Sunday, December 28, 2008

The "Big Five" Personality Traits

12/28/08. In the 1970s research teams lead by Paul Costa and Robert R. McCrae of NIH, and Warren Norman and Lewis Goldberg, at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of Oregon, respectively, discovered that most human personality traits can be described using the following five dimensions:
  • Extroversion
  • Openness
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism
Where are you on the Big Five scale? Take this free personality test and find out.

Radio Web Site: All the Music Fit to Hear

12/28/08. Terrific radio site.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Risky Business

12/22/08. Women make passes at men who...skydive, or climb mountains, or ride motorcyles, or...

Deceit R' Us

12/22/08. Telling lies is more human --- and nonhuman, than otherwise.

Monday Quotations


Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived lives of the parents.

--- Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he is buying.

-- Fran Lebowitz (1950 - )

Where the Wild Things Are.

--- Maurice Sendak (1928 - )

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When Altruism Isn't Enough

12/17/08. There are many people waiting for organ transplants --- and many of those people will die waiting because of the shortage of organs.

The psychiatrist Sally Satel, M.D. --- a recipient herself of a kidney transplant ---brings together experts to discuss the idea of compensating people for donating their organs to address this tragic shortage.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Quotations


The ego's relation to the id might be compared with that of a rider to his horse. The horse supplies the locomotive energy, while the rider has the privilege of deciding on the goal and of guiding the powerful animal's movement. But only too often there arises between the ego and the id the not precisely ideal situation of the rider being obliged to guide the horse along the path by which it itself wants to go.

--- Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939)

The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind.

--- Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939)

To doubt everything or to believe everything
are two equally convenient solutions; both
dispense with the necessity of reflection.

--- Henri Poincare (1854 - 1912)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Not with a Bang But a Whimper

12/13/08. This is a review of Theodore Dalrymple's collection of essays on the The Politics and Culture of Decline. The essays are filled with unconventional wisdom, honest observations about human folly, and striking stories written by a former prison psychiatrist.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Quotations


Happiness depends upon ourselves.

--- Aristotle (384 B.C. - 322 B.C.)

Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight. Equilibrium is pragmatic. You have to get everything in proportion. You compensate, rebalance yourself so that you maintain your angle to your world. When the world shifts, you shift.

--- Tom Stoppard (1937 - )

A child of five would understand this. Send somebody to fetch a child of five.

--- Groucho Marx (1895 - 1977)

On the Journey to Oblivion

12/8/08. Joseph Epstein reviews "Nothing To Be Frightened Of," by Julian Barnes.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hysteria in Four Acts

12/7/08. Psychiatrist Paul McHugh brings to life the history, understanding and psychiatric misadventures associated with the concept of hysteria.

Robert Zajonc dies

12/7/08. Robert Zajonc was a psychologist who made many important contributions to psychology --- linking workings of the mind to social behavior.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Quotations


A man brings some very fine material to a tailor and asks him to make a pair of pants. When he comes back a week later, the pants are not ready. Two weeks later, they still are not ready. Finally, after six weeks, the pants are ready. The man tries them on. They fit perfectly. Nonetheless, when it comes time to pay, he can't resist a jibe at the tailor.
"You know," he says, "it took God only six days to make the world. And it took you six weeks to make just one pair of pants."
"Ah," the tailor says. "But look at this pair of pants, and look at the world!"

---- cited in "Jewish Humour," by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

My wife was an immature woman...I would be home in the bathroom, taking a bath, and my wife would walk in whenever she felt like it and sink my boats.

--- Woody Allen (1935 - )

To the man-in-the-street, who, I'm sorry to say,
Is a keen observer of life,
The word 'Intellectual" suggests straight away
A man who's untrue to his wife.

--- W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973)

Friday, November 28, 2008

All You Need is Help

11/27/08. Author Malcolm Gladwell says, in his new book "Outliers: The Story of Success," geniuses are both born and made. Gladwell writes, "People don't rise from nothing ... hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies...allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gray Skies are Going to Clear Up

11/27/08. Put on a happy face ---- report about the first conference on happiness.

Gratitude is a key component of happiness.

What are you grateful for?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Child Trap

11/25/08. Author Joan Acocella illuminates the rise of overparenting.

Well, A New Face For ADHD

11/25/08. Now is the best time in human history to get effective help for psychiatric disorders, such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

With the proper treatment, children growing up with ADHD can reach high levels of success and joy in their families, at work, and with friends and colleagues. They can even win gold metals.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Quotations


There are four chief obstacles to grasping truth, which hinder every man, however learned, and scarcely allow anyone to win a clear title to knowledge; namely, submission to faulty and unworthy authority, influence of custom, popular prejudice, and concealment of our ignorance accompanied by the ostentatious display of our knowledge.

