No Year’s Resolutions 2019

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

New Year’s morning, my wife roused me from a dream to tell me it was time to help set up the dining room for Osechi (Osechi Ryori:  Japanese traditional New Year’s Day food).

I mention the dream because it has stuck with me—or, rather, a portion of it has stuck with me—since then. A particular image from that dream has entered my thoughts multiple times daily since then—whether because I’m hanging onto it or struggling to forget it.  The image involves me surveying the damage from a shart (shart: what happens, as the saying goes, when one gambles on a fart and loses; a combination of sh*t and fart).

I don’t recall much of anything that happened in the dream before the shart occurred. But I do recall that I was wearing blue underwear and the aftermath was very much like a runny version of the gravy from almond chicken (almond chicken: a staple of American Chinese restaurant menus, where breaded, boneless, fried chicken is covered in a light brown American-style gravy –flour and fat— full of chopped almonds).

baby-new-year

Just what am I looking at?  And what does it mean?

I haven’t looked up any of the elements of the dream in any dream dictionaries, online or otherwise – not the blue, not the almonds, not the shart, not any of it.  So, if you’re into dream analysis and have a clear understanding of what these elements add up to – well, I probably don’t want to know. Keep it to yourself.

Perhaps this image has stuck with me because most dreams I (and I would guess most other people) have that involve, what I will call “bathroom stuff” are usually tied to bathroom functions that never come to fruition.  For example, a dream where one is running around looking for a place to pee, only to have each option for relief somehow thwarted.  One eventually wakes up and realizes that the dream was trying to push one to wake up and go take a piss in a completely ‘normal’, non-thwarted, perfectly relieving fashion.  I do not recall any of these previous dreams resulting in actually finding ‘release’ while in the dream, much less, having a ‘release’ with unintended consequences.

I’m happy to report that, in this particular instance, there was no corresponding pushing or expulsion activity married to the dream.  That is, despite a flash of anxiety on waking, there was no indication the dream had come true.

I bring all this up, in part, because for several years now, initially starting in an annual series of posts on Facebook, and later moving to my blog (and a few connected social media sites), I put out New Year’s resolutions.  These started out as lighthearted, silly jokes, usually concluding with one ‘positive’, ‘real’, but vague, resolution.  For instance, I would have three resolutions that suggested I was going to do spectacularly impossible things (establish the ultimate matrix for determining whether a ‘Men’s Rights’ Internet account or website is a parody account or actually intended to be serious);or completely bland, totally achievable goals, (resolving to actually trim my toenails regularly). Those would be followed by one resolution involving haircare, which would be followed by one that said I would live joyfully or some such sh*t.

Then, at the end of the year, I would write up a ‘year end review’, where I tracked my success in meeting the resolutions (silly and not-so), before I moved on to a new set.

In the process of doing the review of my 2-18 resolutions, I realized that maybe a bit too much seriousness had crept in, too much silliness leaked out. It had, at least to me, a darker tone about it than previous years.  Then again, in spite of numerous good things in 2018, the whole year had a darker tone to it.

2018 was a year of numerous things going to hell, and me struggling to reel them back in— none of which I will share here now.  All in all, things turned out okay, but not without a lingering, nasty aftertaste…or several different lingering, nasty aftertastes.

2018 also had some great moments of joy—specific moments of laughter and happiness I can vividly recall, also none of which I will share here now.

This far into 2019, it would be a bit strange to be making resolutions anyway, unless maybe I was claiming they were tied to a little procrastinating around the Lunar New Year. But, still, I’m abandoning the idea of resolutions, at least for 2019.  And I’m trying to learn to accept that much of life is way beyond my control, and that I’ll be okay…or I won’t…and that not being okay will probably be okay as well.

I tried to attach some meaning to the dream of the shart – that it was advising me not too push things too hard or they would become messy – or perhaps to push hard because even if the outcome was messy, it would still be fine—I’d wake up to a fantastic meal with some of the people I loved most, or a disgusting mess in my pants that really wouldn’t be that difficult to clean up.

At any rate, the (forced) meanings kept coming back to how I should or shouldn’t force things, how forcing things would turn out either good or bad.  And then it got all meta – about how I keep starting posts, only to abandon them because they seem too forced –and therefore too bland, like almond chicken –or too sloppy, poorly planned, and offensive, like a shart.

