Recent news stories have detailed the shocking inadequacies of public school students in many American cities with single-digit percentages of graduating high school seniors achieving only grade-level scores on arithmetic and reading evaluation tests. Having treated many teachers I can't help thinking that the major problem in student achievement reflects less teacher inadequecy than that of the school's administration: inadequate, undemanding principals and rules forbidding proper action against bullying and emotionally disturbed students. But the behavior of parents too: were parents to first read to and then with their toddlers and, apart from emergency situations, to explain parental demands rather than say, "Do it because I say so," which depresses the development of the capacity for abstract thinking, most children would be reading simple books by kindergarten. Math is different since if earlier steps are missed, a child will continually fall behind. I've known very smart children to have problems with math so something may be wrong with how it's taught. Nuff said.
A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life
A May 26, 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal ("Did Merkel Pave the Way for the War in Ukraine"), which itemized what were described as former German Chancellor Angela Merkel's disastrous policies, aroused my thinking of an alternate history novel: one in which Germany remained a nation of royal principalities instead of being united in 1871. In it there would be no World War One or World War Two, no Holocaust with many other millions dead, no rise of Communism or Soviet Union or Cold War with many of today's political tensions gone. But what to do about those pesky 1930s Japanese militarists? Hmm...
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While anxiety is typically considered a problem, it enables healthy functioning since it indicates when danger threatens. But a problem arises when what is felt to be dangerous is not, this reflecting the lingering effect of childhood experiences. Having an immature psychological apparatus, many childhood conclusions are inaccurate particularly if one grows up in a troubled family. Thus if a child is caused to conclude that expressing feelings or behaving independently or that the world outside the family is dangerous, the child, when an adult, wiill hold these views which conflict with his healthier instinct, a conflict that creates anxiety when it arises.
Thus anxiety can indicate both truly dangerous and what is safe but is felt-to be-dangerous situations, and the sufferer should decide which it is rather than behaving impulsively and unwisely.
The recent suicide of forty-seven -year-old Heather Armstrong, who was also known as Mommy Blogger and Dooce, aroused much publicity. While almost everyone has a suicidal thought sometime, the critical factors for its acting-out are whether it is serious, if the person has a realistic plan and means of carrying it out (as a gun or pills), and their degree of self-control.
Because of the biological imperative to live, suicide usually requires that the person's thinking is addled by drugs or alcohol or both as with Armstrong. Conceptually, suicide reflects early life experience during which the person was made to feel worthless, this belief returning later when, as adult and burdened by exceptional stress, the person considers themselves to be unworthy of life.
Suicide is alway a tragedy and, as has long been said, a permanent solution to a temporary condition. I've long thought that, to increase its understanding, psychological autopsies of prominent figues should be publicized regardless of family embarrassment. After all, it no longer matters to the principal character.
Many of today's public problems can be traced to ignorance of well-accepted knowledge about psychological development, and acceptance of the power of unconscious functioning over behavior with early life experiences being the bedrock of adult personality and affecting it throughout life. Seeemingly inexplicable and sometimes horrendous adult behaviors can be explained by these. For example, most youth killings are intended to effect what has been termed "suicide-by-cop" because of depression; road-rage incidents being caused by deeply unconscious feelings of worthlessness; and terrorist acts carried out by people lacking a healthy sense of identity, of who they are or "sense of self," which their identifying with a terrorist group can seem to provide.
That an elementary biological fact has become a political issue is bizarre and reflects the same ignorance. While there are indisputably only two sexes, male and female, what is socially considered the psychological characteristics of one is often present in the other. Thus a man may be the emotional parent in a family, more maternal or "motherly," a role which is usually that of the woman; and a woman may be highly assertive at work, exhibiting a trait that is conventionally attributed to men, with both individuals being completely normal.
A moving story by Leigh Kamping-Carder in the April 29, 2023 issue of The Wall Street Journal ("My Heart Defect Was Repaired by Age 4. But Was I Cured?") described her life after three childhood cardiac surgeries, aroused several thoughts.
A child's mind is immature and, when provided treatment, often blames their parents and the doctor for their discomfort, being unable to grasp its need. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms can develop which indicate that the mind's capacity to cope with stress has been exceeded. Which can happen to anyone with any stress whether a soldier, child, or adult. They may have nightmares or become overly sensitive to noises or change of temperature.
Autism and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which the reporter indicates are potential sequelae of early life medical treatment, have other origins entirely. Autism is vastly mis-diagnosed and has nothing to do with medical procedures, vaccination, air-pollution or whatever other fantasy is popularly believed. Rather, it derives from severely deficient early parenting which the infant senses and tries to avoid by becoming independent but inevitably fails, then turning from the world as self-protection. This was well understood by psychologists since the 1980s but is resisted by widespread public and doctor ignorance of child psychological development abetted by undeserved parental feelings of guilt.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is perhaps the most unsophisticated mental health diagnosis of the past two-hundred-years, its symptoms being identical to anxiety and depression which can be present in any medical or psychological disorder. Its predecessors are the "mental restlessness" of seventeenth-century England medicine and the Minimal Brain Dysfunction (MBD) of early twentieth-century USA practice when it was depicted by a Harvard psychiatrist as being such nonsense that only a doctor with a minimal brain dysfunction would use it
As a psychologist I hear of all relationship parameters. Some couples share expenses with each being responsible for particular bills while others pool their earnings with one person handling payments. Poor communication, reflective of unspoken marital issues, is usually the basic problem not money. Being a parent, of which the mother is the primary emotional caretaker in most families, is a full-time job when considering the need to get kids to medical appointments and activities, deal with their illnesses and maybe that of a pet too, food shopping, cooking and more, in addition to the demands of a job. Some keep three calendars: one for their job meetings, one for their kids' activities, and one for husband-wife events. I'm floored at the energy needed to successfully accomplish all and won't dispute those who regard women as the stronger sex.
An April 11, 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal ("Your Gen Z Co-Worker Is Hustling More Than You Think. Ambitious 20-somethings are trying to knock down the stereotype that they aren't into hard work") considered whether youth in their twenties are as hardworking as their ancestors through descriptions of several lives. A twenty-five-year-old engineer who completed high school in three-years and college in three-and-one-half-years founded her software firm at eighteen and works well into the night; a twenty-two-year-old works sixty-hour-weeks for a corporation. What it comes down to, in the opinion of this psychologist, is that motivation is individual, deriving from in-born talent shaped by the parenting that one experienced, though success depends on luck too of course.
An April 10, 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal ("Stop Telling Everyone What You Do for a Living") aroused a memory. Years ago, I registered myself at a military studies conference as "Psychologist/Author" and was given a badge identifying me as an "Independent Researcher." At the hotel, people would read my badge and quickly look away, avoiding me and I wondered why. During one of the dinners an Army officer stared at my badge and asked what I did. I said I was a psychologist, treating kids and adults and writing books. She burst out laughing and I asked what was so funny. She said that people who were described as "Independent Researcher" held jobs that were so secret they couldn't say where they worked. This incident inspired me to write a blog item entitled, "My Life As A Spy."