Insights and Healing with Patrick Moore

Quincy, a Dachshund Co-Therapist
April 9, 2018, 10:28 pm
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a fun short story of healing from my mentor Stephen

Many people have wonderful stories about their animal companions which are sometimes about how the actions of the cat, dog or another animal saved their life. Here is my story about my animal companion, Quincy, a miniature Dachshund.

Many years ago, I provided psychological counseling through private practice in my office and sometimes in my home. One day, I received a referral from a psychologist at a local school district about a male high school student. The psychologist told me that the individual was very resistant to therapy and refused to communicate in any sessions, so they decided on referring him to me.

In the first session in the home office, I briefly greeted the young high school student who sat on the couch facing me while I sat in the recliner. Quincy chose that day for the first time to climb up on my lap, with my help, and…

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Sweetwater Trail, Saguaro Nat’l Park
January 15, 2018, 7:42 pm
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A wonderful way to do “activism” is by using creative arts like painting! Betina Fink shows an excellent example of doing this in her recent post…

Betina Fink


Park lands in the western states are being threatened on a daily basis. The natural beauty and stark intensity of desert lands just aren’t important to some people in power. The land is seen as valuable only in terms of what it can give up for money: mining, uranium, rooftops.

Close to my home are the Tucson Mountains, and the Sweetwater Trail, which still has National Park status, but lots of new rooftops dotting the pristine hills. I had a free day and went to walk the washes and animal trails just off the main human trail. Found a spot to set up and do an oil sketch.


It was so peaceful, yes warm because it has been the warmest recorded temps for this time of year, regardless of what some might say. But no snakes! Just coyotes howling a little in the distance and some birds rustling about.


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Prince of Peace 1985
August 18, 2017, 11:10 pm
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I was just sharing this story with some friends last night and I thought it would be worth sharing to a larger audience..

In 1985 I went to the Prince concert, Purple Rain tour at the Tacoma Dome.

Prince of Peace 1985

The line was long getting in to the Tacoma Dome. As we moved so slowly in the line we noticed a protester carrying a sign. The sign said, “Jesus is the REAL PRINCE of peace.” I thought, that’s not such a bad protest. The guy was probably twenty or thirty feet away from us.

Years later I found out that Prince was a Jehova’s Witness. My friend John followed Prince and told me Prince would actually go out door to door just like all the other Jehova’s Witnesses. I thought that was integrity.

I remember playing a Prince album and noticing there was some garbled message at the end of the LP. I knew that some hard rock bands from the 70s had put messages recorded backwards on their albums. So I unplugged my turntable and ran the turntable backwards with my finger, to hear the message. The message was Prince singing, “I’m so glad / that the Lord / is coming soon! / Coming / Coming / soo–ooon. / Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.” I thought that was pretty clever and cool, since the 70’s bands had put satanic or demonic messages on their albums, and Prince was doing something like the opposite. Some of his songs spoke of things like “positivity,” which enhanced his value to me.

A few years ago I was telling the story of the protester at the Purple Rain concert, now with the added knowledge that Prince had been a Christian evangelist, which I didn’t know in 1985. And something occurred to me. I think the protester was Prince, in makeup and a costume so we couldn’t recognize him. I think he protested his own concert! I think he protested his own name, “Prince,” or rather he used it as a way to celebrate another Prince whom he revered far more, the Prince of Peace.

I have never read or heard anyone talk about this. But if he stood outside with a sign at the Tacoma concert, he might have done the same at other locations in his Purple Rain tour in 1984-85. Did anyone else notice a protester with this sign?

I drew this drawing to show the picture in my mind of the moment. It wasn’t actually raining. There was a lot of concrete, with the dome in the background. I was wearing a pink long sleeve button down shirt with a skinny purple tie. I had a haircut something like David Bowie on the Ziggy Stardust album cover.

30 % WHOLE Facts
June 2, 2017, 8:56 am
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My wife, writer Traci Moore at her “fun desk” this morning, made me this collage:



generously blended with


roasted and kneaded

born of century old

tradition, faithfully produced

IN A COOL DRY PLACE the Swiss Alps!

Incomparable flavor!


I believe this inspired message comes from her training in the “Wild Mind” process that she’s been learning in Alameda and will be teaching in new workshops this summer…

A Little Princess and Is the Sun Conscious? — Both Cause Identity Crisis.
October 28, 2016, 8:45 am
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Literature again meets Science meets Religion, with Eriksonian Stage-Psychology

This morning I listened to a podcast that asked the question, Is the Sun Conscious? The two scholars who spoke seemed to say, yes, it is very probable the sun is conscious, or it could be. Here is the link for the podcast but don’t listen to it yet…

I would start differently. Because we are likely to answer the question to immediately to ourselves, before we even read it. Instead I suggest you just imagine it as a thought-experiment. Like, I don’t believe the sun is conscious but what if I were reading a sci-fi story of the future, or fantasy story from the past, of a race of people (say Egyptians) who considered the sun conscious?

