A Little #MeToo for Men

A Little #MeToo for Men

Several heterosexual couples in my clinical practice have struggled of late with issues related to the #MeToo movement.  Memories can surface for the female partner that engender feelings of rage, tremendous pain, and fear.

Trainees ask how best to help navigate these important, but potentially difficult conversations between the couple.  The work of unpacking the dominant norms of masculinity and their subsequent impact on relationship can indeed be a daunting task in the hour allotted for couples therapy.

Both for couples and the therapists who treat them, I recommend The Little #MeToo Book for Men.

Written by  Mark Greene, whose work I have previously cited on our CCAF blog, it is a call to understand the cost exacted by the rules of manhood, or as Greene describes it “man box culture.”

He states:

For millions of men, manhood can seem like a foregone conclusion, mapped out for us by universally understood rules for being a ‘real man.’ These rules determine how we walk, how we talk, what we think and do, what we view as our responsibilities and most importantly, how we pursue or fail to pursue our deepest needs, wants and desires.
These rules of manhood become so central to what we believe as to render the distinction between ourselves and our culture of manhood invisible to us.
When millions of men live our lives subject to the rules of a culture we are not fully conscious of, it can be damaging for our families, our communities, our collective quality of life, and even our longevity. The Little #MeToo Book for Men seeks to encourage a conversation about how boys and men arrive at what we believe.”

Greene has that rare talent of being able to distill what can feel like such complex, and yes, terrifying, relational issues.  Elusive, and just beyond our reach, we can feel the weight of gender dynamics, and the attendant pain, but are often left without words.

The Little #MeToo Book for Men is a wonderful tool, a clear, and concise map that will help move the conversation forward.

I know my children’s generation has begun to imagine and enact a culture that defies gender binaries.

Perhaps it’s not too late for us.

If this conversation can reveal even the slightest glimmer of daylight between our dominant culture of masculinity and our own daily choices as men, my hope is we will find, in that space, a more vibrant and authentic connection to our agency, our power and our humanity.

Matters of the Heart

As a family therapy clinician and teacher, I am constantly talking about the importance of relationships.  I’m thus thrilled when those outside of my specialty acknowledge that as well – especially when it comes from my colleagues and collaborators in the medical community.

In “Why Your Cardiologist should ask about your Love Life,” Dr. Sandeep Jauhar discusses the link between heart health and our emotional and relational worlds:

We have learned, for example, that fear and grief can cause serious cardiac injury. During emotional distress, the nerves that control the heartbeat can set off a maladaptive “fight or flight” response that causes blood vessels to constrict, the heart to gallop and blood pressure to rise, resulting in damage to the body.

Those of us who are present daily to the intensity of marital strife can certainly attest to this fact. What is more tender to the heart than being hurt by someone we love?

It is becoming a known fact that the importance of relationship, and the quality of relationship, directly impact one’s health and well being.  Researchers here at Penn Medicine have examined the impact of marital status upon the recovery from cardiac surgery, as well as the involvement of family and friends in improving healthcare outcomes.

For example, colleagues at The Center for Healthcare Innovation studied how to engineer social incentives for health, and suggested that more of our healthcare delivery system take advantage of the highly influential nature of social relationships.

Other research focused on the connection between marital status and recovery from cardiac surgery, and found that married people may fare better than those who are divorced, separated or widowed.  Although there is a lot more to examine relative to this connection, it is heartening to see the significance of relationship included as a key factor in promoting health and well being – yes, even in recovery from cardiac surgery.

Indeed, cardiologist Sandeep Juahar suggests we deploy a paradigm shift away from the individualized mode of thinking:

We will need to shift to a new paradigm for heart problems, one focused on prevention, to continue to make the kind of progress to which patients and doctors have become accustomed. In this paradigm, psychosocial factors will need to be front and center. Treating our hearts optimally will require treating our minds, too.

Thank you, Dr.  Jauhar.  I could not have said that better myself.

The Changing Family and How it Influences Identity: Penn Spectrum Weekend, 9/23-25

CCAF Clinical director, Jacqueline Hudak, will present on a panel about “The Changing Family” during Penn Spectrum Weekend.

Held during alumni weekend, Penn Spectrum “brings together alumni for dialogue centered on issues of cultural identity. We welcome alumni and allies from all backgrounds as well as current Penn undergraduate and graduate students. The conference focuses on issues pertinent to the Black, Latinx, Native, Asian, and LGBTQ alumni and student communities.”

