Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

A Word (or two) about the ‘A’ word

May 11, 2013

I was strolling through my neglected blogroll and came across a flurry of activity over there on the blog of my good friend Xavier.  We have shared the blogosphere for a good long while, he and I and we share a good deal many other things than blogging.  Among them is interest in relationships, gardening and a similar sort of twisted humor.  There is a good reason why we share these things.

He is in a bit of a panic because he believes he might be on the autism spectrum.  Hopefully the panic is subsiding, and if not I will either increase it greatly or perhaps lessen it.

I claim my own space on the spectrum, and have absolutely no problems doing so.  I am one of a growing movement toward autism acceptance, rather than the “autism cure’ crowd.  And this is highly fortunate since my oldest son is also well established on the spectrum.  And for several years before he was born, I actually spent a few years teaching and working with kids on the spectrum although there is no better education than actually having and raising your own child on the spectrum.

Before I go any further, I must say that I need to tread lightly on this topic, not because it is not near and dear to my heart.  But because it is.  I am infinitely more well-known in the autism community.  There may even be a book on the topic with my name in it.

So I am going to speak to the side of autism most relevant to this blog.  And one of the best places might be a fellow blogger or two.  Remember 2amsomewhere?  For a long time he signed posts and comments “behaviorunspecified” or something like that, which was a bit of a reference to “PDD-NOS” which stand for “Pervesive developmental disorder- not otherwise specified” which is a sort of autism-like diagnosis that kids are often diagnosed with when they are very young.  Neurologists avoided “autism” like it was the plague because to many parents that is exactly how it was viewed.  And the media did not help.  But truth is, many, many folks are on the spectrum.  Most of us nerdy types are on it.  If your nerd score is near as high as mine, you got it.  I mention 2am cause he was out there with his spot on the spectrum, but didn’t try to use it as an excuse.  It was just part of him.  And he even attended that little blogger get-together FTN put together years ago when neither you or I would dream of it.

Remember Christian Husband?  I don’t even need a test.

Not all of us on the spectrum are uber nerds.  But almost all of us struggle.  Like Confused Husband.  I think he diagnosed ADHD or something, but I would bet anything he would score on the tests as a likely candidate.  And he had at least one child on the spectrum, I believe.

We got a few things in common, but most noteworthy is the struggle in our primary relationships, and that is where I’m going to focus mostly.  I highly recommend reading anything written by Jerry Newport who is an uber aspie.  I went to a conference where he spoke and it was the first time I realized I had found my people.  He said “You know God REALLY likes autistic people.  Why else would he make all the planets and the universe spin?”  Plus, Jerry is old fart, like us.  Most of the stuff out there is geared toward parents of kids, and paints this horrible picture of autism and how awful.

At this same conference I heard a young woman who talked about how autism and aspergers manifsts itself very differently in girls and women.  And you know a couple of them I would diagnose with that female variant.  One is Arwyn…my wife.  The other would be Autumn, which I would base on the few interactions I have had with her online.  This is not to say they are bad or  broken.  It is to say they need to be understood.

So what does it mean to be on the spectrum?  And why is it such a big deal in the last decade or two?  I have a few ideas of my own, but the good folks who are studying this novel neurology do know there is often a genetic link but they also know there are multiple causes and symptoms.  There is not one simple marker.  As society moves and changes more rapidly, we are seeing more stresses and pressures that did not exist back when most people lived on farms.  Back in those days, aspergery folks might do extraordinarily well in agriculture where the time, pace and space operated in more natural and predictable patterns.  And it did not require great social skills.  People were not expected to make lots of phone calls, and talking a long time was expensive!  Tasks were pretty straight forward, albeit repetitive.  And in school, if you sat down and kept your mouth shut you could do well enough.

Except for the bullies.  There were always bullies.

I’ve known I was on the spectrum for at least a decade.  It’s only been in the last year where I have come to know Arwyn’s particular flavor, even though I think she is in denial.  Hell, I even blogged this crap back in 2005, but failed to make that last, tiny connection.  And even going to my more famous top 10 list (which has been lifted, republished and passed all over the internets) harkens to an almost autistic way of dealing with sex.  But I failed to see it until now.

What this means, once we get a diagnosis for you, me, a spouse or anyone, is that this is a big part of who we are.  It is not something you recover from using a 12-step group, psycho analysis, drugs, chelation or any other horse shit people will try to sell you. Don’t buy it.  They will take your money and you might THINK it is helping….and you will claim it helped cause who wants to look like an idiot for just spending big bucks on crap that didn’t work?

This is not something to be cured.  It is something to be understood and managed.  And my friend Xavier has been managing in fine form for a very long time, albeit in a certain Mr. Magoo-like fashion.  He has blindly gone about his business and done well raising his kids and his garden, taking care of his family just like he always knew he was supposed to.  Jerry Newport alludes to this about his own upbringing.  Everyone knew he was a little odd, but otherwise did not treat him any different.  He was still held to high expectations.  And he is still wildly successful despite also being wildly off-the-wall.  As we get older we get better at managing and compensating.

That routine and preservation of sameness (a cardinal autistic characteristic) is how we manage our environment.  We know we are prone to fits of disorganization, so we put things in the same place every single time so we can find it again.  We wear, eat and do the same things every day because it makes life easy and less complicated so we can devote energy to the variety of things we like.

