7/12/15. Published in the Michigan Psychology Newsletter, Spring 2015
I am going to live forever. So far, so good.
--- Steven Wright
Most people don’t know that the songs that defined
the boomer generation have taken on new meanings
for this aging population.
For instance, take Ray
Charles’s 1959 song What’d I Say:
The memorable lyric in this song is:
See that girl with a diamond ring
she knows how to shake that thing
Baby boomers take this song literally due to hearing
loss (“Why is everybody mumbling?”) and memory
And what about Aretha Franklin’s great 1967 tune
The memorable lyrics in this song are:
Find out what it means to me
Take Care, TCB
Aging boomers crave respect because they tend to
think of themselves as special, very different from
previous generations, rejecting traditional values,
seeking higher levels of consciousness through drugs,
sex, and an expectation to change the world for the
But, try telling your grandchildren about your
specialness and see how much RESPECT you get.
Then there was Motown’s Marvin Gaye who sang
What’s Going On in 1971.
Even today, this is a frequently heard greeting
members of the boomer generation: “Hey, what’s
But the memorable lyric from this tune was:
Brother, brother, brother…
There’s far too many of you dying
I hate to tell you this, fellow baby boomers, but when
someone in your weekly card group doesn’t show up,
it’s not because they found another group to play in.
And remember At the Hop by Danny and the Juniors
And remember when you, aging boomer, could
actually hop, roll, and stroll -- and not fall down?
But think of the memorable lyrics from At the Hop:
You can rock it, you can roll it;
Do the stomp and even stroll it.
At the hop
If you were to listen to this song today, you’re more
likely to say to yourself: “Why is this music so loud,
and why can’t I hear anything?”
Of course, everyone’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll group
was the Rolling Stones. In 1965, they sang (I Can’t
Get No) Satisfaction. This song captures the spirit of
aging, although today, for us boomers it should be retitled:
I Can’t Get the Satisfaction I Used To.
But recall the memorable lyrics in the Rolling Stones
And that man comes on to tell me,
How white my shirts can be,
But he can’t be a man cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarettes as me.
You know as well as I do that your greatest
satisfaction today is eating an early dinner and going
to bed at about the same time your children and
grandchildren are leaving their houses to go to a
concert, restaurant, or bar. And if you’re still
smoking cigarettes, it’s likely to be on the porch or in
the garage --some satisfaction!
To comment on this article, contact Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D., at
7/12/15. Published in the Michigan Psychology Newsletter. Spring, 2015
I don’t think I’m either pessimistic or optimistic; I’m
realistic. I don’t disparage your joy, but I think true
joy only arises from acknowledging our despair.
--- Rollo May, Ph.D.
As part of their training, psychologists have worked
to understand the roots of their joys, miseries and
despair. None of us wants to suffer, or experience
pain, but we learn, and relearn to acknowledge, bear,
and put into perspective our inevitable unhappiness.
This learning often brings greater emotional maturity,
resilience and empathy --- post-traumatic growth
some say, making us better prepared to help others.
There is an upsurge of research on positive
psychology to teach people ways to aspire to virtues,
character strengths, and happiness.
Since suffering is inevitable, it makes sense to teach
our patients methods to systematically promote selfpunishment,
guilt, and anxieties ---- on the route to
post-traumatic growth. If you know how to make
yourself miserable, just think what you can do with
Teaching misery is not easy task.
Tolstoy, in the first sentence of Anna Karenina, tells
us why understanding unhappiness is so challenging -
-- “All happy families resemble each other; each
unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Tolstoy,
The message here is that happy people have no
history --- they get up in the morning, go to work,
and come home --- drama, they don’t have.
Psychologists are exposed to the dramatic stories of
their patients in predicaments and interesting events -
-- the more narrative a life is, the worse it is.
Unhappy families all have stories ---- and each story
is different (Morson, 2015).
Since each story is different, we must teach our
patients some general principles of misery that apply
to all unhappy people.
To help psychologists teach
their patients how to make the most of their
individual unhappiness, I turn to a wonderful book:
“How to Make Yourself Miserable. Another vital
training manual” (Greenburg, 1966).
SOME GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF MISERY
Seventeen Basic Pessimistic Philosophies
1. I can’t do it.
2. I never could do anything right.
3. I have the worst luck in the world.
4. I don’t have a chance, so why try?
5. I’m all thumbs.
6. I’d only get hurt.
7. It would never work.
8. It’s not in the stars.
9. It’s never been done before.
10. It’s not who you are, it’s who you know.
11. It’s too late now.
12. It’s later than you think.
13. You can’t take it with you.
14. What good could come of it?
15. The piper must be paid.
16. The wages of sin is death.
17. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
How to Make Yourself Miserable about the
1. Refuse to accept what cannot be changed.
2. Establish unrealistic goals.
What not to accept
1. Don’t ever accept your age, or your weight, or
your height, or your face, or your ethnic
group, or your socioeconomic level.
