We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Tuesday, March 24. 2015
Different people with different problems and different personalities can benefit from different approaches. Psychoanalytically-informed approaches can be extremely valuable for some people, and useless for others.
Friday, March 20. 2015
I read that article in The Atlantic. I disagree with almost all of it. There is no better or cheaper (it's free) approach to substance abuse for the motivated person.
It's not about "Does it work?" It's about "Does the person work it?" Sanity, like physical health, is not a passive enterprise.
Nothing can be done for the unmotivated person. However, some people on a downward spiral need a little rehab (ie forced abstinence) first to get a little clarity; some people benefit from naltrexone or topamax, and all benefit from treatment of any coexisting problems.
Thursday, March 5. 2015
"Emotion" is sort-of an artificial construct, is it not? It - whatever it is - can rarely be separated from cognition, perception, ideas, and all other mental processes and biological instincts. We easily can identify, in ourselves, lustful desire ("urge to merge"), rage, despair, joy, fear and anxiety - but these extremes are rare and still more expressible by poets and musicians than by scientists.
Friday, February 27. 2015
Marketing can work wonders, as can the placebo effect. Don't be a sucker.
Wednesday, February 25. 2015
What drives the disease craze? Big Pharma, and insurance. Normal variants are labeled as diseases and disorders. Think ADD, ED, infertility, fear of dying, and on and on. I term them, smirkingly, "life-style disorders."
Here's an emerging new disorder: A Pill That Boosts a Woman’s Sex Drive Is Almost Here. But Do We Need It?
What shall we term the medical disorder which this pill fixes?
Monday, February 23. 2015
Sunday, February 8. 2015
These programs are designed by Child Psychologists. Since when are they experts in this? I'd prefer a panel of grandmas, myself. Some kids, of course, are especially challenging if not impossible. Easy kids make parents look good; tough kids make parents look bad.
Friday, February 6. 2015
A brief history of marriage, by a gal who may have missed the boat: All the Single Ladies
Monday, January 26. 2015
Mental-health practitioners whose clients kill themselves can face stigma from their colleagues, lawsuits, and a toll on their own psyches—making them less likely to take on suicidal patients who need their help.
Unlike most other medical specialties, where deaths are routine, suicide is imagined to be preventable. Very often it is not, any more than death from most cancers can be prevented. If all suicides were caused by simple depressions curable by a pill, that would be different. However, it's not like that. Intractable, relentless emotional pain is only one of many paths to suicide.
Like most Psychiatrists, I have had a number of them in my practice. It happens if you take on difficult cases or cover ERs. Despite all I know about suicide, it still does shake one's confidence and excites the ambulance-chasers. Most suicides, of course, never seek any help from physicians, and some who do, lie.
Wednesday, January 21. 2015
Look, everybody must come to terms with the fact that most people will not like us, or be interested in us, or want to help us. That's part of growing up. Despite that, there are plenty of people out there who want a friend. We have to understand that others, like us, are discriminating in their own ways. When friendships and relationships do click, it sure is fun and life-enriching, isn't it?
I once helped a very shy young fellow deal with his fear by commanding him to introduce himself to a pretty girl on a daily basis - including in NYC stores (eg Bloomingdale's), gourmet food markets, and supermarkets. He complied bravely with great faith in my advice, and in a very few instances somebody liked the cut of his jib and his (apparent) confidence and phoned him. Cured by Reality Therapy! He did not become thicker-skinned, just realistic.
Thursday, January 15. 2015
It has always seemed grandiose to me, but I understand that Frankl needed to find some purpose or reason to hang on, as do most people in prison camps. In the end, he produced a work which is inspiring to many.
It's easier for me, with an ordinary life, to get my mind around the search for simpler things like money, good food, romance, being useful, raising kids, living with integrity, being a good friend and spouse, and the like. When it comes to ultimate meaning, I'll go with Jesus and won't presume to invent my own. I am not smart or inspired enough to do that even if I wanted to.
Sunday, January 11. 2015
Saturday, January 10. 2015
No matter how much you may fight and argue, you become bonded tight over years if you are even half-normal. It is a wonder, given all of our annoying flaws.
