Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Post about Posting

In some ways it was gratifying to see that my last post struck a nerve and was passed around a bit.  It wasn't quite "viral" but it was read by many more people than usually view my occasional thoughts.

If ever there was gong to be a critical moment in my life as a blogger that could have been it.  I should have followed up immediately with clever, insightful posting on each of the next five days, with the hope that my mumblings would become the "go to" place for psychological insight into the evolving and/or decaying state of our wired, digital, always on, always expressive society.

But I didn't.  I had a cold.  I still have a cough.  It is the holiday week so I only have to work one day of  eleven. Due to my coughing, and everyone else's illness also, we canceled our trip to the Big City, and I stayed home and read old books, old and new magazines, blogs and weird web sites.  I watched things on YouTube, I listened to things on SoundCloud, I almost caught up on my email, I watched really meaningless football and I spend some time with the grandgirls, who had been sick also.

After all of this I have come away thinking that before I say anything else; before I rush to post my brilliant insights out here in the great and ever expanding world of cyberspace, I really ought to have something unique and interesting to say.  Even then I have to make sure that I am putting it out there because I want people to read and comment on it, more than I want to become known for saying it.

Russ Douthat, one of the NYT's more conservative columnists wrote today that people should take the time to read opinions that don't agree with theirs.  They should try to understand that the opposition, no matter which side, may not be just a bunch of brainwashed nutjobs.  While I think that idea has a lot of merit, for me, at this time, I am recommending that I stop reading almost everyone.  The political noise has become deafening.  Everyone has an opinion, many people put them out there, and then even more people write mean, trite comments, dismissing what was said.

There is a constant flow of opinion, information, music, art, good and bad science, family pictures, famous people, naked celebrities, half truths, the other half of truths, ways to be creative, ways to be creative differently, ways to make money, creative ways to make money, ways to spend money, ways to stay healthy, things to eat, how to cook them, how to grow them, where to buy them.  Individually, people post about the parties they are at, the restaurants they go to, the drinks they make, the people they don't like, the pills they take, the things they buy, pictures of their kids, their plants, their private parts, on and on and on and on........

My friends and colleagues are making "apps" as I predicted they should.  One is even making the exact app that I had designed one day last summer.

Everything is in the marketing. My app, which I never actually finished, is no better or worse than her app, but if she can get it our there first and fastest, then maybe, perhaps.....

The good thing about having a cold is that I didn't feel like doing much of anything.  I just let myself stare out the window at the early setting sun and just let my mind wander, without the pressure of doing anything worthwhile, and without trying to keep up with what is going on.

What I seemed to learn from this was that things will keep going on, and on, but that they really don't seem to be going anywhere particularly quickly, except "over the fiscal cliff" which could happen because no one can make anything happen.

So, my job now is to make sure I move back a little, for a while.  I will just sit here, or walk somewhere, or play with one and two year-olds, and give my own mind a chance to clear.

I will finish Moby Dick, (only 1/3 left), listen to some Bach, and I will watch the sunset, and sometimes watch the sun rise.
Perhaps, if I gain some brilliant insight, I will write about it here.  But I don't expect brilliance, and that's OK. It's enough to be alive and getting healthy.

Happy New Year to all!

I hope all of you stay healthy,  find some peace, some prosperity, find some fulfilling activities, and enjoy being with a few people who are important to you.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What the NRA mean

I think i am paraphrasing here, but this is the jist of what the NRA said today:

The nice old guy

in the blue uniform

with the gun in his holster

making $8 an hour

in the school entry way

will be honored as a hero

after the first bullets from the high-velocity automatic weapon

pass through him.

And then we will have the funerals for the rest of the children.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Terrible, terrible, terrible

Anyone who knows or ever knew a six-year old has to be totally stunned and heart-broken at what happened on Friday. It is one of the scariest and most meaningless kind of acts that anyone can commit.

The U.S. is faced with another awful, expensive dilemma, as another part of our infrastructure is found to be neglected, underfunded, and ignored, and that again, it is revealed what happens when a problem is left to grow instead of being solved.

The first problem, and one I admit I have an interest in, is the huge amount of mental and emotional difficulties that are not dealt with.  There is a growing number of kids who are on the autism spectrum and/or have really difficult behavior problems.  These kids either don't get help and end up in jail, or they bounce from school to agencies, to probation to special schools, and if they are getting the treatment they need, and some do, it is very expensive.

Could this kid have been found and his behavior averted if there were more services available?  Perhaps.  That is very difficult to know. It is certainly worth the effort.  I think some of my patients could have gone that way, perhaps, but they got at least some attention.

And the other part is guns, especially automatic weapons, that can shoot dozens of rounds very quickly.  I have asked on some of the web sites I visit on which there are some gun advocates, for an explanation of why American citizens need to be armed.  I have not yet received an answer that I really understand.  I do not expect it to be rational, as perhaps my abhorrence of the availability to such weapons may not be rational, but I would like to understand the thinking, or the feeling.

Yes, gang member have guns, and drug dealers have guns, and so do legitimate hunters and backwoods men.  But we don't live in the 1820s any more.  We live in a time when all of our lives are greatly intertwined.  There are many more restrictions we have to live under if we are to have a society that functions.

But I really believe that there are many people out there who believe that the Muslim in the White House is about to declare Sharia Law, and that if we are not armed out women will be taken away. I guess tehy feel that if it can happen in Egypt, it can happen here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Another Blow to the Profession


It's a joke, and everyone knows it.

It isn't enough that we, Ph.D. Psychologists have to battle it out with "coaches," gurus, Internet experts and mystics, now the entire field of psychiatry has disgraced itself.  Since 2/3rds of Americans really don't know the difference between Psychology and Psychiatry we get lumped in with this blatant attempt to bolster revenue by a profession that is even worse shape than ours.

Psychiatry has become a profession in which 96% of its practitioners have become nothing but pill pushers.  I don't think they get more than ten hours of training in psychotherapy.  So now, to help them out and to aid their fellow travelers in Big Pharma, the list of thoughts and behaviors that can now be considered "pathological" has been increased to include almost anything except brushing your teeth and going to bed early.

The worst part is that they did this despite a lot of pressure, even from their own members.And because of all of the disagreements, they skipped the part about getting anything close to scientific data to back up their ideas that a three year-old who screams and cries because you take your iPhone back, is having an out-of-control event that may require medicating.

The only thing they seemed to have left out is the "Delusional Grandiose Marketing Strategy" diagnosis that should be given to the entire  crew that put this thing together.

Let's just all start over with the big masks, and shake those coconuts with seeds in them.  That will drive the evil spirits away.

Friday, November 30, 2012

To avoid panic attacks

There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke.

--Herman Melville
Moby Dick,  Chapter 49

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Times Article

This Sunday in the NY Times Magazine section there was an article called "What Brand is Your Therapist."  It was clever and well written.  it covered some of the same material that I covered in my talk last month at the state conference.  People seem to notice that the"worried well" as we called them back them, are moving away from psychotherapy.  Part of that is because of restrictions from insurance, but most of it is because the lifestyles of people under forty are very different than they were forty years ago.

People expect information much faster  They expect much more action, and less thought.  They seem much more concerned about specific problems than the general overview of things.  Also, I think family life for them has been very different.  It is difficult to sit and talk about what your parents did to you when there have been so many people in your life -- other family members, step-parents, day care providers, coaches, teachers, and more.

Also, people don't work on weekly schedules as much.  Regular appointments are much more difficult to keep.  I have many clients who have to travel two or three weeks a month.  Also there are so many late or early meetings because of global teams, that it is difficult to keep a regular meeting time.

Unlike the woman who wrote the article, I have a very full schedule and have had for twenty years. Part of that is because many of my patients are not the "worried well."  Many of the people I see have been crushed or confused by circumstances, society or biology, or combinations of all of those.  They need to see a Psychologist, not a coach, or a guru, or a branded expert.

If your kid is throwing temper tantrums perhaps it is worth it to try to just call a "parenting coach."  If a month later the kid is still screaming, and you and your spouse are battling, and you life is spinning out of control, perhaps you may realize that things are a little more complex than they first appear.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Their Children

I noticed an interesting thing yesterday: of the eight people I saw, two were children of people I had seen years ago.  These were not their young children who live with them, but adults who are grown up, but when they got anxious, lost, or upset about something, they came to see me.  I had not seen them when they were children, although I had heard about them.  There have been several other children of former patients who I have seen, and others who I am now seeing.

Now, in part, I take it to mean that the work I did with their parents was helpful, and that the children heard about it somehow, and felt it would be helpful to see me -- also because I know their parents and what they had to deal with.

But I guess there is also a negative here, in that the kids felt that part of their upbringing was chaotic and unstable enough that it caused problems. I didn't cure their parents

But I overlook the second one, because I can see that the world is difficult for everyone, and the idea of coming to talk to someone like me is so widely accepted that it doesn't mean that people are crazy, or can't cope.  They just feel that coming could be really helpful during a bad time.

This is so true that insurance companies want to pay us a lot less --- because so many people use our services.  This is the opposite of supply and demand.  It is the Republican version of a "free market." That is, regulated for the good of profit and corporations, not for the people who provide or receive the service.

However, the fact that I am beginning to see children of several of my former patients means, really, is that I'm getting old.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Love, Money Power and Sex

Most of us know about Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.  Before you can build up to using your full potential, he hypothesized, you need to have your basic needs met, beginning with food and shelter, and working your way up through acceptance, love, and esteem, until you can feel totally free and secure, and then you can "self-actualize."

It was a good idea, popular and easy to understand.  It really was never supported by research, as it seems many people can skip some steps, while others get stuck enjoying the food, shelter and sex level.

But whenever I have been asked about what motivates people now, in the 21st Century, and I believe  (again, with no real research to back it up) that the big factors are Love, Money, Power and Sex.  Possibly today, with the way the world is, Fame, could be added as something many people seem to desire.  Being famous for being outrageous  and making a sex tape, seems to be worth as much as bringing peace to the Middle East or curing cancer.

The other things about Love, Money, Power and Sex (Fame), is that they are so tightly combined.  People want to be loved and respected.  Money almost can buy love, Power can bring Sex, Sex is related to, but isn't quite Love. Money is almost Power.  Men Love women who are attracted to Money and Power and will have Sex because of that attraction. Some women like to obtain Power to attract Sex partners, some get Power so they don't have to have Sex.  All of this is intertwined and everyone gets involved.

A lot of orthodox religions seem to have a lot of doctrines relating to Power and Sex.  Almost all give the Power to men, to determine who has Sex.

So it is never too shocking when Powerful men, politicians, generals, business tycoons, movie stars, get swept up in the excitement and the glory of their position, and end up combining admiration, Love, lust and Sex all in one bundle and find themselves enjoying the company of beautiful women twenty years younger than they are.

It's a terrible fate that ends up in scandal. Everyone loves a scandal, and they all involve Love, Money, Power and Sex.

So now, I am looking for someone to write my biography.  Preferably a women in her mid-thirties -- but older than my daughter, with a knock-out body and a good vocabulary.

When I raised the idea with my wife she just said "good-luck with that" and then she added that she would like to edit the book before it gets published to keep it real.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


On a clear day -- they were all clear and beautiful days -- we got back into the Fiat 500, and drove to Ravello.  it took about and hour from Positano.  The road wound along the cliffs, about 400 feet over the ocean.  The road was laid out by mules; there were no straight parts.  The turns were 60 degrees, 80, degrees, 150 degrees, with scooters passing and buses coming the other way.  When we reached Amalfi, we took a left and rove up the cliff to Ravello.

Rovello, is spectacular, and precious.  It has old churches, beautiful gardens and a music festival that had just ended.

From Wikipedia:

The town has served historically as a destination for artists, musicians, and writers, including Richard WagnerEdvard GriegM. C. Escher,[4] Giovanni Boccaccio,Virginia WoolfGreta GarboGore VidalAndré GideJoan MiròTruman CapoteTennessee WilliamsGraham GreeneLeonard Bernstein and Sara Teasdale (who mentioned it in her prefatory dedication in Love Songs).

and me too.  We had lunch there, at a spot that was rated by some travel site as the 2nd best restaurant view in the world.  Here's a picture:

not bad.


But now that was almost three weeks ago.  I look back at that lunch as a turning point.  I finally decided to relax, take it all in and be there.  I realized that during the weeks, perhaps months, leading up to the trip I had become pretty tense.  Sitting there, on top of that hill, eating marvelous food, sipping easy wine, smiling with my lovely wife, things became a bit clearer.

What I had been concerned about was how both my profession and myself seem to be slipping, very slowly, into a irrelevancy.  After more than thirty years as a therapist I am beginning to have some doubts.  I know that I have been very helpful to many of the over 5000 people I have tried to help.  But I also know that there were many who thought the whole things was a waste of time.  I also feel that the pace of life these days makes the inefficiency and ambiguity of psychotherapy more glaring and almost unacceptable.

I don't know of a better method, certainly not using more drugs.  But the way things are done now is not great.  Also, the entire health care system is going though major reforms, especially now that the election has made that clearer.  Where psychotherapy fits into this is very unclear.

But, at that moment, on top of that hill, it was time to let it go, live in the moment, appreciate how good my life is, and trust that I would figure things out --- at least for me.

As the Dali Lama says in one of his tweets:
"Peace in the world relies on individuals finding inner peace."

Isn't it enough just that the Dali Lama is Tweeting to make you happy?

