Challenging conventional wisdom head-on with keen-eyed observation and fresh insight, Michelle brings new solutions to the “family values crisis.”

Michelle DeenA bit sassy, and a lot bold, never backing down from a fight when the cause is right, Michelle Deen has been dubbed a modern day culture warrior.

In an unexpected twist, she tackles family and cultural problems by first righting the wrongs of the religious right.

A marriage and family therapist and former adjunct professor of human development, Michelle begins her campaign with a complete strip to the nub analysis of family values rhetoric and the misguided mission behind the so-called “culture war.”

She shows how old-school culture warriors and their crusade to promote “traditional family values” offer faulty solutions, reinforce myths, and contribute to the very problems they are attempting to solve.

Michelle provides a novel view of the four-decades-long family values “crisis” and the corresponding culture war, by injecting established principles of human development and family relations into the circular logic of right wing ideology.

Her unorthodox insights came early in her career, working as a family therapist on the adolescent unit of a private psychiatric hospital in Boston.

There, she saw the most pained and strained relationships between parents and their teens, most from “good homes” of doctors, lawyers and indian chiefs, whose family life looked perfect on the outside, church attendance and all.

Most of these teens were not “mentally ill,” but deeply troubled souls, admitted for behaviors that were a desperate cry for help–attempted suicide, self-injury (i.e. cutting and cigarette burns to body parts, broken metacarpals from fists to walls, rage-fueled car crashes) debilitating depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and the list goes on. The root of these problems was almost always traced to some combination of family dysfunction, maladaptive coping behaviors, and adverse personality characteristics learned in their family environment.

“Nobody sets out to create a marriage that doesn’t work, or raise kids that end up maladjusted and in therapy. Yet, this happens to the best of us–traditional or not.”

Michelle became acutely aware that across the board, what we consider “family values” and family emotional health are not one and the same.

She believes that due to simple lack of knowledge promoted by a not so wise conventional wisdom, many people have best intentions gone awry when it comes to family life.

Through lively analysis and new ways of understanding the problems at hand, Michelle has launched Rethinking Family Values. Her goal is to shift the focus–from myth to reality, from dysfunction to function, from treatment to prevention, from crapshoot to an informed approach–through a new conversation about what it really takes to create happy homes, healthy souls and well-adjusted children. 

And, she doesn’t stop there.

Unable to sit on her insights and watch from the sidelines as progressive politicians become broadsided by family values rhetoric, Michelle has decided to jump into the fray.

Inspired by George Lakoff’s influential analysis of the use of family values rhetoric in politics, she brings her unique expertise to the world of political consulting, by providing a deep reframe of the family values narrative.  

She is currently writing Saving America’s Grace: Rethinking Family Values, Morality and Politics in America, a book that will change the conversation that has been played out in our political arena to the detriment of democratic ideals for decades.

Progressives with morality on their side? …

A new kind of “culture war” that preserves secular freedom while enhancing morality? …

Families of all stripes and quirky formations having family values of real value?…

To borrow her favorite republican catch phrase…

“You betcha.”

The Road Here

I saw it. But no one else did. Or, at least they didn’t admit it.

How things appeared on the surface was often not what they really were. Hypocrisies and nonsense perplexed my young mind.

Catholic school kids

That would be me, in the middle. Out of sorts.

I never understood why the nuns in my parochial school would preach Jesus’ message of compassion, and then grab us by the ear with a twist and a pull that hurt like holy hell, in order to get us into line.

I didn’t understand why we would have to confess our sins to a priest hiding behind a curtain in a closet, who would then send us off to pray ten Hail Mary’s for repentance.

Surely, this ritual couldn’t be better than soul-baring eye contact? Or a sincere apology with honest feelings of remorse? Where was the personal connection? The meaning? Yes, I really felt this emptiness as I robotically recited words drilled into rote memory.

I always wondered why my seemingly perfect family, with lots of admiration from our close community, left me feeling anxious and unhappy. A family that obviously loved me, based on the extent of things they would do for me, still do for me. A mom and dad who had best intentions. Yet, it was a family life that left me feeling disconnected and alone, and ultimately a bit messed up.

From an early age, this became the question that haunted me the most. I wanted to know–what made families and kids happy? I knew it wasn’t things, because I had so much in my privileged life.

Then, off to college I went; and like many introspective types, I pursued a degree in psychology, with a double major in sociology thrown in for good measure.

University of Connecticut. Where’s the beach and what in the hell is that fluffy, white stuff?

When it came time for graduate school, I was on a mission to get to the bottom of my nagging question. So, I crossed the country to attend the School of Family Studies at the University of Connecticut. There, I studied human development and family relations, with a clinical specialty in marriage and family therapy.

The ideas expressed here about healthy family life have come through my research, clinical work, and yes, my own struggles, mistakes and therapy induced insights.

I’m not approaching this endeavor from the pulpit with an air of superiority. In fact, perfection is further from the truth than I care to admit. I’m still figuring it all out as I go, fumbling along like most of the rest of us.

I intend to use my personal experiences to anchor the theoretical, and serve as juicy fodder for discussion. If done right, family life can be the most rigorous school for the soul. And let me tell you, after 23 years of marriage, 18 years of parenting, and a re-evaluation of the health and purpose of my own marriage, I’m still very much in school. Stay tuned as my story unfolds, giving structure to the ideas shared on these pages.

My Cultural and Political Cause…

As for me being a kid who didn’t do well with nonsense, that hasn’t let up either. Like the boy in the classic fable, The Emperor’s New Clothes, I can’t help but notice and declare when the flippin’ emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

images-1I call out chicanery whenever and wherever it exists. Really. Especially when it matters. And, what matters more than family life? So here I am, standing up to the deceptive family values rhetoric glaring me in the face, with Rethinking Family Values.

As an extension of my compulsion to call a spade a spade, my blog, American Culture on the Couch: Where Clear-Eyed Reality and Cultural Insanity Collide, tackles broader cultural “norms” (i.e. media, technology, consumerism, education, and even common parenting practices, etc.) that, through cultural values gone wildly off-track, have become perverted in taste, grace and moral sensibility.

“I shine a light on the spiritually bereft elements of our culture that have become so normalized we don’t even notice the deviance. Like mutated cancer cells running amok, these abnormal “norms” are taking over the soul of society.” 

And finally, bringing like-minded people together, I have founded Truthsayers Unite™, a Facebook page and Twitter presence where honest analysis of ridiculous cultural norms can be spotlighted, shared, and commented on, with and by you.

I look forward to joining forces with you on this adventure to create positive changes in our culture, and in the intimate spaces of our lives.

Add a comment below, and jump on over to introduce yourself to me and others on Facebook or Twitter. Become part of what i love to call “The Bullshit Brigade™”. It’s about time we had one, don’t you think?