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The Examined Life

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  • examlife@aol.com
    Hello The subject of my current column (attached) is crystal meth addiction. This dangerous and highly addictive drug makes users feel great at first, and the
    Message 1 of 14 , Dec 6, 2012
    Hello
     
    The subject of my current column (attached) is crystal meth addiction. This dangerous and highly addictive drug makes users feel great at first, and the downside typically doesn't become evident until after a pattern of dependence has been established. The questioner in this week's column is struggling to cope with that downside.
     
    All the best,
     
    Tom
  • examlife@aol.com
    Hello My current column (attached) discusses the value of a tired old custom -- the habit of making New Year s resolutions. Enjoy! Warm regards, TomMoon, MFT
    Message 2 of 14 , Dec 23, 2012
    Hello

    My current column (attached) discusses the value of a "tired old custom" -- the habit of making New Year's resolutions.

    Enjoy!

    Warm regards,

    Tom Moon, MFT

    Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy / EMDR
    Office address: 879 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
    Email: examlife@...
    Tel: (415) 626-1346
    Website: tommoon.net
     



  • examlife@...
    Hello Are you on your own side, or do you sometimes find yourself treating yourself as an enemy? I believe that considering this simple question can rapidly
    Message 3 of 14 , Apr 14, 2013
    Hello

    Are you on your own side, or do you sometimes find yourself treating yourself as an enemy? I believe that considering this simple question can rapidly bring us face to face with our basic relationship to ourselves. My current column, discussing this issue, is attached and embedded below.

    Warm regards,

    Tom Moon

    The Examined Life
    Tom Moon, MFT
     
    The Practice of Heartfulness
     
    Are you on our own side? I don't mean are you on your own side against other people, but rather: Are you consistently loyal to your own well-being and highest good? Are you self-forgiving and patient with yourself when you make mistakes, or are you more inclined to be angry and self-punitive? When you go through difficult times do you respond to your own suffering with acceptance and self-compassion, or with self-blame and guilt? Do you regard yourself as your closest friend, or are there times when you treat yourself as an enemy? These are important questions. Recently in this column I reported on research which suggests that self-compassion is more important than self-esteem in creating resilience and emotional well-being.
     
    But the human mind has an amazing capacity to turn against itself. One of the effects of growing up in a competitive and individualistic society such as ours is that almost everyone in our culture seems to have an “inner critic” which relentlessly evaluates our performance in the tasks of life, and consistently finds it deficient. I believe that the attacks of this inner critic contribute to a myriad of problems – anxiety and depression, dissatisfaction and despair, addictions and compulsions, and on and on. In addition, when we turn against ourselves, we lose motivation to overcome our own suffering or protect ourselves from abuse at the hands of others. We may also feel that we aren’t worth the effort to try to meet our goals and achieve our dreams. It is also possible that gay people may be especially vulnerable to acquiring the habit of harsh self-criticism because so many of us have grown up with a conviction of our own “basic badness” – a sense that in some vaguely understood way we’re out of step and not who we’re supposed to be. Even for those of us who have long ago come to terms with our sexual orientation, our inner critics often continue the habit of telling us that we’re unlovable or unworthy of respect because we’re less valuable than others in some undefined way.
    But the good news in all of this is that, just as self-denigration is learned behavior, self-compassion is also a skill which can be taught and learned. I’ve become convinced that meditation and concentration techniques exist, which, when practiced regularly, can do much to make us friendlier to ourselves. I call these “heartfulness practices” because they all originate in the intention to hold oneself in one’s own heart, and to develop a loving acceptance of one’s own experience. All of the practices are based on the ancient Buddhist idea that we develop the kinds of qualities we want to have by deliberately “inclining the mind” in their direction.
     
    Here’s a brief description of a heartfulness practice that I have been finding especially helpful with anxious patients:
     
    Sit in a relaxed posture and close your eyes. Imagine that, behind you and slightly above your head, are beings who love you and wish you well. These beings can be family or friends; they can be spiritual figures; they can even be purely imaginary beings or pets who have a special love for you. These beings have your back. Imagine them radiating love and compassion into you. Bask in that warmth like a puppy lying on a rug in the sunlight. Once you’ve evoked feelings of comfort and safety, bring to mind a specific worry you may be currently having, such as concerns about your health or finances. Imagine that your loving beings are sending love in the form of compassion into the heart of your worry. You might go through several worries in this way. If your brain pairs the worry with the experience of being loved and cared for, you will find that the intensity of the anxiety diminishes. At the end of the practice, let go of visualizing both your worries and the loving beings, and spend a few minutes basking in the soft glow of compassion and safety which the practice has evoked.
     
