Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Again

Christmas is rapidly fading into the darkness.  We drove around looking for lights here in colonial New England.  For the most part people are traditional, a candle (electric) in the window, with some lights, mostly white, around a tree in front.  This year Home Depot, in addition to selling those wire reindeer  must have put out strings of blue, green and purple lights, they seem to have caught on around here.

We came around a curve on one of the more traditional colonial neighborhoods and were suddenly rewarded by a four story house with what must be at least 30,000 lights.  Not just lights, characters, ornaments, shapes and trees, and the best part was that each segment blinked on and off in some kind of random, blinding pattern that added to the celebratory chaos.

A quarter of my clients spend Christmas by themselves.  Another 40% have to deal with difficult family situations, either choosing to see father or mother, or just plain old fashioned tension, due to constant criticism, rejection or something worse. But that leaves 35% who want to go home for the holiday.  They see their parents and siblings and they feel refreshed, sustained, welcome and happy.

As you may have figured out by now, I am not the biggest fan of the religious aspects of anything. But I don't want to get into that now; just ask Michelle Bachmann and think the opposite.  But I do believe that any occasion that makes people think for at least a minute about Peace, Love and Understanding is worth celebrating.

I hope everyone celebrated happily, and in their own way.  I hope everyone got what they wanted from Sanity Clause.

Monday, December 19, 2011

pushing buttons

I got to spend a bit of time with the one year-old.  She is good natured, mobile, curious, adventurous, friendly and very quick to laugh.  I guess you can tell that I like her.  It's fun to be around someone with such enthusiasm.

We got her some blocks in a bucket.  She picks the blocks off the floor and throws them into the bucket (mostly). The she crawls over, grabs the bucket and dumps it over.  She laughs heartily.

But whenever she spots any electronic gadget she immediately heads for it.  An iPhone, and iPad, the TV remote.  She already knows those things have magic power.  She has apps on the iPad.  She pushes the screen and animals appear.  She pushes it again they made noise.  She laughs.

She does Facetime on the iPhone.  She smiles into the screen and says "Hiiiii. " Then she grabs the phone, turns it over and turns it off.  She laughs.

First I thought, this may not be good for a child.  She will think that all she has to do is push a button and the world changes.  Then I realized, it is good for her.  That is the way the world works.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


We went away, the wife and I.  She said winter is coming, build your strength.  She asked my daughter where to go, the one who has been everywhere, really, everywhere.  She said, go here, it is the most beautiful, most far away, the most the way it should be place there is  ( and pretty pricey ).  So after a long week at work in which I tried to cram everyone in. I made nine phone calls in the last hour to arrange for everyone else.  I rushed home and packed.

We went, and it was.  The turquoise bays, the warm water, the sloops bobbing up and down.  This place was quiet, isolated, with nothing but water.  No TV, no music, no radio, no telephones, no golf; nothing but a perfect setting and fine food with people popping up, bringing everything, and then disappearing.

I talked to two men who live on the boats.  One brought his wife, one left his behind.  They go from island to island.  They take pictures of the sunset.  They ferry around the people who want to snorkel, or see other islands.  They have escaped from the world.

Attractive?  I didn't think I could do it, to just drift along, and let the rest of the world make idiots of themselves over taxes, entitlements and financial derivitives.

The trip home was exhausting.  I got home and received twelve messages.  Three people were yelling, two were crying. One of the yellers was from one of my patients who I had called just before I left.  She was the eighth of ten calls.  She called back screaming and swearing at me.  Apparently in my haste and exhaustion, by the time I reached my eighth phone call I was too rushed, too flip and not all that professional.  I thought I was rearranging her appointment as she had hoped, she thought I had insulted her.

She is a delicate, accomplished woman.  We had done a lot together to deal with her anxieties that came with the constant quest for achievement against belittling men in a difficult field.   Now it seems that one slightly misguided remark had huge unintended consequences.  She screamed and swore; she vowed never to talk to me again and that I shouldn't try to contact her.

Now, she did have a right to be upset; I was a bit too flip, but really, what bothered me was that after all the work we did, she was just going to scream and retreat.  If she was going to quit and leave me because I treated her badly, (which I really didn't, and certainly didn't mean to) she should have learned how to confront me, deal with it, let me acknowledge my mistake, and then either get over it and accept an apology, or walk away knowing she made a point.

But she didn't do that, so now I have to deal with it as I can, as it isn't ethical to just let her vanish without some kind of follow-up.  It will be frustrating. She was a really fascinating person to work with too, so I will miss her.

So, I went home and told my wife that if we sell the house, we could get a really nice boat, and still have enough money to wander through the islands, rum in hand, for a long time.

Except I don't know how to sale, and she doesn't do well if the water gets choppy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sucked inot the Internet 2

Hey, I was home today.  It was a gift of a warm day and we went for a nice walk around the lake two towns away.  I also got new tires for when it gets cold and snows.  The rest of the time I spent "working" from home. 

So many of my patients, especially the men, but not only men, many of whom are unemployed, underemployed or have never worked a full month in their lives spent time like this, sucked into the Internet.  The day can pass quickly, seamlessly. I learn about things I never thought about.  I looked at things that I always think about.  I read book reviews, movie reviews, stock reviews, politcal garbage and sports reports.  I read your blogs and now I'm writing on my blog.

We are all part of a world that was unknown ten years ago and is overwhelming now. The input is constant and addicting.  If you stay away fro three hours then you begin to feel the world has changed and you're missing it.

I can't tell if the world is changing or if it is all a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. (catchy phrase that one).

But it certainly takes up time, and a lot of emotional space.

Tomorrow I will return to my office and sit with people, facing em, listening to them, watching them cry and laugh and breathe, and for almost an hour they will have my entire attention I will have theirs.  That's something special in the world we have today.

No wonder there is such a demand.

No wonder insurance companies don't want to pay for it. So low-tch, so unmeasurable, so unaccountable, unreliable, unstructured and open-ended. 

Yet, for so many conditions, it is the best treatment.

That's why I write about it on the Internet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Tonight he is sitting by himself watching TV.  The big picture window now looks out into absolute darkness. Perhaps there are a few lights twinkling on the hillside across the late, but they are far away and difficult to see.  Tomorrow morning when the sun comes up he will be able to look across the water at the green hills and the taller mountains behind them.  He will make some coffee and sit alone, waiting for his son and daughter to come and join him.  He has not been able to have them over for a Thanksgiving meal for ten years.

He is divorced from their mother for about fifteen years.  He ran through about thirty women since then.  Mostly he ran through about 1000 bottles of Jack Daniels and a couple of pounds of cocaine.  That all ended him up in jail as the result of several incidents that he has no memory of being a part of, but that doesn't mean they didn't happen.  He realizes that being in prison saved his life.  Three years, four months, twelve days.

He's been clean and sober ever since.  He has a job now, doing what he knows how to do. At first he went back to the woman who waited for him; the woman he loved in high school, the woman he was with on and off when he was married.  But somehow she wasn't that interested in him when he was sober, working, and trying to be stable.

Thankfully, he chose being sober, working and stable instead of great sex and good times.  He has run away from six other women during the three years since he was set free.

He found this place.  He pays the rent.  He breathes deeply and looks at the mist rising from the lake. Tomorrow morning he will put a turkey in the oven and know what thankful means.

I hope everyone else can enjoy the holiday too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's a blur

I can no longer tell the difference between sports, at all levels, The Republican Presidential debates, and Dancing with the Stars.  It seems like it is all the same people doing the same things.

Is that Hamid Karzai  dancing with Khloe Kardashian?

Is that Michelle Bachmann pitching to Chad Ochocinco?

Who can tell?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

something to worry about

Shelia was referred to me after she spent a night in an ER, with a bad panic attack.  She is twenty-seven ears old, and her mother came with her to explain two things that she wasn't sure her daughter would tell me.  The first was that when Shelia was nine they thought she was going to die from meningitis.   Then, ten years later she was in a car that crashed into a pole, but she had a seat-belt on, and except of slight burns and scrapes she was not hurt.  The driver broke about seventeen bones and was in the hospital for months.  Her mother said that Shelia had spoken about each of these things once.

