Sunday, July 31, 2011


Bill Maher, you inspire me.  I loved your show tonight.  So many ideas debated intelligently.  If it weren't for you, my interest in politics would be so limited.

I hate to commit myself to a particular party.  All seem to have merit.  Is that a cowards' way out of politics?  

Bill, you make a good case for leaning toward a more socialistic view of government.  My parents lived under Socialism and haven't spoken against it.  I lived in Europe over 17 yrs. and so I'm NOT adverse to it, either.  Especially, as I am older, and especially because have seen and reaped the benefits of socialism, I could call myself a fan.  Also, especially because I lived in Europe for so long, I do not hold the prejudice that most Americans have.  No system is perfect, but I know one thing for sure:  we can't go on being polarized between Tea Baggers, Republicans, and Democrats and hope to solve our nation's problems.

Unless people are highly moral, Republicanism (like any other political system) will not work well.  Let's deal with reality.  We need programs for those who are unable to support themselves:  the needy, the poor, the disabled,  the mentally ill, etc.  I see nothing workable in the Republican system that provides very much security for those who are not able to work or function in society!  There are already too many people living in the streets and struggling.  I don't want to be one of them!

Republicanism always seemed to me to be a party that was incredibly judgmental;  their attitude oozes, "I can do it, why can't you?"  However, where is the empathy? 

The money spent by  the Democratic system seems to help our country survive this crisis (at least so far).   I am but one recipient, one beneficiary of this system.  I am a college graduate with a master's degree, but due to illness I cannot work. When I listen to Republicans, they make my skin crawl. It is all about the strong surviving and greed winning over the so-called more self-sacrificing democrats?  (Or do they both, ultimately, have the same agenda:  to squeeze the poor?)

That sounds like pure Darwinism!  I am disabled, yet unable to apply for disability.  I have always been very self-sufficient until recently.  I hate being a strain on my family, because they are also struggling economically.  However, I'm already envisioning being destitute and homeless in my old age.  Can you possibly imagine how that feels?

I admit I'm politically challenged and I'm struggling to make sense of the political system.  Yet, what I'm hearing lately makes me think all major parties spawn corruption--though there seem to be good aspects as well.  But no one system seems to answer all the needs of the people. (Right now, Ron Paul is starting to look good to me!)

Teabaggers seem so damned self-righteous, unattached, and unaware of the desperate state of our nation.  They seem so dogmatic and swayed by their political and religious fanaticism.   I  see them talking on TV, and I feel impulses to slap them into reality!  Maybe I am just angry because of my fears.

However, I cannot overlook lowering taxes that ultimately seem to benefit the rich, not the poor--the banks, instead of the people.  Obama seems to be trying his best to be politically diplomatic in this crucial situation.  Maybe he should hold stronger in his beliefs...  But then there is another election looming in the horizon.  I do not envy him.  He must be weighing his options for the future.  It makes me wonder what his goals really are.  Did someone promise him a more powerful position if he doesn't win the election?  Is he part of the oft-spoken-of conspiracy to bring this country down?  To set it up for the New World Order?  That is the way our country seems to be headed.

But who knows what ultimate goals are behind all this bi-partisan political machination?  I admit, my trust is sorely limited.  I'm sure there is much I don't know and much the powers-that-be keep from the people.

I just know, that, in an imperfect world, unless we encourage our system to be more charitable, the middle class, and the lower classes will be lost and desperate to do anything to make a living, even to the point of ending up being "slaves" to the system (as many already are!).  Or end up dead in the streets.  I am becoming jaded enough to think that is what they want!

The strong must take care of the disabled, the weak, the old and infirm.  We claim to be a religious, mostly Christian nation.  Let us practice our beliefs.

I think it is doubtful that either the Democrats or Republicans will create programs to accomplish what is needed.

Rich people are so often greedy and not in touch with the suffering of the poor--how can we depend on them?!  We seem to need a counterweight to the suffering of the middle class and the poor.  It is not ethical to put the weight of the needs and desires of society on those who can least afford it.  We do not want to be slaves to the rich!  But that seems to be where we are headed.

And what the heck is so wrong with socialism?  It seems, the level of happiness and prosperity and satisfaction with the governments in the Scandinavian countries may be a beacon for us.  Europe seems to be withstanding and even prospering under this type of government.  Why not the US?  What is the phobia about socialism?  (I think it is just is promulgated by the U.S. propaganda machine!)  Countries have been Socialist for generations and have not gone over to the Communistic way of thinking!  And they have, not only survived, but are doing well, financially, and psychologically, for the most part, as I understand it.  At this point, they seem to be in a much better position than the U.S.! 

I agree that we must consider the variety of cultural challenges of the U.S.  What works one place doesn't necessarily work everywhere.  Yet, aren't we innovative enough to be flexible for the necessary improvements?   Aren't we a great enough country to make those adjustments?

I challenge YOU to present a more workable program that will reward the strong and productive and, at the same time, take care of the very young, the very old, and infirm!

I'm really interested in your opinion!  Please feel free to leave your comments....

(For me, Bill Maher is a testament to short, intelligent men being especially sexy, funny--a very important quality--and successful.  Or maybe I'm prejudiced because my partner has the same qualities!)


Saturday, July 30, 2011


I believe in many cases, people who were labeled as "crazy" or "lunatics" were people who were unique, non-conformists, and outside the "bell curve".  They were just deviant enough for reasons of class, gender, or education to be labeled "disturbed."

