Friday, September 11, 2009

Getting back to all things psychological

I'm haven't posted anything on this blog because I have decided to put my political ramblings on a different blog- and keep this blog more focused on issues relating directly to mental health.

Also, I am now on a website which focuses on relationship issues.

However, I am planning to keep this blog going as I want to maintain my own focus on helping people be more mindful.

In that vein let me just say that I know this is a very stressful time for a lot of people. The economic condition is concerning, school is back in session, healthcare issues are being hotly debated, etc. There is a lot of agitation in the air. So now is a great time to practice some of those cognitive therapy skills of reframing. For whatever reason, brains seems to dwell more easily on negative things and it takes a conscious effort to redirect your mental energy toward things that are good. Your first assessment of a situation is going to be an emotional response-the fight, flight or freeze(that is a new stress response they have recently added)and it takes waiting a few seconds to run things through your prefrontal cortex to come up with a more reasoned response. So tell your amygdala to hold on while you allow your executive functions to do their thing and I guarantee that your stress level will recede at least a little if not a lot.

We are on top of the food chain for a reason-we are designed to be the best thinkers. Sometimes we forget to use this great gift of analysis. Reading, writing and pondering are all activities that can help strengthen and enhance your cognitive abilities. You make your mind, so give it the time and attention it needs. Hopefully, we exercise all parts of us-our bodies, our minds and our spirits-that is a recipe that leads to the best mental health I have ever witnessed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I hate insurance companies too but...

Does anyone like insurance companies? No, but does that mean we should totally dismantle our healthcare system? I have been increasingly concerned as I have watched the Obama administration and the Congress and the Senate make very irresponsible choices with our money and our freedoms. Regardless of your feelings about healthcare you should be very wary of any plans being put forth by the Democratic Party. Every solution they offer up, although couched in good intentions-like helping the poor, really enables and weakens the poor as well as the middle class. What they are really saying is that the average individual is too incompetent or stupid and is incapable of making their own choices so they will decide things for you. The Democrats value power and control over freedom of choice or freedom of speech. Since when do constituents become the enemy?

It is starting to feel Nixonian to me with the paranoia being pushed by Obama and his people-doctors are bad, insurance companies are bad, profits are bad, CEO's are bad, people that disagree with them are out of control lunatics, Republicans are evil and the government, run only by democrats are all good and above reproach. Everything a democrat says is true and morally superior to what anyone else could come up with. Ya think?

Who is crazy here, the upset people at town hall meetings or our elected representatives ? What happened to that rallying cry that led to the American Revolution-taxation without representation? My ancestors and your ancestors left Europe for a reason-do we really want to go back there? What country is the envy of all the world? What country really funds the world? Which country pays for safe keeping forces, for education, for healthcare, for food, clothing, water for the African continent, for Europe, for Asia, for South America? I think it comes from all of those profits the Democrats are so worried about. We in America have the freedom to make money and to use money and if you take that away you are not only not helping our poor you are hurting the rest of the world. No one will have the resources to give nor will they give in the degree that we have if given the choice. China does not care what happens to anyone outside of China, France has a puny economy as does every other country in Europe. California has the world's 6th largest economy. Do you really want to dismantle our free marketplace one industry at a time?

Obama isn't wanting to improve the healthcare delivery system he wants to control it. I know many of us are enamored by his smooth speeches and flattering words but I think you have seen by now that what he says is at best partially true and sometimes and outright lie. If you can't believe what someone says how can you allow them to change things that will affect not just millions of Americans but billions of people around the world. Killing the private healthcare system will shoot a giant hole into our economy which will have worldwide ripples. Killing profits will limit research and ingenuity so that we will no longer be the leader in medical technology and treatment innovations. Having the government run healthcare will increase waste, inefficiency and incompetency, think the VA, military medicine, Medicare and Medicaid. I have worked in government healthcare. There is no incentive to do your best-I got in trouble for doing more than my coworkers and making them look bad. We were unionized, did mediocre work and had poor morale and high turnover . You really want that on a grand scale?

Also, people have a gross misunderstadning of howgovernment healthcare is presently funded. Medicare is subsidized big time by private insurance-it does not cover its own costs. So yes they provide services more cheaply but because your insurance picks up the tab by shifting the cost to you. For example, Medicare will reimburse a hospital $800/day when it costs $1000/day and your insurance company will get billed $1200/day. This is true with every government healthcare program-you really pay twice-once with your taxes and two if you have provate insurance. Part of the reason insurance costs have syrocketed is because people enrolled in government programs have syrocketed. In California we pay a large percentage of Mexico's healthcare costs but without the respect of being asked if we wanted to do that.