And people on the autistic spectrum are very diverse.  What is true of one person on the spectrum is not always true for another.  I already pointed out that girls and boys have real differences, but no two autists are exactly alike.  Some have sensory issues, and some don’t.  Some are reclusive while others are gregarious.  And some struggle more than others.  It does not have to define you, but it IS a part of you.  Don’t try to curse, cure or beat it out of yourself.  It is not like cancer.  It will not kill you but it might make you a bit more unique!

In the case of Arwyn, it has helped me accept her more and not be as bothered by her inablity to manage time, space and money.  I will always be concerned, but I am not trying to change her.  And she is done trying to change me.  She is not always trying to get me to socialize more or join in on all the running around, disorganized shopping she likes.  For us, we are better off in separate rooms in our own spaces while still raising our kids together.  In that respect, we do fairly well as a team.  Remember people always seek out others of similar and compatible dysfunction.

So Xavier, go ahead and learn about it all you want but don’t get freaked out.  You gone this long without the label, and adding a tag doesn’t make you anymore or any less of a worthwhile person.  Use it as a tool to better understand yourself and the rest of your family.  But it does not define you.  You are greater than the sum of your parts and this is just one part.


A few comments on “The View”

March 4, 2008

I have the ability and pleasure to read a blog or two courtesy of Google Reader, mostly because anything by Blogspot is blocked by the workplace Goonware.  That also means that I’m not reading comments by most of you.

But Joe Flirt, who I read often (and I need to comment more, since I CAN comment on his WordPress blog) had an interesting post about something written by Bunni, who needs to be added to my Google Reader Club.  But I find that there are many people who seem to share Bunny’s sentiments, that they think that since they enjoy sex so much that all women must enjoy it as much as they do. 

But that’s not the primary thing I’m commenting on.  It’s the concept that men say they want a freak in bed, and then when confronted with that freaky chick, they run like scared bunnies.


There are two aspects of this that are equally troubling.  The obvious one is the scardy-cat men who are running away.  Or hopping away, if they are being like bunnies. The other is the heavy weight the women put on the view of these apparently weak-minded men.  If the guy is running off because you are being true to yourself, then nature is doing her job, right?  Weeding out the less confident, less fit and less capable?

 I’m trying to think if I’ve ever scampered off in the face of a more confident woman.  I’m trying to think of a time where I’ve ever scampered off.  I do think in my younger days, being massively inexperienced, I may have definitely been scared of women who were too womanly for me.  I was a total virgin until the age of 25, so there were a lot of years where I could have been running.  But once I got some experience, my first series of experiences were with younger women who were themselves insecure and inexperienced.  Even the one who had naked pictures of her taken by a professional.

The first time a gal wanted to go down on me, yeah I was uncomfortable with that but it was my own insecurity that made me a lousy lay.  It wasn’t until I dated someone several years older and who had been around the block a number of times that I became sexually confident enough to do and be done by my partner. 

Would I be a bit freaked if confronted by a bedsheet freak today?  Maybe.  But that’s all my own insecurity and doesn’t make me think less of any woman who likes to get down and dirty.  Unlike Joeflirt, my fantasies involve the demure school marm who wants to go down on her boyfriend and take it up the ass in her spare time or while grading papers.  Part of that is me being often perceived as being as straight and vanilla in real life as can be but knowing that I have a latent kinky side dying to be expressed and explored.  I don’t automatically assume the other Sunday School teacher down the hall from me is any different.  Another factor is just maturity.  As I get more comfortable with myself I’m able to feel less threatened by someone else’s differentness.  Many of the bunny-men are not as mature and will almost always feel threatened by anything that looks like it might make them feel inferior.  And that makes sense to me.  I’m not saying it’s right, but it makes sense.

Which leads me to the second thing; why are women all strung out about what the less mature and more inferior men are thinking about them?  I sort of get the sting of rejection when the guy might suddenly go limp, grab his clothes and go running and screaming down the hall.   But there seems to be a prevailing feeling that most men are like that.  Is that true?  Are most men freaked out when confronted by a sexually confident woman?

It could be true.  Confidence is a two-way street.  One must have it in order to appreciate it.  I think a lot of men want women who are sexually confident in order to raise their own confidence and esteem.  However when faced with the developmental task of being confident, they find they are not up for it, and go hopping off.  This relates to the topic of emotional fusion and borrowed functioning that Schnarch talks about.  A man wants the confident woman who will somehow make him more confident but ends up making him feel exactly the opposite!

A sexually confident woman who gets bunny-like because some bunny-men went hopping away in fear, isn’t really as confident as she is letting on.  I do understand why she might feel deflated, though.  When a woman decides to get sexually adventurous, she is practicing a form of disclosure which requires a certain level of trust.  However, the women act as if this disclosure is somehow riskier or more novel than what men have always had to endure.  Rejection and ridicule is a two-way street and it hurts no matter the gender of the person who is inflicting it.  The other-validated confidence game also goes both ways.  It takes a lot of courage to put oneself out there, and to endure the rejection when or if it comes.  The only real way to build that sort of fortitude is to actually do it, and step outside the comfort zone.

Extending FTN: Spanking

February 14, 2008

Or what to do with that “strong-willed” child.

I fully intend to do a thorough treatment of Autumn’s answers to my questions but first things first.

FTN recently wrote about his trials with his daughter and his thoughts on spanking. I’m sure he’s gotten lots of unsolicited advice via comments (Which I can’t read presently by RSS) but I feel the need to give him his own post on the subject. Google up spanking and you’ll get all sorts of interesting hits. And I’ll get some here, especially if I mention spanking and chastity. But that’s not my intended audience today. Sorry kinksters, maybe another time!

