Sunday, September 30, 2007

a disturbing trend

I know you have noticed, but our new technologies have moved more and more communications from written word to pictures and videos. On most news-type websites if you click on a headline you will more often get a video as you will a text article.

Many more people watch movies or buy (or download for free) music than read books or magazines. Reading is slipping away; writing is worse, my mother would be appalled.

Does it really matter? For a while, I didn't think so. New technologies make the brain work differently, and people adapt to the way the world is. Using a computer has certainly enriched our lives. Without it I couldn't read all of your blogs and get to know what goes on in your heads.

I remember when cell-phone technology first allowed people to take pictures. I thought -- who would ever want to take pictures all the time. But now people do, all the time. Why they do it still baffles me, but they certainly do. I went to a Red Sox game and the people in front of me must have taken ninety pictures. Pictures of them at the game, of the players, of the hot dog guy, of them eating hot dogs, buying popcorn, the popcorn guy. I don't know if they will ever look at them. They never looked at the game.

But, who cares. They had a good time.

But, now studies are coming out that show that if you don't read and write, and instead let your brain get information by watching videos, your use of language diminishes. Your brain gets sloppy. You don't have as many complex ways to express yourself, and hence you don't rely on as many complex ways to think.

The world is complicated. If we think about it only in simple terms, then we get simple solutions.

That is how we got our current President. He counted on people to be like him and think in simple terms about complex problems.

Now, our country is the butt of the world and a lot of people are dead and dying, have bad health care, bad mortgages, high credit card debt, bad science, polluted air, dependence on fossil fuels, and fear of foreigners. Not good.

See, it makes a difference. (to put it simply)

Go on -- read,think,type, read.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


P is now 47. When she was young her mother would hit her with an extension-chord, especially when P would ask her why "that man" was in the house again. The beatings ended when P broke her mother's ribs.

That start led P into a rough life of drinking, fighting and bad relationships. She is understandably quick to anger and can have volatile mood swings. If you piss her off, you know it.

But it's been years since she has hit anyone.

Her drinking is down to two or three times a month.

She has gotten rid of the men who abuse her.

She stays away from her sister, who still drinks heavily, and her brother who is back in jail.

But all this progress has left her alone, with no idea what to do. She doesn't like anyone, and no one likes her. She feels she doesn't fit it, except at the bars, but she knows that going there only leads to trouble.

So she stays at home and listens to right-wing radio and gets angry at the "liberals" who run big-government. She has some insight into the fact that they pay for her disability income and her medical care, but that only interferes with her anger.

I am looking for a spot in the world for her. It hasn't appeared yet, but we will keep looking.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Repeat: Be honest

I have probably said this before, but it is really important.

Be honest with your therapist!

We are not going to reject you if you screw-up, even if you have screwed-up before.

Yes, we are happy when you make progress, and it makes us feel that we are all doing our part.

But, when I've been reassuring your probation office that you've been straight, clean and sober, and you end up passed out in the park, with a blood-alcohol of 3.4, don't come in and tell me that it was a medication reaction.

You see, I really think it is my job to find a way for you to learn new skills, like staying sober and being honest, but I need to know what is really going on.

I'm going home now,
maybe I'll have a drink, but at least I'll be honest about it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Not a good sign

I went away for the end of August. I left everyone and went out in my kayak among the reeds and rushes.

When I came back I was relieved to find that no one had decompensated to the point of needing to go into the hospital. No one got arrested or had any major tragedy. That was good.

In fact it seemed like good things had happened while I was gone. R left me a message saying she would have to change her appointment because she had gotten engaged while I was away and that she was getting married on the Friday following my return.

This seemed a bit hasty because before I left she was telling me that after going out with this guy for six months she had several doubts about how loyal and committed he could be. I guess she felt he could demonstrate his commitment by marrying her.

In these matters I may say that I think this action is a bit rash, but I don't feel that it is my place to be against it. No one would listen anyway.

"Think about what you're doing." That's all I say.

Yesterday R left a message, she and he had just left the court house. They signed the papers ending the marriage. Not quite two weeks.

BUT, then he says to her. Now that we have finished with that disaster I think we can start totally fresh and this time we will get it right.

This time when I saw her I was more definitive. At least take a break, I said. Don't see him for a month. If you still want to talk to him after that, and if he is still there (which he won't be) then you can consider talking to him. Although I would think that enough is enough.

As far as relationships go, a two week marriage is not a good sign.

Monday, September 17, 2007

too harsh

Last spring I saw a twenty-five year-old young man. He had been in and out of several colleges and was living at home. He was obviously bright, and articulate, but he was struggling to get his life started.

He came to see me four times. He explained his family situation and how his parents were constantly engaged in a not too civil war. He was the go-between. He felt that he was the one who kept the family together. When he had gone away to school his parents had separated. When he returned they came back together.

He has two younger siblings. One had gone off to school far away. She called once a month. The younger one was a senior in high school. Once he got his driver's license he was hardly ever home.

My client explained how his mother would come into his room many evenings and cry. His father would corner him the next morning to find out what she said. This, he could see, was causing him a great deal of stress and confusion. He was worried all the time. He spoke of the times he had gone away to school, or even for the weekend and how good and free he felt.

He also told me that whenever he tried to pull away his mother would tell him about all the psychiatric problems he had. She would give him different diagnoses she read about. She would call his MD to get him on medication for depression, ADD or bipolar. He didn't want to take them.

I worked with him to show him that he had options. That at 25 he didn't need to take care of his parents. They had to make their own life decisions. Their marriage would have to survive or not without him. He had his own career plans that were different from what his parents wanted him to do. He also wanted to spend time with people other than his family.

