Feeling Anxious? Learn the One and Only Method for Self-Regulation

Just in case you’re interested in anxiety and you didn’t catch this via my other blog. Have a great weekend.

John Sommers-Flanagan

Back in 1980, one of my supervisors at Woodside Hospital in Vancouver, WA, gave me a big compliment. At the time, I was a recreational therapist in a 22-bed psychiatric hospital. In a letter of recommendation, the supervisor described me as having a special knack for translating complex psychological phenomena into concrete activities from which patients could learn. To be honest, I really had no idea what I was doing.

But I think he was onto something about me and my personality. I like to integrate, summarize, and boil down information into digestible bits. Sometimes I have to get the facts to play Twister to get otherwise incompatible perspectives to fit together. This tendency is probably why I’ve written textbooks on clinical interviewing and counseling theories.

Today, I’m tackling anxiety, anxiety reduction, and self-regulation. This feels more personal than usual, mostly because I’ve been dysregulated, more or less, since November…

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Strong-armed women

Interested in spirituality? My wife Rita is a pretty fantastic writer and has what she refers to as a God Blog. Check it out if you like.

Short visits with an honest God

yoga studio at dusk (2)

Strong-armed women driving big red trucks inspire me, as does the defiance of hollyhocks. Marathoners over 65. The ways of wrens and eagles, aspen leaves whispering, greenery, brownery, the long gray rain, the blaze of sun returning, my pen moving sluggishly across cheap white paper, reluctant to lay down ink that later, I will have to obliterate. These are the things giving me life today. Are they going to be enough?

“No,” God says, joining my thoughts reluctantly. “No.”

The shovel handle, rotting. The soil, moist. Blight, mold, mildew, rust, dominant plants crowding out the tender herbs and delicate flowers. Voracious insects, mealy worms, centipedes. Lichen, moss, quack grass, locusts. Hoards and hoards of greedy, lying locus. Forces of destruction. God, is this what you intended? I don’t speak. I just think. God speaks.

“In your way of understanding, no. But yes. In my way, yes.”

But I want a…

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The Day the GOP Died

IMG_2862A long, long time ago, the Grand Old Party stood for family values, moral values, and apple pie. Now, with Trump as leader, it’s more like family torture, infidelity, and borscht.

Less long ago (Thursday, May 31, 2018), former House Speaker John Boehner quipped: “The Republican Party is kinda taking a nap somewhere.” Boehner was drinking a bloody Mary at the time, so maybe we shouldn’t blame him for not noticing that his former party’s nap has lasted nearly two years.

Given there’s no chance the GOP will get woke, it’s time to say, “Bye, bye American GOP.” See (or listen) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAsV5-Hv-7U  

The GOP was mortally wounded on a Super Tuesday back in September, 2016. In seven states, the Party of Lincoln voted to nominate Donald Trump for President. Sure, “Lying Ted” won a couple states and a few #NeverTrump folks were hanging on, but the die was cast, probably in some Trump casino, where the GOP’s mortal soul was traded for unlimited gaming opportunities. No longer was the GOP about marriage, civility, and moral virtue. Instead, along with Trump, so-called Republicans were embracing race over rights, disrespecting gold star families, degrading and sexualizing women, and undermining family values. And there was that White Nationalism thing. His crown stolen, Lincoln would have been apoplectic.

Resuscitation attempts failed. The Access Hollywood recording created a ripple of discontent and the gnashing of a tooth or two. But hey, it was locker room talk, and everyone knew who had the votes and who had the money. Jeff Flake and “Liddle Bob Corker” gave us hope, but our hope quickly gave way to calling respectful Black football players sons of bitches and making parents cry and children scream. Opposing Trump was too costly. Not only would there be hate mail, hate email, hate instant messages, and hate signs posted on your lawn, there would also be death threats, lost fundraising revenue, and lost elections. Republicans like balanced budgets. Opposing Trump did not pencil. #NotWorthIt. DJT would refuse to yield.

Later, the GOP voted that a generation lost in debt was preferable to confronting their friendship with the devil. Obsequious coveting of the naked emperor became de rigueur. Satanity laughed at tweets about pig’s blood, shitholes, and witch hunts. Fox News had spoken.

Even later, or perhaps earlier, there was Russian meddling, references to Rocket Man, and about 50 departures from the White House staff or cabinet. Going along, the GOP normalized talk about sex, presidential lies, and fantasized audio recordings. There were payments to porn stars, pay to play with China and Indonesia, and open theft of our national morality, with Trump metaphorically riding away in a taxpayer paid for golden golf-cart. The evangelicals were copiously ignoring the growing cracks in their church bells.

Mostly the GOP lay in a Boehner-nap, awakening only briefly for intermittent nips of bloody Marys and rye. A few free market optimists imagined the GOP was saving its strength for one last-ditch effort to #DumpTrump. But, right about then, because the three politicians I admired most were already dead anyway, the rest of the GOP joined them. The Republican Party, upon whom we could formerly count for at least a façade of morality, had its thousand points of light torn away like a Puerto Rican roof. Final confirmation of the GOP’s death occurred in July with continuing news from the Mexico border that made us shiver. John McCain’s angel was in a body cast, because he was “Dying anyway.”