Like FTN, I had discussed this with my wife prior to becoming a parent. Like Autumn, Arwyn did not want to spank. Unlike Autumn, Arwyn has held to her guns. As a child, Arwyn and her siblings did get a wooden spoon. I got a belt (with mom) and a stick with Dad. Dad had a twist on his already-harsh discipline. He would make us get our own stick. The major part of that task was picking a wooden lath that didn’t have nails in it. Dad’s spankings were very infrequent. In fact I remember only getting it once from him and the impression of that was deep enough. I got the belt from mom much more often. A lot. And I let her do it because not allowing her to spank me whenever meant Dad would do it. And no one wanted that.

My oldest has developmental delays along the autistic spectrum which gave us both cause for pause as parents. But fortunately for all involved, one of us was a die-hard behaviorist and that’s the approach we use…most of the time.

I’m not against spanking and its judicious use. But if it happens too often it causes problems just like FTN is having now. For instance, when my oldest was 5 (he’s about to turn 9) he was acting up in church. So I took him outside and gave him a stern talking to. When he got defiant, I took him to the truck and gave him one single hard spank. It made an impression. It was enough of an impression that the next Sunday while we and the entire congregation was entering God’s house, he said in a voice loud enough to be heard in the entire county, “I DON’T WANT A SPANKING, DADDY! PLEASE DON’T SPANK ME!”

And this happened every Sunday for the next 6 weeks. I didn’t have anymore problems, except with an obsessive preoccupation he had with spankings. For him, it just wasn’t the best thing and after a month or so of very few spankings followed by an ever-increasing obsession I had to find other ways. I had to become the King Behaviorist.

Punishment represses behavior. It does not eliminate it and it does not fix it. While I don’t believe it teaches a kid violence (that’s something that doesn’t need to be taught) it does not teach appropriate behavior either. Getting a handle on problem behaviors involves asking one fundamental question: What do you want this child to do?

Once you figure that out it is a matter of teaching them how to do it. I’ll catch hell for saying it, but kids are essentially animals until we teach them how to be humans. That’s our job as parents. Kids are not born knowing how to act civilized, and it is not something you can beat into them. They must be taught.

I’m assuming that Autumn and FTN are already modeling civilized behavior. At least Autumn is. Kids are going to learn self-regulation, control and patience from their parents. Beating the hell out of a kid out of anger doesn’t model self-controlled behavior. I’m not saying anger is wrong or that it won’t serve a purpose in discipline. It’s okay to register your anger to children, but they also need to witness its control.

I’m not saying FTN is being a caveman child beater at all. In fact, he’s a pretty sophisticated guy who stuggles like every father does. I think all good fathers struggle. No problem there.

FTN wants his daughter to not talk so much at school. Okay, but that does not answer the question: what does he want her to do. Let’s noodle out talking behavior for a minute.

Talking serves an important function of communication. My oldest did not talk until he was 3, so a lot of his acting out was the result of his communication deficits. But once he started talking he wouldn’t shut up, which does not go over well in church during the pastoral prayer. He talked often and loud. So what did we do?

First, we reinforced “quiet behavior.” We used small food given contingently on quiet behavior. If he talked out, we might take the snacks away. As soon as he was quiet, he got his snack bag back. Also, munching cheerios or having a sucker is mostly incompatible with talking behavior. Mostly. One can talk while eating, but it provided enough stimulation to keep quiet until the food was gone. But we usually had enough to last until Children’s church time when the little tykes are sent to place where they can raise cain somewhere far from the sanctuary.

Obviously, this might not work in a school setting. But using a token economy can serve as a reminder for acquiring a reward contingent on a target behavior like being quiet. If you get 10 smiley faces you get a candy bar or get to play monopoly with Dad. Maybe give Monopoly money as a token and say she has to earn $100 to play the game with Dad. Adults do all kinds of stuff to earn privileges like that. You work and behave a certain way and you earn something fun. Money buys fun. She might as well start learning that now. Behaving poorly costs money. Levy a fine for bad behavior. But make sure the reinforcement schedule is rich enough she never goes in the hole. But also make sure the “cost” of her reward is high enough she can’t “retire” too early!

By using positive reinforcement you can give positive verbal praise to reinforce the desired behavior. “Good job being quiet and working! You are going to have so much fun playing Monopoly with your Dad!”

Good behavior has reinforcing properties all its own, but a child who is struggling often never accesses those rewards. Using an artificial system provides scaffolding in order to support her until she learns and gets access to more natural reinforcers like praise, good grades and more peer acceptance.

Autumn and FTN are falling into a common trap caused by relying too much on punishment. Basically when punishment is the sole tool it has to be administered more often and with greater intensity in order to continue repressing the behavior.

I remember seeing a Geraldo Rivera special years ago about a behavior institute where workers delivered electric shocks to clients who engaged in self-injurious or aggressive behaviors with a remote control. They could control the amount of current and they ended up having to use the maximum voltage to stop the behaviors. At that point, the director of the place was shopping for bigger zappers with a livestock company that sold cattle prods!

Repression is like building a dam. If the goal is to stop the water altogether, you have to keep building it higher and stronger. The trick is to control the output by providing a productive pathway.

My son is still having to learn when to talk and when not to talk. We’ve drilled him: If you want to get the teacher’s attention, wait until they look at you, raise your hand and wait for them to call your name. Talk and then get back to work. Don’t argue.

