Monday, February 27, 2012

Win an Oscar

I looked at the list of nominees for The Best Picture of 2011.  It was a long list of meaningful movies.  Many of them had important messages, some more subtle than others. 

These messages are not new.  They keep coming around and around.  I think of them often myself.
 They are the basic themes of 56% of the novels, movies, documentaries and philisophical essays.

   The creativity is in finding new, somewhat relevant, clever ways to present them.

Ideas that always get attention:

1. The world is tough for humans to negotiate

2. Most people mean well, but are flawed
         A. Given a chance they will be selfish and greedy before they are compassionate and altruistic.
         B. Some people believe that this is the way it is and we should all do the best we can for ourselves.
         C. Others believe that we can, and should overcome our more base instincts and cooperate, so we can all live better.

3. The world is generally run by assholes
Most people want to live their lives, watch TV, get laid, Hang with friends, get a buzz on, and be left alone to do that.

The people who need to “Be someone” and have something to prove are the ones with the commitment and energy to get stuff done.  Most of them are narcissistic, ego-maniacal or have some kind of missionary zeal.  Not good.

This has always been so: crazy kings, crazy generals, crazy prophets, crazy clerics, crazy industrial tycoons, crazy bankers.

 People get sucked into thinking that these guys (and most of them are guys) are heroes. They are often charming and charismatic, but their ideas are usually about how “we are better than them” and how we should fight, steal, swindle, pound, drive away, or even kill “them.”
It almost always ends in pain and suffering for those who got sucked in, and even for those who weren’t paying attention.

4. Relationships are always difficult.

Anyone, especially those you love, won’t always do what you want him or her to do, so it pisses you off because they should.  It would make your life better

If you do find someone who always does what you want, you immediately realize that they have no judgment of their own, that they are lesser, and you punish them for it.

Almost everyone wants to fuck someone else, at least some of the time, and many, many people do.
--- and when they do it’s special, unique and they should be forgiven. But that won’t come easily.  People like to act surprised and to judge.

So now that task is to take those ideas as jumping off points and meld them into one story.  If I do that I may be able to explain all this in a way the world can understand, and that will bring about an amazing transformation of thought and action.

Of course there is this play called Julius Caesar.  ……. Or Caesar and Cleopatra, or something called Hamlet, or…….

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cultures, subcultures

A person's sub-culture, by which I mean the community that he or she identifies with and spends most of his or her time within, is such a powerful determinant of any one's emotions and behavior, but it is rarely discussed  by psychologists and psychiatrists, and  it is not given the influence that it deserves.

Psychiatry has become so biological over the past twenty years.  It is difficult to get any psychiatrist to talk about anything other than brain chemistry when they discuss a diagnosis or treatment.  Psychologists are more varied. They consider a great many family influences and the role of interpersonal relationships, and see how they greatly affect how people think, feel and behave.

Yet, the values, mores attitudes and behaviors of those who anyone sees himself as most like, do so much toward determining what they feel is the right thing to do, or think, or aspire to.

If both your parents are are collecting checks for disability, and your brother is selling drugs and your seventeen year-old cousin is having her second child, and you three best friends have already dropped out of high school, it will be very difficult for you to "pull yourself up by your boot straps" stay in school, go to college, look for, expect to get, and find a well paying job.

By comparison, if you go to a high school from which 98% of the kids graduate, and 94% of those go to college, you will probably not only expect to go to college, you will go.  You may feel badly that you are going off to State U, instead of Yale, but you expectations and aspirations will be so different from the person in the previous paragraph.

Now, this all seems pretty obvious.  What may not be so obvious to many people is that if almost all of the kids who live the lives in the first paragraph switched cribs with the kids in the second paragraph before they were fourteen months old, all of their lives would live up to the expectations of the new subculture.  I think that many people would not believe that, but I am sure of it. Here in America, people still like to believe that kids are born smart or not so smart.  That's not the case.  94.768% is learning how to learn, living up to expectations, and seeing how the world around you works.

I see so many smart, attractive, personable adolescents and young adults who all do marvelous things and live healthy, prosperous, creative enjoyable lives, if they get the opportunity.  But some of them have no one to show them the path, many even have people around them who are negative and discouraging.

I get great satisfaction when I can be part of the process that helps someone find a way to use their talents and skills.  But it is often disheartening to see how some people have so many more obstacles to fight through and overcome.  Forging a life is difficult enough for anyone.  The journey is much more difficult without a guide, or with someone stepping on your head.

