Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin: Ritual of Connection

I have always loved Nicole Kidman and her ability to portray so many different types of people. She is a lot like Penelope Cruz, another favorite of mine; in that neither are afraid of experimenting and both have been involved in productions from different countries. This week I was reading an article on the Huffington Post, where she was being interviewed about her marriage which is celebrating its twelth anniversary. She mentioned that she and Keith [Urban] do not text to talk to one another, because of all the misunderstandings that were obvious to them from the onset. As she went on, she noted that they have a phrase “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin,” is their only way of communication with each other. I thought this sounded very sweet and touching and something I wanted to share with the couples that I work with.

I have been taking continuing education with the Gottman couples trainings and use this method when working with my couples. We talk about Turning Towards Each Other, rather than away from one another when communicating is taking place. Voice to voice, you may not look at each other (except as Nicole noted when they do Facetime) but you are clearly hearing and participating in that moment. Of course, it is possible to Stonewall (and be on your computer at the same time) but then your partner would pick up on this very easily. When you are texting to someone it is very anti-social and disrespectful of someone (this is me not the Gottman trainings talking). The person is not there on the other end at the exact moment that you send the text. You can’t feel them, hear them, see them (other than a photo), or even sense them. You can misinterpret them and I have found that it is easy for my client’s to be stalked by their partners in this way. Usually this is noted when they tell me that he “blew up my phone.” When I first heard this, I have to confess, I thought maybe their battery had died from too much usage on the phone. But kidding aside, this is not an intimate form of communication. It is a cop out, when it comes to communication.

If you want your relationship to last, you can’t take it for granted and so you must value this investment and continue to work on it. The most important thing I have found is building an “Emotional Connection,” with your partner because A. Women are turned on by this and aren’t likely to stray, B. You begin to know each other more deeply, which causes you to feel you can trust and depend on the other person, and C. You are developing a “We” instead of an “I.” The last one always gets my goat. If I hear one partner saying “I am going away this weekend for vacation,” I will say “Aren’t you taken your wife/husband?” naturally they will say “Well, yeah,” so I say then I think you meant to say “We are going away…” and talk to them about the importance of respect in a relationship.

Look at the difference between Nicole Kidman’s marriage to Tom and now to Keith. I went through my young adult years with the first two (I don’t know much about Keith Urban) and always remembered how sad and detached Nicole and Tom looked in photos. I don’t think I ever saw them smile – together. Sure, Tom always had that Hollywood smile whenever taking photos and he pushed it out there even when he was next to Nicole on the carpet (though it never seemed quite as authentic as his Risky Business or Top Gun smile). Nicole never once, that I recall, ever really had more then a grin on her face. It was because of this that I was not at all surprised when they got a divorce. Now, I don’t think I have seen one photo of her and Keith, where they don’t look like they’ve just had “Skin to Skin” right before they walked out onto the carpet. I’ve heard Keith Urban interviewed saying that he feels like she is still his girlfriend after twelve years. This tells me that they keep their relationship fresh and are invested in a quality relationship. I once read Nicole stating in an interview that she thought it was romantic to see a cemetery plot with the couple buried next to each other and imagining what a delightful marriage they must have had. It seems morbid in a way but it shows the depth that she was hoping for in a man. Someone she would be with until the end. I don’t think there will be any question whether these two will last forever.

What type of play are your creating in your relationship? How are you keeping the marriage alive or exciting? Maybe you aren’t worth millions and globetrotting around the world (though this makes it way more difficult than balancing a budget and raising a couple of kids), you actually have an easier opportunity to make your relationship last. What can you do for fun? Riding bikes as a family (or couple), hiking together, praying together, cooking together, taking a bath together (as a couple of course), etc… These are what we call Rituals of Connection (or Creating Shared Meaning), one of the “The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work,” by Dr. Gottman. Rituals are those sacred moments in your family’s life that are created by the two of you for your relationship and for your kids. Having a motto such as “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin” is a Ritual of Connection. It is an intimate boundary that this couple has created that they won’t steer away from because it has kept them together for twelve years.

