Archive for the ‘young adults’ Category

An Open Letter to Young Adults about Sex, Drugs and Alcohol

February 27, 2015


Dear Young Person: Alcohol, drugs and sexuality can enhance and create life. They work. They can alter your moods, change your perceptions and disinhibit you. It’s fun to be able to behave differently. Blotting out discomfort relieves anxiety. Going wild can release tension. Alcohol, drugs and sexuality have always been part of the human experience. Think of them as elegant enhancements to already very wondrous life experiences. The young adults I know move me with their energy, brilliance and dedication to causes and creativity. Even those making traditional choices bring unique voices to their work and professions. When I think that you are the future, I want nothing more than to nurture and support you, paving the way for your dreams. Yet, some of you have taken a dangerous detour. The current style of drug, alcohol and sexuality misuse both deprives and potentially harms you.

Our society, and that includes the people who raised you, haven’t figured out how to talk about limits without going back to a more repressive past. Rock and rap stars make tons of money pushing an image of sexy macho hooking-up druggy behavior but it isn’t real. When real people try and live that way, it usually feels really, really bad. People get hurt and violated. Further, attending high school, college or graduate school for the purposes of wild partying disrespects yourself, the concept of education, and all those people in the world who would give anything to have the privilege of education.

I know you have been given mixed messages about all of this stuff and it isn’t your fault if you think the only way to have a good time is to obliterate your mind. So, if you will allow me, I have put together a few modern guidelines for how to navigate the difficult terrain of drugs, alcohol and sexuality. Here goes: (more…)

Shades of Intimacy

February 19, 2015


Everyone is talking about Shades of Grey.  Having neither read the book nor seen the movie and with no plans to do so, I can’t comment on whether this creation is liberating for women or an exemplar of abuse.  I can, however, say this: sexuality without the constraints of judgment harms men and women.  No one wishes a return to a repressive sexuality. Yet, a modicum of restraint would add tremendous value to the healthy exploration of everyone’s sexuality.  I’m comfortable with sexual relationships between sober consenting adults. Disinhibited sexuality fueled by drugs and alcohol and quick hook-ups may have a merit under certain very specific conditions. Mostly such encounters inflict pain and shame.  Hook-ups offer short-term solutions to a longing for love. Drunken and drug-enabled sex often leads to or downright empowers abuse and rape. What people really need right now is less titillation with fantasy and more support for how to make real relationships and genuine intimacy fanciful. Start with long walks through the park.  Or playful conversation about a shared topic of interest.  Build a snow man.  See theater. Listen to music.  Talk about the complicated landscape of life.  The sexuality that arises from really knowing someone might very well enlighten you with fifty shades of living color.

And the violence, it goes round and round . . .

June 11, 2014

Let me make one thing clear.

As of May 2014 there have been at least 70 mass shootings or shooting sprees with legally purchased guns, according to Rolling Stone.

As Ezra Klein reported in 2012, while violence in general declines, more episodes of a lone individual, or team, involved in killing sprees or mass murders increase.

Why? And, as Tim Kreider recently wrote, do we really care?

No one answer can solve this problem.

Is it even worth trying? Do we have an obligation to murdered children, youths and adults? To their families?

Do we even owe it to ourselves because any of us or our families or our kids could be next?

Pundits, politicians, the NRA reach for the simple answers. Yet, no one explanation moves us forward to stopping this crazy epidemic of young men going wild upon the world around them.

Mental illness alone doesn’t cause a person to buy a gun and shoot a bunch people.

Access to guns makes violent crime easier to commit but they don’t motivate the shooter.

Exposure to violence can impact how people process information, but individuals vary widely in how they internalize violent imagery. Most violent gamers don’t become mass murderers.

Overstimulation in general can alter how a person perceives others.  Yet, many people with even the most sensitive temperaments or the propensity toward reactive anger don’t decide to kill.

The confluence, however, of persons with unregulated temperaments, who have learned violent pathways to manage emotions, and who have easy access to guns enables more people than ever to enact this complicated call from within their psyches.

So while calling for more mental health treatment, legislating new gun safety rules and placing limits on kids’ access to violent imagery, also ask this question: how come so many people with the above described profile have emerged in the past thirty years or so?

Perhaps these individuals with a particular skew toward vulnerability enact exactly what they have been taught by the world in which we live: rush to do violence.

Children around the world have this in common: suicide bombings, acts of terrorism, exposure to the effects of nuclear arms and chemical weapons, savage treatment of animals in the production of food, obliteration of the world’s beauty and environmental health, sexual aggression towards women and children, pornographic representation of said violence, idolatry of gang culture, and massive overexposure, albeit fantasized, to destructive acts between humans.

Of course these behaviors have always existed. And yes, people have always killed. Mass murders and killing sprees punctuate all of history.

The beauty of the modern world, however, resides in our exquisite technology.  The violence we can commit is so much grander. The vulnerable and confused children who grow up under its shadow can enact their vehemence with far greater power.

So limit guns and enhance mental health. In the meantime, think about this: are these troubled lone gunmen with easy access to weapons behaving any differently than that which the world reflects back to them?

Binge Sex: How Kids Learn About Rape

October 22, 2013


Is there an epidemic of binge sex?  Is there a week that goes by without a story about teens or young adults drinking way too much who end up in an encounter of unwanted sexual contact and rape?

In response to the recent onslaught of these stories Emily Yoffe’s post urged women to stop drinking. That provoked a reply from Soraya Chemaly who said that the males need to be told to stop binging and raping.  As a psychologist in private practice my experience suggests that Yoffe and Chemaly both have points. Yet blaming the kids doesn’t get to the source of this problem. Nor does the finger need to be wagged at parents or schools. Rather, it’s the people making lots of money off of binge sex who most warrant the scolding.


Coming of Age Young and Isolated

June 24, 2013


Healthy democracies depend on strong citizens to maintain, re-structure and build social institutions. Strong citizenry requires a capacity to think creatively, to operate with good character and to become fluent with diversity.  A strongly bi-furcated class structure threatens our young adults coming of age precisely on those very dimensions. While economists and politicians work on the economy, psychology needs to get out into the field with young adults. Help working class kids overcome the psychological barriers to upward mobility.  Challenge those who are affluent to develop internal life skills outside the safety net of their entitlements.


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