I think it is important to start off with this skepticism, and I will tell you why. I think those who listen to Rupert Sheldrake podcasts are probably already convinced. He is preaching to the choir. That is fine to do. My life goals are different. I would like to non-preach to the non-choir. I would like for there to no longer be choir members and choir non-members, but one group of humans who consider many things, with an appropriate balance of appropriate skepticism and appropriate willingness to consider new things.

What I would like to talk about in today’s paper is not whether the sun is conscious or not, but what it would mean to individuals, to shift from a belief of no, to a belief of maybe.

I read a lot of psychology classsics as I have blogged about in the past: Kohlberg, Maslow, Perls, Burns, Ellis, and their antecedants Epictetus, etc. One that bears on today’s question is Erik Erikson’s Identity Youth and Crisis. For a person to go from a no to a maybe, would trigger an identity crisis. Most people cannot tolerate an identity crisis and so they stop short. New models that threaten the identity cannot be considered. The individual personality has several extremely potent methods of dealing with information that threatens how one identifies oneself. The information seems to vanish.

We have seen this in literature and history. Or, we should see more of this in literature. Let me paint a story the way it should be written. Take A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett. I love the movie. My daughter and I watched it numerous times together and I always got a tear in my eye at the reuniting scene.


But it is not realistic to how Erikson accurately describes youth identity. The story goes like this: During WWI, a girl and her father are separated because the father must go to fight in the war. She is told he died in the war, which makes her an orphan. The comfy living is gone, and she must work for Miss Minchen, who shames the girl and makes her do endless chores. In the movie the girl maintains an identity, I am a princess. All girls are princesses, because my father said so. But in reality her personality would develop around the reality of her situation: I am a low class servant, I am shameful and bitter. Life dealt me a cruel blow when it took my father from me. Life continues to cruelly assault me daily because this is a world in which life is cruel. I am a low class shameful bitter person. Years after the war, there is the discovery of a man who has lost his memory, and it turns out to be her father. They are reunited and everything is wonderful. She is restored to her status of princess. But in reality, a child whose personality has formed around the identity of shameful bitter low class, would not be flexible enough to adjust itself to the new discovery. Even though the new situation is preferable, personalities just don’t do that. They resist even truth, even reality. The girl would resist believing this was her father, and even if she were reunited with him, she would continue to behave as if life were cruel and she were shameful and low class. Because personality is formed early. Now, some will argue with me. Yes, if the girl’s personality were fully formed and resilient before the father went off to war, she might be able to continue her identity as princess even through all the tortures of Miss Minchen. It all depends on when personality formation begins and ends. Experts are pushing it earlier and earlier. Some are now saying personality structure is completely formed by age 3.

How does A Little Princess relate to Is the Sun Conscious? We humans perhaps once (experts on Egyptology tell us in the podcast) considered themselves children of the sun. It is likely that 20,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, the sun was considered Our Father. At some point we were taken from this father, and then we were told this father had died, and then we were told this father never existed, it was just a superstition. Those of us alive today would not even dream that the sun could be our father. Our personalities were formed under different circumstances. Our identities are invested in a much different “reality.” To listen to a podcast today, and hear the sun may be our long lost father, is inconceivable. Of course it is farfetched, at least to modern thinkers. But besides being farfetched, it is literally inconceivable because our personalities forbid our conceiving it. Why do our personalities forbid our conceiving it? Not because it wouldn’t be good for us, it could be fantastically good for us to think this way. We are forbidden from conceiving this because it would mean the identity we have built for ourselves, is built upon faulty assumptions. Were we to conceive that the sun could be conscious, and that it is like a Father to humanity, to individual humans, this concept would question the foundation upon which we have built our identity. To even conceive this possibility means our identity could be built upon sand. Our personalities find it intolerable to ask: if who I always thought I was is not true, then who am I? It is too painful. Our personality replies: Creating the first identity was painful enough! You want me to recreate a new one, now that I am fairly secure? NO WAY!  

According to Erik Erikson’s theories of youth identity formation, for us to have a reconsideration, a complete review of the question, who am I, or even, WHAT am I? would lead to an identity crisis. Most of us are unwilling to face an identity crisis. Our personality simply puts on the brakes. No way. Dealbreaker. I am not going there. That’s the end of the story. We will go to our deaths grasping at an identity that is not accurate. Those of us who have dealt with, or are dealing with aging parents know this is true: they will hold fast to an outdated identity, one that does not even serve them in today’s world, one that limits their sense of freedom and fulfillment in life, until their final breath. Because they are unwilling to go through another identity formation, to pass across an identity crisis.

Passing across an identity crisis doesn’t have to be walking on coals. If there is someone to help you, who has done it already (perhaps multiple times), then it can be like a vigorous hike. Or a series of vigorous hikes over uncharted territories.. But the personality fears the unknown so dramatically that it will put in all kinds of resistance and diversions rather than go there.