The GOP, having given away its moral authority to speechless speakers, vapid veeps, and the money man, is no longer grand, no longer old, and no longer alive. The Party of Lincoln is dead. Let’s drive our Harleys to the coast and pray that the Party of Trump is short-lived.


John Sommers-Flanagan is a clinical psychologist, professor of counselor education at the University of Montana, and author of eight books. The views expressed here are solely the views of John Sommers-Flanagan, and not representative of the University of Montana or Don McLean.

Dear Mr. President

Forgive Him Jesus: He Really Doesn’t Know What He’s Doing

Dog Bunny

This Easter morning, Donald J. Trump fell to his knees.

“Dear Jesus,” he said. “I repent! Please forgive me my sins.”

“I’ve been selfish. I’ve fornicated with porn stars, been unfaithful to my wives, lashed out in judgment, and hurt many people. To preserve my ego, I’ve put myself first. I’ve told lies, huge lies, some of the best lies ever, all just so I can look good and have things my way. I’ve mocked the disabled, marginalized the sick, made life more difficult for disenfranchised immigrants, golfed more than I should (and sometimes lied about my score), served the rich and powerful over the poor and needy, and called countries with Black people ‘shit holes’ and then said I didn’t. Sometimes I’ve even humiliated people who get in my way, repeatedly calling them clever, but untruthful names, pointing out their weaknesses, and accusing them of fake news and low ratings. My behavior toward women has been so shocking that I’d rather only talk about it in locker rooms. But now that I’ve built up my self-esteem on the backs of others, I finally feel good enough about myself to come clean. I was too focused on winning. I forgot all about that thing in the Bible about the last being first, and that other thing in the Bible about the camel and the eye of a needle. In truth, and this is hard for me to say, but I’ve lived a life quite opposite of a true Christian. I’ve had it backward. Instead of doing unto others as I would have them do unto me, I’ve been doing unto others, as I feared or perceived them doing unto me.

For all this, and much more, I seek your forgiveness.”

Suddenly, Jesus appeared before Donald Trump saying,

“I’m not inclined to make personal appearances, but your case is special, so I’m making an exception. I want you to know, my son, my Donald, I forgive you. I forgive you your many, many, and very large sins. I have faith that from here on, you will live your life as an exemplary Christian.

Donald looked up in amazement.

Jesus was transfigured.

Wait.” Jesus said, smiling. “What day is today?”

Donald looked puzzled. “What do you mean my Lord? Surely you must remember, today is Easter! Of all holidays, this must be your favorite. I mean, you, rising from the dead. That was big. Never been seen before, or after. Biggest thing ever.”

“Yes, my Donald. You are correct. Today is my favorite holiday. And so let me offer you the appropriate greeting.”

Immediately, shimmering and giggling, Jesus said,

“April Fools!”

Then he, Elijah, and Mary Magdalen all had a very good laugh at the Donald.

Finally, after calming himself down, Jesus spoke again,

“Hey Donald. Seriously now. The joke is over. I’m not saying I’m NOT forgiving you. That was just me joking. Haha. Got you pretty good, huh? But here’s the deal. You need to know that good old Catholic doctrine, you know, the one about faith AND works; it applies here, especially to guys like you. After all the sinning you’ve just confessed to me, big and huge sinning, as you might say, it seems obvious, you’ve got work to do. Besides, when you first started your confession this morning, I was pretty sure you were doing an April Fool’s joke ON ME. And because you’ve grown so good at lying, I’m still not perfectly convinced you weren’t just dissembling. So hang in there my son: be honest, help the disenfranchised, treat women with respect, get some funding for the EPA and education, love the little children, make progress on gun safety, and give away all your money to the poor. Then, forgiveness for you will be just around the corner.”

The Ides of March


Rita yells from downstairs, “Hey, there’s a fox running across the field.”

I get to the window and see a quick red fox loping across the alfalfa field in front of our house.

I point out, “It’s loping, not running.”

Rita counters: “It might be trotting.”

We dance a bit.

But part of me is thinking that having never been a bushy-tailed red fox makes discerning fox-loping from fox-trotting difficult.

While contemplating life as a red fox, I dump compost water onto my left shoe. This left shoe is the very same left shoe where dribbles of unleaded gasoline landed last week.

Might this be a warning? Doesn’t everything happen for a reason?

Apparently, my left shoe is attracting bad smells. Why? What karma does that particular shoe have coming to it?

On the Ides of March, my father had a stroke. I was there. I cannot express the piercing terribleness.

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I thought that when I sprained my ankle or when the wind blew against me while bicycling, that it was a message from the universe or God or some mystical entity. But I never discerned the message. I keep listening, but sometimes I forget.

Nothing happens for a reason.

The compost water found its way; there is no ordained destiny for my left foot.

The stroke struck; there was horror, but no inherent gracious or malevolent message.

The fox ran, loped, or trotted, without spiritual awareness or discernment. Being a humanoid meaning-maker, I am glad of that. Making meaning from nothing grows tiresome.

Can you help me, Mr. Bushy-Tailed Red Fox, understand the meaning of all things?

Or help me understand the meaning of no things.

Or help me understand both at once.

via Daily Prompt: Warning