Monday, June 28, 2010

Another political rant of an aging Boomer

Summer is here, we are hanging out with friends down near the beach. Lots of eating and drinking and loose talk.  The men, who are drunker than the women, begin to pontificate about the state of the world and what could have, should have been done.  The women shrug us off like they did our children when they were five years-old and hungry.

Eventually someone asks me, as an aging therapist, about my view of human nature, and I reply somewhat cryptically that I realize that I have become just "one of the many here among us." Now, I do not expect many of you to immediately get that somewhat poetic allusion, although I'm sure that several of you who thought they should have been at Woodstock may pick up on it.  There is a good chance my son will recognize what I'm talking about, and perhaps my daughter.

But it is true.  After all these years of working with people, and all of these years of observing American politics, and the politics of the whole world, that was the best I could come up with.

I remember when I was not that way, when I believed that people shared an underlying sense of values, that most religions were similar, that science was really the search for the truth, that people recognized the folly of war, and that technology would spread knowledge and that knowledge would lead to enlightenment.

It was very helpful and comforting to believe that, although at times it became kind of confusing and a bit disheartening.

Now my views have been changed by my experiences of seeing close up not only what societies will do to their own people, but what husbands and wives do to each other, and worse, what they do to their children.  I have also read lots of studies that show how totally irrational we are, such as the one done recently at MIT, that shows if you read someone's resume on a heavy clipboard, you will be more impressed with it than if you read it on a lighter weight clipboard.

Once you believe that, and I do.  Then what can you say about human nature.

Therefore, I am now just one of the "many here among us who think that life is but a joke."
(B.Dylan, All Along the Watchtower)

If 250 years of democracy produces Sarah Palin as a viable political force, isn't that a good joke.

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing.  Jokes are good.  It is healthy to laugh. Studies have shown that too.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Mac

I hope to be posting more now that I have my new MacBook.  I can take it with me everywhere and all the time.  I was not the only one in the store who didn't buy a new iPhone or an iPad, but I certainly was in the minority.  Apple certainly seems to have tapped into whatever is the tempo of the time, or perhaps help create it.

I do not have a Facebook page, partly because I don't want to have to not "friend" clients, and mostly because I don't have any more time.  I waste enough writing these rambling thoughts here, and sending them out to people I mostly don't know.  If I had to be coherent and stay in-touch with the people who really were my "friends" then it would become a burden.

And who has time for Facebook?  Probably many of you do. It's really a generational thing.  For us olders, it takes time away from the time wasting habits we developed before all of this instant technology.  I still get one weekly and three monthly magazines, and that does not include the professional journals.  Those journals are soooo last century.  By the time something is submitted, vetted, edited and published, it is either very arcane to begin with, or has been out on the Internet for months, if not years.

I am also on a couple of professional Lists, and they are full of Chicken Little Psychologists who alert me to every possible threat to the profession, possible ethics violation, acts of Congress that need to be responded to ( and I do), and money trends that rumble through the insurance world, none of which have ever been to our benefit.   But the information is there, and I have to have it.

These lists also alert me to the exciting new developments that are revolutionizing our profession.  Most of them turn out to be clever new words that describe a theory or concept that fell out of favor ten years ago when someone else coined a clever new word for something that had been popular ten years before that. But the information is there, and I have to have it.

I also get many more of my referrals or appointment changes through email, as well as updates from current and former clients -- which I think is helpful and informative, but it takes so much time. I'm not on my computer all day like so many people, because I have to actually sit and talk to people.  So, at the end of the day, or when I get home, I have 150 emails, about ten of which are really informative. But it takes a lot of time. So who has time for Facebook?

I get business because of Facebook.  Those old high school sweet-hearts  seem to pop up just when the marriage is getting very bumpy, and even if nothing actually happens, I hear the phrase "you were talking to HER" much more often in my office now than I ever had in the past.

I know that all of this new "instant" technology has had definite changes in how we think, respond, conceptualize and create.  There is a lot of new research going on trying to determine how all of this "screen time" is affecting developing brains.  And I'm sure it is.

