Category Archives: Psychology

My Daughter’s Coach was Arrested

My daughter’s coach was recently arrested on charges related to child pornography and alleged sexual misconduct with children. I am not going to go into detail about who he was or what he coached her in – these facts are not what it important to our story. What is important is this was a man we trusted in our lives – in our daughter’s life and he “allegedly” is a very bad person.

Let me start at the beginning – when my daughter was 6 years old, a friend introduced us to this coach, I will call him Bill. Bill had been working with their daughter for several months and was really helping her to improve in her sport. Bill began working with my daughter as well, frequently as often as once a week for nearly two years. He met privately with my daughter either at our home or a local park and either my husband or I were always there. I never had a twinge of uncertainty about him. I am a psychologist who has specialized in trauma work, often with children who had been the victim of abuse. Again, I didn’t have the smallest twinge of discomfort around this man. My daughter was never alone with him, but that was because we liked watching her train. It wasn’t because I was worried about him. I even invited him to one of her birthday parties.

Fast forward to present day. My daughter hasn’t trained with Bill for over two years, not because of bad feelings, but because we just got too busy and the sessions faded away. My husband, daughter and I were on a cruise – no cell phone reception and I hadn’t been checking my emails. We pulled into port, I turned my cell phone back on and it lit up. Dozens of text messages about Bill. A number of people had recognized Bill’s picture on the TV news story about his arrest – for child pornography and sexual relationships with children. My husband and I processed the information and had to have a series of conversations with our daughter. We had to talk about Bill being arrested, what he was arrested for and whether anything had ever happened to/with her. We had to explore how she would not be in trouble if anything had happened and how it would not be her fault. So far, she has repeatedly (strongly) denied anything happened, but we will keep checking in with her. I know kids don’t always disclose abuse. I am somewhat comforted by the fact that they were never alone, but I also know perpetrators just need a moment of distraction to strike.

I had a phone call with the investigator from the police department who had me send over a photo of my daughter to compare against the images on Bill’s hard drive. There was no match. For us, for now, this situation is over. It does give me pause to consider who I allow in my daughter’s life and the type of contact they will be given. Part of the reason I stopped doing trauma work and left Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles when my daughter was born, was the fear that I would feel compelled to raise my daughter in a bubble. I would turn around and see potential perpetrators everywhere (family members, friends, teachers, religious leaders, and, yes, coaches). Maybe the sad thing is we need to do this to some extent. Not necessarily that we need to accuse everyone in our lives of attempting to abuse our children, but being exceptionally selective of who gets access and not allowing that access to be unsupervised. It’s unfortunate to have to take such a cynical approach to the world, but right now it seems so much better than the alternative.

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The Firefly Self-Help Books

If you have been a follower of this blog, you know that I, on occasion, like to imagine what characters of a certain TV show or movie might have to say if given the opportunity to pen a self-help book. Some of these have been serious, some more satirical, but, if I am being honest, all books I would love to write myself. These characters have been such an amazing part of my life. Today, I am finally able to dedicate myself to a show called Firefly. Firefly was a science fiction, space western that originally aired on Fox, but was cancelled before completing their first season. There was such a fan base, Joss Whedon (the executive producer) was able to negotiate making a film (Serenity) to appease those who knew the network had given up on the series way too quickly. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the series and movie (watch them in that order), you should immediately download it, purchase it, or whatever you need to do to watch it.

I’m off my soap box now – here is my take on what the characters would have to say:

  1. Captain “Mal” Malcolm Reynolds: Mal is the owner of the Serenity (the ship). He is a former fighter in the Independent Army. He is cunning, a skilled fighter, and can rationalize his sometimes questionable morals with an “end justifies the means” approach to life. He is fiercely loyal to those in his inner circle. Mal would have a lot to say about maintaining his moral “flexibility” and that failure is not necessarily the end. Suggested title: Firefly – the end is never the end..

 

  1. Zoe Washburne: Mal’s right hand “man”, she is a friend from his war days and is his second in command on the Serenity. She is married to Wash. Zoe brings a lot to her shipmates beyond her battle skills – she is able to stay calm no matter the situation and always seems to be able to think clearly. She could offer such insight into the importance of maintaining focus in stressful situations. Suggested title: Calm – the most powerful weapon in your arsenal.

 

 

  1. Hoban “Wash” Washburne: The pilot of the Serenity and Zoe’s husband. He often expresses jealous over the closeness between Zoe and Mal though there is never an indication of a romantic component to their relationship. He is perhaps best known for his humorous take on situations and tendency to always have a quip at the ready. Learning about his use of humor in the face of adversity would benefit many. Suggested title: Laughing in the face of (repeated) impending death.

