Shadow Realities: Wolf Men, Blood Suckers and the Walking Dead

It’s Halloween – zombies, vampires and werewolves walk the streets of our cities in frightening array. However, in the popular culture of today, especially among many teens, they have far more than a seasonal presence. The Twilight series and TV shows such as The Walking Dead and Teen Wolf immediately come to mind.


So what is this fascination all about?

In part, I think these shows highlight some of the shadow sides of our culture. Vampires invite us to look at the blood sucking greed of much of this society. Werewolves may represent the unchecked rage and violence that many people, especially women, often endure. And as for zombies, too many people are “walking dead,” living their lives without meaning or purpose.

Even if partially or mostly unconscious, our young people are often both fascinated and excited by programs that highlight shadow realities. They will probably always be popular with teens. They present a side of our world that most adults would rather not think about but which young people feel they must come to terms with in some manner as they approach adulthood. Sometimes I watch The Walking Dead or Teen Wolf with my teen aged daughter, and usually she is willing to talk with me about her thoughts and reactions afterward.

Not a bad deal for either of us.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Hope For The World: Continuing to Grow in Wisdom and Compassion

A recent article in the Denver Post reported that U.S. men ranked last in life expectancy among 17 countries studied, and U.S. women ranked next to last. Particularly shocking were death rates for men and women below the age of fifty when compared with rates in other developed countries in the study.

I was reminded of the words of Robert Kegan, the eminent Harvard developmental psychologist, when he said that there is hope for the world simply because there are more people alive over 50 and 60.

elder and youth connectingIn the above study, the rate of firearm homicides for younger people in the U.S. was 20 times higher than in the other countries. Even so, assault weapons are not the only reason so many of our young people are dying. They need to have a reason for living, and they need to find meaning in their lives. They need to know that the world needs them to stay the course and that those of us who are elders will give them all the help that we can. They need to know that as they live beyond 50 and 60 and continue to grow in wisdom and compassion, they become more and more the hope for the world.

How do you feel baby boomers and teenagers may connect with each other?

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Soldiers of Guy School: The Effect on Relationships With Others and Self

In some of my blog posts and articles, I have been mostly critical of what I have been calling “Guy School,” i.e. the way boys are raised to be men in this culture.

Survival training is another name for this cultural upbringing of boys to men.

Guy School” in many ways is programming for endless struggle in relationships, even war. This can include war with women, war with other men, and war with oneself.

One of the positive things to come out of this struggle, however, is that many men become good soldiers. And many men, when they wake up and become aware of the importance of relational living, decide to powerfully engage and become good soldiers for their relationships.

And that is a courageous and wonderful move.

group of men and womenThese men now begin to stand up for women and other men in relational recovery as well as for the recovery of their own selves. They soldier for a better culture, and a better future for all.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The Positive Effect of Mistakes

Sometimes my goal or simple wish as a counselor is not to make too many mistakes. It is easy to make subtle mistakes of saying too much or too little – usually too much. Mostly listen, stay with the flow, hold a safe container for the individual or the couple in the room, love them and myself as much as possible.

aspects of counselingI hate making mistakes and usually it is the main way that I really learn. So while making mistakes is good for my learning, I don’t want to make too many of them, especially when they effect others. Speak up, tell the truth with love as best as I am able, have the courage to say what needs to be said. Over thirty years of practice is helpful, and I still make mistakes of talking or leading too much instead of following the flow of energy in the room and following content down the rabbit hole.

Mostly I feel like I have been useful to the people I have just been with. Sometimes I don’t. Do no harm, I follow religiously. At the end of the day, I am deeply grateful for my work and for the people I work with. I am truly blessed. I prefer to own my mistakes rather than shove them under a rug. Besides, no rug would be big enough anyway.

What mistake that has occurred for you turned out to be the best lesson you learned?

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Resentful Men: Power Dynamics in a Relationship

If, as I discussed in an earlier article, men are trained to be entitled (one-up) and women are generally trained to be (one-down) in this culture, why are men so often resentful in their intimate relationships?

This question addresses an insidious dimension of the state of intimate relationships in this culture.

Men, most often in the one-up position in this culture, are trained not to SEE the power dynamics in an intimate relationship, and women are trained not to SAY anything about the power dynamics in their relationships. When an individual’s entitlements (usually the man’s) are finally challenged, they often become angry and then RESENTFUL. “You’re crazy!” or “How dare you criticize me!” is often the initial reaction to an entitlement challenge. Part of the upset may be that the woman went along with her partner’s entitlements without challenging them for a long time. The unequal power arrangement was the “normal” state of things, even if the woman was resentful and unhappy. The traditional marriage contract was often we are one (and I am the one for the man) and yes, we are one (and you are the one, for the woman). This agreement is usually unconscious until the “we are one” myth is challenged and debunked!

coupleIf the woman begins to find her voice and starts complaining about her partner’s entitlements (sometimes louder and louder) and moves to blaming her partner, he is likely to become more and more resentful as well as entitled. Men often feel entitled to leave energetically and emotionally if they don’t like what’s going on, rather than talking about problems in relationships. Sadly, men are usually more unconsciously accepting of being lonely and disconnected in relationships than are most women. And then they wonder why a woman chooses to divorce them rather than stay in a situation where she is more lonely in the relationship than out of it.

So, in summary, many men get angry and resentful at the point where a woman begins to confront their unconscious entitlements. He may truly believe she has no right to do that or she has no right to do so in the WAY she is doing it, which is by yelling, complaining or blaming him. He has a point. Her complaining is not an effective way to bring about the change she wants in the relationship. Instead of complaining, she needs to find out if she has leverage with him meaning finding out whether he cares enough about her to make some changes in his behavior that she requests or, in some instances, demands.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker