A Case Study In Dealing With Negative Emotions OR How I Coped When My Cat Barfed on My Laptop

A Case Study In Dealing With Negative Emotions   OR   How I Coped When My Cat Barfed on My Laptop

Despite my best intentions, sometimes I just don't get to everything on my To Do list. This week has been especially bad in that regard. With a sick child, a sick dog, and a laptop that is dead because my cat barfed all over it, I'm ending the week with lots of important things undone.

I've decided to take this experience as an opportunity to try to learn something about myself. So, upon reflection, I've identified the following internal experiences related to my undone tasks:

  • First up is anxiety. I'm jittery and tense. I feel a lot of impulse to be active.
  • Some of the anxiety becomes anger. That damn cat! He did this on purpose! I should take him back to the shelter. Why did everything have to go wrong at once! Why can't I ever get a break?
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Mothers and Daughters Talking About Healthy Sexuality

Last week I helped my mom recover from major surgery.  While I was caring for her, I tapped in to a lot of the feelings and actions from my relationship with my daughter.  I started thinking about the circle of life, and how I once needed her like she now needs me, and how she was the one who taught me to care for someone like this.  It got me thinking about how what I’ve learned from her.  And what I haven’t.

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Did Jimmy Carter Explain the War on Women Back in 2009?

Jimmy Carter, Nobel laureate and former president extraordinaire, has been all over the twittersphere in the past week, because he pointed out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.  All of this reminds me of the statements he made in 2009, when he broke all ties with the Southern Baptists because of their discriminatory attitude about women.  After working for many years to encourage change from within the church, he finally, figuratively threw up his hands and walked away, saying:

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities . . . [emphasis mine]

Photo by The Elders.Well, Amen, Jimmy.  Tell it like it is.  And, even better, he went on to explain that:

At the same time, I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted holy scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy . . . The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.

Sadly, even while taking such a strong stand for women’s rights, he pointed out how hard it can be to do that, especially as a politician.  His statement mentioned that he and his fellow Elders (an independent group of global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity) were in a good position to say unpopular things, since they no longer have political ambitions. 

Reading his statements again today, I started thinking, does this explain how we got to where we are now, with bipartisan debate on the never-before-controversial Violence Against Women Act, and a host of new obstacles to the legal access to birth control and abortion?  Is it because some politicians know that most Americans want leaders who have Christian values, so they grab for any handhold they can get on something that can be twisted into looking like a Christian value?  Even when there is no consensus that it really is a Christian value? Is it mainly so they have an opportunity look principled, moral, and committed (which many see as leaderly qualities) in an election year?  

What do you think about Jimmy Carter’s 2009 statements on religion and women’s rights, and how that relates to the current “war on women”? If you have some insight about why the "war on women" has arisen recently, please leave a comment!


Peg Shippert is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.  She has a deep passion for helping survivors of sexual violence.  

What You Pay For

I read an interesting post called What You Pay For, the other day on the blog What a Shrink Thinks.  While the shrink-author says many things that I take exception to, the one I’d like to deal with today is exactly what the title says:  What are you paying for when you pay a therapist or counselor (and for the record, I use the terms counseling and therapy interchangeably)? The blog author’s take on the issue seems to be that a client mainly pays to have the therapist keep their own issues out of the room.  I’ve been pondering that answer for a while now, and finding it lacking. 

Photo by Joe Houghton

In my experience as a therapist and as a therapy client, I’ve come to believe that the client pays for a lot more than someone to talk to who won’t try to get their own needs met in the conversation.  Yes, that’s an important part of therapy, and I would not want to be or to see a therapist that attempts to get their personal needs met during their clients’ sessions.  But let me add a few things to the list.  Here are some other things that I think the client (ideally, at least) should be able to expect from their therapist:

  • The therapist’s time.  Most therapists would not have time to see clients if they could not make a living at it.  They would have to go do something else for a living. 
  • A helper who knows how to help.  A therapist is not a friend or a family member or a concerned acquaintance, or anyone else who happens to be part of the client’s life when they find themselves needing help.  A therapist should have extensive training for and experience in helping people who are suffering.    
  • A commitment to the client.  I think a client should be able to rely on their therapist to stick with them.  To keep their best interests primary.  Even when the going gets tough.  Even when life events and/or the work itself makes it hard for either party. 
  • Caring.  OK, this is the part where people tend to say that therapy is like prostitution.  The client pays for the therapist to care, and if they didn’t pay, the therapist will stop caring.  I don’t see it like that.  I think that if the therapist and client agree to work together, then the therapist is making a commitment to try their very best to care for that client.  Usually it isn’t hard.  When you really try to understand another person, genuine caring typically emerges naturally.  And when it doesn’t, that lack points toward a direction for the therapy that should ultimately allow such caring to develop.  If the client stops paying after caring develops, then let me tell you that the caring doesn’t stop, even if the payments have to.

I think that the exchange of money for therapy is hard to accept (for clients and therapists both) for a couple of reasons.  First, most of the interaction in therapy is so intimate and social.  Research shows that we view money very differently in a social setting than we do in a professional setting.  Asking for money in a social setting is often quite offensive (e.g., imagine trying to pay your mother-in-law for your thanksgiving dinner at her house).  So, having a fee be part of this thing that is predominantly so social can feel just plain wrong.  However necessary it may to make the whole set up workable.

Also, I think clients can feel a certain amount of shame around not finding the help they need in their personal lives.  “I’m so pathetic that I have to pay you to listen to me, because no one else will. You wouldn’t listen either if I didn’t pay you.”  It breaks my heart whenever I hear this.  Here is where therapy most feels like prostitution, in my opinion. 

Having been both a therapist and a client, I have come to believe that this feeling is due more to shame on the client’s side, than to the willingness to listen on the therapist’s side.  As a therapist, I don’t feel like a prostitute.  Here I’m going to paint prostitutes with a probably unwarranted broad brush, and assume that they would all rather not provide the service they provide, if they had other options for acquiring similar money: As a therapist, I don’t feel like I’m giving up something that I’d rather not give up.  In fact, I feel the opposite.  I wish I could be in a position to provide therapy to whomever could benefit from my help, without regard to compensation. 

What do you think of the fee for service aspect of counseling?


Peg Shippert is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado.  She loves her work, and has a deep passion for helping survivors of sexual violence.