 

  1. Inara Serra: a Companion – the series version of an escort or mistress (higher standing than a prostitute). She displays great civility, compassion, and dignity. She shares many character traits with Mal which only complicates the romantic tension between them. Both have difficulty accepting each other’s choice of occupation. She seems to struggle with the idea of becoming vulnerable to someone she cares for. Suggested title: Caring for others, caring for myself.

 

  1. Jayne Cobb: Oh, Jayne and his adorable hat. Jayne is a mercenary which is supposed to mean he will do anything if the money is right, though Jayne sticks with this crew even when he should be tempted to travel elsewhere. He often asks the questions no one is willing to ask (with good reason) and complains about helping others – especially if it puts him at risk. There is likely a lot more to this man than meets the eye, but he’d punch you in the nose if you ever called him on it. Suggested title: Survival: You can’t get paid if you’re dead.

 

  1. Kaylee Frye: the ship’s mechanic who is also known as the heart of the ship. She loves all of her shipmates with her whole heart and only wants the best for them all. She has fallen in love with Dr. Simon Tam, but struggles to share those feelings, instead hinting and hoping he will figure it out. Likely, she did not believe she was worthy of him and was terrified of possible rejection. Suggested title: Great risk can bring even greater rewards.

 

  1. Simon Tam: a trauma surgeon who is on the run after breaking his sister, River, out of a government research facility. His sister’s care is his primary focus and he sacrificed his own future and career to rescue her. His feelings for Kaylee complicated his situation as he often found himself being pulled in multiple directions. Unfortunately for Kaylee, River typically wins his internal battle. Suggested title: Even in space, blood is thicker than water.

 

  1. River Tam: smuggled onto the ship by her brother, Simon. She is a gifted child prodigy who was operated and experimented on by a government agency hoping to use her skills for evil. As a result, she has psychic powers and extraordinary combat skills. Due to her time in the research facility she suffers debilitating anxiety and PTSD. Her erratic behavior frequently worries those around her. Suggested Title: When special doesn’t feel good

 

  1. Shepherd Derrial Book: a type of pastor – he functioned as a sort of moral compass for Mal. Mal didn’t always follow his recommendations, but he did always listen and consider them. He got along well with everyone though was not eager to engage in battle alongside them, feeling killing was against his religious beliefs. His religious beliefs were often stretched through his time with the crew of the Serenity. Suggested title: Doing wrong for the right reasons.

 

I was tempted to include The Operative, a character who played a central role with the cast during the movie Serenity, but somehow it felt like cheating. I wanted to focus on those who started in Firefly and then continued on in Serenity. What do you think? Am I being too picky? What do you think his book would be about? Whose story would you most be interested in reading?

The Duggar family failed our daughters.

Many of you have heard about the recent news surrounding the Duggar family – the family best known for being extremely fertile and extremely religious on the TLC reality series “19 Kids and Counting”. If you haven’t heard (or you’ve been locked in a basement somewhere with no internet access), the eldest son, Josh, was recently revealed to have molested a number of young girls (some of whom were his sisters) when he was a teenager. For more information on the nitty-gritty please read here: http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/21/us/josh-duggar-child-molestation-allegations/index.html.

Now there are those that will defend Josh and his parents in the way they managed “the situation” (otherwise known as molesting innocent children) and there are those (hopefully many more) who would like to tie them to the stake and plan a fricassee. You can kinda get which way I am leaning here, right? Well, I am the mom of a young girl, so I am most definitely biased. That is not the focus of this blog though – there are plenty of these types out there.

I want to focus on how sad it is in this day and age, we continue to hide sexual abuse and “protect” the perpetrator. I can, somewhat, understand Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar wanting to protect their child, but what about their daughters – hell what about everyone else’s daughters? As near as I can tell, Josh never had intensive psychological intervention to address his inappropriate sexual behaviors. Supposedly, psychological treatment was “made available” to his victims, but I am a wee bit doubtful. Am I the only one who finds it unlikely that this treatment was anything more than religious teachings on the importance of forgiveness? I do not see this family taking their kids into the local mental health center to address their trauma.