True reductions in healthcare costs involves immigration reform, government regulations being changed, tort reform,removing barriers between consumers and services. None of these issues is seriously or significantly addressed in present legislation. They neeed to burn those 1,00 pages and try again.

Wake up America before your told what time to wake up and what you should eat and who your doctor will be and what banks you can use and who knows what else. One of the reasons I liked being an adult is that I finally got to make my own decisions. I'd like to keep it that way.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Is Homosexuality?

Is it a condition? Is it a learned behavior? Is it some combination of the two? No one knows for sure. So why are we spending so much time and energy arguing about undoing a major tenet of society by redefining marriage when we don't even know what it means to be "gay"? Where is the dialogue about how to define same gender attraction? Where is the caution that causes us to hesitate to impact all other life forms by changing their environment and yet we are ready to run pell mell into the unknown about homosexuality with little or no analysis? Should homosexuality have more power and influence in our society than heterosexuality? Are we seriously going to grant special privileges and status to something with no proven benefit to mankind? In what way does living a homosexual lifestyle benefit individuals, couples, families, communities, our country or the world?

No one is asking questions-at least not that are ever publicized. To live a life defined as "gay" or "lesbian" rather than being freeing in all actuality will be limiting. You will no longer be free to choose to alter if you are attracted to your same gender. Already we cannot openly disagree with anything other than what the Gay and Lesbian lobby believe. And does the handful of people who respresnt the gay lobby speak for everyone with same gender attraction or behavior?Apparently, only people with same gender attraction are allowed to have opinions on sexuality or to make decisions about sexuality. Heterosexuals are apparently less enlightened. The lack of serious analysis and logic is very disturbing and I hope that as reasonable adults we will sit back and be critical thinkers. We have rushed to judgement and have reached a very illogical conclusion. Gay marriage has nothing to do with equal rights, or fairness or kindness or love. It has to do with wants, self absorption, emotional reasoning and

Have people with same gender attraction been treated poorly in the past? Yes. Was homosexuality misunderstood in the past? Yes. But in our attempts to correct these ills we have swung in an even more damaging direction. We still don't understand homosexuality and now we are treating a different group of people with unfair judgement and ridicule. So while we may feel that we have progressed I fear that overall we have regressed and caused harm to an even greater number of people both "gay" and straight.

Americans have gone into a trance and are passively accepting and or being bullied into something that makes zero sense when you pull back and look at the big picture. Nature(life) is all about male and female-opposites. Nature(life) is all about reproduction. Nature(life) is about not just surviving but progressing. Same gender attraction negates all three of these key components of our existence. You cannot progress when you remove the Yin from the Yang and society will cease to exist when your remove reproduction from sexual expression. Men acting like women and women acting like men with no investment in the future or no willingness to sacrifice-which is what parenting entails have no positive end. Same gender relationships may exist for the moment and they may feel good but they have no lasting purpose. There is no continuity between the past, present and future. Same gender relationships exist only for the present.

There was a reason why people had homophobia-not to be judgemental but because it was a warning of something that was not ideal. Poison oak has pretty leaves but that doesn't mean you should touch it. Most of our prejudices and biases have an element of truth in them. Let us be mindful of what those original hesitations were and combine them with compassion, understanding and patience but not acceptance of things that we know on some level are not best for anyone.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Seeking An Internal Life

The world we live in has become very external. People's appearance, possessions, wealth, prestige, fame and power seem to be the primary motivator in their existence. What happened to looking within? The irony is that because of our wealth and because of modern technology we finally have the luxury-at least in industrialized nations in the West-to have time to be more introspective. Unfortunately, it seems we have lost our internal balance and therefore endangered our collective well being. The initial unrest and rebellion that began in the 60's championing individual rights at the expense of the greater good was really an outgrowth of people lacking a fulfilling inner life and trying to find it in all the wrong places-drugs, unrestricted sex, violence-undoing anything that was deemed worthwhile to adults The 70's may have been even more damaging than the 60's as that was when rebellion became more institutionalized, meaning that basic definitions of appropriate behavior or even the basic building blocks of our society were mocked and became more pervasive throughout society rather than being restricted to a small group. Marriage was undermined by changes in divorce law, definitions of femininity and masculinity were confused(androgyny was heralded as the ideal), standards for mental health were radically altered, patriotism went underground, primary institutions that were the foundation of safety and morality were undermined-the military, police, service organizations such as Kiwanis, the Lions Club, churches and especially the nuclear family. Our society no longer wants to be limited by "the norms", rejecting the very things that have kept this country safe and stable for over 200 years. We are now controlled by the opinions of "the exceptions". In other words we are defined by how we feel rather than what makes logical sense. We are governed by individual bodily urges rather than by restraint and what makes sense for the group as a whole.