Sometimes spanking is sometimes necessary to get a child’s attention. They are so self-engrossed in their defiance or tantrum, they need to “snap out of it” in order to be brought back to earth. This can often be done by other means, however, like proximity, squeezing their arm or something a bit less intrusive.

If you’re going to spank, let’s talk about that. I’m of the opinion (and I’m unanimous in this) that one good, hard whack beats ten smaller ones. Yeah, it will hurt, but that’s kind of the point. But let’s not turn it into a harder job than it has to be. Do it one time and make it count. Doing it multiple times can entail getting carried away plus if the child is squirmy you’re going to have as many misses as hits. Make the first one count. Once you got the kid’s attention, take off the black hood and start teaching.

Autumn needs to spend less time on Discovery Health and more time watching Supernanny. Supernanny is a behaviorist at her core. That’s not to say I agree completely with her take on spanking, but I respect where she’s coming from.  The families Nanny Jo deals with are extreme examples but make for good TV.  Failing that, watch The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. He’s a behaviorist, too. His techniques can work on kids as well as dogs. Trust me. Although it was kind of weird watching my oldest use the “Tssst!” on his little brother that I had just used on him. Oh well.

Telling a kid to do something over and over and over and over again before losing it teaches the child to ignore you. They’re smart little buggers and can tell where that line is. And watching Mom fall apart is cheap entertainment. The one warning and then act rule is a sound one and I’m betting FTN’s level of compliance from his kids is greater than hers. Men traditionally get greater compliance from their children and it’s not because they are men. It’s because they have an infinitely lower tolerance for foolishness. And THAT might be because they are men! Men, being less verbally inclined and more action oriented, are not going to repeat themselves endlessly. Redundant verbage is too exhausting for us. The kids learn that Dad is not going to play that game. Funnily enough, they feel more secure with that more solid boundary.

I sometimes see parents (mostly mothers again) do the counting thing. “1….2….3…..4….41/2….43/4….” This is exactly the same dynamic as repeating the verbage. This just means the kid can ignore the instruction until the last moment. Anything worth demanding compliance for is worth demanding and commanding it immediately. If the kid is about to run into a busy street, are you going to start counting? If the kid is drinking something poisonous is it going to be “Stop drinking that….stop drinking that….stop it…..stop it…..STOP IT!”?

I use a system of least-to-most prompts. First I tell them…

“Pick up your toys.”

They don’t do it. So I make sure I have their attention:


If they don’t look at me, I am up off the couch or chair and on my feet and on my way to get their attention. Obtaining a young child’s attention is the most often neglected yet important step in the process. If they are engrossed with the semi trucks or the pretty poison drinks I’m not going get anywhere verbally but I WILL obtain their attention.

Now that I’m on my feet and in their space, I am poised to act. I now point to the mess:

“Pick up your toys.”

Notice I’m not raising my voice because my proximity has their attention. If it doesn’t, I decrease the proximity until attention is obtained. An arm squeeze will often do it if nothing else.

If we’re dealing with a particularly obstinate and defiant episode, I’ll give a physical prompt which means grabbing their little hands and helping them put their junk away. And I’m none too gentle about it, registering my displeasure. We get the job done and are finished with it and move on.

If I still have a defiant tantrum, then we’re going to deal some punishment.

I want to say one more thing about punishment. I encounter a lot of parents who talk about how they’ve taken everything away until the child has nothing left to lose. And then wonderr why the behavior continues to deteriorate. Think about it; they have nothing more to lose.

The reinforcement schedule for compliance needs to be several times greater than the schedule of punishment so that they never end up with nothing left to lose. People are inherent gamblers and when you have nothing left to lose, you will go with the sure bet every time. Instead of asking themselves “Why should I behave?” they will ask “Why the hell shouldn’t I do whatever I want? Besides, I’m PISSED!”

For you children, the latency between the consequence and the behavior need to be as short as possible. If a child acts out at school at 10 a.m. and gets a consequence at home at 4 p.m., there’s little actual teaching going on and it’s almost a waste of time. It’s better to let the school handle it. But I’ve gotten letters home from teachers wanting us to do something when the kid is acting out. How to be supportive? I’ll talk to the child about their behavior, sure. The best time to have this talk is *before* school in order to close the latency between behavior and consequence. In the morning, I preteach good behavior and reinforce my expectations. I may offer a reward at the end of the day for good behavior and maybe even give the child a picture of whatever it is they are working toward to put on his desk at school to remind him. That enables me to “be there” without actually being there. If the child can read (and mine could read before he could talk) I might send an email to the teacher to give to the child during the day (perhaps with a picture) to remind him what I expect and the consequence that is hopefully positive for good behavior. Perhaps another picture is in order. Now I’m supporting and helping the teacher in her teaching and putting another tool in her hand that is hopefully more of a carrot than a stick, not that I haven’t delivered a virtual stick a time or two. But the orientation needs to be a positive one because there is already a bunch of negatives going on for children with behavior issues. Kids do not have the inherent ability to self-regulate their emotions and impulses. Some adults don’t either. As parents, we are really the child’s primary teacher and punishment is not the same as teaching. I’m not saying what FTN and Autumn are doing is wrong, per se, except there is some frustration there and I’d like to see it turned around for them and their daughter. They can keep working the way they are and their daughter will likely turn out okay. But at what cost? I’m just saying there are easier ways of doing it and better ways of living with less stress and less guilt. Parents do the best they can with the knowledge they have, and it’s not a job for the faint of heart. Parenthood offers more chances for growth than anything else in the world!