The whole concept of intentions –push to get a reaction, or hold back to make the right, polite points, merely led to almost every writing effort over the last year turning into either a dull essay, or a mean-spirited rant – with those efforts usually being abandoned to steer clear of that dullness, or to unload that spite on somebody in some pointless, online argument that added up to nothing beyond the sound of clacking keys and the fury of unanswered tantrums.  For the most part, the posts just didn’t get finished, or if the writing was more or less completed, did not get put out into the world…much like I’ve been struggling over the whole idea of posting a shart-centered missive, ostensibly connected to New Year’s resolutions.

Ultimately, I realize I’m attempting to assign meaning to this dream because 1) it occurred on the first day of the year; 2) I was woken out of the dream at the point of a particularly striking and unpleasant visual unlike anything I recalled from any previous dreams; and 3) I’m struggling with just how much energy and effort I can and ‘should’ be devoting to writing, especially pieces that feel obligatory/how much energy I can and ‘should’ be devoting to engaging in patterned behaviors in general/how much energy I can and ‘should’ be devoting to breaking old patterns of behavior.

Maybe it all just comes down to the message that I should sh*t or get on the pot…and sh*t…or get off the pot. At least don’t sh*t my pants unintentionally?

Or perhaps push it. Push it real good.  But with intention.  Although I’m pretty sure that wasn’t initially related to scatological…uh…actions.  But then again…

I know it’s gotta mean something about making sure you know what you intend to accomplish, or that you are making reasonable efforts to make sure you have some kind of control over the outcome of your actions, or…?

Anyway, Happy (belated?) (Lunar?) New Year!

 

 

 

 

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Yes, Breitbart, 33,000 People ARE Killed with Guns Each Year

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

There is absolutely nothing controversial about Hillary Clinton’s claim that, in the United States, “We have 33,000 people a year who die from guns”–except maybe to those who don’t understand how words and numbers work.

Yet, AWR Hawkins, breitbart.com’s “Second Amendment Columnist,” posted a “Fact-Check” column, titled “No, 33,000 Not Killed with Guns Each Year” following the third presidential debate, claiming that Clinton deliberately inflated the CDC numbers of firearm deaths by adding in suicides. This is not the first time Hawkins has posted similar complaints.

What Hawkins fails to do is explain how suicides by firearm somehow fall outside of the “33,000 people a year who die from guns.” Certainly, Hawkins must understand that somebody who uses a gun to kill him/herself is dead, and did use a gun in order to die—making that person someone who ‘died from a gun.’

Using Hawkins’ preferred language of people “killed with guns each year” still doesn’t change anything. A person who commits suicide with a firearm still was, in fact, killed with a gun.

suicide-gun-mouth

Hawkins also strikes out by putting the phrase “gun violence” in quotation marks, saying that the use of that phrase (which Clinton did not use in the quote he complains about) somehow plays into Clinton’s strategy of fooling the public. But, again, killing oneself with a firearm does qualify as “gun violence”–first of all, because it involves an act of violence; and secondly, because it involves a gun. Or you can reverse that so the gun is first and the violence is second—still doesn’t change anything.

I don’t want to get into speculation about things that Clinton didn’t say, but perhaps if she had used the phrase “gun crimes” or had referred to murders using guns, then Hawkins would have a better argument. But Clinton didn’t. So Hawkins doesn’t.

And, in case you’re wondering, the 33,000 figure is dead-on. Here’s a chart, showing the CDC numbers of gun deaths for the years 2010 to 2014 (2014 being the most recent year statistics are available) clearly showing that gun deaths have reached well above 33,000 per year for 2012, 2013, and 2014, and averaged 32,964 per year for the five-year period.

avg-gun-deaths-2010-to-2014

A handy chart of CDC statistics on gun deaths, lifted from Everytown for Gun Safety at  https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/

Now, I get that gun-loving Americans, including the Breitbart crowd, don’t like to believe anything negative about guns. They also don’t like to believe that they may, at some point, end up so distraught, or so deep in the throes of mental illness, that they might use their guns on themselves, and/or their family members or other loved ones—or perhaps even neighbors or random strangers.

By pushing the suicide statistics aside, or pretending they ‘don’t count’, Hawkins ignores a harsh reality here: that people who own guns tend to kill themselves with those guns far more than they kill an intruder in their home, or otherwise defend themselves from the big, bad, scary world out there. People who own guns kill themselves with those guns more often than criminals use guns to kill innocent citizens; and more frequently than ‘gang violence’ leads to gun deaths.

