Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: psychology

The Therapist of the Blogosphere

If you’ve ever been to a therapist’s office, you’ve probably had a similar experience.   You sit on the comfortable chair or couch, and tell the therapist that you have a problem.

“What is the problem?” the therapist asks.

“My problem is THIS,” you answer.

The therapist writes something in his notebook.  Since you have openly and eagerly said that your problem is THIS, he knows that there is a 99% chance that your real problem is not THIS, but THAT, and his job is to help you see THAT.

Remember THAT.

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Paul O’Flaherty writes a sarcastic blog about the internet.  He recently wrote a post titled “You’re An Attention Whore and You Know It.”

His basic thesis is this:

“The real reason we blog, twitter, podcast and vidcast is because we are all narcissistic egomaniacs / attention whores / desperately seeking recognition.”

OK, fair enough.  But I disagreed with his thesis, and he challenged me to write a response.

At first glance, his thesis makes sense, especially after last week’s dramas.  First, in the “real” world, there was that ridiculous, overblown balloon boy scam, a desperate attempt at attention.  Closer to home, there was a blogger friend who apparently made up a controversial story to “get attention” from the competitive mommyblogging community, angering many others.   Clearly, we are all attention whores, right?

I was close to agreeing with Paul, when I read the comments on his “Attention Whore” post.

“Guilty as charged. I just want the fifteen minutes that Andy Warhol promised me. No more, no less.  OK, I might want more,” wrote the first commenter.

“Hey, I like attention as much as the next girl and I flat out admit that. And if somewhere along the line someone wants to give me some decent free crap, you can bet I’m grabbing that up too.   Attention and free crap rocks my world,” said another.

Even Paul himself jumped in.

“No irony – I’m as big an attention whore as the next blogger :) LOL,”  he said.

That’s when the red flag went up.  Why is everyone so freely saying that they are an attention whore?   Isn’t anyone ashamed of saying so?    That’s when it became clear to me, that in our current day, attention whoring is not so bad.   We see it as a positive trait, until someone gets caught lying, and then we all jump on them for ruining the party.    We live in a society where loud voices and controversy sells.   Most of our leaders are attention whores.  Successful bloggers are attention whores, and end up at conferences teaching others how to be effective attention whores.  Attention whoring is a skill set that most of us would be proud to put on our resume, under “Knowing Photoshop.”  We are proud of saying we are attention whores.

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Remember the therapist’s office?  Imagine I am the Therapist of the Blogosphere. You have just walked into my office.

“What is the problem?” I ask.

“I am an attention whore,” you answer, feeling confident that you know yourself well, and will only need a few sessions to clear up any of your issues.”

That is the moment when I start writing in my notebook.

“The issue is NOT attention-whoring.”

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As a trained blog therapist, I have an acute sensibility to others.  When I read through my daily blogs, tweets, and Facebook updates, I do not feel attention-whoring jumping out at me from the other side of the screen.  That is a word without any emotional content.  I sense loneliness, fear, uncertainty, anxiety, the need for comfort and hope, and the yearning for love.  I see this deeply-felt energy of loss and wanting everywhere I go, on every blog, in V-grrrl, Dooce, Perez Hilton, and Guy Kawasaki.   No one will admit this because these are not traits we want to put on our resumes, or write on a blog comments.  We are ashamed of our weaknesses.   We are afraid of being taken advantage of by others.

But these are the key components of blogging.

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When anyone comes into my blogger’s therapy office and says that they are an “attention whore,” I immediately open my notebook and write “fearful.”

Baby Steps

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A few of you emailed me recently asking me how my therapy was going.  I was embarrassed to reveal that I was still dragging my feet about the whole thing.  I’m not sure what was holding me back.   Fear?  Anxiety?  Talking about my marriage?  SPENDING MONEY to talk with someone, when I can just talk to you FOR FREE?

Today, I decided it was time to act.  It was time to contact a therapist.   A blogger/friend recommended someone in West LA.  I emailed this therapist.  I told her a bit about my issues, such as my fear of rejection.

Tonight, I received an email back from her, saying she was too busy to see me and was rejecting me as a client.

Now with added clarification:  50% true!

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthBe of Good Cheer

I’m Not Horney!

Sophia saw my last two posts about the beds and thought the idea was pretty dumb.  She also thinks it is not going to “kill me” if I wait a few more weeks for her to come back to Los Angeles.

“Besides, we’re separated.  Just because you moved back in for now doesn’t mean we’re together again.  So, you know what that means.  We can sleep in the same bed, but I’m not sure it is a good idea…”

“But…”

A few minutes ago, Sophia emailed me a photo from New York as a gag, taken with her cameraphone on the street.  I think it is supposed to be funny because I tried to make her feel guilty by telling her I was “horny.”