Think of it from the personality’s perspective: facing a reformulation of identity, is like death. The personality thinks it is going to die. It isn’t going to die, in fact it is going to be improved, greatly improved, since it will be able to perceive far more of reality rather than filtering so much out. The potential for fulfillment will be multiplied a hundredfold. Relationships all improve. Intelligence improves. There is no downside except the struggles during the rites of passage. But the personality does not know this. None of my friends have done this. Our society has not done this. The whole culture and society is formed around defending the old identity, and only this one guy Rupert Sheldrake, and other outliers are suggesting this new identity. It seems like a bad wager, and most people pass before they even give it a second look.

My advice: don’t commit to the new identity, be skeptical, but do give it a second look. Treat it as a thought-experiment. What if the sun were conscious? What would that mean for me personally? How difficult would it be for me to adjust my personality, my lifestyle, my relationships, if I were to even agree the sun COULD be conscious?

I do not advocate identity crises. It is more likely to end in a reversion to the old way, when it is too sharp, too painful. I advocate gradual transition. Don’t listen to Sheldrake’s podcast. Just consider that there are other ways to identify oneself than the ways I identified myself when I was 3 or 6 or 9. And see if in a year or two, you actually want to listen to Sheldrake’s podcast. At some point it will feel like a drink of cool water after a long hike. Even if you don’t buy Sheldrake wholeheartedly, it is still refreshing (for those rebuilding their identities) to get as many different perspectives as possible.

Profession-Ethics from Plato to Spinoza
October 26, 2016, 2:15 pm
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Six hr. workshop with Patrick Moore Monday, Oct 31, 2016


What is Ethics? 

Ethics is figuring out what is right or wrong behavior. Once you know what is right or wrong, ethics includes convincing others of your choice and making recommendations for how to behave.

This definition brings up a bunch of questions that are very difficult to answer:

How do we know what is right and what is wrong? Where do ethical standards come from? Religion? The great philosophers of the past? Universities? Government? 

Are ethical standards created by humans, to fit certain situations at certain times and places? Or are they universal truths?  

Are ethical standards arrived at by faith, by reason, or some other method?  

Is every person capable of correctly discerning right behavior from wrong? If everyone is capable, why do we disagree on what is right and wrong to do? 

When everyone expects standards to be upheld, the big questions do not have to be answered. For example, if everyone expects murder to be prevented and punished, we don’t have to ask why murder is wrong. Profession-ethics fit into this niche, of what is expected of a certain profession.

For example, doctors are expected to:

  • Do only that which increases the person’s health.
  • Disclose when they do not know how to help, and refer to other professionals who may know how to help.
  • Maintain privacy.

What is ethical to do with packrats? Killing is bad.. but if you don’t kill them, they breed and damage your neighbors’ property… ?

Why Have Profession-Ethics?

A. to protect the Profession:

If a few rogue doctors were to do procedures designed only to make them rich, that ended up harming patients, this would damage the reputation of doctors everywhere. People would stop trusting doctors. The good doctors would lose patients and lose money, which would be bad for doctors everywhere. This harms the profession. Profession-ethics prevent rogue doctors from doing things that damage the reputation of the profession.

B. to protect the public:

  • To stop professionals from doing things that would be unsafe for an individual, that could actually harm the person’s health or kill them. For example, you need to be licensed and tested before you are allowed to do brain surgery, otherwise people undergoing brain surgery might be harmed or die.
  • To protect people from other embarrassments or discomforts. For example, doctors sometimes need to see people with their clothes off. An unethical doctor could take advantage of this situation and tell everyone to take their clothes off and inspect or touch private parts when it is not necessary for the procedure.
  • To stop professionals from doing things that would be a waste of the individual’s money. Professionals have access to more education than average people do. This gives them access to tricks that most people would not know about. Practitioners can easily take advantage of this to do unnecessary procedures, procedures that will not be effective, but take many sessions, bringing in lots of money.
  • Protecting the public trust of that profession, serves the public. When the profession loses credibility, people stop using that profession and they suffer for the loss of something that had helped them. For example, when people stop trusting doctors, they do not receive procedures that could save their lives. When people stop trusting police, they do not call the police when their lives could be saved.

We are glad for profession-ethics! There is profession-ethics for builders, so that we know it is safe to drive our cars over bridges, that buildings will not fall down when the wind blows, that we will not die from asbestos inhalation. There is profession-ethics for loan officers, to protect us from getting loans that we are unlikely to be satisfied with in the long term. There is profession-ethics for teachers, clergy, counselors, lawyers, police, emergency medical technicians, social workers, food handlers and many other services.


A Profession-Ethics Problem: Rules or Outcomes?

Imagine a doctor is in a situation where he thinks, “If I lie to this person, it is likely to save his life. If I tell him the truth, he is likely to die.” What should he do? In a rule-based ethics, he must always tell the truth. But that means his patient will probably die. In an outcome-based ethics, he should do what saves the person’s life, even if it breaks the rules. Would you prefer doctors to operate using rule-based, or outcome-based ethics?

Do you view the massage therapy profession as having rule-based profession-ethics, or outcome-based? How do you personally operate as a therapist: rule-based or outcome-based? Or do you have another basis for your ethics? Can you give examples for your view?


