Monday, November 24, 2014

Yanking His Doodle

11/24/14.  My three year old grandson is proud to be toilet trained.


For a while he has refused to wear underpants. Perhaps that is the three year old equivalent of riding your bike no-handed or walking a tightrope without a net.


In the last few days he has agreed to wear boxer shorts underpants, and is excited that there is a hole in his underwear for his penis. He is now practicing yanking his doodle.



How Economist Gary Becker Changed Our Lives

11/24/14. Free-markets and free minds.


http://www.city-journal.org/2014/24_4_gary-becker.html

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Please Stop Helping Us

11/20/14. Economist Thomas Sowell reminds us that facts are stubborn things. You are entitled to your opinions but not your facts.


http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/11/18/a_legacy_of_liberalism_124691.html

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Gay Gene?

Jonathan Gruber

11/17/14. Now we know what this high paid consultant to ObamaCare, M.I.T. economist thinks about the American people. Can the insulation get any thicker around academics?




http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/marc-thiessen-thanks-to-jonathan-gruber-for-revealing-obamacare-deception/2014/11/17/356514b2-6e72-11e4-893f-86bd390a3340_story.html

How to Fix New York's Mental Health System

11/17/14. When psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey writes, politicians should read, talk to each other, and do things to improve our mental health system.




http://www.city-journal.org/2014/24_4_new-york-mental-health-system.html

Building Resilience

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.


https://hbr.org/2011/04/building-resilience

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D.

11/4/14.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/opinion/sunday/a-natural-fix-for-adhd.html?ref=opinion&_r=0




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.


Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.






Psychologist
Plymouth, MI

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What If Age Is Nothing But A Mind Set?

10/22/14. "You're only as old as you look --- and you are really old when you don't look."


                                           --- Groucho Marx


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/magazine/what-if-age-is-nothing-but-a-mind-set.html?emc=edit_tnt_20141022&nlid=21288644&tntemail0=y&_r=1

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bret Stephens: The Meltdown

8/29/14.  Much to ponder.


http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/the-meltdown/

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Manic-Depression and Robin Williams

8/13/14. Nassir Ghaemi, psychiatrist and expert on mood disorders, talks about Robin Williams and manic-depressive illness.

Of note, antidepressants often make this disorder worse.

Many people with this diagnosis are not taking gold standard medication for effective treatment:  lithium --- a medication proven to reduce suicides.


http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mood-swings/201408/not-depression-manic-depression-and-robin-williams

Joseph Epstein: A Master Essayist Releases a New Collection

8/13/14. My favorite essay writer ---- read, enjoy, and learn.


http://www.vqronline.org/criticism/2014/08/master-essayist-releases-new-collection

Getting Men to Couples Therapy

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Help the Mentally Ill?

7/22/14. No easy answers. Many wrong answers applied too often.


In the 1960's, we celebrated deinstitutionalization ("the myth of mental illness"), created the homeless population, protected patients' rights to be severely mentally ill,  made sure nobody forced them to take their medications, and watched while the mentally ill wrecked their lives and left their families heartbroken.



http://www.city-journal.org/2014/eon0721jp.html

Book Review of "A Literary Education and Others Essays" by Joseph Epstein

7/22/14.  What did the mother whale say to the baby whale?  "Be careful when you swim to the top. That's when the people start shooting at you."


Joseph Epstein is at the top of his game as a writer. This review confirms it.




http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/essayist-old-school#

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review: "How About Never. Is Never Good for You?" by Bob Mankoff


JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF WRONG

Notes of a Psychology Watcher

Book Review:

Mankoff, Bob.  How About Never. Is Never Good for You? My Life in Cartoons. New York:  Henry Holt and Company, L.L.C. 2014.

Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.
Michigan Psychological Association Newsletter, Spring, 2014.


Haec enim ridentur vel sola vel

maxime quae notant et designant

turpitudinem aliquam non turpiter.

An indecency decently put is the

Thing we laugh at hardest.

          --- Cicero

          Imagine two guys looking up at a big sign that says STOP AND THINK. One fellow says to the other:  “Sorta makes you STOP AND THINK.”  The reaction of these two fellows is exactly what the cartoons in The New Yorker Magazine make you do cartoons that are better described as life drawings requiring you to think about life’s predicaments and ambiguities, facing the dangers and excitements of being alive.

.         Bob Mankoff, cartoon editor for The New Yorker (TNY), has written a memoir about his life in cartoons. The topics of TNY cartoons draw on humor from sex, love, death, parenting, marriage, family, cruelty, fear, jealousy, envy, hate, identity, character, conscience, desire, mourning and more --- the same topics that psychologists are up to their ears in.

