My Year-End Reflection

'Tis the season to... reflect. At least that's what I always feel most inclined to do at this time of year, much moreso than exchanging impractical presents and over-eating, all in the name of "traditions" which require that we behave in certain rote ways without reflecting on why we're doing it.
I'm not against acknowledging certain dates on a calendar, though. Since we do live under the construct of a linear time continuum, holidays and anniversaries can serve as moments "in time" to look over the period just ending to try and understand what motivated us to live how and where and with whom the way we did ("What did you do and how did it feel?" is the only question I think God actually ever asks anyone at the end of a lifetime.). I find a good year-in-review process at once gratifying and disheartening. Gratifying to see the ways in which I may have evolved in the past year, and to take note of the non-material gifts I have given to others, given of myself, in other words, to the degree to which I was able to be myself genuinely with those others. Disheartening to face the ways in which I was disingenuous at times.
One thing I've stopped saying is: "This year was a year of transition." Ha! Why? Because in looking back, I've been saying that exact same thing about almost every preceeding year for most of my adult life. Perhaps, I'm finally accepting that this is a transitional lifetime for me, though if the present moment is all there is, and all time is simultaneous, then what I am transitioning from and to is up for grabs.
Reflecting on the outer world situation, I had an insight recently, expressed somewhat in my recent essay, "Ain't That America." [] The insight was simply this - that as bad as things seem today, in terms of corruption and greed and dishonesty and brutality in so many areas of our various societies, it has been no better or worse for any long stretch of history that we are aware of going back at least a few thousand years. Which again speaks to the simultaneity of time. Clearly, we are exploring and experimenting with the dark side of the human experience, from Ancient Rome, the European Dark ages and the American continent's use of genocide and slavery to establish its sovereignty, to today's exploitation and despoiling of our world and children under the tyranny of corporate and religious fascism.
Sounds grim, but yet this thought did not leave me at all in despair. Quite the contrary, it focused me on the two things that really matter most: self-knowledge and love. When you examine any extensive text of spiritual teachings that stand up without dogma, the only two things that ever really seem to "interest" God are finding more and more creative expressions of love, and deeper and deeper explorations of God's "I Am-ness." So, too, for human beings, each of us as part of that greater I AM, when we are mostly about love's expression and knowing ourselves, we are in harmony.
So, in looking back at the calendar year of 2007, a year that held more than a few bits of turmoil for myself and many people in my sphere, I am ultimately gratified, as in full of gratitude, because I did indeed find more ways of expressiving myself creatively through love, and I do actually know myself that much more at year's end than at this time in 2006. And I had the great pleasure of sharing similar journeys with fellow seekers. I end this year, then, feeling blessed. And grateful.
So, from the great I AM from which we all originate, I wish you a wonderful rest of the holiday season (and hopefully a little actual rest during the holiday season!) and a spectacular New Year!
All my best -