It took less than thirty seconds for Shelia to begin to tell me about these two incidents, and then several others that her mother didn't know about. She had gotten drunk and fallen off a roof.  She had skied off cliffs, and had done several other dangerous things, clearly not caring about the chances of survival. She knows she had the panic attack when she learned that her friend's mother was diagnosed with cancer. She feels that another person is going to die.  Everyone will die.

Shelia told me that although no one said anything to her, she knew when she was in the hospital when she was nine that everyone expected her to die.  She has expected to die ever since then. Every night when she tries to go to sleep she is afraid to close her eyes because she is afraid she won't wake up.  She told me that they love her at work because work distracts her and if she stops to think about anything else she wonders when she is going to die, so she works hard every minute.

Why bother to live when you're just going to die?  For Shelia, that question always hangs there.

She is quite an attractive young woman but she has never dated anyone seriously because she feels like she will die and leave them soon. "Life is kind of useless isn't it?  You live for a while, and then you die, so why put all that effort into doing all this stuff?

She told me that she knows she should have developed an appreciation for life.  She knows she is lucky to have so many chances.  But she doesn't feel that way.  She feels as if she has only delayed the inevitable.

I told her that I know how scared she is, but next I said that I know what's even worse is how lonely she is.  Then she just cried.

We have a lot of work to do, because I really can't answer a lot of those questions, but at least we have made a start.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is 11-11-11.  I have several clients going to weddings that will happen on this mystical day.

The original 11-11-11 was in 1918.  It was the day and time to mark the end of hostilities on the Western Front between France and Germany.
It was the end of the War to End All Wars.

It certainly isn't fashionable, but the best I can say is "Sure, Thanks, Whatever."

It didn't end all wars. We aren't saved, things got worse.  Perhaps in the last thirty years things have gotten a little better, but not that much.

I am not really grateful for the men and women who died, and the millions more whose lives were ruined and disrupted.  I am very sad and sympathetic.

War is a waste.  It always was, always will be. The poor and the foolish die to keep the rich and powerful rich and powerful.

Yes, there are crazies out there now who want to randomly disrupt and even kill innocent people in this country.  There are also rich and powerful people in other countries who want to get an advantage on the rich and powerful people in our country.  It is now, and always has been a blunt and heavy-handed way to gain an advantage for resources, money, energy, and sometimes sex.  Often religion has been thrown in to raise the passions and confuse the situations even more.

All I can say is that if I had lost any of my kids, or even myself, fighting in some stupid war, especially something like Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, or really any of them,

I would really be pissed.

So, if you really want to help all the folks in our armed forces:  End the Wars.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

From the Left and the Right

This is what I have learned from working in a working class mill city:  Everyone is right, everyone is wrong.  Or, once again, things are complex; too complex for our political system to handle.

Recently I've begun to see a new patient, Ray (not his real name).  He's 23 years old (no he isn't, but let's say he is). He is from one of the local minorities; we have many different minority groups in this city. He came to me because he almost lost his temper and beat-up his cousin.  His cousin, who was strung out on various drugs, was pushing his girlfriend around and calling her a whore.  The cousin and his girlfriend already have a baby. They live off the money she gets from the state to pay for the child.  They don't do much else.  They don't seem to want to.

Ray lies with his mother, who works at the big chain store.  His father is in NYC somewhere.  His father comes home about three times a year.  Ray dropped out of H.S.  One day when he was bored he signed up to take his GED.  He passed it all that day.  Ray works, making $8.50 an hour cleaning up a pizza restaurant. He wants to go to college but he doesn't have the money.  Two of his sisters already went to college.  One is an LPN and works in a nursing home.  The other got pregnant, dropped out, and owes about $15,000 in student loans that she will never pay.  Ray isn't sure that going to college will help get him a job that will allow him to pay back the money he needs to go.

The politicians on the right say that giving money to poor folk to pay for college is a huge waste of money.  Many of them drop out, or get ripped-off by these on-line private schools, or private trade schools.  They say government programs waste enough money.  They have a point.

The politicians on the left say that the only real way out of poverty, and to get Americans working again, is through education. $8.50 an hour won't pay for a car, not to mention a wife, a kid, a house. People need an education, a good education, life skills, job skills, thinking and problem solving skills.

I say, don't give or lend people money, make college free.  Sate colleges should be totally free.  They should also raise their standards so that when people graduate they not only know something, they know a lot.  There should be free remedial programs for those who do not have the skills for college.

The money for those colleges should come from taxes.  Everyone should pay taxes.  It's like investing in our country. If you have, you should give.  If you take, you should pay back.

But what if you're lazy?  But what if you're crazy?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Nature's tricks

Tis All Hallows Night, the evening to celebrate the dead and dying.  Most of the snow is gone from around here, and my neighbors all have their power on, although that can't be said for many of those fifteen miles away.  That's just one of Nature's tricks.

As the sun began to slip away I pulled on my black sweats, pulled my too-big black hoodie over up head, pulling the strings on the hood so it comes down over my eyes, then I set out to walk the neighborhood as the Emperor from Star Wars, one of the best known movie villains.   I didn't bother to get one of those white plastic scream masks, the craggy lines and furrows in my face from more than thirty years of listening to misery are enough to frighten any six year-old.

Now I have returned and I wait for them to come to me, the princesses, witches, many various animals and super heroes. I don't know if it will be a busy year.  There were lots of parties scheduled for Saturday but the storm blew them all away.

I appreciated being able to take a brisk walk, emperor or not.  The most difficult patients for me to deal with are the ones who are sent to me  to help find a away to keep them going and hopeful, even when movement is very difficult and hope is draining away fast.   I am seeing several people who are in tough physical shape.  Cancers, which may or may not be treatable, degenerative bone diseases, MS, Parkinson's, crushed vertebrae, or missing limbs.  I also have a couple of parents of children who have complex medical problems.

I talk to them; I listen to them.  We try to find other things to think about, ways to lessen some of the tension, to avoid some of the pain.

What makes the task more complex is that so often the treatments for many of these problems are often the causes of other problems, and the treatments for the secondary problems can also create new problems.

I don't want to blame doctors or medicine because many of the new treatments are truly amazing, and many people are alive today, and healthy, who would have suffered and died ten years ago.

But the medicines are often so strong, and almost everyone reacts differently.  People get dizzy and fall down, and break things.  People become terribly allergic and break out in painful rashes, or hives.  People can't digest food while taking certain medications and they lose weight or throw-up and then they find that they can never eat certain foods again.  People get scars from radiation. People gain weight from many pills, others develop neuropathy, or other auto-immune diseases. What is worse is that it seems that once people develop sensitivities they become increasingly sensitive to almost anything and everything.

Seems like one of those tricks of Nature. 

So I just keep walking.  Walking and whistling in the dark.

Monday, October 24, 2011

N.B. +

Nota bene:  I have been blogging here, not too feverishly, for about three years.  After about six months I got a flurry of questions about the ethics and  confidentiality of what I was doing.  I think many of them came from pastoral counseling students.  I think I reassured them, as I will try to do again, that I am very aware of the importance of confidentiality as a part of therapy.  I believe that any patient must feel that anything they say to me will not be revealed to anyone.  I inform them of the very few exceptions, such as imminent danger to themselves or others.

I don't think any of my clients could point to anything I write and say "that's me."  Although I hope they could say, "that could be about me."  I write her to attempt to sort out themes. The theme for me in the last post was partly about how sad it is when someone feels so battered that they choose to retreat from the world. But the other part was about the limits of my influence as a psychotherapist.  I can only influence anyone so much.  I have come to believe that people cannot, and should not try to do what they are not ready to do. And, they may never get ready, because what I may see as possibilities for them may be something that they will never be interested in doing.

I know that one of my faults as a therapist is to set goals for people that are often different from anything they ever envisioned themselves doing.  For many of my clients I have some idea that, if they have not already done so, they should go to college, open their own business, and be in enriching, mutually beneficial relationships. Now realize, I never verbalize that, and I often can see that those are not things that many people expect, or want to do.