Texting is not intimate and it was created for emergencies, not for relationships. There was a time when we did not have cellular technology, and even a time we didn’t have pagers (or telephones). We have taken advantage of texting and it has caused our world to become anti-social. People are out in the real world less and less and when they are there, they are on their phones. Another thing that gets my goat is seeing people at a natural park and they have their heads down, staring at their phones or are taking some darn “selfie” because they are not capable of “stopping to smell the roses.” Life is a challenge which you must undertake and if you make the choice to have someone by your side, respect them, love them, nourish them and for heaven sakes, communicate with them [LIVE]!

 

Stop and smell the roses,
taste the nectar of sweet.
Peel back the petals,
tickle your feet!

Take a walk amongst the flowers,
place blue bonnets in your hair,
Sing songs of he love’s me not,
two step with the air!

Stop and smell the roses,
Spend some time,
Tend to your bushes,
Pay no mind.

As you walk amongst the flowers,
peer down at your feet.
There’s no time to smell the roses
when you’re six feet deep. 

Hershe Moore

 

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The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive – Stephen Fry

This is such a deeply, insightful documentary about the struggles a person goes through with Bi-Polar. It will go down a more tragic path as the film continues walking through these dark corridors into the psyche of various persons with this diagnosis. In between you hear from various psycho-professionals who treat this disorder. When he says “We do love our manic periods,” this is something I have heard many times from various clients or people I have known. In fact, this is the infamous stage when these people often do not believe they need medication because they are feeling themselves again. This is normal for a Bi-polar and one of the symptoms – not wanting to take their “meds.” It is normal because they don’t want to feel abnormal, which is what the medications cause them to feel.

It is important that he added the genetic aspect to this mental illness. Evidently the DNA researchers he went to and the brain scans don’t show a link from that perspective. However, research does seem to show that it runs in the family. I see this all the time with people and in fact, if they tell me they have it (from reading something online and w/o a diagnosis) but seem to have no family mental illness, I become suspicious. Generally, I will ask people if they ever had a “Crazy Aunt Sally,” or a family member who disappeared for awhile or who was known to be a little off. This is how I can find a possible mental illness connection. In the past, people might have been locked up or family would have joked about it (to avoid discussing the reality). I ask this with all my clients when doing a family history, not just people who’ve been reading about diagnoses online. Most people think “mood swings” mean they are Bi-Polar and generally these are people in their young twenties who are going through a difficult period in early adult hood or even teenagers who are frustrated with their family life.

I was pretty shocked to hear Stephen Fry say, at the end, that he hasn’t been on medications since his first diagnosis many years prior to making this film. Apparently, the end of Part 1 made him realize he should re-think this. What I think is very important is to have a psychological evaluation if you believe your child has some serious mental health issues to find a diagnosis. Then, I think it is important to re-test and get a new psychological evaluation when that same person is an adult. This is because it is often difficult to be sure about childhood mental illness (sometimes psychological professionals have a “go to” diagnosis) and because you test differently as an adult and you are a little more aware of yourself and your symptoms.  If you DO have a mental illness, you should have a psychiatrist that prescribes and monitors your medications (NOT a primary care physician). A psychiatrist specializes in mental illness, a PCP does not. This is why they are called a “general” practitioner. This also can prohibit being wrongly diagnosed and going through an even longer series of trials and tribulations with medications. I have heard stories of a family doctor asking five or six questions and then labeling the person with a diagnosis. A psychological evaluation is generally three sessions and ends up with a 13 page report based on the conclusions from the tests that were run. The “psych eval” as I call it, includes input from your psychotherapist, family, and other support people involved in the child or adults life. Another reason to go to a psychiatrist is that sometimes they will have psychotherapists on staff who partner with them. If not, it is best that you find a psychotherapist who specializes in your mental illness.

 

Stephen Fry has also made a Part II of this documentary, also available on YouTube and I have also seen a “Ten Years Later” after the making of this film.

Social Services – Did you ask the children, alone?

Before the police informed us that Jennifer Hart was the one with her foot on the accelerator I already knew from this photo it was her. When the story first broke, this was one of the photos we were shown and it hit me immediately. I could see the narcissistic tendencies begging to be shown as if to say “Look at me!” She is leaning forward asking for the most attention while her partner is leaning back, wanting less of the light. Her brood of four (out of six are under her) and you can see the command she holds over them. Sure you might say, it is easy for me to say now that we know all the details.