The End of the Job

In the first two decades of my adult life, I was convinced that I had a problem with work. I could never successfully force myself to stay at a job for long if I wasn’t really enjoying it, not even if I desperately needed the money - and there were times when I desperately needed the money! In fact, until I finally began my own private therapy practice, I had never lasted more than two and a half years at any one job. I never got fired, and in fact, I was a dedicated and enthusiastic professional. As a clinical social worker, I’d worked in private and non-profit agencies, groups homes and runaway shelters, drug treatment programs, foster care, mental health clinics and even a VA hospital for a while. But in the end, which always came sooner rather than later, the limitations and frustrations of bureaucratic work – the time clock, the paperwork, the regulations and excessive caseloads that prevented one from making really creative interventions with clients, and the general malaise of the social service work force, plus the rush-hour commuting in New York City led me to throw my hands up and give notice. These seemed like good reasons to leave a job at the time, yet a creeping judgement in my mind said I was being irresponsible or self-indulgent, that I had a problem.
I took two hiatuses from my chosen field during those first twenty years, both times going into my family’s small home improvement business, once even starting my own house-painting company in Westchester County, just outside of New York City. What I particularly liked about those two stretches of non-white-collar work was that the jobs felt more project-oriented. Small crews of workers would come together – plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters – and like a team, they applied the skills of their individual trades in harmony (mostly) with each other to transform or build from scratch a new living environment. Then, the various tradespeople would separate until they might meet again on another project. This made sense to me as an efficient way of getting things done, each person invested in the completion of a project, rather than just putting hours in at the same repetitive task day after day, and somehow, the coming together, accomplishing a task, then separating made the work experience more exciting and festive.
It also made sense to me intuitively that work should be fun, compatible with one’s personality and integrated into the "rest" of one’s life, just as "rest" should be an integral part of one’s work-life. I knew all of this in my gut (though before I started doing bodywork psychotherapy, I wasn’t always sure that gut feelings held true wisdom – see the section on "GUT FEELINGS" in my article entitled: "Feeling Human" - coming soon).
I often recall an older man I knew in my teen years named "George", a very kind man who hated his work. He used to say that even though he hated his job, he was okay because of his attitude towards it: "Work is just an 8-hour interruption of my day", George would say proudly. At the time, I thought he was really a sage, and I tried that attitude on for size when I entered the work force in earnest in the 1970s after getting my degrees. It hit me almost immediately, though, once I actually started working, that eight hours was a third of a day, a third of my life! Way too much time to spend in a state of "interruption." As my transient job history evolved, I felt resigned to the fact that I would be a work-force rebel in a world of nine-to-fivers who were responsibly slugging it out in work-days they couldn’t wait to just get through and at jobs they weren’t gratified in.
In 1994, however, I found vindication in, of all things, Fortune magazine! The September 19 cover story of Fortune that year was entitled "The End Of The Job." It heralded the changes to come as the new millennium approached in terms of work-life. "The job is a social artifact", Fortune proclaimed, born of early industrialization and assembly line production methods that were no longer relevant. "We cannot afford the inflexibility that the job brings with it…Jobs discourage accountability because they reward people not for getting the necessary work done, but for ‘doing their jobs." The article pointed out that before people had jobs, they worked in "shifting clusters…in a variety of locations, on a schedule set by the sun and the weather and the needs of the day."
Although no longer for reasons like daylight or weather, but more to do with advancing technology and mobility, and the elusive "quality of life", it has once again become more effective to work that way. Consultants, sole proprietors, temps and subcontractors have become today’s versions of the itinerant craftsmen of the past. Working by the hour is being replaced with working by the project, as it had always been done in most of the blue collar trades.
Furthermore, the article predicted that leisure time, vacations and retirement as they currently are structured would dramatically change. "Without the job, time off from work becomes something not taken out of job time but something taken during the interims between assignments or between project contracts. And retirement? As ever more people become businesses in themselves, retirement will become an individual matter that has less to do with organizational policy and more to do with individual circumstances and desires."
All of these prophetic declarations by Fortune 13 years ago are now commonplace realities in 2007. People do work differently structure-wise, much more independently, solo or in make-shift teams, and it is now the rare exception to meet someone who has been at one job or with one company for ten years, let alone an entire career. (I hadn’t realized that I was part of a pioneering professional class back in the Seventies!) Now, as feature articles recently in the New York Times Magazine have declared, everybody is quitting their jobs.
My favorite essay from the late 90's was in fact entitled, "The Joy of Quitting", written by Michael Lewis. In the piece, Mr. Lewis not only describes the sound economic and creative reasons for regularly changing jobs, he points out that there can be destructive effects from "sticking it out to the bitter end", as we are often instructed to do in childhood. "Finish what you started!" is a common admonishment that so many of us heard from parents, teachers or other authority-figures. In relationships or jobs, this rigid, often shame-based mindset can in fact cause a person to miss or pass up opportunities for greater accomplishment, growth and happiness that could only come by letting go of a current stagnant situation.
Some things have indeed shifted in our attitude towards work during the last decade, and in the ways mentioned, for the better. Yet, a different problem has re-emerged in recent years as part of this transition, perhaps born out of anxiety about not having the security of a "steady job." People, and especially Americans, work too much!
In a New York Times editorial, entitled, "Working Better or Just Harder?", Stephen S. Roach questions the way we are currently measuring the productivity of our work force, which government statistics say is quite high. Since improving productivity is "not about working longer", according to Roach, but about "adding more value per unit of work time", then our "24/7 culture of nearly round-the-clock work…endemic to the wired economy" of "laptops, cell phones, home fax machines…" is indeed producing more quantitatively, but not producing "better", that is more productively. We are all simply working too much.
How much? Well, while there are no statistics for how many hours people log in by logging on at home to do work, a study by the International Labor Organization states that Americans put in an average of 2,000 hours at work ten years ago, which was 83 more hours of work than in 1980. Juan Somavia, head of the labor organization, quoted in a Times article called, "Americans Lead the World in Hours Worked", by Elizabeth Olson, bemoans the situation we’re in here in the US: "While the benefits of hard work are clear, working more is not the same as working better."
Let’s look at the situation from the other side by examining the stats on comparative vacation time taken around the world. The United States has now become the workaholic capital of the world, it seems, surpassing even Japan. Americans, according to the World Tourism Organization, average a measly 13 days off per year, the fewest on the WTO’s list of countries. The next closest countries are Japan and Korea, with 25 annual vacation days. Italy, of course, my ancestral country, is all the way at the other end of the vacationing spectrum with an average of 42 days per year of rest and relaxation, with France, Germany and Brazil about a week behind at 37, 35 and 34 respectively. (I was in Italy two summers ago and it was quite a revelation to witness an entire country’s work force take off for 2 or 3 hours every day at 1 PM. The Italian in me felt the organic wisdom of this break time, but the American in me wondered how they could ever get anything done!)
If all that’s not bad enough, I heard an insult-to-injury statistic announced on WINS all news radio around April 15 that crushingly declared that the average American works 124 days per year just to pay their taxes. That is almost half the work-year!
Some might make the counterpoint that Americans as a whole are making much more money these days, and it’s a tempting argument, but at what price for our wealth, and more importantly, are we happier?
In a Times article entitled, "Pursuing Happiness", Paul Krugman sites a classic survey by economic historian, Richard Easterlin, who formulated what came to be known as the "Easterlin paradox." The survey found that above a very low economic level, economic expansion does not seem to improve people’s feelings of happiness. Working with people around matters of personal happiness, I see this "paradox" validated in my therapy practice all of the time, though why it is considered a paradox, I don’t know. Conventional wisdom has always known that money can’t buy happiness. Conversely, having money doesn’t bring unhappiness either, but while people’s levels of happiness are rarely determined by their level of income, what is true is that as people become happier, and pursue their hearts desires in all aspects of their lives, including work, a common by-product is that their financial lives expand, sometimes greatly. In my experience, money is not the way to happiness, but happiness is often the way to money.
So, what then are the keys to "working better?" In my experience, both as a working person who has been in blue and white-collar jobs, and as a psychotherapist counseling those who struggle with their work-lives, I have found that there are certain essentials.
First, ferret out the mind’s illusion that we must live compartmentalized lives with separate aspects that compete with each other for time, like George’s job being an "8-hour interruption" of his presumed "real life." When a person arrives to understand that their whole life is just one "work", one creation, and that there is no inherent separation between work and play, time suddenly opens up. You are no longer worried that resting and playing are "wasting time", nor are you experiencing work as robbing you of time for pleasure. Several article recently have appeared in the mainstream press recently extolling the virtues of taking naps during the course of the work-day, as the Italians do, and in fact, several major companies have begun providing rooms at the office with pillows and blankets for that purpose. Afternoon nap breaks replacing the afternoon coffee breaks? This represents an excellent organic shift in consciousness, in my opinion. When one is tired, instead of pumping yourself up with caffeine to keep going, you refresh yourself with a little rest.
Secondly, clear out the guilt and other side-effects of rigid childhood conditioning that can make you blindly hunker down and suffer through an ungratifying work-life because you were told that quitting was "bad." If we are growing, we are continually "graduating" from things, and as with formal graduations, we benefit from celebrating what we are leaving by reviewing what we’ve accomplished, acknowledging what is still ahead to do, expressing gratitude, letting go and moving on.
Finally, and most importantly, follow your heart and do what you really enjoy doing. Working can be a pleasurable and creative experience if it is approached as a vehicle for fulfillment, expansion and pleasure. Here’s a quote on the subject from Alexander Lowen, author and creator of Bioenergetic therapy: "Every creative act begins with a pleasurable excitation, goes through a phase of work, and culminates in the joy of expression. From start to finish, the whole creative process is motivated by the striving for pleasure. Not only does pleasure provide the motive force for the creative process, it is the product of that process."
If there is any theme that we will keep coming back to in Full Permission Living, it will be the importance of pleasure - as the essence of life, as everyone’s birthright, and as Lowen says, as both the motivation and the result of our unobstructed creative process.
So, we arrive once again to the famous "pleasure principle" that’s been already referred to in previous lectures and articles in Full Permission Living. Coined by Sigmund Freud almost a century ago, the term identifies one of the main guiding forces in our lives – the instinct to follow pleasure and avoid pain. As Freud and others realized, the pursuit of pleasure is not a frivolous endeavor, but rather a built-in guidance system in human beings to provide direction for self-actualized living. We all know somewhere inside that any task is better performed when it is being experienced with joy and satisfaction. That knowing feeling in our gut is coming from our place of deepest wisdom.
Perhaps, then, we are arriving to the day when we will leave the house in the morning to go to work, or when we are assigned a task to perform at the job, and our loved one’s or boss’ parting words of inspiration will be: "Have fun!"

