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Title: When Good Men Behave Badly: Change Your Behaviour, Change Your Relationships

Author: David B. Wexler, Ph.D.

ISBN: ISBN-13 978-1-57224-346-0

Type: Fixer

 

Summary: 

“When Good Men Behave Badly” focuses on men’s feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and perceived threats to identity that can lead to acting badly in otherwise good men with good values, who want to make good choices instead of being emotionally hijacked by their limbic system. It offers these men acknowledgement and an understanding of their emotional life with the goal of equipping them with new behavioural options.

CONTENT WARNING: This book contains examples of domestic violence and examples of derogatory language

 

Presentation Style

This is a self-help book for middle-aged, white, cis-men written by a middle-aged, white, cis-man. On the one hand, this framing is useful because this to create a tone of (white) men talking to (white) men about shared experiences which may be difficult for women (and others) to have sympathy for when they are on the receiving end of the described bad behaviour. On the other hand, the advice is very binary oriented (men and women only), heteronormative (heterosexual and monogamous assumptions), and doesn’t discern between different groups of men (one size fits all *sigh*). It doesn’t specifically state that it is about white men, but with a white man on the cover… it doesn’t do anything to move away from white men as the default. I’m agender, I don’t exist in this book.

Speaking of the cover… I hate it. My edition has a white man in a dress shirt holding flowers behind his back. My mind jumps to the assumption that the man is in the “doghouse”. A focus group somewhere may have determined that this is brilliant marketing, but it makes me cringe. The irony of the cover is that the book warns of the importance of perception by telling the story of one of the author’s clients, who had a great session with him, but never returned to therapy after the author recommended a book that had the phrase “verbal abuse” in the title.[1]

“When Good Men Behave Badly” is a relatively short book (199 pages + references) that overviews and introduces a selection of ideas, explanations, exercises, and suggestions. It uses examples heavily (see content warning) and fiction examples which may be dated (I don’t recognize most of them, but that didn’t make much of a difference to understanding). This is introductory material. If you want to go into the topics in depth you will have to follow up with other material [2] or seek out a therapist familiar with men’s issues.

 

Chapter Breakdown:

1. Good Men and Broken Mirrors — Introduces mirroring, broken mirrors, and twinning through the concept of selfobjects (someone or something that helps us feel cohesive). How the broken mirror experience can trigger acting out. 

2. The Power of Women — What men are taught [by toxic masculinity] to expect from women and how emotional dependancy on women for missing needs can lead to resentment or withdrawal, and a perception that they have power over men.

3. Fathers and Sons: Curses and Blessings — How fathers may expect sons to be positive mirrors, react to them as broken mirrors when they don’t measure up, and what this does to boys. 

4. Midlife, Affairs, and Projections —What people do when there is a gap between what is and what they expected in their life. This talks about self-awareness, distress tolerance, taking responsibility and how these can help when it feels like something is missing.

5.  Men’s Brains —What it is like to be hijacked by your limbic system and the effects of anger. Some strategies for dealing with these.

6. Odysseus, Relational Heroism, and Imaginary Crimes — How to be a Relational Hero through self-awareness, preparation, and doing things differently. How to let go of Imaginary Crimes.

7. Guy Talk —How men talk to themselves and other men, and how that sets the frame for behaviour.

8. What Women Can Do —For those women who read the book, a short chapter on dealing with men (and raising boys) within the context of the author’s “good men” hypothesis with some concrete “try these” ideas. It also recognizes that there are men who are dangerous and not just behaving badly.

 

My Opinion:

This is a book about how toxic masculinity fucks over men.

 

“When Good Men Behave Badly” presents itself mainly as a relationship repair guide, but it is more about how men can have better relationships with themselves through self-awareness, emotional regulation, and understanding the influences of masculinity in themselves… improved romantic and family relationships is a (very positive) side-effect of being able to navigate one’s internal landscape without being capsized or swamped. I think it is important to healing and growth that men have acknowledgement of their feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and missing needs, and I like that this book acknowledges this as something that women do for men while at the same time pointing out that disowning responsibility for those needs ultimately undermines the ability to get them met. I like that the author manages to navigate recognizing the subjective reality of these feelings while disassembling the idea that it is women’s job (and men are helpless) to emotionally regulate men. The author strongly believes in men’s positive ability to learn how to regulate and manage their emotional needs well. 