--- Roger Bacon (1214 - 1294)

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

--- William Blake (1757 - 1827)

Those who have become eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia.

--- Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC)

Curing Diversity

11/24/08. We are learning about individual differences in diseases and how we must tailor our treatments to these differences.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Destructive Delusions

11/20/08. Theodore Dalrymple reviews Paul McHugh's book: "Try to Remember. Psychiatry's Clash Over Meaning, Memory, and Mind."

This is the story of how some psychiatrists and psychologists lost their way --- treating "victims" who were seized by the return of repressed memories of sexual abuse in childhood, and leveled false charges against family members, wrecking their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

I have met with fathers in psychotherapy who were psychologically devastated after being falsely accused of child sexual abuse by their daughters.

Of course, child sexual abuse occurs. The sexually abused females who I have worked with in psychotherapy never forgot the soul murdering effects of their nightmares of sexual abuse.

McHugh carefully follows these psychiatric misdirections. He describes the limits and follies of our psychiatric diagnostic system, defines and discusses hysteria, and traces the seminal work of psychiatrist Jerome Frank on the components of effective psychotherapy. Frank wrote a classic book on psychotherapy called "Persuasion and Healing."

McHugh is a clear, concise thinker with years of clinical experience and teaching, and with a razor sharp mind laced with honest reflections on treating the mentally ill and addressing the follies and misadventures of psychology and psychiatry.

Have you known someone who was falsely accused of sexual abuse based on recovered memories discovered during psychotherapy?

More on McHugh from the Jerusalem Post:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Quotations


Capitalism is in trouble because of its belief that everyone can take care of himself. It does not know how to help those who cannot help themselves. On the other hand, socialism is in trouble because it believes that no one can take care of himself.

--- Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.

--- Adam Smith (1723 - 1790)

We are all strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others.

--- Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680)

Love in the Time of Darwinism

11/17/08. Author Kay S. Hymowitz applies Darwin's theory to male - female relationships. We are all animals: men are tough, cool, and promiscuous; women are manipulative, calculating, and driven by self-interest.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Its All in Your Head

11/14/08. Psychiatrist Sally Satel tells us that many doctors routinely prescribe placebos to their patients. To give or not to give placebos? --- Is that a fair question?

Slouching Toward Fanaticism

11/14/08. Physician Theodore Dalrymple reviews "Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure."

False theories of causation abound in autism and other disorders of the mind - not to mention a myriad of murky theories associated with the etiology of some physical ailments. These false theories bring on a host of wacky, dangerous, and costly treatments in the hope of a cure.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Novel Theory of Mental Disorders

11/10/08. Bernard Crespi, a biologist, and Christopher Badcock, a sociologist, have proposed an intriguing theory about how the contributions of parents' genetics may tilt their child's psychiatric disorder in one direction or another. A push, they say, to the father's genetics may predispose child disorders along the autistic spectrum. Genes from the mother may push the child's psychiatric disorder along the psychotic spectrum.

Monday Quotations


Life is short,
The art long,
The occasion instant,
Experiment perilous,
Decision difficult.

--- Hippocrates (460 BC - 370 BC)

Man, an animal that makes bargains.

--- Adam Smith (1723 - 1790)

Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.

--- Karl Popper (1902 - 1994)

The Search for the Roots of Psychopathy

11/10/08. Many of us have come in contact with psychopaths: through business deals, through social contacts, through marriage, and by way of reading true crime books by such masters as Ann Rule.

In this article, John Seabrook traces the history of psychopathy and features the clinical observations and research of psychologists such as Robert Hare, who have devoted their lives to the study of these often dangerous and evil souls.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Michael Crichton R.I.P.

11/6/08. Author Michael Crichton dies at age 66 years. A Harvard trained medical doctor, Crichton wrote thoughtful and entertaining books, often turned into movies such as Jurassic Park and Andromeda Strain.

Crichton's wisdom:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Quotations


...hope takes work. No matter how negative the situation, you seek the positive elements and build on them...Hope is especially important when there is nothing you can do...In American culture, there is a powerful equation that says to lose control is to lose everything. But the most serious problems --- a terrible accident, a major disease --- are those in which we are objectively helpless. Then the best way to cope is to find out how to live with it. It's fine to keep fighting when you can change the situation. But when you can't change the facts, accept them. That's the key to health --- and to wisdom

--- Slomo Breznitz (1936 - )

I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of a conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing over whether it is true or not.