Who are you? I am...

Like many people, you probably begin your answer to that question with these two words: "I am…"
Before you read on any further, write down on a piece of paper your own way of completing that sentence.

What followed next? Was it your name? Depending on your level of vanity, maybe your age came next? Then your profession or marital status?
After that, how else would you fill in the blank: "I am ___?"
This is the first question I ask my students when discussing the subject of the "self".
Who are you?
Some people answer with a role that they play in their lives - "I am…a mother, a father, a teacher, a student, a banker, an actor."
Some fill in the blank with a gender-based identification - "I am…a woman, a man, a boy, a girl."
Others use a description of their current preferences or attitudes in some area - "I am…a person who really values hard work." Or "I am a person who has to strive for perfection." "I am a person who doesn’t like change or surprises." "I am a person who needs to be needed."
Do you fill in the blank with a projection into the future? "I am…never going to finish my dissertation." Or "I am never going to be rich." Or even "I am always going to be in love with you."
Do these fill-ins really adequately define the self, the "I" we are referring to when we begin the statement, "I am?" Is it really a sufficient depiction of our-selves to use such narrow and limited images? And can we honestly project those images of ourselves into the future and fulfill their promises with certainty? Closer examination of the human psyche shows that while most people cling to static pictures of themselves for apparent security and identity, there is always a lurking feeling underneath it all that we are something more, something vast and perhaps somewhat vague.
I have often witnessed in my therapy work with people over the years that as one begins unblocking emotionally, and, therefore, as one is more in touch with the intuitive, feeling and energetic levels of being and living more spontaneously in the present moment, it becomes harder to define oneself in any of the aforementioned ways. At a certain point in their healing journey, when frozen or compacted deep feelings start freeing up and old belief systems get challenged, people start saying things like this:
"I don’t know who I am anymore", or "I don’t feel connected to my lifelong dreams and ambitions anymore", or "I don’t know exactly where I’m heading." "But somehow", they usually continue, "that doesn’t feel so bad. Somehow, I actually feel better, more like…myself." At such a time, a person is more likely to fill in the blank "I am…" with a more immediate emotional or physical feeling, such as, "I am…sad." Or "I am…happy." "I am angry." "I am hungry." "I am tired." "I am hot!" (Sometimes referring to their level of sexual arousal, rather than the ambient temperature!) Etcetera. This is much more in the moment, visceral perhaps, at times, and definitely transient, fluid, often changing from one instant to the next. Yet, the sense one has when expressing from that place is closer to being more oneself.
What happens even further down the self-discovery line? If we extrapolate from here, from "I am…a static role definition" to "I am…a transient feeling in the moment", where would we ultimately end up? Perhaps in that enigmatic place that "God" claimed to be in, according to the Bible, when Moses asked: "Who should I say that you are?" God’s purported answer: "I Am…That I Am." What does that mean?! Beyond definition, roles, even feelings, yet including all of the above, "I am" is simply, but profoundly, the ultimate state of undefined beingness, beyond time even, including all experience at once, past, present and future, all lifetimes of a soul existing simultaneously. As Jane Roberts describes it: "The soul stands at the center of itself, exploring, extending its capacities in all directions at once, involved in issues of creativity, each one legitimate."
Perhaps this is the "place" where we are all "heading" in our personal evolutions, to become conscious of the totality of who we are, which is existence itself. "I am that I am!" (Of course, Popeye tried to say it in his own way, too: "I am what I am and that’s all that I am." Pretty enlightened, that sailorman!)
The implications of contemplating the self in this way are indeed profound. If we ultimately are ourselves, and who we are is just beingness itself, beyond any roles, including, but more than mental, physical or emotional states, beyond definition, then we must also be beyond judgement. Nothing that we do can truly be "bad" or "wrong" inherently, but rather just part of our beingness experienced in the moment. What this kind of understanding means for constructs like morality and deviance, and for someone practicing psychotherapy, helping others sort out a variety of supposed "dysfunctions", is momentous. Some writers in the psychotherapeutic fields, from Karen Horney, fifty years ago, to James Hillman, Thomas Moore and Peter Breggin today, have eloquently written about the injurious effects of judgmental labels placed on "patients" seeking guidance from a therapist, and how the processes of healing, growth and development could be enhanced with a non-judgmental view of so-called "psychopathology".
I often think of a person’s "symptoms" as the particular mechanisms through which an individual’s soul gradually unfolds into a given lifetime, the pacing, so to speak, of the soul entering the body. It is said that a human being could not look upon the face of God or directly hear the voice of God without being annihilated. Perhaps what that means is that the full force of someone’s soul cannot be expressed right from birth when our new bodies and minds are so frail and undeveloped. Maybe, in the same way that a caterpillar creates a cocoon in order to make the transition to a butterfly, human beings create their own "cocoons" in childhood that we in the psychotherapy profession call defenses, personality disorders or character structures. Though they once may have served the purpose of helping us survive our childhood wounds, they become painful and dysfunctional when we have outgrown them. Maybe, then, the various therapy processes are the ways in which we seek help getting out of our cocoons. In any case, what can be judged about all of this as "good" or "bad?" Imagine a butterfly engaging in harsh, self-condemnation or criticism for finding itself in a cocoon that it must now remove in order to grow and live. Ridiculous, right? So, accept your temporary existence in your cocoon on the way to becoming your actualized self, even as you make strides with all due effort to dismantle it.
And remember these favorite words of mine in approaching your life and cocoon-removing self-work during the upcoming holidays from the familiar inspirational prose-poem Desiderata:

"Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

PL makes the PARK SLOPE 100 List for 2007!

From the PS 100: "PETER LOFFREDO because you’re a holistic psychotherapist (and blogger) with strong opinions who is on a mission to convince parents that they deserve to have a life full of love, sex, and fun apart from their children."
See the list at:

Ain't that America?

Good news for the anti-therapy crowd from "Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their own mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education."
Wow! What does this mean?
Libby Spencer at the Newshoggers takes umbrage:
"I’m betting the numbers reflect mostly the 30-percenters who still think Bush is a great president. Of course those Republicans think their mental health is fine. They’ve somehow managed to learn to live with a level of cognitive dissonance that would make most people’s head explode. The rest of us aren’t feeling so good ourselves because we see what the Bush administration is doing and don’t find it acceptable on any level. That’s the trouble with living in reality. It tends to dampen the old peace of mind when you see everything that was once great about this country being incrementally destroyed."
Well, I agree somewhat with Libby that living in denial can give one a temporary feeling of sanity, and that facing the realities of how those whom we trust to run our government, corporations, schools and health care industry are actually incompetent or corrupt or both is very depressing. Where I disagree with Libby is around the notion that our not feeling all right is about "everything that was once great about this country being incrementally destroyed." Everything that is insane about America today has always been there. A country initially founded on the genocide of its native people by religious zealots who thought it was acceptable to burn women they declared witches, while developing our new economy on the backs of slaves was never sane. Liberals and "Movement Democrats" take a bit too much satisfaction in past accomplishments. The bottom line is that the end of slavery only accelerated other forms of insidious racism, while the "successful" sufferage and feminist movements have still not produced a woman president. Why not? Because real change cannot be effected by politics, not even "good" politics. The most idealized movements of the past that were supposed to change things in fact gave us teh likes of Richard Nixon (twice!), right in the heart of the Sixties. His Watergate led to only one brief term for the likes of Jimmy Carter, but was followed by 20 out of 28 years of nutty Republicans in the White House, including 2 terms for Ronald Reagan, the king of "I'm Okay; You're Okay" conservativism, and 2 terms of the indefinably infantile George W. Bush.
Real change only comes from one person at a time evolving their consciousness - by peeling back the layers of denial, challenging their own ego-driven selfishness and narcissism, and developing the genuine empathy that comes from fully feeling all of one's emotions. Easy? No. Does it require a lot of self-work that most people would rather not do? Yes. But doing whatever it takes to become sane in an insane world is still better than the alternative - being a Republican who feels good about himself!
[For further information, see my 3-part series: "FALSE CLARITY TO GENUINE CONFUSION TO GENUINE CLARITY" on this blog.

Parental over-involvement gone wild!

URGENT! Check out today's "Domestic Dusturbances" column by Judith Warner, called: "Helicopter Parenting Turns Deadly" (

Here's a quote from this very tough article: “People now feel like having a good relationship with your child means you’re involved in every aspect of your child’s life,” says Rosalind Wiseman, author of “Queen Bees & Wannabes” and “Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads,” who travels the country speaking with and counseling parents, teachers and teens.

“Nothing is off-limits” now between parents and their kids, she says. “There’s no privacy and there’s no critical thinking," she writes.

This is very painful reading, and yes, these are extreme cases of the harmful effects of parental over-involvement, but please don't excuse yourself, good parents, from using these cases to examine where on the continuum of this kind of vicarious dysfunction you fall. These over-the-top examples are only the most grotesque manifestations of a wide-spread parenting pandemic.

A whole generation of children are suffering because of it, and the worst is yet to come when these kids grow up and try to have real adult relationships in the coming decades. While there's still time, I urge you to do the work necessary to get your own lives and let your kids grow up.

Hold the Cinnamon Toast Please!

Here's this week's Smartmom from the Brooklyn Paper - and my response:

On Saturday afternoon, Smartmom was in a quandary: the Oh So Feisty One had a temperature of 100.7, her head was pounding, and she said that it hurt to swallow.

There were other telltale signs that the OSFO was sick: Her eyes were glassy, she was uncharacteristically droopy, and she just wanted to sleeeeeeeeeeeep (yes, with that many e’s!).

Smartmom knew that OSFO was down for the count. But Smartmom had longstanding plans on Sunday to attend “Later the Same Evening,” an opera based on the paintings of Edward Hopper, composed by her friend John Musto at the University of Maryland more than four hours away.

That meant that she’d have to leave the house on Sunday at 9 am and wouldn’t be home before 11 pm.

Smartmom was stressing. She knew that OSFO would want her to stay home. She’d already made that perfectly clear: “You’d go to an opera rather than stay with me?”