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(close-up)

However, I don’t think Sophia knows how accurate she was with this photo.  As a graduate of a fancy college, I actually KNOW who Karen Horney is — one of the most famous psychotherapists, known for her theory of neurosis.

Horney’s theory is perhaps the best theory of neurosis we have. First, she offered a different way of viewing neurosis. She saw it as much more continuous with normal life than previous theorists. Specifically, she saw neurosis as an attempt to make life bearable, as a way of “interpersonal control and coping.” This is, of course, what we all strive to do on a day-to-day basis, only most of us seem to be doing alright, while the neurotic seems to be sinking fast.

I haven’t spoke to Sophia yet.  Do you think she is saying I am too horny OR that I am too neurotic, aka Horney?  Or both?

Here is a list of Horney’s “neurotic needs.”  It is scary how many of them I have. 

What about you?

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Karen Horney

The neurotic needs are as follows:

1. The neurotic need for affection and approval, the indiscriminate need to please others and be liked by them.

2. The neurotic need for a partner, for someone who will take over one’s life. This includes the idea that love will solve all of one’s problems. Again, we all would like a partner to share life with, but the neurotic goes a step or two too far.

3. The neurotic need to restrict one’s life to narrow borders, to be undemanding, satisfied with little, to be inconspicuous. Even this has its normal counterpart. Who hasn’t felt the need to simplify life when it gets too stressful, to join a monastic order, disappear into routine, or to return to the womb?

4. The neurotic need for power, for control over others, for a facade of omnipotence. We all seek strength, but the neurotic may be desperate for it. This is dominance for its own sake, often accompanied by a contempt for the weak and a strong belief in one’s own rational powers.

5. The neurotic need to exploit others and get the better of them. In the ordinary person, this might be the need to have an effect, to have impact, to be heard. In the neurotic, it can become manipulation and the belief that people are there to be used. It may also involve a fear of being used, of looking stupid. You may have noticed that the people who love practical jokes more often than not cannot take being the butt of such a joke themselves!

6. The neurotic need for social recognition or prestige. We are social creatures, and sexual ones, and like to be appreciated. But these people are overwhelmingly concerned with appearances and popularity. They fear being ignored, be thought plain, “uncool,” or “out of it.”

7. The neurotic need for personal admiration. We need to be admired for inner qualities as well as outer ones. We need to feel important and valued. But some people are more desperate, and need to remind everyone of their importance — “Nobody recognizes genius,” “I’m the real power behind the scenes, you know,” and so on. Their fear is of being thought nobodies, unimportant and meaningless.

8. The neurotic need for personal achievement. Again, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with achievement — far from it! But some people are obsessed with it. They have to be number one at everything they do. Since this is, of course, quite a difficult task, you will find these people devaluing anything they cannot be number one in! If they are good runners, then the discus and the hammer are “side shows.” If academic abilities are their strength, physical abilities are of no importance, and so on.

9. The neurotic need for self-sufficiency and independence. We should all cultivate some autonomy, but some people feel that they shouldn’t ever need anybody. They tend to refuse help and are often reluctant to commit to a relationship.

10. The neurotic need for perfection and unassailability. To become better and better at life and our special interests is hardly neurotic, but some people are driven to be perfect and scared of being flawed. They can’t be caught making a mistake and need to be in control at all times.

Eager to Please

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Thank you to those of you who sent me emails with advice on therapy.  I haven’t taken any action yet, but since this is my blog, I figured I can start my therapy already — right here with all of you.

Therapy – Day One

I feel an urge to please people.  It’s not a terrible trait.  If you met me, you would probably think I was a decent enough guy.  But I hate the feeling of NOT pleasing someone.  It makes me anxious.  Sophia has made fun of me about this for years.  For instance,  if I suggest that a group of friends go to a restaurant, and that restaurant ends up sucking, I feel responsibility.  I need to apologize to everyone, as if I cooked the meal.

Despite my charming demeanor, most of my women readers would hate to be with me in bed.  I’m the type who won’t leave you alone after sex:

“Did you have an orgasm?  Are you sure you had an orgasm?  Do you want me to try again?  You don’t blame me, do you?   I’ll try again if you want.   I’ll try to give you two orgasms next time.  Is that fair?”

Even now, anxious thoughts of pleasing my readers are at the forefront. 

“This post sucks.  My readers are getting bored.  In a second, they’re gonna move over to Brandon’s site.  I better say something funny… and quick.” 

