Individual and Couple Therapy
in Tacoma and Seattle

Tacoma Office near Proctor District

35th & N. Cheyenne St

Ample Free Parking

Tacoma Detailed Directions

 

Seattle Office on Greenlake

Greenlake Wellness Group

7900 East Green Lake Drive North, Suite 202

Free Convenient Parking

Greenlake Office Detailed Directions

 

(253) 304-1411

parke@parkeburgess.com



Click the appropriate button below to see what appointments are currently available. Please contact me by email or phone before scheduling a first appointment. I am unable to see new clients without some preliminary discussion. Thank you.

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Existing clients may use the Paypal button below to pre-pay for an upcoming scheduled session.

 

MUSINGS BLOG

Wednesday
Jul102019

Our Tragic Flaw

Here are the opening paragraphs of my book, published last year, Our Tragic Flaw: Confronting Violence in Ourselves and the World.

This book begins with an alarm: We live in a time of unprecedented peril, on the brink of our ruin as a civilization and perhaps as a species. Climate change is only the most prominent of a growing array of threats to our collective survival, part of a convergent trend that makes ecological and social collapse increasingly likely over time. If we should fail to avert this outcome, our generation will have played a leading role in the greatest tragedy ever to befall humankind. Like the tragedies of literature, a deep flaw lies near the heart of our prospective doom. An attribute that once seemed a source of strength would now emerge as the cause of our demise. That flaw is the subject of this book.

But our ruin is far from certain. A sustainable way of life, one that is not only lasting but also deeply ethical and joyful, remains possible. A tragic flaw only becomes fatal when its ruinous aspect remains too long concealed behind its heroic glow. Once we can see the flaw plainly and clarify its tragic implications, we open the possibility of acting differently in the world to different results. This book purports to look our tragic flaw full in the face—literally, to confront it—not only so that we may understand what has driven us to this perilous point, but how to avert its worst consequences while there is still time.

This book proposes that our tragic flaw is violence—not only violent acts in themselves, but the logic that motivates and justifies those acts. This logic entails certain structural properties that, especially over the long term, have truly catastrophic effects. The logic of violence is cyclical—one act of violence tends to provoke another; as the well-worn phrase has it, violence begets violence. Moreover, the logic of violence is escalatory—the cycle of violence tends toward greater brutality and injury over time. But worst of all, and most important for the argument of this book, the logic of violence is ultimately self-destructive. I argue that, so long as the logic of violence predominates in a given society, that society will move relentlessly toward its own self-destruction and, in the fullness of time, achieve it.

This lends deeper meaning to the injunction, “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”[i] No longer do we understand merely that I am more likely to die a violent death if I am out in the streets skewering my neighbors left and right. The deeper meaning suggests that anyone who depends on violence to survive will surely one day commit suicide. It is not my enemy’s sword that will kill me, but my own—he who lives by the sword dies by his own sword. This understanding captures the defining dynamic of tragic flaws mentioned earlier: the means by which I have secured my success becomes the very cause of my downfall. Humankind’s relationship to violence follows this trajectory over the broadest sweep of history.

This book further proposes that violence, as embedded as it may be in our genes and culture, admits of transformation. And not only this, our moment in history may offer the most auspicious conditions ever to occur under which our tragic flaw might be so transformed. In short, we live in a moment of unprecedented endangerment and possibility. To realize this possibility, however, will require profound change at both the global and personal scales. This book argues that these changes, while extremely challenging, lie within reach, and it sketches out some key features of the process of transformation. I will consider this book successful to the extent that I persuade you to take seriously two basic assertions: 1) violence is always prohibitively expensive; and 2) each of us alone and all of us collectively are capable not only of surviving but thriving without violence. The first assertion runs against the grain of mainstream thought, and much else, in our culture. As long as we continue to condone the use of violence we have no hope of averting our own self-destruction. We must confront the seductions of violence, see the implications of its logic, and reject it once and for all. Our future depends on it.

Wednesday
Jul102019

The Art of Experiencing

To access my ongoing series of podcasts on The Art of Experiencing: Mindfulness and the Zen Koan, where I take up each Zen story in the collection of koans called The Blue Cliff Record, go here.

Friday
Jan122018

Shame in the Bedroom

I recently had the pleasure of discussing the topic of shame, especially as it pertains to sex, with my friend and colleague Jessa Zimmerman. You can hear our conversation on her excellent show, the Better Sex Podcast. Please consider subscribing to the podcast on iTunes.

Speaking of podcasts, I have been posting to a new show called The Art of Experiencing: Mindfulness and the Zen Koan.

Friday
Aug112017

Interaction

We tend to think of ourselves as individuals going about our business. Things from the outside happen to us and then we react. We admit, of course, that we also “happen” to others and they react to that. But I think we tend to overlook, or over-simplify, what goes on there.

We tend to notice the big effects. When you insult me I feel angry or maybe ashamed. When I massage your shoulders you feel good or maybe loved. But what we may not see are the micro-events that occur unceasingly between us. How I look at you, or the way my look causes you to feel some small worry—so small you may not notice it in the flow of daily life but, upon reflection, there it is all the same. These tiny exchanges of action-and-response can form long chains that extend over weeks, months, decades, a lifetime.

In all that time we may only notice those most visible links where something dramatic happens. There is an explosion of temper, a breaking down into despair, an upwelling of love or lust. But these are just punctuation to a continuous weave of interaction. The big, memorable events emerge from this weave and cannot be fully grasped without it. When we chart only those outstanding moments we likely miss the actual logic that governs them.

In therapy, it is tempting to tell our stories of the big events—those that have punctuated the long trajectory of our life and those of the past week. But we may have trouble making sense of the big events if we lack the fine-grained understanding of the tiny interactions that form the chain linking these big events together. Part of the value of therapy, then, is to create a space to explore much more subtle features of our experience, to familiarize ourselves with the hidden stories within and around the big stories we already know.

These little bits of experience bring us closer to our own body. The granular detail of living reveals itself in small sensations, the quanta of experience. We begin to notice the feel of our tears ducts welling, or the rise of heat in our chest, a sense of constriction in the throat, our stomach tightening or sickening—little cues we might usually miss that nevertheless structure with precision what we do next, to which, in turn, another person reacts. Every moment of social interaction is like this. Even when we are alone, it is also like this—we react, after all, to ourselves. Whether solitary or social, interaction is always happening.

Therapy, too, is made entirely of interaction. When we bring explicit awareness to interaction, to the internal chains we build and the social chains that flow into and out of these internal chains, we begin to fathom the sheer complexity of human living and, together, we begin to know ourselves in the richness and intricacy that we all are.

Friday
Aug042017

Being Witnessed

Parker Palmer offers beautiful words when he says:

The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.

Read his whole blog post here.