Ethics Questions for Massage Therapy:

Financial Gain Ethics:

  • A local area is “saturated” with massage practitioners. A massage school is aware of statistics that show a very low percentage of graduates have been able to remain employed in that area. Basically, their money has been wasted. Is it ethical for the school to continue taking in new students?
  • A person comes to you with a symptom of “headaches.” When the session is over, you ask if the headache is reduced and they say, No, but I really liked the massage. Can I come again next week? Is it ethical to take the person’s money for “massage therapy” when you are pretty sure it will not help them with their health goal? Will you do it anyway? What thought process goes into your making your choices?


Boundaries (2 hours)


Transference is when the recipient begins to see you not for who you are, but as someone from their past. In particular, people lying nude on a table while you stroke them with warm oil, are likely to begin to view you as their mother. Massage therapy standards of conduct and codes of ethics tell us to “avoid transference.”

Countertransference is when a therapist’s feelings toward a client become redirected. The therapist becomes emotionally entangled with the client. Massage therapy standards of conduct and codes of ethics tell us to “avoid countertransference.”

Dual Relationship is when one power differential is created at work, and then when you meet outside of work with the person, the same power differential is likely to occur. Massage therapy standards of conduct and codes of ethics tell us to “avoid transference.”

  • A good-looking person comes in. While you are professional, and the person is polite, still you feel a tingle of connection. Working on the person is a joy. Your draping is very professional, but your hands feel as if they are expressing love as they glide over the person’s body. You find yourself smiling the whole way through, and you are in a very good mood when it is over. After the session, the person expresses that it was the best massage they ever had. They want to come back every week. The person is gushing with praise. After they leave, you wonder, is this a good idea to continue? How will you decide?
  • Have you ever worked at a ritzy resort spa or “professional” dayspa where the customer is “queen for a day”? If she is queen, that means you are her servant. This creates a power differential in which she has the greater power. Have you ever met that person again outside of work? What was it like? Did the person take advantage of you? What can you do about this situation? What does ethics dictate you do? What will you actually do?
  • Do you ever encourage people you massage to see you as motherly, or nurturing? Do you hand them a bottle of water or let them get their own water? Do you speak to them in a different voice than you use for equal friends? Do you encourage them to sleep and protect the quiet so they can sleep? Do you dress differently for massage than for friends?


New Findings in Body-Countertransference

A study was done with female therapists in Ireland. These were talk-therapists, working with traumatized people. Researchers Egan & Carr asked them if, and how often they felt these symptoms. For the following list, up to 26% of them said, “Yes, this happened to me often in the last 6 months”:

  • Sleepiness
  • Muscle Tension
  • Unexpected Shift in Body
  • Yawning
  • Tearfulness
  • Headaches
  • Stomach Disturbance
  • Aches in Joints
  • Throat Constriction
  • Loss of Voice
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

These symptoms indicate countertransference had occurred, the researchers conclude. Therapist’s bodies reacted as if they were the traumatized person. Therapist’s emotions become entangled with the client’s emotions. The therapist’s feelings toward the client had been redirected. The researchers hypothesized that mirror neurons caused therapists to feel like the traumatized people feel. This research shows it is very difficult to “avoid countertransference.”

  • What is bad about countertransference, that our profession tells us to avoid it?
  • If it can’t be avoided, what should we do about it?


Plato’s Ethics: The Bag of Virtues

Plato avoids the problem of rules vs. outcomes by suggesting we be virtuous. For example, be patient. Be tolerant. Be humble. Be curious. A rule is something you do. A virtue is something you are.

Many have called Plato’s ethics “the bag of virtues.” But this is not accurate. A bag of anything is something you own. It is not who you are. Plato would have said no, virtues are not something you possess. You cultivate them until they are you, as you as any attribute of you-ness. Plato’s way is a way of being. Plato called our being, our essence. Virtues are not something you learn, they are something you are, that you develop. Virtues are attributes of your essence. You are created curious, so ethics is discovering and developing the curiosity that you already are.

Plato does not focus on outcomes, for determining if something is ethical. His ethics does not promise the outcomes of health, wealth, security or comfort. Plato describes Socrates as the virtuous man. Socrates lost his court case. He was sentenced to death. He lost his wealth, security, comfort, rights, status and admiration in the community. In fact, he lost his life. But Socrates explained on his death bed that what he gained (by being virtuous) was far more valuable to him than anything, even life. Earthly outcomes are unimportant compared to being true to one’s essence, in Plato’s view.

Plato wrote no books telling us: do this, don’t do that, this is right, that is wrong. He only wrote dialogues with characters having discussions. Most of the dialogues had Socrates as the main character. Socrates was a real person and some of Plato’s dialogues about him are accurate to history. Other dialogues are fictitious. In some of the plays, Plato wrote Socrates as being less astute than other characters. Plato didn’t give rules, not even through his character Socrates.