Monday, November 05, 2012


By the time we reached Positano it was almost three PM.  The clouds were closing in rapidly.  There is really only one winding road in Positano; first it goes all the way down one long cliff, then it hits bottom and goes up the other side of a very steep canyon.  Fortunately our hotel, The Villa Franca, was only three 178-degree turns from the top. 
The hotel is beautiful and positioned spectacularly.  It sits on the top of a cliff, looking almost 700 feet straight down into the sea.  Every room has a balcony that reaches out over something: the town, the sea, or the beach.  The staff is friendly and helpful, the food at breakfast and at the restaurant, was as good or better than anything in Boston.  Bring money.
The next day we walked down to the beach and back up again.  Someone told that the winding staircase we had climbed up on consisted of 877 steps.   Since it was now “off-season” the only people in the hotel were American sightseers, German hikers, and a couple of gorgeous models from Albania, with photographers following them around.

view from hotel, looking down at beach

view from boat, looking up at hotel -- white buidling on top of hill on left.

That afternoon, as my wife treated herself to a massage by the lovely Antonio, I sat on the deck on the top of the hotel with a drink in my hand and realized that I was feeling both marvelous and totally disoriented.  We were here; we were at the place we had set out to go.  I was literally on top of the mountain overlooking the world.
I appreciate that I have been incredibly fortunate.  I have had a great career, doing something both fascinating, and something I felt was intrinsically valuable, and it also, for many years, paid the bills.  I have had one, very good, long marriage.  We have two children, who both seem to be in good marriages themselves.  All four of them have very good jobs, doing interesting things. Each couple now has a charming, creative, beautiful, curious, affectionate daughter.  Both these young girls are enamored with their Pop-Pops.
I feel, like 70% of the therapists out there, that I am one of the top 5% in my profession.  But I also realize that the most brilliant thing I did with my life was that I was born two years before the big baby boom.  That gave me a step-up in almost everything I wanted to do.  I could get into a good, small liberal arts college, and then into graduate school, partly due to the lower number of applicants.  Three years after I bought a house millions of other people became ready to buy a house. I was part of the first wave of Psychologists to get licensed.  I left community mental health reluctantly, but when I began a private practice the competition was minimal, although the sigma of people going for treatment was still a factor.  I have been in practice in the same city, a mostly working-class mill city, with more prosperous suburbs, for thirty-one years.   I have been totally booked for the last twenty years.
But, sitting there, on top of the world, it was also easy to see how much I was a product of my times, and that times have changed.  The little talk I gave at the MPA conference was about how to use technology to enhance psychotherapy, but the real message was that people of this generation are different than the people of my generation.  Their values are different, the outlook and expectations are different, and their minds are different, due to how technology has given them access to information, and to each other.  And that makes the way they manage their relationships different.
All of this has made me see how much all theories, concepts and techniques of dealing with human behaviors are a reflection of the times in which they are espoused.  Sometimes it feels as if our profession has more in common with a newspaper than a web -site.  Just look at how kids are raised today, compared to thirty years ago; how many more people are in their lives.  How much they are exposed to. I’m already getting text messages from my granddaughter.  Look at how many subcultures are in the U.S. today, and how strong the effect of living in a Puerto Rican community vs. a Cambodian community vs., growing up in Chinese American family in a well to do suburb of Boston or San Jose. Compare that to the mind-set of a White Morman family in Utah, surrounded by nothing but White Morman families.

Is the best way to deal with the problems they face by meeting once a week for 50 minutes?
Yet, I also believe that there is nothing more comforting, and nothing more powerful to foster change, than a structured, face-to-face, well managed therapeutic relationship.  
For a while I thought about this while I was there, on top of the world, watching a ferry come in from Capri seven hundred feet below me.  I felt personally very fortunate, but still, as always, worried about the world.  It is not surprising that the world continues to change, now at a much faster pace than it did 1200 years ago when the church down at the beach in Positanto was built.  What is also becoming more apparent is that my life is in transition, as is my profession.
But there; at a place we had long wanted to come and see, I decided to try and relax and be in the moment.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Napoli to Positano

This was written a few days ago, but with the storm, and Halloween .....

But here is the next installment of the trip, as I recall:

Napoli to Positano
I am not a good follower, nor am I a great joiner.  So my wife and I don’t take tours.  We map out where we want to go, try to learn about the place and head out to see it and enjoy it.  It is for that reason that after our plane landed in Napoli, we rented a Fiat 500 and headed out, on our own, to Positano.  I encourage you all to Google that route on Google Maps.
But, that route would only look like a twisting road, first highway, then through several tunnels and then along the twisting road on the cliffs high over the sea.  A road that makes Highway 1 South of Carmel seem wide and straight. 
But that is not the fun part.  The real fun came when we missed the exit to the road to Sorrento, went too far on the A3, and got off the highway.  Then you realize that the smaller cities of Southern Italy do not believe in stop signs or traffic lights.  Nor are the entrances to highways anywhere near the exits, and signs are also nonexistent.  To add to that the roads were built by the Romans, or earlier.  They consist of a narrow lane in each direction, heading right through town.  Two Dodge Dakotas could not pass each other going in opposite directions.
What you get is a constant flow of inter weaving traffic, either going about fifteen to twenty miles an hour, or not going at all. Then you need to factor in the motor scooters.  There are about ten motor scooters to each car.  They go at about  twenty seven mph. They weave around all the cars, in both lanes, going in all directions,  both with and against the traffic, wherever  there is six inches  of space.  But they take care of themselves.  It’s the predestrians you have to pay attention to.  They cross the street whenever, where ever they want, or else they just walk in the street, because the sidewalks are full of chairs and people sitting, drinking and arguing.  And in the traffic, everyone is yelling at each other.
My lovely wife could not bear to look, but it was fun.  It was like living in a video game; just keep moving.  If you stop, and let someone in, you will never get a chance again.  First gear, second gear; first gear, second gear – just keep going.
But, as we drove the narrow city roads, or the winding mountain roads, on which you could not see beyond the next curve, which was never more than forty yards ahead., I never saw even the slightest scrape or dent or injury.  Buses missed me by one to six inches,  Motorcycles  that were coming head-on,  would disappear  seconds before impact like ghosts behind the mirror.  After a while I had complete faith that everything would be fine, and it was.
After we reached Positano, and I sat in the lounge of the Hotel de Franco, at the top of the hill, looking about 700 feet straight down to the beaches and the sea on either side, I thought a bit about how this was part of the current difficulties being felt by psychotherapists, especially those with Ph. Ds.
It is usually in the character of good therapists to be compassionate, understanding and empathetic.  We see and feel the trouble in others. We want to solve problems, to look at them,  take them apart, and then help put things together  in a way that works better.  We do not usually push ahead and claim every small space to be ours and then grab at the next one and the next, taking what we can for ourselves, regardless of the effect it has on others. 
If we did, others would have to worry about themselves.  But no, our job is to worry about them, and to help them make things better for themselves.
But what we are learning now, and many of us figured out before, but many have not, is that if you want to be in your own practice, you have to learn the business part.  They don’t teach the business part in any graduate school.  You may learn therapeutic techniques, you may learn research skills, but you don’t learn marketing, and you don’t learn finance.
We also thought we were entering a profession, like a doctor or a lawyer, and that being a “professional” means that patients would just come to us.  But that is not the case for any professional any more, unless you are Miguel Cabrera or Tom Brady.
Also, what you may not realize is that some of patients you see, who could be diagnosed as bipolar, or narcissist personality, are often the ones whose business plans just did not work.  There are other people, perhaps people such as Rupert Murdock, Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, Ralph Nader, even Madonna, who may have ended up being labeled with some kind of psychiatric diagnosis except that they pushed very hard, had unrealistic goals, moved people out of the way, and did not think about others as much as they took care of themselves.  They are regarded as very successful.
But so many therapists worry about confidentiality, about the possible impact of everything they might say, of what someone might think about what they are thinking.  And all of this may be important, at times, in the therapeutic process.   But it can leave you powerless in the business process, and it has in many ways, allowed the profession to become marginalized.
We think about ethics, and liability and therapeutic impact, and confidentiality, and some clown is out there, whose best qualifications are a good haircut and a big set of brass balls.  He markets himself as an executive coach, and charges $700 an hour to help the boss work out a strategy.  And then there is the Naked Therapist who got highlighted on Fox News.
We find that, if we want to be part of the mainstream process of bringing psychological services to those who need them, that the decisions about how, where, and how much we will get paid are going to be made a great distance from our offices.   Many of us will have to learn how to join groups (ACOs? roving bands of Psychologists?)  and work well with others, which is something I said at the outset that I don’t do well, Or some of us will take the position that we will only see patients who can pay us what we want, or we will only perform a service that gets us compensated in the manner we expect, but that means we have to find a market, and we have to learn how to sell ourselves.
You have to learn to constantly push ahead, just like driving though Napoli.  Keep your eye on the opening and go for it, and let the other guy take care of himself.   And sometimes you have to scream and use hand gestures.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reflections While Away, 1

Note: Forgive the formatting:  I don't know why this happened. 

Two weeks ago I left the country. I realize that most of you had no idea, nor cared that I was away, but that's OK.
I won't take it personally.
While I was away I did some thinking about my profession and my life.  Now that I have returned I would like to share those thoughts with those of you who share my 
profession I am going to post this on several lists that I follow, so if you are also on those lists don’t bother to read it all again.  If you would like to respond, that would be fun. I would like some reactions. The great thing about sharing things way is that if you don't care, the delete button is milliseconds away.
Three weeks ago Div 42 of the American Psychological Association, Independent Practice, held a conference to discuss ways in which a private practice can develop and flourish.  I was unable to attend the conference, but many who went seemed enthused.
Two weeks ago, on Saturday, October 13, I gave a brief talk at a Massachusetts Psychological Association Conference. I spoke about the possibility of using technology to enhance psychotherapy.  At that conference Suzanne Bennett Johnson, the President of APA, gave the keynote address.  She made it clear that the way most Psychologists will be using their skills in the next ten years will be very different than how they operated even five years ago.
I took notice, people took notice; things are changing.  Some people want to adapt, some people want to help build a new system, some people want to circle the wagons and defend old positions, some want to get completely out of the system, and many are just getting anxious.
The next day, October 15, my wife and I took off from Logan Airport in Boston and headed to Napoli, Italy and from there we drove to the Amalfi Coast It was a trip to celebrate my wife’s birthday, paid for in part because we are getting old. The good part about getting old in the USA, especially if you have been self-employed, is that your medical expenses drop considerably. It may be  "socialism" but we had each been paying $750 a month for health insurance, and now we pay about 1/4 of that. I have been getting Medicare for over two and a half years; that’s a considerable saving.
The bad part of getting old is that a week before we left for the trip my wife’s cousin died.  He was one of the few cousins I enjoyed being with, families being how they are, and he was only three years older than me. That made it seem all the more important that we take the trip, see the sights, eat the food, drink the wine and enjoy and appreciate each other, the world, and being alive, and basically healthy.
As the plane was flying over the Atlantic Ocean, I sat in the semi-darkness with my brain drifting around the way it does when there is not really enough oxygen, I’m not really sleeping, but I’m not really very alert.  I thought about the conferences, my own professional past and future, and where I fit into all of this.
I realized that when, in the early 1960s, I decided to major in Psychology as an undergraduate, and then go on to graduate school, I conceived that becoming a Psychologist would be helping to build a new and better science.  At the time it seemed that Psychology was very intellectual, philosophical, and then scientific.  It seemed to involved questions such as "What is a Good Life?  How can we help people live it, and How can we help people get along?” as much as the dealings with the brain, the nerves, the neuro-chemicals and the genes.  Much of the “science” at the time was based on phenomenology and introspection.
Graduate school was still full of Freud and the Post-Freudians, as well as the Behaviorists. But beyond that, who we read, and argued about was Aristotle, John Locke, David Hume, Emanuel Kant, Martin Buber, and J.P. Satre as well as Albert Camus.  We studies “Theoriesof Personality,” many of which now seems like “made-up stuff.”  The Psychologists we talked about also included Kurt Lewin, Fritz Perls,Ram Dass and Jay Haley ( All Men! My wife always points out). It was the '60s and '70s, so there was Humanism, and Gestalt, and T-Groups,and Radical Feminists.  Psychiatrists were still classifying homosexuality as a disease.
There was a war going on that everyone paid attention to, and there was sense that the world needed to be changed –and that it could be changed – and that we were going to be ones to do that.  Everything had a bit of a political overtone. Money was not the major focus. The government, NIMH, paid me to go to graduate school.  Community mental health centers were opening up, and they needed well-trained Psychologists to run them.
So, on this journey along the Amalfi Coast, in addition to the walks on the cliffs over the oceans, the amazing food, the cheap but excellent wine, the stress free time with my charming wife, I spent some time thinking about what has happened in the thirty-eight years since I earned my Ph.D. and what I think will, and/or should happen now.
I also, that while I was away, there has been a lot of meaningful, and personal discussions on these lists about these topics, and I found those very illuminating and fascinating. Clearly, many people are feeling the rumblings.
 Over the next few days I hope to create several more posts.  I will try to explain my thoughts about all this as I was walking, eating and drinking through some of the most spectacular places on earth.
Perhaps, as Fritz Perls said:
“The only difference between the wise man and the fool is that the wise man knows he is playing.”
Perhaps not.
Tx M

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Heading out again

We are leaving for the airport in an hour to head out to the Amalfi coast.  I am leaving my patients, the crazy politics of this country, not that Italy is any better, and the state of my profession.

I gave a talk at our state Psychological Association conference yesterday.  I tried to show them ways to use new technology to enhance psychotherapy.  I was given a very good reception, but more for  the delivery than the message. At least I kept them entertained.

The professional lives of Ph.D. Psychologists is under a lot of pressure that the general public doesn't see, and really doesn't care about.  The changes health care system, which is complete flux, partly from politics, and partly because it is such a mess, does not pay much attention to Psychologists. We are more expensive than social workers or "counselors" and we are not MDs like psychiatrists, who also are getting marginalized.