    Regular practitioners find that, once they are intimately familiar with the bodily experience of self-compassion they can evoke that felt sense at will, and once that skill is developed, it becomes possible to take regular heartfulness pauses throughout the day. This simple practice involves briefly stopping whatever you’re doing, taking a few deep breaths, noticing whatever you’re sensing and feeling right now, and then deliberately holding it in compassion and acceptance. This simple practice can do much to lower stress, clear the mind, and reset our intention to live with self-compassion.
     
    Tom Moon, MFT
    Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy / EMDR
    Office address: 879 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
    Email: examlife@...
    Tel: (415) 626-1346
    Website: tommoon.net
  • examlife@...
    Hello One of the most effective ways to immunize oneself against guilt-tripping and exploitation is to understand the vital distinction between legitimate
    Message 4 of 14 , May 26, 2013
    Hello

    One of the most effective ways to immunize oneself against guilt-tripping and exploitation is to understand the vital distinction between legitimate self-care and selfishness. My current column, attached and embedded below, discusses this important distinction.

    Enjoy!

    Warm regards,

    Tom Moon

    The Examined Life
    Tom Moon, MFT
     
    Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
     
    Do you think of yourself as a selfish person? Over the years I’ve been surprised to learn how many people harbor the same “secret” about themselves -- “If people knew what I’m actually like inside, they’d be surprised to find out how selfish I really am.” An age-old tactic of exploiters and oppressors plays on this vulnerability. If you shame people into believing that pursuing their own interests is immoral, then it’s easy to divert them into serving yours instead.
     
    People who grew up in so-called “dysfunctional” families are often convinced that they’re too selfish, because dysfunctional families are by definition systems in which members are taught to sacrifice their legitimate needs and developmental goals for the “good” of others. Recently I talked with a young man I’ll call John, who got a scholarship to a university on the other side of the country. He was also accepted at a local college. He wanted to go to the university, but his father told him “If you leave it’ll just kill your mother.” After much agonizing, he went to the university, but when he returned to visit for Christmas his mother had gone into a deep depression. He felt remorse and guilt and considered dropping out. Hadn’t he harmed his mother?
     
    My answer was “No. What’s causing your mother’s suffering is her own immaturity, her need to cling inappropriately to her son when it’s time for you to get on with your own life. That’s her problem, not yours. It’s speaks well of you that you feel compassion for her suffering and for her difficulty in letting go, but you owe it to yourself to resist her passive-aggressive attempts to hold you back. You won’t help her or yourself by relinquishing your own dreams in order to comply with her unreasonable demands.”
     
    John’s struggle wasn’t with wasn’t selfishness; it was with feeling unrealistically responsible for his mother’s well-being, to his own detriment. Like John, many of us learned in our families that growing up and becoming independent is an act of betrayal; that separating means abandoning; that taking care of ourselves means neglecting others; that paying attention to our own feelings equals indifference to the feelings of others, and that pursuing personal goals means hurting others.
     
    You don’t have to read any boring Ayn Rand novels to understand that there’s a legitimate domain of “self-care” distinct from “selfishness.” Broadly speaking, it’s selfish to exploit, use, and manipulate others for your own ends, but pursuing your own happiness while respecting the rights and needs of others falls into the domain of legitimate self-care. It’s a simple idea, and to some people it may seem obvious, but if you’ve been raised to believe that your life isn’t your own there is no more effective way to inoculate yourself against vulnerability to being exploited than to grasp this basic distinction.
     
    Tom Moon, MFT
    Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy / EMDR
    Office address: 879 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
    Tel: (415) 626-1346
    Website: tommoon.net
     
     
     
     
  • examlife@...
    Hello My current column (attached and embedded below) summarizes some of the research on how materialism affects our well-being. The news isn t good, which is
    Message 5 of 14 , Jan 5, 2014
    Hello

    My current column (attached and embedded below) summarizes some of the research on how materialism affects our well-being. The news isn't good, which is why the title "Materialism is Misery" is so apt.

    I hope your New Year is off to a great non-materialistic start!