In my training as a social worker we were taught to look at and value the "Gestalt" or the wholeness of a person, family, community or society. While psychology focused on the individual, social work was supposed to be about considering the whole of life experience. Sadly, even my colleagues have abandoned their search for wholeness to their God of political correctness and their hesitancy to set boundaries. Having an internal life is what yields a satisfying external life. You cannot find fulfillment through ease, permissiveness, shallowness or self absorption. These only lead to greater yearnings and frustration. Wholeness comes from balance, honesty, work, discipline-the boring things your mother or grandmother told you when you were little.

So try sitting still, taking a deep breath, thinking about other people, avoiding rash decisions or new fangled solutions, resist the temptation to believe everything you hear, especially if it is from the news media-study it out in your own mind, use reason, the wisdom of the ages and maybe even try allowing spiritual influences to enter your consciousness-that is if you really want the truth and if you really want a happy, productive and satisfying life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Deja Vu-King George III and the British Parliament Are Back

We are witnessing yet again how history repeats itself. What has been the number one complaint of citizens across cultures, eras, governing regimes? Unfair tax burdens. It is a sure sign of the ruling body being detached from the people they represent and of becoming too focused on their own needs for power and or riches when they keep demanding more money from their citizenry. It was fascinating watching a talk show a few weeks ago when the commentator asked a more left leaning participant at what percentage point was the tax burden too high-the man really struggled to give a number-finally he blurted out between 45-50%. What a distorted idea that people should expect to give away half of what they earn to their government especially in a free society where they choose the people to represent them. We expect despots and tyrants to economically and emotionally abuse the people in such a way but not in a free society. And just for your information we have reached that unacceptable level. If you combine all of the local, state and federal taxes, "fees" and "assessments"(other words for taxes) you are paying at least in that percentage bracket if not more. What do we do that is not taxed? We have slowly given away more and more and more until finally we have to stop the bleeding and say enough. It is not unreasonable to say we should not have to work to support the government. We are supposed to be working to suppport ourselves and our families.

The mainstream media in America continues to demonstrate their arrogance and bias by scorning the feelings of many Americans in their expression of disgust with our governments ever increasing fiscal irresponsibility. This all sounds hauntingly similar to the things King George and the House of Lords stated about those rabble rousing americans back in the late 1700's. The issue isn't the tea you idiots it is taxation without representation. And yes we are no longer being led by a government that listens to it's constituents. Americans did not elect Barack Obama to raise taxes, bail out banks, corporations and unions but to clean up the greed, graft and business as usual in Washington. Instead it seems that once elected President Obama has allowed Washington to influence him rather than vice versa.

As a nation we are still waiting for a leader-for a person with courage, convictions and integrity to help us navigate tough issues of foreign policy, social and moral disintegration and economic uncertainty. Unfortunately we erroneously believed in and elected an individual who has none of these characteristics even though we hoped that he did. I sincerely hope that voters will be a little more discriminating the next time around and believe what a person has done more than what they may APPEAR to be or what they might say. President Obama is being exactly what many of us feared he would be-an arrogant, leftist and naive man with delusions of grandeur.

So while President Obama sits up in his castle, entertaining dignitaries and enjoying the fruits of our labors with his lavish lifestyle we the the people will rise up and express ourselves like our forefathers did for what is right and good for our country. Kings and rulers come and go but this nation has stayed strong inspite of some of our leaders because we still work hard, pay taxes, go to church, help our neighbors and speak out when our government gets a little too out there. We have our finger on the pulse of what is really going on in this country and if you listen good things can happen. Or you can be like King George and his bloated advisors and assume you know better and wake up wondering what happened without you.

So hats off to all you tea party attendees and the next focus should be boycotting CNBC, CBS, CNN and whoever else refuses to show respect for those of us who are the backbone of this country. If you can't report NEWS then we won't watch and you too seem to have forgotten an old adage-don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Freedom is our country's defining characteristic and out of control taxation is one of the main culprits in restricting our choices. This is about much more than money but about individual rights and responsibilities. No one prospers under a system of entitlements and restricted freedom. We will all lose regardless of what elitist pundits and white tower intellectuals claim. The proof is in the history books-no civilization has prospered when you have taken power from the people and given it too the government-fasicm, socialism, marxism, communism, dictatorships have all been different versions of the same misguided notion-that a handful of people know better than the people as a whole. To stay strong as a country and as individuals we have to return to basic principles of hard work, sacrifice, honesty, responsibility and championing freedom. (See a previous post)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Using Your Mental Energy to the Fullest

Just a quick post to encourage everyone to really pay attention to the nature of their thoughts. It is very easy in a time of uncertainty and frustration to become focused on external ideas and have those literally "fill our minds". One of the awesome things about our brains is that they will respond to direction and can become very powerful tools in helping us be more productive and happy.