But Hepcat was urging her to go. “We’ll be fine,” he said, and Smartmom knew it was true.

He’d be home all day Sunday. So would Teen Spirit. Even Beautiful Smile, their babysitter of 16 years, had called to say that she wanted to sit with OSFO, too.

Still, Smartmom was stressing. On first glance, it was a no-brainer. Of course a mother should stay home with her sick child. That’s part of the job description.

Smartmom has luminous childhood memories of being sick and lying on the low couch in the living room of her family’s Riverside Drive apartment watching “Father Knows Best,” “I Love Lucy,” and “Leave it to Beaver” (re-runs! Please, she’s not that old).

Her mother, Manhattan Granny, would bring Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup and cinnamon toast on a tray, fluff her pillows, and pay extra special attention to Smartmom (because her twin, Diaper Diva, was at school).

When Teen Spirit and OSFO are sick, Smartmom tries to emulate her mom. She even has a special tray that she uses to serve Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup and cinnamon toast.

Now you can understand why Smartmom couldn’t make up her mind about the opera. Her friend had already bought the $200 round-trip train tickets and a day of gab and gossip on a train with her best high school gal friends would be a gas (despite the expense of the Amtrak fare. Smartmom admits that she blanched at the cost. Why is train travel so expensive in this country? Do they want us all to drive?)

The delightful train ride and opera was countered by a different image: OSFO lying in her bed with four fluffed pillows, a tray of chicken noodle soup, but no mommy.

So for a few moments, Smartmom was back to staying in Park Slope, keeping an eye on her sick little OSFO, who seemed to take an inordinate pleasure in ringing a blue bell to summon her mother and calling “Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Ring. Ring. Ring. That ringing was getting on Smartmom nerves. If that OSFO has the energy to ring that thing so vigorously, she doesn’t need Smartmom to stay home from the opera. And if her throat hurts so much, why is she SCREAMING?

Besides, Smartmom loves Musto’s music and is a huge fan of Edward Hopper.
Naomi Village: In the heart of the Poconos

Smartmom didn’t know what to do and decided to take a wait-and-see approach. When OSFO popped out of bed, on Sunday morning, Smartmom decided that she was well enough for Smartmom to go. Then she took her temperature, which was still hovering around 100.

“Just go,” Hepcat counseled and Smartmom did.

When Smartmom and her friends met up at Penn Station, they found out that there was a power outage on the lines between New York and New Jersey. Every arrival and departure was delayed by more than an hour and no one seemed to know when the lines would be fixed.

Smartmom knew the decision had been made for her. Even when her friends decided to get a car and drive down to Maryland, Smartmom knew she wouldn’t be going.

By 11:15 am, Smartmom was back in the apartment on Third Street. She ran into OSFO’s room, “I’m here,” she cried feeling very heroic and maternal.

OSFO couldn’t hear her. She was wearing headphones and watching something on YouTube. When she finally looked up she seemed mildly pleased that Smartmom had returned and then went back to her YouTube video.

No matter. Smartmom was home. Exactly where she wanted to be.

“Hey, you want some cinnamon toast?”

Peter Loffredo's response:
"Smartmom! You know I'm wagging my finger at you. You almost made it - not just to the opera, but more importantly, to that goal-line of egoless parenting. I, too, have golden memories of being home sick from school and having my mom happily serve me grilled cheese sandwiches and ginger ale, while I watched those same reruns of "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It To Beaver" (We must be about the same age!). In my adult years, however, I've often wondered if those pleasant memories of being sick and getting such special attention for it contriibuted to a strain of masochism in me that I had to later confront in therapy. Indeed, many people that I've worked with in therapy have had to struggle with their own predisposition to invite suffering into their lives in the hopes of receiving the pay-off of extra attention from a parental (transferential) substitute.
I do understand your conflict, though, Smartmom. It is clear that you are a loving and dedicated mother (which is even more important than being "Smart."). By far, the hardest thing for such a parent to do in our times of off-the-scale overcompensation is nothing when it comes to our kids' rearing and well-being. But in this case, you actually had an option - delegating. Your husband was there, presumably ready, willing and able. He said "Just go!" But your own identification with OSFO, and YOUR desire to be special made you jump at the opportunity to retreat from your adult desires and plans. Of course, we all dread the day when our kids will say to us, "Just go," but nonetheless, if they become able to say that (without having to be too forceful), we will have done our job."

Having an affair good for a marriage?

An interesting article on the Timesonline website ("An Odd Turn of Affairs") poses the question above, suggesting that some marriages benefit from the shake-up caused by an affair. (
So, here's my weigh-in on the subject. Get rid of dogmatic words like "commitment" and "fidelity," first of all, so you can honestly look at your situation. Like most things I write about regarding relationships, intention is everything. People in a marriage can be "committed" and "faithful" for reasons that clearly crush the passion in a relationship - i.e. - fear of being alone, fear of losing financial stability, insecurity about one's physical appearance and attractiveness, etc. These are love-Eros-sex killers. However, on the other side, again, let's can the dogma. Very often, adults claiming to have "open marriages," arrangements in which extramarital sex is allowed under certain conditions (like "don't ask/don't tell" policies), more often than not have intimacy issues and similar insecurities, and as a result, their relationships are neither open nor a marriage. (If you and your partner are so open about sex, why wouldn't you want to talk about it?)
So, what is to be gleaned from the statistical "turn of affairs" in Mr. Marshall's article? Simply this - If you love someone, set them free. Let go of your vice grip on your partner. Stop clinging, get a life, actualize yourself, be interesting and attractive to yourself. What I call "spontaneous monogamy" - monogamy that develops when two people are so in love that they want to experience their sexuality like a laser, through that one person only - is the greatest, deepest, most intense experience one can have as a human adult. But forced monogamy, which most married couples contract for, is not rooted in love or lust, and basically consists of one partner saying to another: "Even if you no longer are in love with me one day, you still have to stay with me." Mmmm... how attractive is that?
Having an affair as a solution? Hardly. While it can wake a couple up to the stagnation in their marriage, and therefore can have productive results, why wait until it gets to such a messy point? Shake your marriage up now. Go for couples counselling that really challenges your emotional laziness. Stop taking all of your medications to go to sleep and get it up, stop leaning on your kids for meaning in life, stop obsessing about money. And see the new movie coming out with Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman and ask yourself how you would want to live if you knew you only had a little time left. You never know - you might rediscover the Eros in your marriage.
Peter Loffredo (