--- Sir Peter Medawar (1915 - 1987)

Don't play the saxophone. Let it play you.

--- Charlie Parker (1920 - 1955)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel, Chronicler of the American Everyman, Is Dead at 96

10/31/08. Studs Terkel was a gentle, curious man with a twinkle in both eyes --- who loved to find out about the lives of ordinary people. Just a few years ago, I talked with Studs when I shared an elevator with him -- two days in a row - when he gave a talk at an American Psychological Association meeting. He will be missed.

Michigan Psychological Association

10/31/08. The new Michigan Psychological Association Web site.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Scientists Prove It Really Is A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

10/30/08. There they go again --- scientists make discoveries about the biological basis of love and hate.

A Psychologist Helps Repackage Democrats' Message

10/30/08. Drew Weston, a psychology professor at Emory University, and a University of Michigan graduate, put together the "Message Handbook for Progressives From Left to Center." Democratic consultants say it is the first systematic, data-driven effort to mold the language of the left to fit the sensibilities of the center.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Boy's Life

10/27/08. Ever since he could talk, Brandon, now age 8 years, insisted that he was meant to be a girl. His parents decided to let him grow up to be a girl. This article discusses the ongoing scientific debate about the nature of gender.

Tony Hillerman. R.I.P.

10/27/08. Novelist Tony Hillerman dies.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Careful What You Wish For

10/26/08. Theodore Dalrymple reviews two books that portray the allure --- and limitations --- of liberation.

Dalrymple begins his review:

The idea that mankind might find life beautifully easy if only the right laws could be promulgated and the right social attitudes inculcated is a beguiling one. It suggests that dissatisfaction and frustration arise from error and malice, rather than from the inescapable and permanent separation between man's desires and what the world can offer him.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Try to Remember. Psychiatry's Clash Over Meaning, Memory and Mind"

10/23/08. Paul McHugh's new book with the above captioned title is going to be published in November. Below is a link to excerpts from this book.

Dr. McHugh, former Chair of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has had a front seat to witness the wild misdirections of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health clinicians. These misdirections began in the 1980s, with a mass tide of false allegations of child abuse cases. These cases were focused on child care workers in day care centers, but these false accusations that sometimes resulted in long prison sentences for innocent people spread with a fever pitch to other vulnerable groups --- parents locked in custody battles, and adults in therapy recalling "forgotten" sexual abuse. These cases were given much media attention.

We have witnessed patients who come to psychologists and psychiatrists with depression or difficulty with relationships. Some of these patients "remember" during psychological therapy forgotten sexual mistreatment in childhood --- and often get the diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), among other labels. Families are torn apart when a child - who is now an adult - falsely accuses her father of sexually abusing her many years ago.

Just as Satan appeared in Salem, Mass. three hundred years ago, in our time a vast increase in the diagnosis of MPD is used to validate the huge numbers of adults who claim to have been sexually victimized during their childhoods.

Of course some adults have experienced horrific sexual abuse in childhood --- with resulting behavioral abnormalities stemming from such cruelty.

In my experience patients who have been victims of sexual abuse by a parent, for example, almost always have trouble forgetting the horror of their abuse. They do not have trouble remembering what their parent did. That adults repress these events - or block them out of their minds --- is a dangerous myth.

In his new book, Dr. McHugh sheds light on these psychiatric misadventures and aims to inform us about the nature of competent psychological treatment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Late Bloomers. Why Do We Equate Genius with Prococity?

10/13/08. Malcolm Gladwell explains some myths about creativity and genius.

Monday Quotations


Our minds are lazier than our bodies.

--- La Rochefoucauld (1747 - 1827)

What kind of system isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of system.

--- Milton Friedman (1912 - 2006)

A businessman is a hybrid of a dancer and a calculator.

--- Paul Valery (1871 - 1945)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

False Apology Syndrome - I'm sorry for your sins

10/8/08. Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple laments the fashion of public apologies for distant events and calls this pattern of political breast-beating the False Apology Syndrome:

"The habit of public apology for things in which one bears no personal responsibility changes the whole concept of a virtuous person, from one who exercises the discipline of virtue to one who expresses correct sentiment. The most virtuous person of all is he who expresses it loudest and to most people. This a debasement of morality, not a refinement of it. The end result is likely to be self-satisfaction and ruthlessness accompanied by unctuous moralizing, rather than a determination to behave well."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday Quotations


To teach how to live with uncertainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy in our age can still do for those who study it.

--- Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at age eighty and gradually approach eighteen.

--- Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

The character of human life, like the character of the human condition, like the character of all life, is "ambiguity": the inseparable mixture of good and evil, the true and false, the creative and destructive forces - both individual and social.

-- Paul Tillich (1886 - 1965)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Searching for Clarity: A Primer on Medical Studies

9/30/08. Science writer Gina Kolata describes the controversies and ambiguities of interpreting the results of medical studies. What we don't know may hurt us.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Monday Quotations (on Thursday)

9/25/08. As my friend Benny once quipped, "This is a strange week --- Friday the 13th is on a Tuesday."

"First do no harm," says the Hippocratic oath for physicians. If writers of children's books had to take an oath it might begin, "First tell the truth."

--- William Zinsser (1922 )

...In fact, we may see the essential of civic society in its preservation of balance - between the individual and the community, between the desirable and the possible, between our knowledge and our imagination.

The balance implies that we should neither accept solutions, however fashionable, however much supported by narrow-gauge experts, nor deny or minimize problems. What one might call the nonideology of moderation.

--- Robert Conquest (1917 )

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

---William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Congress Approves Mental Health Bill

9/24/08. This is the best time in human history to get help for psychological disorders. We know enough to help many people balance their mental health portfolio. I hope this legislation helps to reduce the stigma associated with psychiatric disorders.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Charlatans to the Rescue

9/23/08. Linda Seebach reviews the book, "Autism's False Prophets," by Paul A. Offit, a pediatrician and chief of infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Offit chronicles the parade of charlatans who promote desperately wrong cures and exploit vulnerable parents and children.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday Quotations


He will never amount to much. He never became comfortable with being uncomfortable.

--- Lou Pinella (1943 - )

Knowledge keeps no better than fish.

--- Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947)

(Responding to a beach club telling him he couldn't join because he was Jewish:)
My son's only half Jewish. Would it be all right if he went in the water up to his knees?

--- Groucho Marx (1895 - 1977)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Without God"

9/21/08. American physicist and Nobel laureate in physics, Steven Weinberg discusses important tensions between science and religion. His professional mission, he says, is finding out what is true, not what makes us happy or good.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Redefining Depression as Mere Sadness

9/16/08. Are psychologists and psychiatrists advising patients to take antidepressants when they are merely sad, but not clinically depressed? When does depression stem from biological causes? When does a person's environment trigger a depressed state? We know that antidepressants help many people --- no doubt preventing suicides, and makeing life worth living for those struggling to come back from the depths of despair. We know that for some, antidepressants offer no help. We know that separating the influences of nature and nurture on the causes of depression is often difficult, if not impossible. We know that the combination of medication therapy and psychological therapy is the most powerful treatment for depression for most people.

In this article, psychiatrist Ronald Pies makes many good points regarding the above questions, among them: "...undertreatment of severe depression is a more pressing problem than overtreatment of normal sadness."

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Thinking Outside the Lox"

9/15/08. Essayist Joseph Epstein uses insight and humor to tell us why it's not kosher to vote Republican --- although he does.

Monday Quotations


A professor is one who talks in someone else's sleep.

--- W. H. Auden (1907 - 1973)

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

--- Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.

--- Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Bipolar Puzzle

9/14/08. This is a long, well written article about bipolar disorder in children. Jennifer Egan, the author, describes the day-to-day lives of some children with this disorder and the agony of their parents. Along the way, Ms. Egan draws from the work of clinical and research experts highlighting some ongoing controversies in understanding and treating bipolar disorder in children.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Liberals and Conservatives

9/11/08. Liberals are mystified when people vote for conservatives. Conservatives feel that liberals just don't get it. To liberals, conservatives are simple-minded. To conservatives, liberals are muddle-headed. Professor of Psychology, Jonathan Haidt tells us what makes people vote Republican.

Monday, September 8, 2008

On Cognitive Therapy

9/8/08. A look at the development of cognitive therapy.

Monday Quotations


When in doubt, tell the truth.

--- Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

A few years after I began teaching, it occurred to me that being a teacher - not being a student - provides the best education. "To teach is to learn twice," wrote Joubert, in a simple-sounding maxim that could have several different meanings. It could mean that one first learns when getting up the material one is about to teach and then tests and relearns it in the actual teaching. It could mean that being a teacher offers one a fine chance of a second draft of one's inevitable inadequate initial education. It could mean that learning, like certain kinds of love, is better the second time around. It could mean that we are not ready for education, at any rate of the kind that leads to wisdom, until we are sixty, or seventy, or beyond. I favor this last interpretation, for it accounts for the strange feeling that I have had every year of my adult life, which is that only twelve months ago I was really quite stupid.