Okay, that’s my take on it. There’s a money back guarantee on this advice, so use it guilt and risk free. What do you have to lose?


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

XH and Me

January 12, 2008

I throw tons of traffic XH’s way (or as much as I get) and read everything he writes because the guy has some serious brains. It’s also because I can relate to him on many, many levels. What started out as a connection of experiences with wives who didn’t seem to like sex has branched off into other areas, especially theology and Christianity. XH and I also share some very key personality aspects such as being analytical and deep-thinking. We also share some of the less glamorous personality traits that feed into a couple of his most recent posts.

I sort of felt that his “Problem of Self” post was an oblique reference to things I’ve been writing about differentiation. I had serious thoughts about ginning up a serious reply/rebuttal but couldn’t think of a good reason to do it other than mental masturbation. His latest post about his quest for intimacy with his wife, tho, does move us past that. That is because he knows, and I know and he knows that I know he knows that I know that this has some serious spiritual underpinnings.

Intimacy is something God desires with us. God created intimacy because of His own deep, deep capacity for it. God feels stuff. God created us in His image, and put His essence into us. We are created to love intimately. When one knows another, in the Biblical sense, it is more than simply interlocking parts and exchanging bodily fluids. It is about intimacy. I give XH some props for figuring this out in his 30’s instead of his 40’s, like me.

In the comments to the intimacy post (the “self” post didn’t have many, much to XH’s chagrin) Desmond offers a bit of generous criticism of XH’s ways. Namely the condescending and arrogant ways. I’m going to build on that a bit.

My first ever blog was Sensual Dementia which had a little tagline that said something like “Thoughts from a condescending prick of a husband.” That label was pinned on me when I lived in the iVillage, and I resented it at first but ended up totally embracing it. That label was given to me by none other than Satan! To be perfectly honest I was a condescending prick. I still have a lot of that prick within me that comes out often enough. This is one reason why XH has a capacity to rile me in ways few other bloggers can. It takes a prick to really appreciate the prickishness of another one! XH and I connect in a wierd sense of similarity and commonality but we also have some sharp differences of opinion. Our capacity to get along and be civil to each other hinges on our ability to handle those differences. I have to be able to recognize that despite our eerie similarities, we are different people. We are not the same and it is entirely possible that two intelligent people can look at the exact same thing and come to entirely different conclusions. That is a very important key, here. So even though I don’t see eye-to-eye with him on all of his theology, we can still get along without getting all flamey. It’s not as easy as the rest of you might think. I have a natural penchant for flaming and used to use it on Usenet all the time. Alt.flame could be a pretty fun place. I give him some credit for helping me grow out of that a bit more. I don’t have to respond to what he says if I don’t want to; I can walk away.

In XH’s particular denomination there is an emphasis on uniformity which they incorrectly define as unity. However XH has differentiated himself from his denomination in some very significant areas, namely with his sense of history and his take on creeds He also has maybe a half dozen other areas where he might not agree with the original founders. He’s opinionated to an extreme and isn’t too afraid to throw those opinions out.

So what does this have to do with why his wife won’t trust him with her feelings?

Everything. I know this because I can now see the sort of damage I’ve done in my own marriage by carrying on in exactly the same way. This goes beyond pop psychology, but into reality. And I’m all about reality.

XH’s blog relationships can serve as a bit of a model for what is happening in real life. The first time I handed him some criticism, he turned off his comments, flushed his blogroll and got royally pissed. I was seriously worried he might go dark over it! But given more time to think, he reconsidered.

Why did he do all that? It’s because he was hurt and he didn’t want to be hurt again. He still doesn’t want to be hurt again so he has taken another tact tthat I know really, really well because I’ve used it more than once.

In his Intimacy post, XH mentions his feelings about his wife’s particular intellect which I thought was gutsy. It was that point where a few people might take exception. And we can see how he does this in the blog world.

When it comes to theology and religion, XH looms very, very large. He knows the Bible, Bible history and Christian history probably better than anyone else around the neighborhood. He’s an intellectual heavy weight and this is how he fends off attacks. I’m sure this is not a conscious decision, but I feel pretty confident that it works. I’ve gotten more than one private email from people who are cautious about commenting on a religious post because their ideas might get him riled up. They are afraid to challenge him and afraid of being challenged by him. I admit that I often measure my words against the thoughts and response of an opinionated and zealous XH, who is passionate about his faith.

Thing is, I have the exact same problem. Not just with my wife but with other members of my family. Over the holidays, my mother shared that my brother and sister are often afraid of my intellectual sharpness. My words have the ability to cut deeper than I ever realized. It’s not about being abrupt, rude and vindictive so much as it is about being careless and casual. Like XH, I often assume people know things that I know and see things as I see them. When they don’t, I act surprised because I am surprised! I’m not intentionally trying to be mean or make others feel small and stupid, but it surely happens all the time. People get around me they feel really dumb. And sometimes I really do think some people I’m around are really dumb.

While it isn’t overt, it really does function as a defense mechanism. The best defense is a good offense, and having a razor intellect and whip-like tongue can mask a lot of insecurities and other psychological deficiencies. This is why XH’s theological posts get very few comments while posts on his relationships garner so many. In his relationship posts, we are all on equal ground. He shows his weaknesses with honesty and others see his vulnerability and jump in. Not with accusations or flames but with support. Spiritually, he does have an arrogant swagger. Emotionally, he’s like the rest of us. If he wants more comments on his theological posts, he should quit being a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass. Show a bit of vulnerability there, quit acting like the fellow with all the answers and stop sounding like a pharisee. Find a theological question he doesn’t know the answer to and ask others about it.