I am older, and if they stop paying me I will stop working and find another way to keep busy and perhaps make a few dollars.  Maybe I will take the advice of the person who last commented about this blog, and jazz it up and market it and be another voice in the wild bloggosphere.

But for right now I am of to Italy, to set and watch the sea, eat grat food, and wonder where I will fit in to the world.  I will miss the grand-girls.

Bye-bye form Pop-Pops.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Small Perspective

This is a note about how important it is as a therapist, or anyone really,  to understand the perspective of the person with whom you are interacting.  But actually, this is just a chance for me, as a grandfather, to boast.

The older of my two grandgirls is now22 months old.  She has been walking for a while and is now talking in sentences and some short paragraphs.  She is also so cute that it should be illegal, but that's me, and I hope every grandparent feels that way.

All summer she was walking around, and being at her level, which is pretty close to the ground, she began to notice that the feet of many people, especially the women, were exposed.  It was even more fascinating to her because most of their toes were painted in bright colors.  She was just learning to recognize which color was which, so she would walk around, point to the toes and say "red toes," or "pink toes."  She also seemed to be intrigued that toes came in different sizes, so she would point out everyone's big toe.  "Daddy's big toe."  Pop-Pop's big toe."

But now it is autumn.  People have stopped wearing sandals or flip-flops and have put their shoes back on.  My granddaughter seems to find this a bit confusing.  She was really enjoying checking out all those toes, and now they are gone.  Now she goes around, points at the shoes and say: " Pop-Pops foot hiding." "Nanny's foot, hiding."  This has generalized to other things, such as "belly button, hiding."

So, you see, if you took that out of context, you'd think she was strange.  But if you understand the perspective of the person, it can all make sense.

ALSO: on setting limits:

The other granddaughter just celebrated her first birthday.  Her uncle gave her a big red, blue, yellow and white clown as a present.  The clown is about twice her size, but she is in love.  She grabs the clown, shrieks, jumps on it, bites it, rolls on it, laughing and screaming with delight.

But I told my son, her father, that if she continues to spend her time with a clown like that, I'm not wasting money on her college education.  Someone has to point out what's good for her and not let her waste her life.  I've seen that happen too many times to not take action.

Monday, September 24, 2012

no diagnosis?i

I recently began seeing a new person for therapy.  He is a tall, handsome man, which adds to his problem.

His problem is that he likes sex.  That is not so unique to him, but he takes it to an extreme.  He thinks about sex a lot.  The idea seems to cross his mind with almost every woman under 80 he sees.

That may not be so unique.

What is unique is that he often acts on his wishes, and has a great deal of success in meeting his needs.  His wife is mostly accepting of this, as are the women.  The trouble is that he has run afoul at his work, in his neighborhood, and with others who have to deal with the atmosphere he creates.

He is now in danger of losing his job, his marriage, and of being dismembered by several men who were involved with some of the women he became involved with.

So I went to give him a diagnosis.  I was looking for some kind of impulse control disorder related to sexual impulses.

But it's not there.

There are sexual dysfunctional disorders, but they area all about NOT being able to have or enjoy sex. Having too much is never seen as a disorder.  There are diagnoses for fetishes, for sadism and masochism.  But he is not like that.  he just likes getting laid.

There is the diagnosis called paraphilia, but that is mostly a fancy name for necrophilia, which is sex with dead people.  that's not him either.

too much sex, not a problem.  Except for him it is.

Diagnosis:  312.10:  impulse control disorder, NOS

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A life of the Times

My life seems to have melded with the current way of being.  Information, tasks, people, roles, ideas, news, opinions, all pour in constantly, with no interruption.  There are times when I can't really tell if a thought comes from something I just read, something someone told me, or was actually an idea of my own.

Often, it feels as if my life has been divided into several separate segments that barely overlap.  My work life, sitting in my office, seeing my patients, wondering, thinking, planning what to do for them and how. this has gone on for over thirty years.

My family, which has been with me even longer, has changed greatly over time.  I am still a husband, but now with a wife who wants to ease into the next stage of life.  I am a father, and now a grandfather, which is a very different role, with very different expectations, responsibilities and really, a very diminished amount of authority.

It is also much easier.

I have friends and activities that are further and further away from work, as many of my friends have eased up, or have stopped working.

I have a life of ideas in my head, especially since I have begun to think about the talk I will deliver, which I find interesting and stimulating, and which is putting me in contact with totally new ideas and new people.

It is all very busy, which is good.  It gets confusing, and difficult to prioritize, but I can work it out.
the main thing is to keep going and stay healthy.

And also not to get upset by a missed field goal as time expires.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

new direction

As I said, I am gearing up to give a presentation at the state psych association conference.  I am going to talk about how technology could change the delivery of mental health services by 2020.  I have been thinking about how there can be more mobile monitoring, more use of direct, real-time measures of change.  There can be immediate therapist/patient contact through texts and apps.  Lots of new things can be introduced.

For years I have talked about how psychotherapy remains one of the few low-tech professions.  A good part of why it works is due to the  face to face building of trust in an interpersonal relationship.  I still think that is important, but there are so many new ways that the relationship can be enhanced by using technology.

What I notice now is how restless I get using the old traditional, one office visit per week.  I have begun to text some of my younger patients, and they seem to respond.  There could be so many other things that could be used.  I am already eager to see it all begin.

I'm sure many people do not agree, but eventually, they will all die off.

Monday, August 27, 2012


So, I am going to do a presentation at the local state psychology conference this fall.  I am going to talk about how we psychologists will measure changes in 2020.  That will be fun.

A lot of whatt I will say I have said here -- how technology will change everything. We will use apps. We will use real-time monitoring. I think it could be exciting and much more effective.

Right now I think it will be more fun to design it than to do it.

Let's see how it goes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Men -- Fictional

I don't read novels very often.  I'm even in a men's book club, and we don't read novels -- I guess that's for mixed company. But it's summer and now that I'm on vacation I have read two novels in the last week.  They have certainly helped me see what has happened to American men.

The first book I read is by a man I respect and who is one of America's major novelist of this century, Dave Eggers.  I read his first book, and even though I was a bit confused by it for a while, I liked it -- and it wasn't even fiction (mostly). The book I read this week is a Hologram for the King.

Then, while wandering around at a local town book sale I bought a book by Louis L'Amour, one of those about the Sackett family.
Louis L'Amour wrote 89 novels beginning in the 1950s and going until the late 70s, most of them westerns.

Well, the men in these books could not be more different.  Mr. Eggers' hero, Alan Clay, is constantly full of anxieties and doubts. He is hesitant, impotent, and indecisive.  He is plagued by thoughts of his ex -wife, his father, his daughter whose tuition he can't pay, the job he lost, the job he has, and his place in the world.

In complete contrast to this, all Mr. Sackett needs is a horse, a rope and a gun and he can solve any problem, sort out any situation, with the clear knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, and with very little concern about who may get killed along the way -- as they were obviously wrong. No issues of self-esteem are even conceivable.

The American male, and his place in the world has changed a great deal during the past 50 to 60 years. The world is much more complex and enmeshed. 