--- Joseph Epstein (1937 - )

A liberal is someone too broadminded to take his own side in an argument.

--- Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)

Friday, September 5, 2008

For the Brain, Remembering Is Like Reliving

9/5/08. Benedict Carey, science writer for the New York Times, reports on some exciting findings from the field of memory research:

"Scientists have for the first time recorded individual brain cells in the act of summoning a spontaneous memory, revealing not only where a remembered experience is registered, but also, in part, how the brain is able to recreate it."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Study Finds No Links between Vaccines and Autism

9/4/08. Many scientists are hard at work on developing effective treatments for the devastating, chronic disease of autism. So far, we have gone down many blind alleys, including linking vaccines with autism.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Addiction Doesn't Discriminate? Wrong

9/2/08. Psychiatrist Sally Satel tells us that psychiatric disorders, attitudes, values, and behaviors all play a potent role in who becomes addicted to drugs. Drug abuse is not, she says, an equal opportunity destroyer of lives.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Doctor Transformed into a Patient

8/26/08. Dr. Abigail Zugar reviews "Life in the Balance. A Physician's Memoir of Life, Love and Loss with Parkinson's Disease and Dementia," by Dr. Thomas Graboys. Dr. Zugar writes that Dr. Grayboys' book "stands out as a small wonder. Unsentimental and unpretentious, it manages to hit all its marks effortlessly, creating a version of the old fable as touching, educational and inspiring as if it had never been told before."

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Quotations


Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy those are who already possess it.

--- Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1613 - 1680)

As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.

--- Goethe (1749 - 1832)

We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can.

--- Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Work and Life, Boundaries and Balance

8/18/08. Interview with psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud whose new book is "The One Life Solution."

Thanks for the Memories

8/18/08. A night's sleep gives emotional memories their staying power.

Childhood's End

8/18/08. Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple describes childhood in Britain - a grim tale.

Monday Quotations


"Hatred of the rich is a stronger emotion than sympathy for the poor."

--- Theodore Dalrymple (1949 - )

"Don't be too sweet, lest you be eaten up; don't be too bitter, lest you be spewed out."

--- Yiddish proverb

"I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it."

--- Harry S. Truman (1884 - 1972)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Psychologists Clash on Aiding Military Interrogations

8/16/08. Psychologists have played a role in the military and C.I.A. interrogation of people suspected of being enemy combatants. Psychologists are now aggressively arguing with each other about whether any involvement in military interrogations is a violation of its ethical code.

A Death in the Family

8/16/08. Aided by advocates for the mentally ill, William Bruce left the hospital --- only to kill his mother. There are no easy answers to the agonizing dilemma of how to protect the individual rights of psychiatric patients while protecting society. (n.b. Please see my related post on 6/14/08 "The Insanity Offense.")

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Heart of Darkness Visible

8/14/08. Alexander Solzhenitsym saw through the illusion of the Soviet Union and Communism into the wicked heart of darkness of a soul killing society.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Is College a Waste of Time?

8/12/08. Charles Murray discusses what's wrong with our current system of college education --- and what to do about it.

An excerpt from Murray's book "Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality," 2008.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Quotations


It is an astonishing and hardly noticed psychological fact that one's own words once spoken are differently evaluated than those which we only think in our representations of words.

---Theodore Reik (1888 - 1969)

...One has information about one's experience only to the extent that one has tended to communicate it to another - or thought about it in the manner of communicative speech. Much of that which is ordinarily said to be repressed is merely unformulated.

---Harry Stack Sullivan (1892 - 1949)

You can not exert influence if you are not susceptible to influence.

---Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

Friday, August 8, 2008

What the World Eats

8/8/08. A photo essay ---,29307,1626519,00.html

Low Deeds and High IQ

8/8/08. Joseph Epstein reviews "For the Thrill of It," by Simon Baatz, a book about the 1924 murder in Chicago of the 14-year-old boy Bobby Franks by two students at the University of Chicago. The killers were 18-year-old Richard Loeb and 19-year-old Nathan Leopold Jr. Their lawyer was Clarence Darrow.

Mr. Epstein writes: "Simon Baratz's 'For the Thrill of It' is likely to be the definitive work on this infamous crime and the dramatic trial of its perpetrators. It is impressive in its research, even-handed in its tone and immensely readable."

The following is an excerpt from Simon Baratz's book:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Monday Quotations


An indecency decently put is the thing we laugh at hardest.
--- Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

We have to believe in free will. We've got no choice.
---Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902 - 1991)

The beauty of life is nothing but this, that each should act in conformity with his nature and his business.
---Fray Luis de Leon (1527 - 1591)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Philosophical Jokes

8/1/08. The best philosophical jokes tend to be about the persistent incomprehensibilities, says joke historian Jim Holt*.