Tuesday, January 6. 2015
Ladies do love their orgasms and tend to value them more highly than men do. They are deeper, and last longer, than the male version.
I have known women who come to orgasm when just making out with their hubbies, and women who cannot achieve climax after an hour of rambunctious bedroom fun. Quite a few women have orgasms with exercise in the gym, on horses, or with a quick masturbation. It's a spectrum, and I do not think that it is mainly psychological. Male primates were designed to spread their alpha seed by any means possible, and they did, and still do, often selfishly without extensive attention to female satisfaction. Biologically, the female pleasure component is just gravy but it makes the fellows feel extra happy.
Women envy those hot women who can orgasm after a minute of sexual activity. Most can not. One lucky gal I spoke with told me that she orgasms the instant her husband's organ touches her labia, and goes on for six or seven more thereafter in twenty minutes. Guys love women like that but it is relatively rare. It seems to be mostly about the anatomy of the clitoris although in the first episodes of a hot new romance anything can happen.
Oxytocin is good stuff.
Monday, January 5. 2015
What do most men need and want for a good life?
An update from Dr. George Vaillant's remarkable long-term study (since 1938) of men's lives: Insights from the Longest Longitudinal Study on Men Ever Conducted:
Sunday, January 4. 2015
It's not "sometimes" - it's frequently. Intelligence and rationality are separate things. Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking that IQ Tests Miss
Thursday, January 1. 2015
It's time for 2015 travel planning if we have not done that yet (most have done so already, I suspect, but some people are last-minute "planners").
I have a new case of a fellow who has developed a travel phobia. To be accurate, he has not really developed it, it has just been exposed by his frustrated family.
Many people with fears of all sorts never have them exposed because they find ways and excuses to avoid the things that make them uncomfortable. Typical excuses: "I hate cocktail parties," "I hate going to sports stadiums," "I don't want to go to that stupid place," "It's dangerous," "I hate cities," "Airplanes suck," "It's too expensive," "I don't need any new friends," etc etc.
Phobias are more often identified by avoidances than by real episodes of fear or discomfort. How does one tell what is a phobic avoidance from a plain dislike? Well, a little ruthless dose of self-scrutiny can answer most of your questions about your own fears and insecurities.
Like agoraphobics, travel phobics dart from place of safety to place of safety and familiarity no matter how often over-visited, never enjoy the trip or the adventures of life, and constrict their experiences and the richness of their lives in the process. Carpe diem. Life is short and shorter with each new day and each new year.
Men are particularly reluctant to admit flaws and weaknesses. Pride and shame prevent people from owning up to the personal weaknesses of their fears and frailties. I give blogger Ann Althouse, for example, credit for acknowledging her travel phobia (she feels that a driving trip from Madison to Austin is a daunting adventure). Properly naming one's fears, instead of making excuses, is the first step towards addressing them and conquering them.
What we term "simple phobias" are among the easiest things we shrinks have to deal with. In my experience, people with travel phobias and adventure phobias, once mastered, want to go everywhere and do everything.
Sunday, December 14. 2014
Despite the formality of the title, it's a very readable and persuasive book about our experiences of reality and the role of our local cultures in shaping our experience of reality.
Berger was on my mind because Pastor Keller had mentioned the idea of "relativizing the relativizers." I like that idea, because nobody can really think outside their own culture, and relativists and multiculturalists of all sorts tend not to be aware of how deeply Western and, indeed, parochial their views really are.
Anyway, that's a chapter from another book by Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural. I have not read it, but I think I will.
Friday, December 12. 2014
Reposted and revised -
It's a cliche, isn't it? (I don't know how to put accents on words on this machine.) Lonely and isolated people feel lonelier during holidays.
Let's all think about, and try to include, the lonely this year.
We are told that holidays are supposed to be times of special social fun as well as family time, whether the 4th of July, Thanksgiving (we always try to include some close friends), or Christmas season which many like to use as an excuse for throwing a party for all their 200 closest friends or just a fish supper with a handful of good pals on Christmas Eve after church (with Eggnog of course).
