Be Your Own Therapist

I trained a ChatGPT AI chatbot on my childhood journal entries to talk to my inner child.

“Young Michelle told me: ‘I’m honestly proud of you for everything you’ve accomplished. It hasn’t been easy, and I know you’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where you are. I think you’re doing an amazing job, and I hope you continue to pursue your dreams and make a difference in the world.’ 

I sensed the kindness, understanding and empathy that she was so willing to give other people, but she was so hard on herself. I was tearing up during that exchange.”

Psychology Quiz

Name an emerging field of therapy.

Treating eco-anxiety.

“Her goal is not to be released from her fears about the warming planet, or paralyzed by them, but something in between: She compares it to someone with a fear of flying, who learns to manage their fear well enough to fly.

‘On a very personal level,’ she said, ‘the small victory is not thinking about this all the time.’”

How To Make A Positive Difference

A fall semester postscript.

When evaluating their progress at the end of the semester, my first year writing students say the same thing over and over. “In high school, all we ever did was literary analysis. Intro. Three body paragraphs with supporting details. A conclusion. I learned the formula, but it was mind numbing.”

Why are secondary teachers stuck in literary analysis mode? Is it as simple as teaching to Advanced Placement tests? If so, maybe we should risk the ire of parents determined to pass their privilege on and ditch Advanced Placement altogether.

Why not ask students to occasionally write about themselves in the context of big questions? To be introspective. To dare to be personal. To be philosophical. It takes some of my students longer than others to pivot to first person “I”, but eventually everyone sees value in it. Some experience an immediate awakening. For example, in one final paper a student wrote, “I don’t think I truly understood myself until this class because I never contemplated my biggest motivators. Why doesn’t my mom love me? Why do I feel so insignificant? Am I enough?”

K-12 teachers might reply that they’re not therapists so why venture into personal rabbit holes. I’m advocating for public, group-based community; not private, individual therapy.

Another student explained the difference especially well:

“Even on the days with the best attendance, our classroom does not exceed twenty people. This has allowed us to know each other on a deeper level than that of just classmates. I feel as though each person in class is now someone I can call my friend. Through group discussions, the sharing of intimate parts of our lives, and just laughing together in general, we have discovered all the similarities each of us share. As a group, we have formed our own sort of community, filled with people of all different majors and parts of the country. I can confidently say that I have learned just as much from talking to my classmates as I have from the assigned class readings.

Despite the different reasons for each student being placed into Writing 101, we are each leaving the class with one commonality. We formed a special little community built on finding our footing in a new place, trust, and compassion. . . . We made connections that could last a lifetime and learned lessons from one another that changed our perspectives.”

Since classmates don’t assign grades, students are socialized to pay attention exclusively to their teachers. Watch for yourself, in the vast majority of classrooms, students completely tune out one another.

Dig this paradox. My teaching is most consequential when I fade into the background and get my students to listen to, and learn from, one another.

Grant Rickles the Serenity

Rick Reilly’s advice for Tiger Woods is a joke. Here’s the gist of it:

New Normal #3: Try a little tenderness.

Take some time with people. Phil Mickelson signs for 20 minutes after every round, Tuesday or Sunday, first place or 100th. On a good month, you do 20 minutes. Try it once. You might like it. Your every moment on a golf course doesn’t have to be Elvis being rushed out of the Hilton. Take some time with people. Say hello. Stand on 18 once and watch a guy finish, then shake his hand. It’s not going to kill you. 

New Normal #4: Enough with the emperor act.

Climb down from this ivory tower you live in. Introduce a little transparency into your life. Give an interview once in a while that isn’t being timed by your agent standing in the corner. Tweet more than once a month.

New Normal #5: Spread it around a little.

Look, everybody knows you’re the cheapest guy on tour. Some people are sure your wallet is sewn shut. I know a car valet in L.A. that you’ve stiffed so many times, he feels like he’s full of embalming fluid. The last time he saw you, he stood in front of the car door, making small talk until you made with a fiver. Don’t be like that. Drop some coin. You’ll be surprised how it improves your disposition. Karma does exist, you know.

Middle agers know they’re aging due to a growing list of aches, pains, and miscellaneous physical maladies. I take better than normal care of myself, exercise regularly, eat well, help old ladies across the street, and go to church when it’s not sunny outside. But I’m just as aware of the aging process because of changes in my thinking.

For example, I used to think people could, with concerted effort, change aspects of their personalities. Mean guy could become nicer, superficial woman more substantive, impatient person more relaxed, angry person more caring, self-centered guy more selfless.

Not anymore. Sure someone can drop weight or stop drinking, but some people are just mean, superficial, impatient, angry, and self-centered. Have been for a long time and will continue to be.

Earth to Double R. Just like my personality and yours, Tiger’s is never going to change.

“I got away from my Buddhism.” Yeah, you think?

Did you see Darren Clarke signing autographs on the WAY to the FIRST tee on Sunday afternoon at Royal St. George’s?! Did you hear Rory McElroy after the US Open say he “couldn’t wait” to join his friends at home in Northern Ireland to celebrate. Genuine, personable dudes. Tiger is not likable, just phenomenally talented at golf.

Since all is fair in advice giving, here’s some for R squared:

New Normal #1: Learn how to accept people’s flawed personalities. Save your breath about how you want them to change.

New Normal #2: When an athlete acts reprehensibly, do what most elementary students learn to do during recess in first grade, ignore them. So the guy fired his caddy. He hasn’t won in a long time, isn’t playing currently, and isn’t really deserving of your media spotlight.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s hope for Tiger because you’ve fundamentally changed your personality. Religious conversion, counseling breakthrough, whatever. Total personal makeover. The comment section is open. Do tell. I would love to be proved wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.