Brain to Marilyn: Hey, get up. I’ve got stuff to do.
Marilyn to Brain: Shut up. I’m tired. Let me sleep or I swear I’ll take a pill and shut you down.
Brain (sullen): Fine. Be that way.
Marilyn drifts off to sleep for half an hour.
Brain: How about that dream I sent you eh?
Marilyn: That was horrible. Why did you do that?
Brain: I thought it was cool the way I turned butterflies into flying monsters. You didn’t like it?
Marilyn: No, I did not like it. And right now, I don’t like you.
Brain to Marilyn: Logic and Emotion are going at it again. Wow, this one’s a real knock down drag out fight. Loud, huh.
Marilyn to Logic and Emotion: If you guys don’t cut it out, I’m going to stop this car and you are both getting a time-out.
Logic and Emotion in chorus: HE STARTED IT MOM!
Marilyn to Logic and Emotion: I don’t care who started it. SHUT UP! I need sleep!
Logic and Emotion together (meekly): Sorry Mom. Don’t be mad …
Brain to Marilyn: I have a message from Spine. She says you need to take something for pain. Spine is unhappy.
Marilyn to Brain: Spine is always unhappy.
Brain to Marilyn: Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Oh, and Bladder needs a trip to the bathroom.
Marilyn: Oh fine.
Muttering all the way, Marilyn gets up, hauls self to bathroom. Comes back with Tylenol. Takes pills, crawls into bed pulling covers over head. Sighs and settles into the embrace of the most comfortable bed in the world.
Brain to Marilyn: Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a story! How about you write about our morning chats, huh? Wouldn’t that be neat? Come on, get up before you forget everything. Lazy daisy get your butt outta bed.
Marilyn to Brain: I haven’t had 6 hours of sleep yet. I’m too tired to write.
Brain to Marilyn: You are never too tired to write! Get up, get up, it’s morning.
Sounds: Dogs howling, yapping, more howling.
Marilyn: Can you make the dogs shut up?
Brain: Sorry, no direct access to doggie brains.
Marilyn to Brain: Okay. You win. I’m up, I’m up. Coffee. I hope we aren’t out of half and half. I’m never going to get a whole night’s sleep. I’m going to die of permanent, chronic sleep deprivation. I hope you are all proud of yourselves.
The mournful howl of canines is heard in the background. Day has begun. Soon there will be coffee and all will be well. Tired, but well.
This is the final part of a four-part series. You can read the others here: Part I, Part 2, Part 3.
Everyday stress is a killer. Literally.
The greatest damage from stress is caused by excessive triggering of the fight-or flight (stress) response. These throw your entire system into high gear on a chemical and biological level. Your system is designed to handle no more than a few fight-or-flight responses a week.
Instead, our modern world bombards us with more than fifty such (brief) episodes each day. Over time, this unrelenting stress wears down and damages every part of your body in some way.
Your body can’t distinguish between minor, everyday stress and those which threaten life and loved ones. So we respond to all stressors as if they were charging tigers.
Moreover, your body doesn’t distinguish between physical threats which require action, and psychological threats which require thought or a verbal response — or potential threats which are worries about the future and don’t even yet (or maybe ever) exist.
Thoughts alone can trigger a full blown, physiological stress reaction throughout your body. Your body “believes” your thoughts are real.
If you think about a fight you recently had or might have, your system reacts as if you were having the fight now! The good news is you can trick your unconscious, internal systems into thinking you are sitting on the beach with a tall, cold drink in hand.
This is what gives visualization and mindfulness such power.
The key is visualizing in detail. To demonstrate the power of thoughts and images on your body, close your eyes and imagine, in vivid detail, that you are eating a lemon. Soon your mouth will begin to pucker. You will start to salivate. Your stomach will start secreting the fluids to digest a lemon. Your mind will have tricked your body into thinking you were eating a lemon.
This is a visualization you can tailor to your mood and whatever time you have available:
Close your eyes.
Imagine yourself in a place you love — the woods, the beach, or some place which holds special meaning for you.
Make sure it’s a place where you feel secure, safe, comfortable, and happy.
Focus on the details of your imagined scene.
Work with each of your senses, one at a time. Focus on everything you see. Colors. Shapes. Light. Shadows.
Work from the ground up.
Focus on the sounds around you, including the silence.
Take a few deep breaths, then tune into the smells. Allow scents to trigger positive emotions.
Focus on the variety of textures around you. Imagine yourself touching the items in your environment – smooth, rough, hard, soft, and so on.
Focus on any movement in the scene you have created for yourself. Clouds in the sky, waves in the ocean.
Finally imagine doing something you love in your mental oasis. Put your feet in a lake. Ski down a mountain. Play with a pet.
Continue the experience until you feel a sense of peace and well-being.
Gradually ease yourself back into your day focusing on your breath, then the sensations in the room. When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and take another deep, abdominal breath.
Mindfulness is a slightly different way to focus on the present moment. Focusing on the present decreases tension and stress. It increases your enjoyment of life. You can give your body and mind a mini-vacation from worry about the past and the future, and reduce the damage stress can do over time.
You can practice mindfulness while you are doing anything from washing dishes or folding laundry, to walking upstairs or even eating.
All you need do is spend a few minutes focusing on the details and sensations of the moment. Use all of your senses, one at a time.