2. Don’t ever acknowledge the fact that you
3. Don’t ever accept the possibility of failure,
and don’t ever prepare for it with alternative
4. Don’t ever accept the fact that most people
will never realize how great you are.
5. Don’t ever believe that the things other people
have which you’ve always thought would
make you happy aren’t making them happy
What goals to establish
1. Find the perfect mate.
2. Find the perfect job.
3. Write the Great American Novel.
4. Get even with the cable company.
5. Develop a foolproof system to beat the stock
6. Fight City Hall, and win.
7. Get revenge for every injustice you’ve ever
had to put up with in your entire life.
8. Never be unrealistic again.
THE REJECT-ME MOVE:
YOU: “Tell me frankly, what do you think of me? Be
REJECTOR: “I think you’re very nice.”
YOU: “No, tell me exactly what you think. I admire
frankness more than any other quality.”
REJECTOR: “Well…to be perfectly honest I do
think you act a little neurotic at times.”
YOU: “Is that so! And I suppose you think you’re
I could go on and on with sure-fire methods to be
miserable -- but did you expect all the principles in
Tolstoy, L. (2014). Anna Karenina. New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press.
Morson, G. S. (April, 2015).
The moral urgency of Anna
Karenina. Commentary, 139 (4), 1-3.
Greenburg, D. & Jacobs, M. (1966). How to make yourself
miserable. New York: Random House.
The following response is from Dr. Aaron Ceresnie (full disclosure: my nephew)
article seems to be drawing conclusions from a lack of perspective of a person
who identifies as transgender and from the perspective that being a transgender
person is itself a medical/psychiatric problem. I would suggest that "transgendered"
also isn't the correct language, and identifying as a different gender than
given at birth is not in and of itself is not a mental disorder, unless it
causes significant functional impairment and distress. The much larger
incidence of suicidal thoughts/attempts in that population should also take
into account (which this article does not) the proportional amount of
harassment and violence transgender people are subjected to on a regular basis
from as early as they begin identifying that way publicly, or even if trying to
pass discreetly. There are no anti-discrimination protections for
transgender people, and they are often victims of hate crimes. I didn't see any
discussion regarding the influence of constant bullying, a lack of social acceptance,
or recognition of their identity as legitimate. Also, people who are
transgender in one form or another have always existed and have been documented
in indigenous cultures. The 10 year follow-up study that found
an increased risk of suicide was comparing transgender individuals to
a non-transgender population. I'm wondering how that data compared to other
transgender individuals who wanted but could not get the surgery. The author's
statements also reflect an assumption that the transgender population is
homogenous, which isn't the case. A lot of people who are identify as the
opposing sex never want surgical interventions. There's just more nuance and
heterogeneity than suggested in the article.
Moreover, Bradley/Chelsea Manning isn't a good example and it seems
presumptuous to say he wanted to identify as female for a lesser punishment.
Military documents show he started questioning his gender and asking about
reassignment surgery in 2009 and he didn't provide WikiLeaks with any
information until 2010. I don't see a good connection there.
I'm also not aware of any research
showing success of psychiatrists or therapists "restoring natural gender
feelings to a transgender minor", which sounds a lot like conversion
therapy for people who are gay (which has also not been successful and
denounced by the American Psychological Association due to its coercive
Sexual reassignment surgery of
minors is a legitimate concern, and I would argue a consenting adult who has
really thought about it should be entitled to the surgery. This article seems
to be more concerned with how Medicaid allocates money than the legitimacy
of the surgery itself or the socio-cultural environment in which transgender
individuals exist. The article is making the case that surgical
intervention is never a good idea, and I'm not sure there's evidence to support
that claim either. More research is always a good idea. One could make a
similar argument about elective plastic surgery.
3/27/15. Watch the documentary on HBO this Sunday about Scientology, based on the book by Lawrence Wright.
Scientologists, where their founder L. Ron Hubbard lectures us about the between-lives period, when thetans are transported to Venus to have their memories erased, have waged a 40 year war against psychology and psychiatry, and against psychiatric medications in particular.
Scientologists have created the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Los Angeles based nonprofit organization formed by the church in 1969 to investigate what the church considers mental health abuses, that is, the use of psychiatric medications such as Ritalin and Prozac.