The last time I saw him he was in my waiting room. As he came into my office he got a call from his mother. She seemed upset that he was still seeing me, and she was having some crisis at home. He left and never came back.

I saw him downtown over the weekend. He was walking with him mother. He had gained about twenty-five pounds. It looked like the puffy kind of weight gain you get from taking some psychiatric medications.

I thought the things I was saying were obvious, but as a form of therapy, they were too harsh. He wasn't strong enough to take her on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What would you call it

I have been seeing this guy. He and his wife are seeing someone else for couples therapy. They are going there because he had an affair.

The affair is the typical thing. I hate to be so blase about these things, but they make up a good percentage of my business, and I certainly know these things happen. You know, you work with someone, you spend hours on a project. It goes late some nights. There is the excitement about getting something accomplished and working together.

In the meantime you wife of fifteen years is home with the kids. She fine. There's nothing really wrong, but things get a bit stale. She's put on a few pounds, the kids drive her crazy, she complains about the bills. Her mother is sick, her back hurts. All the stuff of life.

He crosses the line with this other woman. He gets dazzled by how much they have in common, by how flat her stomach is, but the way a different woman feels, smells and bounces around.

Then it blows up. Some little clue and the wife finds out.

Then the rying, yelling, remorse, contrition. The wife, the kids, the family, the shame.

Couples therapy, anger, hurt, blame, tears, more contrition. Finally, there is some rejuvenation, forgiveness, reconnection.

Then the guy comes to see me to work out his own issues, supposedly left over from childhood, and all he wants to tell he is that he is still seeing the other woman.

He knows it's wrong but he can't stay away. He doesn't want to leave his wife; she's been a great woman. But the pull, the chemistry, the fascination is still there and it is soooo powerful.

So, what's the diagnosis? Is he weak? crazy? selfish? self-destructive? danger-seeking? Does he hate women or love them too much? Is he going through a mid-life crisis or just reliving his father's sins.

or is lust just too powerful?

Probably all of the above.

Monday, September 10, 2007

join the army

Here's something I learned today.

A couple of years ago I saw an angry kid who was about seventeen. He had a lot of reasons to be angry, including an abusive father who then vanished from his life. There were other problems. The young man was bright but very provocative and got himself thrown out of high school.

He tried to join the Marines but they wouldn't have him. That was in 2004. He spent the next three years getting fired from jobs, drinking, taking drugs and getting in fights.

Last week he went to the army recruiter. They not only signed him right up, they gave him some substance to drink before he went to take the army's drug test. They told him that when he was in the army he could drink all he wanted on his time off, but no drugs.

They told him that there was a chance he would end up in Iraq, but that by the time he was out of boot camp the war could be over. I'm not sure he knows where Iraq is.

They don't seem to care who drives those humvees any more.

(for those of you who continue to wonder -- don't worry -- this young man, and other people I mention here, probably won't read this blog, wouldn't be able to recognize themselves, due to altered details, and most wouldn't care anyway)


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

dangerous date?

Something happened to me this week that has happened twice before, but always feels a bit strange.

A mother was describing what happened this summer to her fifteen year-old, somewhat boy-crazy daughter. He daughter came home from a party that she had gone to up at the beach. The party was at someones house and this kid knew that kid, who knew kids from another town, who brought other kids, who knew other kids, so there were kids there from all over.

The girl spent the evening and into the night flirting, and maybe a little more, with a real cute boy she met. He was cute, he had the same sense of humor she did, and she was hoping to see him again.

Two days later the boy called and the daughter talked to him on the phone for over an hour. A few things that were mentioned caught the mother's attention. When the girl got off the phone the mother asked a few more questions. Then the mother got upset.

Later that night the mother made a few phone calls. The next day she told her daughter that she was not allowed to go out with that boy.

The daughter was upset and demanded an explanation. The mother cried, but avoided the question. After an hour or two of evasive answers the daughter was not accepting the decision. The mother told the girl to call her father -- the parents had been divorced for about five years, the daughter saw her father regularly.

The daughter got right on the phone and called her father. After fifteen minutes of a private discussion she hung-up the phone and ran to her room crying.

The father had told her that she couldn't see that boy because he was her brother, well, her half-brother technically.

Keeping secrets is always risky.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

old guys

I've see some older guys in therapy, by older I mean over fifty. They come for as many reasons as everyone else, but there is a trend I see that is upsetting.

They tend to be more worried about their jobs than they were a decade ago, and it seems that they should be. The ones who have jobs are either doing very well in the company, and are in positions of leadership, or they are on the fringes, and they know it. Several of them are out of the companies they had been in for two or three decades, and are now hanging around as consultants.

If they are in leadership positions they know that there are people on their ass all the time and any major fuck-up and they are history. The other ones feel like so much of the work is based on using technology that they are not totally comfortable with. People who are twenty years younger grew up pushing buttons and clicking mouses, and skipping from screen to screen. Most of my guys can work with the machines but if anything happens to the technology they are screwed. The consultants especially are out there on their own and if the scanner doesn't scan everything in right then they can lose a few thousand dollars in an afternoon. It can take hours to get the systems connected.

They feel that at this age they should have respect and wisdom, but they are scared and feel that they are falling behind. They also feel that they can't learn as quickly, stay up as late or concentrate as long. Many of these beliefs are not true, but the anxiety about them make them so.

These problems are as much cultural as they are psychological. This is America '07. You are free to make a lot of money. If you don't, then nobody really cares. I see plenty of houses up for sale as I drive to work.

I am older than most of the guys I see. I am lucky because my job requires thinking and talking. I can still manage (I think).

Also, I use an Apple.