failure of nerve & a love story


So my web site was not coming up this morning.

Neither was Bluhost (my server).

Okey dokey, I thought, I’ll just use a FB note as a substitute.

FB is a heckuvalot clunkier. It apparently doesn’t allow links, so I guess I couldn’t do my usual list at the end of a blog.

Also importing images doesn’t seem to work.


Fortunately I kept checking back and it did come up eventually.

I began my morning thinking about Ed Friedman…. My brother Mark asked me if I had any of the tapes of the lectures he and I heard by Friedman. I couldn’t find them. But I have been thinking of re-reading Friedman, anyway.

He was a huge influence on me.

From this morning’s reading.

“When anxiety reaches certain thresholds, ‘reasonableness and honest’ no longer defend against illusion, and then even the most learned ideas can begin to function as superstition.”

[SBJ note: Superstition can be thought of as the disconnection between cause and effect]

Friedman is mostly about encouraging people to keep their own sense of differentiation in the face of other people’s anxieties and emotions.

It’s a ‘failure of nerve’ in his view to ignore how a situation adapts constantly towards the members who are weak and ignores those trending toward visionary, energetic, imaginative, and motivated behavior.  I see this each time a group attempts consensus when someone in the group is not quite on the same page and brings process to a halt.

It’s a ‘failure of nerve’ when a leader relies more on expertise than his or her own capacity to be decisive.

It’s a ‘failure  of nerve’ when in the face of emotional process we become obsessed with data and technique.  This is a kind of denial or looking in the wrong place for something. Emotional processing is pattern oriented. But this pattern is often denied or not factored into empirical  considerations of information and a bad pattern continues to repeat itself despite new information and new techniques in a baffling way.

It’s a ‘failure of nerve’ to “assume that toxic forces can be regulated through reasonableness, love, insight, role-modeling, inculcation of values and striving for consensus.


Enough preaching.

But it does bring to mind the movie Eileen and I saw yesterday.

Although Hoover (in this movie) commits a lot of Friedman errors and is an extremely flawed character, I saw the movie more as a love story than a history of a monster.

Di Capprio gives a stellar performance (looking eerily like Jack Nicholson at times). His make-up to portray the character at various ages works.  Other actors are not quite as believable especially as old people.

I have to stop because I started late due to stupid stupid server failure.


Art Endures, Capitalism Degenerates: The Evolving Career of Amanda Palmer < PopMatters

Amanda Fucking Palmer (as she calls herself on twitter) is Neil Gaiman’s wife. who knew?


So It Went: A New Biography of Kurt Vonnegut Is a Portrait of an Artist who Cultivated a Scruffy Image | The New York Observer

This guy seems to totally not get Vonnegut. Wonder if the bio he is reviewing talks about Vonnegut raising his nieces and nephews after a death in the family.


Why Doing the Ethical Thing Isn’t Automatic –

I think we never know how we will respond in a crisis until we are actually tested.


Mocking Vladimir Putin With Poetic Flair in Russia –

More poetry in the news. Hopefully these people will not be killed.


Kindle Fire: An open letter to Jeff Bezos • The Register

Well this article really cooled my ardor for Kindle Fire. The writer returns his Kindle Fire to Best Buy because he can’t use his Google Log on. Sheesh.


Here are some articles I have bookmarked to read.

LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS | The Educational Lottery

Jonathan Rée – Dissing God | New Humanist

I Was Wrong, and So Are You – Magazine – The Atlantic

New Left Review – Dylan Riley: Tony Judt: A Cooler Look

Michael Lewis on the King of Human Error | Business | Vanity Fair


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4 thoughts on “failure of nerve & a love story

  1. Hey Steve,

    How does Friedman suggest a group proceeds with imagination and vision when a weak member or a weak leader acts against this?

  2. Members are different from leaders. Healthy leaders will work at protecting the group dynamic from the weak person who is actually controlling the situation. This can be done in different ways. Sometimes it’s just a matter of remaining calm (non-anxious) and proceeding to almost ignore the person’s misbehavior (this demonstrates to the rest of the group how to react healthily). Sometimes the person must be asked to leave the group. This is best done when the rest of the group mostly understands the person is misbehaving and disrupting progress. This is all extremely tricky stuff and usually represents persistent calmness and direction over a period of time. The most important thing is to keep yourself calm and your eyes on what you as a leader are trying to accomplish. (something I have seen you do well over and over BTW)

    Working under weak leaders is a different kettle of fish. In that case, I try to see the sabotage coming (which it does in all cases) and release myself from taking responsibility for things I cannot control and stay non-anxious but connected with people above and below me in the food chain.

    This is much more to all of this, of course. Friedman’s books, Failure of Nerve and Generation to Generation, are both available as Kindle ebooks. The second is specific to church work. It’s subtitle is “Family Process Church and Synagogue.” I can’t recommend them too much to anyone in “helping professions” such as church work or health care.

    I would be happy, of course, to talk to you about this…. even correspond on email about specifics… or whatever…

    thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Amanda Palmer… Actually, I knew that she and Gaiman got married (last January?). They also did a brief tour together last month… I know this because I try to read his blog when I get time… If you haven’t read it, I think it’s really worth it. He writes about the very normal life that he and she and their kid(s?) lead on a farm in the Midwest. He’s also fun to follow on twitter. And… I actually didn’t know who she is until I started reading his blog (they’ve lived together for quite a while before they married as I understand).

  4. I figured you were on top of Gaiman. I check his blog periodically and follow both him and Palmer on Twitter. I have been a fan of Dresden Dolls (Palmer’s group) every since Jeremy and Elizabeth introduced them to me a few years ago. She is a helluva musician – incredible pianist. I also have been reading “American Gods” and quite enjoying it….. I asked Elizabeth if she ran into Palmer who apparently went down to the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York early on. Elizabeth she didn’t run into Palmer, but that she is a small number of degrees of separation away from Palmer and Gaiman and finds them a bit much these days even though she still admires them quite a bit.

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