The wounded woman gets called a stereotype and sometimes she is. But sometimes she’s just true.
–Leslie Jamison, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” The Empathy Exams*
On the day before New Year’s back in 2021, I found myself riding the train to work when, one stop after mine, a vaguely familiar woman got on. Or maybe I should say, struggled on. She was, I guess, in her sixties, heavy-set, apparently in pain, though not from any obvious cause, and was struggling with a shopping cart full of possessions. At first, in a reflexive reaction to the shopping cart, I took her to be a homeless person, but that turned out not to be the case. She clearly had trouble moving, and had trouble getting the cart onto the train. I half got up to help her, but not knowing how my gallantry would be received, sat back down and watched her struggle. It was rush hour, just before 8 am. Continue reading →
This essay contains spoilers throughout about John LeCarré’s novel, The Constant Gardener.
He tried to remember the phrases: pain
Audible at noon, pain torturing itself,
Pain killing pain on the very point of pain.
–Wallace Stevens, “Esthétique du Mal.”
When I was a young man, my life’s ambition was to join the U.S. Foreign Service and become a diplomat. Chastened by the first Gulf War (1990-91), which I opposed, I thought the better of my ambitions, and decided instead to become a dull but conscientious academic.
During my third and presumably final marriage (2018-2021), my wife Alison and I bought a small townhouse in rural New Jersey with a little garden plot out front. Alison had great hopes for the garden, and often expressed the wish that I would help her cultivate it. To her great sorrow and eventually mine, I never did. I was too busy being a dull but conscientious academic. Continue reading →
This article just below reads like a companion piece to my earlier post on my late wife’s Alison’s struggles with chronic pain.
I agree almost entirely with Alana Saltz, the author of the article, and am saddened that Alison isn’t here to read it (in fact, I had to fight my initial impulse to send it to her). Saltz lays out many of the criticisms of CBT that Alison had made to me over the years, both as a therapist herself, and as someone with chronic pain. Before hearing those criticisms, I’d always had some vague unease about CBT that I wasn’t quite able to pinpoint. It wasn’t until Alison started expressing her criticisms of CBT in the direct, concrete, and vehement way characteristic of her that I was able to re-focus my own vague, nebbish doubts about it. I wrote some of those criticisms up for grad seminars in CBT back when I was a grad student in counseling, but never did anything with what I wrote. Saltz’s piece reinforces my confidence in my criticisms; maybe I ought to take the time to write them up. Here, in any case, is a quick summary.
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Here’s an online interview with my wife (and PoT blogger) Alison Bowles, conducted by Raymond Barrett of the Telehealth Certification Institute in Canandaigua, New York. Alison is a psychotherapist in private practice with an on-ground presence in Manhattan, and a developing online practice.
The interview focuses on an under-discussed issue in therapy–therapy with people suffering from chronic pain. We hear so much about the “opioid crisis” that we forget that it’s overshadowed—by a long shot–by a chronic pain crisis. There’s also a dangerous trend in mental health of pretending that chronic pain conditions can be managed and resolved by the magic of mindfulness and meditation. Though many studies suggest that such claims are nonsense, that hasn’t stopped the mindfulness gurus from making them: Continue reading →