My name is Peter Loffredo, and this blog is called FULL PERMISSION LIVING.
Full Permission Living is an approach to healing and self-actualization, but moreso, it is an approach to living life as it is naturally meant to be lived.
Full Permission Living is the based on the understanding that human beings are, by first nature, sane, loving, cooperative, creative, humorous, intelligent, productive and naturally self-regulating. Full Permission Living rests on the foundation of truth that all people are entitled to live pleasure-filled, spontaneous, lives without guilt, shame or oppressive inner rules and prohibitions. Indeed, we are meant to live with full inner permission to follow our natural inner guidance and our inborn pleasure instinct to seek out gratification in all of our actions and endeavors, and that such a way of living always benefits those around us and those that we love.
On this blog, we will explore ways in which we can reconnect to our true selves and live lives of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and material fulfillment, while remaining in a state of harmony with others and with the world around us. We will discover the truth that life is meant to get better and better as time progresses, that growing up, maturing and aging is not at all a deteriorating process, but rather one in which the individual becomes more and more potent and powerful in all areas until the very end of a lifetime. We can discover that everyone has everything already built in that is necessary to achieve the fulfillment of their deepest desires. And it's no secret!

Some of the topics FULL PERMISSION LIVING will cover will include:
- The true nature of the Self. Who we really are as human beings, and what our rightful place is in the Universe. We will look at a variety of ways that we have come to define ourselves and how those definitions influence how we experience our lives as a result;
- The nature of feelings. We will explore how emotions work and why we even have feelings. We will discover that our emotions, which are quite literally Energy-in-Motion, are a powerful force within us from where we create our personal and collective reality just like a perfect storm;
- How we do indeed create reality will also be one of our quite fascinating topics, incorporating not only ancient wisdom and intuitive knowledge on the subject, but also discoveries from modern quantuum physics, molecular biology and neuropsychology.
- We will take a long hard look at... You! Yes, you! We will examine each of the basic and quite uniquely different character structures that we form in order to adapt to and survive the slings and arrows of childhood, and how they effect everything from how much money we make and who we choose to love to the curvature of our spine and the shape of our upper lip. No one escapes from forming a character structure, but we will explore how we can escape from their crippling effects on our road to fulfillment.

Other topics will include:
- health, and how to live a vibrant, fully alive life from birth to death;
- adulthood, and what it truly means to be an adult in our times, and how to enjoy all the rights and privileges and powers of maturity;
- parenthood, and what children really need most from adults, and what parents really need to know about themselves in order to help children;
- dysfunction, and what forms our deformations take, as well as how to understand their usefulness in the healing process and in one's own personal evolution;
- relationships, and how they are the cornerstone of a fulfilled life and how we can connect to the vastness of the Universe through our connections to other human beings;
- sex and sexuality, and how the forces of love, Eros and sex are the key and solution to every human problem there is.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are indeed our inalienable birthrights, and all human beings do have the potential to become "healthy, wealthy and wise," as the founders of our country realized in writing about the nature of freedom and living according to natural law over two centuries ago. It is our accumulated oppressive beliefs, individually and en masse, and the suppression of emotions that has caused us to lead lives of "quiet desperation" or engage in destructive acting out. The good news is that now, we stand at the threshold of a new era in which humanity can realize itself to be a beautiful, magnificently designed, perfect expression of the great "I Am" of the Universe, living with full permission to be exactly who and what we are.

"Oscar" for Best Parent to Smart Mom

This is from The Brooklyn Paper's "Smartmom" column by Louise Crawford, posted on her blog, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn
[] and responded to enthusiastically by me.


Here's this week's Smartmom from the Brooklyn Paper.

Smartmom used to think that parents were responsible for everything good, bad, and indifferent about their children.

She thought that raising children was like raising African Violets or Orchids; tending to a child with the unswerving dedication of a master gardener.

But after being a parent for more than 16 years, Smartmom has learned that, while some kids are like flowers, others are more like exotic mushrooms.

In other words, the less you do, the better.

While no one can deny that it is important to nurture, love, feed, educate and guide one’s children, sometimes being a parent requires a healthy dose of distance.

Take Teen Spirit. In the last year, he has turned into an accomplished rhythm guitar player. And this is the kid who refused every music lesson he’s ever been offered.

But that’s not all. On his own, he’s become an avid reader of early 20th-century poetry and has been obsessively writing songs that could give Bob Dylan a run for his money.

(Smartmom’s his mother. She’s allowed to kvell).

Unlike the Oh So Feisty One, he doesn’t like to share everything with his mom. That OSFO, she loves to be guided and encouraged. When she practices the piano, she insists Smartmom sit right next to her.
“Stop it,” she screams when Smartmom sings along with one of her classical pieces. But if Smartmom dares to get up: “Get back here!”

Teen Sprit couldn’t be more different. He’s always been an independent sort. The less interest shown the better. An overzealous parent can blow his enthusiasm right out the window.

The other day, these thoughts were foremost on Smartmom’s mind as she and Hepcat made their way to Teen Spirit’s solo gig at the Bowery Poetry Club.

Smartmom ordered a glass of Chardonnay to calm her substantial nerves. While Teen Spirit has been playing bass with his band, Cool and Unusual Punishment, for three years, this was his first solo performance.

As audience members filled the dark performance space, Smartmom thought about the dark growing rooms where white, brown and Portobello mushrooms are harvested.