All of the above only apply if he wants comments or friendly responses. Otherwise, a body writes and puts stuff out there regardless. I’ve got a butt load of posts about psychology on the Blogger version of UA that have few or no comments. I just like having them there and sometimes people come ’round years later and comment. While I like comments, I’m okay not getting them on every post. I just move on. Stepmania post, anyone?

So let’s get back to “self” for a minute and talk about how that fits in to this whole thing.

Like XH, I also see much of psychology having a very “selfish” orientation. Within the Freudian Psychodynamic perspective, it’s all about a person’s past unresolved conflicts. No room for God there. With the cognitive perspective, it is our own false beliefs and irrational thoughts that make things get unglued. With behaviorism, it is all about contingencies of reinforcement. None of the psychological perspectives have any acknowledgement whatsoever of sin and the need for redemption and salvation. No need of a Savior or an acknowledgement of God. It’s all about healing ourselves and becoming our own little god and saving ourselves from our own misery..

That’s not to say there are no truths in psychology. Studying it can be very beneficial in understanding human behaviors and emotions. But relying too much on it can result in losing perspective. The science of emotion and behavior is a worthwhile subject of study but not to the exclusion of others. I get where XH’s suspicions come from. I share much of his skepticism. But differentiation is not the same as individualism or existentialism. It has some similar ideas but isn’t married to a human construct of godlessness.

The problem XH has with his wife is derived from his problems with God. The lack of intimacy he shares with his wife is a mirror of the lack of intimacy with God. Both reflect a poor understanding of differentiation, nevermind its application. And keep in mind, XH and I share a similar psychopathology. We both want intimacy but we’re doing stuff that shoots us in the foot. It was by looking at how XH was coming across that made me realize where I was doing the same sort of stuff. Much of it has to do with being arrogant and being a condescending prick. Even if I don’t mean to be, I need to be more measured and conscious of what I’m doing and saying. I need to take some ownership of my own intellect and then realize that it really isn’t all that. In a sense, XH handing me my rhetorical ass on a plate has been instructive.

Being intimate with God means working past the tendency we have of see God as a being who is constantly and forever offended by everything we do. We do a lot of offensive things, to be sure. However we’re not going to get anywhere if we are forever on guard about offending Him. Who wants to walk on egg shells 24/7? This is how XH’s wife, Z, feels about XH. She can not open up to him because he will find fault with what she says and does. He will become self righteous in defending the faith. She isn’t allowed to have her own individual preferences without risking offense so she puts up her own defense. An intellectual defense against XH would take a lot of energy as he’s so formidable that way. So she uses an emotional one which is working exceedingly well.

Differentiation is about realizing that two married people are not in the same boat. They are still in separate boats, trying to act like they are in one. When someone else tries to steer my boat, they are being controlling and manipulative. When I’m steering both boats it is called togetherness, cooperation and unity! Invoking that whole Biblical submission theology is going to reap a cold dryness that will rival any polar ice cap in the solar system. You can not compel and force authentic intimacy by rules, force, intimidation, threats or any other way.

XH has all the mechanical elements of a fulfilling sex life. By any objective measure, he should be thrilled! He has frequency, he has techniques, he has a variety of activities and a wife who swallows. What the hell is he complaining about? He’s not getting intimacy. One can get all the sexual activity requirements from any hooker, but intimacy is something that can’t be purchased at any price. It is only bought at the expense of self, but not quite the way XH would have us believe in his “self” post.

There is a paradox coming up, and I know some people are going to have a problem with it. Rule-based people who are rigid get very constipated when there is a paradox lounging around. But here it is…

You are only going to be able to connect intimately with another when you are properly differentiated. The level of intimacy one has is directly proportional to the ability to deal emotionally with the differences. If one goes ape shit over some little issue like theology, how can I trust them with my heart? I can say the stuff I do here because I’m anonymous. But how do you stay anonymous in a relationship like marriage? You can’t do it. You can try to create emotional distance but the other person will know you more than you want over time. So you try to deal with differences by trying to eliminate them or acting like they don’t exist. Emotional fusion is when we try to eliminate differences through uniformity. We insist on conforming tothe standard. Whose standard? Well, the man’s standard of course! That’s because he’s conforming to God’s standard, which is the Bible! So we need to squash and press out any differences so that we are a nice, smooth, uniformly united couple. It’s a struggle to maintain that facade while we’re at church and I’ve met a few couples that couldn’t do it. Or wouldn’t. Now imagine keeping the hot iron on every day all day.

Differentiation is about allowing the other person to have their own feelings and opinions without feeling threatened and anxious. XH gets his panties in a wad when I write something he sees as rifled with theological errors. Actually it’s probably not true emotionally, but intellectually he feels compelled to correct the error which he does thoroughly and completely. Which compels me to fix his errors! All done in love, right? It’s no way to run a marriage. Or at least a happy marriage.

Thing is, Z isn’t all that different from XH. We always pick someone with whome we are evenly matched. Z does have some sharpness of her own that was demonstrated all too briefly on her own blog. Just look at the title of it! There is a synergy there that is actually inhibiting their intimacy. Two people with their own unique brand of arrogance and condescension trying to live together. They have amazingly pulled this off but the price has been their intimacy. When their intimacy increases their arrogance will suffer. Not a bad thing but they will suffer for it.

