Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What's Going On? Baby boomers and their music.

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 deficits.

And what about Aretha Franklin’s great 1967 tune Respect? The memorable lyrics in this song are: R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to me R-E-S-P-E-C-T 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 better. 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 goin’ on?” 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 in 1957? 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 hit: 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 Dr.ceresnie@sjcpsych


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 this knowledge.

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, 2014).

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 Future
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 make mistakes.
3. Don’t ever accept the possibility of failure, and don’t ever prepare for it with alternative plans.
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 either.

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 market.
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.


YOU: “Tell me frankly, what do you think of me? Be perfectly frank.”
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 perfect.”

I could go on and on with sure-fire methods to be miserable -- but did you expect all the principles in one article?

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.

To comment on this article, contact Steven J. Ceresnie, Ph.D., at

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Into the Darkness

6/9/15. Theodore Dalyrymple, prison psychiatrist.  A horrible crime where the victim isn't blameless.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Transgender Surgery Isn't the Solution

6/3/15. Psychiatrist Paul McHugh says a drastic physical change doesn't address underlying psycho-social problems.

The following response is from Dr. Aaron Ceresnie (full disclosure:  my nephew)

This 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 nature).

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. 

Here's some additional information about transgender people and gender identity from the APA


Aaron Ceresnie, Psy.D.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Why Doctors Quit?


So you can keep your doctor with ObamaCare - a lie.

Because of the tangle of bureaucratic rules and regulations, good doctors are quitting or retiring early.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Unassailable Virtue of Victims

5/22/15. Underdogs are making it to the top.

"If Hillary Clinton could teach the poor how to give speeches, the poor could make a good living."

--- Steve Ceresnie

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Do Psychiatric Drugs Do More Harm Then Good?

5/14/15. This expert says yes. This expert should ask the people who benefit from these medicines.

As a psychologist with 35+ years of experience, I say psychiatric drugs do more good than harm.

It is difficult to get people to take antibiotics for 8 days when they have an infection. Getting people to take psychiatric drugs with no benefits --- impossible.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Regulation Run Amok and How to Fight Back

5/9/15. Many regulations kill innovations and freedom. The federal government bureaucrats who couldn't run a business if they tried, tell you how to run yours.


5/9/15. Dr. Atul Gawande on medicine, diagnostic testing, and diagnosis. Too much waste?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Joseph Epstein: From Parent to Parenting

5/5/15. What's the matter with parents today?

The Case for Compensating Kidney Donors

5/5/15. Sally Satel, M.D. makes the case.

Too many people are dying, whose lives could be saved.

Addiction is a Matter of Persistance - Not Fate

5/5/15. Addiction as a chronic brain disease is an appealing explanation --- except it is not true.

What Can We Do About the American Inequality Crisis?

5/5/15. The author of Bowling Alone fills his next book with how to help children in America.

Some say we have already tried his recommendations.

Thomas Sowell: Race, Politics, and Lies

5/5/15. Family life for African Americans was much better before the 1960's Great Society trapped too many families in the culture of welfare dependency.

Before 1960, single parents families and crime filled communities were much more rare than now.

Theodore Dalrymple: The Horrors of Self-Esteem

5/5/15. You can have too much self-esteem, but not too much self-respect.

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Your Brain on Metaphors

9/6/14.  Elvis understood metaphors:

She touched my hand, what a chill I got.
Her lips are like a volcano that's hot.
I'm proud to say that she's my buttercup.
I'm in love; I'm all shook up.