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Posts Tagged ‘Yoko Ono’

You’re different. You disdain the crass blandishments of biglaw. You have a soul. Let the giant firms seduce your naïve classmates with their shameless wheedling. You’re made of sterner stuff.

Your ultimate goal? Something better. A place where you might actually do good. Few lawyers receive that opportunity. Many, exposed to goodness, would burst into flames.

That’s why you’re taking the high road, escaping the pervasive cynicism and greed. You’ve got your sights set on a not-for-profit institution, dedicated to the promise of a better tomorrow.

Will it work? Can a lawyer escape pervasive cynicism and greed?

Seems unlikely.

Let’s talk about the the not-for-profit track – its ups, downs and in-betweens.

Right off the bat, we have to discuss salary. I know – you want to escape all that – the obsession with filthy lucre. But there’s a stark reality you must grasp before reporting for duty at a not-for-profit: You will earn bupkis.

Maybe that’s okay with you – like Hebrew National, you answer to a higher authority. On the other hand, if – like most young lawyers – you’re sitting on a zillion dollars in bankruptcy-proof loans, an extended period of earning zilch could prove…inconvenient.

This aforesaid stark reality also explains one of the dirty little secrets of the not-for-profit world: It’s a magnet for rich kids. If Mom and Dad have already paid off the $200k you blew on an undergraduate degree and law school, then bought you the cutest little one-bedroom in Chelsea and a brand new Prius…well, the logical next step is to save the world. It’ll be fun!

Not-for-profits are bursting at the seams with eager-beaver trust-afarians – and it doesn’t stop there. Sometimes Mom and Dad (and their friends) sit on the board. Sometimes the charismatic founder and Executive Director is a grinning, twenty-something former college lacrosse star, just back from Burning Man. You can’t hold it against him if he wants to donate a snippet of grandaddy’s styrofoam factory fortune to making the world a better place. But his white-boy dread locks and penchant for calling you “bro” in the hallway make you wince.

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A patient told me she couldn’t get over a guy she’d been seeing.

He was no good for her.  He didn’t even seem to want to go out with her.  But she couldn’t let go.

“But I love him,” she explained.

Well, in a manner of speaking.

She was in love with him like a child – the way a child loves a parent.

A child’s love is based upon dependency.  A child loves whoever takes care of him, because he cannot take care of himself.

When a young child says “I love you,” he means “I worship you and you are all-powerful and I depend upon you utterly and you are everything and I couldn’t survive without you.”

It’s the same way religious people relate to their chosen god-objects.  It’s no coincidence they often kneel before statues or altars and refer to “Lord” and “Almighty” and “Heavenly Father,” and so on.

If you live in an island with a volcano and it erupts and burns down your village, you can respond as an adult, and take up volcanology research.  Or you can regress under the stress into a child, and talk to the volcano as a parent-object, asking what you did wrong to make it angry, and trying to please it.

A child is so utterly dependent upon a parent that, if he displeases the parent, he will always locate the fault within.  He will not think – oh, it’s just a volcano, they erupt sometimes.  It must be about the child, something he did – his fault.

My client was relating to the guy she was dating the same way.  And she was beating herself up pretty bad.

Adult love is very different from child love.  It begins with loving yourself.

Then you add three ingredients:

Attraction, Trust, and Respect.

That’s what it means to love someone else, romantically, as an adult.

1.  You are attracted to him.  This is simple enough.  The common mistake here is trying to ignore sexual attraction and turn a friendship into a romantic relationship.  You cannot go out with the guy you SHOULD go out with.  You have to go out with the guy you WANT to go out with.  “But he’s so nice” is not a reason to date someone.  You have to be into him, too.

2.  You trust him.  If someone values you, his attention is focused on you.  Monogamy is the clearest manifestation of a mutual fascination.  But even in the early months of dating, before monogamy enters the picture, trust is already an issue.

Are you worried he might not call?

You shouldn’t be.  You should trust his interest in you.  If you don’t, there’s probably something wrong.  If you value yourself, you will find someone who values you as well.  And if he values you, he won’t leave you wondering if he’s going to call.

3.  You respect him.  The best relationships contain a note of mutual awe.  You think your partner is pretty darned terrific – and he returns the compliment.

Happy partnerships are a bit mysterious – they are secret clubs, with only two members.  We don’t know what Napoleon saw in Josephine, or Gertrude saw in Alice B, or John saw in Yoko – but these famous partners were clearly fascinated with their spouses, and their fascination was returned.