Socrates had a little voice in his head. When he was puzzled by an ethical question, he would pause and wait for it to speak to him. Maybe this was his essence.

Would Plato’s ethics work for massage therapists? What virtues would massage therapists BE?

Can you think of an example where being virtuous would be better (or worse) than following rules? If you were virtuous with a client but broke a rule, would that be ethical? If you followed a rule only because it helped you indulge some vice (like judgment), would that be ethical?

Can you think of an example where being virtuous would be better (or worse) than working toward outcomes? If you saved a man’s life by being non-virtuous, would that be ethical? If you were virtuous with the man, but he died, would that be ethical?


Jesus’ Ethics

Jesus did not write any books but gave verbal ethical teachings. Some of his sayings include:

  • Do not judge.
  • Love others as you love yourself.
  • Love your enemies.

He also taught by example. He apparently saved no money but relied on a daily basis on his ability to serve others as a healer and teacher, and the others’ willingness to give him food and shelter. Like Socrates, Jesus was brought to court and given the option to retract the teachings he had given, or face the death penalty. Like Socrates, Jesus would not retract the teachings. So he too was put to death.

Would you say Jesus was an ethics teacher? Many scholars, though they debate other things about Jesus, agree he was a teacher of ethical principles. Did Jesus teach ethics as a set of rules, as outcomes, or as being virtuous? I read Jesus as being more of a virtue teacher than a rule-teacher or outcomes-fighter. Jesus urged us to be nonjudgmental. Be unconditionally compassionate. Don’t be a hypocrite but be the opposite (non-self-important). Be vulnerable.

Did he add new ways of teaching ethics besides rule-based, outcome-based and virtue-based? Yes he probably did. If you think yes, how would you describe these ethics methods?

Would Jesus’ ethical teachings apply to service professions today? After all, he was in a healing profession, often touching his clients…

An interesting note is that “profession” originally meant when someone made a profession of faith, or vows to a holy order. “Professional” ethics were first applied to those in holy orders, and then hundreds of years later were applied to other professions like law and medicine.



Epictetus was born a few years after Jesus’ death. He earned his freedom legally, and then made a living teaching morality, spirituality and ethics. Epictetus’ main point was that you can’t change other people, you can’t change life’s events, but you can change your own thinking and actions. He learned this the hard way: as a slave, you really can’t change what the slave-owner will do, especially what he will do to you. But that does not mean life is without meaning. Even a slave has power over his own thoughts, attitudes and interpretations. In fact, no matter how much the slave-owner does things to your body, he cannot touch your mind. It is interesting that by discovering these things, he earned his freedom.

The serenity prayer goes back to Epictetus:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Epictetus probably would have added a few words:

               …to accept the things I cannot change: other people,

…to change the things I can: my own attitudes,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Epictetus did not write any books, but the conversations and teachings he gave were written down by one of his students. Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis consider Epictetus to be the inspiration for 20th Century talk-therapy method they call Cognitive Therapy. Cognitive Therapy is where the therapist helps you examine your own interpretations, to see how they lead you to unwanted emotional reactions and unhelpful behaviors. When you recognize you have power to change your interpretations, you can think more accurately and flexibly. Then you have much nicer emotions and behave more helpfully. It is a very clean, efficient method of talk therapy. There is a do-it-yourself cognitive therapy book called The Feeling Good Handbook by Burns, which makes the teachings of Epictetus into practical step-by-step exercises.

Did Epictetus teach ethics? He did not tell us what is right and what is wrong. He described how to have clarity, and how to have more power over the things truly within your power. With more clarity, you actually gain wisdom, intelligence, intuition and good choices. By using your mind for you instead of against you, you end up behaving more ethically.

Later in life, Epictetus adopted a child and raised it as his own.

When massage therapists get stuck in ethical questions, we could ask ourselves, how am I interpreting this? Can I change the other person? No. Can I change how I think and act? Yes. Would this process help us to be more ethical as therapists? Would it help us to be more fulfilled in our work? Would it help us to be more effective therapeutically?



Plotinus said that we humans are tiny slivers of shards of God. From this idea, we all would possess God’s attributes, just little splinters of slivers of those attributes.

Did Plotinus teach ethics? You might say this model provides a perspective about right and wrong behavior. For example, we can be loving and merciful, in our way, because our qualities of love and mercy are reflections of reflections of God’s love and mercy. Plotinus’ ethics is not rule based, not outcome based and not virtue based. It is a new way to do ethics, by having a model or perspective.

Would thinking of yourself as pieces of parts of God, help you to be more ethical in your therapy profession? How? If not, why not?


Spinoza’s Ethics

Spinoza wrote a book called The Ethics. So we know he had something to say about ethics, otherwise he wouldn’t have gave the book that title.