 

That said, as an agender person who is regularly misgendered as a woman, I’m struggling to find a way to get this book into the hands of the men I think who would benefit from it (possibly even enjoy it), without giving the impression that I think they are broken and harmful people. The book goes in a much different direction than that, but that doesn’t matter if first impressions means they don’t get past the cover.[3] Even beyond the usual problems with giving self-help books to people[4], I think it may be especially difficult, due to the topic, for a woman to give this book to a man without it being potentially perceived (accurately or inaccurately) as shaming. That is unfortunate.   

 

I think, therefore, that this is a book for men to read and then share with other men in an act of twinship mirroring. 

 

-------------------------------

Footnotes:

[1] One of Wexler’s areas of specialty is domestic abuse. He has a number of other books on the topic as well as a book about men in therapy, which (according to the blurb I read) apparently does deal with groups of men other than white cis-men. 

 

[2] Such as the work of Terrence Real (author of “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” a book on male depression) which is quoted and referenced in this book. 

 

[3] Being known as someone who reads a staggering number of self-help/psychology books does help diffuse this “I’m giving this to you because you’re broken” vibe, but still… “Hey! I found this fabulous book on [insert taboo topic here] that I think you will love and get lots out of!” isn’t a great party topic for most people. My friends have figured out how to run with it, but they are also used to seeing books on conflict or trauma (for example) on my coffee table.

 

[4] Self-help books don’t make good gifts folks. They are specifically aimed at fixing people and giving them will *always* have an underlying message that needs to be managed. I love self-help books but there are books on my shelf that just sit there unread specifically because of the framing of their gifting. 

 

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist, a doctor, or a professional reviewer. I do, however, own and enjoy reading a staggering number of self-help books and I have opinions. Lots of opinions. One of these opinions is that the underlying assumptions in “self-improvement” and “self-help” books should be unpacked. These reviews may or may not do that, but I will try to acknowledge both some of the potentially useful and potentially problematic aspects of the books I review. 

[sci hist] A Most Remarkable Week

Sep. 17th, 2017 12:52 am
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[personal profile] siderea
(h/t Metafilter)

This link should take you to the audio player for The Moth, cued to a story, "Who Can You Trust", 12 minutes long.

The Moth, if you didn't know, is an organization that supports storytelling – solo spoken word prose – true stories. This story is told by Dr. Mary-Clare King, the discoverer of BRC1. It concerns a most extraordinary week in her life, when pretty much everything went absurdly wrong and right at all once. It is by turns appalling and amazing and touching and throughout hilarious.

It's worth hearing her tell herself before the live audience. But if you prefer transcript, that's here – but even the link is a spoiler.

Recommended.
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I have a recollection of hearing a filk song, I think from a tape, that had a climactic line or repeated like in the refrain, to the effect of "And that's what cities get from trains". I have an impression it was a Leslie Fish song, but I don't know that for sure.

Not having any joy of google. Does anybody recognize it?
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[personal profile] siderea
(h/t Metafilter)

I just heard about Senior House. Goddamn.

Also. I hadn't realized that dealing with the administration in his capacity as Senior House's housemaster is what drove Henry Jenkins from MIT. Goddamn.

I am surprisingly angry and sad about this, given that I'm not a SH affiliate.

The shutdown of Senior House would be bad news, by itself. This is appalling:
The questionnaire, the Healthy Minds Survey, was administered by the University of Michigan. Many schools around the country give it to students as a way to pinpoint problems on campus and decide how best to allocate resources. When MIT administered it in 2015, they told students that it was a confidential survey intended to help them. One of the chancellor’s assistants who had lived in Senior House when she was an undergraduate went to Senior House and specifically requested that the residents take it. They did, in large numbers.

What they didn’t know—and what they couldn’t have known from reading the consent form that accompanied it—was that MIT had embedded metadata that allowed the administration to pinpoint the location of those filling out the questionnaire, enabling them to segment the results by dorm. The only question about dorm type in the survey was vague—“What kind of dorm do you live in? Small, large, off campus?”—but by tracking the metadata, Barnhart and the administration were able to see exactly where respondents lived.

It was this data that enabled Barnhart to see what she called a troubling hot spot of drug use. “If it wasn’t a direct violation, it was at least a violation of the spirit of informed consent,” Johnson says.
In light of that...
As Senior House students spread out across campus this year, former advisers worry that they’ll be at even greater risk. They can reach out to MIT’s mental health services if they need it, the chancellor says.
Is there some reason that MIT students should trust MIT Med to keep their information confidential? When MIT just used the confidential results of a "Healthy Minds Survey", which was advertised as a way of seeing where resources were needed, to eliminate resources from vulnerable populations? And the relevant IRB gave it a pass?