Women. especially, suffered greatly over the last centuries because of laws allowing a husband, with the verification of a medical doctor, to put them into asylums (that were places of horror, torture, and neglect).  Just imagine the reasons husbands could use to justify getting rid of their wives!  Inheritances come to mind first...and a myriad of other evil reasons.

The history of psychology is a history of bigotry and prejudice!  Unfortunately, despite the advances in the mental health field, that stigma still holds true today! 

Why should mental illness be considered any less serious, worthy of attention, validation, and treatment?  Why should the mentally ill be looked down upon and be a source of fear, more than someone suffering from a physical illness?

WOMEN'S ASYLUM, Painting by Pinel

We like to think that there is no more cruelty in the treatment for the "insane."  However, I have anecdotal evidence of horrible treatment at a state mental hospital right here in the US.


“I believe that if a woman succeeds in withdrawing from the mass, or rather raising herself above the mass, she grows ceaselessly and more than a man."  Schopenhauer

(Now that is one of the most insightful direct statements I think Schopenhauer's ever made!  I like it...)

Friday, July 29, 2011



Questions for Further Exploration

If creativity implies deviation from norms, what is the nature of the reciprocal relationship between the behaviors of creative people and the reactions of society? How can the connection between creativity and mental illness be explained? Is it caused by neural pathways in the brain which affect both creative and mental functioning? What is the effect of hormonal imbalance on creativity? What is the effect of family systems on creativity and creative potential?

Several researchers describe the effect of gender identification and androgyny on creativity, stating that androgynous individuals have a higher tendency to be creative than traditionally male or female models. Are women really generally more creative than men? Has androgyny and creativity been researched and measured? If the foregoing is true, in what way are men and women creatively different? Are more creative women generally more susceptible to mental illness than men?

Crow (1997) suggests that perhaps mental illness is the price we pay for our complex brain functioning which, in turn, fosters creativity. If evolutionary development is responsible for humans to slip from creativity into mental illness, what is the mechanism responsible for this phenomenon? Can it be managed or turned off? And, if so, how? Why and when would we want to tone down creativity in favor of better mental health? Whose choice should it be? If there truly is a connection between creativity and mental illness, what kinds of mental illness have the highest connection with creativity?

When considering creativity in a biological, genetic sense, what is the role drugs/medication can play in managing mental illness in creative people? Do medications dull creative impulses, as many artists claim? Do drugs and alcohol enhance creativity, as many artists claim?


Undeniably, the comparison of creativity with madness has a long history. Perhaps, like myths, some truth in this belief exists. Despite research flaws, repeated connections between mental disorders and creative people are drawn and are difficult to ignore.

Creativity has been prized throughout history, though not always rewarded and cultivated. As with any issue in mental health, the issue of creativity is also extremely complex. Clear, broad, and universal definitions are needed to measure creativity in order to help determine the link between mental illness and creative individuals.

Counselors need to carefully assess all possible factors surrounding the life of highly creative clients and nurture their creativity to help them navigate an intricate and complicated world. The oxymoron in this suggestion is that, in treating creative clients, the nature of therapy encourages the client to look inward. However, as proposed in the Verhaeghen et al. study on rumination, it appears that in examining life too closely, clients and therapists may unwittingly be fostering depression and other mental illnesses. At any rate, addressing the issues of creative people certainly suggests that, in order for therapists to be highly effective much may be required of them. They need to be well trained in psychology, have wide creative interests, draw upon their own abilities for Janusian thought and ambiguity, and, especially, to be creative in their own therapeutic approach with clients, if they hope to make a positive difference in the lives of mentally ill creative people.

For impressive lists of bi-polar and uni-polar depressives visit:











If you have had experience with the German language, this might amuse you!

"For a German it is even good to have somewhat lengthy words in his mouth, for he thinks slowly, and they give him time to reflect."  ~ Schopenhauer.

Schopenhauer was a poodle aficionado, so I've included representations of his faithful dogs!  (Poodles are a German breed, by the way; NOT French!)



                                VIRGINIA WOOLF   SYLVIA PLATH 

Discussion of the Link Between Mental Illness and Creativity

Although the motivations of subjects in the rumination study may be questionable, the sample size small, and the measure of creativity limited, most other aspects of the study appear to be solid and valid. The discrepancy of past studies on creativity and mental illness and the difficulty in defining those terms have been considered.

They, then, creatively implemented a study to show support for a new view on the mental illness/creativity causal link. A relatively recent study in 2005 provides a solid basis from which to formulate their hypothesis. It appears that the link of rumination may indeed be the key between creativity and mental illness. According to their findings, the 2005 study states, “…that self-rumination independently (a) increases the risk for depression and (b) spurs interest in and ability for creative behavior.”

Despite the contradictions and flaws in the many studies cited above, it seems overwhelmingly possible that the creativity/mental illness link exists when taking into account the numerous possible connections made by these studies.

How to be Effective with Highly Creative Clients

How can this information help counselors become more effective when treating highly creative clients? A goal for mental health professionals is to help clients find the most healthy way possible to live with mental illness and yet not sacrifice creativity. Creativity is generally considered valuable. Abraham Maslow (1971) and Carl Rogers (1970), two important and innovative founders of psychology theory, both support the notion that “…creativity is the epitome of mental health.” The flexibility inherent in the creative process is necessary to help people navigate our present world where things are constantly changing. Much of the research shows that creativity is beneficial and healthy. Creativity helps people to problem solve, and problem solving is essential in therapeutic treatment.