Scientologists have used their considerable fortune to sue drug companies and such prestigious organizations as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, among others. When Scientologists announce their legal challenges to protect children from psychiatric treatments, the media shines a bright light on these efforts. When judges throw out these suits because of no merit, not a word of their dismissals reach the public.
Many vulnerable people are seduced by the simplistic promises of Scientology and remained locked in the cult inside the prison of belief.
"When Alfred E. Neuman said "What me worry?" on the cover of Mad magazine, it was funny. But this message was not nearly as funny coming from President Barack Obama and his National Security Advisor, Susan Rice.
In a musical comedy, it would be hilarious to have the president send out his "happy talk" message by someone whose credibility was already thoroughly discredited by her serial lies on television about the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012."
"...I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure..."
"More than anything, 50 Shades represents the mainstreaming and feminization of S&M pornography. Once confined to the shadows of the art-movie house, sadomasochism is having its moment in the bright light of the mall. Both critics and fans of 50 Shades miss the essential point about pornography: that it speaks to primitive, pre-rational, taboo desires. Its lure is precisely the refusal to bow to social limits. It doesn’t matter who sets those limits: fathers, priests, or gender studies professors can all have the sort of authority that the unconscious is determined to flout. Nor will gender progress stop the rebellious id. Even a Hillary Clinton presidency won’t rid the nation of libidinous fantasies about dangerous Alpha Males wielding duct tape."
2/7/15. This is a 50 minute video-taped interview of Professor Sowell --- listen and learn about all the stuff you know that ain't so. No economist is more concise, clear and knowledgeable than Professor Sowell.
I met Professor Sowell in the early 1970's. My uncle George Horwich who was a Professor of Economics at Purdue University invited Professor Sowell to give a lecture at the university in West Lafayette, Indiana. I rode in the backseat when my uncle drove Professor Sowell to the airport in Bloomington, Indiana.
I remember Professor Sowell introducing his lecture noting that a Black conservative was less common than a transgender, vegetarian birdwatcher.
Someone asked me what my brand was --- I didn't know what she meant. She said, "Every company has a brand. You are not keeping up with the times." MY BRAND: Ignorance and Curiosity
I work to know what I know that ain't so. I worked to know what I need to know about that I don't know exists.
Our views are securely maintained by a confirmation bias and partial schedules of reinforcement.
We scan the world and find evidence to fit our views --- confirmation bias.
Our ideas are difficult to extinguish --- they are reinforced by a random, intermittent schedule of reinforcement --- just like the Casino slot machines.
Our brains are designed to secrete ideas that justify our actions.
11/17/14. Psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman traces the roots of learned helplessness, to resilience to optimism. All of us face failures and disappointments --- to learn how to triumph over trauma is essential.
Dr. Richard A. Friedman offers interesting ideas about ADHD, but none of these ideas are new or hold-up to close examination.
Dr. Friedman tells us that "people with ADHD are actually hard-wired for novelty - seeking --- a trait that had, until relatively recently, a distinct evolutionary advantage." This makes sense as far as it goes.
And it doesn't go that far. That people with extremes on personality traits are hard-wired is not a new finding. In fact, all personality traits are hard-wired - that is, have about a 50% contribution from genetics.
That we should put children, adolescents, and adults in environments that recognize their need for novelty-seeking makes sense --- a utopian sense, given the normal demands on adults in a civilized society. Those people diagnosed with ADHD who benefit from seeking out more stimulating settings should be helped to so --- but seeking these settings has limits. Those who recognize these limits make the best adjustments.
No doubt some adults have more freedom to seek out these more stimulating settings than do children and adolescents. And, yes, longitudinal studies have long found that some people outgrow ADHD.
Yet the search for novelty is one way to construe the symptoms of ADHD. Many people who fit this diagnosis have chronic and pervasive problems with distractibility, restlessness, and self-control which significantly disrupts their everyday life --- sometimes leading to depression, harshly negative self-esteem and self-doubts, anxieties, multiples marriages, loss of jobs, substance abuse, and suicide. These people benefit from medication and the healing of psychological therapy. To call this a search for novelty is a stretch of a sometimes useful concept.
Dr. Friedman's article reminds me of the last sentence of Somerset Maugham's book, "The Summing Up," that he wrote at age 69 years, telling us about his wide-range of life experiences and the many philosophies he has studied.
Maugham writes, "The beauty of life is nothing but this, that each should act in conformity with his nature and his business." True for those with ADHD ---- and everybody else.
For those lucky enough to match their nature and business --- they many not need medication for ADHD. But for the rest --- they need all the help they can get.