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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Suggested Doctoral Dissertation Topic: Why Do Some Good-Reader Children Hate To Read

I've long been puzzled why some children in therapy who have no problem reading won't spontaneously read or profess to dislike it. Having tentatively concluded that, since reading involves the active use of the self, this creates anxiety for these disturbed children and motivates this resistance. But I've also encountered seriously disturbed children who read many books a week.

 

Certainly, there may be other contributing factors besides psychopathology: whether early-life parent encouragement of reading existed; the child never having grasped the escapist, soothing possibilities of reading fiction; or their over-involvement in another activity such as video games whose obsessive-compulsive elements reduce anxiety and is one reason for their popularity.

 

In any case, this would seem a worthwhile topic for study. And now the idea is yours!

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On the Murderer's Public Depiction in Suicide/Homicide

The recent suicide of a Los Angeles County attorney, before which he murdered his wife and son and tried to kill his daughter, was shocking but not unusual for there have been several in my area. Thereafter, especially when the perpetrator is prominent, newspapers describe their earlier positive deeds with their depraved final act being downplayed though no distress could justify it.
It would be of benefit that a psychological autopsy of these events be conducted, to educate the public that powerful unconscious factors can cause horrors but also to condemn their immorality in the strongest terms. For while suicide is nearly always irrational, so is the murder of innocents and particularly of children, acts for which no amount of earlier generosity can atone. That the murderers were evil and vile should represent their legacy, not goodness.

 

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Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Create Text-to-Speech (TTS)

Many great books have never been created as an audio edition so what I've been playing with is listening to them using the TTS of Amazon and Google with an old Kindle E-book (version 2) and a modern Android (8.1) smartphone. The speech using this AI is obviously robotic and not terribly enjoyable but I've listened while doing chores. Human-read books are vastly better. Amazon has a Polly AI which is commercial and cheap and I listened to a sample. It is much improved over the others but still not perfect. There's a human emotion fluctuation after a comma and a period which it doesn't get quite right. I found this interesting and wondered if, sooner than later, AI produced audio books will put human readers out of business since it is so much cheaper. Or if it is already being used by publishers. There are already very human-like news readers in China with an increasing ability for news stories to be AI created. All-in-all, it's a fascinating development. But I don't believe that AI will ever push serious writers out of existence. For them and most people, creativity is what counts.

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Explaining Suicide

Suicide reflects the seriously inadequate development of those basic ego capacities governing a sturdy sense of self (sense of who one is), modulation of affect, and control over thinking and behavior. This causes profound feelings of worthlessness and, when exacerbated by an immediate stress, suicidal behavior may result.

 

Thus, a teenager doesn't suicide simply because they broke up with their boy/girl friend, and most recent soldiers who committed suicide never saw combat with many never even having left the USA.

 

Alcoholism and drug abuse reflect the attempted self-medication of emotional deficiencies. It's not easy to kill oneself, living being a biological imperative, unless one momentarily lacks self-control because of drugs or alcohol use. To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, 3AM is the darkest time of the day. Nelson Algren attempted suicide after the failure of his first novel in 1935. Fourteen years later he won the National Book Award for The Man With the Golden Arm.

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When the Fantasy of Having Had a Loving Mother Must End

After telling me his nightmare, a patient rejected my interpretation of it as reflecting anger toward his mother. "No, my mother always loved me," he said. Which may have been true for her relinquishing of parental rights enabled the patient's life to dramatically improve after his adoption and psychotherapy.


It is hard to accept being unloved at birth. Though the helpless infant can survive without physical care, psychological neglect can equally damage their future. And the most important person in their earliest years is their mother or mothering figure. Viewing the world with an immature mind, every child considers their parents to be omniscient. Thus if the child is unloved, it must be their fault.

 

Only with maturity, and possibly psychotherapy, can one accept a basic psychological truth: that while all children are lovable at birth, some mothers ore incapable of providing it. For this realization to occur, two things must happen: an acceptance of their parent's limitations, and their own.

