Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

Things to Toast

December 31, 2010

Mental health comes about from balance, sometimes internal, sometimes environmental and often the relationship between the two. As the New Year arrives, I’m taking a moment to toast some people who have restored balance.  Here’s the list.

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Don’t you just love the holidays?

December 14, 2010

I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Don’t you just love the holidays? They evoke mixed feelings about family, self and society. What holiday meal doesn’t contain one spat between generations, an overwrought relative or an old political feud? Holidays also  inevitably remind us of who is missing this year, those who have died as well as those simply not with us. (more…)

Family Life and Sustainability

June 29, 2010

Social change takes place through individual and familial transformations. See this article in The Jewish Week for a personal reflection on what sustainability can look like at home.

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.

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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?

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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…)

About Mental Illness: Biological Process in Sociocultural Context

January 12, 2010

mongabay.com, copyright 2001-2009.

Ethan Watters wrote in the NY Times that the importation to other cultures of American models of mental illness actually creates new symptom patterns as people replicate what they are taught about themselves.  This intervention of American mental health models sometimes obliterates local forms of understanding and healing.  He writes, “When we undermine local conceptions of the self and modes of healing, we may be speeding along the disorienting changes that are at the very heart of much of the world’s mental distress.” American mental health models may also be disorienting this country.

There is, however, another view of mental illness that derives from relational psychologists and psychoanalysts. This model can cross cultural boundaries without disrupting indigenous meanings.  It suggests that the  interaction between biological processes and sociocultural contexts produces personality, and that mental illness results when there is a poor fit between them.  Let me explain.

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