There is also considerable overlap in the “murder/suicide” category—where gun owners kill their significant others, family members, co-workers, or random strangers, prior to turning their guns on themselves. And because guns are such a quick and effective killing tool, the decision to use them in an act of violence on loved ones or oneself is often impulsive—a few too many bad days in a row, a bad argument following a few too many beers, or even a partner deciding they want out of a relationship, and the gun comes out as the ultimate way to put a stop to whatever is so aggravating.

As for mental illness, Hawkins’ argument becomes even less convincing in the face of all the clamoring about how we don’t have a gun problem in the U.S., but we have a mental health problem. Of course, people who make such an argument are usually talking about the mental health issues of mass shooters. Yet, if we (properly) view suicide as a mental health issue, then the numbers of firearm suicides become that much more disturbing. Gun owners kill themselves at a rate roughly twice as high as the rate of gun murders. That’s a vast mental health issue that’s not being addressed, and that is being exacerbated by guns.

Yes, I know that many of the people who want to argue in favor of guns like to point out that people who commit suicide will find the means to do so, even if you take their guns away–an argument which is demonstrably false in terms of overall lethality. There are many ways to map out the evidence showing this falsehood, including the high rate of suicide by firearm–roughly 50% of all suicides in the U.S. are completed using guns. Another way to conceptualize the difference in suicide methods is to compare suicide completion rates using firearms relative to suicide completion rates using other methods. For instance, plenty more people survive suicide attempts by overdosing on pills than survive suicide attempts using guns.

Those who are willing to brush off the connection between firearms and suicide also sometimes argue that suicide is a matter of personal freedom—of being allowed to end one’s life when one chooses. I will say that I’m not completely opposed to people being able to end their own lives on terms they choose. However, I’ve learned enough to know that people are least equipped to make that decision quickly, impulsively, or while in a deep depression (among many other factors). Very few people attempt suicide while they are thinking in the clearest of terms, or making a rational decision based on a comprehensive review of the facts.

Depression and many other forms of mental illness are notorious for their association with cognitive distortions, aka, “thinking errors”—misinterpreting the world around one, the impact one’s actions have on others, and the view other people have of one (again, among many other factors). As I’ve pointed out before, the idea that a gun keeps one safe is, itself, a cognitive distortion. The suicide-by-firearm statistics make that clear.

There is also, perhaps, a great irony here, in that Hawkins believes he is advocating for gun ownership, when the “mental health” approach to suicide prevention involves removing the means for suicide. That is, safety planning for suicide prevention involves taking away those means most likely to be used in a suicide attempt, while the person at risk for suicide gets treatment.

So, how do we address the mental health problems associated with guns and suicide? Take the guns away, at least until the person moves beyond risk for suicide. Of course, mental health treatment is not predictive. Risk factors can be weighed, and support systems assessed, but given the ease with which a person can use a gun to end her/his own life, a dip back into depression, a few more bad days, a drift away from regular engagement with one’s (positive) coping skills, and the risk can escalate once again.

Hawkins thinks he is supporting gun rights by poo-pooing the statistics on firearm deaths in the United States. But what he is actually doing is pointing out that suicide is twice as big a problem, where guns are concerned, as murder is. His solution is to pretend the people who commit suicide with guns aren’t really people who “die from guns.”

At base, he is arguing that people who commit suicide with guns aren’t really people…or perhaps aren’t really people who deserve the support to go on living.

 

8 Pieces of Relationship Advice I Just Pulled Out of My Ass

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

A friend of mine recently turned me onto James Sama, a guy who, under the banner of “New Chivalry,” writes relationship advice, despite apparently having zero training in any relevant field and having nothing particularly original to say. Sama trades in stereotypes, and vague generalities, while somehow convincing people that his advice is just dandy and somehow forward-thinking.

Here’s one of his latest, which was featured on Huffington Post: 12 Stereotypes Labeled “Strong” to Hide the Blatant Sexism Involved

Sama has become a minor media figure and gotten over 30 million hits on his blog in about a year-and-a-half (his claim), which apparently qualifies him as a relationship expert. Have I mentioned that Sama has never been married and doesn’t get into a whole lot of discussion about how his amazing insight into relationships has personally made his own relationship(s) better?

Don’t get me wrong.  Sama’s not alone in the advice-peddling-with-no-credentials field.  Still, this all got me to thinking that maybe I could follow his business model—giving fortune-cookie-style relationship advice, presented in “list articles” about how this or that stereotypical thing is the key to a solid relationship. So, with the misplaced confidence and lack of thought that is often necessary to self-promotion, I present 8 pieces of relationship advice I just pulled out of my ass.

