Wednesday, April 15, 2015

50 Shades of Gray Matter

4/15/15. We have no idea how the million-billion connections between neurons in our brain creates self-consciousness.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Why Teenagers Should Work Part-Time

3/27/15. Published in the Michigan Psychological Association Newsletter, First Quarter, 2015.

I worked in supermarkets for five years during my adolescence and early twenties - the work taught me invaluable lessons:

1.   The world is an outpatient psychiatric ward.

2.   Rich people shoplift.

3.   People routinely say crazy things.

4.   Many people are generous and kind.

5.   Employees steal.

6.   The world is not fair.

7.   Part-time work is the strongest motivator to attend college.

8.   Being kind is more important than being clever.

9.   Earning your own money is a gift that keeps on giving.

10. It's not all about you.

Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D.

HBO Documentary: Going Clear. The Prison of Belief

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.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Glib 'Happy Talk'


Thomas Sowell:

"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."

Oliver Sacks: On Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

2/19/15. Terminal cancer concentrates the mind.

Oliver Sacks:

"...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..."

Thinking About Politics

2/19/15. What must we think about when we think about politics?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How Smart is 50 Shades of Grey?

2/17/15.  Is it, "Tie Me Up" or Tie Me Down?"

Kay S. Hymowitz:

"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."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Cosmic Quest for Dark Matter


"Scientists estimate that visible matter makes up just 4% of the universe, while dark matter makes up 23% . The remaining 73% is an even bigger puzzle, a repulsive force known as 'dark energy.'"

No wonder I often feel I'm in the dark.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thomas Sowell: Uncommon Knowledge

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.

Our Amazingly Plastic Brain

2/7/15. You can teach on old dog new tricks.

The dog has to be active, with a mind that is challenged.

Friday, February 6, 2015



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.

I Can't Get No Satisfaction - Baby Boomer Classic Rock and Roll Tunes

2/6/15. Soon these tunes will be booming from the speakers of thousands of assisted living centers and nursing homes across the USA.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Some Smart, Sophisticated Parents Don't Vaccinate Their Children

2/2/15. Some intellectuals are like a high powered rifle with a bad aim.

The anti-vaccine crowd is dumb, dumber, and dangerous.

Every Teenager Should Work Part-Time in a Grubby Job


I worked in supermarkets for five years during my adolescence and early twenties --- the work taught me invaluable lessons:

1.   The world is an outpatient psychiatric ward.

2.   Rich people shoplift.

3.   People routinely say crazy things.

4.   Many people are generous and kind.

5.   Employees steal.

6.   The world is not fair.

7.   Part-time work is the strongest motivator to attend college.

8.   Being kind is more important than being clever.

9.   Earning your own money is a gift that keeps on giving.

10. It's not all about you.

Peter Pan Economics

Six Brutally Honest Reasons You Are Still Fat

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015

As a Driven Leaf

1/3/15. Joseph Epstein reviews a masterpiece on the balance of faith and reason.

"If God lived on Earth, people would break his windows."

--- Jewish Proverb

"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."

--- Voltaire

"God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through."

--- Paul Valery

"If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank."

--- Woody Allen

There's Nobody Behind the Wheel

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ten Blogs You Won't Find On The Internet


There are millions of bloggers on the Internet, but here are 10 blogs you won’t find. I know, because I looked:

Why I don’t like clich├ęs, and why I avoid them like the plaque.
Why you should not believe in atheists.
The Upside of Marrying Someone with a Personality Disorder.
5 Reasons You Should Say, “May All Your Christmas’ Be Diverse.”

Why You Should Have a Porpoise.
How to Reduce Sexism, Racism, Dwarfism, Ageism, Childism, Tallism, Obesism, Shortism, Skinnyism, and Ism-ism.
7 Strategies to Avoid Life’s Challenges.
Why You Should Always Ask Your Doctor, “How Long Do I Have to Avoid Your Advice?”
Hurting Others to Help Yourself.

How to Avoid People Who Say, “Hello, How Am I.”


Can Aids Be Cured?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Prescription to End Drinking?

12/17/14. Persuading the person to stop drinking is the first stage of treatment.

For some, treating alcoholics is like playing piano in a hurricane.

No matter what medications you use to help people stop drinking to excess, their mind has to be convinced about the need to change their ways.

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.

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?

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.

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.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

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


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.

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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bret Stephens: The Meltdown

8/29/14.  Much to ponder.

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.

Joseph Epstein: A Master Essayist Releases a New Collection

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

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.

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.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

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


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: