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Archive for December, 2011

I received the following letter concerning the tricky business of maintaining a relationship:

Dear Will,

I’m a recent law school graduate studying for the bar exam. I just got into another argument with my boyfriend of four years, and I’m feeling frustrated and upset.

Our relationship tends to break down when I’m going through a period of heightened stress — writing my law school admissions essays, studying for finals at the end of each semester, and now, studying for the bar. I know I can get moody and depressed during these times, but I’m up front with him about my state of mind, and I wish he could be more understanding.

The problem is that, on the one hand, I’m starting to feel like the girl who cried wolf, since these periods of stress have happened regularly throughout our relationship. On the other hand, I still feel hurt and upset when he loses patience with me, like I can’t rely on him during tough times.

Any thoughts or advice you can provide would be much appreciated.

Thank you,

L

And here’s my response:

To submit a question to Ask The People’s Therapist, please email it as text or a video to: wmeyerhofer@aquietroom.com

If I answer your question on the site, you’ll win a free session of psychotherapy with The People’s Therapist.
========

Please check out The People’s Therapist’s new book, “Way Worse Than Being A Dentist”

I also recommend my first book, “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy”

(Both books are also available on bn.com and the Apple iBookstore.) 

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It’s hard to generate sympathy for lawyers – especially when the group of people you’re milking for sympathy is other lawyers.

At first glance, that seems counter-intuitive. I’m writing about your fellow attorneys, after all, and they’re in miserable straits. I feel sorry for them. I want to help. But then, I’m a bleeding heart psychotherapist. I even felt sorry for them back when I was a lawyer, too – incontrovertible proof I was never “cut out” for the profession.

With lawyers, it’s not a question of “compassion fatigue” – they never show enough compassion to develop fatigue. It’s more like a birth defect – compassion deficiency.

My solution? The same trick Jerry Lewis used for his telethons. I’ll fabricate a poster child – a Jerry’s Kid – a cute, lovable little spokesperson for suffering, misunderstood, mistreated lawyers!

What would my Jerry’s Kid – ahem – Will’s Kid – look like?

Let’s call him Tim – Tiny Tim. (Cue violin music.) (Cue photo montage.)

Okay. Here’s the narration:

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There is a curious passage in a recent book by Oliver Sacks, “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” in which Sacks discusses whether Sigmund Freud liked music.

There are contemporary accounts of Freud that mention he rarely listened to music, and only permitted himself to be “dragged” to opera on rare occasion – and then only if it was Mozart.  And there is a quote from a not-terribly-reliable memoir by Freud’s nephew, Harry, in which he claimed Freud “despised” music.

Freud wrote about his own response to music in the introduction to “The Moses of Michelangelo”:

I am no connoisseur in art…nevertheless, works of art do exercise a powerful effect on me, especially those of literature and sculpture, less often of painting…[I] spend a long time before them trying to apprehend them in my own way, i.e. to explain to myself what their effect is due to.  Wherever I cannot do this, as for instance with music, I am almost incapable of obtaining any pleasure.  Some rationalistic, or perhaps analytic, turn of mind in me rebels against being moved by a thing without knowing why I am thus affected and what it is that affects me.

This is a fascinating observation.  Freud is essentially saying that, because music is such an abstract art form and he cannot analyze the source of music’s effects upon his emotions, he doesn’t trust those effects and so avoids music as an art form.  That might explain why Freud wrote so seldom about music, although he wrote at length about works of fiction or theatre or painting or sculpture.

It is not the last word, however, on whether Freud actually enjoyed music.  His friend, Theodor Reik, wrote that he’d gone out to hear music on at least two occasions with Freud, and that it wasn’t only the mystery of music’s effects on the emotions that troubled Freud, but a fear of actually giving himself over to those mysterious effects. Reik felt that Freud’s resistance to music amounted to:

[a] turning-away…[an] act of will in the interest of self-defense…[and the] more energetic and violent, the more the emotional effects of music appeared undesirable to him.  He became more and more convinced that he had to keep his reason unclouded and his emotions in abeyance.  He developed an increasing reluctance to surrendering to the dark power of music.  Such an avoidance of the emotional effect of melodies can sometimes be seen in people who feel endangered by the intensity of their feelings.

What draws me to this discussion in Sacks’ book is that it reveals the “hidden” Freud, the struggle between the serious, scholarly author of countless books, the “father of psychoanalysis” – and the man who, like everyone else, was filled with secret, overwhelming emotions – perhaps triggered by something as innocent as a beautiful work of music – that he could only struggle to comprehend.

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The paperback version of my first book – Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy
is now available on Amazon.com.

The terrific new cover is by Christine Sullivan, of cstudiodesign.  I hope you’ll take a look.

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