The deepest and darkest philosophical question according to philosopher Martin Heidegger is:

Why is there something rather than nothing?

When asked this question a few years back, the Columbia University philosopher Arthur Danto replied, "Who says there's not nothing?"

Sidney Morgenbesser, another Columbia philosopher and noted kibitzer had an even better response when a student asked him, Why is there something rather than nothing? --- Morgenbesser quipped, "Even if there was nothing, you still wouldn't be satisfied!"

* From: Holt, Jim. "Stop Me If You've Heard This. A History and Philosophy of Jokes."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Evolution, Compassion, and the Corporation

7/30/08. Michael Shermer is the publisher and editor-in-chief of "Skeptic" magazine, and the founder of the Skeptics Society.

He talks about his new book "The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and other Tales from Evolutionary Economics."

How to Get the Biggest Bang for 10 Million Bucks

7/30/08. Political scientist Bjorn Lomborg discusses how governments should spend money now to help the most people with the most pressing problems. See if you agree with his list of priorities. Professor Lomborg is best known for his book "The Skeptical Environmentalist."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Professor Randy Pausch dies at 47 --- inspired millions with his last lecture.

7/29/08. Professor of Computer Science Randy Pausch gave a last lecture a while back --- a lecture, he said, to leave to his three young children a message in a bottle they can take with them on their journey through life. His last lecture has been made into a best selling book, with the help of Wall Street Journal writer Jeffrey Zaslow, who lives in the Detroit area. This lecture and book are filled with wisdom.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Waltraud "Wally" Prechter

7/23/08. Today, Wally Prechter spoke to our Psychological Aspects of Dentistry class at the University of Detroit Mercy, School of Dentistry about manic-depressive illness or bipolar disorder. I teach this course with another UDM Faculty member, Ms. Kim Werth, a dental hygienist and a counselor.

Wally left a deep impression on the students and faculty with her knowledge, compassion, integrity, and commitment to improving research and treatment for bipolar disorder.

She has lived through the nightmare of her husband's mental illness and now continues to triumph over her trauma and give back to her community and country.

Wally is on a mission to cure the illness that robbed the life of her brilliant and creative husband who committed suicide on July 6, 2001. Heinz Prechter was a victim of manic depression, a psychiatric illness with a strong genetic base, with no known cause or cure.

As an immigrant from Germany coming to a land he grew to love deeply, Heinz Prechter introduced the sunroof to North America and founded the American Sunroof Company starting his journey to success from a one man operation in a two car garage in Los Angeles --- before becoming a leader in Detroit's downriver community.

To suffer from manic depression is to have a brain disease. About 2 1/2 percent of the population age 18 years and over --- about 5.7 million American have manic depression in a given year. Manic depression is a treatable condition --- with medication such as Lithium and psychological therapy --- many people with the illness go on to lead normal, often highly productive lives. But many with illness never get properly diagnosed, and even when diagnosed they often do not receive the treatment they need and do not consistently take their life saving medications.

Send donations to the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Fund of the University of Michigan:

U of M Office, Depression Center Development Office, MCHC F6241, 1500 East Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-02905 or phone 734.647.9138.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Voices of Bipolar Disorder

7/17/08. This article is from the New York Times, and features people afflicted with bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, talking about how their illness affects their lives.

To learn more about bipolar disorder, I recommend Dr. Kay Jamison's autobiography, "The Unquiet Mind." Dr. Jamison has manic-depressive illness and in her book she describes growing up and living with this highly treatable disorder. Dr. Jamison is a psychologist and a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School. She is a world-renowned authority on manic-depressive illness, suicide, and creativity and mental illness.

For an exhaustive scientific work on manic-depressive illness, I recommend "Manic-Depressive Illness. Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression," 2007, 2nd edition,by Frederick K. Goodwin, M.D., and Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Side-Effects of Antidepressants

7/16/08. This is a review of "Side-Effects" by Alison Bass. The antidepressant Prozac was released in 1987 --- and since then many more antidepressants have become available. There has never been a shortage of lawsuits claiming that some antidepressants cause suicidal thoughts, aggression, or suicides. Despite large-scale studies by the Federal government and others showing no danger in these drugs, some citizens are still skeptical of life-saving medications to treat the disease of mood disorders.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Taking a Cue from Ants on Evolution in Humans

7/14/08. Edward O. Wilson, Professor of Biology at Harvard, is the author of the ground breaking "Sociolobiology" and "On Human Nature," among many other books. He is a world renowned experts on ants.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Why Dirty is Funny

7/11/08. Jim Holt, author of "Stop Me If You've Heard This. A History and Philosophy of Jokes," tells us why dirty jokes often make us laugh. It is not, he says, that dirty jokes corrupt us, it is that we are already corrupted.,0,1133811.story

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Synapse and The Soul

7/8/08. This is a review of Michael S. Gazzaniga's new book: "Human. The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique."