Just like those mushrooms, Teen Spirit was growing on his own without the bright artificial light of his mother’s attention. On his own, he had transformed himself into a serious singer-songwriter.

It all seemed very sudden to Smartmom. That’s probably because she had nothing to do with it. Truth is, he seems to have little use for her constant nagging: Wake up. Take a shower. Go to school. Do your homework. Go to bed.

But that’s what mothers do. That’s part of the job description. And it’s part of the parental delusion of control that their children can’t develop without them.

Waiting for Teen Spirit to play, Smartmom found herself stressing: Would he know how to use a microphone? Was his guitar in tune? Would his hair fall into his face and cover his eyes? Would he remember the lyrics to his self-penned songs? Would he sing loudly enough?

Smartmom was channeling Gypsy’s Mama Rose big time. Sing out Teen Spirit. Sing out.

Turns out, Smartmom didn’t need to worry a bit. Teen Spirit took hold of that stage and didn’t let go.

“This is a song about a family,” he told the audience at one point. “But it’s not autobiographical.”

“A mother says to her daughter, never marry a man like your father, all he’ll make you do is cry, all he’ll give you is black eyes, like the ones that pollute your mother’s face,” he sang.

Some of the songs gave her chills. Others made her swoon. One or two simply took her breath away.

“We are sacred, we are pure, we are rare, we are obscure, we are all that we have left.”

Afterward, Smartmom and Hepcat were in awe of their offspring. But could they take any credit for it?
Sure, Teen Spirit had inherited Smartmom’s musicality and her wondrous way with words. But he owned his effort and his talent fair and square. Teen Spirit had created himself out of sight of his parent’s hovering.

“Was that great or are we just prejudiced because we’re his parents?” Smartmom asked her spouse as they walked to the F train. Hepcat, who recorded the show with his brand new Zoom H4, reminded her, “Some of the other kids’ parents were impressed, too.”

In fact, the mother of Teen Spirit’s oldest friend told Smartmom to tell Teen Spirit that she was very proud of him. Then she paused to rephrase. “No, tell Teen Spirit we were blown away.”

And there it was: Perhaps Smartmom couldn’t take credit for teaching Teen Spirit anything, but he had certainly taught her that not all children are flowers. Some are mushrooms and you just have to leave ’em alone.

Comment by Peter Loffredo

Smartmom, you have made my day! No, my year!! You are truly a smart mom! No, a great mom!! You have learned the hardest lesson of truly good parenting - that children have their own songs inside of themselves, gifts that they brought with them that only have a little bit to do with you, and if you just provide safety and a minimal amount of basic guidance and nurturance, those gifts will express themselves magnificently. It takes true love and the dedicated downsizing of your ego to be able to acknowledge that your son was "growing on his own without the bright artificial light of his mother’s attention." If I could, I would give you the equivalent of the Best Parent Oscar for that awareness. I will be sharing your column with the parents that I work with in therapy as a real-life example of humble, yet courageous mother-love, and its genuinely positive effects. Congratulations! And thank you!!

On Talking to your kids about sex

This is a great little comedic video making fun of an actual Public Service Announcement from the insane Abstinence Only crowd.
Why is "abstinence only" insane as public policy? Well, hopefully, you don't really have to ask that, but in case you do, here's why:
Nature never fucks up (only people do, because of ego and hubris). Nature causes kids to have powerful sexual feelings after puberty, which means DURING THEIR TEEN YEARS. To tell kids in the throws of those surging urges to just ignore those feelings and (OH GOSH!) never, ever act on them is about as realistic as the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy and her gang to "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." Not to mention the conflict your engendering by telling your child that something inside of them that calls them so joyfully and urgently is bad for them to enjoy. Ugh!
Furthermore, is there still anyone out there who actually believes that the foundation for a good marriage is pre-marital virginity? As a therapist who has worked with many, many married couples over many years, I can tell you that one of the main reasons for divorce is sexual incompatibility among people who got married too soon - so they could have sex! Maybe, in its infinite wisdom, nature provides us with a window of opportunity to explore ourselves sexually during our teen years and early twenties, so if and when we do decide to get married and have children, we'll actually choose somebody we will be compatibile with in a major area of relationship.
Parents, please have the wisdom to either talk to your children about sex openly, and in a positive way, or at the very least, let somebody else with wisdom talk to them. Or talk to me at:

Get those kids out of your bed. Please!

In today's NY Times is a piece on parents who have their children (not infants) sleep in their bed, and how many of said parents keep it a secret for fear of being criticized. (
Well, let me add my critical voice to the discussion. There's a reason why such parents fear criticism. I can tell you of countless situations where a child was suffering from developmental problems and delayed maturity, even up to as old as seven-to-ten years of age, because parents were allowing the child into their adult bed. In these situations, when the parents followed my recommendation to get the child out of the parental bed, the child experienced a maturational growth spurt almost immediately. Why? Because what children want and what children need are not always the same thing. In early childhood, the pull to regress back to an earlier stage of development is strong. Growing up is hard. But in every species of higher mammal, the mother knows that her offsrping have to be pushed out of the nest and off of the maternal teat, so the young being can attain healthy, life-sustaining independence. Fortunately, for those animals such good parenting is instinctual. Unfortunately, for human children, parents can overrule their instincts. I've said this before and I'll say it again - parents who let their children into their bed past infancy are emotionally lazy, and are not operating from a place of mature parental love, but rather are being driven by their own unworked on fears of deprivation. Get those kids out of your bed. Please!
Peter Loffredo, LCSW


Here's a posting from "The Love We Make Blog" ( followed by my comments about a front page article in the NY Times today:

From The Love We Make:
Today on the front page of the NY Times there's an article entitled " F.D.A. Panel Urges Ban on Medicine for Child Colds"
This article is about banning ineffectual and possibly damaging over-the-counter cold medicine for chidren under the age of 6.
Here are some exerpts;
" The panel found there was no proof that the medicines eased cold symptoms in children, while there are rare reports that they have caused serious harm."