However, there are many, many people ho do not want to acknowledge this. They want to believe they can live the way Mr. Sackett did.  Most of the stories Mr. L'Amour wrote took place in about 1871. 

Things are different now.

Better? That's for you to decide.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Before I go

I am leaving for a few weeks away.  It is August after all, and enough is enough.  I expect it may give me more time to scribble things here, or perhaps I will just calmly float away and not be disturbed by anything.

One word before I go.  A lesson I learned a long time ago, continues to prove itself over and over.

Never ask a human a "why" question, especially about his/her own behavior.  It's great in science to ask "why" of the world and the universe, but if you ask "why did you do that?"  or really --"What the fuck were you thinking?!?!  The answer you get will be meaningless, distorted and wrong.

It's the job of the therapist to figure out the motivations, causes, and conditions that precipitated the action. Then, together, you can figure out what to do, and how to make that happen.

Yes, it is often interesting to hear the reasons people think up to explain what they did.  Sometimes the reasons are very clever, and can cover a lot of ground.  But it's all in hindsight, and it's usually only to make the person feel good, or at least rational.

But we know better.

Now, why did I write all this?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

3 Reasons to Be Tired

I can tell I am getting tired.  It seeps into my body, my mind and my soul.  This is part of getting ready for vacation, which now is just a week away. To go on vacation it is necessary to be tired.  A vacation should be earned.  For me, it is difficult to just walk away because you can; you have to be tired.

So I am getting tired.

It seems like many of my colleagues are tired also, and a bit scared.  They can see that the landscape is changing.  This whole health care delivery discussion makes everyone wonder what's going to happen.  It is reasonable to assume that those who will be making the decisions will have no idea what they are really talking about -- on a therapist to patient level.  The decisions will be based on money.  Those of us who still bill insurance companies for our services have already seen that the way insurance companies will cut costs is to pay us less. 

The other way will be to not pay us at all.  The model that most psychotherapists use, seeing people in their office for about 50 minutes at a time, once a week, was created about a hundred years ago.  It hardly fits today's world.  Two things are happening.  Well trained, Ph.D, or M.D. therapists are being replaced by Master's level people who are paid less.   Also, technology will enter into the mix.  People will be treated by text messages and Tweets. How much does it matter?  I think it does, but it is very difficult to demonstrate. I am the best therapist in the world and I only help about 62.347% of the people I see.

All of this makes everyone discouraged, and tired.

When I'm rested and on the top of my game, doing therapy is challenging and fascinating. When I begin to get tired I can feel the resistance.  I can still deal with it, but it is there.  What happens is I feel badly when I open the can of worms and really see what's in it.  Today I was working with a guy I have been seeing for about six weeks. I like him.  He is bright, interesting and came to me for anxiety problems.  I am good with anxiety problems, especially if they are , you know, anxiety problems.  But they are not always just anxiety problems, very often they are more than that. It can take a while to find out.

Today, I was doing what I do, which is when someone with anxiety is still just as anxious even after I have sprinkled the first wave of magic dust on them, I probe a bit to find out what' s going on. Now, this is a guy I really like, as it is with most of the people I see.  When I like them I don't want them to be too fucked up.  But I still have to look under the rocks and see what's ticking.  So today, I looked under the rock and found out the the guys isn't just anxious, he's full of self-loathing and has cut himself.

I was tired.  I didn't want to find this out.  I want him to be OK.  I wanted it to be easy.  I can handle it, but then I'll go on vacation.  Now I have to do things to make sure he's OK.

It's not that I'm complaining, because this is what my job is.  It's just that I'm.......

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I am OK -- but..

I am OK.  In fact I am doing surprisingly well. This has been a great summer.  I am in good shape and healthy.  My eye is better, my knee is better.  Nothing really hurts.  I have been very active kayaking, biking and chasing my grandgirls -- only one of whom can actually walk, so it's not that hard -- but the one who can walk loves to run away.

I like hot weather, so the summer has been good to me.  We go off to the beach house and play.The kids have been coming and bringing their kids. Friends have been coming. We discuss how the world is  falling apart while sitting in great comfort.

Then I go to work and things are different.  but that is the nature of what I do.  People very rarely come to me to tell me how happy they are, or how excited they are about the interesting, creative, fulfilling things they are doing.  That happens occasionally, but that means it is the last session.

But I have been doing this for years.  I can deal with depression, even terrible depressions.  Anxiety; hey, everyone I see is anxious, also I can be helpful for loss, loneliness, confusion, stress, relationship problems, addictions, even violence. Hey, let's talk about it. My kind of therapy at least doesn't have side effects.  It won't make you constipated or gain weight.

But you know what upsets me.  Dealing with people who have chronic, physical pain.  I mean pain that has lasted years and comes from degenerative diseases.  Diseases that not only resist treatment, but that the treatments for them seem to create other painful conditions.  The drugs lead to passing out, or digestive disorders or kidney failures.  Pain raises blood pressure, the drugs for that causes dizziness, people fall down, cut themselves and go to the hospital and pick up a staph infection. The antibiotics for the staph infection cause colitis, which leads to a colostomy.  But still the pain, from the degenerating bones, or the pressure on the nerve from the back injury, or whatever it was that began the whole process goes on, and no one can really find it, and if they find it they rally can't do much about it.

Part of why it bothers me is that I am getting older, my friends are getting older and my clients are getting older.  For me, I can no longer run and jump.  For me, who played basketball for 25 years with the same group of guys it is a loss.  But I can cope.

What i know is that more is coming.  More of my friends have had knees replaced, hips and shoulders too.  They are on all kinds of meds because this or that number comes up too high. I take one little pill. Other friends have stents in their bodies, or have difficulty getting out of chairs, or even, are dead already.

So far, most of my friends and family are basically OK.

I plan to be immortal, until I am dead.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Back to work

The summer will continue, but for now, I am returning to my office.  I did have a marvelous week at the beach house.  I did get to go to the beach with my grandgirls, although Elmo stayed at the house.  We threw rocks into the waves, we sat on the edge of the water and made splashes. I got to see my children be parents, which is kind of weird, but certainly an experience, and it made me very happy and  a little sad (becasue I don't want to be old)..

Now I am in the re-entry phase.  I picked up my messages and made several phone calls.  I have a lot of appointments this week before I get to go back to the beach.  Some of them have already canceled, others have left messages seeking an appointment and they will will the openings.

Also, I have been perusing some of the blogs of my colleagues.  Most of those are done as kind of marketing tools.  They usually try to spread some psychological wisdom around the Internet.  They give suggestions about how to be active in the summer, how to get people to listen to you, how to be more confident, how to daydream creatively, how to daydream destructively; in general how to live your life in a better, healthier way, if you have any time left after reading how to do all those things correctly.

But this blog is not like that.  As you know this is the anti-marketing blog.  This is where I tell you that I have a very busy week ahead, but there are a few people, a real minority, like 15%, that bother me, and that overshadows my thinking about the folks I am eager to see.  Most of the people I see are working hard to change their lives.  Many are struggling against "strong headwinds." as our President likes to say about the economy.

