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

Why Battered Wives Remain Married

Why women who experience repeated threats and physical assaults from their spouse remain with them seems inexplicable yet is readily understandable.Through their experiences they have been programmed to be submissive, enslaved by their husband through a paralyzing terror of continuous agitation, anxiety bordering on panic, and psychosomatic symptoms, these creating passivity and feelings of hopelessness. Only rarely does their deeply repressed rage become homicidal.
Studies have revealed that many of these women had alcoholic fathers and had married as teenagers when pregnant. The husbands drank heavily and kept their wives isolated, accusing them of infidelity and beating them after their return home, causing the women to live in constant fear and unable to meet with supportive female friends and keep medical appointments. Their low self-esteem, lack of safety and financial resources, and feeling of shame cause them to stay with their battering husband.

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"1984" Redux or Currently Permitted Language

There is a robust discussion about the "sensitivity industry" on the Authors Guild Community website. It details how publishers have come to take criticism seriously from even unknown online complainants about books. In one case, criticism of a bunny in a book aroused corporate angst. And no, the complaint was NOT from the bunny.
To this discussion I added my experience of participating on a Facebook parenting group where, in response to the many unsophisticated comments, I explained Borderline Personality Disorder in terms of developmentally derived weakness of basic ego capacities. I was then criticized for using the term "weakness" since this allegedly put people down. I thought to respond that following this logic, tuberculosis and polio must be considered beneficial rather than disabling but didn't. Responding to know-nothings is fruitless.
I dropped out of Facebook parenting advice groups, my tolerance for idiocy having been exceeded, after one group's moderator stated that anyone who henceforth used the term "breast-feeding" in place of "chest-feeding" would be expelled. After reporting this incident on the Authors Guild Community website a cleverer writer than me advised that I should have responded, "Send me your child to chest-feed," and others contributed. One said that employees of a state mental health department on the West Coast were instructed that henceforth the term "insane" should be used in place of "crazy," while another posted that his friend at a Washington D.C. facility was ordered to use the term "crazy" in place of "insane." You figure.
Which leaves me puzzled. I have long believed that, considering all their responsibilities (home, child-care, job, ill pet, etc.) it is fortunate that it is women who have babies since they must be the stronger sex. Will I now be pilloried for stating this?

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Psychiatric Diagnostic Misunderstanding and Popular Culture

For some illogical reason, perhaps as a reaction to poor clinical practice or popular movies, some mental health disorders have become viewed as benefit rather than illness. Among these is Borderline Personality Disorder, a serious psychological illness describing severe, fixed weakness of the basic ego capacities governing thinking, behavior, affect, and more, deriving from faulty developmental experiences, principally the lack of a "good-enough" parenting during the early years when basic ego capacities form. A theoretical concept, "Elements of a Borderline Psychotic Psychostructural Organization," which is far more common than BPD, is a continuum of weaknesses of one or more ego capacities and far less severe. It is often mis-diagnosed for BPD particularly when substance abuse is present. Sadly, inadequate child development knowledge is the rule for both the general public and many clinicians.

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Helping a Child Cope With Their Severe Illness

Being seriously ill as an adult arouses terrors. These are infinitely worse for a child since their understanding lacks mature insight. They perceive their all-powerful parents as deliberately bringing them to doctors who cause them discomfort and pain. Which are unavoidable for those suffering from cancer or convulsive disorders even when the prognosis is favorable. The child feels friendless, having none who can understand except for their stuffed animal friend who mutely observes.
Young children consider stuffed animals as friends who are no different from living friends with whom adults share their secrets. Children talk to them, play with them, and sometimes hurt them which, like good parents, they lovingly forgive.
Speaking to these children of their medical situation, by using their stuffed animal friend as intermediary, can be supportive by relieving their trauma and isolation and giving hope.