Spinoza had a very interesting life. He was a Jew living in Holland at a time when most of Europe was killing Jews. Holland was one of the last places that would allow Jews to live. As a child, Baruch Spinoza learned Hebrew amazingly quickly. He learned the Bible so well they decided to educate him to become a Rabbi. But he began asking sticky questions of his teachers, like, If the promised land was promised to Jews as a contract, and the Jews broke the contract, isn’t the contract now void? He was not irreverent–in his mind. He believed strongly in God but felt that most people had misinterpreted God. It was the other people who were being irreverent, in his mind. For sharing his ideas, he was put on trial before the Jewish community. He was offered an opportunity to back down from his positions. He did not back down. A murder attempt was made upon him. That did not work, so the elders excommunicated from the Jewish religion. In the written decree, Spinoza was called an atheist, and his soul was cursed to eternal damnation. All Jews were forbidden to speak with him on penalty of being excommunicated themselves. This was while he was a teenager. He changed his first name from the Jewish Baruch to the Latin Benedict. He began wearing a ring on his hand that said, “Caution.”

Like most smart boys of the early 1600s, Benedict was fascinated by the philosophy of Descartes. So he studied Latin and Descartes, moving into the home of his teacher. He fell in love with the teacher’s daughter, who though she was younger than Spinoza, was his Latin tutor. There was another guy who liked the daughter. The other guy was a fool but had money. She went with the other guy and Benedict’s heart was broken. That was the only romance of his life, but he carried the sense of betrayal, sadness and jealousy for many years. Not to mention the horrific traumas of the murder attempt, being shunned by your family and community and damned for all time. It is important to know about his emotional early life, to understand his writing.

In The Ethics, Spinoza revives Plotinus’ shards of God concept. Only we humans are even further removed from God than Plotinus said. We humans are beings with two of God’s attributes—minds and bodies. God has millions of attributes—no, billions—no, God has infinity attributes. We possess only two of that infinity of attributes. The number 2 divided by infinity… that’s close to 0% of God-ness in us! But it’s there. And the two attributes of God we possess, we don’t even possess—we are merely modes of those two of God’s attributes. All this rigmarole in the beginning of The Ethics is to demonstrate that it’s like Plotinus said; only we are even further diffused from God.

The good news is, we are created finite but reflecting God. Which is a pretty good way to start out.

Spinoza also revives Plato’s essences of things. Our essence is godlike, but in a finite manner. Our essence is actually god-derived. A derivative of a derivative of God’s essence. That gives us a sense of … pride? Birthright? Responsibility?

For those who don’t believe in God, Spinoza gave an option: Nature. A phrase that appears multiple times in The Ethics is “God, or Nature.” Nature with a capital N. It’s sort of like a lot of people today say The Universe, as in, The Universe is giving me some challenges lately but I know it’s for my own good. While Spinoza is wholeheartedly reverent to God, he writes his book friendly to atheists too.

Like Spinoza’s God, Spinoza’s Nature has infinite attributes or qualities, two of them being physical body and mental process. We humans are finitely derived from infinite Nature. Again we feel the dignity and responsibility of how we were originally formed.

The beginning sections of The Ethics give a very detailed picture of who we are. Spinoza must consider self-knowledge to be an important part of Ethics. Would you agree that to be ethical, you need to know who you are? Or that it helps? Can you give an example of someone being ethical without knowing who or what she is?

If we were formed so nobly, how did we get to be so petty? Spinoza explains this better than any other philosopher does. Because of desires and aversions, we get conditioned into processes that hinder and hide our true nature, our essence. The hindering processes, Spinoza calls the passions. Later sections in The Ethics give specific recipes for how each of the passions began in us, and then directions for how to resolve each of them. These last sections of the book are the first self-help how-to book. Spinoza tells how to restore yourself to the original essence you were created to be.

In these later sections, he doesn’t write any sordid memoir. But since we know from other sources how he was betrayed by his church, betrayed by his girlfriend, jealous of the other man and angered by the murder attempt, this gives us understanding when he describes how jealousy, anger and betrayal operate upon the human mind, and how to unravel them.

When you are jealous of another massage therapist, or of a client, would it help you to understand how jealousy got started in you? Would it help you to be able to follow it back through the steps how it led you away from your essence? Would this knowledge help you as a therapist, to be more ethical, more serving and more effective therapeutically? I think it does help.



Like the heroes of ethics, I also give no rules in this handout and workshop. Like Socrates, I ask you good questions and hope your essence inspires your own enlightenment. Like Plato, I suggest virtues rather than rules or outcomes. Like Epictetus and Spinoza I help you figure out your own knots and help you unravel them.


Blame Ruins Relationship Satisfaction
September 26, 2016, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dr. David Burns wanted to know what kind of relationships were satisfying. He asked 1,200 people a bunch of questions about a relationship. This could be any relationship–a romantic partnership, people at work, family, or friends. He had them rate their agreement with 16 Beliefs, some of which were beliefs about oneself, and the rest were beliefs about the other person in the relationship. Finally he asked how satisfied they were with the relationship. He wanted to know if one’s own beliefs, the other person’s beliefs, or what pairs of beliefs, let to satisfied relationships.


What makes relationships satisfying? Why do we hurt the ones we love?