Whether these changes in the brain will hurt the creativity of future generations, as I have already read somewhere, or does playing video games lead to violence or ADHD, the later of which is certainly possible.  It doesn't matter.

From what I saw at the Apple store, being constantly hooked into technology is here to stay, or at least until it is replaced by something lighter, faster and even more omnipresent.

Sitting in silence, staring off into space once was the province of catatonic schizophrenics, but I bet now it will become a luxury, and people will pay $1000 a day to go to some spa in the woods and sit next to a tree, while a highly skilled staff member locks away your iPad for thirty-six hours.

Maybe by next summer I'll have one up and running right here on the Cape.  Make your reservations now.

NB:  The dog is my grand-dog.  She is bigger now and better behaved. Very affectionate, very fast, but a bit skittish.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I received a big yellow envelop in the mail this week.  It was from Google.  They congratulated me that the listing of my practice on Google Maps Business was one of the most popular in my area. I am one of only 250,000 businesses  in the whole country to receive this distinction. I also received a Favorite Place window sticker to display, with my own QR code right on it, so people can use their phones to go directly to my listing. So many people have clicked on to see my crinkled eye and somewhat smiling face. Several clicked further to look at my web-page. 

I need to redesign my web-page.  Being an early adapter I put it up in 1999 and have only revised it once when I removed my "Health Care Plan for America."  But that is a different story.

Now, I don't know if this is a real honor or if this is a way for them to just generate more money by getting me to buy more services.  But why always be so cynical?  (Isn't it obvious why?)

Then as I reflected a bit more I became a bit sad:  My psychotherapy practice is one of the most popular local business in my area?  What does that say about my area?  Shouldn't it be a cool restaurant or clothing store, or even a flower shop?  Did I out-do Wal-Mart?

How terrible are things that so many people are out there looking for psychotherapists? I wish I could take my honor as a boost for me personally, instead I feel kind of bad for the social state of my community.

I would feel better if more people clicked on the Happy Times Dance Band and Social Club.

But nope, the world wants more therapy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Happy Daze

Let's cheer up a bit.  If you've been reading along here, you know that I often use this blog to let out my frustrations and exasperations that come with the role that I have chosen to take.  But I want to add a bit of balance.  It's not all that terrible.  The folks I see, and the hours I spend do not make me feel that life is always tragic and cruel.  I am not doing this for punishment, nor do I do it to gloat over other people's misery. Also, I can't say I do it for the money, as there are certainly easier ways to make lots more money, although none are more fascinating.

Really, doing this stuff is mostly rewarding, both mentally and emotionally.  Being a part of the process of someone making difficult, positive changes in their lives is very exciting and fulfilling.  Seeing people treat others better, insisting that they get treated better, and learning to take better care of themselves is exhilarating.  It's like watching someone grow-up in time-lapse photography.  They are shedding their old selves and grow new, more colorful, creative and successful new ones.

Yes, human life on earth is often unfair, capricious, and even absurd.  So, nu? It can also be whimsical, warm and sexy.

Each case is a puzzle that I have to help put together.

A woman came to see me and she was depressed.  The puzzle: why is she depressed and what can I do about it?  How can we, she and I, rearrange the pieces of her life so that the depression will disperse.  Or is it just brain chemistry?

I find out that her mother died when she was six, and two years later her father remarried.  He paid more attention to his new wife than he did to her.  To me, that is a big piece of the puzzle. 

Then we have to see how that affects her now.  How does she behave in other relationships?  How does she react to loss, or prospect of loss?  How much can she trust men? If her father didn't value her enough, how much value does she give herself?  Many more.

Then what can we do to change how she feels, reacts and behaves so that things will change?  That is the puzzle.  I believe that if she changes how she acts and thinks, she will change how she feels.  She will change her brain chemistry. I have done things like that.  It works. It's rewarding and fun.

Some puzzles I can't solve.  I can't get the pieces to fit.  Or I think I can get the pieces to fit, but the client doesn't like the way they fit, so it doesn't work.  Then I feel as if I didn't really find the right solution.