But there is this small group of patients are really nuts, and they ain't going to get much better, and they weigh me down.  They are the ones who make phone calls while I'm away.  They are bad with boundaries, they are bad with time, they make bad decisions and they don't take responsibility and have little insight, and they talk and talk and talk.

I am sure every therapist, especially if you have been in business for a while, has a bunch of these, but they don't seem to talk about them on their blogs.

So, put on a smile, as it helps your neurology, develop a positive attitude, enjoy the summer, be nice to your friends and family, eat only food that is good for you, don't go into debt, exercise regularly, sleep well, don't worry needlessly, stand-up straight, breath deeply, meditate once in a while, think before you act, and break your addictive habits.  And don't call your therapist unless you need to change your appointment time.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Summer, again, briefly

Wow, it's been a while.

That's becasue it's summer and there is so much to do.  so much to do without thinking about it.

Right now I am officially on vacation for a week.  Before this I was working days and then taking off whenever I could.  Here in New England, when the sun comes out you had better be there because it all ends quickly. It doesn't matter if you're out to get in the water, hit a ball, ride a bike or just take a walk; the time is short.  We don't get Spring, except for about three days.  It goes from 42 degrees and drizzle to 87 degrees and heat.

Work in the summer is different.  There are fewer patients but they are nuttier. Everyone half same takes off and gets outside.  The fragile ones go into crisis. It's the heat, the moon, the outside.  It's the alcohol, the half naked women, the resentments.

The day before I was leaving I get an emergency from someone I had not seen for three years. Falling apart, laying on the floor of the H.R. office crying.  The next day I guy I hand't seen for four years comes to my office ten minutes before my first appointment.  He needs to talk.

"Some people claim that there's a woman to blame." And they are correct.

But tomorrow the Grandgril comes, and after Elmo, I'm one of her favoirtite guys. Let's go to the beach.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Something Good

She was referred by one of my crazier patients so at first I was a bit skeptical.  Well, she wasn't exactly referred, she was brought.  There they were in the waiting room, so what could I do.  I gave her an appointment for the next week.

She is seventy years old, and she looked it, with her slightly unkempt gray hair and leaning on a walker.  She could have been eighty.  A few days before I was to meet with her I had a session with the patient who brought her.  She told me that she was clear that I would never mention either one of them to the other, of which I certainly assured her, but then she told me that she would be coming again with the new woman because the new woman admitted to my patient that she didn't know how to read or write.  My patient did not know if the woman would tell me that, at least not right away.

Given that, I didn't know what to expect, because in our brief meeting she seemed articulate enough.

The session began with this new person and the woman told me she had never been in therapy before but she thought she could use some advice.  Then she told me that she never learned to read. She said she had been traumatized by nuns.  Her parents came from overseas and no one spoke English at home.  When she got to school in first grade the nun was embarrassed that she had a student who not only couldn't read, she could hardly speak English. So the nun placed her in the basement of the church and made her copy the alphabet every day.  She got no further instruction, but has beautiful cursive handwriting.  When she tried to tell her parents what was happening they could not believe that the good Catholic Church would treat anyone that way, and if they did, they much have their reasons.  So nothing was done.

In second grade she sat quietly in the back of the class. She thinks that  he teachers must have thought she was retarded, but no one ever did or said anything. That remained true until high school.  She went to a vocational high school and took up cooking.

At seventeen she met a man four years her senior.  He decided that they should have sex. when her parents realized they were doing that they decided they should get married.  She married him and had four children before she was twenty-two.  She realized that he only used her for sex, and was also having sex with others, so she one day she locked the door and told him if he opened it she would break his head open with a hammer.

He moved to Florida.  Only one of her children ever had real contact with their father., and he took that son for a few thousand dollars.

From then on she took control of her life. She opened a catering business that she ran, very successfully for forty years. She had a staff member write the menus, and she didn't need recipes. She raised her children by herself and they are all on their own and doing pretty well.  The two who still live close by keep in touch with her often.

She retired five years ago and moved in with one of her daughters. Last year, as her grandchildren were entering adolescence she decided that she did not need to be around the noise and chaos, so she moved into what she thought was elderly housing.  The problem is that "elderly housing" in the city where I work is also filled with many interesting and colorful souls, and her hope of hanging out with some nice older women who would talk about their children, cooking and sewing met the harsh reality.

However, before she came to the appointment she had already begun to make some contacts away from the apartment complex, to find some people she may want to spend time with, and to learn how to be polite but distant with those around her. I was able to help her sort out who to see and where to go that could be more enjoyable.   She seemed to be very insightful, and we decided to meet a few more times to make sure things work out. I don't expect that anything more pathological will emerge; she was a very unexpected surprise.

She also told me that now that she is alone in her own place, with no one to push her or evaluate her, she is teaching herself to read.  She expects to have the hang of it by the Fall.  She wants to read that Fifty Shades of Whatever, that her daughters are talking about.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

More American Worries

Went back to work again this week and the more I sit and listen the more I have to worry about.  My patients are the least of my worries.  They come for help.  Most of them have a good idea of what is wrong and they are trying to get their lives together, many from very chaotic situations, crazy families, and a tough economy.

But it is what my patients tell me about what is happening with their families, extended families and communities that worries me more.  There is such a growing number of people who are slipping away.  There are more and more people who can't function well in this world as it becomes faster and more complex.

Much of it is the result of all the new technology, the globalization, the recession, and the deterioration of families and the educational structure.

There are three kinds of populations that are really not doing well and they have very little hope of improvement.  They will become increasingly expensive to society and no one seems to have a real workable approach to solving these problems.

The first group has always been there but now there are more of them; the poor, minorities, unskilled, learning disabled, and left out.  These people are now unemployed all over the world.  More and more places are looking like India with some very rich people, and many more very poor.

Now there is a second group that had been a rung above the forever under-class.  Now there are more mainstream people who had been working but are no longer needed.  The older ones, who worked for twenty to forty years in jobs that have been made obsolete by technology, or out sourced, are just lost and depressed.  But there are many younger people who never really found a place, never really learned how to work hard, and have kind of faded to the side.  They are home playing video games, they are taking too many drugs, they are often angry and causing trouble, they are having children they don't know how to take care of.  These are from places and families that were doing OK before, but now many of them can't keep up, can't find a way to really be independent.

There is also a third group that is under the radar, and very difficult to talk about without sounding mean.  These people didn't exist fifty years ago, but they do now, and they are very expensive.  They are people who would not be alive except for the fantastic progress in medical care.  Some of them were pre-mature births, some were from in-vitro multiple births, some were kept alive by amazing interventions, and others have illness that were previously fatal but now medicine can keep people alive, but not really very healthy.