The point is that I feel no one should be limited by anxiety, worry. loss, depression, self-doubt, rotten parenting, or any other emotional difficulty. --- There was even that story on the front page of Sunday's NYT that told of a schizophrenic woman who built her own business to keep her psychic demons in check.

Not everyone feels that they can, or want to pull themselves together to the degree that I would like to see.  I have to honor that. 

And I won't name any names.

Friday, October 21, 2011

not my choice

I have written about GR here a while ago.  She had lost her long-time boyfriend, who was married to another woman, when he died under suspicious circumstances.  That was over a year ago.

GR is a very intelligent woman who has had emotional difficulties since childhood.  It was not that she was born with deficits or neurological problems, she was just born into the wrong family.  Her mother was a religious fanatic, a hoarder, and used her kids to clean and cook. Her father drank too much, and tried to put his hands in the wrong places.  GR and her sister went off in opposite directions at adolescence.  Her older sister was out-going, thrill seeking and friendly.  By the time she was seventeen she had been having sex with two different men a week. Now, fifteen years later, she probably still does.

GR, in contrast, has had two lovers in her life.  One got her pregnant.  When her son was about five, and GR was home alone and drinking, her mother called protective services and had the boy taken away.  The mother took custody mostly so she could collect a check from the state.  It took GR about seven years, and all kinds of treatment letters and programs to prove to enough people that she was competent, and she was able to get the boy back.

At one time, in high school, just to see if she could, GR decided to study.  She got all"A"s that year and was ranked fourth in her class.  No one at home noticed or cared, so she gave it up, as not worth the effort.  Twelve years later, while she was seeing me, as part of the process of regaining custody of her son, she went back to college.  Again, she did very well for one semester.  But then her boyfriend died, and she gave it up.

Now she has given almost everything up.  Her son is with her and he is doing OK, not great, in high school.  She is on disability because of her chronic depression and OCD.  She gets some support for her housing and food stamps.  She knows how to scrape by with very little money. She encourages her son to do well in school, make friends, and participate.  He seems to be doing that.

She isn't.  She leaves the house once a week to shop, and one time every-other week to see me.  Otherwise she doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone.  She is on an Internet chat list for mothers of adolescents.  She plays games on Facebook, but doesn't correspond with anyone.  She reads a lot and works out on the floor to videos.  She has no idea how long this self-imposed isolation will last.

She tells me that she is not as depressed as she has often been.  She gets up everyday and takes care of herself and her son.  She sees her current lifestyle as a choice, not a symptom. She knows there is the possibility of a richer, more active, more interesting life, but she really feels there is a greater possibility of more losses, rejection, emotional pain, and of being exploited.

It's not worth the effort, she says.  It's not worth the risk.

It's her choice, not mine, but for now I have to honor it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More examples

The economic conditions have caused a lot of stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, inadequacy and anger.  These things are pretty obvious, but they are very detrimental to individuals and families. 

As I said yesterday, my practice in this industrial city, is an indication of what is going on in the country.  Five years ago I had several cases of couples coming in big SUVs, they were having alcohol and recreational drug problems, and sneaking off with their friends' husbands and wives.  Several of the women were even flaunting their newer, bigger breasts.  It was all with money they took got from remortgaging their homes.

Now, several of them are back, having lost the home, and at least one of the jobs.  The crash has been devastating.  They feel cheated, as they were only doing what the world was telling them to do, which was to pump up the economy.

Of the couples who have come back, most of them have figured out a way to stop blaming each other and pull together.  That is good to see.  It can really be a step-up, away from the foolishness and craziness.  People are finally learning that having credit is not the same as having money. If the pain and suffering last a year or two I am sure the lesson will really sink in.  If they manage to get a new job within about six months they may think they are brilliant and can get away with anything.  Very few people really learn to plan,  I think we are still short-term hunters and have to eat as much meat as we can before it rots.

There are many other ways that this economy is making people suffer, especially people in their early twenties, who have student loans and $12 jobs.  They are lost and know they can't afford a marriage and a family.  They drink beer and watch movies at home.

It seems as if the answer will have to come from local communities.  People will have to learn to think small, not look to big government or big corporations who will not hire.  They will have to find ways to trade with each other, build a community that keeps services and money flowing amongst themselves.

I see some signs of it among people who have lost jobs more than a year ago and realize they have to figure something out for themselves, something different. They now have cleaning businesses, repair businesses, cooking businesses, very basic stuff.

The older workers, from their mid-fifties up, make these kinds of transitions with a lot more difficulty. They do not welcome the challenge of starting over.  They feel they have already deal with enough challenges.

But this is America in the New Millennium.  We have been trained not to care.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

More on tough times

It is often said these days that we are going through the worst economic times in seventy years.  The world is suffering from the bursting of bubbles, greed, high stakes foolishness and the fall out from chasing false values.

Seventy years ago there was a brand new field of psychotherapy.  Freud was still leading the charge, very few people got to experience any kind of treatment besides being locked away in insane asylums, and the treatment anyone received was either totally ineffectual or harmful.

When I was training as a therapist I was made aware that the incidence of "mental illness" among those with less money and fewer resources was much greater than for those who were better off.  There was always a great discussion over which was cause and which was effect.  I still was trained, and for the most part was able to focus my practice, in dealing with problems that could primarily be described by a psychiatric diagnosis.  I have discussed in here how inaccurate and often misleading those diagnoses can be, but the point I want to make is that I felt that I was treating psychological and emotional problems.  Many of these problems, I always felt, were the result of conflicts in a person's close interpersonal relationships. Anger, loss, rejection, neglect, shame, scorn and loneliness were many of the themes that often came up in therapy.

I still deal with mostly with those same issues, along with addictions, chronic anxiety, hopeless and powerlessness, real and perceived.  But these days I feel that a lot of these feelings are secondary problems.  The underlying causes are economic. 

There were no private practices of psychotherapy in the 1930s.  Today I feel we have to differentiate between what is a normal reaction to not being able to find a job, or any reliable source of income, and dealing with all the consequences that brings.  Anger, helplessness, shame, stress, family strife, disappointment, embarrassment, feelings of self-depreciation are common, but they are not pathological.  We need to find ways to treat and change these feelings, but the best treatment would be a job.

My office is in an industrial city that is a bellweather for the economy.  In the 1990s there were business in this city that had to hire buses to bring workers in from a city twelve miles away.  Now those bus drivers are out of work along with a long line of others.

I will give more specific examples of what this does to people, the community and everyone's outlook on the world next time.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sucked in to the Internet

Friday was our day to take care of the oldest granddaughter, The Bird, ten months old.  She is a city girl and accustomed to watching the sights, sounds, sirens, and special people who traverse the city streets,  as she rolls in her stroller from her neighborhood to downtown.

Since I am already sure that the iconoclastic blood of her grandfather runs through her veins I took her down to partake of the folks who were putting on the demonstration, the folks of "Occupy Boston." We read the signs, nodded in appreciation as the folks played the drums, and sought out indications of agreement form passers-by.  In general I felt sympathetic.

After we returned The Bird to her parents and went home I began to poke around on the Internet to see what kind of attention the demonstrators were receiving and what who was reacting in what ways.  I read articles on about four sites, and read the comments, which always seem to bring out the worst in people.  That was my downfall.

The comments on the Fox News site were confusing to me.  I knew somehow those folks would be against the demonstrators, but I couldn't see how they would frame it since in many ways it seemed like the same issues that the Tea Party people were also trying to highlight.  But somehow the Tea Party people were Patriots, while the Occupy people were hippie-Communists, trying to destroy America.

That where I made my mistake and decided to put in a post in support of the Occupy people and asking for some kind of clarification of their anger.  Pretty rapidly I received four responses from people who seemed to be right there, waiting to respond.  Two of the responses were just quick and nasty.  I was called dirty, immature, and a Mamma's boy who expected to have everything handed to him.  One was positive, thanking me for being supportive.  The last one was a long message telling me that if I ever had real experience in the world, and not just from what my college professor told me, then I would know that America is only for those who help themselves.  There is not a right to expect that corporations or the government should do anything for you expect to allow you to do whatever you want, unless you hurt somebody.

