Thoughts on Male Sexuality

December 27, 2013

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In an age when sexuality has become openly commonplace, both boys and girls find it hard to recognize and value limits. Conversations offer a beginning point, an opportunity to sort out the new sexual mores for the twenty-first century. See my recent post on CNN.com for some thoughts about helping boys find an honorable sexuality.

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Affluenza doesn’t excuse wrongdoing

December 13, 2013

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from “The Guardian”

Ethan Couch’s lawyer defended him by stating that he was not responsible for driving drunk and killing four people because he had “affluenza”.The legal argument dazzles.  Psychological research doesn’t support it.

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The Mothers of Diversity

December 2, 2013

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We live in a kaleidoscopic time. Social diversity accompanies globalization and technologization.  We seek shelter with similar others only to encounter difference in every excursion. The tension between diversity and unity has never been greater.  We are unique, equal, and still one humanity.  Building diverse togetherness entails intricate stitch work – small threads of different colors creating a whole cloth. Mothering – as practiced by women, men, artists, educators, scientists and healers of all kinds – can expertly thread that needle.  Read the rest of this entry »

Thanksgiving=Diversity Squared

November 25, 2013

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On Thanksgiving do we recognize collaboration between diverse peoples or do we inadvertently celebrate the return of Pilgrims from a successful massacre of over 700 Native Americans? Without a unifying narrative to give shape to our national values, most people will shop instead. Diversity has become an exponential issue generating more anxiety than solutions – all the more reason to participate in and continue this unwieldy conversation.

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Psychology and Trees: The Missing Role of Place

November 12, 2013

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In California, a young tree looked on as a group of people engineered bark and wood into what would become the first boat. Four thousand years later the same tree, Methuselah, now overlooks a town that hosts a wild, wild west marathon.  Trees have witnessed the worst of human nature – lynching, war, and treason – and the best of human nature – sanctuary, glory, and liberty.

Hangman’s elm in NYC’s Washington Square park has attained over 300 years of age.  While it seems not to have witnessed any actual executions, in its earliest years this English elm observed the decline of the Lenape Indians, the city’s reduction of slave ownership, the control by British soldiers and the state’s eventual annexation to the newly emergent United States.

The oldest tree in central park is the great London plane near the reservoir. That tree grew up amid rocks and swamps.  She lived to see the creation of a park and witnessed the invention of the automobile, the airplane and jogging.

Trees talk to one another.   They work together to create forests and parks, forging ecosystems from the available amounts of earth, air and rain.

Psychologists pay a great deal of attention to relationships between people and less so to those between people and the environment. Yet every relationship occurs in a physical space. Remembrances of loved ones often include the spaces and places where they were known.Every human action that imbues consciousness with meaning takes place in a material environment .  Psychological knowledge usually excludes those landscapes that inhabit almost every memory and importantly shape the neuro-cognitive and relational bases of personality. Read the rest of this entry »

Status Anxiety

October 31, 2013

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A mom stepping down the steps of her third-floor walk-up dreads attending the class parent meeting in another family’s Fifth Avenue doorman building.  An adolescent male doesn’t invite friends to his home because he doesn’t to be judged poorly because of his family’s wealth. Another young man won’t invite friends to his house because he doesn’t want to be judged poorly by his family’s lack of wealth.  A woman wonders what to wear to meet old friends so she won’t appear too rich. A man sits alone and silent at a cocktail party because he feels too poor.

These people experience status anxiety. Mostly everyone recognizes the tight squeeze of stress. Sometimes internal conflicts cause it. Or, dire circumstances can bring about the sweating and the palpitations. Status anxiety, however, specifically occurs when a person feels discomfort around others because of his or her socioeconomic position. Read the rest of this entry »

Binge Sex: How Kids Learn About Rape

October 22, 2013

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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.

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Overcoming a Crisis

October 9, 2013

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Suddenly, or after months of agonizing foreshadowing: a loved one dies, financial ruin, environmental disaster, an unwanted sexual encounter, a bad judgment call or a major illness. A cherished and understood reality disappears.  What now? Unfortunately, no one answer or strategy works for all people. Recovering from a painful or tragic experience presents one of life’s most difficult challenges, charging every individual to craft his or her own way forward.  These five guidelines can help.

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Psychobiome; A Psychotherapy for the Future?

September 30, 2013

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The newly emergent research into the microbiome provides a useful metaphor for understanding that a cluster of interdependent factors may play a role in individual mental health.

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Coming of Age Young and Isolated

June 24, 2013

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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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