Dr. Gazzanga is the author of six previous books including "The Ethical Brain," "The Mind's Past," and "Nature's Mind."

He is the director of the University of California - Santa Barbara's SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, as well as its Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience. He serves on the President's Council on Bioethics and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

VIA Inventory of Signature Strengths

7/2/08. Most people spend more time working on their weaknesses than developing their character strengths. With effort, we can sometimes move a character weakness from crummy to lousy. With hard work, we can sometimes move a character strength from good to great.

Take the Values in Action Inventory of Signature Strengths - at no charge, developed by psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin E.P. Seligman -- two of the founders of Positive Psychology -- and get a new look at your character strengths.

Is There Anything Good About Men?

7/2/08. If you already think you know the answer to this question, don't read this. For those with an open mind, I suggest you read what Professor Roy Baumeister has to say. Dr. Baumeister is a Professor of Psychology and Head of the Social Psychology Area, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Social psychologists do not come any smarter --- he is a profound thinker.

Paul McHugh on 5 best books about the factions and follies of psychiatry

7/2/08. Dr. McHugh, a University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, discusses 5 of his favorite books that uncover the endless nonsense, weird ideas, outrageous claims, disasters, treatments, factions and follies of psychiatry , in his usual crisp, blunt, and honest style. His observations come from a high powered mind that hits the bull's eye.

Ten years ago, I invited Dr. McHugh to speak at a Michigan Psychological Association conference on his ideas about how to think clearly about psychiatric problems --- discussed in detail in his book "The Perspectives of Psychiatry," written with Paul Slavney.

Dr. McHugh's article "Psychiatric Misadventures" --- is simply a gem.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Would I Pull the Switch?

6/30/08. Not many psychological experiments are talked about 50 years after they have been completed. Stanley Milgram's studies on obedience fall into that rare class of studies that continue to disturb and rattle our view of human nature.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Practice Parameters for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

6/25/08. Many intelligent consumers are skeptical about the existence of ADHD, question whether those diagnosed with ADHD are over medicated, and even wonder if ADHD stems from children raised by permissive parents.

The prestigious American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists has written a guideline to answer the above questions and draws upon current standards of practice based on the latest research findings and treatment recommendations regarding the best treatments for ADHD:

"Practice Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, 2007."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Insanity Offense

6/14/08. Paul McHugh reviews E. Fuller Torrey's book "The Insanity Offense." Torrey provides an accurate history of how liberbals and conservatives got together --- for different reasons --- to empty out the state-run psychiatric hospitals that produced the homeless population, among other social disasters.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Doctor Finds Miracles in Medicine

6/6/07. Sherwin B. Nuland is a surgeon and professor of medicine at Yale University. He is the author of nine previous books, including the award winning "How We Die." His new book, reviewed below, is called "The Uncertain Art: Thoughts on a Life in Medicine."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Put a Little Science in Your Life

6/2/08. Professor of physics at Columbia, Brian Greene is the author of "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos." In this New York Times Op-Ed piece, Professor Greene offers sage advice. He tells us that "Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding....reveals patterns confirmed by experiment and observation, (and) is one of the most precious of human experiences."

He notes that science tries to answer big questions:
"Where did the universe come from?
How did life originate?
How does the brain give rise to consciousness?...

We must embark on a cultural shift that places science in its rightful place alongside music, art, and literature as an indispensable part of what makes life worth living."

Friday, May 16, 2008

"Depression: Out of the Shadows"

5/16/08. Ninety minutes (9:00-10:30 PM, EDT) on clinical depression will air on PBS this Wednesday (5/21/08) portraying the stories of seven individuals struggling with the onslaught of the anguish, and unfathomable mental torture of their depressions. There is a treasure of information and explanation in this television documentary.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Nudge: Libertarian Paternalism

5/7/08. An economist and a legal scholar argue that policy makers should nudge people into making good decisions.

Two examples cited in the book. Studies show that placing fruit at eye level in school cafeterias enhances its popularity by as much as 25 percent. An economist in Amsterdam charged with cleaning up the restrooms at the Schiphol Airport: He had a fly etched into the walls of urinals, giving male patrons something to aim at. Spillage was reduced by 80 percent. The fly on the urinals is now in some Michigan rest areas along the highways.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Are Human Brains Unique?