This last paragraph is a real tail twister, because it sets up a bit of a dilemma for XH. I stuck it in there as a manifestation of my own sadistic nature, which oddly enough is covered in the next chapter in Schnarch’s book about the two choice dilemma and marital sadism.

I might extend this post out later but let’s see where it goes on its own.


That didn’t take long.

While musing about the Christian Husband (XH for those who have yet to figure it out) thing I had another thought that plays directly to his “Self” post.

A while back there was some sort of meme going around and it asked something like “Could you live with a replica/copy/clone of yourself?” My answer to that is a definitive NO! I know this only because I see XH as my evil twin and he is bad enough as it is without being an exact copy. In our little community, he and I get into spats as much as anyone else. While this disturbs people in our peaceful, virtual Utopian world, I see that it is kind of necessary.

At the risk of blunting my sadistic side shown above, I have to say I’ve learned a thing or two about self growth through these heated exchanges. I’ve had to confront my less angelic side as well as acknowledge that it isn’t all bad. Using XH as a sort of reflection, I can say that I don’t like myself very much. I don’t like upsetting myself, I don’t like it when I make myself angry and I don’t like it when I see myself upsetting other people. I don’t like my pride and arrogance. I don’t like my condescending prickish self. I really, really loathe all that. But here’s the fact jack: I have to live with myself. I can avoid and move away from every other person on the planet except myself. My own sinful nature is right there, all the time, 24/7. Pretending it isn’t there means I end up fobbing off all my faults and insecurities on to other people. I cause pain to other people. I treat other people like livestock because I’m not dealing with my issues.

For example, there is the smoking issue. Bad, bad, bad, bad. Not much good about it. Except I like it and it helps medicate my pain and anxiety. That excuse of self medicating is a crutch I use to avoid dealing with my own shit. I blame Arwyn for causing my anxiety and thus my smoking. Arwyn hates my smoking. But I smoked before we were married, so she knew she was marrying a smoker. She had regular sex with a smoker: me. She refused to have sex with me when I stopped smoking. Smoking isn’t her issue. It’s mine. And I gotta deal with it without blaming her for it. I smoked before I met her and would continue if she left me today, using that anxiety as an excuse.

I’m confronting things on a lot of levels at the moment that I might rather not. But the conflicts are what have been driving me. Differentiation is a matter of introspection and integrity and not about selfishness. Denial and selfishness are all about fusion, manipulation and control of others. Whenever we try to become fused together through uniformity it is always at the expense of others. Insisting that others are fools for not using andouille sausage is a lot like insisting that others are fools for playing DDR instead of Stepmania. It basically involves an incursion into other people’s preferences and business. While it references their incompetence it also puts us into a corner where just about anything anyone else does calls into question our own integrity.

Uniformity is insisted upon in the military for a reason. It’s because we need to be exactly the same in order to accomplish a single unique mission: to kill other people before they kill us. Not exactly a model for Christian or marital unity.


So You Want to Be a DDR King…

January 11, 2008

Or Queen, as the case may be. I was SSSOOO excited when I read FADKOG‘s (who shall henceforth be called “Sugar”) post on her new DDR Super Nova game. I totally got wood! Fortunately I was differentiated enough to remain calm enough and in control to composed a lovely and lengthy comment to that post. Unfortunately Blogger ate the comment.

Fucking Blogger.

Hey, I’m just staying with the theme, here!

Anyway, I knew very, very few of the songs she mentioned. The one by A-Ha being the only one that rang a bell, and Take On Me has limited utility for serious step dancing. But I’m totally thrilled to have someone who is of my 80’s loving generation who is willing to take this game on. So I’m going to pass along a few things I’ve learned along the way and perhaps Sugar’s enthusiasm will result in others taking up the game. Perhaps there could be a resurgence of step dancing game-playing as we combine our health consciousness and video nerdiness with some serious ’80’s tunes. After all, she is seriously cool with a kickass rack. If she can’t start a local fad, I have no idea of who else could do it.

So I’m your facilitator to the world of step dancing. And the first thing I’m going to do is steer you clear of DDR Super Nova 2. I read the reviews and looked at the musical line-up, and my hat is off to anyone who sticks with this version of the game. You’re seriously hardcore DDR. I am going to steer you towards the free and open source version, which is Stepmania. While you can download everything you want and need (and more) from the site, I do encourage folks to purchase the $20 CD which funds the various Stepmix contests. Or if you want me to send you a copy of mine, just let me know where to send it. Seriously, Open Source means FREE as in beer!

Fortunately Stepmania and DDR are similar enough that we can talk about the basic elements without causing too much grief. Dance Dance Revolution is a series of games (video and arcade) that involve stepping on arrows in time with the music. Hitting the arrows in time and in sequence is rewarded with points. Missing involves penalties. Hitting several arrows in a row is a combination or “combo”. A higher combo will multiply your score. Forr instance, hitting a 100 combo means that I’ve hit 100 arrrows in a row without missing. But if I miss at the 101st step, my combos have to start over. The scoring will multiply your highest combo so after missing that 101st step I can still better myself by hitting the next 110 arrows without missing.



There are several types of arrow combinations that include traveling around the mat, jumping and holding. Stepmania also includes mines and lift steps, but I turn those off because they are exceedingly nasty and hack my dancing groove. The steps are generally in 4-4 timing, musically although higher levels will include many half and quarter steps that require more speed and agility.


Let’s talk about levels and scoring for a bit. It’s my understanding that DDR has 3 basic skill levels with the various grades between them. Stepmania can have up to 5, but it is the grades or “feet” that really matter. A given song may have 3 or more levels, and each level is rated a certain number of “feet.” “Feet” are just the arbitrary symbol for degree of difficulty and more feet means more difficult.