I am an ex-social worker with eight years at CPS (Childrens Protective Services) in California. Now I work in private practice and specialize in working with victims and survivors of emotional abuse (from a Narcissistic parent or partner). I always tell my clients and I will say this about Jennifer Hart as well. I am not diagnosing your parent or partner (or Jennifer). I am just saying that it sounds like this person has narcissistic tendencies. It is not ethical to diagnose someone we have not met. Most often my clients come in and tell me their parent or partner is narcissistic based on what they read online. I always check their stories out by looking for the tell tale signs. The language of the perpetrator (they all seem to use the same phrases, like they all speak Narcissistic French), the walking on eggshells of the victim, it is always the victims fault and the perpetrator is never sorry or never takes responsibility. The victim/survivor has lost their sense of self after years of emotional abuse and being told it is their fault and trying desperately to make their parent or partner right or hold them up on a pedestal of some sort. Sometimes there is violence and this usually occurs when the narcissistic person has been pushed up against the wall (metaphorically) by their pathology by the victim or in Jennifer Harts case, her perceived threat of her ego by CPS. The violence happens to re-assert their power.

These perpetrators have been working on their externalized stories and behaviors since early childhood, sometimes even infancy.

In this case though, what bugs me even more is whether or not CPS even spoke to these six children, ALONE. In the last article I read, which came from the New York Times  they mention the reports from CPS being released in court. I see in this article where CPS spoke to the parents but I see know mention of speaking to the children. Maybe they did and it is not shown here but it begs the question.

The reason I speculate this lack of efficiency is that these children, we have been told in several articles, had no problems going to teachers or complete strangers (neighbors they did not know personally). One photo shows the little boy going up to a police officer in “the famous photo.” Why was he crying that day? People had all kinds of comments about this before he was killed but now, looking back, why was he crying to a police officer? The children, we have been told, went to these neighbors asking for food. They told these people that they were being starved or abused. In the NY Times article the teachers have stated that they got tired of telling CPS because of the retaliation that the children would face as a result of their home visits. This again begs the question: “Did CPS ever speak to any of these six children alone?” They should have spoken with all of them alone and even separately. I am not just saying that because now we know they are dead. I am saying this because this is their JOB.

Obviously a parent or caregiver is not going to say “Sure, I beat my kids,” or “Sure, I starve my children when they are bad,” or “Yeah, I have sex with my children.” This is the reason you always talk to the children alone. You talk to them at school, you talk to them in their bedrooms or take them for a walk outside their home or sit in your car. Anything to get them away from their parents ears and give the child a chance to feel as if they are not going to be in trouble. Then, you don’t go back and tell the parents, “Well your kids said …” and walk out the door.

In this case, the parents (according to NY Times reports of CPS statements) punished their children for having a penny in their pocket and lying about where they got it. The kids were punished for five hours (forced to lay on their beds) for lying about eating all the pizza. What made me think again of the narcissistic behaviors was this statement:

In a 2011 episode, Hannah told a school nurse that she had not eaten. Jennifer Hart then became angry and shoved a banana and nuts into the child’s mouth. When confronted about this, Sarah Hart argued that Hannah was “playing the food card” and should just be given water.

All of this is serious neglect because it is out of the ordinary or unusual punishment. The paragraph above screams out narcissistic language, but all alone would not. However, most people in our profession don’t put a lot of their attention on the subject of narcissism. What she was doing here was shutting her adopted daughter up for what she said, to keep her from speaking again. What her partner was doing was placating her partner (agreeing with her to save their marriage). Sarah, however long she had been with Jennifer, had learned to keep the peace by keeping her happy.

So why, with all these reports, with Jennifer taking the six children out of school and then home-schooling (to have more control), did CPS never take the children out of the home in three states? It still begs the question – Did CPS ever talk to the children alone? If so, why didn’t they believe them? It is pretty rare that a child is going to lie when confronted by an authority figure and in this case, they had already gone to someone who made a report to CPS. They were brave kids, begging for help and no one ever did anything to help them except the mandated reporters and neighbors.

Hint: This is the reason CPS, that mandated reporters and neighbors often don’t report, because they see you are not doing anything about it. Hint: To mandated reporters and neighbors, don’t give up because you are starting a paper trail and eventually CPS will do their job when their hand is forced. AND, if it is not too late.