4/14/08. Michael Gazzaniga, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and head of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind addresses this question. Professor Gazzaniga is a distinguished neuroscientist, gifted teacher, and mentor to many students. He is the author of award winning books such as The Social Brain, Mind Matters, and Nature's Mind.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Friend Benny

4/10/08. My friend Benny recently told me: "Thank God for the institution of marriage --- otherwise we'd be fighting with strangers." Benny was born on 10/10/10 --- lives alone, has many interests, loves sports, good food, cherishes his family and friends, and has the best sense of humor of any human being I know (scroll to page 10 on link). In this article I refer to George Vaillant. Dr. Vaillant is a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, and spent his life charting adult development. His many books include The Natural History of Alcoholism, and Aging Well.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Women and ADHD

4/6/08. This is my letter to the American Psychological Association's Monitor on Psychology about women and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. On the link, scroll down to "Women and ADHD."

The Way We Age Now

4/6/08. Atul Gawande is a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of two books: Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science; and Better, a Surgeon's Notes on Performance.

What the New Atheists Don't See

4/6/08. Theodore Dalrymple is a British psychiatrist and writer who has most recently practiced in a British inner-city hospital and prison. He is the author of three books: Life at the Bottom; Our Culture, What's Left of It; and Romancing Opiates. Pharmacological Lies and the Addiction Bureaucracy. " These books are a collection of his essays --- incisive, impatient with humbug, and thought-provoking, controversial observations.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Psychiatric Misadventures

4/1/08. This article is one of my favorites. Paul McHugh, M.D., former long-time chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, writes about common errors in psychiatric thinking.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brains in the News: Brain Research, Immunology, and Arts Education

3/27/08. The Dana Foundation provides the latest information about Brains in the News. In this issue, for example, a research consortium reports on the new evidence linking arts and learning.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Regrowing Limbs?

3/21/08. Many years ago I witnessed the following as a counselor at a camp. An 8 year old one-armed boy was getting a drink at a drinking fountain. When he finished, the boy behind him asked him if his arm would grow back. The one-armed boy said, "I was born this way. I don't think it grows back."

This Scientific American article on regenerating limbs addresses this question.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

National Institutes of Health MedlinePlus Magazine

3/19/08. N.I.H. MedlinePlus Magazine:

Coping with a Chaotic World

3/19/08. When Anna Freud --- daughter of Sigmund Freud and a gifted therapist in her own right --- was eighty-five, a depressed young man sent her a lament about the chaotic state of the world, and she sent him a succinct statement of her credo:

I agree with you wholeheartedly that things are not as we would like them to be. However, my feeling is that there is only one way to deal with it, namely to try and be all right with oneself, and to create around one at least a small circle where matters are arranged as one wants them to be.

How does the brain produce the mind?

3/19/08. Short answer: We don't know how the brain produces the mind - or how consciousness flows from brain tissue.

This brain-mind discontinuity is unlike conceptual dilemmas faced by other health care professionals who stay at the level of physical understanding, relying on knowledge of biology, chemistry, anatomy, physical development, and so on.

To circumvent this brain-mind gap in our knowledge and to organize and clarify our knowledge and treatment approaches to the complexity of people, we can approach understanding people from four perspectives: diseases, dimensions, behaviors, and life-stories. We can understand psychological disorders as life under altered circumstances (see Paul McHugh and Philip Slavney, Perspectives of Psychiatry, 1998). Life can be altered by what a person "has" (diseases such as bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder), what a patient "is" (dimensions such as very shy and exceptional intellectual abilities), what a patient "does" (behaviors such as uses alcohol to excess or starves herself) or "encounters" (life-stories such as death of a loved one, a victim in a violent crime).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Staring at the Sun

3/18/08. The psychiatrist Irvin Yalom has written, "Staring at the Sun. Overcoming the Terror of Death." I recommend this thoughtful discussion about confronting our terror of death in a way that gives meaning to life, fortifies courage, and rubs in reality with the gentleness, understanding, and honesty of a gifted therapist.

Monday, March 17, 2008


3/17/08. In the April 3, 2008 New York Review of Books, Sue M. Halpern reviews 5 new books on happiness. Since Martin Seligman, Ph.D. launched "Positive Psychology" in 1998, the number of investigations about character, virtue, and positive emotions have skyrocketed. Happiness, one might say, is a serious topic. Psychology now is developing a manual of the sanities --- looking not just at the origins of psychopathology, but at the origins of a psychologically healthy life.