Mindful eating is a good exercise for beginners. For example, while eating an orange you can focus on the color and roughness of the skin and the different colors and shapes of the segments. Then focus on the feel of the rind, pulp and juice on your hands, face, lips and tongue and the sensations in your mouth, throat and stomach as you bite, chew and swallow. Then turn to the smell and the taste of each bite and how they change as you go through the process of eating. Come back to the real world slowly and focus on abdominal breathing for a few moments before you get on with your day.
Life is aggravating. It just is. You can’t completely eliminate everyday annoyances or anxiety, so be prepared to change how your body reacts to them. I’ve explained abdominal breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, mindful walking, visualization, and mindfulness. All these techniques can reduce the level of stress stored up in your body and mind. Using these can dramatically improve the quality of your life.
Do what you can, whenever you can for as long as you can. Just … do something. No matter how small, anything you do will protect you and help heal your mind and body. In the process, you’ll develop skills which will serve you well in the future by allowing you to take control of your responses to the stress life inevitably brings.
I ‘ve talked about breathing and visualization as relaxation techniques. This week, I’d like to add a third element – movement.
Coordinating breath and movement can calm you down, center you, clear your head, and focus your mind, and help the relaxation spread to the muscles throughout your body.
Another benefit is that the physical movement gives your mind a focal point that can not only deepen relaxation but can also allow you to relax when you’re too restless, fidgety, listless or unmotivated for the purely mental techniques.
When you are concentrating on moving your body in a certain way, it is easier to keep your mind off stressful thoughts that creep into your mind. However, thoughts will invariably intervene at some point when they do, just acknowledge them and immediately click the remote and switch back to the breathing channel. Then refocus on your movements.
One classic exercise that combines breathing and movement is Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR. This can be done standing, sitting or when you are having trouble sleeping, in bed. Body focus techniques not only help insomnia but also improve headaches and stomach problems if done for a period of time when you’re having symptoms.
In PMR, you first tighten and then release major muscles, starting with feet and moving up your body. Doing this helps you learn what your muscles feel like when they are tense versus relaxed. It may sound strange, but most people don’t realize their muscles are tense until the tension gets bad enough to hurt.
You may need to learn how and when to relax your muscles. PMR not only helps you relax, it increases your awareness of muscle tension. Soon you’ll be able to prevent muscle tension from building by stopping it before it gets serious.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Start by squeezing your toes together as if you were making fists with your feet. Hold the squeeze and feel the tension in every foot muscle. Then let everything go, all at once, as you exhale.
Try to feel the muscles in your feet relaxing and loosening up. Next squeeze your calves and thighs, hold the squeeze feel the tension and then release it quickly, always on an exhale. Feel all the tension evaporating from your legs.
Focus on the contrasting sensations of tension and relaxation, tightness and openness. Continue up through your body tightening and releasing, sequentially, your buttocks then your chest and shoulders, scrunching your shoulders up to your ears. Then move onto your arms and hands, making fists and squeezing them tightly.
Hold and release the muscles in your throat and neck and then scrunch your face together and squeeze your eyes shut, hold, and then release. Open your mouth as wide as you can and stick your tongue out as far as you can. Hold and release. Then bring your focus back to your abdominal breathing, perhaps counting out an exhale that is twice as long as your inhale. Gradually transition back to your day.
Short Form PMR
There is also a short form PMR when you are pressed for time. Divide your body into three sections, from your feet up to your face. Then tense all the muscles in each section, hold them and release all at once with an exhale, as you did above. Then move onto the next section. For example, feet, legs, thighs and buttocks are one section, chest arms and shoulders are another section and neck, throat, face and jaw are the last section.
Once you’re comfortable with PMR, you can try a Mental Body Scan. As with PMR you can do a detailed body scan, or use a short form. Like before, begin at your feet and work up your body. This time, though, just mentally scan for tension. When you find tightness in your muscles, mentally release it. I like to visualize the tension floating away from my body, like steam, evaporating into the air.
You can also imagine the tight muscle opening up, spreading a warm, heavy feeling as it releases all its tension. Then let this sensation spread slowly up your body. Scan every part of your body in as much detail as you have time for. For example, you can divide the face into scalp, forehead, eyes, nose, lips, cheeks, jaw and tongue or you can treat the face as a whole. Either way, make sure your jaw is loose and your teeth are apart, not clenched!
Another exercise that combines breathing and movement is Mindful Walking, which you can do it whenever and wherever you are walking. Start Abdominal Breathing with a 3 or a 5 count inhale and the same count for the exhale. Then count the number of evenly paced steps you take per inhale and per exhale, using only odd numbers for your count. This insures that you start each inhale on a different foot.
For 3-count walking, this means:
Inhale – left, right, left
Exhale – right, left, right.
A 5-count walk would be:
Inhale – left, right, left, right, left
Exhale – right, left, right, left, right.
If you want to increase your relaxation, elongate your exhale and increase the number of steps per exhale. So, for example, you could inhale to a count of 3 and exhale to a count of 5 or inhale to a count of 5 and exhale to a count of 9 (remember to only use odd numbers and keep your steps steady and even).
If you want to energize yourself, increase the length of your inhalation and the number of steps per inhale while shortening your exhalation and the number of steps on each exhale. You could, for example, inhale to the count of 5 and exhale to the count of 3.
I find when I walk like this, I don’t get as tired or winded. I end my walk feeling more relaxed and centered as well as refreshed.
Now you know some techniques that can help you circumvent your body’s stress response, reduce muscle tension and quiet your mind. This should help you get through each day feeling more positive emotionally and more relaxed and energized physically.
You shouldn’t have to get more stressed trying to find time for stress control. Do what you can when you can and you’ll find whatever you do, there will be definite benefits.
