Monday, March 24, 2014

The real underlying question, 1

            Michael weighs approximately three-hundred-seventy pounds, give or take twenty on any different day.  He is forty-two years old and has been that heavy for at least a dozen years.  Because of his weight he cannot walk very far, and his back, knees and ankles hurt. Walking from the parking lot into my office is such a strain that he is breathing heavily and sweating by the time he arrives, and he sweat does not create a fragrance that will sell.  He knows that his weight has put a strain on his heart, that he has fatty deposits around his liver, and that he is living example of a health high-risk.
         Yet, at many of his appointments Michael comes in carrying a large container of caramel-mocha coffee.  He often talks about driving for an hour to find a special bakery, or to get pancakes with maple syrup. 
         Does Michael exercise? Yes, regularly. He walks on the treadmill in the building where he lives, for ten minutes, once a month.  He finds it exhausting and he hates it.

         Does Michael have psychological problems that contributed to his keeping his huge bulk?  Of course, he has a chaotic family history, he clearly has a sugar addiction, and he eats for many emotional reasons.  He also probably has some genetic factors that help him gain weight and keep the weight on.  Because of his weight he has social problems, and because of his social problems he eats.  He also eats too many of the kinds of foods that some corporations have spent millions of dollars designing so that people will crave those foods.

Of course, there are many more contributing factors that I won’t get into in this post.

So the question for all you psychotherapy friends out there is:
does Michael stay heavy because he really doesn’t want to change?  He doesn't have the will-power, or the motivation, the energy, or care enough to put in the huge, consistent effort it would take for him to lose weight?
Can Michael change if he really wants to?  Is it my job to make him really want to?
Or does Michael stay heavy because he can’t change?  Because there are too many factors, built up over too long a time, and they make it impossible for him to break his bad habits, fight off his addictions or even go for an operation that will allow him to lose weight?
Is there a difference?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Time only goes one way

One Time Dimension

            I am still working my way through Our Mathematical  Universe, by Max Tegmark, and having a good time doing that.   The book describes the current thinking about the Big Bang, cosmic expansion, the size and shape of our universe, and the reasons that it has turned out to be that way.
            Now I am on the part were he begins to describe the possibilities of other kinds of  universes, places that should exist, according to the current theories, but we may never be able to actually verify.  But he gives some limitations to even the strangeness of these places, that are basic to their existence, at least in the way that we understand the word existence.

One of these limitations struck me as a very important consideration for those of us who have deal with and explain people’s psychological existence, and usefulness.   On location 2781 of the Kindle editions Dr. Tegmark  states that it necessary for the stability of any universe to have only three space dimensions, and only one time dimension.  “With more than three space dimensions there are no stable atoms or solar systems.  With fewer, there’s no gravitation attraction.”  Ok, fine, I got that. (If you don’t, you can work on that yourself).
            Then he goes on to say, and this is the important part for me: “With more or less than one time dimension,  physics loses all predictive power, and there would be no point in evolving a brain.”
            What he is saying here, and I really agree with,  is that the major reason we have a brain and gain all of our knowledge, is for predictive purposes.  Those of us who survive and thrive are those of us who are best at figuring out what will be happening next, and then also figuring out how to deal with that.
            I have read before, I am pretty sure it was from Daniel Dennett, but he may have been quoting someone else, that the only real measure of intelligence is the ability to anticipate.   To me that means that a great deal of the measures we have of “IQ” are only of things that are one or two steps away from the real skills necessary to survive and be successful. Yes, it is probably helpful to be good at math, to have an extensive vocabulary, and to be able to put puzzle pieces together, but if you can’t figure out which way the bus will be coming down the street before you step off the curb, all those other skills won’t help much.
            We learn from out experiences, how the world works, that is why each of use thinks things work slightly differently.  Smart people can anticipate what is coming next.  Really smart people think about what will happen after that.
            Dr. Tegmark points out that this is only true if you live in a universe in which time only moves in one direction.  If time jumps all around, from past to future, to past , to present. It is useless to try to make any predictions., so don’t even bother developing a brain.  Thankfully, we live in the right kind of universe.  I hope you all can learn to take advantage of that.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Time keeps on slipping, slipping ,slipping....

It is clear that life does not slow down and give me time to reflect. I thought that by now I would begin to feel the effects of my diminishing work load, but no way will that ever happen on it's own. It seems that the changes in the world have meshed beautifully with the changes in my family to fill any possible moments I may have been hoping to use to do the things I often thought I would someday have the time to do, such as --very little.

 Such as stare at the sunset.
Think about where I've been and how I got here.
Think about where we've all been now that we are here.
Should the Celtics keep Rondo or trade him?
You know, important things.

But the inflow of information keeps coming and coming and coming.  So much that reaching a conclusion is difficult because there are always new facts coming in. And now, increasingly, some of the new information that comes in is from my own children, who send requests to help with their children.

I realize that my children's lives are really busier than mine, and really, busier than mine ever was. They and their spouses all have big jobs, are are all, in different ways, connected to people all around the globe, who seem to keep connecting at all times.  To varyng degrees, they all have to travel, stay for meetings, go to meetings, develop something, make decisions, on a deadline, and then be parents.

That's why they live close by.  I am one text message away from spending three hours with the kids or a phone cal away from spending next weekend taking one of them. And it's great.  Put on your wings and tu-tu, Grand-Pops is coming to make ducks out of Play-doh.

So today, which I had put aside to read somethings, think some things, and perhaps even write somethings, was a totally free Monday.  I stopped going to the office on Monday because I am cutting down my work.  But it followed four consecutive days of being with the lively, enthusiastic, creative creatures and prying the iPads out of their hands. And after four days with them I am left with fond memories, sore muscles and new viruses making me cough and sending me to the bathroom.

This is not a way to sit and think great thoughts and reflect upon my career as it approaches it's end.  But it is the way with life.  It keeps going, generating and re-generating.  And while great thoughts and brilliant insights are important, they don't come easily, just by sitting, and even when they do their impact is often minimal, and can even create a whole negative flurry if they are really transformative.

Grand-parenting on the other hand is important.  It can be one of the factors that separate the "haves" from the "have-nots" that everyone is beginning to realize has become a major problem. And the first duty of any grandparent, especially if the children in question are under three, is to make sure the kid thinks they are loved and protected, and that the world is interesting, and most of all fun. Once you establish the feeling that it should be fun to wake-up and fun to go find things to do, then life becomes easier, richer and valuable, especially if you are with people who want you there to have fun with.  Fun doing, experiencing, learning, creating, and making good things happen.

My reward is watching them smile, even if it from something as simple as a six-month old rolling a ball, or a ten year-old building a model of the entire universe, complete with two billion galaxies and black holes moving away from each other at just under the speed of light.

Well, that one is a bit more complicated.  Right now I'm going to bed.
Have fun.