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

The Danger of Ignorance About Psychological Development

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.

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The Posibble Lingering Effects Of Childhood Medical Treatments

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

 

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Of Ties and Ties

My (retired) brother gifted me many gorgeous ties. A month later I asked, "How come your six-dollar ties look so much better than my six-dollar ties?" "That's because I paid sixty-dollars for them," he said.

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The Economics of Marriage

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.

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Today's Alleged Lazy Youth

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.

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Introductions

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."

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Becoming An Adult

The difference between the adult's and the child's view of life is that an adult is able to question it. When a child, you don't question if your world is good or bad because if you decide it is bad, that for whatever reason your parents are not nice people, you are questioning your existence which depends on their benevolence. Only when an adult and have your own life, can you can question their nature. But this conclusion is not always true since I have known youngsters who decided their parents were crazy before entering high school. Then deciding to trust only their own judgment and to make independent decisions. But these youth also had an outsider, a loving relative or a trusted teacher, to guide and encourage them. Lacking this, atrocious criminal acts may occur, committed by long smoldering and enraged, suicidal adults who lacked the critically important "good-enough" parenting experience as a child from which the basic ego capacities and personality develop. 

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Creative Works and Artificial Intelligence (#AI)

An article in The Wall Street Journal on April 4, 2023 ("Who Owns SpongeBob? AI Shakes Hollywood's Creative Foundation") raised an important copyright question. Perhaps a more important question, considering the poor state of education today, is whether the average person will be able to distinguish between the product of human creativity and that of AI. I remarked once, after reading my website posted first chapter of a novel I wrote decades ago (Lies In Progress), that I admired the writing but remembered virtually nothing of the plot and would be unable to re-write the book today. A fellow writer on the Authors Guild Community Bulletin Board explained this, stating that creative writing derives from the unconscious which closes when the production is completed. With which I agree. I can't conceive of AI producing the twists in even one of my short blog pieces which incorporate psychological fact with personal and professional experiences. Still, as I said, will today's average-schooled person be able to tell the difference, or value it?

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School Achievement and Choice

An article in The Wall Street Journal on April 3, 2023 ("Milton Friedman's School Choice Revolution - Biden may write him off, but his idea is more popular than ever."} aroused this blog. The greatest factor in school achievement is for a child to have experienced a "good-enough" parenting. If all parents read first to and then with their toddlers, almost all children would be reading simple books by first grade. And, apart from emergency situations, to never say, "Do it because I say so," to children since this depresses the development of the capacity for abstract thinking, as psychologists have long known.

The teachers that I've treated are just as frustrated, having to teach classes of students speaking multiple languages, which can include unsocialized or (literally) crazed students creating classroom chaos and being ignored by administration, having parents who are clueless about parenting or too overwhelmed to provide it. Back to basics, as has long been said, and not the recent craze to avoid standards and achievement tests. The greatest benefit of the admission-test high school I attended was not its academics but that there were no fights or bullying (though being big, I was never bullied), and also no athletics and only rare parties (it was a different time). My dentist, another of its graduates, told me that once he almost got into a fight after making a deprecating remark but though the other student balled his fist he desisted.

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On Suicide

An essay in The Wall Street Journal on April 1, 2023 ("We Need to Talk About Suicide"), by a person who attempted suicide three times, aroused comment. Though the biological imperative to live is powerful, all think of suicide at some point in their life, the critical factors predicting its lethality being the presence of suicide intent, the availability of lethal means (a gun or a drug), and the degree of self-control possessed. While the actual incidence of suicide compared to its thought is like the proverbial needle in a haystack, it should always be professionally evaluated. But sadly, Emergency Room evaluations can be unsophisticated, leading to unneeded hospitalization (the professionally "safest" decision) which has emotional risk, the person now viewing themselves as "a crazy person," unlike earlier when they considered themselves merely part of the human race. And as has long been said, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

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