Not only counseling professionals, but also the public, need to understand better the causal links between mental disorders and creativity. Not every creative client is affected or responds in the same way.  For example, even though the manic swings in bipolar individuals can be both inspirational and debilitating, the disorder ultimately appears to cause more suffering than good.

Can the creative process be used to help soothe individuals with mental illness? Many of the abstractionist artists used their creativity to help their dysfunction, therefore, demonstrating that creative expression is healing to both clients and others. However, the self-reflective rumination involved in creating poetry may increase symptoms of mental illness in poets, especially female poets, according to Kaufman and Baer (2002). By understanding these differences counselors can apply more sensitivity and individuality in their individual treatment approach!

Is creativity a good thing or a bad thing? Should counselors encourage creativity in their clients? One researcher maintains “…the line between creativity and madness is a fine one, probably permeable.” To cross the line into the primitive self too often is dangerous, however—like bouncing between insanity and sanity. This bodes especially badly for abstractionists.

Perhaps one of the best methods of helping creative clients with their issues is to educate others. Debunk traditional beliefs:  (1) that suffering for art and an imbalance of emotions is inevitable in the creative process;  (2) that even though creative people are necessarily original and therefore, deviate from the norm, creative achievement and deviant behavior do not necessarily go hand-in-hand;  (3) that, contrary to the opinions of many mentally ill creative clients, diminishing the symptoms of mental illness will help, not hurt the creative process.

These creative clients need help with coping strategies in managing moods and improving self-care. It is important to apprise clients of the psychological risks associated with the creative process and ways they can avoid these risks. Be aware that the thought process of psychosis and bipolar illness are fundamentally different from the thought processes of highly creative people, and learn to distinguish between creative thinking and disturbed, psychotic thinking.


Thursday, July 28, 2011


A Cow Ruminating
"What if Schopenhauer was wrong and cows don't have rights?"

Supports: The Case for the Link

A famous study on Abstract Expressionist artists by Schildkraut et al. (1994) refutes other researchers’ findings that there is a lack of evidence to support the link between creativity and mental illness. Schildkraut et al. made an empirical study on case studies of 15 contemporary artists of the New York School of Abstractionism. While the article admits that criteria for including subjects into a study are usually somewhat arbitrary, it maintains that the amazingly high coincidence of psychopathology in these creative artists show a link between mental disorders and creative individuals.

Despite possible questions that can be raised regarding the time perspective in the experimental design of their study, these researchers found impressive ratios that showed most artists suffered from depressive disorders compounded by alcoholism. Noteworthy is that seven of the 15 artists were dead before the age of 60 and most suffered dysfunctions in relationships, specifically shown by the high rate of divorce among these artists.

Some researchers agree that they find a common thread in the ability and/or willingness of creative people to regress into primitive thought and cross the line between rationality and irrationality. Artists, themselves, claim that they need to keep in touch with their primitive selves because it is a well-spring of inspiration.

Based on several case studies, the process of "dedifferentiation" in manic states is explained—that it is a process of regression involving the denial of loss. In the regression process, for example, the individual with bipolar illness does not lose sense of self, but refuses to choose between various aspects of the self. The regression process appears to be similar to primitive thinking and, therefore, may support the hypothesis that creativity requires the ability to cross back and forth between rational and irrational states. It seems the importance of abstractionist artists being in touch with their primitive sides to create their unique modern art may be paramount. The manic regressive state found in bipolar subjects is also similar to the Janusian thought process. It is noteworthy that most research on creativity makes a link between mental illness and the requisite cognitive processes involved in the creative process.

Janusian thinking, therefore, is required to form creative ideas. Many researchers maintain that bipolar patients, having a high tendency for Janusian thinking, are inclined to be more creative than the general population. Other research uncovered higher correlations between bipolar illness and creativity in studies that were more solidly designed. Therefore, the more rigorous and in-depth investigations support the link between the cognitive processes of bipolar patients and creativity, thereby supporting a general link between mental illness and creativity.

As remarkable the link between creativity and mental illness seems, some researchers doubt that the link is direct. When considering the importance of creative cognitive processes in creative people compared to the high incidence of depressive disorders found in them as well, these findings are puzzling. These researchers claim that because depression is debilitating, causing the sufferer to lose interest, focus, decisiveness, and energy, it seems unlikely that creativity is associated with these symptoms. Their conclusion:  depression decreases creative activity.

Due to the apparent lack of a direct causal link, the researchers hypothesize that there may be an underlying factor linking creativity and mental illness, particularly depression. They assert that that rumination is the causal link between depression and creativity. This appears to be another possible key to discovering the mental illness/creativity link.

One definition of rumination is, conscious thoughts that revolve around a common theme, with the caveat that the thoughts recur without the presence of immediate environmental demands requiring the thought. However, rumination is a process that most people use and is not necessarily negative. Rumination implies a focus on self that can be both helpful in the creative process and hurtful when rumination becomes negative. However, because creative thought requires intrinsic thought, and self-reflective rumination, being intrinsic, is often motivated by negative events, much of self-reflective rumination involves negative thought. Therefore, it appears that rumination and negativity have a reciprocal relationship, implying an indirect effect on mental health and creativity.