Decide to select out ideas that are positive, productive, and purposeful. There are many things going on in the world right now and while it is important to be informed and involved it is also important to hold on to a comprehensive picture of our world which includes many good things. It is our positive focus that gives us the energy and determination to deal with the negative forces in our lives.

Remember whatever you pay attention to is what you will become. You are a sum total of your thoughts. Whatever cognitions you allow to rest in your mind trigger your feelings and behavior. You can't focus on doom and gloom and feel good. Unfortunately, for most of us it is easier to flow to a place of negativity and anxiety. That is where overriding your natural impulse by consciously deciding to put different thoughts in your mind can lead you to very different results. Choosing to be mindful will definitely improve your life experience and your mental health! As my niece once said, think about "rainbows and ponies" and while that may seem silly there was a lot of wisdom in that idea. By the way yesterday I really did notice two rainbows during an otherwise very stressful day. I'm sure glad my niece had planted that idea in the garden of my mind. Take time to plant some other good thoughts for others and yourselves.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Forgotten Virtues

One of the basic principles you learn in Economics 101 is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. This idea has truth not just in the field of economics but also relating to our physical, emotional. spiritual and social selves. Anything of value requires the expenditure of effort, a conscious, determined action towards a desired goal. Since the focus of this blog is mental health I will focus on how our societies' arrogant assumption that there is a newer, easier way to approach life has led to worsening emotional health for individuals and for our society as a whole.

Whether we like it or not we are subject to certain physical laws. One of the core laws of our world is the Second Law of Thermodynamics which in essence states that everything flows to a state of disorganization or chaos unless otherwise acted upon. Translated that means that to stay strong mentally, physically, spiritually,etc. that you cannot remain in a state of passivity or inactivity. Staying at a state of equilibrium let alone improving requires effort. For example, we realize that to strengthen muscles they need resistance or to experience some level of opposition. Without that "stretching" which also involves some level of physical discomfort or pain the muscles get weaker, they atrophy. We see this with intellectual functioning-the old adage use it or lose it is universally understood to be true. It is fascinating to me that we somehow suspend this concept when it comes to emotional or spiritual health. People assume that these areas of their lives should be about avoiding pain and involving minimal if any effort. That emotional and spiritual well being should just naturally happen and not involve any effort on their part.

How do people grow emotionally? By having to face difficult situations and figure out their own solutions. By having to learn how to be patient, using mental discipline to overcome natural impulses. By learning how to sacrifice-doing what is good for the group as a whole rather than for their own well being. By learning how to think independently and critically rather than passively believing whatever they hear or see. By learning emotional and spiritual self reliance. All of these things are harder than what our society is promoting as desirable-namely instant gratification, sexual and financial irresponsibility, having it all, choosing to marry or have children when or if it is convenient or comfortable, or lately even redefining things so that it fits what you want rather than you fitting in with societal norms. Obscenity has become commonplace, vulgarity is the language of the day, materialism is the driving force and more recently now even removing our ability to use our creativity, intelligence, stamina and resourcefulness to solve difficult financial problems. If the government or the media decide things for us and seek to take away every opportunity to struggle and be tested then how can we stay strong? In a family if you want to raise strong, responsible children you don't do things for them you let them learn by doing, by having to struggle and overcome, by having to go without. You love them and encourage them but you don't coddle them or do it for them-that weakens not only their intellectual and physical selves it atrophies their soul. They can then have zero self confidence, no empathy for others, no ability to problem solve and will be a drain on the family rather than a contributor. We see this happening with many families now and against all reason we know are considering doing the exact same thing but on a much larger scale. Now our country is going to become the great enabler and we will undo all the great qualities that have kept this country strong. Our country has undergone many different kinds of crises in its over 200 hundred year existence-natural disasters, wars, economic difficulties, moral strife and yet we have risen above all of them due to the strength of the individual members of our society. The government is there to strengthen and assist it's citizens not vice versa. Countries that have allowed their governing entities to control them have become weaker on every level-England, the USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. have not benefited from straying from the basic laws of physics, which some would say are God's laws. Removing the tension from our lives by trying to make things pain free only creates a different kind of pain-a longer lasting, insidiously slow path towards destruction-from the inside out. People need to be free to act for themselves, to make their own choices, to learn their own lessons, to use their own money, time and intellect. Freedom to exercise their natural abilities is what is best for individuals, families and societies. History has demonstrated repeatedly that there is not a better way to happiness and well being than hard work, self restraint, sacrifice, sharing, cooperating, living in traditional families, being actively involved in a religion and living under a system of government that fosters individual freedom.

