Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Upon my return

There is something very comforting to me about returning to my office.  I did not get the "back to school jitters."  Starting about thirty hours before I returned I was getting eager to see how most people were faring.  I was not eager to see how everyone was doing as some people will not be changing much. They make my life tough.

But I guess it is very easy for me, after all these years to settle back into my role, to return to the task, to try to move things forward.  It's not easy, but it feels like the place I should be. I should be thinking, at this stage of my life, of how to make changes in myself.  I know that they won't come to me.  But I don't.  I go back to what I do; what I know.

But three weeks is really a long time it seems because a lot had changed for many people. It seems that some people need a good dope-slap every week or two or they tend to wander off the rails.  Is this psychotherapy?  I guess.

AB got upset at her parents and tried to jump out of the car -- in the middle of traffic at 40 mph.  They put her in the hospital for three days and on meds.  I don't know if that was the best solution, but everyone got worried.

CD, under pressure from his girlfriend, turned himself in to the probation officer he had not seen in four months.  I will see him next week when he gets out.

Paul, you remember him, called  to say he would like to come back, but he is in FL, trying to stay sober.  He will call when he returns.  I will see him if he calls.

EF's father died. as did GH's mother. IJ's husband's father had a heart attack. JK put her brother in hospice.  They won't let him drink.

LM got evicted. but she found a new place.  She left her boyfriend behind.

MN said her husband slapped her. She had accused him of cheating on her -- after she came home from spending the afternoon in bed with the man across the street.

OP is going back to school.  Two days after she signed up for classes, her husband lost his job.  Good he can stay home with the kids.  But who will pay the mortgage?

RS called.  Her cancer is gone.  She was strong and up-beat through seven months of treatment.  Now she wants to come in and cry, in private, in my office.

There is something very unsettling going on out there.  Everyone feels that things are bad and about to get worse.  No one has any trust.  The current divisive political system cannot deal with things.  Things are very complex, and many disparent people will need to work together to make things better.

They won't. Not a chance.

It's only Tuesday.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Yes, it was a totally gorgeous day.  The sky was totally blue, the waves rolling in slowly to the beach, The sun was warm but there was a slight breeze off the water.  A few boats bobbed in the distance. Kids frolicked in and out of the water, splashing and screaming, dunking and diving. It was a day that should never end.

But slowly the sun began to sink toward that side of the water. It was bringing summer to a close.  Time to clean up the house, put the chairs away, and pack it in.  Yes, we will be back next weekend, unless the hurricane drives us away, but the vacation is over. I did my best to squeeze every drop out of it.

Put on some old,  melancholy Townes Van Zandt tunes, go to the dump, take one last shower outside:

"Don't let the sunshine fool ya
Don't let the bluebirds tool ya
Don't let the women do ya
Put your hand in mine"
     ----TVZ  (1944 - 1997)

We're going home.
Back to work.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When it rains

It rained for a few days down here near the water.  Some nerve. The forces of Nature do not always honor my requests. We think that somehow we can control that, but in truth we are losing control rapidly and creating more chaos and destruction. But that is another topic.

When it rains here I get to read many things from various sources.  I read several articles about how too much "screen time" is not good for our brains. The average game app is played for about three minutes while waiting for the dentist, or a line to move or a wife to get dressed.  We can now not only fill up every vacant second, but we often double or triple fill by turning on music, watching TV and texting a friend, all at the same time.  Many studies show that this only confuses our brains, inhibits learning and limits creativity.

I also read a good article that (again) trashed on my profession.  It was about the "Legends of Psychotherapy" conference held last month in California.  I will write about that next time.

But I read a column by David Brooks in the NYT that I want to comment on.  I usually like to read his stuff.  He is a thoughtful conservative,which I am obviously not, but he often makes a good case.  What he wrote about last Tuesday is something I strongly agree with, and have really been talking about in many ways here. -- In the article he wrote about how we usually only read things we agree with, but I don't think that was why I liked it so much, but who knows.

He wrote about "mental flabbiness" that has become rampant in our culture.  People have become lazy thinkers.  With all the information that is constantly available there is less time to consider what is real, what is worthwhile, and what to do with all of these bits of information.

Brooks quotes Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway who lists our natural weakness: confirmation bias; we pick out evidence that supports our views, and we are cognitive misers; we try to think as little as possible.

I often see in my practice how people are very vulnerable to slip-shod thinking, surface conclusions.  People easily settle for simple solutions, based on distorted half-truths, that are harmful to them.  That's why there is so much debt, so many kids on prescribed drugs, so many obese people and so much free-floating, misdirected anger.  It's not that people are stupid, it's that they have been encouraged to be lazy thinkers.  Our society calls for it.

If you are a lazy thinker you are much more likely to buy a shitty product at an exorbitant price, and to think you need it.  You will get angry at Obama because you think he's a Muslim.  You will eat bacon cheeseburgers and then go to Jenny Craig.  You will believe that climate change is a hoax because you don't want to put any limits on the energy you use or the waste you create. You will blame "illegal aliens" for taking you job, when you never really wanted to work fourteen hours a day picking lettuce. You will think it's normal for women who are 5'4" and weigh 118 lbs to have Double D tits. You will believe that your six month old son should be watching a computer program that teaches him sounds and colors and shapes, when you should be holding him and cooing to him yourself.

It's no wonder my business is booming.

I made the mistake of picking up my messages today.  I have almost as many new people wanting appointments as I do people who I was seeing before I left.