    All the best,

    Tom Moon



    The Examined Life
    Tom Moon, MFT
     
    Materialism is Misery
     
    The holiday spending orgy -- with its images of frenzied “consumers” fighting and trampling each other to get their hands on all that great stuff they had to have -- is finally behind us. But since it’s also a recent memory, this might be a good time to take a hard look at what our national addiction to stuff actually does to us. English writer and social activist George Monbiot recently reviewed the extensive research on the psychological effects of materialism, defined as “a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project.” He reports in the Guardian that the science is clear: materialism leads to a lack of empathy, is destructive to relationships and measurably reduces wellbeing.
     
    He describes a series of studies published last year that showed that as people become more materialistic, their wellbeing (good relationships, autonomy, sense of purpose, etc.) diminishes. Conversely, if they become less materialistic, it rises. In one study, the researchers tested a group of 18-year-olds, then re-tested them 12 years later. They were asked to rank the importance of different goals – jobs, money and status on one side, and self-acceptance, fellow feeling and belonging on the other. They were then given a standard diagnostic test to identify mental health problems. At the ages of both 18 and 30, materialistic people were more susceptible to disorders. But if in that period they became less materialistic, they also became happier.
     
    Another study followed Icelanders who were attempting to cope with their country's economic collapse. Some people became more focused on materialism, in the hope of regaining lost ground, while others became less interested in money and turned their attention to family and community life. The first group reported lower levels of wellbeing, the second group had higher levels.
     
    One paper described a controlled experiment in which subjects were repeatedly exposed to images of luxury goods, to messages that cast them as consumers rather than citizens and to words associated with materialism (such as buy, status, asset and expensive). The subjects experienced immediate but temporary increases in material aspirations – and also anxiety and depression. In addition, they also became more competitive and more selfish, had a reduced sense of social responsibility and were less inclined to participate in social activities. The researchers point out that, since we’re repeatedly bombarded with such images through advertisements, and constantly described by the media as consumers, these temporary effects could be triggered more or less continuously.
    Finally, a study which followed 2,500 people for six years found a two-way relationship between materialism and loneliness: materialism fosters social isolation; isolation fosters materialism. People who are cut off from others attach themselves to possessions, and this attachment in turn crowds out social relationships.
     
    Monbiot concludes that materialism is “a system that eats us from the inside out,” and that the belief that having more money and more stuff enhances our wellbeing is, in fact, “a formula for mass unhappiness.”
    Humana are vulnerable to destructive value systems like materialism in part because of the way we’re hard-wired. When our brain’s built-in reward system identifies a something it wants, it releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that propels us toward the reward. This system is fairly indiscriminate: it doesn’t distinguish between rewards that will make us happier from those that won’t. And whenever we experience a dopamine rush we’re prone to two cognitive errors: we tend to overestimate both the pleasure we’ll derive from gratifying our desire and the discomfort we’ll feel if we don’t. When we buy into what the reward system tells us, then we are susceptible to the “hedonistic fallacy,”-- the belief that happiness consists of stringing together as many pleasurable moments as possible. Fortunately, there is more to our brains than the reward system. We have a neocortex which is capable of acquiring the insight that a life dominated by the imperatives of the reward system is unhappiness, and of understanding that pleasure and happiness aren’t the same thing. We can acquire the insight that it isn’t gratifying our immediate desires that creates happiness, but warm connections with others, a commitment to their well-being; and shared experiences of awe, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, joy, hope, and trust.
    Tom Moon, MFT
    Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy / EMDR
    Office address: 879 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
    Email: examlife@...
    Tel: (415) 626-1346
    Website: tommoon.net
  • examlife@...
    Hello The subject of my current column, attached and embedded below, is what Buddhists call papanca, or mental proliferation, and consider to be one of the
    Message 6 of 14 , Apr 27, 2014

    Hello

    The subject of my current column, attached and embedded below, is what Buddhists call papanca, or mental proliferation, and consider to be one of the chief causes of human suffering. In modern psychology, cognitive therapy has come to the same conclusion.

    Enjoy!

    All the best,

    Tom Moon


    The Examined Life
    Tom Moon, MFT
     
    Swimming in the River of Blah Blah
     
    Whenever my friend Aaron finds himself lost in habitual and unproductive thoughts, he describes himself as “swimming in the river of blah blah.” Buddhists call this river papanca, or “mental proliferation”, and see it as one of the chief causes of human suffering. Cognitive therapists refer to it as “automatic thinking.” Whatever we call it, it’s a powerful force. We’re all subject to automatic, fleeting thoughts which arise so quickly and are so habitual that they tend to fly below the radar of conscious awareness. A series of automatic thoughts forms an internal monologue. We all engage in these monologues: we’re constantly interpreting, evaluating, and judging both our own and other people’s actions, and since most of the time we’re more or less unconscious that we’re doing it, we continually conflate what is happening with our evaluation of it.
     
    Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, describes one kind of suffering that results from swimming in the river of blah blah. “You have probably come across ‘mad’ people in the street incessantly talking or muttering to themselves. Well, that’s not much different from what you and all other ‘normal’ people do, except that you don’t do it out loud.” Most so-called “normal” people are plagued with an inner voice that “comments, speculates, judges, compares, complains, likes, dislikes, and so on….It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy. Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy. It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness, as well as of disease.” These self-attacks are implicated in, or directly responsible for, a myriad of problems – anxiety and depression, dissatisfaction and despair, addictions and compulsions, discord in relationships, and on and on. 
     
    Cognitive research has convincingly established that automatic thoughts are important casual factors in a many emotional issues. For instance, people who suffer from depression tend toward automatic thoughts which tell them that they’re helpless to alter their circumstances. People with anxiety issues often engage in thoughts which exaggerate future threats (this is called “catastrophizing” or my favorite, “disasterbation.”)
     
    Fortunately, the techniques for changing automatic thinking patterns are so simple that some people can learn them from self-help manuals. A simple way to do this is to pick up a copy of David Burns’ book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy and do the written exercises for changing cognitive distortions. As far as I know, this is the only self-help manual whose effectiveness has actually been scientifically tested. In five separate studies in which depressed patients were given no other treatment than a copy of Feeling Good, and the suggestion that they read it, it was found that Feeling Good “bibliotherapy” could be as effective as a full course of psychotherapy or treatment with antidepressant drugs.
     
    The process is simple, but it’s not so easy to do, because the human brain evolved to believe itself. When we’ve thought the same thoughts for a long time, they begin to feel like mere common sense realities which are seem so obviously true that they need no proof. So the work involves a constant and vigilant attempt to relate to our thoughts rather than from them. One helpful exercise is to spend some time making an inventory of your “top ten tunes” – the automatic thoughts which cause you the most difficulty (e.g. “It’s foolish to trust other people,” “I’m lazy,” etc.) People who do this exercise often find that it enables them, sometimes for the first time in their lives, to look critically at their own minds. They begin to see how sweeping its judgments are; how often they’re based on childhood misperceptions rather than mature thinking; and how unforgiving and lacking in compassion their minds can be. The entire process is governed by one simple principle: “Don’t believe everything you think.”
     
    TomMoon, MFT
    Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy / EMDR
    Office address: 879 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
     Email: examlife@...
     Tel: (415) 626-1346
     Website: tommoon.net
  • examlife@...
    Hello My current column, attached and embedded below, discusses the question of how to choose a therapist, and describes some of the factors that make for
    Message 7 of 14 , Aug 23, 2014

    Hello

    My current column, attached and embedded below, discusses the question of how to choose a therapist, and describes some of the factors that make for successful therapeutic relationships.

    Enjoy!

    Warm regards,

    Tom Moon

    The Examined Life
    Tom Moon, MFT
     
    Choosing a Therapist
     
    Q:  I’ve never seen a therapist before, but I’ve decided to do it. I got some names, but how do I know if someone is the right therapist for me? Which kind of therapy has the highest success rate?
     
    A:  The most important thing to remember is that therapy happens in a relationship. It may be a professional relationship, but it’s still an intimate dialogue between two human beings. The factors that make it work are about the same as those that make any intimate relationship work – trust, mutual respect, a sense of safety, personal warmth, genuineness, and so on. One interesting study of the outcome of treatment found that the early reaction of a client to a therapist is highly predictive of the outcome. If you feel a “click” and sense that you’re talking to a person who respects you, and whom you can trust, than that’s a good sign that this person is may be right for you.  If you have an early negative reaction, you may ultimately get past it and be able to work together, but this is less likely than if the initial take is warm and positive. As in any intimate relationship, trust your intuition.
     
    Many people, especially if they’re new to therapy, feel on the defensive, or even a little ashamed, in an initial meeting, and sometimes don’t ask important questions because they’re too focused on what the therapistthinks of them. It’s important to remember that what you’re doing is hiring a consultant to help you resolve important issues in your life, and that you have as much right to ask questions as the therapist does. You may want to know about his or her education, background and qualifications. You may want to know how much experience he or she has had in dealing the kinds of issues you want to discuss. You may also have some personal questions. Therapists differ in how much personal information they’re willing to share, and it might be important to get a good idea of the ground rules and boundaries of the relationship before you commit to it.
     