Reducing stress requires mind and body relaxing together. Mental relaxation is probably harder for most people — for good reason. Most of us think all the time. More than 50,000 thoughts flash through your mind every day. Buddhists call this mindless internal monologue “Chatter” or “Monkey Mind”.
Most “chatter” is negative. Brooding on the past, self-criticism, worries, to-do lists, and so on. This stuff has a powerful effect on your body and psyche.
A thought is reality to your body.
Worrying releases the same destructive hormones that would be released if the worried-about event were really happening. The goal of all relaxation techniques is to anchor your mind in the present, to shut out anxiety and negative thoughts, most of which are locked into the past or future.
An intense focus on “now”, including how you are breathing, can override “Chatter.” It will give your mind a mini vacation, a brief, therapeutic — and probably much-needed — break.
Abdominal breathing is a form of meditation. It can help alleviate symptoms of ADD, reduce fidgeting and short attention span.
When you’re in a stressed breathing pattern, you can shift to abdominal breathing. This will pretty much instantly reduce tension, focus your mind, and increase your energy level. It do the same thing to your mind if you feel yourself going into a particularly toxic session of “Monkey Mind” negativity.
Start taking slow, steady abdominal breaths until you feel your body relax. You can start a counting exercise as you breathe. Or you can go directly into a mini visualization, as follows:
Imagine, with each inhalation, you’re breathing peace, calm, and well-being in to every part of your body. With each exhalation, imagine you’re blowing the tension and negativity out.
Try saying “peace in” each time you inhale — and “tension out” each time you exhale.
Picture a giant wave of relaxation and tranquility pouring over you with each breath you take, soaking through your body from the top down as you complete inhaling and exhaling.
Feel the tension melt away from the muscles in your head and neck. Then feel it flow down your shoulders, arms, torso — finally your pelvis, legs and feet.
When a wave has saturated your body with relaxation, visualize another coming in with your next breath. You can add color and light to each wave — your favorite color or a bright light.
When you feel loose and mellow, refocus on your breath, then gradually transition back to your day.
It turns out that the process of learning stress control techniques can ease tension and anxiety.
Research shows that feeling helpless creates as much — or more — physiological damage as would the thing or event you fear. Feeling in control reduces stress. All by itself. If you know you can do something to help yourself cope, you won’t feel overwhelmed or helpless. Stress will have less control over you.
An old but still relevant example is an Air Force study made during World War II. The study showed that co-pilots suffered from more stress during combat missions than pilots. Pilots were in control of the plane; co-pilots were not.
It’s reassuring to know that one of the reasons mind-body techniques work is that they enhance your sense of control over yourself — and therefore your life.
My training taught me a lot about the interrelationship between the mind and the body, on a physiological, scientifically explainable level. Using that knowledge, I compiled some quick and easy stress control techniques for my students I call “On The Go Stress Control”. These are small things you can do during your day to reduce stress and alleviate its negative consequences.
STRESS AND YOUR BODY
Stress is a condition which causes psychological and physical damage. The most insidious and dangerous form of stress is the everyday kind. Traffic, being late, dealing with difficult situations, and other people. This kind of stuff bombards you constantly. The damage it causes is consistent and cumulative. Ironically, while there are no “quick fixes” for most things in life, there are quick fixes for stress-related symptoms. Called Relaxation Techniques, you can do them for a few minutes, any time, even during your most hectic days. These are easy to learn, pleasant to do, and are amazingly effective at curbing your body’s harmful reactions to stress.
There’s a saying, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” These techniques can allow you to surf in the often turbulent seas of life.
In this first piece, I’d like to concentrate on breathing, which is the simplest and most powerful of the relaxation techniques.
Breathing is important in two different ways. Breathing involves two different systems in your body – respiratory and the nervous systems. I’ll only talk about the latter here because most people already have a rudimentary understanding of the respiratory system.
Breathing forms a bridge between your body and mind. It’s the key to preventing or minimizing stress reactions. It acts as the messenger service by which the mind communicates with the body – and visa versa. Your breathing is the only thing you can consciously control which lets you turn off the stress response.
When your mind perceives or even imagines a threat or impending stress — big or small — your breathing changes. It triggers what’s called the “Fight or Flight Response” which automatically releases over 1500 chemicals into your system to prepare you to fight for your life — or run like hell.
Heart and breathing rates increase dramatically, as does blood pressure, muscle tension, and the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream, along with many other toxic reactions.
Constant stress slowly poisons you and over time, this wear and tear can injure almost every system in your body.
The problem is that this system evolved to protect early humans from infrequently real threats to life and limb. It doesn’t differentiate the more subtle stresses of modern life. The fight or flight response is on or off. There’s no dimmer switch to deal with the stressful but non life threatening situations which make up most of our lives.
Rapid, shallow breathing triggers the alarm and initiates the survival mechanism of your body. Slow, deep breathing — called abdominal breathing — is the “all clear” signal. It turns off your body’s red alert and reverses the fight or flight sequence. It stops the release of stress hormones that initiate physical stress reactions.
When you learn to control your breathing, you also control your stress response.
Relaxation works on tension the way aspirin works on headaches. You can do breathing exercises (or other relaxation techniques) anywhere, anytime. You can do it while you’re stuck in traffic, waiting in line, sorting laundry, sitting in a dentist’s chair, or at your desk. The more practice, the more effective they are and the more relaxed you will be. You can use them to deal with a specific stressful situation more calmly and rationally — without being thrown into a panic state.
Breathe through your nose (unless I tell you otherwise).
Put one hand on your belly, one on your chest. Start by taking a take a slow, deep breath. Feel your belly rise, then as you breathe deeper, feel your chest rise.
Feel the breath going into your throat.
As you exhale, reverse the process. Feel your chest falling, then your belly as you tighten your abdominal muscles and squeeze out that last bit of breath before you inhale again. It may take a while before this feels natural. This is the way you should be breathing all the time, to keep your system in equilibrium. Most people don’t, hence high stress levels.
After you’ve mastered abdominal breathing, you can go to the next level and add counting. You foster relaxation when your exhale is longer than your inhale. You energize yourself when your inhale is longer than your exhale. If you want to relax or stay calm, inhale to a slow count of 3, then exhale to a slow count of 6. Next, inhale to a slow count of 4, then exhale to a slow count of 8.Two to one is the best ratio for breathing.
Experiment until you find the count which works best for you. Continue doing it as long as you can — at least a few minutes.
If you find yourself getting sluggish during the day and need a pick-me-up, instead of grabbing an energy drink or another cup of coffee, get a shot of natural energy. Inhale to a slow count of 4, 6 or 8. Then expel your breath rapidly through your mouth, making a whooshing sound — or saying “Haaaa”. If you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, just do a quiet exhale to the count of 2, 3 or 4 while keeping the 2 to 1 ratio (if possible).
Abdominal breathing is not only a stress relieving exercise. You can combine it with all the other forms of relaxation. It allows other techniques to work and can help you fall asleep, even if you have insomnia.
In subsequent pieces I’ll teach you other techniques, like Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Visualization, and Mindful Walking.
Most of us believe that our current beliefs have been our beliefs forever. Of course we know that germs cause disease and that the earth is round. But people didn’t always know these concepts as “facts”. We once thought the earth was flat and had no idea what caused disease. Someone had to propose these “new” and “revolutionary ideas. And someone just as assuredly had to argue against them and give the proponent of the new ideas a hard time.
My father was a brilliant, innovative thinker in the fields of psychiatry and the social sciences. All he got initially was a lot of grief and aggravation. Even today, only a few academics have heard of him.
His name was Abram Kardiner. He had a long and varied career in the fields of anthropology, sociology, and psychiatry from the 1920’s to his death in 1981. He deserves at least part of the credit for three major contributions: the idea of interdisciplinary studies, the concept of early, “pre-school” education, and acceptance and understanding of PTSD.
Everyone knows that interdepartmental studies are the best way to thoroughly understand at least history and cultures. Didn’t we always apply the tools of sociology, economics, political history, art history and other cultural history to the study of history? The answer is no. In fact, the concept was anathema until the 1960’s.
When I went to Barnard College in 1967 (the sister school to Columbia University), I was one of the first classes to be able to take an interdisciplinary major. At the time, I was old enough to understand that my father’s struggles at Columbia University in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s had cleared the path for me to be an American Studies major in the 60’s.
My father studied with Sigmund Freud in 1921 and came back to New York to help establish psychoanalysis as an accepted and respected “new” field of science. But he was also interested in sociology and thought that using psychiatry to better understand the individuals in a society would help understand the society as a whole. So he decided to study more primitive cultures (anthropology) to further establish the interrelationships between the individual (psychiatry) and the society (sociology).
Unfortunately at the time, each academic field was considered a totally separate entity. No one was allowed to stray into another academic’s carefully guarded territory.
For more than 30 years, my father was bounced back and forth between the psychiatry, sociology, and anthropology departments. No one wanted to claim him. He was “tainted” with methodology and ideas from a different discipline. This sounds ridiculous today. But even now, the only department at Columbia that recognizes his accomplishments is the Department of Psychiatry, the department he helped found.
When I had my first child, I enrolled him in play groups and I planned to send him to preschool when he turned three. My father, once again, had been on the front-lines years before, espousing the importance of the first three years of life. He believed that early childhood intellectual and social stimulation was necessary to foster a child’s ability to learn and to adjust socially throughout it’s life. His writings became the basis for Head Start, President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s program which provided pre-kindergarten for all kids. Dad also focused attention on the optimal environments for preschoolers to develop well intellectually, socially, and emotionally.
Reading to your children, playing counting games, and talking to them — these concepts, now so familiar, became part of the standard of early child care, in part, because of my father. He helped prove, scientifically, how important these activities are both for children and for the society.
When a member of our family was ten, he had a tonsillectomy — and awoke during surgery. This resulted in PTSD as well as a myriad of other issues. Guess who was one of the first people to study PTSD and recognize it as a psychiatric syndrome?
You guessed it. My dad! He studied World War 1 veterans and built on Freud’s concept of psychiatric trauma. He published a book called “The Traumatic Neuroses of War” in 1941. But it wasn’t until the Vietnam War, in the 1970’s, that PTSD became a hot topic. Luckily, by 1991, further advancements in this field, building on my father’s work, helped our family cope with the aftermath of childhood trauma.
So, thanks Dad! You cleared the way for me to have the college major of my dreams, a well-educated toddler, and a family member with doctors who could understand and help him. I wish I could tell you your name is now known throughout the world for your amazing contributions.
But I understand and appreciate what you have contributed to society and now, maybe some blog readers will know, too.
(All quotes are from my father’s book, “My Analysis With Freud, Reminiscences”, by A. Kardiner, M.D.)
My father’s first contact with Sigmund Freud was a letter he received in 1921 accepting him as a student of Freud’s in Vienna. My father had graduated from medical school in New York City and was having trouble finding a job in a specialty that interested him. He thought it would be a great opportunity to study with the founder of this new science of the mind. He also believed that this field was the wave of the future. There were only eight psychiatrists in New York City at the time and it appealed to my Dad to be a pioneer and make a major contribution in a whole new area of science.
During my Dad’s 6 months as Freud’s student (that was the contracted period of apprenticeship) Freud had six students, each of whom he saw five hours a week. He charged $10 an hour and asked that he be paid in dollars, which were worth more than the Austrian crown. He also apologized that he could not give more than thirty hours a week to his students because his wife and daughter had forbidden it! They cherished their time with him and didn’t want him working longer hours.
Freud did not treat his students equally. My father’s distinction among his group of students in Vienna was that Freud talked to him in his therapy sessions. Freud was apparently silent with other students, particularly with the two English students who were there with my father. The Englishmen complained that Freud often fell asleep in their sessions and that he would only wake up if they stopped talking. One day the Englishmen asked my father to tea and confronted him with the rumor that Freud actually had conversations with him. When my father confirmed that Freud was quite garrulous with him, they wanted to know what my father did to get Freud talking. My father was a wonderful raconteur so his only explanation was that he kept Freud interested and engaged – and therefore awake.
Ironically, despite this conversation with my dad, the English contingent must have left Vienna with the belief that Freud’s “silent” analysis was the method that he was imparting to his students. This evolved into what was known as the “English School” of psychoanalysis, in which the therapists said nothing to their patients except “hello” and “goodbye”, often for years!
I used to complain to my father that Freud had done a terrible job analyzing him because he was still riddled with anxiety and neuroses. My father agreed with me. He said that Freud’s training and analysis were both woefully inadequate by today’s standards. In the ‘20’s, the only training that existed to become an analyst was to be analyzed yourself, for a mere six months. We now know that six months is too short a time to accomplish much in psychoanalysis. We also know that you need a greater body of knowledge to be a good therapist than what can be gleaned from a personal analysis.
To advance their education, my father and his fellow students got together and organized lectures for themselves (with Freud’s approval, of course). They got some of the other great minds in the field who were also in Vienna, like Karl Abraham, Otto Rank and Helena Deutsch, to present courses to them. These turned out to be the first formal didactic courses ever given in psychiatry, anywhere.
In Freud’s day, analysis was not only the sole training tool, it was also very limited in its scope. Freud’s goal of treatment was to give key insights to the patient. The patient was then expected to go off on his own and apply these insights to his own life. It is understood now that insight is only the starting point of any therapy. The major goal of therapy today is to help the patient integrate these insights so that they can help change the patient’s perceptions, emotions and behavior. My father never got this part of the process so his analysis was incomplete. However, my father felt that Freud was brilliant at dream interpretation and was very intuitive in interpreting free associations. So my father’s analysis was not without its benefits.
My favorite story about Freud shows that he was not only brilliant, but also prescient about the future of the profession he created. Freud attended a meeting in which the participants spent an hour and a half discussing what Freud said here and what Freud meant there. Freud was getting more and more impatient and he finally tapped on the table for order. He said something to the effect of, “Gentlemen…Why do you treat me as if I were already dead? Here you are, sitting among yourselves, discussing what I have said in this paper, what I have said in that paper … and I am sitting at the head of the table and nobody so much as asks me ‘What did you really mean?’ “ He continued to say that he took that as an insult and worried “…if this is what you do while I am still among you, I can well imagine what will happen when I am really dead!” Unfortunately the movement did splinter into warring factions after Freud died. And many of these factions were in fact based on differing interpretations of what Freud meant and how he intended his theories to be expanded upon.
Another story in this vein involves the origin story of the 50 minute psychiatric session. People have always assumed that Freud consciously and thoughtfully chose 50 minutes as the perfect amount of time for a doctor/patient session. The reality is much more mundane and insignificant.
Freud had allocated six hours a day, five days a week for sessions with his students. He had six students so each student had a one hour therapy session with Freud per day. However, there was a scheduling snafu and a seventh student appeared for a place in Freud’s class of ’21. Freud didn’t want to increase his teaching time to seven hours a day. So he proposed two options to his six current students.
He could send this seventh student away. Alternatively, each student could give up ten minutes a day from their hourly sessions to make room for the seventh student. The students agreed to a 50 minute instead of a 60 minute hour. To this day, therapists use the 50 minute hour as the ‘Freudian model’. Freud would be laughing now to realize that sheer happenstance had resulted in almost a century long tradition for psychiatrists all over the world.
When my father returned to America he helped found the first independent psychoanalytic training institute and the first university (Columbia) affiliated training program in America. Both were in New York City.
I have to go to the hospital today for a brain scan. Presumably they will discover I have some. Brains, that is. Meanwhile, I will again be missing from today’s action. Life keeps getting in the way of blogging.
I know a bunch of people older than me who have developed dementia. As the problem has gotten worse, they have drifted from liberal, middle-of-the-road tolerance to far right I-hate-everyone dementia. I want to know why people move to the far right when they are overcome by dementia.
It was suggested to me by Martha that this is because old people remember Communist threats … but these are people who can’t remember the location of their refrigerator or whether those people are their children or complete strangers. Why would they remember Communism as opposed to some other miscellaneous type of government? Is there some law that says the demented must become right-wingers? Some of them become downright fascists. They may have been liberal before, but suddenly, they hate all the folks they never hated in the past.
Does dementia destroy the ability of the brain to love or tolerate others? Does this mean that an awful lot of people in this country are … demented?
That would certainly explain a lot, don’t you think?
Carrie Fisher was Bi-polar. To her credit, she talked about her condition openly and honestly. She brought attention to the disorder and tried to reduce the stigma associated with this, as well as other, mental illnesses. It’s sad that we need celebrities with diseases to increase public awareness about their given malady. But mental illnesses are inherently hard to diagnose, treat and talk about. So as long as people get educated about them, I guess it doesn’t matter how or why.
I have an unwanted and involuntary expertise in Bi-Polar Disorder. Both my ex-husband and my son had/have the disease (my ex is deceased). Each of them manifested the condition differently – my ex was mostly manic and my son was mostly depressed. One of the most difficult aspects of this disorder is the fact that it can look so different in different people. This makes it much harder to diagnose because there is no one size fits all set of symptoms to identify.
This makes it harder on the families too, who don’t always get the support they need from the medical community. It also makes it easier for the Bi-polar person to deny that they have an identifiable syndrome that requires treatment. This denial is very common in Bi-Polar Disease. Also common is the refusal to stay on medication. These factors just add to the difficulties and pain of the family members.
The families of Bi-polar sufferers feel different from other families. We know that other families’ lives are not fraught with the unpredictability, volatility and often violence (emotional if not physical) that ours are. We seem to be the only ones living on a roller coaster. We feel inferior, ashamed and isolated. Family members, me included, try to ‘cover up’ the problem and cover for the often inappropriate behavior of the bi-polar loved one. I made countless excuses for the actions and absences of my ex. My daughter tried to avoid the issue altogether by going to friends’ houses and never having friends come to ours when Daddy was ‘off’ or ‘acting up’.
When you live with a bi-polar person, you wonder what’s wrong with you that you live like this. You wonder why you aren’t like other people. Your ego and self- esteem suffer. This is particularly devastating for kids. My kids are in their 30’s and are still dealing with these issues. They are moving on from some questionable relationship choices they made in the past because of their lingering psychological demons.
On the other hand, denial and defending are also big parts of life with a B-polar person. While married to my ex, after one of his particularly bad manic episodes, I was advised by psychiatrists to go to a program for abused spouses. I thought that they were crazy. I was in therapy already and I was clearly not in that pathetic category! That label did not apply to me! Of course I didn’t go. I often wonder what would have been different in my life if I had received the support and empowerment I needed at that point in time. I now realize that the whole family needs support and treatment specifically designed to deal with the mentally ill family member. My individual therapy was not enough.
Today, there are claims that too many people are being labeled ADHD or Bi-Polar; that it’s become a psychiatric fad to assign mental illness labels to people and ply them with drugs. To me, it’s better to spread a wide net to catch all the people with serious issues and get them the treatment they need. You’re not going to be misdiagnosed if your behavior is perfectly within the range of normal. Something is going on if a doctor thinks you might be Bi-polar! If it’s not manic depression, then it certainly is something else that needs attention and possibly medication! Sometimes the only way to come up with an effective treatment is by experimenting.
I became very pro-active psychiatrically. My daughter started to have panic attacks at age eleven and I got her on medication immediately. She is grateful to me that she never had to go through the torture of years of horrible anxiety symptoms. She would not have been able to function effectively through school and in jobs without her anxiety meds.
I couldn’t get my ex to stay on meds and get a stable life. But at least I got my daughter on medication early so she had fewer issues getting through life than she would have without my early intervention. At least I have one psychiatric success story to brag about!
My father was afraid of horses, so of course I had to learn how to ride. I was terrified of snakes, so my son has had a lifelong fascination with reptiles. Not surprising.
My father witnessed someone being kicked by a horse and killed. Needless to say, he became phobic about riding horses. When I expressed an interest in riding at around age 10, he forbade it. He was rarely this emphatic about anything.
My mother and grandfather didn’t think I should have to live by my father’s fears. So they went behind Dad’s back and took me for riding lessons near our summer-house in CT. I studied English style walk, trot and canter in a ring. Then I decided to follow my close friend into jumping classes. I never got very far. I was not a great rider. I was always a bit afraid of the horses and they always knew it. The result was that I had little control over the horses I rode.
My father never found out about my riding and I eventually stopped. But when I was in college, I had a wonderful riding experience in, of all places, New York City. A friend of my mother’s rode in Central Park and asked me to join her. There is a large reservoir in Central Park that goes from the East side to the West side of town. There is also a long bridal path that goes around the entire perimeter of the reservoir.
Most horseback riding in the Eastern U.S. is ring riding or trail riding, which is basically a walk in the woods but on a horse. The NYC bridal path gave you the opportunity to just ride on a straightaway for miles. As an added treat, once the horses reached the halfway point and realized they were heading home, they would break into a gallop. What a treat! It was awesome.
I pretty much stopped riding after college. I did enjoy it but it wasn’t a real passion for me. I think my father’s fear rubbed off enough on me to dampen my enthusiasm for the sport.
When it came to my turn as a parent, I got to expose my kids to a different animal phobia – snakes. When I was about ten years old, I stepped on a snake and gave myself a scare. I started having nightmares about snakes and a full-blown phobia was born. I would scream and run if I saw even a photo of a snake.