Sexual abuse should not be shameful for the victims (though I typically prefer to call them “survivors”). Our focus should never be on taking care of the perpetrator, rather making sure the survivors of his deviance develop the skills necessary to lead healthy and happy lives. I am not choosing this revelation about the Duggar family to condemn them for their religious beliefs, their political views or their ideas on family planning. I typically strongly disagree with all of these, but rather I am using this new information as an opportunity to remind us all we need to focus on those who are hurt rather than on those who hurt. We need to focus on the innocents who are harmed. Josh Duggar should not have been protected. He should have been turned over to the authorities to pay whatever consequence legally necessary for his crimes. This should happen every time – no matter who, what, when, where or why. This family failed it’s daughters- and in turn, failed all of ours as well.

Sometimes you are the windshield, sometimes you are the bug.

My darling daughter has an amazing dance teacher who likes to remind her that sometimes in life you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug. Such an important lesson! This isn’t about whether it is fair or unfair, it just is. This is something we can apply in all areas of our life:

  1. My daughter was disappointed her dance had not scored higher at a dance competition. It wasn’t “fair” because the judges were “biased” and only liked hip hop.

Well, my dear, that is how it is sometimes. Sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug.

  1. A client expressed frustration that I “always” win when we play board games in session. (I don’t cheat to let kids win – I think it sets a bad precedent.

Sorry, buddy, but sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug.

 

  1. A friend was pulled over for speeding and received a rather hefty traffic fine. She was extremely frustrated because “everyone else” was speeding and she was the only one pulled over.

Well, that sucks, but sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug.

  1. A family member (who will not be named) was upset because a co-worker was promoted over her despite her perception that she was a much harder worker, a more diligent employee and generally better suited for the new position.

I get your frustration, but sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug.

I have had many experiences in my own life when, unfortunately, I have been the bug. I have not enjoyed those experiences, not once. I have found it important to keep perspective, though, because there have also been numerous times when I have gotten to be the windshield. All too often we focus on how much it sucks to be the bug that we lose sight of all the wonderful windshield experiences we have had.

Has this happened to you? I’d love to hear more examples of when you’ve been the bug AND times you’ve gotten to be the windshield. I can tell you in my daughter’s dance situation there have definitely been times when she has placed over kids who danced much better than she did that day. (Please don’t tell her I said that…) On those days, she got to be the windshield.

The Anti-Role Model

Oftentimes, celebrities will say that they don’t consider themselves to be role models for their fans and do not want the pressure of feeling responsible for their choices. I was thinking about this in relation to my daughter Charlie. She is 10 years old and is very aware of what her favorite celebrities are up to – both positive and negative. At first we tried to steer her away from certain people – because of the way they would behave or dress or because of drug and alcohol use. But then we realized we were missing out on a learning opportunity – the Anti-Role Model.

You may ask just what is the Anti-Role Model? The way I look at it, the Anti-Role Model helps others learn how to act by demonstrating what NOT to do. We have had the opportunity to discuss drug use/abuse through the actions of both Michael Jackson and Charlie Sheen. This lead to numerous conversations about the dangers of drug use and how it causes you to act like someone you are not.

We are able to discuss the impression people might give based on how they dress and how they act. We talked about dressing and acting as though we respect ourselves and were able to use specific celebrities as examples of what NOT to do (sorry, Miley Cyrus, but my girl is really young for your wrecking ball).

We talked about the importance of being well-spoken and being able to put words together in such a way as to convey intelligence, education and character. We were able to point out those who did not give such an impression (withholding names to protect the not-so-innocent) and those who excelled (thank you, Emma Stone).

These role models and anti-role models are everywhere in our lives – not just in pop culture and celebrity. They are in our community and in our schools, in our churches and in our shopping malls – they are everywhere. They may not be trying to be a role model to our children, but they are anyway. It is up to us to help our kidlets determine how to learn from these people.

One of “Those” Conversations – No Not THAT One.

Have you ever had one of those conversations that you prepared for and worried about and practiced… only to have it end up being absolutely no big deal? You almost feel let down that there is no big emotional explosion because your spent so much time preparing for it. Somehow it is almost like you have been cheated. We had one of those yesterday with our daughter, Charlie, who is 10 years old.

Charlie has been playing along with us for years on the whole Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy thing, and though we suspected she “knew” the truth, she never acknowledged it to us. Jason (my husband) and I decided it was time to have “the talk”. We wanted to let her into the grown up club because we suspected she was onto us and, if not, we didn’t want her to get teased for still believing. C’mon – 10 is kind of old for Santa.