That one kind of intrigued me, so when I sat down again, about seven hours later, and really just to see what button I would push, I responded by telling the person that I have run a successful business for thirty years and I have learned that  what is necessary for success is strong and dependable infrastructure provided by a good government, and that no business, and no person really, can survive in this complex society on his own, cooperation and interdependence is necessary for success, especially on a large scale, for a whole society.

In less than five minutes I received a long rambling answer telling me that it is written the Constitution that government should not do much of anything, and that people who expected more were trying to undermine the Exceptionalism of America and bring the greatest country on earth to its knees.  He ended with this : 
"Nothing you have said changes those impressions one bit.  Just because you have run a business doesn't mean you aren't an anti-American leftist.  It just means you have no appreciation for the gift of being an American and therefore don't deserve our consideration of your ludicrous, ill-conceived opinions."

I am posting this here not to show that there are great divides and a total lack of communication across them, as much as to show that there are many, many people, mostly older, angry men, who are on their computers twenty hours a day, defending their world from the likes of me.

Just as I am sure that my granddaughter will absorb many of my values without realizing that it is a choice, I am sure that this person comes from a very different place, literally and figuratively than I do.  The sub-culture he hangs around in, whether real or virtual, is very supportive of his beliefs, and it is only due to these advances in technology that we have the opportunity to irritate each other.

I think, in the long run, that may prove helpful to our society.  If it doesn't cause another Civil War, it could be preventing one.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Greatness has no time for football

If almost everyone was as driven and creative as Steve Jobs no one would make much money.

If everyone THOUGHT they were as creative as Steve Jobs no one would make any money.

It takes drive, passion and focus to be someone like the late Steve Jobs.  Most creative people have great generativity:  they have many, many ideas, some of them are brilliant and many of them are a waste of time.  But what makes those people different than others is that they just keep on going.

I have had patients like that -- if they are not successful, if their ideas don't work, or even if the ideas are good but they can't find a way to get them developed or publicized, then they are diagnosed as bipolar- just someone whose mind is racing.  If one of their ideas work then they become a success; if two hit it then they are geniuses. Steve Jobs had more than two.

I believe (almost) anyone  can do (almost) anything they want if they put their mind, body, time, energy, passion and soul into it.

But they probably won't be able to do much else. I somehow don't think Mr. Jobs went to a lot of Sunday bar-b-ques with is buddies and watched a lot of football.  Everything comes with trade-offs.

or maybe he was a Jets fan.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The new one

Things went OK!
She (it's a she) is home now.
The mother was banged up a bit, but I hear childbrith can get nasty.  But that was two days ago and now everyone is home.

All kinds of family clustered around to hold the pink bundle of warmth.  The kid seemed to take it in stride, as long as she got feed every two or three hours.  She is good tempered, very nicely shaped, and will keep getting better and better.

I am very appreciative that both of my granddaughters live within twenty minutes of where my wife and I have settled.  I will see them often and stick my nose into their business.  However, what I really would like would be to buy one of those big Victorian houses that fill up the next town, and put each family in on a different floor.  I would give everyone their privacy, but I would have access to making sure that everything went along as I wish.

I am not a controlling person, that is certainly not my style, and I know that it doesn't work.  I couldn't be in the profession I am in if I ever beleived that people would listen and do what they are told. But I like to have influence.  There are ways to be a factor in what needs to happen and to apply a few gentle taps and make sure it goes that way.

Yes, you may say, but your children are parents now, and they will raise these kids in the way that is best for their famiies and their times. And yes, ther is some merit to that.  My parents always stayed at some distance except for periodic visits, and my wife's parents vanished into the sunshine. 

But I am now the patriarch of the family, and I will steer this ship, and I have a good idea what the course should be.  Age and wisdom should be honored and respected.

So, when can we start playing Candy Land, or do we have do that with an App?

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Second One

My son, my second born, is in the hospital right now, sitting next to his beautiful wife, waiting for her to bring forth his first born. They are going through what seems to be the commonplace medical machinations in order to induce the kid to come see the world.  That is what my daughter went through ten months ago, and that is what happened twice to my wife, as both my kids were plucked out, rather than delivered.

So far, the first grandchild has been an overwhelming success.  She is happy, curious, expressive, and she loves her Grand-Pops.  Whenever she sees me coming she swerves around, looks at me and then gives me one of those wide, three-tooth smiles of welcome that make all the world worth surviving. I take those smiles very personally and I don't want to know if she treats anyone else as well. She looks at me, flaps her arms and raises her hands. My daughter was very similar and joyous at that age, although not as big.

So now a new one will enter our life-space very shortly.  I was very hyped- while my daughter was giving birth.  She was there with her husband and we all were trying to have Thanksgiving dinner.  My mind was waiting to see who it would be, and also very focused on how my daughter was doing.

This time it's similar and different.  I cannot know how my daughter felt, but I think I know exactly how my son is feeling, thinking and acting.  Everything is almost exactly the same, except for text messaging.  I can feel the excitement, confusion, anticipation, responsibility and joy that he is feeling. We have about a 57% overlap in personality, so I have a pretty clear idea.

I was 33 when I had him, and he is 32 now. the world is different but having a kid is very much the same.  Is this a good time to be bringing a kid into the world?  Who knows?  Right now it seems like it could be better, or it could be worse.  It is certainly better than being born in 1911, or 1930, or 1937.

I was born in 1945, and that turned out to be a pretty good stretch of time, but who could have predicted that.  My son was born in 1979, which is proving to be better than 1989, but a lot can still happen.

Having a kid, if you think about it, is always a leap of faith and a vote of confidence.  Of course, a lot of people don't think about it, and many of those kids end up in my office.

As a grandparent I see the sweep of time, the possibilites and the difficulties so much differently than I did as a parent.  Being a parent is day to day, often hour to hour, especially in the beginning.  As a grandparent it is the joy of a couple of hours, but also the awareness of the coming decades.  What can be, what needs to happen, and what are the few little nudges I can add along the way to make things easier, happier and turn out right ( the way I think they should).  These kidsare my legacy; things should not be left to chance.

But right now. the only concern is for the next two or three days and that he or she is healthy and robust.  If that comes to pass, then being brilliant, creative, beautiful, caring, intuitive, a good dancer and a skilled point guard will all happen in time.

Right now we just wait for the next text message.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A click away

Perhaps many of you saw the article in The Sunday NYT entitled "When your Therapist is Only a Click Away.

It described how the method of doing therapy over Sype is catching on, and that many people would have more access to therapy that way.

Of course most of the therapeutic community was not too thrilled with the idea, especially those of us who had to climb a fire-escape to peer through a window to watch Howdy Doody, before our family broke down (or saved up) to get our own TV.  Most therapist agree that it is important to have a person-to-person meeting in order to have the kind of person-to-person relationship that is necessary for therapy to work.

  I feel that being in the same room with patients is much more emotionally intense, much more revealing, and can lead to much faster changes.  Talking to a screen, is a little weird for people my age (old).  It makes me feel too much like my crazy aunt who had running conversations with the TV.

But it is certainly a generational thing.  People under 40, and certainly under 28, have spent much of their lives in front of screens.  That's how the world comes to them.  So many people have worked in cubicles, staring a screen all day, now they work from home, staring at screens.  But it must seem very natural to them to get and give information that way.

I just tried to download some puzzles to my phone. But this app wanted my personal info and my email, and then wanted me to post my results on Facebook and email them to seven friends.  I don't want my friends to know I'm doing puzzles on my phone.  But I guess lots of people do.  Maybe that's why no one is working.

But the future
of the Independent Practice of psychotherapy lies with those smart-phones.  I can see that within five to ten years many people will have a "Therapist App" which will be a direct "Facetime" link to their therapist.  Each of us in independent practice will have about ten to twenty clients, and we will be "on" all the time. Sixty ten minute conversations a day. "Get ready to talk to your boss" --Get back to work --- She looks cute to me, go talk to her -- How did that make you feel?  That was an interesting conversation with your mother. 

Real emotion, Real behavior; Real Time.

Heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, sweat glands, all kind of bio-feedback information will be measured instantly from the hand-held device.

All billed immediately through Pay-Pal.

It will not be the same as the therapy that we give now, sitting fairly close together, with pauses, silences and staring at the wall or the carpet.  Having your therapist in your pocket could create all kinds of over-dependencies, or it could keep you shaped-up, as those little lies, exaggerations and omissions that people tell their therapists will become more difficult to get away with.

Things will be different.  They already are.  There are always trade-offs.

Perhaps five years is too long.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Character (?)

I was reading last week's NYT Magazine.  It is all about how to educate the rich and poor.  The big article was about how something called "character" was as important in making headway in the struggle toward success as academic achievement. 

A group of several psychologists and educators had this discussion about character and they seemed to come up with two complimentary, but distinct dimensions.  One dimension had to do with what it really takes to succeed in this world, and the other had more to do with what it means to be a "good person."

The first one consisted of a bsic group of behavior traits. They labelled these as: grit, zest, curiosity, self-control, optimism, and  gratitude.  One more, emotional intelligence, I think includes many other traits. 

The other dimension included behaviors such as being understanding, helpful, empathetic, and caring. It was much more about being good to others and making the world better for everyone.

I think all of this is good stuff and is really what is important to both individuals and society.  I think it is sad that it falls to school to try and impart these kinds of thoughts and actions into people, when really this is what parenting is all about.  But i guess parenting and families are in tough shape for many people these days.  I see that a lot in my practice.

Not that it really ever been well done.  What we now think of as abuse and destruction had long been a staple of family life, and still is in many parts of the world.  But now we think that beatings, molestation, honor killings, degradation, silent scorn, rejection and expulsion are not usually the  best methods of building character.

When I think of the list of traits of the first dimension: grit zest etc, the first person who comes to my mind is that 10 month old girl I spent two days with last weekend.  She was certainly full of zest, curiosity and optimism.  She displayed enough emotional intelligence to know how to play her grandmother for all she was worth.   She was able to let us know what she wanted without flipping out, and was very gracious when she got what she asked for.  Her whole body would shake and flap for joy when she was given a small pile of Cheerios.

What is great is that her parents, through a loving process of allowing, encouraging, structuring, and caring have already begun to instill in her things she will need to not oly survive, but to flourish.  I think (boastfully) that I did a lot of that with my kids.  What is sad is that so many kids don't get that because their parents are too exhausted, too poor, to unstable, or too unavailable for all kinds of reasons.

But if a kid is neglected, frightened, intimidated, forgotten, or discouraged for the first two years of it's life it becomes very difficult for a school to get him or her to undo the skills he needed to survie and to then learn these new ones.  That's what I do in therapy, and it can take years.

I think it is worth trying.  I think these qualities are really important.  I do think that they are, and can be learned, to a great extent, although each child is born with a different temperament, which makes them more naturally energetic and/or sensitive.  But it's a very tough job to retrain somebody, especially when you have to send them back to the environment in which other skills, such as silence, defensiveness and secrecy are more adaptive.

Monday, September 19, 2011

crawling and giggling

It is a beautiful late summer day.  The sun is beginning to slant at a different angle.  It is fifteen degrees colder than it was last week.  More people are in the neighborhood, looking busier, walking faster.   Vacations are over, everyone is back from where they went, getting back to work.

Still, everyone I have been seeing is suffering from th economy in some way.  The problem is world-wide.  The necessary solutions are complex.  Battle lines are being drawn, no one wants to be the victim, so everyone loses.

But this weekend I spent taking care of the ten-month old bundle of energy and amazement.  She crawls, climbs, giggles and laughs out loud at everything that pleases her.  What pleases her includes plastic bottles that spin, doors that have two sides, pulling herself up on a coffee table and taking everything off of it.  Keys and cell=phones seem to be the biggest prizes, and gravity is something worth demonstrating over and over.  However, making a ball go up in the air, against gravity, produces gales of laughter.

It will be years before this new, round, mostly pink person has any idea how skeptical her grandfather is about human judgement, and interpersonal interactions.  The economy is good where she is.  Her parents are very good to her.  They keep her healthy and safe and encourage her to grow.  She also has about fifteen other relatives and friends who smile back at her every time she smiles, which is most of the time.

Obviously, there will be another generation to keep this all going.  There will be another member of our family from our other child, coming with two weeks.   Despite all that is wrong with the world it is always thrilling and encouraging to spend time with a healthy, happy baby. It seems to bring out instinctual hope.

I realize that a lot of children are not a fortunate as this one.  But the most imprtant factor is that any child feels safe, welcome and nurtured.  I will do the best I can to help this one and the next one to explore, learn and be amazed. If they can enjoy doing that, and enjoy begin here, it will help everyone. everywhere.

All politics are local.  As local as the kitchen floor.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I've been away for a week and they changed the whole blogging format.  I'm disoriented.  I don't know if I can make sense in this box that hardly has borders. Perhaps my mind will slip outside the borders and rush away, out of control, down corridors of my building, bothering the people in the insurance agency, or the other doctors, or the bank investigators who are rarely seen, and when they do show up they wheel in those metal cases.  What do they really know?  Could they have prevented much of this if they really investigated?  My mind wants to know.

She, that woman who seriously thinks she is running for President of the USA, actually said that getting a vaccine to prevent cancer will cause mental retardation? She believes in a non-influential government, but she doesn't believe in science, or health.

What does this say about the education system of America that people don't come up and demand that she go back to fourth grade.  How does anyone take anything seriously if this is condoned?

When did Congress pass the law that rich people are right and poor people are wrong?  That seems to be the law of the land now.  I know several rich people who believe that. I have spoken to them, and I am not impressed with their ideas -- or their values.

I have patients who are poor and their lives are very difficult.  I have patients who are rich and their lives are very stressful.  I don't have happy patients; that's not my job.

But why be cynical on this beautiful day, which could be one of the last beautiful warm days of summer?

Because if you're not cynical they take your money, they tell lies, they get away with cheating, and they change the rules. 

They are the corporations, the government, the churches, the elites, the rabble, the immigrants, the prejudiced.

They are everyone but me and you.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

too many like him

I have been back at work a while.

A mother called and told me her son wanted to see me.  He said he was ready to talk and wanted to change.  The young man was 23.  he was good looking, strong, and had a job that expected regular attendance, strong physical effort, and  good customer relations,  He was more than able to do that, and he said his company thought he was excellent.

The only trouble was that he was still living at home and was spending most of his money on Oxys and Perc 30s.  He said he felt better when he was high.  His job was boring; his life was boring and getting high made everything easier to take.  Except that he was broke.

He also realized that he was blowing out his brain cells.

But he really could come up with no alternative.  He a quit the pills a couple times, but got bored and a bit depressed and had gone back to them.  He said he hung out with six or ten other guys just like him, except half of them didn't have jobs any more.

He didn't like school.  He hadn't put the effort in and didn't think he could now.  He had been in a couple of relationships but the women didn't really think his being high so often was that attractive.  He understood that.  He didn't see any way that he could really get a good enough job in this economy that would allow him to really live independently.  His father had worked hard for thirty years or so, had a haeart attack and now was disabled and couldn't do much of anything.  His mother was still working but she thought she was about to be laid-off.

Why bother?

I offered him a way to figure out the answer to that question.  Although he was certainly a polite kid, and seemed to have real insight into his condition, he declined.  He did say he would consider taking Suboxone, if that would help him cut down on the pills.  I think he was hoping that his insurance would pay for the Suboxone.

America's future is it's youth!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fortuitous, coincidental or Divine Intervention?

During the past year to year and a half  I have been having a reoccurring problem with my neck and shoulder muscles. About once a week, more or less, these muscles would tighten up and cause a great deal of discomfort, sometimes it seems the discomfort would reach all the way to my stomach and make me feel a bit sick.  I didn't know if it had to do with the way I had been sitting all day in my office, or if it was that I had bought a laptop and sat differently over the keyboard.