  1. I’m okay, you’re okay

Okay, okay—so I got this from somewhere else. I don’t really remember where. But until you can be okay, and know that everybody else is okay, you’re not going to have a good relationship. Or even an okay relationship. Okay?

  1. You need to love yourself first

We’ve all heard it a million times—you can’t love anybody else until you’ve learned to love yourself. This is true enough. But, seriously, none of us love ourselves all that much, unless we are lacking in basic self-awareness. I mean, you know everything you think and do! And a lot of that is just plain unforgivable. Just know that you don’t really love yourself, and so you’re probably incapable of loving anyone else fully. But the great thing is that your partner is in the same boat. You don’t really think anybody who loves her/himself would actually waste her/his time on someone like you; do you?

  1. If your partner is mad at you, it’s probably because he/she is really mad at her/himself

Relationship experts know that people in relationships are going to get mad at each other. It happens. Sometimes it happens a lot. When your partner gets mad at you, just recognize that it’s probably because your partner did something really dumb and is just taking it out on you. Knowing that it’s not your fault means you can accept responsibility for whatever the argument is about, while not really having to feel too bad about it. Everybody can move on a little quicker that way.

  1. Agreeing with your partner can help shorten arguments

Following from the previous advice point, we all know that the main goal in any relationship is to keep conflict to a minimum. When your partner is mad at you, if you can listen to their complaint just enough to agree with what they are saying, and prove you were at least sort of paying attention by making a semi-relevant apology for whatever that is, they’ll start to feel better and quit climbing up your ass. And remember, it’s not really your fault anyway. Your partner is just mad at her/himself.

Stock photos of happy and/or upset couples just aren't fun--but a rubber skeleton couple on vacation in an island paradise, possibly being swarmed by gulls...

Stock photos of happy and/or upset couples just aren’t fun–but a rubber skeleton couple on vacation in an island paradise, possibly being swarmed by gulls…

  1. Sometimes simply agreeing isn’t enough

Sometimes just agreeing and taking the blame isn’t going to fix an argument. Sometimes you have to promise to never again do whatever made your partner so upset in the first place. Again, since your partner is really just mad at her/himself, it’s really no skin off your teeth, or sweat off your brow, or whatever things come off of you when you’re stressed and having to put forth some effort.

  1. Try to keep track of your promises

Right now, I’m talking about your ‘negative promises’—you know, the promises that you won’t do something again. Positive promises—like, ‘I’ll pick up after myself’, or ‘I’m totally saving up so we can go to Hawaii’—are for another article entirely. Although, now that I think about it, I suppose those positive promises could be negatives, too—like ‘I’ll never leave my dirty clothes all over the bathroom/bedroom floor again’ or ‘I’ll never waste my money on video games again, so that we can maybe one day have enough money to actually take a nice vacation.’ Anyway, the point is, you can only promise never to do something again so many times before your partner catches on, and realizes you are doing that thing—again! Or perhaps–still!

  1. Relationships are hard work, but fun work

This is pretty much an obligatory point to make. Nobody’s relationship is perfect all the time. And when there are problems, nobody’s relationship just fixes itself. You have to put in some work. That work should ideally be fun—because arguing can really be a lot of fun if you know how to do it right. And it’s especially fun when you win.

  1. Winning isn’t the point

Another obligatory point. I know I just said it’s fun to win arguments. But, really, that’s not the point. I mean, if you were paying attention to the rest of the things I wrote here, you’d realize that I was telling you how to avoid arguments, or to just give up and let the other person win, so that the argument might just end and you can avoid doing any meaningful work toward understanding your partner, or improving your relationship.

If you can remember these points and try to stick with them, your relationship may just last another day or two. And if it lasts just another day or two, and then another day or two, and then another day or two…before long, you’ve spent a lifetime together.

Author’s note: Gee whiz, that was fun! I was afraid that having been trained as a counselor, and having been married for over two decades might have hindered me in advancing some pointless advice. But, since I’m not actually trained as a marriage and family therapist, and my marriage is—well, a marriage that exists in the real world—I was able to cobble some stuff together that sounds pretty good, actually. Plus, laying it out in short, numbered points meant that I didn’t have to actually put together a cogent argument.

Now if some of you can help out by sharing this around, or maybe getting it to the attention of “media outlets” I should be well on my way to 30-million blog hits, and solid status as a relationship guru.  Thanks!