"If put into practice, the ban could transform pharmacy shelves and change the way parents cope with the most common illness in young children."

"The panel largely rejected these arguments, voting overwhelmingly that there is no evidence that over-the-counter pediatric cold medicines have any effect on symptoms and that more studies must be done. Still, nine panel members voted against an outright ban in children ages 2 to 5, arguing that doctors and parents need something for ill children, even if it has no proven effect."

Why is this even debatable? Why if these cold medicines have not been proven to be helpful, and could even have some negative effects on our children would we allow them to be sold, let alone continue to give them to our children? What does that mean, "this could change the way parents cope with their child's illness"? I think the parents that are giving their children ineffectual, possibly damaging drugs just so they can "cope" is a much bigger and more serious issue in this country. What are we saying when we say " doctors and parents need something for ill children, even if it has no proven effect"? Are we talking about a placebo? Why not give your child a glass of organic juice, at least it will give them vitamins to help with fighting off infections.
I know that the big pharmaceutical companies need to keep raking in the money to pay their CEO's ("Parents spend around $500 million every year buying nearly 95 million boxes containing 3.8 billion doses of medicineæ") but come on PARENTS if you need something to help you ""cope " when your child has a cold, try some meditation, exercising or psychotherapy, it'll have much more lasting effects and won't damage your children's bodies in the process, hey it may even help the whole family.

Peter's comments:
It is becoming clearer and clearer that one day the doings of the pharmaceutical industry and the mainstream medical establishment will be seen as the greatest scandal of the Twentieth Century and early Twenty-First Century. What is so astounding is that it is not already seen as the greatest scandal. The article mentioned by Mary was on the front page of the NY Times, and still it will barely register with so many people. Many such articles have been printed in the media over the last few decades about the ineffective and often harmful consequences of prescribing drugs to children, yet the march goes on.
Why is this so? Because so many parents are emotionally children themselves. Because so many parents want there to be "magic potions" given out by wizards and good witches like the ones from the fairytales of their childhoods rather than have to do the painstaking research and application of natural remedies and nutrition needed to keep their children healthy. Problem is - there is no magic and the only wizards in the drug business are wizards of marketing, lobbying and advertising.

Having an affair good for a marriage?

An interesting article on the Timesonline website ("An Odd Turn of Affairs") poses the question above, suggesting that some marriages benefit from the shake-up caused by an affair. (
So, here's my weigh-in on the subject. Get rid of dogmatic words like "commitment" and "fidelity," first of all, so you can honestly look at your situation. Like most things I write about regarding relationships, intention is everything. People in a marriage can be "committed" and "faithful" for reasons that clearly crush the passion in a relationship - i.e. - fear of being alone, fear of losing financial stability, insecurity about one's physical appearance and attractiveness, etc. These are love-Eros-sex killers. However, on the other side, again, let's can the dogma. Very often, adults claiming to have "open marriages," arrangements in which extramarital sex is allowed under certain conditions (like "don't ask/don't tell" policies), more often than not have intimacy issues and similar insecurities, and as a result, their relationships are neither open nor a marriage. (If you and your partner are so open about sex, why wouldn't you want to talk about it?)
So, what is to be gleaned from the statistical "turn of affairs" in Mr. Marshall's article? Simply this - If you love someone, set them free. Let go of your vice grip on your partner. Stop clinging, get a life, actualize yourself, be interesting and attractive to yourself. What I call "spontaneous monogamy" - monogamy that develops when two people are so in love that they want to experience their sexuality like a laser, through that one person only - is the greatest, deepest, most intense experience one can have as a human adult. But forced monogamy, which most married couples contract for, is not rooted in love or lust, and basically consists of one partner saying to another: "Even if you no longer are in love with me one day, you still have to stay with me." Mmmm... how attractive is that?
Having an affair as a solution? Hardly. While it can wake a couple up to the stagnation in their marriage, and therefore can have productive results, why wait until it gets to such a messy point? Shake your marriage up now. Go for couples counselling that really challenges your emotional laziness. Stop taking all of your medications to go to sleep and get it up, stop leaning on your kids for meaning in life, stop obsessing about money. And see the new movie coming out with Jack Nicolson and Morgan Freeman and ask yourself how you would want to live if you knew you only had a little time left. You never know - you might rediscover the Eros in your marriage.
Peter Loffredo (

On "Come On People..." by Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint have a new book out called: "Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors." They're on the talk show circuit, and Bob Herbert wrote a column in today's Times on the book. Here's the link to the article:

Here's my comment in a letter to the Times and Mr. Herbert:

To the Editor:
I, too, watched Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint on "Meet The Press," on Sunday, and although I admire what they are trying to say in their book, "Come On People...", as a clinical social worker who was worked in New York City for thirty years, I must disagree with Mr. Cosby's statement: "A word to the wise ain't necessary. It's the stupid ones who need the advice." I have found that "preaching to the choir" is actually a key way to effect change. For example, during the Meet the Press interview, the subject of parents being physically violent with children came up. The two authors addressed this as if what the parents in question needed was training or information, presuming that the knowledge that beating your kids isn't a good child-rearing technique would change the parents' behavior. In fact, adults who beat children do so because of their own internalized stockpile of unworked-on rage, not for lack of knowing a better approach. Likewise, the notion that informing absentee fathers that their children need them, or pointing out to adolescents who emulate the language of rappers that they might not get a job as a pilot or doctor, is not going to effect any change either. Adults who already desire to be loving, present parents are the ones who seek out and require information on ways to better themselves, and young people who already desire a life of dignity and financial comfort are the ones who need guidance and access on how to attain such goals. The people who Mr. Herbert states "are still trapped in prisons of extreme violence, poverty, degradation and depression" need the kind of help that could only be provided by a society that can go beyond punishment and provide useful limits and boundaries on violent, anti-social behavior in combination with intense emotional guidance.
Peter Loffredo, LCSW

blogger templates 3 columns | Make Money Online