The last week was a tough one for me and blogging.  A different blogger seemed to be upset at me every day.  Was I too flippant when I joked about psychological conditions when I wrote about therapy?   Maybe I shouldn’t have put a photo of a woman’s prison movie when writing about Blogher.  To top it off, I got a nice anti-Semitic email today, although I doubt it was from a regular reader.  (unless it was Brooke?)

Uh-oh, now she’s gonna be pissed.

Really, I just want people to be happy and to like me.   I like when people like me.

That is until I get some real therapy and learn to get some balls, so I don’t have to give a shit anymore about what ANY of you think.

Only kidding.  Ha Ha.  Only kidding!   I love you.

 

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthKissing

Know Thyself…Very Little

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In the early days of my blogging "career," I was jealous of those who were asked by another blogger to do a "meme."   I used to ask myself:

"Why wasn’t I asked to do a "meme?"  Am I so unloved?  Doesn’t anyone want to learn more about me?"

I was ecstatic when I got  my first meme.  Finally, somebody cared!

Until then, I never had trouble writing a post.  But with the meme, I stared at the screen for an hour.  It was difficult for me to do.  It was like writing an essay for college admissions.

Since then, I’ve been offered other memes.   I’m hoping no one has noticed that I never actually do them.  I’ve only done that first one.  I hope you don’t think me snobbish, as if I’m too proud to answer your question about what type of underwear I wear.  I love reading your memes.  I love learning more about you.  But when I try to do one, I just break out in hives.

I’ve thought about my reasons, and I’ve concluded that I have a "fear of memes."   I’m afraid of memes because they require that I answer questions about myself.  

And in all honesty, I don’t know myself very well.

Here are some typical meme questions:

What is my favorite movie?  It really depends on my mood or who I’m watching it with.  Sometimes I watch a movie I thought I loved, like Star Wars, and the movie seems incredibly cheesy.

If I were a fruit, which fruit would I be?  Do any of you actually think about this shit?  I may have once harbored a fantasy of fucking the Chiquita Banana lady, but I’ve never dreamt about being the banana.

What’s in your bedroom closet?  I stuff my closet with dirty laundry.  I never open the doors.

Maybe I need to force myself to do these memes.  Maybe they will make me understand myself better.  Maybe I can use these memes as a cheap way to get some therapy.

A few years back, I did see a therapist.   It was, in fact, Sophia’s therapist.  At the time, Sophia was seeing Doris, a sixty-ish woman, a former schoolteacher, who always wore tweed, which is odd-looking in Los Angeles.  Sophia suggested that I see my own therapist.  I told her that I had no idea on how to find a therapist.  Soon, Sophia was seeing Doris on Tuesday and I was visiting Doris on Wednesday. 

Seeing the same therapist was a disaster.   Sophia and I would complain about each other to Doris, and then press this poor women to tell us what the other one had said behind his/her back.

"Whatever Sophia told you, was a lie," I used to tell Doris.

Our arguments at home grew more intense:

"I don’t care what you say.  Doris told me that I shouldn’t cave in to you.  That’s I’m too passive with you."

"Oh, well, Doris told me that I should stand my ground.  And that you manipulate me with your guilt."

"Why don’t we just call Doris and find out who’s lying?!"

Eventually, Doris said our arrangement wasn’t working.  She dumped me, since Sophia was her client before I was.   Doris suggested that I see her son-in-law, Josh, who just graduated from UCLA and was doing his "required hours" to become a licensed therapist.

My time with Josh was worse than with Doris.   I was his very first client.   He looked twenty years old.  I had this feeling that he had never been on a date before.  How was he going to give me any marital advice?

Like many inexperienced people trying to fake it, he overcompensated by doing everything by the book.  He sat there silently and wrote notes, like he must have seen therapists do in the movies.  I would get so bored just talking to him, like I was on a really bad date.  Sometimes, I would try to coax him into conversation:

"Surely you’ve had this same problem with women.  Right, Josh?"

He always gave the same stock answer.

"We’re here to talk about you, not me."

Because I did all the talking, I became anxious that I wasn’t interesting enough for him.  On the way to his office, I would jot down little notes and jokes, hoping that I would somehow amuse him.  But he never smiled.

One day, I was in an Italian restaurant in Westwood, and I saw Josh, eating alone at his table.  I started going over to say hello, but he turned away from me, ignoring me.  Later, he explained that it wasn’t a good policy for a therapist to interact with a client out of the office. 

Gradually, I began to question the sanity of my own therapist, especially after I found out that he was visiting a therapist himself five times a week.  Not only that, but it was a lot of work to come up with new material to entertain him all the time.

I hope this gives you some insight into why I have a problem doing those memes.   The questions are too difficult for me.  I just never had a good therapist and still don’t know who I am. 

But please continue sending them my way.  I really do appreciate it — even if I never do them.

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