One foot would be a beginner level with maybe 50 steps in the entire song. So they come relatively slow and far between. You may not be stepping every beat or even every other beat but you are learning how to time your steps and orient yourself to the mat. Two feet would be maybe 60-70 steps with a jump or two thrown in. You’ll know it’s a jump when you see two arrows come up at once and you have to hit them both at the same time. The only way to do that (assuming you have no more than two feet) is to jump.

Before going up to a higher level, beginners have a tendency to pick which arrows will be hit with which feet. For instance, the up and left arrow get the left foot and the right and lower arrow get the right foot, sort of playing zone defense with their feet. But this will break down in higher levels so you might as well get used to the idea of traveling all over the mat. That means not reorienting to the center after every step. Stepping is exactly that: walking, jumping or running from arrow to arrow. You are not penalized for being on an arrow that you aren’t supposed to be on, only for not being on an arrow when it comes up. Those of you who have played Guitar Hero will have a rough idea of how this works, only it takes some time orienting to the space of the mat.

Scoring is rated according to how closely you are timed with the music and your combos. At the end you get scored A-E, where ‘E’ is failing and A is pretty good. AA is way better and AAA and AAAA are impossible dreams, at least for me.


With DDR, you have to score well on the songs in each stage at a certain level in order to “unlock” more songs. High scores at higher levels unlock more songs. So this gives a person an incentive to keep working and keep playing in order unlock more songs. Thing is, some of the songs might be kind of crappy which means you might have to keep dancing to some crappy songs in order to get to the cool songs. And then you discover the cool songs aren’t all that cool so you dance to more crappy music hoping to unlock the REALLY cool songs.

The complaints I read in reviews of DDR Supernova 2 were that songs were not all that good. I have no idea and since I play Stepmania, it isn’t a concern. Yeah, there’s crappy songs in that game, too, but adding and deleting the music is not a problem. I’ll explain more about that later.

It’s easy to get carried away, as our friend Sugar discovered. On a lower level of play, you can literally play for hours at a time and not realize it. That’s because the steps are relatively far apart and it may take an hour to burn 200 calories. That’s okay because you’re just learning the game. These step games are good aerobic workouts because they are loads of fun and combine video games, dancing and music and possibly annoying a spouse, parent or sibling. But getting a really good workout means doing lots of steps in shorter and shorter periods of time which means higher and higher levels. I currently live at the 5-7 foot level, which is about 75-150 steps per minute which is easily 200+ steps per song which is a lot more than the 50 steps at beginner level. So take a song at 120 Beats per Minute (BPM) and throw in a bunch of half and quarter steps or a bunch of jumps and you get a decent workout. My groove is 135-150 BPM and anything less seems ungodly slow. That’s why the play list for DDR looks a little light to me, but 6 months ago I might have liked it better.

Stepmania page

I like Stepmania for a lot of reasons, besides the fact that it is free. First is that I have an unlimited song selection. I can make a stepfile for any mp3. I can also download hundreds of stepfiles from the web. Right now, I have over 400 songs with stepfiles. With infinite variety I can play whatever I feel like and most of the time it is hard and fast. Stepmania is also infinitely configurable. I can pick whatever animated character I want to dance with (or none), decline to do mines or hold steps, increase or decrease the tempo or choose a dozen different modes like “drunk mode” or “dizzy mode.” I rarely play “stage play” which is the default DDR mode but usually travel through a song group systematically until they are all mastered and then either find another group and increase the difficulty.

There are a couple of disadvantages to Stepmania that need mentioning. One is that most step mats are made for PS/PS2 consoles and so getting it on the PC involves a USB converter costing about $7-10. Not all mats and converters play well with a PC and one must be persistent to make it work. Configuring the mat to work properly can also be a pain compared to a PS2 game where you plug it in and it just works.

The configurability is a double-edged sword because with so many possible options it may take awhile to get it exactly the way you want. Hours could be spend tweaking instead of dancing, which takes a bit of nerdiness to really enjoy. But once everything works, it works wonderfully!

For DDR and Stepmania alike, I recommend trying a cheap mat to start with but once you get past beginner level, you’ll want to upgrade. I have some nice Red Octane mats I found on eBay for half price. The cheap mats slide around a lot when an adult body gets moving fast.

Just thinking about playing? Try and you can play with the arrow keys on your keyboard! Stepmania can also be played on the keyboard and I’d say a majority of the folks actively playing it are keyboard players. It was useful for me playing that way because I learned the game basics, tweaked the program and was able to rate song difficulty before getting on the mat. So I highly recommend trying it before investing any money

For exercise, it compares favorably to a treadmill although you may find yourself do more either because of the game aspect or liking the music aspect or both. But the impact on the bones and joints is about the same, depending on the thickness of your mat and your floor. It is mainly targeting the lower body, but as anyone whose been reading me knows, it can be an effective weight loss tool.

These games also have one other drawback though. Their loudness can and will annoy anyone else in the house. I do my workout after work at work when everyone else is gone. Sometimes I do it at home but Arwyn usually retreats when I do and sometimes the boys go with her. Doing it late at night or early in the morning isn’t going to work unless you find wireless headphones that work, which I haven’t found. Notice Joe Flirt making a hasty retreat after his daughter got one as well as Sugar’s family.

I’m encouraged to see other folks trying it out so maybe it can be a more popular activity at RWB reunions.