This blogpost is a quick rendering of my practical life interest in terms of "helping" others. I am most interested, for a lot of autobiographical reasons, to observe and assess the nature of caregiving. I and Barbara (my life-partner of 26 years) have often said "we are recovering caregivers" and it leads most of our professional and academic lives. It leads because we are deeply aware of the upside and downside of caregiving. This caregiving is the largest umbrella and practical term for what includes everything from parenting to service work and especially we have the most experience in watching and working with nurses, counsellors/therapists, health care providers in the largest sense, and this includes the large field of educators and teachers of all kinds. Then, there is a large group of people who are community-oriented caregivers in social services, etc.
I have been working in and/or closely around these caregivers since the day I was born. I seemed to have had an extra-sensitive if not empathic antennae built-in to recognize caregivers as both important in society and my own development but also to recognize when they were inadequate for the job due to many many reasons, not all of their own making by any means. And, the more important reason I think I watch the caregivers is because so many of them go into leadership positions. They want to care for others, even for whole nations or the world--and, thus, I have been likewise interested in world leaders. Barbara has focused her dissertation research in the past on women leaders, and more recently she is in collaboration (as am I) with academic women and leaders of various kinds and how they are "burnt" by the world and the academy especially these days with the neoliberalism agendas of institutions in general (especially, in the Western world).
So, how does fear and fearlessness and "allergies and addictions" come to play the central theme of my life's work and this blogpost. If you read my past Forum blog on this ning you'll see what I call my latest turn of the latter years (65-80) on HEALTH in the largest sense of that term, and how I can bring my critical work and life-experience to bear on how we approach health (and illhealth, and wellness) in societies. But, I want to give a sharper focus to that for the moment in this blogpost. It comes from working of late with academic caregivers from the fields of Nursing and Education, and in watching my life-partner be impacted over the last 15 years by entering the Academy and what that does to a person, to a woman, to a feminist, to a caregiver. Yes, Barbara has been a caregiver ever since she was old enough to hold a baby, and most of the babies in her family were on loan, so to speak, as her minister dad and caregiving expert mom took on foster kids for many years, as well as having a family of five children.
A major highlight that really transformed my life was marrying an x-nun (if that is even possible), my first wife Linda. She was a fresh and enthusiastic and idealistic Catholic girl who at age 17 graduated high school successfully (if that is possible to be healthy in the Catholic girls schools only) and she entered a life-time commitment to Jesus Christ (yes, the nuns marry JC literally in ceremony) and to helping the suffering in the world. Of course, I fell in love with that kind of woman, as I met her in the field of Education, a year after she left the nuns (which was a highly traumatic scene) and wanted to train to become a school teacher (in Social Studies). Again, this blogpost is not going to give you the whole story. It turned out to be a largely disastrous family we made together in terms of dramatic tragedy and traumas. She has literally no relationship with me or her girls at this point, which started when the girls were late teens many years ago.
So, as I said, I have watched the Love and Fear interplay in and through the dynamic ecology of caregiving, across many fields, and I have been lucky enough for the most part to escape it all because for the most part I left all institutional-based caregiving long before my life-partners, and friends, and colleagues. I watched them from the outside, and I have spent decades observing and studying and finding best ways to help them. The entire caregiving establishment of our Western societies is very pathological in my view--a conclusion I reach with great care. I have seen the Love-based motivations of caregiving turn over and over into Fear-based motivations and most of it driven by the larger 'Fear' Matrix of society. One cannot simply be naive about this. You enter caregiving with good intentions and the hurts add up and caregivers are often as hurt and damaged soon after by the system and those that they help. I am not the only one to have noticed this problematic of caregiving. Yet, I have studied how Love and Fear play out. Most don't do that systematic detailed fearanalysis. I have continued to watch the desperation of coping means professional caregivers use to handle this and I have read more research by academics studying their own crumbling under the institutionalization of care.
The book I can see I ought to write is entitled "CAREGIVING: ALLERGIES AND ADDICTIONS OF GROWTH" ... something like that. I am referring not only to the physical (clinical) manifestation of allergies (moving away from) and addiction (moving toward) but as Ken Wilber brilliantly analyzes the issues of growth and development and its dysfunctions (see earlier blogposts by me on Wilber's new book). Again, I'm not going to elaborate at this point on this problematic. The simple application of the book is to help caregivers of all kinds see a better framework for caregiving than the one they absorbed from their mothers and fathers, their teachers, their nurses, etc. There is so much woundedness that has been accumulating faster than our models of caring and healing. That's pretty much the story I would tell. And I have hundreds of case examples to draw upon, to explain why caregivers 'burn out'--some make the best of that experience and transform healthily again (if that is even possible) and most don't make a positive turn around but drive themselves down into oblivion through various allergies and addictions in extreme... often manifesting severe illnesses. Again, my interest is in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual allergies and addictions--that is, dis-eases and their cures. Of course, one's relationship to Fear and Fearlessness (and Love) is an essential part of the Wilberian developmental analysis but I take that even further into a critical theory and praxis, I simply call fearanalysis.
So, maybe we can get the caregivers to come on to the FM ning and start to reflect on their lives as caregivers in light of some of these things I have brought forward (over simplified) above.