          Mankoff left psychology graduate school to seek his fortune in drawing cartoons. He started selling cartoons in 1977, and started working for TNY in 1980. He says he knows all about rejection, being booted out of psychology graduate school, and submitting thousands of cartoons to TNY before getting his first cartoon published.

He became the cartoon editor in 1997, about 20 years after selling his first cartoon. As editor of the magazine, he evaluates more than 500 cartoons every week, selecting about 10 - 15 for each magazine issue

          Mankoff is most famous for creating the cartoon bank, and for the following best-selling cartoon:

An executive is at his desk, on the phone, and looking at his calendar says, “No, Thursday’s out. How about never?” Is never good for you?”

His title of his memoir is taken from what might be the most popular cartoon in the history of TNY. Mankoff remembers how he got the idea for this cartoon. He was trying to get on the phone with a friend who he wanted to see. That friend kept saying, “Can we meet this time? Could we do it that time?” And finally Mankoff says to his so-called friend, “How about never? Is never good for you?”

          Mankoff traces this snotty retort back to his Queens and Bronx New York Jewish background. The Chapter 1 title is:  “I’m Not Arguing, I’m Jewish.” During childhood, whenever he complained to  his mother he was bored, she told him to bang his head against the wall, Mankoff quips. She taught him boredom was a luxury.

          He describes his never-boring cartoon editor job as evaluating humor, a much different process from enjoying humor. He gives an example of a cartoon with 10 possible captions --- and this is the format of the cartoon caption contest that runs every week in TNY. The readers submit captions to a cartoon on the page, and the winners of the caption contest are printed. His editing job consists of picking cartoons with the best captions.

          To evaluate cartoons, Mankoff reports that he is faced with the paradox of choice, which automatically brings the interference of the judgment process, short-circuiting the laugh response. So instead of laughing at the cartoon, he has to judge it.

          In analyzing humor, Mankoff comments about what comics call “the magic of three.” He says you need a sequence for surprise to make a narrative funny.

Here is an example of a cartoon with the element of triplets in humor --- a one, two, and then boom.

A woman is saying, “I started my vegetarianism for moral reasons, then for health concerns, and now it’s just to annoy people.”

The cartoons in TNY, show the very widespread humor taking place in New York, the circus of the world. Humor makes fun of what’s in the public mind.

          Here are two examples of cartoons about same-sex marriage:

A couple is looking at TV, and the guy is saying, “Gays and lesbians are getting married. Haven’t they suffered enough?”

A couple is in bed, and the guy is saying to the woman, “What’s your opinion of some-sex marriage?”

          Mankoff appreciates humor that is benign, not speaking truth to power, but humor directed back at the people who are reading the magazine.

          He describes a theory of humor he calls, “Just the Right Amount of Wrong.” He says this view emphasizes that humor is different in different contexts. He says that the mother’s milk of humor is anything that’s embarrassing, guilt- or anxiety-filled. Mankoff has learned that humor comes in almost endless varieties:  humor based on reality, observational humor, silliness, and playful incongruity or absurdity.

          An example of an absurd cartoon is:

It’s a cowboy at a desk. The person sitting in front of him is a cow, and he’s reading his resume. And the cowboy is saying, “Very impressive. I’d like to find 5,000 more like you.”

          One cartoon, apparently not for everybody’s taste, shows a rodent in a cage, and then another picture of a rodent who hung himself. The caption is: “Discouraging data on the antidepressant.” Mankoff tells about readers who send in letters saying they don’t like cartoons where animals suffer. Mankoff’s response:  “We use anesthetic ink.” A wise-guy he is.

          Some people are hypersensitive to humor, and some people have little or no humor. I make it a rule never to use humor with people I don’t like ---- it is hard to keep my unconscious slips from showing.

          Mankoff notes there have been many cartoons in TNY about the Grim Reaper because humor is an important way we cope with death, anxiety, suffering and illness.

          An example of Grim Reaper humor:

The Grim Reaper is taking away her husband, and the wife is at the apartment door, and she is saying, “Relax, Harry. Change is good.”

          Cartoons about marriage are another staple of TNY cartoons. Mankoff mentions he is happily married to his third wife. He says humor is indispensable in our attempts to understand our partners and for our partners to understand us.

          He cites a cartoon on marriage:

A man is talking to a woman in the living room and he says, “Believe me, Janet, I consider you an important part of our marriage.

           Mankoff focuses on the links between creativity and humor. He mentions Arthur Koestler’s book, “The Act of Creation,” (1) in which he connects humor, science and art.