The Creating Cow Ruminating

(To those "not in the know", ruminating is a double-entendre for the process in which cows digest their food!)


Wednesday, July 27, 2011



                                                                                                    CLAUDE MONET


Van Gogh's work has always been regarded within the framework of his mental incapacity.  Up to date, he has been (retroactively) diagnosed with: schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, and, the latest most popular diagnosis, bi-polar.


The philosopher, Heidegger, posits that art exists only within the recognition of the social or institutional construction of the boundaries of art worlds. Indeed, in the professional art world, it seems that the value placed on art differs, or is at least somewhat dependent on whether the artist is mentally ill or not. Being generally ignorant of what "good" art is, the public depend on art dealers' opinions to tell them what art piece is a valuable investment. Therefore, a case can be made that the value of art cannot stand on its own.

Flaws: The Case Against the Link

According to one researcher, creativity has been simply defined as something valued and new; and madness (or mental illness) as self-destructive behavior that is deviant. Considering the previous discussion on issues defining creativity and mental illness, these definitions hardly suffice as a solid or comprehensive foundation on which to build a discussion of the link between mental illness and creativity.

Another expert on studies of creativity has asserted that there is a definite link between mental illness and creativity. He stated that there are three common characteristics shared by people with high creative production and mental illness: (1) mood disturbances, (2) tolerance for irrational, and (3) vague thinking. However, some researchers refute this assumption. While several studies appear to support the mental illness/creativity link, the findings of these studies also appear to contradict each other.

One study on mental illness and women poets shows a direct link between creativity in writers and mental disorders. This study attempts to show that female poets are plagued far more than male poets with mental illness, especially bipolar illness. The researchers admit that their study is speculative, however, and contradicts other researchers’ findings in similar studies. Although tantalizing connections between mental illness and female poets has been made, there are also some limitations of these findings. Hampered by criticisms of many flaws in the design of the studies, such as response bias, "Hawthorne" and subject effects, acquiescence, self-selection, focus on celebrity biographical sources, and diagnoses from non-professional sources.

Creativity is not limited to the flamboyant, the famous, and the popular, although these types of individuals are whom we most often hear about in the media and in books. After all, the public is not likely to want to read about a creative person who is average and leads a quiet, healthy life. Therefore, researchers appear to study these famous types most often. However, these factors limit the validity of research as both being biased in the selection/participation process and raising questions about the motivations of participants in these studies.  For example, as a voluntary process, researchers cannot be sure neither of volunteers' diagnoses nor whether they are motivated because they want to be counted among the "creative and famous" (participant bias).

One researcher used case studies of famous artists and writers to demonstrate that mental illness not only is not a prerequisite for creativity, but also suppresses it in its active state. For example, describing the artistic processes of Edvard Munch, a leader of the Expressionist movement in Europe, and Jackson Pollack, a leader in the Abstract Expressionist movement in America, he asserts that the temporary abatement of these two artists' bipolar symptoms helped the artists produce some of their finest works during those periods of abatement. Pollack, himself, admitted that the psychotherapy he received while institutionalized helped him to create art that established his unique style of painting. After considering this foregoing information, there exists a logical temptation to conclude that creativity is a product of health and that mental illness neither causes nor enhances the creative process. However, other researchers say that artists generally create less during the calm periods in their life.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The psychology instructor had just finished a lecture on mental health and was giving an oral test.

Speaking specifically about bi-polar disorder, she asked, "How would you diagnose a patient who walks back and forth screaming at the top of his lungs one minute, then sits in a chair weeping uncontrollably the next?"

A young man in the rear raised his hand and answered, "A basketball coach?"


Many people automatically assume there is a thin line between creativity and mental illness, citing anecdotal evidence and pointing to famous "crazy" artists from the past and present. However, this conclusion is quite difficult to prove, as reflected by many attempts to find solid evidence through research studies.

A connection between madness and creative genius has been made throughout history. Shakespeare wrote that, “The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact.” Proust said, “Everything great in the world is created by neurotics.”  Even in ancient times Plato and Aristotle spoke of creativity as “divine madness” as being “a gift from the Gods” and that genius was infused with a mixture of insanity.  Yet, until about 25 years ago, research on this topic was limited.  Determining the validity of a link between mental illness and creative people is still hotly debated, despite the over 9000 studies conducted on creativity and mental illness between 1960 and 1991.

There are many flaws in studies researching creativity and its relationship to mental disorders, casting doubt on the reliability of the creativity/mental illness connection.  Even though it is extremely difficult to prove a link between creativity and mental illness, the consistency with which humanity has made this connection through the ages indicates that a link does exist!

Because creativity has been valued throughout history, determining a link is important.  Why?  If we can determine a link, we may be able to determine a cause and, in doing so, help creative persons avoid suffering and maximize their potential good for themselves and society.  Furthermore, because creativity is thought to be an ability that most of us use or can learn to use in everyday life, identifying the aspects and possible links between creativity and mental illness can have universal benefit and appeal.

But exactly what are we measuring?  Interestingly, there is no difference in the definition of madness and inspiration in Latin.  One essential difficulty in establishing a link between mental illness and creativity is in defining the terms creativity and mental illness. How can researchers measure something if they are not exact about the meanings of what they are measuring? In the field of psychology, and especially for the purposes of measurement, the definition of creativity is varied. Many authors have attempted to describe creativity.  But researchers have yet not arrived at a consensus regarding the process, the product and the person of creativity.

The definition of mental illness is also problematic.  Although the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) comes to a consensus with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Disease (ICD) systems on the reliability of various mental illness categories, these instruments have not improved on the validity of how to categorize mental illness.

Some descriptors of creativity in the research include:  introspective, intelligent, less compliant to social norms, enthusiastic, energetic, sensitive, adventurous, radical, and persistent.  Obviously, creativity involves many other abilities and qualities and the interplay of these qualities complicates the search for a universal definition of creativity. Descriptions of creativity appear to vary and sometimes are contradictory, which leaves us with the question, “Do creative people fit into society or don’t they?”

We agree that creative people have original ideas, however, just because people have original ideas, they are not necessarily creative.  Another apparent contradiction in the definition of creativity is that creative people are intrinsically motivated (from within themselves) (according to personality measures of creative people) but they also have been found to be extrinsically motivated (from outside factors).  Further confusing the issue, some researchers warn that when both extrinsic and intrinsic factors do not coincide these factors create psychological stress and can cause madness.

Most definitions of mental illness are based on symptoms, signs, and some perceived disability.  Even though a convergence of signs, symptoms and disabilities point to a particular mental illness, mental health professionals continue to have difficulty diagnosing illnesses such as personality disorders, schizophrenia, much less more mild or atypical disorders. How then can we establish a link between creativity and mental illness if diagnoses of mental illness vary and are especially difficult to establish in creative people (by virtue of their creativity!)?

The question of finding universal definitions is further complicated when considering the framework of studies on creativity and mental illness. If studies are produced within various disciplines (e.g., behavioral, biological, clinical, cognitive, etc.), the definitions are tweaked accordingly.

There are also different types of creativity to consider used in different domains. Researchers need to recognize these domains and consider them when trying to measure creativity. Some people are creative musically, some mathematically, some verbally, some bodily, and so on.  Within each of these domains, there are differences between creative people.  For example, poets differ from playwrights, who differ from comic writers and artists, designers, and performing artists.  In addition, they all differ in their cognitive patterns.  Considering the above complications and contradictions, it seems that a link between creativity and mental illness is extremely difficult to prove.

Recently, however, encouraging news regarding a universal aspect and definition for creativity can be found in numerous articles on the link between mental illness and creativity.  Many professionals say that the cognitive processes of creative people are unique and follow Janusian processes: that is, “…the ability to resolve antinomies or to accommodate apparently opposite or conflicting traits in one’s self-concept.”  This concept at least partly explains a connection between the Janusian thought process and creative individuals. Janusian thought enables creative people to think and conceive of antithetical and contradictory ideas at the same time.  The literature review on links between mental illness and creativity do not appear to dispute this aspect of creativity.  That is an exciting prospect!  Perhaps, in applying Janusian thought to a literature review on creativity and mental illness, it can bridge the apparent contradictions found in the mass of definitions on creativity and mental illness used by researchers and facilitate a more "creative" approach to and understanding of the subject.

(More to come on this subject.  Feel free to ask me for references!)

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Did I ever buy her records?  No.  Did I listen closely when she sang on TV?  Yes.  And here and there I heard snippets of rumors that she had serious drug issues and co-dependency with her partner.

I never knew Amy Winehouse, only some of her music. However, being exposed to such a talent as hers, with that certain Billie Holiday effusion, I felt closer to the woman.  Unique.  Talented.  Troubled.  Addicted.  So, tears came to my eyes for this artist who died before fulfilling her talent and actualizing herself.

Today I read some offensive and judgmental posts on Amy's death with disgust.  I am strongly opposed to denigrating a human being, regardless of their strengths or weaknesses.  Dying of an overdose is not new.  Hers is a tragedy not uncommon.  So, do we take the time and effort to mourn her in our own way?  Or do we say, "They got what they deserved."  "How can you mess up a career that gives you so much money?"  "Another one bites the dust!"  And on and on ad nauseum. 

Have we become so callous to this prevalent problem?  I guess we do what our abilities and interests allow.  Some think they have the answers, and some ask, "Why did this terrible thing happen to her, to so many others?"

Amy sang from her heart, "They told me to go to Rehab and I said, 'No! No! No!"  Therefore, some people think it is her own fault.  Do you think she didn't know she had a problem?  Do you think she didn't want help?  We don't know.  We don't know her personal history.  We didn't know her pain.  We can't judge.  And we often end up feeling helpless.

What we can do, however, is examine the state of our rehabs.  We can ask, "What do they teach people with addictions to help them?"  "How do they 'treat' them?" We can look at the stats to see if rehabs are effective in the long run.  We can investigate rehabs.

Most rehabs, the overwhelming majority, require you to go through the 12-Step program, i.e., AA, NA, etc.  If a person struggling with addiction went once to such a rehab, they probably know well what is expected of them if they go again.  They most likely can quote passages from the AA "Bible".  But most still leave (if they have a choice).  They give many reasons for leaving, even though they still want and need help. 

What keeps them from staying with the rehab program?  Obviously, what we are offering them (as a society) is not working very well.  Yes, there have been some notable successes, but MOST rehabs fail their clients!  Did you know that?  If rehabs deny this, in my opinion they are fudging their stats.

There are so many types of addictions and complications surrounding addiction.  People are unique, therefore, they need unique care.  Are there some similarities between people with addictions?  YES.  There are some.  There are signs and behaviors that we can track to understand at what stage they are in "the program" or "in their addiction".  Though they have some things in common, it is probably not as much as specialists and society want to believe.

All people are unique; therefore, people with addictions are UNIQUE.  They have different abilities, talents, intelligence levels, personalities, and issues.  So how can they all be helped with ONE type of abstinence program?  Or a limited choice of therapists? 

Effective therapy depends mostly on the relationship and the trust that the client and therapist create, so the match between them is crucial.  However, there are few therapists to choose from in most programs.  Therefore, it seems to me that because of our uniqueness, it is paramount that programs are uniquely tailored for the specific person with addiction.  However, such programs are costly and difficult to find, especially for people who are socioeconomically challenged.

Adding to the problem is that "burn-out" rates are generally the highest with addiction therapists.  Why?  It's so simple:  because therapists don't feel effective!  How would you like to spend your career trying and trying and giving, and, as a result, feeling like you have helped only a few?  Well, the few would thank them. However, can't we do better as a society to lower addiction rates?

Drug use has been with us since the beginning of recorded human history.  What does that say?  It says to me, that people will always use drugs and intoxicating substances.  Why?  Because it makes them feel better--for a time.  It works!

However, when people are in so much pain that, even when they know the dangers and consequences of their actions, they still take substance(s) that make them feel better (especially considering withdrawal makes them feel worse than they did before their drug abuse!), how can we judge them?

Let's go back a little.  The stats show that 60% of people with addictions quit on their OWN.  Yes!  You didn't know that, I bet.  The government agencies are so enamored of 12-step programs, that they are now mandatory in most of their facilities.  And some clients are really helped.  No doubt!  But what percentage?  The latest statistics I heard was 5-10%.  Does that low percentage rate mean we are failures as people, as professionals, or as agencies?  Or does that mean that some professionals, some agencies, especially those really making the money, like these "anonymous" societies BECAUSE OF their failure rates?  After all, if clients are told that they are "powerless" over their addictions, their false hope in the 12-step programs may keep them addicted and coming back to what they are told is the only treatment method that will save them, resulting in them becoming "addicted" to the program. 

Think of the money businesses and corporations have to gain by supplying them with repeated rehab care and "legal" (less harmful?) drugs to address other "issues"!  I just don't know for sure...but something smells bad here.

Probably a good percentage of the population and many agencies have their own special answer to this issue:  "Come to Jesus."  "Learn to trust."  "Listen to others in your situation."  "Believe God can help you." "You have the power within you (with God's help!)."  "Just follow the program."  "Trust the process."  And many other phrases and sayings are used by programs attempting to help those who struggle with addiction.  Hey, people with addictions are usually intelligent and intuitive enough to spot ritual, cult-like phrases and be suspicious of them!  One of the first rules of treatment is to inspire clients' trust (which is one of the most difficult things to do for people with addictions).  End result?  Not working.

Learning to abstain from addictive substances can, in some cases, seem simple.  But most addicted people struggle with deeply complicated issues:  there are mental illnesses to explore; past abuses and pain to discover and uncover; grieving and guilt to deal with.  When faced with the overwhelming task of processing excruciating pain and even the prospect of a life of boredom without their usual escapes, helping the addicted find motivation to abstain from substance abuse is crucial.

Who has THE answer to the issue of addiction?  If you find someone who claims they do, BEWARE.  We do not know of ANY positive treatment for all addicted people!

Perhaps one reason why the 12-step programs do some good is because they appear more attractive than other treatment programs.  They call addiction a disease that cannot be cured, taking away much guilt and accountability from addicted people.  In addition, 12-step programs do not require a commitment to absolute abstinence forever.  They can "take it a day at a time".  It all sounds so hopeful and soothing.  Less pressuring.  Therefore, the 12-step philosophy seems to help by initially motivating people with addiction issues.  Yet, there is much controversy surrounding these "anonymous" programs.

There are many people who think abusing substances is a crime instead of a health issue.  Their answer is to "lock them up".  If that worked, our prisons wouldn't be bulging at the seams with these types of "repeat criminals"!

I would like to see some statistics on people with addictions and their intelligence and creativity levels.  I have my own anecdotal evidence, having worked years with people with addictions.  My own subjective conclusion:  Most addicts are above average in intelligence, highly manipulative, distrustful, and hyper sensitive--and most have been abused as children OR have had very painful childhoods.  In addition, most are remarkably creative from a young age. 

Do we really want them isolated from society?  If so, we would be wishing most of our greatest thinkers, authors, artists, etc. out of society, too.  What a loss that would be!  If isolation was the only answer for how society deals with addiction, I wouldn't want to live in that world!

I don't have the "answers", but I have deep compassion for people who suffer and die of their addictions and, by doing so, cause great grief to those that care for and love them.  I grieve for people who cut their potential and lives short, denying themselves and others of so much joy.

I propose that perhaps the essential ingredient in substance abuse treatment is as simple as this:  TO LOVE AND ACCEPT ALL PEOPLE WITH ADDICTIONS UNCONDITIONALLY--and help them learn to love themselves unconditionally!  This kind of love has nothing to do with what they do or don't do.  It is without conditions.  Therefore, loving unconditionally excludes judging.