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Living With A Tyrannical Boss

What one can tolerate in a boss is individual. Someone I that once knew, who worked unbothered by her crazy boss in the entertainment industry, had survived a difficult childhood, living in her car until being helped by a concerned teacher who let her live with her until she graduated from college. Upon quitting her job the young woman was asked to train her replacement to tolerate the screaming boss. But when psychosomatic symptoms (as neck pain, etc.) begin it's time to leave. I've often said that I may not have been too smart about some of the jobs that I took but I always knew exactly when to leave, which is when they want you to stay. I've learned that a manager has a certain "shelf life," initially being viewed as the organization's savior but, after it functions well, as part of any lingering problem. Still, as my (now deceased) graduate school advisor said after receiving my tale of woe/complaining letter, "Think of the job as a chapter in your memoir." Sound advice from one that I still miss.

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Parental Reluctance to Confront Their Child's Emotional Problems

Years ago a mother brought her child to my office. While speaking with her alone, I referred to her son's "emotional problems." "My child does not have emotional problems," the mother insisted, and stormed from my office. Had I been given the chance I might have asked, "Then why are you here?" but already knew the answer: to gain reassurance that, despite having observed his bizarre behavior, her child was perfectly fine.
This illogic, when a parent's emotion-based reality clashes with actual reality, is understandable. Though unwise, it reflects the parent's feeling of shame from the belief that they failed as a parent. Which is undeserved since children are not born with instructions nor have all parents experienced a "good enough" parenting during their own childhood. Once a parent gains help for their troubled child they have no reason to feel guilt and it is counter-productive to the success of their child's treatment. But not seeking treatment for their child, especially when it leads to harm, is inexcusable.

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Shooting Atrocities and Politician Response

While guns should certainly be kept from children and the mentally disturbed, behaving simplistically, as politicians tend to do following public distress, accomplishes little. The cause of the recent shooting atrocities is mental illness, virtually all deriving from lack of a "good enough" parenting during earliest childhood when the basic ego capacities governing control of thinking and behavior, modulation of mood, development of a sense of self, and the ability to separate fact from fantasy are formed. Yet no politician spoke this, doubtlessly because few know it since knowledge of child development is minimal even by doctors. What some seem to fear, even more greatly than guns, is awareness of the fearsome power of the unconscious. Can that a gun symbolizes this explain why it goes unspoken following shootings? Hmm...

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Explaining Fetishes

There may be few behaviors as puzzling to the non-clinician as a fetish, which is an overwhelming interest by a man in an ordinary object like shoes, feet, an odor, or an article of clothing for it rarely afflicts women. Though apparently "crazy" there is a logic to the interest since it derives from the ealiest years of childhood when the mind is most immature and the child is easily frightened. The creation of the fetish was motivated by a sight which so terrified them that a "screen memory" had to be created to hide it in a symbol, the fetish. This protected them from remembering the overly exciting event, perhaps the sight of a naked female or of adults having sex. While virtually all adults have some irrational fear or interest only those interfering with normal functioning require treatment.

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The Exhibitionist Surgeon and the Popular Concept of Normality

A talented psychoanalyst once wrote of his treatment of a San Francisco surgeon who persistently exhibited his genitals in public. During his treatment the doctor realized that his powerfully motivated behavior reflected the persistence of an early childhood desire to show his mother how powerful he was. An act which is not unusual for very young children and properly discouraged by their mother,
This doctor's behavior evidenced a generally ignored truth: that the unconscious is powerful and cannot be ignored. Though most people prefer to believe that consciousness governs our behavior--until they are forced to believe otherwise.
All humans are a product of their upbringing from which infantile misconceptions and fears may erupt at any time, which must be understood and controlled. Being "normal" means functioning in line with developmental expectations whether as youth or adult. Not that one is totally free of the apparently inexplicable thoughts and feelings that can lead to unwise behavior.

When one responds to a situation with greater emotion than warranted the behavior is motivated by an unconscious element, often deriving from an early-life event. Consider the unfortunately common "road rage" if you will.

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Three Important Thoughts About the Frightening Symptoms of Panic/Anxiety Attack

1. Your scary feelings are not dangerous. Anxiety can mimic the symptoms of virtually every medical disorder and what you're experiencing is just an exaggeration of the normal response to extraordinary stress.
2. Don't think what "might" happen.
3. Facing your fear will make it less intense and ultimately vanish.

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