Life without a sense of humor is life without any sense of proportion or perspective.

Where laughter stops, so does common sense.

 

As William James noted, “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”

 

Reference

 

Koestler, Arthur. “The Act of Creation.”  New York:  Macmillan, 1964.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A New Entry in the Annals of Academic Cravenness

5/28/14.  Joseph Epstein:


..."Trigger warnings logically follow from the recent history of American academic life. This is a history in which demographic diversity has triumphed over intellectual standards and the display of virtue over the search for truth."...




http://m.us.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052702304479704579580393435059548-lMyQjAxMTA0MDIwODEyNDgyWj?mobile=y

A Clash of Religions

5/28/14. A silent debate.




One Pope, in the Dark Ages, decreed that all Jews had to leave Rome. The Jews did not want to leave, and so the Pope challenged them to a disputation to prove that they could remain. No one, however, wanted the responsibility... until the synagogue janitor, Moishe, volunteered.
As there was nobody else who wanted to go, Moishe was given the task. But because he knew only Hebrew, a silent debate was agreed. The day of the debate came, and they went to St. Peter's Square to sort out the decision. First the Pope waved his hand around his head. Moishe pointed firmly at the ground.



The Pope, in some surprise, held up three fingers. In response, Moishe gave him the middle finger.
The crowd started to complain, but the Pope thoughtfully waved them to be quiet. He took out a bottle of wine and a wafer, holding them up. Moishe took out an apple, and held it up.
The Pope, to the people’s surprise, said, "I concede. This man is too good. The Jews can stay."



Later, the Pope was asked what the debate had meant. He explained, "First, I showed him the Heavens, to show that God is everywhere. He pointed at the ground to signify that God is right here with us. I showed him three fingers, for the Trinity. He reminded me that there is One God common to both our religions. I showed him wine and a wafer, for God's forgiveness. With an apple, he showed me original sin. The man was a master of silent debate."



In the Jewish corner, Moishe had the same question put to him, and answered, "It was all nonsense, really. First, he told me that this whole town would be free of Jews. I told him, Go to Hell! We’re staying right here! Then, he told me we had three days to get out. I told him just what I thought of that proposal." An older woman asked, "But what about the part at the end?" "That?" said Moishe with a shrug, "Well, I saw him take out his lunch, so I took out mine."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Book Review: "A Troublesome Inheritance" by Nicholas Wade

5/4/14. Charles Murray reviews this book documenting a scientific revolution - upending one of our reigning orthodoxies.

Murray:

"As the story (of genetics, race, ethnic groups) is untangled, it will also become obvious how inappropriate it is to talk in terms of the "inferiority" or "superiority" of groups.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303380004579521482247869874?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303380004579521482247869874.html




An opposing view:


http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/busting-myths-about-human-nature/201405/things-know-when-talking-about-race-and-genetics

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lack of Social Mobility in America. Think Again.

Differences Between Men and Women

3/30/14. From Dr. Mardy.
 
"The difference between men and women is that, if a woman has to choose
between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to
save the infant's life without even considering if there are men on base."

          Dave Barry

"A good cigar is as great a comfort to a man as a good cry to a woman."

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

"In the sex-war thoughtlessness is the weapon of the male,
vindictiveness of the female."

          Cyril Connolly

"Men and women belong to different species,
and communication between them is a science still in its infancy."

          Bill Cosby

"Here's how men think.
Sex, work -- and those are reversible, depending on age --
sex, work, food, sports, and lastly, begrudgingly, relationships.
And here's how women think.
Relationships, relationships, relationships,
work, sex, shopping, weight, food."

          Carrie Fisher

"Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed....
Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished."

          John Gray

"The first symptom of true love is a young man is timidity,
in a young woman, boldness."

          Victor Hugo

"Women speak because they wish to speak, whereas
a man speaks only when driven to speech by something outside himself --
like, for instance, he can't find any clean socks."

          Jean Kerr

"A man falls in love through his eyes, a woman through her imagination,
and then they both speak of it as an affair of 'the heart'."

          Helen Rowland

"Women might be able to fake orgasms.
But men can fake whole relationships."

          Sharon Stone

"How men hate waiting while their wives shop for clothes and trinkets;
how women hate waiting, often for much of their lives,
while their husbands shop for fame and glory."

          Thomas Szasz

"A man's face is his autobiography.
A woman's face is her work of fiction."

          Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Misunderstandings about ADHD: Eyes Wide Shut


3/18/14.

Michigan Psychological Association Newsletter

Winter 2014

 

Notes of a Psychology Watcher

 

Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.