The answer has become apparent because some of the keys on my MacBook, the "S", "W" and "2", all in a row, just stopped working.  I have had this laptop for about a year and a half, so that was why it was on the suspect list.  I really like Apples, before this I used a Mac-Mini for six years.

So I ran down to the "Genius Bar" at my local Apple store and was told pretty abruptly that yes, the keys don't work, and that even though I didn't spill any coffee on them since it was over a year and I didn't buy the extended warranty they could fix it, but I had to leave it for a week, and it would cost me $180.

I asked if there was any other solution, and the kid said that I could use another keyboard.

I was in a bit of a state of shock because I thought that Apple was such a magical company that they could just sprinkle fairy dust on the keys and they would work again.  I didn't make a decision what to do and took the machine back home.  On the way home I realized that I had used a wireless keyboard for the Mac Mini for years.  It was now way out of date, not the sleek, flat keyboard they sell now, but it was still an Apple, so I thought I would try that.

I went home and tried to connect the old keyboard and didn't have much luck.  Then I began to Google though ideas about how to get it to work and after half an hour searching around I saw that someone posted a solution.  Now, as you can tell since there are the letters "s" and "w'  in this post, that it works.

What has also become clear is that when I use this old keyboard in front of the laptop I sit up much straighter, I don't hunch over to reach the smaller keys of the laptop and my shoulder has not hurt me for three weeks.

So, taking this all a needless step further -- why did this happen to me?  Is this just good fortune that those keys broke?  Did I cause them to break because I was in such a bad position that I was banging away in a destructive manner on those letters?


Did the gods of laptops and backaches smile down on me, and since I am such a blessed soul in their eyes they decided to offer me a solution that I was too blind, too lazy, or too cheap to see.

I only propose this last idea because it is the kind of thinking that seems to be pervasive in both my patients and in some of our national politics.  It is the kind of sloppy, lazy, magical thinking that leads to trouble.  When a candidate for the office of President can announce that she feels that the tornadoes and hurricanes we have been having are God's way of telling America to cut the deficit, then things are getting pretty scary.

When people are able to say openly as Rick Perry does, that God approves of his running for President, or as one of my patients does, that the people living above her have invented a noise machine that goes on when she comes home, goes off when she leaves, and knows when someone else is with her so that no one else can hear it, and this is being done to her to make her leave the apartment because they disapprove of some of the things she had done in her bedroom, we are dealing with problems. People tell me they won't go out on days with certain numbers in it, or that she went back to the guy who broke her nose because he said he was sorry, again.   This is not good thinking.  There are more effective ways to link cause and effect.

But so much of what people think about is totally preposterous, from extra-terrestrials, to get-rich scams, to waiting for The Rapture, to talk radio, that people become accustomed to sloppy, lazy, distorted thinking.  It becomes easy to scapegoat minorities, to blame outside sources, to expect miracles, to get sucked in to advertising, and to be used, fleeced, manipulated and screwed, and then blame it on your spouse or the government.

In short, I don't think that God broke my laptop to keep me healthy, so that I could continue to keep typing and write such an illuminating blog.

I do appreciate the coincidence.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene is coming!

After a week at work we have returned to the beach house.  We are about 1/4 mile from the water, but our beach faces north, so we will get the back end of the storm.  We await the fury of nature. We feel we are ready, although we really have not done much besides bring in some of the things from outside.

Like most humans we tend to believe a little too much in the positive, overestimate our own abilities, and base too much on what happened in the past.  Last year we had similar, but not quite so dire warnings.  I went down to the beach and took a "before" picture.  The next day I returned to the same spot and took another picture  -- they were identical.

This time will be different.  But I am ready.  I am seasoned, I am tough, I am ready for whatever the gods of wind, rain and the sea have to throw at me.

I only hope that the power doesn't go off because then we won't be able to run the dishwasher or do laundry.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back at work

I took three weeks off and came back yesterday. 
Being off was more difficult than I thought.  That is not a good thing.

Part of the problem is that we went down to the beach house and opened the doors and people poured in. All good friends, some we hadn't seen for years and others from around the corner.  Most stayed for a night, or two or three, even four.  It was great to see everyone but it was not the way I usually escape, which is to sit and make sure the tide is on schedule and not talk to anyone.

But that was only part of the difficulty.  The other part was that, while most of my friends are doing quite well, many of their kids are not. This seems to be common, and distressing and too much like work, except that I can't do much about it. 

These "kids" to which I refer, range in age from 24 to 38.  One needs an operation and had to scramble to get health insurance.  Another probably has the early signs of a chronic, debilitating disease.  Those situations are distressing.  But even more common are the kids who are struggling to find a decent job, to grow up and be independent.  The problems are much more economic than psychological, but they become psychological, and are very distressing to their parents. 

What becomes worse is that these kids either don't get married, because they can't afford it, or the marriages are falling apart, to a large extent because of economic pressure.  When the marriages fall apart many of the kids come back to their parents.  Many of them bring their very young children.

This is not good -- not good for the grand-kids, the kids or the people my age.  It's not good for the country or the world.  It didn't help the vacation.

Back in the office, I began seeing the patients I had been away from for three weeks.  I wondered if my business would last or if the recession would change things even for me.  But today, the second day back, I got several calls from people looking for help.  The issues they want deal with involved themselves and their grown or almost grown kids.  They needed to find their way in the world; they needed jobs, AND, to fight the boredom and depression many of the kids between 16 and 26 have been taking Percs and Oxys to ease the pain -- the psychological pain.

Things are not good out there , and once families begin to struggle the drop in quality of life can be swift and steep.  

This is not good.  But at lest in my office I can try, at least try, to do something about it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

But, I thought .. never mind

I read in the NYT that big ideas are dead; no one thinks that way anymore. I guess there is no app for that. Naked celebrities getting divorced get more attention than the idea that there may be universes beyond our universe. 

Jarod Lanier, who is a bit weird but seems to know things about the Internet, has noted that we are now constantly being flooded with new information.   So many of my friends, relatives and even patients are constantly checking their mobile devices for news, texts, emails, Facebook updates, Tweets......
It has become annoying to be with them, because they are not with me. They are waiting for the word to come through the air, to tell them what to do next, what to think about, who to be.

It has become very difficult to pull all this information together in order to reach any kind of a well considered, thoughtful opinion because every second there is new information, and you may have to revise what you believe.

The stock market is up, and you're rich, an hour later it's down and you're poor .. because someone thinks that Ireland or Greece may have a bad quarter.  The river is polluted, an asteriod may be coming, it is 106 degrees, there is a tornado in Des Plaines, Michelle Bachmann is gay, another bombing in Iraq, the Red Sox won, now they lost, unemployment is up Obama will lose, now it's down and he is OK,  The Tea Party are idiots, nope, now they are morons, racists and homophobes. A kid was kidnapped, a kid drowned, a kid got sick and died,  another kid fell off his bike.  Does that mean I have to put a GPS and a helmet on my grandchild to keep her safe?

Too late for that -- parents are too hovering, nope they are too lax, nope they are putting too much pressure on their kids.  You can't eat sugar or fats, nope artificial sweeteners are worse, corn syrup is even worse, sugar is good, eggs are bad, eaggs are good again, bacon is bad, bacon is good, tofu is tasteless.

We're all gonna die someday, might as well smoke, drink and screw. Everything in moderation, but you only live once and can't take it with you.

The proof is in the pudding. It's in his kiss. I can see it in his eyes.

"Everybody knows the dice are loaded
everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
everybody knows the war is over
everybody knows the good guys lost
everybody knows the fight was fixed
the poor stay poor, the rich get rich
that's how it goes,
Everybody knows   "  

L.C. (1988)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tech 6, Past, Present and Future -- 1

 What is written below I wrote to post on a list for psychologists:  I am putting it up here too because, if I get off my ass, I expect to use this space to see if I can explain what I am talking about in a way that makes sense.  Almost everything runs differently in the world now than when I grew up. In most ways, the people in it are the same creatures they have always been, but it is still very unclear how we will all live and prosper peacefully, as the result of all these changes.

When I began to write this post I tried to explain the reasoning behind all my thinking. After about 4000 words I decided I may have to write that all for a different forum.  But here are some bullet points.