So… we created this amazing game plan and practically scripted the whole interaction. We planned to take her out for a walk after Easter dinner and discuss it all. We thought the fresh air might calm her down. We walked a long for a bit and then I asked THE QUESTION – something along the lines of, “Where are you at with this whole Easter bunny thing?”. Smooth, I know. Charlie then got a smirk on her face and said, “I know it is you and Daddy.” We were a little stunned. She then continued, “Same for Santa.” We then asked with a little quiver in our voices, “What about the Tooth Fairy”. Her response with a shrug, “You.”

Well, crap. She then broke it to us that she has known for several years and had been playing along for two reasons: 1. It seemed really important to us and 2. She was afraid the fun and gifts might stop. We assured her that we were OK and that we still loved the holidays and nothing would change our celebration.

I have to admit, I felt a little let down, but also a little relieved that all the sneaking around was over. This was confirmed by her last comment on the subject – “You know, you don’t have to put the Tooth Fairy money under my pillow anymore. You can just hand it to me in exchange for the tooth.” Great. Like a crack deal.

How is a Sexual Assault Victim Supposed to Look/Act Like?

It seems like I have written a number of entries over the past several months about sexual assault and rape. (https://psychobabblechat.com/2014/11/21/rape-it-has-to-stop/; https://psychobabblechat.com/2014/10/20/date-rape-is-rape/). Every time I write one, it is because something in my personal or professional life has triggered my need to say something – whether it is a news item involving a sexual assault (Hello, Bill Cosby) or a client sharing her own difficulties – something happens and keeps bouncing around in my head until I put in on paper (or computer screen).

I have had a number of clients bring up the Rolling Stone magazine article depicting the alleged gang rape of a university freshman (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119). I will not revisit the article (please feel free to read the original article), but be aware there are allegations the girl made the story up and supposedly the fraternity mentioned in the article is planning to sue the magazine (http://www.universityherald.com/articles/17184/20150324/university-of-virginia-fraternity-considering-lawsuit-against-rolling-stone-for-gang-rape-article.htm).

I do not presume to know what did or did not happen in this specific situation, but it has incited a number of interesting conversations in session. Most specifically, what does a sexual assault victim look and act like? This is an impossible question to answer because there is no simple answer. Someone who has been raped may be sad or angry or may act like nothing at all happened. They may continue the “relationship” with their perpetrator and may not talk about the assault for a long time – if ever. Why? Well, because sexual assault is a confusing experience.

All too often, I hear that an alleged victim is not believed because she did not “act like a victim”. Many women have told me (especially in the case of acquaintance or date rape) they might be confused about what actually happened. They may hold mistaken ideas that rape is something that happens when you are grabbed in a dark parking lot and are held at knife point, not when a boyfriend refuses to take no for an answer after you have been voluntarily making out for hours. While they are trying to make sense of it all, they may even initiate continued contact with the perpetrator. This is often misconstrued by the police or media or the world as proof that the woman engaged in consensual sex. This is not always the case – it is just such a complicated issue.

I’ve even have clients who felt they were not believed because they were not perceived as attractive enough o have been raped. Can you believe it? Total BS. Sexual assault is about violence and power – not romance. People from all ages, races, sizes – basically every possible option out there – are sexually assaulted. I hate the idea that a survivor of rape feels the need to justify their “rape-worthiness”. Load of crap.

So…. what is my takeaway message here? I just recommend that you keep an open mind. Don’t assume that anything  having to do with sexual assault can ever be a simple issue. I am not advocating you always take the alleged victim at face value, but try your best to remember there is no one way to react to trauma. Just because someone is not acting like you assume you would, does not mean the trauma did not occur.

Turning Off Your Humanity

We’ve talked before about how I am basically a teenage girl trapped in an adult body – I watch TV shows and movies geared toward this population, read their books and listen to their music. Many will chuckle and assume all this stuff is really juvenile and offers little insight into “real life”, but you might be surprised.

Case in point: There is a TV show called “The Vampire Diaries” on the CW. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but needless to say, it is a show about a bunch of teenage/young-adult looking vampires and how they interact with each other and humans. Exciting stuff, right? Anyway, on the show the vampires all still experience strong emotional reactions including sadness, loss, love and anger. These same vampires have the option of “turning off their humanity” which means they no longer feel pain or sadness or guilt. They are willing to do anything to anyone and experience no remorse. That is until something happens and their humanity is turned back on which causes all of those emotions to come flooding back. Interesting concept, right?