We now also have so many examples of how growing up in a very religious community influences the way someone thinks, sees cause and effect and expects change.  What is "normal in that community may not fit in well in San Francisco, and vice-versa, with an emphasis on the"vice."

 No one can get from here to there alone; not John Wayne, and not Clarence Thomas. Our thinking, feeling and behaving is constantly being influenced by those around us, not matter how much we try to resist. Even the act of resistance is created by the living in the community.

None of this may be groundbreaking, but as John says:  Copy, Transform, Combine (repeat).
The more things get brought to light, the better.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Parenting fuss

Again, a new wave of books about how to raise you kids.  It all mostly began with Dr. Spock, who did a pretty good job. Since then there have been thousands, some have been decent, but most have been terrible.  Many have been very harmful. Many are really no more than political polemics created to develop true believers.

But now we are living in a time when the pressure on kids to grow-up quickly and learn the right skills is greatly magnified.  If you don't have a strong, sophisticated education it will be difficult to find a job or to create one for yourself.  Robots now do the kind of work that kept millions of people employed thirty years ago. Kids have to not only learn how to do things well, they have to do things better than others.  Harvard and MIT have only so many seats each year. Be strict, be tough, teach your kids to focus, to learn, to succeed and achieve. Fun will come for the satisfaction of achievement, play will come at 55.

Predictably, in three to five years there will be another huge pile of books written that will refute the ones coming out today.  Any parenting style that goes to any extreme may work for some kids, but will fail for most.  Every kid is different, every parent is different, every family is different and every time period is different. 

Parenting is wonderful, and should be the most engaging and productive thing that anyone does with his or her life.  But it involves a lot of time and a very delicate balancing act:

Independence but with structure
Fun and Happy, yet internalized delay of gratification
Achievement through pleasure, achievement through work
Intellectual development; emotional intelligence
Firm but Fair
Organized sports, or disorganized play
Discipline yet with Emotional self-regulation!
Learn the rules, but learn to think for yourself.
Solve problems traditionally, solve problems creatively
Play, roam, waste time, watch TV, make-up games, be a pain in the ass

A parent has to slowly instill all of these things in a smiling, running, teasing, messy, fussy, naturally playful totally innocent child.  I remember when my kids were young that as soon as I could determine out how much freedom and independence they could handle, they had grown and changed and their stage of life was different, the challenges they faced were different and I had to begin all over again.

I know that it is more difficult today with so much information, so much stimulation, so many more ways of measuring, and what seems to be much less time.

The one basic rule:  Pay Attention!!!

What seems to have improved is that Grand parenting is much easier and a great deal of fun.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Over the past week I have had several people talk to me about how guilty they feel.  Now, I am not one of those therapists who feel that guilt is always a bad thing.  I think it is very important for someone to realize they have done something wrong, or bad, or offended someone, and to feel guilty about it.

Hopefully, guilt will be a motivator to do something good to relieve the guilt. People don't like to feel guilty, so I hope to help people find a good way to change things.

However, guilt can be so ingrained in a person's early in life that they just become overwhelmed and immobilized.  A parent, whose style is to let a child know that what they have done may not only not be the right thing, but that it hurt someone, in some unseen but emotional way, can plant the seeds of constant doubt.  Religion, as we all know, can be a big creator of guilt, which will lead to feelings of unworthyness.

But this week, one of the people I have been seeing really upped the whole guilt thing to a new level.  She was talking about how her mother always blamed her for having ruined her, the mother's life. The mother also was constantly letting this woman know all of her faults, all of her mistakes, and how they affected the family and the community.  The answer to any question about school, a friend, the family, her chores, her comments, was always that my patient was at fault; guilty unless proven innocent, and even then there were still major doubts.

To illustrate the result of such an upbringing, this woman told me that on 9/11/2001, very soon after the twin towers had tumbled and the planes all over the country were being grounded and the search for the terrorists had begun, she carefully reviewed her activities of the day, and wrote down where she was, and who she was with.  She said she did this really, without thinking about what she was doing.  It was not that she wanted to remember the day, she realized, she really wanted to make sure her alibi was in place.  She expected someone to come knocking on her door, but she was sure that this time she had nothing to do with it, and she needed to have the proof available.