Dr. Burns made some predictions before he looked at the data. For example, imagine one person has belief #2,  People who love each other shouldn’t fight. Anger is dangerous. The other person has belief #7, I’m right and you’re wrong and you’d better admit it! He predicted the more aggressive person would find this relationship more satisfying than the more passive person would. He and his colleagues made many other predictions. To his surprise, all of their predictions were wrong. There was no correlation among any of the pairings of beliefs.

Beliefs Listed in the Study:




  1. Pleasing Others. I should always try to please you, even if I make myself miserable in the process.
  2. Conflict Phobia/Anger Phobia. People who love each other shouldn’t fight. Anger is dangerous.
  3. Perceived Narcissism. You can’t tolerate any criticism or disagreement without falling apart.
  4. Self-Blame. The problems in our relationship are all my fault.


  1. You should always treat me in the way I expect. It’s your job to make me happy.
  2. Justice/Fairness. If you don’t meet my expectations, I have every right to get mad and punish you.
  3. I’m right and you’re wrong and you’d better admit it!
  4. Other-Blame. The problems in our relationship are all your fault.



  1. Love Addiction. I can’t feel happy and fulfilled without your love.
  2. Fear of Rejection. If you rejected me, it would mean I was worthless. I can’t be happy if I’m alone.
  3. Approval Addiction. I need your approval to feel happy and worthwhile.
  4. Mind Reading. If you really love me, you’ll know what I need and how I feel without me always having to explain myself.


  1. Achievement Addiction. My self-esteem depends on my achievements, intelligence, or income.
  2. I must never fail or make a mistake. If I fail, it means I’m worthless.
  3. Perceived Perfectionism. You won’t love or accept me as a flawed and vulnerable human being.
  4. Disclosure Phobia. I can’t tell you how I really feel inside. I have to keep my true self hidden.


from Feeling GOOD Together by David D. Burns, MD, 2008, p. 56.

Of all 16 beliefs, only one strongly correlated with relationship satisfaction. None of the beliefs correlated with high satisfaction, but one belief strongly correlated with low satisfaction. That one was #8, The problems in our relationship are all your fault. He labels this belief, Other-Blame. Those who blame others, are very unsatisfied with the relationship.

At first Dr. Burns was disappointed with the result of all that work. But once he began using this one simple fact in his counseling practice, he found it helped people improve their relationships significantly and quickly. At least, it helped the ones who were willing to reduce how much they blamed the other, and instead to take responsibility for what they could do differently.


People who blamed their partners (or other people in general) for the problems in their relationships were angry, frustrated, unhappy, and intensely dissatisfied with their relationships. In addition, this mind-set accurately predicted what would happen in the future. Individuals who blamed their partners for the problems in their relationship were even more miserably unhappy three months later. Things were clearly going downhill for this group. In contrast, people who were willing to assume complete personal responsibility for solving the problems in their relationships, and who felt a strong commitment to making their partners happy, not only reported the most satisfying and loving relationships at the time of initial testing, but their positive feelings seemed to increase over time. …individuals who focused on changing themselves … were usually able to work wonders in their relationships. In most cases, it didn’t take long at all.

In the following section of the book, Dr. Burns wanted readers to know that, once you stop blaming others, that does not mean you should blame yourself instead. That doesn’t help either! The cure is to stop blaming altogether, to be nonjudgmental [his word, p. 62]

This is great information! Still, I feel Dr. Burns does not describe well enough how to be nonjudgmental, or even how to not judge oneself. In fact, many of his terms seem loaded with judgment about oneself. Yes, in his earlier book, The Feeling Good Handbook  he demonstrated nonjudgment VERY well. But in this book … not as well. Which is unfortunate because to learn to be nonjudgmental, we really need examples, someone to demonstrate it for us.

In particular we need a nonjudgmental explanation for how and why we appear to be hurtful and blaming of our partners and other people. We need an answer to the ages-old question, “Why are we so hurtful to the ones we love?” … an answer that does not in turn hurt or judge US. Dr. Burns does not provide that kind of explanation in this book. I think the book lacks something without this explanation, so here is my attempt:

In our culture, we are trained from an early age to determine who is to blame. If one person is found not-guilty, then there must be another person who is guilty. But in relationships, most of the time neither person is blameworthy. We are trained from an early age to see blame as a black-or-white subject, when it is not that way at all.

Let’s take an example. Mickey is a person described earlier in the book. Here is a sample of Chapter One of Feeling GOOD Together that tells Mickey’s story.. scroll down about 60% and look for the bold heading, “Why Should I Have to Change?!”

Mickey blames his wife for all kinds of things that make the relationship unsatisfying to him. As Dr. Burns asks Mickey more questions, it becomes clear Mickey is doing far worse things to his wife, than the things he listed she was doing to him. In fact, Mickey is having extramarital affairs, and waving the evidence in front of his wife, to torment her. Why is Mickey doing this? The explanations Dr. Burns gives, seem to shift the blame to Mickey. Dr. Burns says Mickey is “intentionally doing things that are certain to demoralize her and ruin the marriage.” I have a different explanation.

