Tuesday, May 31, 2005

They too have their story...

"...listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story."

Max Ehrmann

Jonathan Caouette is neither dull nor ignorant but he certainly has his story to tell...


Made on imovie for $218....Tarnation is a beautiful, haunting and disturbing memoir of Jonathan Caouette's relationship with his mother. A compilation of the videos he has been making since he was eleven years old, interrogating family members, acting out the most bizarre and terrifying scenarios, coping with abuse, foster care, a mentally ill mother and his developing dissassociative disorder.

As he shamelessly questions and probes his dysfunctional family, what emerges is a naked, terrifying and tender portrait of family life, madness and the relentless bonds between mother and son. It's about madness, its about mental health, its about a psychiatric system that steers people into insanity, its about hope and despair.

Its the most disturbing thing I've ever seen...

It is sheer and utter mad brilliance. Do not miss it.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Hiding something

Should I tell you?
Open up to you the hidden things
Or keep them enclosed
Safely resting inside.

But I think you know.
I think you can see my hands clenched behind my back
Fearful to open up to you
The things I’ve found.

I’m afraid you’ll take them from me
And throw them away in a fit of rage.

Let’s not be like that
Let's both open our hands
And show one another.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Let your Life Speak

During the January blizzard in New York I found myself browsing in Barnes & Noble, wanting something to read before making my way back to the quirky but rather depressing youth hostel where I was staying at the time. I was drawn to a kind of book that I am not typically drawn to - 'Let your Life Speak' by Parker Palmer.

I'm not sure why I was drawn to it, except that it came highly recommended by a friend who I got talking to about books and who has similar reading tastes to myself. Its looks a bit of self-helpy and I loath self-help books. Secondly, its subtitle is 'Listening for the voice of vocation.' I've known for a long time that I want to be a clinical psychologist. Actually, I started out wanting to be a social worker, but found that when I mentioned this to people they made nasty jokes about social workers. Then I realised that psychologists have better working conditions, more academic training and er, more pay. I also realised that when I told people I wanted to be a psychologist they go, 'Oooooh' rather than, 'OMG, what do you want to do that for and did you hear the joke about the social worker and the rottweiller?!'

So why I, a psychology snob who loathes self-help books and isn't struggling with what to do in life (well, I'm struggling to complete my PhD, and to decide what clinical courses to apply for...but that hardly counts as a career or vocational crisis), would be drawn to such a book is something of an oddity. But no matter - I decided I wanted to read this book and I wasn't disappointed. What I met, was not self-help mumbo jumbo, but a wonderful reflection on what vocation is.

There is an old piece of Quaker advice which says, 'Let your Life Speak'. I didn't come across that saying in the Quakers though - it was a concept thoroughly preached on, taught and accepted in the evangelical-charismatic movement I was once part of. I have only ever interpreted this advice as letting one's life speak about one's faith, about God or about the gospel or some other wonderful idea. It was about not preaching one's highest aspirations, but rather living them - and perhaps hoping that others would follow suit.

Palmer turns this concept on its head. To let our lives speak is not about publically living out our highest ideals - but rather an inner journey of listening to one's life. The word vocation comes from the Latin word for voice (Robert, Ken and all the other Latin snobs, are you proud of me?!). Instead of telling our life what to say, we need to listen to the truths, values and desires of our true selves.

I think this living the true self is probably most dramatically demonstrated by people such as Martin Luther King, or Rosa Parks when she decided to live as a person of equal value and refused to sit in the 'black zone' of a bus. Its what our black friends taught us when they refused to live as though they were second class citizens, what our gay friends are teaching us in refusing to pretend they are straight, what our transgendered friends are teaching us in living outside of society's norms.

Now, what about me? I am, by most peoples' standards a rather conventional character with no real crises of identity to speak of. But as I pursue an ambitious career, as I focus myself on getting into a course where I can complete my clinical training - I have realised, that it might be very easy for me to loose sight of my true self in the process. My true self is not truly a wannabe clinical psychologist, but one that cares, one that questions systems that disempower people, one that is fundamentally insulted by inquality and one that sees value in people no matter who they are. There is an element of powerful rhetoric here, but I find I am never more alive than when working for the sake of others. And that is not something I need to be a clinical psychologist to do - that's something I am already, and something that I am becoming out of my true self.

I should remember that when I'm swotting up on clinical psychology, working far too much and giving up my Saturdays to get work experience in preparation for the application I intend to make to start clinical training next year. I could easily loose my true self and my vocation in pursuit of a career in clinical psychology. What I really need is to find a way to express my vocation with the way in which I work, not only in the future when I hope to be a high falutant shrink, but now as I struggle with the inevitable frustration of completing a PhD, applying for further training and getting a job to pay the bills when my funding runs out.

