Posts

Fiddling with the State of Being (Dr. Paddy Ducklow)

I grew up in a home where alcohol ingestion was done compulsively. I discovered as a child that the drinking compulsion is an equal opportunity phenomenon – both my Mom and Dad were serious imbibers. I also learned that my parents and their friends formed an alcohol-conscious community where successful parties were granted the status of “great” by the quantity imbibed and the consequent sexualization of intimacies.

My parents were trained in drinking by the Canadian Forces during WW2 when service men and women had their pleasures subsidized by the government. I am reminded of this each and every November 11th and sometimes I stop to tell the “poppy people” why I am not buying their red and black lapel flowers while I stride righteously into the liquor store.

Over the years I have had lots of addicts of various sorts in my practice. I prefer to call them “obsessive fiddlers with states of being” – it sounds less prejudicial than “addicts” though that is what some of them are. These fine folk and friends have been compulsed by all sorts of obsessions: being happy, being right, being perfect, being taken care of, being in love, being admired, and the list goes on. (Perhaps making lists is a compulsion too?) And then they act these ideas out with predictable behaviours: drinking and drugging are common but so is arguing and defending and mean-spirited criticism. I especially dislike it when addicts pretend the moral high ground (e.g. “You are a bad person and I am busy being good or right,” or “I wouldn’t drink if you didn’t criticize me so much.”).

I often hear of sexual addictions as well. These are usually requests for affirmation and attention where the behaviours involve a moving computer image and a few square inches of genital flesh. What these folk want most often is some ordinary passion and some affection directed in their way. At least that is what heals them (mostly men) more than “Just Say No” mouse pads.

Now… I think that there are factors that may increase risk of some kind of addiction. Here are a few for you to consider and I am thinking especially of online compulsions:

♦  Fear of relationships can lead to online compulsions. I mean real relationships not surface social contacts. And a consequential lack of other interests and social isolation – this can lead to compulsive behaviour.
♦  Pre-existing abuse or addiction can easily transfer: for example, online gambling or gaming, cybersex, or online shopping.
♦  Social anxiety or nervousness can make online interactions a very attractive alternative to face-to-face interaction and thus much more compelling.
♦  Low self-esteem, poor body image, or untreated sexual dysfunction can add to obsessions and compulsions.

What fixes this more than anything else is a little reality and a little thoughtfulness. Person-to-person honesty and care, also called empathy, works well. I have found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is really good in breaking the power of addictions and compulsions. I recommend people buy “Mind Over Mood: Change How You feel by Changing the Way You Think” by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky. It is best to work this through with a therapist and I have a copy in my office so that if you choose we can work through the harder parts together.

Dr. Paddy Ducklow is a Psychologist in Private Practice, Professor of Family Ministries at Carey Theological College at University of British Columbia, and Pastor Emeritus at CapChurch in North Vancouver. His website and blog is The Ducklows.

Blog reprinted with permission.

Laughter, the Funny Kind with Paddy Ducklow

Ducklow Banner

Ducklow Banner

There are lots of reasons to laugh. First, laughter is fun – and fun is reason enough for all of us to laugh lots.

Secondly, because non-laughers are usually boring and uptight people. The kind of people we don’t want to laugh with anyways.

Thirdly, because laughter cleans out the psycho-social pipes when things are bad.

Now you need to know that there are two kinds of laughter: “laughter, the funny kind” (LFK) and “laughter, the mean kind” (LMK). LFK brings people closer and LMK breaks, butchers and belittles that which is important.

I am talking about LFKs or “laughter, the funny kind.”

Cleaning out the pipes: You saw it in “The Bucket List” when Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson laughed until they cried. Well, they needed to laugh. They were both dying and they were leaving those who wanted them to live. (Go rent the film. You will laugh and cry and get your pipes cleaned all at once.)

The laughing contagion: Do you remember in high school when you couldn’t stop laughing and when your teacher threatened you with “whatever” (you were laughing too hard to remember) and that she began snickering too? Laughter is contagious and that is a good thing. You avoided a detention or writing lines or visiting the principal. The laughter contagion brings people together when they are opposites.

“No laughing matter”: You have heard that truism; that the severity of the situation requires solemnity or reverence or some other form of sadness. However, authorities from the Bible to Reader’s Digest remind us that “laughter is the best medicine.” A best-selling Norman Cousins book and a popular Robin Williams film, “Patch Adams,” teaches us that laughter might even heal people. Still, even if you die, laughter is the best way to go. It’s called “dying well.” It’s a funny way to go.

