rooms many days later. I spoke briefly to my mother about it who was also amused but we didn’t have the heart to tell him they didn’t exist.

Daily Prompt: Which Emotion Do You Find Hardest To Contain?

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I find joy the hardest to contain. I like to think this is nice for others. I like to think it makes their day brighter and lifts their mood. I want to see them or ring them and tell them.

I might be wrong but I hope so. My joy and excitement can be almost childlike in the way I show them. I like to think I’m fun to be around in those situations.

By contrast I keep shame deeply buried and hidden. Something I feel quite a lot. I’m working on it though.

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I’ll Just Keep On Surviving: Part 2

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I can never relax. I withdraw. That is my relaxation. I will surf the internet for hours trying to escape my stress. It doesn’t work. Those around me may feel unloved or rejected. I can’t help it. All the time I am just trying to keep my head above the water. The only thing I ever learned was survival. Everything else is secondary. This has got to stop.

It may be the case that for the rest of us survival mode is just looking after the kids as well as managing a house or juggling school work with parental demands & after school commitments. What we may all be missing is the little things in life. What use is just barely getting through something if we miss all the signs & warnings or bigger problems yet to come? We assume our survival mode helps us detect these but it does not. I miss huge chunks of people’s feelings & emotions. I feared for the longest time that I had autism or something equally concerning. Again that was just piling more stress on myself.

What made my getting to the source of this problem so much harder was my fear that what I was, was exactly what my Mother is. I have stripped all of that away now. She is not here. She is not me. These things that I saw as selfish of me or thoughtless were just my survival instinct. I am not selfish & distant because I am here. I am appearing selfish because I can’t switch off.

My mind is in over drive 24/7 & everything I do is about getting through the day.