 

Misunderstandings about ADHD:  Eyes Wide Shut

 

Book Review:  Hinshaw, Stephen P., and Scheffler, Richard M. The ADHD Explosion. Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2014.

 

Myths about ADHD persist. Too many people continue to believe it’s a cop out, an unvalidated condition related to society’s penchant for overmedicalizing defiance or a convenient label intended to cover over social problems. These myths destroy any hope of providing systematic educational, behavioral, and medical care for the youth, families, and adults who desperately need help. Medications are still viewed suspiciously for behavioral and psychiatric conditions, a position unfortunately fostered by the ease of getting an ADHD diagnosis and securing pills for performance enhancement in too many quarters of society – and by overreliance on medication as the only treatment worth pursuing. To deal with ADHD better than we do now, we must alter our attitudes as well as our educational and healthcare practices (Hinshaw & Scheffler, page 168).

 

            This book, written by Stephen P. Hinshaw, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Richard M. Scheffler, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Health Economics and Public Policy in the School of Public Health and the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, could not have come at better time.

 

            For the past two years, the media --- the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal --- have been awash with articles attacking the validity of ADHD, and slamming the medication treatment for this serious psychiatric disorder. The following are some headlines of these stories:

 

“Ritalin Gone Wrong.” Sroufe, L. Alan. The New York Times, January 28, 2012.

 

“Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill.”  Schwarz, Alan. The New York Times, June 9, 2012.

 

 “Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions.” Schwarz, Alan. The New York Times, February 2, 2013.

 

“A Nation of Kids on Speed.” Cohen, Pieter. Rasmussen, Nicholas. The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2013.

 

            Now these exposes about ADHD are nothing new. Some of these reports are critically examined in “The ADHD Explosion,” with some surprising results.    

 

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 Ritalin – and against psychology and psychiatry, along with sympathetic mental health clinicians through the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Los-Angeles based nonprofit organization formed by the church in 1969 to investigate mental health abuses. Scientologists have used their considerable fortune to sue drug companies and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, among others. When Scientologists announce their legal challenges to protect children, the media shines a bright light on these efforts. When all the lawsuits are dropped because of no merit, not a word their dismissals reach the public. (1)

 

            Hinshaw and Scheffler’s book has four fundamental messages:

  1. Although often ridiculed, ADHD represents a genuine medical condition that robs people of major life chances. Its economic consequences are huge, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars annually in terms of special education services, juvenile justice and substance abuse costs, plus low work productivity and employment lapses in adults.
     
  2. Only diligent and thorough assessment can distinguish ADHD from other mental health conditions, chaotic home environments, or the aftereffects of maltreatment. Yet, ADHD is too often diagnosed in extremely cursory fashion. This lack of careful evaluation, fueling both overdiagnosis and underdiagnosis contributes to a national crisis.
     
  3. ADHD medications are effective in reducing the condition’s core symptoms, at least in the short run, but the most genuine gains are achieved by combining medication with skill-building approaches.
    4. Rates of ADHD and medication treatment vary dramatically across states (and, for treatment,         across the world), related to family and cultural values, health care systems, medical         portrayals  and advertisements, and, in particular, variations in school policies linked to demands for achievement and performance.

 

The authors list ten major goals for improving the science and practice related to ADHD in the future. Each of these goals roughly corresponds to a chapter in the book:

  1. Ensure that ADHD is recognized as both biological and cultural and contextual in nature.
  2. Demand that ADHD be diagnosed carefully by professionals who know their business.
  3. Ensure that ADHD be treated by clinicians (and paraprofessionals) who are versed in evidence-based interventions.
  4. Set realistic national quotas for stimulants, balancing the need for prescriptions for legitimate cases of ADHD with the reality of ever-greater diversion of the medications for neuro-enhancement or pleasure.
  5. Alter educational practices to promote more individualized approaches.
  6. Facilitate partnered systems of cure, and coordinated payment mechanisms, across insurers, schools, and employers.
  7. Convey a different set of media images about ADHD, emphasizing the reality of daily struggles and triumphs.
  8. Encourage information exchange across scientists and clinicians internationally.
  9. Continue to recognize that ADHD exists well beyond white, middle-class boys, revealing itself across gender, race and ethnicity, and the age span.

(10)Recognize that fostering human potential, reducing stigma and enhancing economic   productivity go hand in hand.

            This book provides a corrective emotional and cognitive experience through an even-handed discussion about the controversies surrounding ADHD. The authors make clear what is known about ADHD, and distill the complexities about the personal and social costs of people who suffer with the chronic and pervasive problems of ADHD.

 

  1. Wright, Lawrence. Going Clear. Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.