Now, we “regular people” do not have the option of turning off our humanity to stop experiencing our feelings – no matter how much we may want to avoid them. What I have observed in my practice is that people start using drugs and alcohol to achieve the same result. Something happens in their life that causes them so much pain that they will do anything not to feel it anymore. As long as they continue to use the drugs, the feelings are kept at bay.

An addict almost has to “turn off their humanity” in their efforts to continue their drug use. They cannot feel remorse about the people they might hurt or the crimes they may commit. They are so focused on getting and keeping the high, all other feelings would only interfere with that pursuit.

Sobriety is when their humanity gets turned back on. Not only must they deal with whatever it was that chased them into drugs in the first place, but now they must also deal with everything they did while using drugs and alcohol as well. This flood of emotion is typically overwhelming and frightening. It is one of the many reasons I recommend that individuals in rehab or who are working on their sobriety also participate in therapy. They can benefit from the support and need to develop appropriate coping skills to deal with all of these negative emotions. All too often, clients have told me they are unable to manage the feelings and escape back into their addiction.

So… the next time someone belittles your entertainment choices (go teen fiction!), remember there are amazing insights everywhere – you just need to know where to look.

The Beautiful People are not Perfect – (and it’s OK)

We all know that celebrities are fabulously attractive people – they are pretty and thin and seem to glow from within. Another thing we know is we can’t trust the images we see of these same celebrities – there is amazing lighting, hair and makeup experts and, of course, Photoshop. There were a number of stories in the media recently showing photos that were leaked of female celebrities before the photos could be Photoshopped prior to publication. There are pictures of Beyonce from a L’Oreal ad campaign depicting less than perfect skin (http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/165572/Beyonce-leaked-pictures-Untouched-photos-of-LOreal-campaign) and photos of Cindy Crawford’s photo shoot for a Marie Claire 2013 issue (http://www.justjared.com/2015/02/16/cindy-crawfords-unretouched-lingerie-photo-goes-viral/) showed she may no longer have the body of an 18-year-old. (Hello, she just turned 49!) I do not think either woman’s representatives have confirmed or denied the photos as real, but in my ever-so-humble opinion, it doesn’t matter at all.

Look, in my book (Life Lessons for the Teenage Girl – http://www.amazon.com/Life-Lessons-Teenage-Girl-Inspiration/dp/1630472026/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1424926550&sr=8-1), the amazingly multi-talented Miss Kat Graham shared with my readers, “what you read in magazines and see on TV isn’t real.  That it’s sometimes the furthest thing from reality.” How are we so shocked that Beyonce may not be perfect – she might actually have a pimple – or two! Cindy Crawford might actually have slightly loose tummy skin after carrying two children and living for nearly 50 years. Seriously? Let’s have a reality check, my friends. They are beautiful people to be sure, but they are people. This means they have flaws – we all do. If we don’t recognize that celebrities might have flaws, how will we ever accept those flaws in ourselves.

Taking the High Road

It seems there are a lot of people in my life lately (both personally and professionally) who are processing through a divorce. None of them, unfortunately, are currently in that friendly divorce stage we all fantasize about. You know that fantasy stage, right? The one you talk about when you are still happily married and joke how , if you ever get divorced, you would keep it super friendly and civil and would ALWAYS put the kids first before any hurt feelings. I love that fantasy stage, but I can say I have rarely, if ever, actually seen it. The closest I have ever come has been several years post-divorce, when all the garbage has already been resolved.

OK, as I was saying, I have experienced a lot of divorces in my life lately. People who are getting divorced are inundated with advice from anyone and everyone at all times. Everyone feels entitled to give insight based on their own experiences. They are told not to be the “nice guy”; to fight for themselves; to lead by example and take the high road; to love the kids more than they hate each other. So much conflicting information!

I am here to advocate for the high road. You are not doing this for them, but for yourself. You can get consumed by anger and hurt and rage and not be able to recognize yourself in the mirror. Your Ex may not deserve the high road you are taking. They may deserve all of your revenge fantasies (and worse). But, and here’s the big but, you don’t deserve what that negativity will do to you and your life. You are not letting them off the hook by taking the high road, you are letting yourself off.

You are free to think they suck, to be disappointed they were not who you thought they were, and to generally not like them as a human being. But, I want you to focus on you. Focus on finding happiness in your own life. Choose positivity instead of negativity. If you have to see your Ex because you share children, be civil – you don’t have to ever be friends, but make it easier on yourself (and your children) and be civil.

I am a firm believer that people ultimately get what is coming to them in life. You don’t have to be the harbinger of their doom. Live your life. Focus on positive things for you and yours. The high road is all about you.