In my practice, here in Ohio, so many times my clients (who are adults now but some who are still children and had dealings with social services) tell me they never once spoke to the social worker. I often hear “They spoke to my parent,” or “They spoke to me in front of my parent (s).” One young person said to me “What is a social worker?” when I explained this they said “I never spoke to anyone.” I of course spoke to the social worker about this and made it clear that they needed to speak to the child, alone. What are they afraid of? If the social worker is intimidated by the parent, parents, or caregiver, call your supervisor and ask for support or contact the police and ask for them to “keep the peace.” I found you often had to tell the police exactly what they were supposed to do, even though they collaborated with us all the time. Sorry, I am not bashing them but that is what we had to do. Social workers get intimidated by these calls that they make, when confronted by the perpetrator. They are not policemen and are not always strong or street smart and sometimes are newbies.

In this case, there was mention of Jennifer drinking. Narcissism is a character trait of addictions. Obviously, since their only priority is getting a fix (drink or drug). Ironically, the last photo of Jennifer is in a convenience store buying food (bananas – again bananas – it appears) and two other items which I can’t make out from a video surveillance camera. She has a look of disdain on her face. Unlike the other photos of her, where she is aware she is getting publicity that she wants, she is unkempt (like most people are these days). She is not wearing a bra, she doesn’t have her hair fixed nicely, she has her hand in her pants (to feel secure when you feel insecure). CPS had now been trailing them for three states. She had the kids in home schooling but still they were onto her. It sounds as if the day or days before (the murder) the car was in the driveway but no one answered the door. You can’t knock the door down or even have the police go in unless of course there is perceived danger at that moment. They might have called out a “health and safety check” which the police do when you know they are there and not answering the door.

In all these states mandated reporters were doing their jobs. The neighbors were being a “village” and protecting the children in their own defenseless ways and calling CPS and making anonymous reports. Still nothing happened.

Narcissistic violence is generally spontaneous, not planned out. When I hear clients talk about these scenarios where they had confronted the perpetrator, it is an act on the victims part of standing up for themselves or saying the truth but not expecting it to have any effect on the perpetrator. Usually they would hear “You don’t know what you are talking about,” or some other type of criticism. In these circumstances where violence occurs, the victim continues to push the button (or in this case, CPS doesn’t give up). Violence can be accidental even, such as throwing something and it happens to hit the victim. They could be pushing the victim and they fall down and hit their head on the corner of a table or dresser. Spontaneity means it is not pre-meditated and so they haven’t planned the attack.

In this case, I am reminded (as many adult survivors of abuse can recall) of my parent slamming on the breaks to get us to behave. There were instances of pulling the car over so they could effectively reach back and slap you or wail on you if it was really an annoying behavior. But, Jennifer stopped the car and then here is what I imagine. My theory is she made some last remarks to the children that probably sounded like this “If it weren’t for you…, I have had it with you kids. This is all your fault.” Then with all her self-centered egotistical pride she pushed down on the gas and let it rip.

For all of you, who, like me focus on the “Why didn’t they open the car door and jump out?” The children and partner were probably too paralyzed in the moment to do anything because they were in shock those brief seconds and then it was too late. If they could live to tell us, they would probably say “It all happened so fast.”

 

Special Note: I have since been given a copy of a report that was put together by OR CPS. This was thanks to another social worker who read this article. Yes, they did in fact talk to the children alone (in this state) but still felt compelled to say “insufficient evidence.” I have since shown it to another social worker whom I once worked with. It is hard to understand what another social worker is thinking or know how much experience they have had in the field or how much training they received (or what their degree is). Hard for me to read the mother stating that she held the child’s head under water, while the other mother helped and think “insufficient evidence.” This is an inappropriate punishment for a little girl. She admitted this. Along with other information given above, there were countless reasons why these parents needed the children removed, court involvement and then decide whether or not they should be returned. Yes, they spoke with the children alone but as the Minnesota teachers said, every time they contacted CPS, the children suffered more abuse. By the time they got to Oregon, they probably weren’t quite eager to talk to someone who wasn’t listening. Obviously OR wasn’t. The children didn’t even admit to the abuse that they had already told people before, which the social worker new about, as it is stated that they did in the report. This would have been a red flag for me. But reading this entire report, about 13 pages and then seeing the conclusion, I am dumbfounded that the children weren’t removed for that report alone.