(Dear MIT students, and alums concerned about them: it is apparently hypothetically possible for students on the default MIT student health insurance ("extended" plan) to see therapists unaffiliated with MIT, but it has a pretty punative copay:
If you are covered by the MIT Student Extended Plan, and you see a mental health clinician who participates in the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) PPO, your first 12 visits in a calendar year are covered in full (100%). After that, you will have a $25 copay for each visit.

If you are covered by the MIT Student Extended Plan, and you see a mental health clinician who does NOT participate in the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) PPO, your first 12 visits in a calendar year are covered at 100 percent of the BCBS allowed amount. After that, your insurance will cover 80 percent of the allowed amount, and you will pay the other 20 percent. For all of your visits, your clinician may bill you for the difference between the BCBS allowed amount and his or her charges. This is something you should discuss with your clinician ahead of time.
I don't know for certain what BCBS's "allowed amount" is, but I know they're paying master's level therapists about $85 per therapy session, so I'm guessing that's it. So if a therapist's regular fee is $100, you'd be paying ($85*0.2)+($100-$85)=$32 per session. A lot of therapists are charging rather more that $100/session these days. At $120/session that's $52/session.

That copay/cost-sharing is absurd. Obviously, many students couldn't possibly afford $25/week copay – specially the most vulnerable ones. So that's a hell of an incentive to seek care from MIT Mental Health and Counseling Service directly: as they proudly state, no copay or other fees to see the therapists that work for MIT.

Less obviously, it's not even vaguely in line with the market right now. I see people who have jobs and pay $10 and $15 copays on other insurances. That students would be charged a $25 copay to see a therapist – in-network! – is incredible. Honestly, students being charged any copay is pretty out of line.

Seriously: MIT students, the people who stock the shelves in the Star Market behind Random have better access to mental health care than you do. That grocery store shelf stocker qualifies for a subsidized Medicaid Expansion plan, which covers at least a therapy session per week, with no copay. Also, their plan has hundreds, if not thousands, of therapists to choose from, none of whom report to your landlord cum diploma-granter-maybe cum civil authority cum boss of your local police.

Also, availing yourself of the option of seeing a non-MIT therapist on your MIT student insurance, even though it's through BCBS, requires a "referral" from MIT Med:
If you are already seeing an outside clinician or have a specific outside clinician in mind, you don’t have to make an appointment at MIT Medical to get a referral. Just call the Mental Health and Counseling Service at 617-253-2916, and ask to speak with someone about getting a referral for your outside treatment.
This may be completely pro forma, but the upshot is that MIT is making it a requirement on you that you notify MIT if you're getting psychotherapy, and that you divulge to them from from whom you are getting it. That someone is in therapy and from whom they get that therapy is highly confidential information, that frankly MIT has no business knowing. You should be able to see a therapist on your student insurance without MIT even knowing about it.

So if you wanted to work for the benefit of students' mental health, there's a great target: demand that MIT's insurance for students provides off-campus, unaffiliated psychotherapy with no copay, cost sharing, or balance billing – or radically less than at present, so MIT students can freely avail themselves of treaters not on MIT payroll; and abolish the need for a referral, because info about your utilization of mental health care is prejudicial, privileged information that can be used against you. But be careful to keep a third-party insurance co in the loop, instead of MIT directly paying therapists; whomever pays the therapist is allowed to snoop in your psychotherapy records.

Or, honestly, given some of the crappy-ass general health care friends of mine have gotten through the Med Center, maybe just agitate for all students to just get a regular BCBS PPO membership instead of having to go to the Med Center, at all. Or given how much BCBS sucks, try to get students into the Medicaid Expansion, so students get a choice of providers. That would be harder.

P.S. Disclosure of conflicts of interest: none – I don't take BCBS, so even if the copay/cost-share/balance-billing were eliminated, and students started flocking to off-campus therapists, I still wouldn't benefit by any of that business, unless somehow you managed to get students into Medicaid Expansion, and then only if students were willing to travel all the way to Medford to see me – I just have it in for MIT Med, and MIT MHCS especially.)
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I now have enough levels in crockpottery to recognize that this recipe, "Chicken Leek and Mushroom Casserole", is absurd as written. For one thing, there's absolutely no reason to include any chicken stock at all, unless one wants a soup as a result, given how much fluid 8 chicken thighs will express; given how much fluid winds up in it, there's no way it would ever come out "creamy", or, for that matter, at all like a "casserole". Yeah, I bet you have to thicken the sauce with cornstarch (ew).

