Archive for the ‘human interaction’ Category

Gulf Coast Oil Spill #4: Teens

May 25, 2010

If you are wondering just how bad things really are in the Gulf see this ABC news report. Philippe Cousteau (Jacque’s grandson) calls it a “nightmare.”

Transocean is holding a memorial today for those who died in the Deepwater Horizon in Jackson, Miss. .

People have died.  The US government is now calling it the worst oil spill ever.

While most adults seem to be taking this in stride, rationally calculating the ratio of a country’s need for oil to the spill’s impact, many kids feel defiant and betrayed.  This is their planet.  As they watch adult authority figures still unable to stop the flow of oil into the ocean, cynicism molds childhood laughter in a wary grimace, the dull mask of survival.  They believe that the world they know may be coming to an end, and sometimes, as one adolescent explained, “it is simpler to just harden up and ice over.”

Another young man said, “The subdued reaction to this crisis makes everything seem very false. As long as everyone around us denies that these things are happening, we tag along: the as-if generation in an as-if world.”

Three teenagers from New York City’s Upper West Side, however, tried something different.  This is their story and here is their petition.

(more…)

Gulf Oil Spill #2

May 4, 2010

Read this.  Krugman echoes comments by Glenn Albrecht.  The surprising issue is that given the severity of this disaster, so few people seem as upset as I might expect, at least here in NYC. I venture to say, however, that unless you live along the Gulf coast or work in it waters, the implications of this oil spill event are being conveniently tucked away in the dark corners of people’s minds. At a dinner over the weekend, friends commented, “This is terrible,” looking anguished and frightened in a manner that tightened their eyes.  No one that I spoke to was motivated to do anything. There are, however, psychological concepts that can explain such apathy. They can also suggest strategies to enable a more authentic national dialogue about our energy choices.  The Gulf Coast doesn’t only need Obama. It needs the citizenry.

(more…)

A Yearning for the Past

April 29, 2010

The dark hair of a twenty-year-old female college student gleamed against her long-sleeved white shirt. Her rounded collar denied even the possibility of cleavage. Her denim skirt fell well below the knees and she wore stockings with her sneakers.  She complained that her matchmaker thought she was too picky. If I had met this woman in a Jewish orthodox neighborhood this encounter might have made sense. Instead, I met Tzipora (formerly Jennifer) in my private practice in a Manhattan neighborhood where even the dogs wear tank tops. As I heard her lament about her preference for Chassidish men, I had to acknowledge that this previously secular woman now devoting herself to Orthodox Judaism was not the first such character to wander into my office of late.  Deepening religious observance is but one manifestation of people’s attempts to tune their behavior to a different historical note. The evocation of the past seems to be a critique of American materialism, an analysis useful in understanding individuals as well as our nation’s current political turbulence.

(more…)

Hooking Up Isn’t Green

April 18, 2010

A few years ago, a young woman winced as she described yet another evening of binge drinking, and the guy she thought she remembered having sex with in the bar parking lot.  Her long wavy hair framed bright eyes that seemed to catch every change in light. Her arms, long and graceful, sat folded upon her chest.  She had graduated at the top of her class at an Ivy-League college, and was now a young professional in Manhattan.  Still, she spent most evenings out at bars, and her social life consisted of brief sexual encounters with people she either just met or barely knew. I once suggested to her that she try going to dinner with a romantic interest.

“Are you crazy?” she admonished. “Have dinner with someone I don’t know? I would never do that “.

That was my introduction to what is know commonly known as hooking up.  Since then I have discovered that it is the common form of socializing in high schools and on college campuses.  Denise Ann Evans made a movie about it. Tom Wolfe has written about it. The behavior is an implicit aspect of most reality TV.  Yet, while limited media attention views the phenomena with some degree of fascinated voyeurism, very few remark on the fact that these young people are simply enacting everything they have been taught. What else might be expected from young people raised on commercials, treated as consumers from the  time they were toddlers and flooded with imagery of the earth being violated for the sake of materialistic consumption?

(more…)

Ordinary Earth Returns: People Need a Place

April 15, 2010

The importance of a sense of place to psychological well-being became evident during my travel to Israel. While we understand many psychological difficulties in terms of relationships (particularly parental), or development, or even the body, rarely do psychologists venture into the significance of space and place. Human geographers like Yi-Fu Tuan, Nigel Thrift, Steve Pile and Derek Gregory (to name a few) have written extensively about the mutual influence of space and consciousness.  Clinicians have not focused on it as much, but my thinking is that we can learn about another facet of our minds from these geographers . (more…)

Diagnosis, Flow and Motion

March 16, 2010

“Don’t tell me what is going on with me, help me understand the how of me.” AJ, a 24 year old male.