From a very early age, my son, David, was fascinated by snakes and other reptiles. I obviously couldn’t share that interest with him. Then in 1989, when David was nine, I started taking the anti-depressant Prozac. I first realized that the medication was working when I suddenly came across a live snake and realized that I wasn’t afraid anymore. I even petted a boa constrictor my kids and I saw at a local mall. My son was stunned but ecstatic. My phobia was gone. It had been part of my anxiety based depression.
David and I started reading about snakes together and soon David asked to have one as a pet. Once we made sure David understood how to take care of it (because I certainly wasn’t going to), we got our first of several pythons, Turbo. At 37, David now has two snakes, one a python, three Geckos and a Bearded Dragon lizard. He has become quite a reptile expert and sometimes even goes to herpetology meetings with breeders and other aficionados.
My mother and grandmother were terrified of cats but, while I loved cats, I prefer dogs and never became a true cat person. However, my fear of snakes inspired a real passion in my son. So I guess it served a purpose – the creation of a positive and gratifying hobby for David.
I’m not the first person to see this, but have any of you noticed that 2018 seems like 2017 on steroids? January is barely half over, and it seems like over a half-year has gone by. In 2017, we experienced “Trump Time.”
A crazy story that would have normally lasted a week or two, or maybe even a month, lasted for two days, tops. We were reeling from the insane shit the Shithead-in-Chief did on a Monday, only to completely forget about it because he did something even crazier on Tuesday. And that’s how it went all year.
But something happened, or seemed to happen on January 1, 2018. The crazy went into overdrive. I say ‘seemed’ to happen because his turning the crazy up to eleven was inevitable.
Why? Well, it’s because of the word exponential. Most of us know what it means, but I think most of us don’t really understand it.
1. (Of an increase) becoming more and more rapid. “The social security budget was rising at an exponential rate.”
2. MATHEMATICS – Of, or expressed by, a mathematical exponent, for example, “an exponential curve.”
More specifically, we need to understand exponential growth, something that gets bigger and bigger, or grows faster and faster over time.
It’s hard for humans to think like that because we are hard-wired to think linearly. It’s easy for us to understand it takes a guy two hours to paint a room, so he can paint two rooms in four hours. Commonsense, right? That kind of commonsense is part of our DNA. It helped us survive in the old caveman days. Back then, we had to be able to figure out in a hurry how fast we had to run to get to that tree before the really large saber tooth tiger caught up to us and ate us for lunch.
The best example of exponential growth today is in technology. Like, say, computers. There’s a thing called “Moore’s Law.” It says the processing power of computers doubles and the cost is cut in half every 12 to 18 months.
That was true, but, it is a perfect example of linear thinking. In reality, the time that computers double in power and drop in cost is taking less and less time. Science and all knowledge, is growing at an accelerated rate.
It has always been that way. The increase in human knowledge has always been on an exponential curve, but the way the curve works didn’t make it seem that way until recently. On an exponential curve, things grow at a steady rate for a long time. Then suddenly, it hits a tipping point and everything begins to race along much faster.
Think about it. Humans have been on this planet as Homo sapiens for a few million years. Most of that time, we spent surviving. And throwing rocks at each other. Then, about 12,000 years ago, we stopped roaming and settled down. Although we still threw rocks at each other.
We created agriculture and civilization. Why did we do that? Because we discovered beer. I know this sounds like a joke, but it’s true. There’s a great documentary called “How Beer Saved The World.’ It’s fascinating, but that’s another blog for another day.
Basically, we had a choice. We could continue to wander around and throw rocks at each other. Or, we could stay home and make more beer. And throw rocks at each other. It wasn’t a hard decision.Think of all the science — all the knowledge — mankind figured out starting 12,000 years ago up until 1900. By the 1900’s the industrial revolution was well underway. Cities were lit by gas and some places, by electricity. People and industry moved on steam-powered trains. The internal combustion engine was in production.
All this knowledge doubled between 1900 and the 1960’s. From horse-drawn carriages to putting a man on the moon.
The knowledge of mankind doubled again between 1960 and 1980, then doubled again by 1990.
Can we remember when smartphones didn’t exist? When iPads didn’t exist? They’ve been around for a while, right? Actually, the iPhone came out June 29, 2007. That was just ten years ago. The iPad was released on April 3, 2010. Just seven and a half years ago!
When my step son was diagnosed with kidney disease, he was told he would need a transplant. I asked his doctor if an artificial kidney would soon be available. He said, yes, but not for at least 50 years.
A few years later, he received the transplant and Ellin was the donor. After the surgery was over I asked the same doctor the same question. His answer? “Oh yeah, they will probably make a kidney from his own stem cells. Maybe five, ten years from now. ”
That was five years ago. Today, they’re talking about making kidneys with a 3D printer.
Mankind reached the tipping point of that exponential curve. We’re at the point where the curve ends and the line goes straight up. This is when our knowledge quite literally explodes.
This is not something I thought of myself. There is a fascinating book by futurist Robert Kurzweil, called “The Singularity Is Near.” I highly recommend it.
What does any of this have to do with our Toddler-In-Chief? A lot. In particular, with his mental illness. Literally hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists are screaming at the top of their lungs that this nut job is, well, nuts. and getting worse.
They have collectively pointed out that the stress of the job is accelerating his illness. He’s not merely getting crazier at warp speed. He has gone all the way to plaid!
You can see it yourself and you don’t need a Ph.D either.
Every interview he gives is a trip further down the rabbit hole. His last few interviews have gone from, “Bizarre” to “Unhinged” to “Insane” to “Insanely insane.” Read the transcript of his last interview with The Wall Street Journal. It was a literal word salad. Not a single sentence was complete or made any sense.