I don't mean to imply that these people shouldn't be alive, or that they don't appreciate all that has been done for them, but there are many more like them who are in pain, have severe learning disabilities, ADHD, and other major handicaps.  Many of these people can't work, and they begin to get disability payments and complex, expensive medical treatment at an early age, and while it is good to have them around, and their families mostly love and care for them, it is very expensive and very time consuming.

As of right now, I don't have an answer for all of this.  It will probably take more than just me working on it to solve these problems.  But they are here, and they are getting worse, and no one is really paying attention to the magnitude of the problem.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

American Dream?

After a very fulfilling, enjoyable, gratifying long weekend spent down at a cottage by the Bay which was filled with what is now three generations of family, I drove to work today and was very aware of the huge difference between the fortunate life that I lead and the lives of many of my patients. On the drive I heard that NPR is going to do a series all summer long about the state of "The American Dream."

I have often told people that the most brilliant thing I have ever done in my life was to be born two years ahead of the Baby Boomers. That meant that when I applied to college, not that many people were applying yet, when I bought a house the big wave of home buyers would follow me and my house would be worth more.  My children were two years ahead of most Boomer's kids. I went to grad school when the government wanted psychologists, so they paid me to go --very unlike today. I had enough money to begin to buy stocks in 1979.  Although I made a zillions bad stock purchases I did buy MSFT, RIMM and AAPL when they were new companies and that made up of all the losses
( missed GOOG, I have not yet bought FB).

My wife is still good-looking and still a force whose ideas need to be constantly considered.  My kids are healthy, employed and already own their own homes.  Their kids are round and cute and curious and smiling. We all went to the beach, played golf, had cook-outs. There are always a few ripples in this perfect picture; I only hope they are enough to drive the jinx away.

Every year of the thirty years that I have worked has felt as if our social environment has made my job more difficult. There was AIDS in the 80s, and lots of divorces.  There was crack and lots of bad drugs in the 90s, as well as perverted priest and rampant speculation. There have been huge changes in how we live and think which have been brought about by technology. There were the credit card and re-mortgaging binges of the 0's that were a big part of what led to the world financial collapse.

But I have never seen so many people who feel helpless and hopeless when they look to the future.  This is felt most dramatically by people in their mid-20s and mid-50s.  There are not enough jobs for either of those groups.  The younger ones can't get started and the older ones have been tossed aside.  The combination of a global workforce, the economic slow-down and technological worker replacement has hurt people not only financially, but in their sense of purpose. It is very difficult to gain any traction in your life when you feel the world doesn't need you.

I do believe that many people will realize that it is foolish to try to jump through corporate hoops and to live your life chasing after money and fame.  I believe that eventually many parts of our society will establish a more worthy sense of values that will guide them towards happier more meaningful lives. But I am struck by the number of people, young and old, who are really lost and cannot function well in our new, more complex, more interconnected world. Many young people are lost to video games, Facebook, pot and pills.  Many older people, who are still too young for Social Security, seem to be trying to become pathetic enough to go on disability.

Some people feel they were screwed by the system ( and they were).  Others really don't know what it means to work hard and take care of themselves.  Often, it's the same people.

The American Dream is that things will always be getting better.  I think many of us need to decide what "better" means.  Then we can figure out how to get there.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tech is Taking us Somewhere

Despite my age, and that I sometimes have difficulty in figuring out how to operate the remote control devices of entertainment systems that are not my own, I have been fascinated by the impact of technology upon our lives. Since as recently as 2007, when the first iPhone was put on sale, there are very few aspects of our lives that have remain unchanged by technology.

How we work, where we work, how we bank, how we shop, how we date, how we teach, how we learn, how we meet people, how we communicate, what we read, what we see, what we think about, how we think, how we feel about the world, our friends, our real selves, our projected selves....... all of that and more has been altered by the use of Os and 1s being magically transmitted over cables and through the air.

This is not going to stop, so where is it all going?

One trend that will definitely continue and gain momentum, is that so much more about you will be known and much of it will be generally available.  There are so many new and improving ways to explore, measure and view, what is going on with your physical self. We can see the blood and electricity flow through your brain.  We can get a printout of your personal genomes. We can do CAT scams and MRIs of all of your body to see what works, what is broken what is twisted and what is missing. You can get an app that will constantly measure your heart  rate, blood oxygen, blood pressure,caloric intake, caloric usage, all on your wrist.  All of this can be stored in "the cloud" and can be retrieved by your physician, perhaps by anybody.

In addition there is all the information we ourselves choose to put out there about ourselves, on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Tumblr,YouTube, Match, and the hundreds of other sites that we click on, shop at, comment on. At MIT they are creating devices that can almost immediately conjure up an entire profile of a person as he or she walks by you, based upon their image, and everything about them that has been placed on the web.

As with everything, there will be positive and negative aspects of all of this.  But that won't matter that much because these things will, to some extent happen.  What does matter is what the effects will be, both intended and unintended. This should help us be better equipped to stay healthy and prepare ourselves for our own, individual futures.  We should be able to have an easier time finding people who we will enjoy getting to know and spending time.

But, at least as I feel so far, we will continue to be overwhelmed with information.  We will have to find away to sort, select and evaluate what is real, true and important. We will have to learn to deal with  how we feel the electronic presentation of ourselves really reflects who we are. We will have to see how all of this affects how we evaluate other people, and how we think of ourselves in relation to the world.

It will all be very different, and have much more of an impact than the changes brought about by older technologies, such as when so many people began spending their time watching TV.

In many ways the medium is still the message. But now, so much of the medium is us.

Monday, May 07, 2012

More Tech Fallout

One thing that I see very often in my office, that our nation and our government is struggling to deal with, is how the fantastic new advances in technology is changing everyone's lives and minds.  We act differently, we think differently, we relate different, and certainly every business in America works differently because of the digital changes that have happened just in the last five years.  I date the latest major transformation to 2007, when the iPhone first went on sale.

For many people the new technology has made jobs easier, or even just made them possible.  People can, and do work from everywhere.  But so many people are being put out of work, and so many are just not necessary.

The latest to come into my office is an angry 37 year old man who has been wit the company for 11 years.  Which company; the phone company. He knows, but he won't really admit, that they just don't need him any more.  He is an installer and repairman for land lines.  The landline business is fading as quickly as the video store rental business.  The phone company could probably get by with about 1/3 of the workers they have.  It is only the union that keeps hanging on.

But, the phone company, being a big corporation, is using technology to get rid of the people.  They have GPS systems tracking their every move, they send the workers out with hand-held devices that report back as each task is done, each job is started, each is completed, and how quickly the worker moves from one to the next.  Then they raise the expectations of what is expected in a day.  Then they raise them again.  Then they get on the worker for not meeting expectations.

Stress, conflict and misery.

My patient knows his time is limited and he should learn new skills and find his way in the new world. Instead his fear and uncertainty is turned into anger at the company.  The company would probably do better to take him and many of his colleagues and retrain them.  Teach them to deal with wireless technology.  Teach them how to operate the cloud. At least give them the opportunity.

But that would involve using skills that most big corporations don't have. So, things will end badly, and more people end up in my office.

And so do their families.