Amy Winehouse, I don't know you, but I mourn for you as a fellow being on earth who deserved love and respect from others but, mostly, from yourself.  May you find the peace, love, and self-acceptance you have been longing for!


Thursday, July 21, 2011


 “Our purpose in life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.”  ~ Dalai Lama

As I have been contemplating the concept of happiness, I came across a wonderful article in a psych newsletter called, "Three Neuroscience Findings on Happiness – Is It an Option?"

Here’s the kicker:  Our brains are designed (hard-wired) for happiness.  It’s not just a choice!  Doesn’t that just fly in the face of what you’ve read and heard about happiness?  “You just have to make up your mind to be happy…etc.”  Ugh.

This new understanding of the plasticity of the brain is almost incomprehensible.  The implications are “mind-blowing”.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun.)  It sounds like a very positive discovery that will help millions of people understand that happiness is an important goal in life and within their grasp.  It is a matter of knowing how to use our emotions to promote happiness that support and repair the neural connections in our brains.

One breakthrough finding in this research is that the brain has a high degree of plasticity.  Not only can it repair what was broken, but it can also increase abilities not previously existent!  Now that is amazing.  Knowing these facts engenders the questions:  How can this be accomplished?  By what process?

According to this recent discovery in psychology research, we need fear in order to reach happiness.  (??!)  Fear, apparently, is key to working with other negative emotions, to make sense of our past and our present and ultimately help us heal!  Without fear and negative emotions, we are not able to reach the happiness we desire.  (Sounds like a refiner’s fire to me…  Or the old saying, "You can't know happiness without knowing unhappiness.")

However, as with most breakthroughs, there is usually a downside:  this ability for creating plasticity only works for the healthy brain.  What about damaged brains?  There have been cases where people have regained a certain portion of their previous abilities.  And that is encouraging.  But they cannot create new functions in their brains.

What about others who suffer from serious mental disorders?  Well, we know one thing for sure, that the longer you suffer from anxiety and depression, the more your brain is damaged.  That is why it is so crucial, so helpful to diagnose and treat people when they are young—or as soon as possible.  Research has shown that, while neural connections can be, or at least try to regenerate in the brain (as with other neurological degenerative disorders such as MS), when it comes to major depression, when neurons are damaged, they do not seem to replicate or repair at all.  (Against Depression, Dr. Peter Kramer)  And THAT’s depressing.

Most people don’t seem to realize, not even many people in the profession of counseling and psychology, that major depression (clinical depression) is a progressive neurological disorder.  What makes it better?  Nothing that we know of.  However, the right medications and nutrition/exercise can at least ARREST or slow down the progression of neural destruction in the part of the brain that affects depression.  Yet, if you’re majorly depressed, the chances of being motivated to do more than pop some pills is low to nil for most people.  While depressives' abilities vary, they are often shunned, feared, and judged—and those very things, by the way, can create stress in the depressed person, often exacerbating their depression.  Being in society can become a vicious cycle under those conditions.

When it comes to using our fears to find happiness, which suggests at least a few trials running the gamut of negative emotions, we are subjecting ourselves to stress.  According to Dr. Kramer (and a ton of research), one of the most damaging things to the depressed brain is stress.  Therefore, people with clinical depression need to stay away from stress.  Mmmmm….imagine a life like that.  Is it reasonable to expect that we will never again feel stress?  And when depressives take steps to avoid stress, they are, again, often judged.

We know so little about mental illness, it is a “plastic” ;0) science.  Nevertheless, lately there do seem to be many breakthroughs in understanding that mental illness is really the outward display of inward anguish in great part caused by a physical dysfunction.  Therefore, these two aspects, the mental and physical, are often interconnected and must be considered when treating major depression and other serious mental illnesses.

Ever heard of anyone cured of bi-polar disorder?  Or personality disorders?  When it comes to other disorders like panic, anxiety, or depressive disorders, ever wonder why some people get better and some don’t?  It is very tempting to put the blame on either the therapist and/or the client.  Easy to judge.  However, if you can conceive of damaged brains or damaged genes, the blame needs placement elsewhere.

I think the discovery of how plastic our brains are and how plasticity works will open the doors to many wonderful new therapies and concepts.  I feel compelled to add, however, that progress on new discoveries is usually slowed down by ignorance, suspicion, disbelief, and difficulty changing the old ways of doing things in the mental health field.  This is especially true when working in a mental health community center or a similar type of organization.  It takes time to revamp the minds and the policy and procedures that are the product of “groupthink”.  In addition, most every organization gets tangled up in the business/money aspect that further complicates progress.

These reasons are why, personally, if I were younger, if I could ever work again, I would try my best to avoid working with a mental health organization.  (It goes against my nature, I think.)  Yes, there are downsides and difficulties to becoming an independent, but if a therapist is energetic, loves their field, has a supportive network, and is hungry for knowledge, they will be more likely to try hard to keep up with the newest discoveries and continually read and research, ultimately benefiting clients.  Those endeavors are urged upon all who enter the field of doing therapy (though, at my Alma mater, not nearly enough), but, as with many idealistic requests, it simply is not practical in most cases.  Therapists working in CMHC (community mental health centers) are usually salaried, overworked, and underpaid.  In many cases, therapists end up acting as social workers.  Finally, like teachers (with few exceptions) the good ones usually move on to better paying and rewarding work.