Getting unstuck: Unsolvable problems are usually better solved through laughter than “serious, urgent, important” strategies (“SUI” sounds like a pig call doesn’t it?). If your life has 20% problems and you invest 80% of your resources in strategies like problem solving, worrying about things, and “daring to discipline,” well, you are likely to add to the unsolvability of it all. Makes you want to laugh. Or cry.

“So what’s this all got to do with sex?” you asked.

Good question. Of course if you have looked at yourself naked recently, laughing is way better than crying!

And if you think about orgasms, erections, the “missionary” position, all that wetness, well, it is pretty funny isn’t it?

And of course, all orgasms don’t call for the “Hallelujah Chorus!” (That’s a joke.)

“So, a guy walks into a bar…”


ducklowsDr. Paddy Ducklow, Psychologist

www.TheDucklows.ca

Paddy is the Erb-Gullison Professor of Family Studies at Carey Theological College (UBC campus) and is in private practice doing marriage, family and sex therapy.

The Body Song

This past week, I had the privilege of introducing my family to Paddy and Carole Ducklow.  Back in the 60’s, when my parents left Texas to move up to Canada, Dad met Paddy in graduate school and they began a life-long friendship. My father wrote his first book in the basement of their home. He logged countless hours sitting out on their deck drinking beer and debating life, the universe and everything. Paddy flew to Texas to attend his funeral.

As a child, I have many memories of the Ducklow’s being a part of our lives. Even when the two men were living in different parts of the Lower Mainland, they always stayed connected. And then, several years before our family returned to Texas, they worked together at Burnaby Christian Fellowship. Dad was senior pastor, and Paddy was on staff as the church psychologist who ran a practice in the church.

One of the programs that they collaborated on during this time was a seminar to teach kids and their parents about the concept of “appropriate touch”. The kids and parents were split into different rooms and taught about issues surrounding personal boundaries, safety and communication. I was one of those kids, and my favourite part of the whole seminar was learning the song, My Body by Peter Alsop (which was thereinafter referred to by us simply as “the body song”).

Fast-forward 20+ years. My family is driving to the Ducklow’s house for the first time and I am explaining to my daughter about the importance of this family in my life. Having a vague memory of the body song, I decided that it would be spectacularly impressive if I could teach it to my daughter to sing for Paddy over dinner. Riley was very much into this idea (life is, after all, a musical for her) and enthusiastically embraced the task. The more we sang it, the more furrowed my husband’s brow became. He finally cleared his throat and said, “Uh, honey? I think you are not remembering that song right. I am pretty sure that’s not how it goes.” I pooh-poohed his concerns and, undaunted, Riley and I sang the song a few more times – to ensure that she really knew it.

When we arrived at Ducklow’s, the conversation inevitably turned to the body song. Actually, Eric brought it up because he was so smug in his assumption that I had the words wrong and thought it would be hilarious to see Paddy’s reaction. I was hesitant because I had an ever-growing suspicion that Eric was, unfortunately, right. Eventually, he coaxed Riley and me into singing it together.  So, in a vain attempt to prove that I was correct (or more that he was wrong) I belted out with great gusto:

My body’s nobody’s body but mine.

You touch your own body,

Let me touch mine.

There was an eerie silence that fell over the room for what was only a moment but felt like eternity.  Then the room erupted!  I thought Paddy was going to fall off the couch laughing. He fell to the side and buried his face in a pillow as he howled in laughter.  It was suddenly inherently obvious to me that I had turned a song on appropriate touch into one on mutual masturbation.

***Epic FAIL***

Later in the evening, Paddy and Riley went to the computer and drudged up the words to this 1980’s song. Thank goodness for Google!

The true version of the body song can be found here and goes like this:

My body’s nobody’s body but mine.

You run your own body,

Let me run mine.

I will admit that the correct one is a much better version for Riley to be singing out in public.  But as I am not one to be easily dismayed, I will brazenly confess that personally prefer my version…even if you’ll never hear me sing it aloud ever again.

So inn the midst of all of this personal humiliation, I figured that I should try to redeem myself by unabashedly sharing the story with everyone and using it as a teaching tool to help parents talk with their children.

Eric, however, is still laughing.