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Treating PTSD With Hypnosis

I was a member of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis for many years and, while a hospital administrator, got pains in my neck at the end of the day. A year later I interpreted this as reflecting some of my employees being a pain in the neck which they were. An ASCH entire journal issue was on cancer and hypnosis and I used one of the article's research protocols (the article related stress to the immune system and the tendency to develop cancer) to make a ten-minute tape which I then used twice and, low and behold, my neck pain disappeared.

 

Years later, when a nurse at my (stressful) job found that my blood pressure was high, an internist I had known since adolescence recommended that I take it as often as possible, there being no way that I would take medication. I did, used the self-hypnotic relaxation CD repeatedly daily and graphed my readings. My blood pressure readings gradually went down over several months to superb readings (low 120s over low 70s or better) and have remained so. I'm a great believer in the efficacy of hypnosis, considering it not a learned reaction but fostering the entrance into a different physiological state, this "drop" being experienced by many. Napping using self-hypnosis is far more restful too, a 1/2 hour nap, upon awakening, feeling like a several hour ordinary period of sleep.

 

I've since used the tape (now a CD and on my Android phone) daily and given it to all of my adult patients without charge for relaxation, though hypnosis is useful for far more. I regard hypnosis as mostly best for physical conditions such as alleviating the pain of childbirth, burns, and back ache; to lower high blood pressure along with the use of a digital blood pressure measuring device as a biofeedback mechanism; for sleep difficulty; to reduce the stress of asthmatic children so they're less likely to have an asthma attack, and with similar issues.

 

On the whole, apart from relieving stress and anxiety, I believe that hypnosis, and mostly the teaching of self-hypnotic technique which is quick, isn't particularly useful when coping with specific trauma. Here, psychological education about its nature and psychodynamic interpretation of the trauma residue would be most beneficial. It is also far safer than the use of medication.

 

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The Tragedy of Mental Illness:

Rudolph Schoenheimer, a loner and brilliant biochemist, was forced to leave Germany in 1933. He discovered that body constituents are in a continuous state of chemical renewal with chemicals appearing and disappearing even in adult organisms while their structure and form remain unchanged. Believed to be a certain winner of the Nobel Prize, he suffered from manic-depression and killed himself at the age of forty-three in 1941.

 

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Things Aren't Always As They Seem

Near Huntington, Long Island's railroad station is a lovely, condo-like, low-income housing development. A young teacher, walking to the home of a student for a parent visit, saw three teenagers sitting on a stoop and became frightened (everyone knows how dangerous teenagers are!). As she nervously walked by, one teenager asked the others, "Do you think she sells vacuums?"

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Sensations While Dreaming:

In a dream yesterday, I held hands with a long-past lover in school and felt the warmth of her hand on mine. Upon awakening, that wrist was painful. Now, this discomfort might have derived not from the dream but from having pulled too heavy a load in a cart that day or holding a tablet for too long while watching a movie. Which got me thinking.

 

Some people dream in color but for me this occurred only once and then momentarily. A coworker of years ago suffered nightmares from which she awoke screaming several times a week, then bearing marks on her wrist where, in the dream, her mother held her down while sexually abusing her. She had experienced this during childhood.

 

Dream content has inspired art and presented the solution to scientific problems. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Shakespeare/Hamlet)

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The Unspoken Unavoidable Pain of Psychotherapists

A psychotherapist's work is catalytic, fostering the patient's unconscious mind in its quest for greater emotional health and improved functioning. While this cannot be guaranteed, it usually happens and patients leave therapy satisfied. Likely without achieving as great joy as they wished but that is not a reasonable goal since life gets in the way.

 

But there is also sadness for the doctor who, with rare exception, never learns how their patient's life progresses, like reading a novel with missing chapters. Unlike parents who, after surrendering their grown-up child, do learn of their offspring's continuing life.

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