    What kind of therapy is most effective? There are so many different schools of thought about how therapy should be done that it would be a full-time job to sort them all out.  Professionals naturally tend to become partisans of their own approach, but there isn’t really very much evidence that decisively favors any one school over another. A Vanderbilt University study found that differences in theoretical orientations among therapists didn’t make much difference in their success rate. The study did find that some therapists were more effective than others, however. The ones who were more effective were those who provided clients with information, encouragement and opinions, made special efforts to facilitate discussions of problems, focused more on the here-and-now than on early childhood experiences, and encouraged the client to seek new social activities. Active involvement rather than passive listening appears to be more effective, regardless of the school of therapy to which the therapist belongs.
     
    There are also some client factors involved in success in therapy, too. One of the most important of these is patience. Unless you’re seeking therapy for a discrete behavior change (like quitting smoking) therapy can be a time-consuming and, at times, frustrating process. Change is typically incremental rather than dramatic. The “Ah-ha!” experience that instantly transforms a patient’s life usually only happens in movies. Clients who are impatient or intolerant of slow change seem to benefit less that those who can tolerate careful exploration and a series of small changes over a period of time.
     
    Tom Moon, MFT
    Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy / EMDR
    Office address: 879 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
    Tel: (415) 626-1346
    Website: tommoon.net
  • examlife@...
    Hello My current column, attached and embedded below, is the first of two articles responding to reader s questions about age disparities in relationships.
    Message 8 of 14 , Feb 1
    Hello

    My current column, attached and embedded below, is the first of two articles responding to reader's questions about age disparities in relationships.

    Enjoy!

    Warm regards,

    Tom

     
    The Examined Life
    Tom Moon, MFT
     
    I’m Only Attracted to Younger Guys
     
    Q: I’m a 42 year old man who’s never had a relationship that’s lasted longer than a few months. That’s because I’m only attracted to really good-looking, muscular guys in their early twenties. I hook up with a lot of young guys who like older men, but they all just want to party and have fun. Young guys aren’t interested in settling down with one man. They’ll hang with me for a while and then move on. I don’t blame them. I was the same way when I was their age, but I really want to settle down and find a partner. I know I’d be more likely to succeed if I liked older guys, but if they aren’t a perfect 10 I’m not interested, and unfortunately only guys under 25 are 10’s in my book. Could a sex therapist help me understand why I only like younger guys and make me start to be more attracted to guys closer to my own age so that I’d have a better chance of finding a partner?
     
    A: In my experience, fundamental sexual turn-ons usually don’t change much once they’re established. They sometimes evolve over time, but that’s an organic process that happens by itself. It won’t happen because you make a “rational” decision that it would be more convenient if you liked something different. Therapy doesn’t have much effect on your turn-ons: learning “why” may increase self-understanding, but is unlikely to change the sexual attractions themselves. Most of the therapists I know would probably encourage you to work toward acceptance of your sexuality as it is and focus on how to make it work for you, rather than try to change it. If young guys float your boat, you’re probably always going to be attracted to youthfulness.
     
    I don’t share your pessimism about the possibility of finding a younger partner. I know a number of couples who have been together for some years, with age differences ranging from 19 to 25 years, and as far as I can tell, these relationships are doing well. While most gay men do want to connect with people in their own age group, a minority has always been interested in men who are older or younger, and it just isn’t true that these relationships can’t work. And while many young men (and lots of older ones, too, by the way) aren’t interested in settling down with one guy, it’s untrue and ageist to assume that they all feel that way.
     
    Maybe your real obstacle is something else. Do you actually want a relationship? When you say that you aren’t interested unless someone is a 10 do you mean that your idea of a relationship is hot sex for the rest of your life with some who is perfect? That’s a great fantasy, but it’s never going to happen. For one thing, your perfect 10 will inevitably get older. Even while he’s young you’ll wake up with him some rainy Tuesday morning when you’re both in a bad mood, and he just won’t look like the fantasy lover of your dreams.
     
    If you do want to find a real relationship you’ll need maturity, flexibility and realism in your approach. What if you meet someone who’s older than you prefer, but looks youthful, or has youthful energy? What will you do if you meet someone who is “only” a 6 or a 7 but is also loving, relationship-oriented and interested in you? Will you reject him out of hand?
     
