If you're a person of color or in the working class and have tried to find a psychotherapist, chances are you had a much harder time reaching one than an upper middle class, white person would have. At least that was the conclusion of one study from the Journal of Health and Social Behavior,
I've been writing a lot about marriage and relationships lately, mostly because it's an endlessly fascinating subject to me. Healthy marriages are a mystery to me. I can see seemingly perfect fits-- the same race, class, and culture-- and see those relationships end in disaster. On the other end, I've seen the opposite turn into healthy, loving marriages.
As I wrote about in past blog posts, two important keys to a healthy marriage are embracing change in your marriage and kindness. But I read another piece on the New York Times called, "The All-or-Nothing Marriage" that adds another piece of data to what makes a healthy marriage.
This morning I was rereading a wonderful New York Times piece from April called, "To Stay Married, Embrace Change." As a Buddhist, It's a particularly resonate read for me. It reminds me of something Roshi Shunryu Suzuki said when asked to reduce Buddhism down to one phrase,
As the article points out, to have a successful marriage, we need to realize that we will change but so will our partner.
One subject I don’t see a lot of writing about, but which happens to be one of my primary interests, is how capitalism affects mental health. The effects are often so subtle implicit and woven into the fabric of everyday existence, it can be difficult to parse out. I am by no means an expert and have my own blind spots and biases but I will continue to try and do so in this post and future posts.
My work gives me a unique perch to see how capitalism affects individual psyches and can cause much psychic pain. Because of this perspective, I’ve decided to start writing about how capitalism can affect mental health. Today I’d to begin with depression.
At the advice of my good friend, Cam, I've decided to take a break from the self-help stuff on occasion and just blog about things I'm interested in. And for some reason, the thought of movie endings came to my mind. There are a lot of great movie endings out there, including "The Usual Suspects," "The Sixth Sense," "The Godfather II," and "Chinatown" to name just a few.
But those films all were ending in dramatic films. My favorite ending comes from a romantic comedy that's nearly a 100 years, Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights." (Spoilers for the ending about to come.)
Even though psychiatry is still in the dark about a lot of things, it’s impossible to even fathom how far it’s come in the last 100 years. What do I mean? I’d like to present to you the life and times of Walter Freeman.
Walter Freeman was a 20th-century neurologist and quite possibly the most controversial medical figure of his generation. Don’t know who he is? Well, there was a time where he was a gigantic celebrity in America and the world. He took the works of a Portuguese physician, Egas Moniz, and started performing lobotomies on patients with a whole range of issues.
Recently an acquaintance-- let’s call him John-- told me that they had broken up with their girlfriend. The reasons for the break up were familiar to anyone who has ended a relationship; there was a sense that they had drifted apart; the sex had diminished; the good times, which had been so numerous, were replaced by bitterness and fights. I barely batted an eye hearing this all. After all, I had lived it before.
As the night lingered on and the number of empty pint glasses piled up, John opened up a bit further. He felt pangs of regret over his decision. He had imagined many different lives with his ex. Beach trips to Dubrovnik at 80, absurd, nostalgic dreams for children that will never exist, of afternoons spent on dreamed playgrounds on suburban streets, of quiet nights in darkened bedrooms where they make love even after 30 years of marriage.
I've had quite a long day, and I haven't had the time to really muster up any interesting ideas for a blog post. So I thought I'd share one of my favorite poems, "Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Ranier Maria Rilke. It's an elegy to the power of art to inspire change. And the last line, maybe the great last line of any poem, always manages to surprise me with its immediacy. Enjoy, and I'll get back at you next week.
What makes for a happy relationship? Everyone has a different answer for that questions. Some of you will say “things in common.” Others will say “sexual chemistry” or “attraction.” Others, if they were being honest, will say things like the “class,” “race” or “religion.” But there is a problem with that list: those are all cultural markers of identity. They say little about what a person is actually like.
So if I asked you, what character traits make for a happy relationship? Again, everyone would have a different answer to that question. Some of you will say “sense of humor.” Others will say “honesty.” Most of you will say, “kind.” But what does that actually mean? What does kindness actually look like in a relationship?
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
I just wanted to briefly follow up on the Jimmy Santiago Baca poem I posted last week, "What is Broken Is What God Blesses." It's a lovely poem not only for its imagery-- how lovely is the phrase " the addict’s arm seamed with needle marks/ is a thread line of a blanket/frayed and bare from keeping the man warm"-- but for its theme of suffering.