People obviously vary a great deal in the extent of their social connections and (cliche again) one can easily be lonely in a crowd. Many prefer to be isolated but I think there is a basic human need to be "in community," to have human connections of all sorts outside of family. We are tribal creatures. I feel sad for those who lack tribes with whom to touch base and reconnect during the holiday season. That makes it depressing indeed because it's supposed to be about fun fun fun and party party party, right?
(As an ex-drinker who used to have some degree of social insecurities, I have learned how to have a good time at parties anyway. I like to touch base with the people I enjoy, and I like to walk up to strangers and say "Hi. I'm Joy. I don't think we've met." If they don't love me, it's their loss but maybe mine too. Rejection is just part of life, and many people seem to feel that they already know enough people unless you wow them in some way.)
There are many ingredients to constructing a satisfying life, but what a satisfying life means is different for everybody. However, I believe that to be in community, or really a part of multiple communities, is a key component. Some care about it more than others, for certain. With a little luck, the construction begins with an anchor solidly lodged in immediate or extended family, and extends, in separate but often-overlapping circles, out from there depending on what one does or decides to build.
And I do mean "build." Like career, community is never handed to you on a silver platter. I like to connect with interesting, intelligent, positive, and amusing people with interesting and adventurous lives. Who doesn't? On Saturday night, I met a gent, a retired banker, who covered the erection of the Berlin Wall for the New York Times when he was 21 years old. He had taken his grandkids to the Checkpoint Charlie museum in Berlin this summer. I want to include him, and his wife, in one of my circles.
More below -
Continue reading "Lonely at Christmastime, with some comments about civil society's circles of connection"
Saturday, December 6. 2014
"As opposition to the war on drugs grows louder, a movement to challenge traditional ways of treating—and doing treatment with—people who have difficulties with drugs is also reaching critical mass."
After 30 years of Nixon's politically-motivated War on Drugs - the criminalization of almost all drug use and sale except for alcohol - has failed. Anybody who wants illegal drugs can buy them almost anywhere in the US within 30 minutes. All prohibition does is to raise their prices, to create abundant new criminals, violence, and gangs, and to make drugs more appealing to defiant youth.
Things were better before The War on Drugs. I think that drug addiction is a terrible, often soul - and life-destroying thing, but many drug addicts do quite well in life in places where criminalization is less harsh.
We can't criminalize everything we disapprove of. Help for addicts and abusers is plentiful anywhere for anybody who wants it, for free or close to free. I think every sort of help is fine and not worth fighting over, but I remain an advocate of AA.
This week is the 81st anniversary of the end of Prohibition in the US.
Tuesday, December 2. 2014
Maybe the growth of co-education brought rape out of the shadows and onto campuses. In any event, rape and any other crime are matters for the police no matter where they occur.
College administrations need play no role in that. Colleges can, however, try to do what they used to do in the good old days: require honorable and gentlemanly behavior from the men and honorable and ladylike behavior from the women. Punishment is expulsion. Why does that sound quaint today?
Where UVA Went Wrong: Students Need to See Rape as a Felony, Not Just a Campus Infraction
UVA Should Help Police Catch Alleged Rapists -- Now.
The Right and Campus Rape - Calling in the cops is not enough.
“It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene.”
Wednesday, November 19. 2014
The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis - What a growing body of research reveals about the biology of
On reading about this piece, I found myself wondering about the premise of the questions in the surveys. A question like "How satisfied are you with your life these days?" seems like a very American question to me. Most people on this planet think about whether they are satisfied by their meal, or whether their god is satisfied with them, and all sorts of other things other than narcissistic or hedonistic satisfaction.
Monday, November 17. 2014
This has nothing to do with "liberation." Women have always had healthy sex drives, but just kept quiet about it. The illusion of genteel innocence can be sexy to men. On the other hand, the image of dirty, nasty and accessible femininity can be sexy to men too. Almost anything can be sexy to men. Despite modern lesbian feminism, men should never underestimate female sexual longings and fantasies. Female fantasies are at least as reckless as those of men.
Women are, perhaps, more discriminating than guys but their needs for sex are abundant, especially in middle age. Perhaps Mother Nature wants us to get knocked up before it's too late.
Wednesday, November 12. 2014
There remains a trail of destroyed lives from that quackery:
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