    Finally, is sexual attraction the only criterion that matters to you in considering a potential partner? Unless you go beyond merely being dazzled by good looks you’re likely to keep just having brief sexual flings; and the reason won’t be the shallowness of your partners but your own lack of depth. How much do you value qualities like loyalty, honesty, kindness, respect, affection, and generosity of spirit? These are some of the character traits that keep a relationship going past the initial sizzle phase. You’ll probably have more luck if you notice these qualities in men as much as you notice their bodies; and if you value them enough to seek to develop them in yourself.
     
    Next: I’m only Attracted to Older Guys
     
    Tom Moon, MFT
    Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy / EMDR
    Office address: 879 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
    Tel: (415) 626-1346
    Website: tommoon.net
  • examlife@...
    Hello My current article, attached and embedded below, is the second in a two-part series on age disparities in relationships. Enjoy! Warm regards, Tom The
    Message 9 of 14 , Feb 15
    Hello

    My current article, attached and embedded below, is the second in a two-part series on age disparities in relationships. Enjoy!

    Warm regards,

    Tom

     
    The Examined Life
    Tom Moon, MFT
     
    I’m Only Attracted to Older Men
     
    From a reader:
     
    Dear Tom: I’m just the opposite of the guy in your last column (“I’m Only Attracted to Younger Guys.”) For my whole life, I’ve only been attracted to guys who are considerably older than me – usually by about twenty years. I met my first boyfriend when I was 18. When I told my mom I’m gay she took it in stride, but she freaked out when I told her that my boyfriend was 38. She kept saying, “Can’t you find somebody closer to your own age?” until I told her that I didn’t want to hear it anymore. That was when I began to realize that, for some people, ageism is a bigger problem than homophobia.
     
    Now I’m in my early thirties, and my husband is in his early fifties. I thought the gay community would be more accepting of my relationship than my family has been, but, if anything, gay guys are even worse about age. A lot of them react the way some straight people still act when they see a bi-racial couple. They’re polite to your face, but you get the feeling that, as far as they’re concerned, there’s just something not quite right about it. And then the comments they make behind your back get back to you, and you realize you’re not just being paranoid.
     
    People make all kinds of assumptions about my relationship. Some think that he’s rich (I wish!) and that I’m being “kept,” which, as a career-oriented, self-supporting guy, annoys the hell out of me. They assume that he’s a top and that I’m just his bitch, or his boytoy. A few even seem to think he pays to have sex with me. Some guys are skeptical of my sincerity when I tell them that I think he’s really hot and that I love him. If they don’t think I’m after his money, they think I have “father issues.” Guys have asked me pointedly if I had a bad relationship with my Dad, or if I lost him at an early age (no and no.) They imply that, if I got over my father complex, I’d like guys my own age more. For years gays were told that they had their sexual preference because they were mentally disturbed, and with that history behind us, you’d think they’d have a little sensitivity about saying things like that to other gay people, but where admiring older men is concerned, they don’t get the connection.
     
    A while back I went to a bar with my partner, and the next time I was there by myself, somebody asked, “What were you doing with that old man?” I said, “You mean my husband?” He was embarrassed, but it didn’t even occur to him to apologize for insulting the man I love. His attitude was like, well, if you’re into old men, that’s your business, I guess.
     
    I don’t really need any advice or anything about this, I just wanted the chance to rant a little bit. I’m disappointed to a degree in my gay brothers, but when I remember the big picture, it’s not a major thing. I feel lucky to be able to appreciate what my older partner has to offer. He’s been through stages of life that I’m still in and has a perspective that no one my age can have. He has a lot of depth and interests that few guys my age have. I enjoy listening to him share information about music and gay history from times I’ve only read about. I trust his steadiness and his commitment to me, and I’m grateful that I get to have so much love in my life. Thanks, Clint.
     
    Dear Clint: Thanks for your articulate and insightful email. It speaks for itself, and the only suggestion I would have would be not to be too hard on your gay friends for their attitudes. The ageism you describe is hardly confined to our community: it’s rampant throughout American culture. You are fortunate to have the presence of mind to be able to see it for what it is and to have the inner resources that allow you to follow what your heart tells you rather than what your culture tells you. Maybe it’s this inner confidence that has made it possible for you to find so much love in your life.
     
    Tom Moon, MFT
    Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy / EMDR
    Office address: 879 14th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114
    Tel: (415) 626-1346
    Website: tommoon.net
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