I just watched a news conference where the doctor that supposedly just examined Trump said he passed a cognitive mental test and he got all 30 questions right!
Really? The questions were things like “name four animals” and “point out what 3:15 looks like on a clock.” Wow, so the President is sane because he recognizes a cow, a pig, a dog,a rhinoceros and a pussy. He also knows when it’s quarter after three.
Do the same test next month.
I think Grandpa is not just losing it. He’s losing it faster and faster each day. It’s time to take away the keys to his car. Remove the big nuclear button from his desk. Get him into the memory care unit at a good nursing home. Hell, you can designate Mar-A-Lago as his official nursing home and lock him in his room. It’s only the middle of January as I write this and I’m hoping we make it to February. Last year, at this time we were hoping to make it to 2020. The month isn’t even over yet and he’s managed to shut down the government. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
I apologize for not finding more humor in all of this. I try, but sometimes it just ain’t there. So, to make up for it. Here are two dogs playing “I Got Your Nose!”.
The world we live in today is crazy. Some might argue it’s always been crazy. I can’t disagree. It has. But we are in a world of crazy that is … wait for it … unprecedented. Hell, we have been using more “un” words than ever these days.
But we’ve been ignoring a more important one lately.
I’ve been writing blogs since this unhinged, unreal, unfit and unbelievable excuse for a human being somehow got elected to the highest office in the land. I keep pointing out that he is, well, all of those “un” words. In other words, he’s un-sane! CRAZY! Suffering from dementia. Nuts. Looney Tunes.
Most people are beginning to realize this. Even so, we all still do a thing that we shouldn’t be doing. We try to rationalize what he does. This is because we are sane. We can’t help but try to explain what he does in some way that makes sense. To us. We — most especially media — try to not only make sense of what he says and does, but try to explain what he will do next by virtue of what he previously did.
Am I the only one who’s noticed that all of us — all of us — are ALWAYS WRONG? No matter what we think is going to happen next, it never does. He does something even stranger, more bizarre, more CRAZY. Or, if you wish to be grammatically accurate, CRAZIER!
There’s a reason for this. Sane people cannot “out-crazy” crazy people. That’s why they’re crazy and we’re not.
Believe me, I’ve tried. Following is an illustrative true story.
When I was a senior in high school I got a job at my local hospital as an orderly.
I was planning on being a doctor when I grew up, so it was a great job. We had a patient named Winslow. At least I’m pretty sure that was his name. Who knows, it was 50 years ago. Anyway, Winslow was in a car accident and suffered serious brain damage. He was in the hospital for almost a year. For the first few months he said nothing. Never talked. Sometimes he would point at the TV he watched all day and would say “Bear”.
I always found this amusing because there was never a bear on the screen. After a while he got a little better — and started talking all the time. By now, he was one of my patients. This meant I had to bathe him, dress him, and fix his bed everyday, so we talked a lot. I loved the guy. I loved our conversations because they were always … crazy.
ME: Winslow! How’re you doing?
WINSLOW: Not good.
ME: Why? What’s wrong?
ME: Wisconsin? What’s wrong with it?
WINSLOW: They’re moving it.
This is the point where I would try to ‘play the game’. I would try to guess what he was going to say. I would try to get inside his head.
ME: They’re moving Wisconsin? Wow, I sort of liked it where it was. In-between Michigan and Minnesota. Where are they moving it? To Canada?
At this point Winslow would look at me as if I was crazy.
WINSLOW: No, they’re moving it next to an airport.
Never would have come up with that one. So, one day, a few months later I came into Winslow’s room to do my thing and he was in a wheelchair. I said:
ME: Winslow! How ya doin’? Where are you going?
He looked at me solemnly and said:
WINSLOW: “Deep Therapy.”
Wow, that was new one to me. But I took up the challenge.
ME: Deep therapy? What’s that?
WINSLOW: They take your insides out.
ME: And then what do they do? Give you a new set?
He looked at me as if I’d completely lost my mind.
WINSLOW: No, they clean them and put them back.
At this point another orderly came in and took Winslow to …
A few months later he was discharged. By then he was pretty normal. I never saw or heard about him ever again. I hope he’s had a wonderful life. Of course, there’s a punchline to this story.
Fast forward one year.
I completed my freshman year of college and was back working at the hospital over summer break. I was no longer an orderly. I had been promoted to Emergency Room Technician. Honestly, I was still an orderly, but I had a much cooler title.
I was working the overnight shift one night and I was returning a gurney to the radiation department. Oddly, it was a place I had never been before. It was about 3 AM and all the lights were off, except for the emergency lighting. So, there I was, walking down a long, dark, empty corridor.
As I parked the gurney I notice a really big wooden door at the very end of the corridor. On it was a large brass sign that said …
I didn’t go toward the door. I didn’t open the door. I slowly backed up, turned around, and walked really fast until I was back in the ER.
So, my point is, we can’t predict what is going to happen next. We can’t predict Trump, or the Republicans. They’re all insane. Anything I can imagine could happen. But whatever does happen will probably be even weirder.
I think Pence is going to go down before Trump. I think Ryan and McConnell will be implicated in Russian conspiracies too. I think the Democrats will take control of Congress in 2018, impeach Trump, and Pence will have to resign.
Nancy Pelosi will become President of the United States.
Is that going to happen? No idea. But I do know this: Whatever will happen, it will be crazier than anything any of us can imagine.
Call me crazy? Sure, go ahead. It is crazy. But don’t tell me it couldn’t happen.
Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.