After all the screaming about debt ceilings and deficits is over in Washington, The USA will still be left with an uncertain economy, and the major difficulty that will remain is from high unemployment.

The underlying causes of the current high unemployment is not from the Democrats or Republicans, it is from  major changes in how the world works. 

The two biggest ones are globalization and, even more so from technology.  Every profession, and I use that word in its broadest sense,  in the world today is performed differently than it was even ten years ago because of technology.  Many professions have completely disappeared.  Many jobs in the professions that remain have been eliminated, and are no longer necessary.

We are living in a world that could produce all that needs to be produced by employing about half the people who are working now.  About 120 years ago 75% of American were farmers.  Today that number is 2%.  That is what is happening is many other professions.

Our job, which did not really exist during the last time of great unemployment, is probably one of the ones that is least impacted by technology.  We base our skills on dealing directly with people, not machines.

But we, in our profession, are going to have to deal with this increase in unemployment, underemployment, and with those who have jobs, but are pushed to the breaking point by their employers who know that people are desperate to keep their jobs.

Those hardest hit by this change are men, and mostly men who are not that educated.  Those are men who had jobs in manufacturing or in the trades.  The trades held up well during the housing boom, but now that too, is over.

A rise in long-term unemployment of middle and working class men will result in a domino effect of bad things:  depression leading to anger, leading to domestic violence, divorce, poverty, fatherless kids, addictions, lawlessness, and then more unemployed men.  This will be even more true for the less educated and racial minorities.  It is also effecting non-specialized recent college graduates, who have $70 or more in student loans and can only find work for $12 an hour.

We will see an increase in helplessness and hopelessness that may be labelled as psychiatric disorders but is really much more the result of social factors and global changes than it is an kind of inter-psychic or biological disorder.

There will be a much greater demand for treatment from people who will not be able to afford it.  The treatment will be much more difficult because many of the factors that underlie  the difficulties are way beyond the control of any therapist.

Perhaps I will be proven wrong, and things will improve and the advances in technology will somehow offer a way to keep everyone earning a living.
But, from what I am seeing in my own practice, what I have been reading, and even what I am hearing from my friends, the entire world economy is being restructured, and how this will effect this generation and the ones that follow is far from clear.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

beach thinking

It's beautiful on the beach.  The sun gets low late in the afternoon, the waves come in, the breeze is gentle.  A two-year old runs in and out of the water for an hour, giggling all the time.

I read my magazine.  I realize that I am either brilliant or trite, and I can't figure out which.  Many of the ideas in the magazine, quoting, of all people, Francis Fukuyama, are things I have written about here.

The reviewer of Fukuyama's new book, Mark Kingwell, who trashes on it, states that politics is largely the push and pull between personal desire and collective action, which is certainly what we are seeing, in it's extreme form, now.

There is also a discussion of "human nature" which includes this idea : "given the perfidy and at best thevery local, short-term rationality of humans, it can be no surprise that we often contrive to create systems that fail everybody and yet remain in place for many decades, if not centuries, until war, invasion, or Maltusian population crisis consigns them too the history book."


I would like to expand on how I agree with these ideas, and give examples from my practice and my life, that this is the way it is, but we have guests here at the beach, and right now I am helping a good friend go through the matches she has received from some dating web site.

Talk about short-term foolishness as a long-shot stab and long-term pay-off, this is it.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


There is an article in one of my magazines that is based upon a few long-term studies about human longevity.  The conclusion of the article is that there is a strong correlations between intelligence and longevity.  While I certainly am not surprised at this conclusion, I feel that this finding is a bit of a tautology.

My profession, Psychology, especially here in the US of A, has always made a big deal out of "intelligence"   It was the attempt to determine who was smarter than whom that first brought Psychology to prominence, as it was Psychologists who tested young men who were drafted in WWII to help pick the ones who seemed more qualified to be trained as officers.

America, more than other cultures I think, feel that "intelligence" is something you are born having more or less of, and that it is not something that can be trained, enhanced, or improved upon. Most Psychologists take it as a given that this quality, intelligence, is distributed across the population on a bell-shaped curve, with most people grouped in the middle, which is average, and the very smart, and very lacking, out at the edges.

My experience with all kinds of people has brought me to a different conclusion. I feel that there are some very few people with some very special abilities, and that their are some others who clearly, for clear biological reasons are lacking, but almost everyone has a wide range of talents that are unknown and untapped. I feel that most people could exhibit much more "intelligence" if they find a way to learn how to think more clearly.  They can be taught by clever teachers, they can learn from watching clever parents or friends, or they can learn on their own, from seeing what works, and what doesn't.  Usually, they have to be either pushed, encouraged, or somehow find themselves in a position in which they have to persevere  to solve problems.  To me, it is this trait of learned perseverance that really distinguishes who gets to called "smart" and who doesn't .

There are many things about our current culture that move people, especially kids, away from learning how to persevere.  This includes labelling a kid as either smart, or not so smart, and also giving kids a diagnosis such as ADD or ADHD.  Any time you put into someones head that they have some reasons to not succeed at something, anything, you diminish their chances of success.

For generations it was assumed that girls were not good at math and science and boys couldn't sew straight.  But these things are not true.  While it is true that everyone is born with a different brain, and some brains can more easily concentrate than others, and some can learn more quickly to spell,  I feel that in all but the most extreme cases, very extreme cases, that people can learn how to best use the brain they have to get where they need to go in ways that is best for them.

  Really, the whole concept of intelligence can be summarized in four words: "the ability to anticipate."  Smart people are the ones who can see what is happening, and from that, figure out what will happen next. Really smart people are the ones who can see what is happening, figure out what will happen next, and from that, have some fairly good idea of what will happen after that.  It is this third stage where most people fall down.

But, the point here is that the best overall indication of intelligence is survival.  The whole purpose of having all the different skills that make up "intelligence" is to survive, and to have your babies survive.

I really bothers me when someone tells me that someone is "really smart" but never got his life together, and is living in his parent's basement.  To me, either this guy is "really smart" in that he found a way to not care about the traditional trappings of success and is happy and content doing whatever he is doing in that basement. Or else, he is not really "that smart" because for some reason or other he could not figure out good answers to the puzzles of life.

Knowing what Shakespeare meant, knowing all the answers to Jeopardy, and being facile with calculus are certainly valuable and helpful skills, but it doesn't really make you "intelligent" in my opinion. Having those other skill could be very helpful, but not sufficient.

Being able to take good care of yourself, form and maintain good relationships, derive some real satisfaction from work and play, are better indications of being smart.   They will also raise your likelihood of living a longer, happier, more fulfilling life.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Moments of summer

Sitting, with friends, on deck, overlooking the harbor.   The sky a high blue with while clouds moving across, reflected in the water. Boats bobbing up and down slowly, a few under sail moving closer or slowly diminishing toward the horizon. A first drink finished, a second one going slowly, with the knowledge that too much more would tip the balance, and that the feeling of love, companionship, tranquility, insight, and faith in the future of the world will fade soon, no matter what I do.

The beauty and appreciation of the moment is mixed with melancholy, knowing that I am older, a bit damaged, and that many, but not all, of my most creative, dynamic days are behind me. The tide comes in very dramatically at this spot.  Many of the boats are older than I am; and they get to have several different owners and caretakers, but they don't care.  A great many fish have been taken from the sea.

My friends and I have been at this beautiful spot before.  Hopefully, we will all do this again, and laugh at the same silliness that is the world, knowing that we are a part of it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mid- Summer reflections

Hey, look at this, I get distracted by all kinds of things, I don't blog for a while, and look what happens, the world goes nuts.  I guess I'd better get back to this or else civilization as we know it may not survive.  But, thinking about it, is that what we really want?   

We were down here at the beach house when I stopped writing and just began  talking to people, watching the tide come in, and just kind of hanging-out.  It's kind of fun to just kind of sit around and listen to people run on about their families, their views, their good times and such, with me not having to do anything about it.

You say your mother's sick at 92, or your son's getting divorced, I feel for you, but I'm on vacation. I'll talk to anyone, even Republicans  -- but most of them never listen, they just yell.