What do I do then?
I put it in my blog.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sometimes the Extremes are Real

I deal with a lot of shit that goes on in people's lives: illness, trauma, loss, loneliness, conflict, stress, and more things that don't really fall into categories,  just the amazing things that people mange to do to each other. Most of that stuff gets worse over time, as it continually takes up more space in people's minds.

But sometimes awful things happen out side of their mind; just plain awful things that they then have to deal with.  Most often it happens to people who already have had awful things happen to them.

This week's example is Marla, a woman I have been seeing for a long time.  I began a few years a go with Marla because she had a terrible drinking problem.  Her family, who helped create the problem by having a mother who would often promise her that she would amount to nothing, and a father who would occasionally get drunk and try to fondle her.

Marla found that when she drank she didn't feel so bad.  Her parents, realizing she had a problem with alcohol, responding by going to court and taking custody of her son.  They presented a huge, elaborately exaggerated case, mostly so they could get the child support checks that came for the boy.  Marla was send out to find her own way to sobriety and self-reliance.

Once away from her family however, Marla has begun to do quite well.  She has been sober for two years and she is now back in college, doing well.  Fighting to maintain her low self-esteem she tells me that she knows she is not smart, but she has this quirky thing she does:  If she reads the books and goes to class, she does very well on tests.  She can't explain it.

Having grown up learning to distrust the people whom you should be able to trust the most, it is not surprising that she has few friends and generally stays away from people.  But, over time she met a guy at her all night job, and they became involved. This relationship was in-place when I met her, and it had been going on for years. He seemed to be genuinely caring and committed to her, despite his being married to someone else, and the father to children whom he also cared about.  But when Marla was upset he would call me to alert me, or he would bring her to my office when he felt she was in danger of becoming too depressed and isolated.

After years of this, this man, whom we shall call Harvey, began to have an increasing amount of trouble in his own family.  His affair with Marla had been known and tolerated, but as his kids grew-up the tensions with them and the rest of the family, and probably others, all seemed to mount.  Harvey had once called me but we agreed that since I was Marla's therapist it would be better if he had his own. So I never knew the real details of the stress he was under.

Two weeks ago Marla came to my office, and after talking about her visits with her son she became even more silent then usual.  When pushed, she said she had heard from Harvey and he had said that it seemed a good time for them to not see each other for a while.  She said that when she questioned him, he then said he was just having a bad day, and things would be fine.  But she had not heard from him for four days now and didn't know if she should call him.  She knew he was stressed out and she didn't want to bother him, and make his life even more difficult.

Yesterday Marla showed up, a day before he scheduled appointment.  The appointment I was waiting for  was late so Marla came in, sat down and stared at the floor. "You're not going to believe this."she said.
"Harvey is dead. He was dead last week, that's why he never called.  He was dead three hours after I spoke to him."

"How did he die?"

No one is saying. My son is the one who found it in the paper.  The obituary only said that he died suddenly.

That can mean all kinds of things.  It certainly makes one wonder, but I don't actually know.

Marla said that she knew his father had died early of a heart attack.  Maybe that was it.


Marla left the office.  She said she was going for a long walk.  She has been known to walk twenty- seven miles to deal with her depression.

She called in today to say she was OK.  Going to walk in the other direction.

Friday, June 04, 2010

May has ended

May is tougher than you think. It always is. People naturally think that the Christmas holidays are psychologically rough times, and they are, but May is worse.

Why? I am never sure.

My best theory is that, like trees, the sap rises into people's brains and they get all kinds of ideas. In May it gets warm and people begin to act on things they have been thinking about all winter. I live in a climate where we have a real winter. The people here have not all moved down to where the beaches will be covered with oil.

I get more almost suicides in May. More couples break-up for ridiculous reasons, after being stuck together all winter. More bosses screw their secretaries, especially now that Xmas parties are more restrained. More housewives screw the plumbers. (I have two plumbers as clients). More money is spent foolishly. More people who remained sober since Christmas, break-out in May, usually with disastrous consequences.

I'm happy that it is now June. The ledges on the high bridges are empty again. Bring out the BBQ, spend time with the family. Fill up the above ground pool, mow the lawn. Chill out, enjoy the summer.

the "May-nia" is over.