We now know that we are wired to want happiness and continually search for it.  I think that effectively discredits any philosophies and religions that have tried to deny man’s need for happiness as something to overcome, trade-off, and/or look forward to in the next life.  At any rate, research has shown that happy people are more productive and positive for the world.  The rest sounds like fairy tales to me.

A final thought:  Research has also shown that people who are mildly depressed (some would call them cynical) have greater abilities to see life’s realities and are useful in putting on the brakes to avoid disasters, among other things.  I guess the world needs all kinds.

So, what is real happiness?  What does it feel like?  And if we don’t have it, what are the repercussions?  Seeds of that discussion have already been planted in another post:  THE NATURE OF HAPPINESS.  See you there!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


The eternal struggle and strife of the different sexes trying to understand each other.  An eternal source of pain and despair.  An eternal challenge.

It’s late and I’m not the frame of mind to expound on the wisdom of male/female relationships—what good they do and what evil they cause.

Choosing a mate is a very deep psychological issue having much to do with how we have attached to our primary care-givers early in life--and how those relationships affect us for better or worse in our later relationships with others, especially those of the opposite sex.  The kind of attachment and resultant emotions seem to curse some of us or at least haunt us for the rest of our lives, in one way or another.

Attachment:  something highly worth researching!  It sets you up for a lifetime of misery and despair, or joy and gladness.

What do you know about attachment and its importance in peoples' relationships?

I may write about it one day, but not now.  Now I just want to express my frustration that some innocent children are victims of mistakes made by generations of dysfunctional care-takers.

Got answers?  Got solutions? Have at it!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011



...your back goes out more often than you do! make contracts your body can't keep! look forward to a dull evening! know all the answers, but no one asks the questions!

Friday, July 15, 2011


Is Bill Maher sometimes arrogant, crass, mean, unfunny, and politically and socially “incorrect”?  YES.  Nevertheless, I love his show.  Why?  Because he is one of the few TV moderators not afraid to stand up for what he thinks and believes; because he speaks the language of many of the people and yet is intelligent enough to hold his own with other intellects, politicians, news-makers, and supposedly “successful” people in the world; because he is a great antidote to the nauseating conservative “stars” out there, e.g. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh (whose name reminds me of a very stinky cheese!)—and, at the same time, he’s mostly funny!  Hilarious, even!  

Does he have writers for his “shtick” at the beginning of his show; as with most talk shows—yes!  However, there are few people on television that can match his wit and knowledge.  (In addition, he proves the research that short men are funnier than tall men!)

I don’t agree with all his viewpoints but he is an excellent moderator, letting others express their views (as opposed to moderators like Nancy Grace who are TV fascists).  He touches on many different subjects of consequence and interest to the political public and even those who are not especially politically inclined (like me).  If he can get someone like ME interested, I say, “kudos”, Bill!

For people who will not “lower” themselves to watch his show because he uses swear words and sexual innuendo, YOU LOSE.  Maybe he makes you feel incompetent, because you find it difficult to keep up with his mostly intelligent, informed guests, and his quality conversation?

I don’t really belong to one party or another, though I shy away from Republicans, especially the Tea Party types, but like most people trained in therapy, tend toward the democratic ideal (which used to be the republican ideal at the beginning of this nation's creation).  I don’t take the whole cake, but pick and choose those policies, concepts, and politicians I like and with whom I agree.  That takes weighing and comparing issues.

The easy thing for most people would be to say, for example, “My religion usually votes Republican, and I believe in my religion, so I vote for Mitt Romney!”  I venture that, for the most part, these kinds of statements expose the ignorance and laziness, and/or lack of integrity of Republicans to seriously study what they are saying they believe when they make that all-encompassing statement:  I am a Republican!

Yes, I admit I’m not well schooled in politics, but I try, especially as I grow older and see how much politics is affecting my life directly!  It is not my among my top interests or areas of knowledge, but I see myself slowly forming ideas…

I guess I rely on the old instincts to help me decide as well.  Maybe that’s not good, because instincts can be defined as those beliefs and values which have been indoctrinated into you over time and, usually, from a young age.  However, how can we be sure (which raises the question, "What is instinct?")?  I know my stomach turns when I listen to Beck and Limbaugh!  They rattle my sense of logic, and I balk at their extremism.  (Did you see the show Beck did on Jewish people where he began to cry—I think it aired after the U.S. attacks on Libya?  Too much.)

If you think I’m way off base, perhaps this is a place to start exploring political ideas.  Scary, but I usually don’t back down from a challenge…

NEW RULE:  From now on, fearful fundamentalists and republicans need to open their minds just a crack, either to let the s__t out and/or to let new information seep in, even though it might make you want to puke at being slapped in the face with some hard reality! 

P.S. Yes, I feel in a fighting spirit tonight!  Are they going to raise the debt ceiling—of course, they will!!!  What other choices are they likely to make?!

P.P.S.  Bill had a guest on TV that was one of the researchers and authors of the book “The China Study” which is about how much better and healthier the vegan diet is for us!  I have the book and I read it, cover to cover.  Ahhhh, I feel like I've learned, but once again, feel trapped by my own dysfunction!  (I LOVE DAIRY!)