But I really wanted a slowcooker meat dish with leeks, and I wasn't finding much, so I decided to adjust for sanity, double it (because I consider 8 servings a bare minimum for the effort), and give it whirl.

Also, I added canned potatoes to obviate later having to come up with a starch to serve it with.

Results seem pretty good! [personal profile] tn3270 seems very taken with it.

Here's my version:

4.5 lbs of chicken thighs, boneless skinless (could handle another lb)
3 cans (~15oz) whole potatoes
2 leeks (the biggest diameter ones on sale), washed really well and sliced
1 lb sliced button mushrooms
4 tsp minced garlic
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp rosemary
4 bay leaves
3 Tbsp mustard, dijon
1/2 C cream, heavy
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper at the table
slowcooker liner

uses 6qt slowcooker and 4 cup frying pan with lid

0) Melt butter in big frying pan. Sauté the leeks in the butter until they start to soften. Push to sides and add minced garlic; saute abt 90 seconds to golden brown, then mix in with leeks. Add mushrooms, stir a bit to get mushrooms coated with butter, then cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, till leeks are soft and their scent mellows. (Once this is done, this can be refrigerated, if you want to prep this in advance.)

1) Measure the herbs into a mixing bowl. Add mustard, cream, and lemon juice, mix. (This can also be refrigerated, if you want to prep this in advance.

2) Line slowcooker. Open and drain the potatoes, and put in bottom of slowcooker. Put in half the chicken, half the leek-mushroom mixture, the other half the chicken, and the other half the leek-mushroom mixture. Pour the mustard-cream sauce over it.

3) Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Remove bay leaves before eating.

ETA: Outstanding mysteries:

1) Is powdered rosemary just not a thing? Little rosemary bits isn't the same thing.

2) How much leek is "one leek"? When I got to the store, I had my choice of: a leek the diameter of my wrist, a leek about 2/3s the diameter of that, and lots of leeks the diameter of my two thumbs put together. The original recipe called for "one leek", and I'm like, "What does that even mean in this context?"

3) Is frozen pre-chopped leeks a thing? I love leeks, I do not love chopping leeks. I don't hate it – at least, being cylinders, they're much easier to chop than onions – but there's something to be said for convenience.

4) Even without the added two cups of fluid, it came out with a thin broth. Maybe next time thicken with tapioca. Or maybe reserve the cream for the end, and only add it in the last half hour? Slow cooking cream just seems to break it down.
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0.

So there's this thing called, "GiveAnHour.org". It's (I have recently learned) a non-profit organization which exists to convince psychotherapists to provide pro-bono treatment to servicemembers and military family members.

Now, there's a number of reasons one might raise an eyebrow at this, but lets set that aside to grant at least for now that this is an attempt to address a legitimate need through legitimate means.

The way it usually functions is that volunteer therapists sign up, the org checks their bona fides to make sure they're in proper license status to work in their jurisdiction, and then the therpist get listed in their geographically-based directory that clients can use to find pro-bono therapists.

Well, apparently, they are moved by the plight of Houston to start a Hurricane Harvey relief project. I know about this because my national professional organization, AMHCA, just posted about it on our extranet. Leadership exhorted us to go sign up as volunteers, because GiveAnHour is expresssly and exclusively recruiting licensed mental health professionals as volunteers to provide remote care to people impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

I'm a little perplexed as to how this could work. Texas, as big as it is, does not hold a majority of mental health counselors in our professional org. What with there being 50 states and some-odd other jurisdictions, the vast majority of us AMHCA members are licensed someplace not Texas. We are licensed in our home states (plus a few over-achievers who have multiple state licenses for reasons).

It's not legal – AFAIK – for CMHCs who are not licensed by Texas to practice in Texas. Duh.

This is, in fact, the classic problem with CMHCs being volunteer professional responders to catastrophes. We're not allowed to cross state lines to help. Or rather, we can, but we have to not practice when we get there.

And, yes, we've thought of that: we have to be licensed where the client is, so, no, telecommuting to the disaster doesn't help.

(I have no idea how other medical professions handle this, or if they do.)

So I go poking at the GiveAnHour.org site to see what's up with their Hurricane Harvey volunteer therapist project.

Read more. This and two other eyerollers. )
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