Remember someone pays for lunch-it just who gets to decide who pays?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

National Mental Health Alert-Our collective sanity challenged by the media

Watching the political events of the last two years I have become increasingly concerned about the lack of our collective mental health. As a nation we have become borderline(a personality disorder that sends chills down the backs of most therapists). We cannot handle stress of any kind, once disappointed we demonize the perceived source of our pain, we take no responsibility for our situations, our moods swing from one end of the spectrum to the other without sufficient cause, we look for quick fixes through drugs,mindless entertainment, we have no internal source of strength nor the ability to self regulate relying on external sources for solutions,and we are ultimately emotion driven abandoning any pretense at logic. Has anyone been concerned at the extreme hatred for President Bush that swung to the almost messianic worship of President Obama? Is there a logical foundation for either expression? Is any one person so powerful that they could warrant either of these responses?

The immense disdain for President Bush really symbolizes a primitive, immature need for a scapegoat for all the negatives of the last 8 years from natural disasters to economic meltdowns, to global warming (which may not exist anyway). Somehow he became the lightning rod for all the combined psychological pain from the left-the narcissistic wound they suffered back in 2000 when Al Gore barely lost the election. That psychological trauma was re-experienced in 2004 when the democrats lost yet again and it has been a borderline rampage ever since. The media is at the forefront of this extreme behavior fomenting both a crazed dislike for President Bush on the one hand while cultivating an equally illogical adoration for President Obama. The psychoanalysts should be having a hey day with this stuff. In true borderline fashion the hatred is then replaced by the need for an idealized figure-enter Barack Obama-a man who found himself, or maybe with some help made himself ,the perfect storm into which he could sail through cleanly to the Presidency. Is it not disturbing or upsetting on some level to think that the most important job in the land is so readily given away without proof of competency other than some one's ability to appear a certain way? I am reminded of the Emperor's New Clothes. Metaphorically speaking he may really be spiritually, emotionally and intellectually "naked". What person shops for a church ? Don't you belong to a church whose doctrines and teachings you think come from God-does this change from city to city? Or again further evidence of an empty suit. Just because everyone, i.e. the media, thinks President Obama is intelligent, caring, patient, kind, empathic and going to fix all of our social, economic and political ills does not mean this is true. It merely means we all have an extreme case of mis-attribution. I believe President Obama has the most intense case of this disorder arrogantly assuming that he is the answer to all our problems and comparing himself to Lincoln, Washington and the like-(does the name Rasputin mean anything to anyone?) These men were great because they were humble, because their character became evident through the trials they faced. If Barack Obama had great character he would not need or want to be self promoting; authoring two books about himself and 2)before he had really accomplished anything in life. His one book would more accurately be entitled "The Audacity". In addition, if he were truly a great man he would never have sought the office he presently holds realizing that a relatively young,inexperienced person such as himself would not be able to do as good a job as someone with more experience and character that can only come with living a certain amount of time. However, his life has not ever been about realism. It has been about getting bumped to the front of the line, about his pain, his ideas-ultimately about him. Really the man he most reminds me of in terms of historical figures are people such as Napoleon or Alexander Hamilton if you want an American example.

So beware President Obama because the people may act like they love you now but once you have let them down, which you most certainly will because you are just a man and a rather ordinary one at that, then you too will experience the vitriol and venom that results from unrealistic hopes and wants dashed and drowned in the realities of adult life. Borderlines only get better with very long term, intensive treatment and unfortunately our society has yet to clue into the degree of it's dysfunction. So our collective society left untreated will only continue to unravel and you too will experience the pathology unleashed on President Bush. The problem exists in the lack of emotional and spiritual stability in many of the people in our society and especially in the psyche of our media.

And President Bush I would like to apologize for the really bad behavior of many of my fellow citizens. While it is true you too may not have been the person best suited for the Presidency-actually name the person that was other than Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. At least you were honest and had no pretense. You were ironically a lot more humble than your detractors like to characterize you and you did what was best for the country. You kept us safe and gave us a long period of unprecedented prosperity. You are not to blame for Katrina, terrorism, the conflict in the Middle East or the only person responsible for the economic mess we are in. You and your wife handled yourselves with decorum and grace under very difficult circumstances and we thank you for your service.