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

The Healthy Benefits of Painful PTSD Symptoms

The pandemic has brought Post-traumatic Stress Disorder to the attention of many for its upset is considerable: distressing thoughts and nightmares; recollections of the traumatic event(s) which may include reliving them through illusions and dissociative flashbacks; avoiding conversations about the event(s) or places where they occurred; marked symptoms of anxiety causing problems with sleep, concentration, and functioning on the job.

 

Yet though painful, these symptoms are intended by the mind to be helpful for they serve two critical functions: forcing into consciousness the fact that the person's tolerance for stress has been exceeded and change must be made, and reflecting its healthy, normal attempt to re-integrate--to repair itself--from the damage of intolerable stress. The unconscious is very powerful, and one must respect its power.

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Confronting Adolescent Evil

The recent attacks by bicycle riding teenagers on two cars in mid-town Manhattan, a taxi driver (causing him thousands of dollars in damage) and another containing a terrorized family, were shocking but unsurprising during these days when society's expectation of personal responsibility has diminished. Yet even more surprising was mere official call for "consequences," and a victim's hope that the perpetrators aren't jailed.

 

The psychological capacities enabling a person to distinguish reality from fantasy, modulate mood, develop a secure identity or "sense of self," and to control their behavior and thinking develop within the first three years of life. For their healthy growth a "good-enough" parenting is required which some lack, this reducing their likelihood of successfully achieving adolescent goals (to provisionally separate from parents; to construct realistic educational and vocational goals; to explore intimacy through dating). This failure produces frustration and anger and, in some youth, acting-out behavior though only rarely like these teenagers which, according to local shopkeepers, was not their first outrage.

 

As has long been known, exemplary adults can arise from the most impoverished families since it is parenting that counts. The famed, recently deceased, Black economist, Walter E, Williams, credited his achievements to having had a demanding mother and teachers "who didn't give a damn about my self-esteem." His mother must have taught him values too.


No matter how greatly distressed, destructive behavior should not be engaged in and cannot be tolerated. All, including parents who do their best, are the product of an imperfect childhood and will make mistakes though some are inexcusable.


A school's structure and rules enable psychologically damaged youth to function better, and society relies on the police and law to do this in the larger society. Yet regardless of personal inadequacies, evil cannot be tolerated and must be condemned and punished since no desirable society can exist which lacks this.

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