But then I went to the doctor and they sent me to other doctors, and the next thing you know I had three biopsies and two micro-surgeries and they tore my face apart.  Two little spots that I couldn't even see.  That wasn't even what they sent me to the dermatologist for.  ot anything really serious, that could spread or get into my blood or my brain.  But each time they took out some tissue they busted some blood vessels and the areas all around my eyes would turn purple, swell up and my eyes would close.  I spent the better part of three weeks looking like I had just gone three rounds with Sugar Ray.  Looked like I never learned how to duck away from a left-hook.

But now I'm back here at the beach house and I get to stay for a while.  My time with the doctors is over, and I am left with a few blotches, a little swelling and a line down my cheek that looks like Zorro just rode by.  They tell me it will all heal soon.

So now I have some time to sift through the year in my thoughts.  I will be down here for a few weeks to watch the tides and entertain the people who seem to want to come to the beach in the summer and realize that they know my wife.  No one really comes to see me(except for those two really weird guys)  but everyone gets me as part of the package.

A lot has happened since last summer, some by design and some just because things happen. So I'm going to take a day or two and think about it.

And look, just since I've been writing, the governing bodies of the United States have gotten their shit together and may have an agreed to not destroy the world financial markets for absolutely no reason. Ah, Kubuki Theater, American style, all made-up and stylized, with movements and meanings, plots and endings known to all, but the performance must be held to make it meaningful, even if it isn't.

There once was a time when I believed that most people, as they grew-up, wanted to do things that would benefit many other people.  That belief ended in Jr. High. Next was a time when I believed that people learned from what happened, and tried not to make the same kinds of drastic mistakes again.  That phase of my thinking ended in college.

What I know now is that some people learn how to manipulate the hell out of other people, and they use that skill almost totally to benefit themselves.

Lincoln said "You can't fool all of the people, all of the time."  But it is clear, especially with our wonderful new was of communicating, that you can fool a whole lot of people all of the time, and they will love you for it.

But I don't have to worry, I just got a letter from some guy in Nigeria, and I'm going to be rich......

Thursday, July 07, 2011

On being "normal"

I'm on vacation.  The Israelis and the Palestinians are still on their own, helping to screw up the whole world, and I am doing nothing to stop them because it's summer.

The weather has been beautiful.  We go down to the water.  The tide comes in.  Children run and splash and throw balls.  Balls never go our of style.

Friends come to visit.  Anyone who has a house within a mile of a large, scenic body of water knows how many friends they have.  We talk.  We talk about our other friends, about families, and now that we are older about the extended family.  The families that our kids have married into and the people who are now attached to us.  We talk about grandchildren, who are all charming, creative and soooo intelligent that it's sooo impressive.

As we talk to friends, and learn about all the people we know, as we observe the relationships of the people we know and love, and of those who we just know, or just know about, somethings become more clear:

My life is really good -- but still it is disappointing. Perhaps I could be doing more.  More what?

Talking about everyone else is fascinating, and it shows how difficult life is; no one comes out unscathed.

Everybody is weird, once you really get to know them.  The attempts to figure out how to solve the riddles of life take all forms. The solutions to each of life's problems vary very widely, but they all end up being incomplete.

The range of what is "normal" is so very wide.  Anyone who is not paralyzed by doubt and fear, and feels optimistic about tomorrow is weird, but is normal.  Anyone who is full of doom and gloom and is convinced that all good thing will come to an end, is considered realistic, but also is "normal."     Anyone  who has learned how to support themselves and to remain in a mutually beneficial relationship is considered normal, no matter what kinds of contortions they have to go through to make those two things happen.  In many case, just being able to maintain one of those, either being self-supporting, or maintaining a good relationship is considered to be doing well enough to be considered "normal.

Beyond that, everyone does it differently; inefficiently really, and everyone is fucked-up.

I can't think of one person who really coasts through it all, all the time.

I can't think of one person I'd rather be than me, and I have some strange, weird and bad moments, just from what goes on inside of my head.

That's normal.

That's too bad.  It should be better than this.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just before I left

As you know, in my head, I am ready to take the summer off. That granddaughter of mine  is beginning to stack those plastic blocks and she needs someone to knock them over.

However, I am still working three full days a week.  People still come in hour after hour, and when I am working I am working.  It is mostly a good feeling.  A couple of borderline personalities call and weep about how it seems to them that their lives are the worst in the world, but others are doing well and that is gratifying.

Yet, just as I was preparing to leap across the work/no work barrier, Arleen came in.  She seemed a bit teary eyed, and a bit more disjointed that she had been recently.  This is a woman who began treatment almost four years ago.  She had been struggling with addictions, she had lost her job, was thrown out of her home by her crazy mother, had lost custody of her son, and became very self-destructive.

With a lot of work, fueled in part by a lot of justifiable anger, some of it at alcohol treatment programs and AA, she was able to not only get sober, but to get herself functioning, begin college, get her son back, and find an apartment close to her parents, to whom her son was still close.

She stayed strong and keep going despite, having to give up the long relationship she had with a married man.  That was followed, a few months later, by his suicide.  But Arleen kept on plugging.

However, a week ago, her sister, who was the older girl who had always been the favored child,  split up with her third husband and moved into the mother's house.  This was a bit upsetting because the mother lavished all kinds of help onto the sister; help which had always been denied to Arleen.

But things fell apart when Arleen came back to her own apartment, and found her sister in bed with some guy she had met two hours ago.  There was beer and Jack Daniels spread all around the apartment, and the sister explaining that she knew she couldn't do this at the mother's place, but what  was she supposed to do, give up sex?  It was then that Arleen opened a beer and felt as if the world was just too much to handle.

She has been drinking a little bit on each of the five days since then.  If she doesn't stop completely it is going to gt worse, and everything she had achieved will fall apart.

I am leaving for a four day weekend.  I am trying to keep in touch with Arleen almost every day to give her some encouragement to stay sober.  We had one good day.  Today she had no minutes left on her phone, so it was disconnected.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to play golf.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Doing very little.

I am surprised at how easy it becomes to do very little. It can become kind of infectious.  There is so much to do when you don't do much, and then getting anything real done really gets in the way.

Summer arrives Tuesday.  My work time is cut to three days a week.  I expected to use the newly available time to do new exciting, physically and intellectually invigorating things.  It's not really happening.  A lot is happening instead, but nothing of any consequence.  And that becomes easy, and I certainly can't say it isn't enjoyable.

I see friends, I cook, I do a few errands, that can take up almost all day, if I have all day to do it. I have even played golf. (talk about letting time just fade away)  I'm even improving slightly.  Today I went out in a kayak, then I got to see my kid (Happy Father's Day).  Tomorrow is more of the same.  Friends, errands, cooking. There is a grandchild to bother, and another one coming.

 I thought that I would be reading, writing, thinking, exploring, with all the new available time.  It's not happening. Can't even find time to sit with a book for a full hour.

I was able to watch the Bruins.  They Won!  That was fun, watching Marchand skate around punching people, and then scoring.

It's very easy doing not much.  I don't like anything getting in the way.  They days I work, I work, but they days that I don't, I don't want to be distracted from not doing much.

I still have things I have to get done, things that need to be done important things.  Here is my list for the intermediate future:

1. Change the direction that mental health treatment is going in this country.  It is being pushed off as much too biologically determined, and much to medical.  That needs to change.

2.  Explain the evolutionary process and purpose of consciousness.  This is kind of a hobby of mine. This has not yet been explained to my satisfaction.

3.  And also, help solve the Israel -- Palestine problem.  That situation has dragged on for my whole life.  It's enough already.

But, the summer is coming and I don't think I will get to any of this until at least early October.  I have much too much "not much" to do, and lots of friends are coming up for the summer. There is a grandchild to bother.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

can't shake that feeling

I can't really shake it.

Contentment seems synonymous with resignation.  If you're that impressed with yourself then you've done enough.  But look around.  The world is still a mess.

It may not be your fault, but you are still (at least partially) responsible.

What can I say; that's how I feel.

and unless you're part of the solution, you're part of the problem ( asshole ).