I think Mickey fears his wife’s complaints about him would undermine the basis for his identity. Her criticisms would make him feel like the very foundation for his value could be lost. Who would he be without his values, core beliefs, and chosen identity? If this identity is shattered, he fears something like death. He can’t bear to have his basis questioned, or even revealed (for I am guessing, he too is suspicious that his foundation might be built upon sand). Therefore he pokes, even tortures his wife–just to keep her off balance so she doesn’t expose his inadequate foundation. It’s not that he really wants to do her harm, he doesn’t. He loves her. But when it comes to the survival of what he thinks of as his very Self, he can’t let his Self be destroyed, so he feels he must go on the offensive.

By the way, nobody on their own would think this offensively. It is not natural. Animals don’t naturally do this. Plant’s don’t naturally do this. It is not an inherent part of nature, not even human nature. It is artificial. How do artificial patterns get established? Two ways. One is that it is shown to you repeatedly. As an impressionable child, people demonstrated for Mickey the Offensive Method of Protecting Your Identity. His parents demonstrated it, his teachers, his leaders, the great books he read and the media he heard and saw. Repetition repetition repetition. The second way artificial patterns are instilled is by being the recipient. Somebody did this to Mickey when he was young. They used the offense upon him, terrifying him, demoralizing him. At some point being the recipient, he told himself, “Never Again!” Since that time, whenever a scenario smells as if he might have his identity or value destroyed, he now offends, rather than feel that pain again. In particular, it is only people who get close to him who are likely to see the foundation of his self, and this explains why he only hurts the people who love him.

This has happened to all of us. There may still remain a few indigenous cultures on Earth where this is not done, but everyone who partakes in Civilization has experienced both the repetitive demonstrations and being the recipient. It is done to us early, when we can’t defend against it. Then we carry it forward into our own relationships. I call this Enculturation (after learning this concept from Stephen Bruno).

Dr. Burns has made a misdiagnosis of Mickey, in my opinion. Mickey is not to blame. It’s our cultural heritage. Everyone does it, even Dr. Burns.  As terrible as Mickey’s behaviors are, as offensive and deliberate as they seem, they are only intended as self-protection. Mickey didn’t “intentionally demoralize his wife and ruin their marriage.” He only did those things the only way he knows to protect himself when he thinks his value is being questioned. If he knew another way, or learned that his Self does not need protecting, he would no longer do this.

Dr. Burns has some good advice: “Don’t blame others, and instead look at what you can do differently.” Yes, that will work, but nobody will actually do it until certain things occur:

  • the person needs to gain some accurate perception of who he truly is.
  • accurate perception of one’s true self naturally gives the person a true sense of value. Mickey’s true self is far more admirable than he had ever thought of himself.
  • One’s true self is naturally influential, safe and secure. It does not require protection because it cannot be injured or destroyed. There is no point in protecting what can’t be damaged. Defending oneself (one’s TRUE self) is silly, amusing.
  • the person needs to gain some accurate understanding that all people have this true self, that is inherently admirable, altruistic, influential and safe. Mickey’s wife has her true self that is far more than he ever thought her possible of.

When psychologists give a test to measure “self-esteem,” this only measures how strongly the person identifies with the cultural identity, the foundation built upon sand. This is why “high self-esteem” does not correlate with satisfying relationships, virtuous acts, or any other positive quality.

Knowledge about the true self, or essence, is more a matter of philosophy than psychology. Think Plato, Plotinus, Aquinas and Spinoza. I think this distinction between the true self and the cultural identity is necessary for understanding a couple of things in the book, Feeling GOOD together.

Dr. Burns’ describes frustrations he has when giving relationship counseling. Individual counseling works well using his prior methods, but relationship counseling falls flat. He doesn’t understand why people are so horrible to their partners. It appears to them these people are just plain mean, and he says he can’t help them.

I think none of these people (at least none of the ones he describes) are just plain mean, intentionally demoralizing others. They are simply insecure, because their identity has been built upon sand. So they are overprotective. I am this way too. I do all the things on Dr. Burns’ lists. But if I were to agree with Dr. Burns, this is my “dark side.” I don’t think it is a dark side. I think it is just my being defensive, because I am still insecure about what gives me value, so I strike out at anyone who questions my value.

The people in Dr. Burns’ book are not petty, vindictive, shallow, narcissistic, or mean. They are just uncertain about who they are.

Think of it this way: When your favorite person in the whole world, the one you chose to be your special person forever, starts questioning your value—that’s a big deal! You’ve put all your eggs in that basket! You’ve given that person extra power over you. And now they are using that power to examine whether your value rests upon a firm foundation or not. Ouch! That hurts! That person is supposed to be on my side and it sure feels like they are against me when they do that. I have to stop that activity! I will do anything to stop that pain! And so we react with extreme measures.

Once this less-judgmental explanation of Why We Hurt the Ones We Love is added to Dr. Burn’s book, I find his suggestions very useful. I am learning a lot from his books.