A mature, respectful relationship between equals might seem pretty dull stuff compared to the headlong thrill of worshipping a parent-object like a child.

Yes, it is a bit calmer.  Far less drama.

But believe me, it has its pleasures.

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By all accounts, anyone who knew John Lennon learned to expect the unexpected – and sometimes the unpleasant.  That’s just how John was.

One minute soft and tender.  In a blink, harsh and cruel – with a legendary acid wit that didn’t seem quite as witty when it was turned on you.

The man who wrote “Imagine” could also write a song called “How Do You Sleep” and address it to his oldest friend.

Lennon was an example of the borderline pattern – a very common pattern of behavior that shows up, to some degree, in most people.  A therapist I used to work with defined borderline as “he loves you…he hates you…he loves you…he hates you,”  and that might still be the best definition I’ve heard so far.

The borderline pattern is simply an emotional gyration between vulnerability and rage.  One minute you’re opening up and seeking love – the next you’ve clamped down the defenses and launched deadly missiles.

In Lennon’s case, it isn’t difficult to see the basis for the pattern.  All Lennon fans know the familiar facts:

The father, Freddie, deserted the family when John was an infant.  The mother, Julia, warm and loving, if emotionally immature and a bit unstable, raised the boy for a few short years.  When John was barely kindergarten age, Julia, unable to balance her own life with the responsibilities of parenting, left John with her stuffy, emotionally distant sister, Aunt Mimi.  Julia re-emerged as a larger presence in John’s life when he started his early teens, playing the role of an adored, playful older sister more than a mother…only to be killed suddenly when John was 18, struck down by a drunk driver.

The pattern is hard to miss:  abandonment to nurturing to abandonment – back and forth and back and forth.  Lennon lost his father, but had his mother.  Then lost his mother.  Then had his mother again.  Then lost her again.  She adored him, but couldn’t keep him – so back he went to Aunt Mimi.  Then she adored him again, but died suddenly, leaving him utterly bereft and as afraid to trust love in any form as he longed for the love he’d once cherished.

All this set up a gyration from seeking love, and opening up emotionally – to closing down, spitting sharp put-downs, and even violent, often drunken, outbursts.

The borderline pattern is usually handed from parent to child.  The parent exhibits this switch from one extreme to the other, and the child, attempting to adapt in response, begins to gyrate, too.  In Lennon’s case, the events of his childhood were extreme, involving actual abandonment and the sudden death of a parent – so his pattern was particularly severe.  By all accounts, John could be a very difficult person to deal with.  His son Julian makes that clear in describing his few memories of his father, and even Sean, who barely knew his father, described him as having a strong temper and behaving unpredictably – affectionate sometimes, cruel and angry at others.  The man who wrote “All You Need is Love” was indeed warm and loving and sincere and idealistic.  He could also be vicious.  That was the fearful child in John, fighting, unconsciously, to survive in a world fraught with the peril of abandonment and betrayal.

The best approach to the borderline pattern in psychotherapy is to model stability.  The therapist becomes a stable object.  Every week, the same thing – safe and predictable, and utterly unlike the patient’s childhood world.

If I worked with John Lennon, I would seek meticulously to be the same stable object each and every time he saw me.  I would let him know I welcomed his anger just as I welcomed all his emotions, so long as he put everything into words instead of going into action on unexplored feeling.  I would make certain he never received a response from me other than acceptance and support.  The goal at all times would be to flatten out the gyrations – to offer a Middle Path, the path of the Buddha, the path of moderation.

Just like Pavlov’s dogs, you tend to make predictions based upon your past experiences with the people in your life.  That’s all John Lennon was doing.  He knew the world was not to be trusted because it had betrayed him, cruelly, when he was a child.

But, as they say on Wall Street, past performance is no guarantee of future return.

I would make sure Lennon knew I wasn’t like the people in his childhood.  I would be there, the same old People’s Therapist, each and every time – offering support and understanding.

Perhaps that’s what Yoko, his second wife, was able to bring.  She did appear to offer a measure of serenity in his final years.

Of course we’ll never know the man John Lennon might have become.  Or how learning to moderate the gyrations that unconsciously governed his behavior for so long might have affected his genius as a songwriter.

We are all poorer for that loss.

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