Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Early Recollections: Blog 2


I have a book on my shelf entitled, My Voice will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson. This was edited and with commentary by Sidney Rosen. That is a fascinating concept.

I agree even more, Christ and the Holy Spirit and the image of God the Father were implanted long ago. All go with me. We are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses whose journey continues in us and from time to time they are more present with us in a conscious way, and their voice is present in us. Their voice in Scripture will go with you.

Rereading a chapter in Adler on Early Recollections he says our early recollections go with us. The early recollections we choose is because the recollection is already at work in us as our pattern for experiencing and living. These early recollections often require a reinterpretation to keep us from making mistakes. We can have mistaken interpretations. Reinterpreting an early recollection can make a difference.

When I shared my early recollection with the therapist, Willard Beecher, I was wondering if my ministry was headed for the ditch. The conflict within the parish had me raising that question and doubting my vocation. For stress management I was spending several summers as night chaplain at Bellevue hospital to test out my vocation as a hospital chaplain. The second summer I added a month to supply at Goldwater Hospital, a chronic illness and long-term disability hospital.

The conflict raised my inferiority feelings to high alert. Al Hart, my Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor knew an Adlerian would be the counselor for the situation. Two outcomes were the result. I was more at peace going back to the conflict situation. I needed to come to terms with what I had control over rather than assign myself control over the conflict.

I decided chaplaincy would be my choice in the future. That decision also added to my inner peace. This was the summer of 1961. By February 15 of 1962 I was in a new congregation, Trinity Cathedral, Davenport, as the Christian Education director. The Dean of the Cathedral asked me to come to Davenport to be the chaplain at St. Luke’s Hospital in the coming future. In January of 1964 I started half time at the hospital as the first resident chaplain.

The truth of the sessions in New York brought out another story that fit with the early recollection. The story had already been “my voice will go with you.” I had already dealt with a two steering wheel situation  and come to a resolution. Sometime between 12/13 years of age while living in West Liberty, Iowa, I belonged to two gangs. Gangs were quite different then. They were more of a close friendship peer group. One group was from the wealthier members of the community, most played in the school band. Although I came from a much poorer family my father was a musician and had me taking clarinet lessons. The other group was from the south side of the tracks literally. West Liberty was a railroad town with tracks and trains going both north and south and east and west. I enjoyed this group since we would walk along the tracks and find half burnt out flares. One of the group had a rifle that used 22 caliber short. We would shoot cans off the fence post. Since my father was not a hunter this filled a void.

Now the crisis came when the leader of the elite group said I had to fight the president of the south of the tracks group, to prove my allegiance to elite group. I wasn’t allowed to be in both groups. You will divulge our secrets. I have no memory of what they were. The necessity of a fight became a reality one day in the spring when the grass was just getting green between two houses. My resolution to avoid a fight, spur of the moment, was to talk my way out and leave both groups. I became friends with all individually. This was a very conscious conclusion that has stayed with me all through life. I do not belong to many groups. I have a number of individual friends. When I became a chaplain this realization worked well. I could relate to folks in every department and position, patients, family, friends, and staff as an individual.

How about the funny part with people laughing in the theatre. Maybe not a huge laugh, but it is worth a smile. The recollection has more value and relevance for me as a recollection. I have no desire to see the movie to learn what happens next. What happens next is when the recollection returns again and again in some form in my life and it does. My recollection will go with me. And I no longer duck down between the seats as you will see in future reflections.

Marlin Whitmer

Founder of the Befrienders and the Art of Story Metaphor Listening.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Early Recollections


For years as a younger man I was haunted with an early recollection. Perhaps there is a better word than haunted, maybe shadowed as a shadow follows you in various ways.

The recollection was from four years of age when I went to a movie theater in Wilton, Iowa. I have no recollection of who brought me to the theatre. The question is a mystery in itself since we lived on a farm nine miles north of Wilton. Consequently in the beginning I wasn't sure if this was a dream or reality. Such is a common question at four years of age.

Dream or reality, the recollection was vivid. On the screen a model T was going down the road and the two people in the front seat were passing the steering wheel back and forth. At 4 I knew they were heading for a crash in the ditch. I was ready to duck down between the movie seats while those around me began to laugh. I was unable to see anything funny in this.

At some point in time I told this to a person who said, "That is from a Laurel and Hardy movie." Now I had the reality but still how did I get there. Why did I remember this and not something else?

While taking a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Bellevue Hospital in New York I came to the conclusion I needed some therapy to put to rest some issue in my life. The church I was serving in Iowa had a lot of conflict being exhibit between members.

My therapist was an Adlerian, an actual student of Alfred Adler when he came to New York City to work with their school system. Adlerians find early recollections a good place to begin a therapeutic session. They are not as interested in the unconscious as they are what is going on in the conscious mind and early recollections are a good introduction.

In true Adlerian fashion there was a control issue. On the other hand there was the embrace of opposites. Life includes paradox. Being born on June 1 this seemed to affirm my gemini nature. I have a number of stories with the same embedded pattern as the movie.

At a later date, 1971, a CPE supervisor saw my recollection as one who cared for others at an early age.

There is more to recollection but let this be an introduction and an invitation to all those who read this to remember their early recollections.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mental Health Court: Blog #1


I will be sharing the story of the Mental Health Court, a pilot project in Scott County, which is under the supervision of the Department of Corrections, State of Iowa.

Inmates who are jailed with a mental health issue are given the opportunity to participate in a two year program which seeks to help clients stabilize to break a recidivism cycle or regain management of their medications. At the conclusion of the program their sentence may be reduced or dismissed.

What makes this possible?  The county attorney instead of being prosecutor becomes their advocate. And the Judge becomes their legal counsel and well as advisor. They have other folks on the team, psychologist, probation officers, and a care coordinator. The care coordinator has a strategic role in overseeing their various therapy approaches and locations, long term care, residential centers, and more self are. There may be others I am not aware of. These are the folks I can identify at present.

I have been attending the weekly Friday afternoon sessions which start at 2:30 and go to around 4:30, on Friday afternoon, sometimes finishing earlier. One thing that is apparent from my observing, lives are being changed. They work with 13 to 19 clients on an afternoon. Each is called to the bench and the judge begins asking about their week. He has a report in front of him so he gets specific during the course of the conversation.

I am now inviting others to become observers and see what they can see. Last Friday a person from Senator Joni Ernst office came. I think he was impressed by what he saw. He gave me names of legislative people who he thought needed to observe as well.

This Friday I have a clergy friend who will be coming. He is especially interested since he has experienced mental illness in his family.

This is a short introduction. I will be adding to this blog and writing others as well about the project.

Marlin Whitmer
Retired Hospital Chaplain

I learned later from my clergy friend who is retiring and who observed the court with me, he has considerable experience with mental health issues from family experiences. Plus he became more
knowledgable by attending a weekly seminar at the Harvard Medical School for 15 summers. It was good to have him join me in an "increasing our awareness" of the Mental Health Court.

As I continue to attend the court sessions some clients were doing very well, even getting achievement awards, and others have a more difficult week. All have to learn to think differently in how they make decisions and live their lives. They have to learn to ask for help when they need it. They have to review their decision making process. Humor is becoming part of the process. A different Judge presides from time to time but the purpose and outcomes remain the same.

Again I was told they still do not have a psychiatric bed for my son. This has been going on week after week for several months. I am learning there is a shortage of long term psychiatric beds. Tonight I went to the internet to see what the psychiatric bed situation is in Iowa. We are at the bottom of the states with 24 per 100,000 when 40 to 60 per 100,000 is recommended. The Des Moines Register had an editorial about our sorry state.

I am thinking about a way to mobilize interest to impact the legislature. I will be looking for members of families that have a mental health issue. The statics are 1 in 5, or 20 percent of the population with mental health issues at some point in their life. I think if you add addictions which are usually a part of a mental health issue you would have a higher number.

Another facet in the story of the Mental Health Court. I am thankful the Iowa Supreme Court allowed some requirements that were not in place to not deter the Scott County Mental Court from beginning. I checked this out one Sunday morning at Coffee Hour after the service with Tom Waterman, an Iowa Supreme Court Judge, who was present. He affirmed the Iowa Supreme Court approved the Scott County Mental Health Court to become operational. My thanks to him. My son would be in prison without this program.