The world is very complex.  Take the time to think about it. It is good to think -- Try thinking this way: If I do this then this will happen.  If is even better to think -- If I do this then this will happen, and that will make this or this happen and I have to be ready for that too.  But that is difficult.  It takes time.  It takes some kind of reflection and consideration.  We are all capable of it, but it's difficult. You may have to give up some time playing "Angry Birds."  At least in the beginning.  Then this thinking thing gets easier. Then it gets to be kind of fun.

Try it.  You will save on your therapy bills.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Out of office, and out of....it

I am still away.  It's kind of weird to be away this long.  It is good for my head.  I think of some of my clients once in a while and wonder what's going on.  I kind of miss them, mostly just as people, but not really the work of figuring out what to do and how to make it happen. I think of some of them and it seems as if through a fog.  They are from such a different part of my life.  I am here, in this vacation spot with friends and family wandering in and out. I talk or don't talk.  I don't have to pay much attention if I don't feel like it. Some people drone on about whatever.... It's great: I don't have to listen.  When I do respond I don't have to make much sense.  That certainly takes the burden off.

I'm like that.  My mind takes what someone is saying and shoots off, usually in a totally unrelated direction.  It jumps and skips steps.  Then I make a comment about where it has led me.  People kind of look up and then go back to whatever they were talking about.  Most of my friends expect that. They often can comment, and we go on from there.   That's why we are still friends.  The other ones, like my wife's friends' husbands, they don't know quite how to respond, or how the hell to deal with me.

Sometimes we talk about golf.

I have been getting to exercise a lot more.  It surprising how well you can take care of yourself when you don't have to take care of anyone else. I get to stretch, and then to really exert myself in a few ways, which I had not been doing since my eye got messed up.  I was surprised at how much I missed that. Getting my heart pumping and sweating and breathing heavy really makes me feel alive and part of it; whatever "it" is.  Some people hate to feel that way.  I really missed it.

What is sad is how little it takes to make that happen now. But hey, as the song says: " I can go as fast as I used to, and I can go as long as I used to, but I can't go that fast for that long any more."

Sometimes when I take my grand-dog (the one in the picture there) for a walk, and she pulls me around for two miles, I count that as exercise.  I never would have used to do that.

Just trying to stay healthy.  Just trying to stay alive.  Just trying to keep my wits about me without embarrassing my wife too much.

Just sometimes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

being away

I've been away.  I still am.  I went to the mountains far away.  That was away. Just me and my wife of many years.  We went up and down the big mountains.  Up, up into the snow. I rode a bicycle through the woods, up and down hills, on narrow paths through the trees and over the streams.  My wife got a massage.

Now we are back at the house near the ocean.  This is the place people come. We open the doors and have friends. That is good. It sometimes amazes me.  I didn't think I was that social, but this is fun.

I called in to my voicemail.  I had only fifteen messages now that L doesn't call any more.  They were mostly from people asking for appointments, telling me why they wanted to come and see me.

I am not in work mode, so my first reaction was "What the fuck are you telling me all this for? Your life is a mess and I am on vacation. Leave me alone.  Don't tell me about your substance abuse problems while I am sitting here getting drunk with my friends.  Don't fill my head with your relationship woes on my anniversary.

Then I heard a message that one of my younger patients was in the hospital for a rash act.  I felt sad. I thought of what i needed to do to help her learn to deal with being upset. I called and set up an appointment to see her ---

when I get back.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Out of Here

This was a difficult week as I am leaving for three weeks, one in the high mountains and two by the sea.  I have certainly been looking forward to it, and now the time has arrived.

What has been difficult is that so many of my clients have been giving me shit about going away.  "Didn't you have a vacation in July?" they inquire.

And so many people seem to remember that Richard Dryfus, Bill Murray movie "What About Bob?" It must have been mentioned ten times this week.

Yes, almost everyone adds that they appreciate that I should get a chance to clea my head once in a while, but how will they survive?

Actually, some of them will take the opportunity to mess-up their lives for a while, make a stupid decision, give in to an impulsive desire, explode at the wrong moment, or on the wrong person.

Maybe not.  Maybe they have learned; change does occur.

We shall see.

I'm not going to think about it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

scientific insight?

There was an article a couple of weeks ago in one paper, and then it was recycled to another paper recently.  It talked about how political scientists have "discovered" that even when you give people clear, definitive and indisputable factual information, and even if it comes from a reliable, unbiased source -- if the information does not agree with what a person already believes, then, most likely, the information will be discounted and the person will go on believing whatever he or she is comfortable believing.

If you believe that Obama is a socialist, if you believe that your wife is cheating on you, if you believe that chewing a handful of iron filings will cure your diabetes, often nothing, no matter how scientifically proven, will change that belief.  You will select and focus on information that you feel supports that belief.

This was like the "discovery" a few years ago by economists that people do not always make the most rational economic decisions, and (much) more often than not, they will make economic choices that are not in their best interest.  For decades economics were based upon the idea that the "economic person" was rational, and that given all of the necessary information, most people would make the rational decision.  For decades they wondered why their models never worked well at making predictions.  The team that documented this irrationality won a Nobel Prize or something.

As a psychologists, who deals every day with people who make major decisions that affect their lives, in romance, money, work, schooling, interpersonal interactions, drinking, eating, sex and sleeping, all I can say in response to these major "discoveries" is:


Also, remember what Woody Allen called people who think that everyone is after them----