I discovered that the clinical psychologist I volunteer with (selling my soul, giving up Saturday morning lie-ins and generally exhausting myself) is a follower of Gandhi. I was browsing through the slides for a lecture he was giving on how his commitment to Gandhian philosophy impacts on how he works both as a psychologist and as a scientist. It was wonderfully challenging and a powerful integration of his faith/spirituality/personal beliefs and his career. I hope to get a chance to ask him some more about it and maybe I'll write some reflections on it later. It ties in quite nicely with some of Parker Palmer's ideas on vocation and my own thoughts as to my own need to listen to my inner vocation and let that emerge in my work and life.

Does anyone else have any thoughts about how they listen to their vocation, or how they struggle to live their vocation or whatever?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Critical Psychology

For everyone working in or interested in mental health:

David Smail's website

David Smail is a well known author who has written some damning critiques of the mental health system and clinical psychology in general. Today I found out he has a website which is brimming with ideas, controversy and challenge.


Back to the grind for me tho...I wonder what my supervisors would make of this stuff...ho-hum :D.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Aphrodisiac cheesecake

I am forever making random recipes I find in newspapers, magazines, the web or given from friends. I am also forever losing the recipes! My partner has suggested that I post recipes on my blog - because he says other people might want to make them, and says that, if they're on my blog, they'll be easy to find.

Anyway, let me know if putting recipes on my blog is just too boring for words, or if its something you'd like to read.

I believe Rachie has already made this one ;) - Remember that strawberry cheesecake recipe I gave you?! Well, it just became the screaming orgasm, super-dooper aphrodisiac strawberry cheesecake.

Recipe (Serves about 8 people)

-About 2/3 packet of hobnobs or digestives
-Largeish lump of butter or margarine
-Fruit of some sort - strawberries, blueberries, kiwi or whatever
-Half a large bar of super dark 85% cocoa chocolate
-Large bar (200g thing) of white chocolate (preferably milky bar, yes I know its made by nestle, and that fair trade from the co-op would be a more ethical choice - so you have to decide whether you're more concerned for ethical cooking or for yumminess)
-About a tub and a half of the medium sized reduced fat philadelphia type soft cheese (Now herein is a warning. The full fat variety is probably too rich for this recipe, which is already pretty rich, the virtually fat free one is disgusting - take the middle way people, you know its the best)
-Liberal squeeze of lime juice (from about a third of a lime)

Stage 1 - Rid self of the day's frustrations

Place hob nobs/disgestives in pastic sandwich bag (just make sure there are no holes in it). Take rolling pin or similarly heavy object. Crush biscuits (or cookies if you're American) with great gusto. Be violent about it, even if you're a pacifist.
Melt butter/marg in a pan, and add the crushed biscuit and mix up well.
Press the biscuit mix into a flan case and put it in the fridge.

Stage 2 - Get Fruity

Chop just over half of the strawberries and blueberries (or whatever other fruit you are using - kiwis work really well, but blueberries are in season atm).
Place them over the biscuit base.

Stage 3 - Drizzling the dark chocolate

Melt the dark chocolate in a glass bowl over boiling water.
Then drizzle it over the fruit (if you want to drizzle it on other places, make a little extra - oo-er). Leave it to harden in the fridge (the cheesecake, the cheesecake....)

Stage 4 - Making the cheesey bit

Melt the white choclate in a glass bowl (not the one you did the dark chocolate in, unless you wash it up first). Add the cream cheese and beat vigorously. Then add the lime juice and keep beating.
Pour that over the base.

Stage 5 - The final touches

Chop the rest of the fruit and decorate the top of the cheescake.

Stage 6 - The very exciting bit...strawberries and dark chocolate - Ahhhhhhhhhh

new blog

I decided to start a new blog! This is for several reasons - primarily, I've been thinking about quite how much information is available about me on the internet. A quick search around google and anyone who knew my name could connect me with my blog.

This isn't such a big deal, but as I'm starting to prepare for my application to clinical psychology training courses, I've started wondering what I would do if a client found me on the net. If someone flicked around google for long enough, they would discover who I am and what I think about politics, religion and whole manner of juicy gossip. So I've decided, the only sensible thing to do, if I am to maintain my blog and not worry about some internet geek client finding me on the web - is to go anonymous.So, for those of you who know who I am, please be careful not to give too much away!

Another reason is that I rather fancied having a new look, so thought I'd combine anonymising my blog with a bit of a make-over.

So here is my new blog. Hope y'all like it.