For a full schedule of events, check out the link here.

Engaging Family Supports: Free Online Videoconference

 

Join us for the next CPSP
“Community Psychiatry Forum*”
In Collaboration with
The American Association of Community Psychiatrists

Engaging Family Supports

Learning Objectives – Participants will be better able to:

  • Identify strategies and barriers to engage family members as supportive members of recovery team
  • Enable people in recovery to identify and connect with potential sources of support in the community
  • Describe issues commonly concerning family members and other natural supports and potential approaches for addressing them

CME: You can earn 1.25 CME credits

When: Thursday, April 21, 2016
11:45 am – 1:00 pm EDT

Course Directors: Wesley Sowers, MD
Robert Marin, MD

Guest Experts:

Ellen Berman, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, and Founder and Director of Training, Center for Couples and Adult Families, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

John Sargent, MD, Director, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Tufts Medical Center and Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA


*Community Psychiatry Forum: Free online videoconference offered twice each month. Continuing Medical Education credits

Three Perspectives on Marriage

Every so often I read something that speaks to a yet unarticulated thought or idea about my work with couples and families. Such was the case when I read NY Times columnist David Brooks’s article “Three Views of Marriage.”

He describes three prevailing perspectives on marriage: the psychological, the romantic, and, what he calls the moral view.

It was Brooks’s description of the moral view that spoke to me.

As a couple and family therapist, I am witness to the transformational power of love. I see individuals attempt to put aside their own agenda for the ‘greater good.’ This greater good is often the third dimension: the marriage itself. In my work I endeavor to give voice to this relational arena.  I try to make this otherwise silent and invisible domain come alive and use all the leverage that love and bonding bestow – to create something larger than the sum of two individuals.

“In this view marriage isn’t about 2 individuals trying to satisfy their own needs; it’s a partnership of mutual self giving for the purpose of moral growth…..(this is the) view of marriage as a binding moral project.”

Indeed, I have observed this in my work with couples, but didn’t have the words to describe what was happening.  It is a feeling of surrender, a letting go, only to find themselves part of something larger.  I see my clients delight in this experience.

Brooks also provides a lovely depiction of the inevitable trajectory of romantic love:

“…you need a few years of passionate love to fuse you together so you’ll stay together when times get hard. It’s a process beautifully described by a character in Louis de Bernières’s novel “Corelli’s Mandolin”:

“Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it. We had roots that grew toward each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”

I admire a writer like Brooks who can so eloquently describe the mysteries of relationship and love.  And, who can articulate the feelings suspended in the air in my small sunny office that I can sense, but cannot yet put into words.

Read the full article here

Generosity and Kindness: Key Ingredients of a Long Lasting Relationship

At CCAF, we are committed to bring research about relationships and family life to the public.  In this spirit, I share the article, “Masters of Love” from this month’s Atlantic Magazine.

The article traces the 30 year history of research on marriage; the work of John and Julie Gottman of The Gottman Institute is featured.  Their work is noteworthy for their capacity to  predict, with up to 94% certainty, which couples will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later.

“Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship.”

That’s where kindness and generosity come in.  Those couples who accept each other’s ‘bids’ for contact, who ‘turn toward’ each other, do better in the long term:

“People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.”

Gottman found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time. The problem was that these relationships, called the ‘disasters’ showed all the signs of arousal; they were in fact in ‘fight-or-flight mode’—in their relationships. In these highly reactive couples, it was virtually impossible to have a conversation, express feelings, and be heard.

“Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger.”

Fortunately, Couple and Family Therapists are trained to coach couples to shift to a less emotionally reactive posture.  In this way, couples can begin to express feelings and desires more effectively, and communicate how their partner’s behavior impacts them.

Read the full article here and learn about how to become more masterful at love.

Dr. Ellen Berman with Marty Moss-Coane and Ron Lieber: “Families and Money”

326aMoskowStudio    CCAF Founder, Dr. Ellen Berman was a guest on WHYY’s Fresh Air  with author Ron Lieber yesterday.  They had a lively and informative conversation about Families and Money.  Ellen and Ron  answer some of the more vexing questions about this important, delicate, and often very difficult to discuss topic.

“Money is all about values,” says Dr. Berman, who draws upon 30+ years of clinical experience with couples and families.  She talks specifically about the cultural shifts that impact ‘adult’ children, and offers clear, specific advice about how to avoid pitfalls and seize opportunities when dealing with the thorny issue of money and the family.