Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
January 2021 - Volume 21, No. 1
Too Much and Never Enough
Among the Native Americans with whom I’ve rubbed shoulders in this my latest quarter century, there are ritual words, akin to our “Good Bye” (God be with you),
Blessings and Balance, Balance and Blessing,
For from Balance comes all Blessings
Sometimes this is foreshortened to the first three words, or to “B&B” - as at the conclusion of an informal letter or email.
I’ve noticed in some of my philosophical and anthropological wanderings, that especially indigenous cultures take the Natural world as their primary textbook for their studies of how to live. And their ‘how to live’ is how to live in balance with each other and with all around them. The ancient purpose of medicine is to restore this original balance within and around us. One simple example of this comes from one of my teachers who suggested that in the first half of our life, we work to establish our fortune - and in the second half we work the wisdom to give it all away. It’s a kind of indigenous ‘social security’ system.
Mary L. Trump, PhD, Donald Trump’s clinical psychologist niece, this past year gave us a tell-all analysis of her uncle, entitled Too Much and Never Enough (Simon &Schuster). The title alone begins to describe the nature and source of our past president’s sociopathy (aka narcissism), and how it has been able to accomplish so much unchecked damage. I read it Thanksgiving week, and had trouble putting it down. Much of my own clinical training and counseling comes from family systems analysis, so it was an especially exciting read for me.
Now, Mary Trump is writing a sequel, The Reckoning, set to be published this coming July 20 (St. Martin’s Press). For this alone, it’s going to be an interesting year, beginning to emerge from what she diagnoses as our own national PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome) and the stresses of living in a world we no longer recognize.
It’s somewhat akin to an individual with severe Bi-Polar disorder. When there’s no center to hold things together, great damage can be done and the resulting collective trauma can run very deep. She has a deep love for our country, and a grief for, and understanding of, what her own family has contributed to it.
Healing, Blessing, Reckoning
These three words these days interweave with each other. More and more they are the words that emerge in my work with clients. And the other word recently resonates in my client space is balance. To get things ‘back in balance’ (or maybe even for the first time or in a long time). Back to the way maybe ‘it’s supposed to be’.
Yes, perhaps there is still a natural sense of order, deep underneath things. A sense and ability to cooperate, to care, to share, to make it safe, to include, to celebrate each other.
It’s the blessing of living where things are in Balance.
The Work of Reckoning
This is what it boils down to. We all have to reckon, to reconcile, to begin to be more transparent with each other, to be more honest, vulnerable. This is often the ‘work’ of therapy. It’s also the ‘work’ of a democratic government. Sometimes it’s hard work. And sometimes it’s really not. But it can take courage (the energy of the heart).
I look forward to Mary Trump and her account of national reckoning.
One more clinical afterthought I’ll add to the subject - often living in balance brings the blessing of being good enough, or even just good enough.
The initial inspiration for this writing was the phrase “too much of a good thing.” Seeing the toilet paper shelves empty again at my grocery store is not living in balance, it’s toilet paper gluttony. We’ve got a lot to learn about living in balance.
Each involves managing a balance between the internal and external needs and gifts of each (the individual and the society) for the ‘common good.’ When there is balance in each, blessings abound. Yes, in each realm, it’s been a most difficult and challenging year for us.
“Blessings and Balance….”
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