With the release of the proposed draft revisions (version 5) to DSM disorders and criteria, new questions have arisen about psychiatric diagnosis.  Articles like the very in-depth analysis by Louis Menand in The New Yorker wonder whether or not the classification of mental disorders doesn’t pathologize the vicissitudes of human emotional expression. Jonah Lehrer’s recent piece in the NYTimes adds another element to the discourse about what is diagnosis: what if mental illness, like depression, has value? I would like to suggest another angle to this over-due debate: Diagnosis is a process, a fluid and mutable motion between body, mind, other people, culture and the environment. A diagnosis should not be construed as a territory with fixed boundaries nor a rigid categorical definition.  A viewing lens can assist in the identification of a Downey Woodpecker but you can’t learn anything about the creature until you observe it flying and interacting with the trees.  A psychological enterprise should always engage with a person’s process, and should aim to assist a person in the discovery of how all the pieces of their life come together.  This work relies on experience and training, as well as science and art. It also depends on a deep understanding of the natural, evolutionary world in which we are all embedded.

(more…)

People Don’t Always Act in their Best Interest

March 9, 2010

from uk.canada.travel/ConsumerWeb/ExperienceDetail...

Some people have been debating whether or not scientists should become climate change activists or if they should stick to the data. The concern is that the general population seems less worried about environmental issues.  Given our culture’s typical reliance on external solutions to problems, it doesn’t surprise me that journalists and pundits are looking to Obama, scientists, activists, politicians and economists to motivate change. As someone who helps people transform less than optimal behavioral problems into opportunities for accomplishment, lets begin with this fact:  People don’t always act in their own best interest.  Usually, what most motivates people to behave in a manner that affirms self and others is direct  emotional enlivenment that connects to an inner conviction or memory.  Let me provide an example from my work to illustrate how it might be possible to get people interested in climate change. (more…)

Facing Unemployment: Going Local

February 16, 2010

graphic from jobjabber.wordpress.com/.../

The United States economic outlook is bleak, and predictions for the cultural fabric rather ominous.  Don Peck writes in this month’s Atlantic that joblessness “is likely to warp our politics, our culture and the character of society for years to come.”  While I tend to agree, I’m also working hard with folks on what to do to stave off this impending doom. What seems to help is going local, or investing in community, according to Dr. Robert Leahy, or recommitting “ourselves to cleaning up democracy” (2/2/10), according to Economist Robert Reich. Going local means re-investing in the place you live and re-establishing possibilities that your local environment can support. David Brooks comments “Somehow there must be a way to use the country’s idle talent to address freshly exposed needs.” That’s right. People must focus on the places they live, see what needs doing, and get started with the task of creating, developing and providing new services, ideas, products and systems that can help usher in the new economy of the better decades awaiting us. Some people are trying.   (more…)

Parenting Dilemma #2

February 8, 2010

One of the most common difficulties in homes with school age children is dealing with homework.  An adolescent male, a junior in high school, slept no more than 12 hours one week due to mid-terms.  Parents consulted with me because their child had smashed several glasses due to homework frustration.  A young middle school student avoided going to classes because she was having trouble completing assignments due to procrastination. Even for kids who have no learning or executive function complexities, homework has become the crucible for self-worth as children labor over hours of assignments.  While the debate about excessive homework has been conducted in this country for many generations, I suspect that the issue with homework isn’t that there is too much of it (although it can appear that way).  Rather, I have observed that most kids aren’t engaged enough with generative activities. Children, and especially adolescents, aren’t devoting enough non-competitive time to their bodies, to creative pursuits, or to spending time outside. There is no balancing of the cognitive discipline necessary to intellectual growth with other developmental needs that are emotional, physical and what I call expansionary.  A social organization that is out of synch with its own ecology creates children who are out of touch with their own ecosystems. This leads to the massive homework meltdown. One way out of this is to change the way teachers, educators and principals think, like this. Another way is to practice the “more is less” approach to managing kids’ after school hours. (more…)

Thoughts on the Ecological Unconscious

February 1, 2010

A NYTimes article by Daniel Smith describes a growing field of psychology, ecopsychology, that examines links between the function of the human psyche and nature.  Glenn Albrecht in Australia coined “solastalgia” – “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault.”  Thomas Doherty is a clinical psychologist in Portland Oregon trying to analyze and explicate the relationship between environmental issues and psychological well-being.  Peter Kahn is a developmental psychologist researching, among other things, how technologically mediated nature versus real nature impacts human functioning.  My take? In an article published in Psychoanalytic Dialogues (which to my delight Doherty has used in his courses), I suggest that some common behaviors of young adulthood like obliterative drinking, excessive sexuality and dissociative materialism – as well as other classic psychological difficulties – are very much an expression of our changed relationship to the physical environment.  In another paper based on random interviews I see a pattern. The more engaged a person’s relationship to the physical world, the more active they are in making choices about their life.  In other words, the mind’s agency is directly affected by experiences with the environment.   Like Gregory Bateson , I believe that the mind and the planet/environment/ecology in which we live define each other in an ongoing dialectic.    What does this mean for you? (more…)


%d bloggers like this: