Showing posts with label psychotherapy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label psychotherapy. Show all posts

June 5, 2023

Fearing for freedom's fate and feeling like the vexed man (or woman)? I grok how you feel. A shrink's advice.


By Hal Brown, MSW, Retired psychotherapist
More about the artist.

For those not familiar with the word grok, it was coined by science fiction master Robert Heinlein in his classic book Stranger in a Strange Land. It means  "to understand intuitively or by empathy.

I don't actually feel like this most of the time when I follow political news. I know people who do, if not most of the time, much of the time. I also know people who become so upset by it that they turn off and tune out the news. 

I was reading this optimistic Washington Post OpEd by Greg Sargent titled "Opinion Biden has a theory of MAGA that just might be working"...

The photo is of President Biden in his embodiment of Dark Bandon Badass wearing his 3025 Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses. Full-discloser, while I am not really all that superstitious, I have a pair on order which should come in a few days. I am hoping that by wearing them I can send good vibes to the president.

This ad was in the middle of the essay:

Sargent concludes his column this way:

Yet Biden also plainly believes that conducting the nation’s business on a bipartisan basis is inherently stabilizing. That sometimes requires treating the opposition — or a large swath of it — as a mostly conventional political party, which risks mitigating perceptions of the threat it poses.

In the debt limit outcome, that tension proved far more navigable than many, including me, expected. How this tension will play out in 2024 is hard to predict, but for now, the Biden theory of MAGA has mostly been vindicated.

I hope his conclusion, that the Biden theory of MAGA has mostly been vindicated, proves to be true. 

How does this relate to feeling like the Vexed Man? 

In general I see myself as neither an optimist nor a pessimist. I like to believe that I'm not a glass is half full or glass is half empty kind of person. I like to believe that I look at the glass and factor in evaporation rates of the liquid in the glass and based on the humidity and the likelihood of rain I determine whether the glass will fill up or be depleted. 

When it comes to the possibility that in the next election the United States will take an irrevocable step to becoming a fascist autocracy with a bigoted anti-woke America first agenda I eschew hyperbole and try my damnedest to be objective.

This isn't to say that from time to time I don't succumb to the shpilkes. I do. 

My recommendation to those who feel overwhelmed by anxiety about the future of the country is to be kind to themselves and make a concerted effort to spend some time every day to take a distraction break. 

Do the things that are likely to give you pleasure. Spend time with people you love, treat yourself to a meal at a favorite restaurant, if you don't subscribe to a streaming video service pick the one that most appeals to you and find movies, or better yet long running TV shows, to watch. 

Take a drive in the country or just go for a walk, plant a garden, hell, if it suits you go to the city dump and shoot rats with a .22 riffle.

If you can afford it, there's retail therapy. This involves the process of shopping and then the pleasure in getting what you buy.  You don't have to spend a lot. Shop for a pair of happy socks, buy some inexpensive costume jewelry, or if you like gadgets or tools go to an electronics or Lowes type store and buy something on impulse.

Consider redecorating a room or just getting rid of a worn out piece of furniture. The idea is to treat yourself.  You can always do what I did, buy a pair of Ray-Ban 3025's.

Click above to read
I am aware that these glasses are the same sunglasses worn by Tom Cruise in his Top Gun movies and that Ron DeSantis, referring to himself as "Top Gov", also wore them, or glasses that looked like them, in a 2022 ad pretending to be a tighter pilot.

About the blog:

If you are new to my blog, welcome. Scroll down here to see all of the tags I've used and all of my blogs since 2012. The blog only became totally political in the last two years. However if you are interested here's what I wrote about politics in 2016.

Weekly stats by country:

For some reason I had many readers from Singapore this week. Could it be that major country spy chiefs are meeting there this week in a secret enclave?  The international readership varies but usually after the US the most logons are from Russia.

April 2, 2023

Nobody knows for certain how Trump feels except Trump

Caricatures of Trump
Caricatures by DonkeyHotey

By Hal Brown, MSW, Retired clinical social worker and psychotherapist

This is the title of a Washington Post (subscription) article today:

Shocked and defiant: How Trump is responding to unprecedented indictment

Since a grand jury issued charges related to hush money to an adult film star, the former president has cycled through a range of emotions and postures.

This is an article by Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey

I added this comment to the article:

Nobody knows how Trump is feeling except Trump himself. All that can be reported on with certainty is what is observable. The words "as if he is" should preface any sentence purporting to describe how he feels. Thus even the title of this article makes assumptions. This to be accurate it should read Acting shocked and expressing defiance.

Psychotherapists like me look at this through a different lens than many others. The public would gain a better understand of him if they looked up the term narcissistic injury. They will find this article by Mary Trump: Donald Trump's niece says her uncle felt "narcissistic injury" from being GOP's "biggest loser".
Even Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist, is speculating each time she describes her uncle's inner life. Her describing Uncle Donald feeling narcissistic injury makes sense. Look at the definition here and see what you think.

I am as guilty of speculating as all the other mental health professionals who have gone public with their psychological analyses of Donald Trump. Look my name up with Trump and this is what you'll find:

Click above to enlarge image

My articles and those by mental health professionals who are prominent in the field all helped inform the public as to the likely psychodynamics of Donald Trump, emphasize likely.

If a research psychologist was to construct an experiment in an attempt to determine whether a subject met various diagnostic assessments such as their being a malignant narcissist they could begin with a list of observable behaviors they would predict would manifest themselves in the future if they had the theorized diagnosis. 

Donald Trump has been diagnosed as both an extreme narcissist, a sociopath, and a malignant narcissist which combines the two disorders. We don't actually know, absolutely know, that any of these diagnostic assessments are 100% accurate.

100% certainty is a standard rarely met with a psychiatric diagnosis. There's no MRI machine to scan Trump's brain. There's no pathologist's microscope to put a slide of his mind under to see just how malignant it is.

As Trump will find out within a year or so, 100% certainty isn't even a standard relied on for conviction in a criminal court where the standard is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ashley Parker and Josh Hawley, not to pick on them, are not mental health experts. Here's an excerpt of what is in today's article:
Yet in the immediate aftermath of the grand jury’s decision related to hush money paid to an adult-film star, Trump was not happy, said one person with direct knowledge of his reaction. Others described Trump as “upset,” “irritated,” “deflated” and “shocked,” though some noted that he also remained “very calm” and “rather stoic, actually.”
Even they are relying on second hand reporting, and they only say that "others" who aren't identified described Trump's behavior. We don't know if these are people who actually were with him.

More people described in the article say they know how Trump feels:
  • “He’ll do Trump,” said David Urban, a longtime Trump adviser who is not working on his 2024 campaign. “He’ll show up. He’ll be indignant.”
  • “He initially was shocked,” said Joe Tacopina, a Trump lawyer, on NBC’s “Today” show Friday. “After he got over that, he put a notch on his belt and he decided we have to fight now, and he got into a typical Donald Trump posture where he’s ready to be combative on something he believes is an injustice.”
  • “He has never been concerned about any story that paints him as a moral reprobate,” one Trump ally said. “His whole life and career have been full of those stories and they’ve never harmed him, in his mind.”
There's one quote at the end of the article which makes sense:
But the defiant posture seems likely to remain. In a statement, Taylor Budowich, the head of MAGA Inc., railed against the indictment and promised it would deliver Trump another stint in the White House.
The use of the word "posture" is accurate. The head of MAGA Inc. isn't saying he knows for sure what Trump is feeling. He is predicting how he will act. He's probably correct. 

Only Trump is capable of knowing whether he's playing a role or whether he's struggling to avoid experiencing fear. I say "capable" because Trump, like anyone, has psychological defense mechanisms to prevent anxiety from percolating into conscious awareness.

Bottom line:

Only this guy knows what is happening in his conscious mind.
By definition, nobody knows what is occurring in their unconscious mind. Self-aware people can make informed guesses about this but the unconscious is not conscious. It manifests itself though feelings, behaviors, and hints as to what is going on in the recesses of our minds often comes out in our dreams.
An iceberg is often used to provide a visual representation of Freud's theory that most of the human mind operates unconsciously. Public domain


Donald Trump faces the embarrassment of arraignment, fingerprinting and a police mugshot in Manhattan on Tuesday, but one legal expert suggested his worst nightmare will come from a jury made up of New Yorkers who know him all too well.
Here again we see Trump being described as if he is psychologically normal. He faces what we would be embarrassed by, hell, we'd be mortified. There are two meanings of the word "nightmare" of which one is being applicable here, ie. a terrifying experience. Trump may find it exhilarating. What he can't control is an actual nightmare occurring while he is sleeping. I'd say there is more chance he'll have one or more of these than his actually experiencing conscious manifestations of anxiety.

2) Michael Cohen told Joy Reid that Trump can put on fake bravado but is petrified. He has no way of knowing this is true. He ought to have said that Trump, if he was normal, would be petrified.

3) There is one thing we know for sure abut Trump. It is that yesterday he took a motorcade to play golf (article). However this was arranged, it was done is such a way that he would pass by his supporters. I think it is significant that there were no photographs of him actually playing (at least none that I could find). These might have captured expressions that suggested he was feeling the stress of being indicted.

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December 3, 2022

Pot and psilocybin mushrooms in Oregon

 Pot and psilocybin mushrooms in Oregon
by Hal Brown

Two slightly related stories caught my eye on the website of a local Portland area TV station. Once I started writing about them my mind wandered far afield to cover other subjects.

Former employee reveals details about Shroom House’s operation

The use of psilocybin mushrooms will be legal in Oregon next year but apparently they are available now - the article concludes:

“I’ve never even seen this stuff before. So I’m trying,” said Scott Yon, a customer at Shroom House. “I understand it may not be legally up yet, but in Portland, it doesn’t seem like people get arrested for anything.”

Even though the Oregon Health Authority and police say this is not legal, the long lines seen outside the store show the simple economics of supply and demand.

I've considered trying psilocybin mushrooms once the clinics, where someone trained to help you navigate the experience will help you, to see what unexplored part of my mind was opened to my consciousness. 

Since the psychedelic era there were two groups (not mutually exclusive) of people who used LSD and similar substances. Some belonged to the "turn on, tune in, drop out" group, a term popularized by Timothy Leary, and the others wanted to discover more about themselves. Some eventually followers of Richard Alpert who was Leary's partner, who became Baba Ram Das, and led a movement aimed at spiritual enlightenment.

When I was in college during the height of hippie and counterculture psychedelic times (1963-1967) I knew lots of people in the former group. There was a people's park I often walked through at Michigan State where students camped out and got stoned. Reference. 

I have concluded that I don't want to take the risk of using psilocybin. I am leery of any substance that leads me to be out of control of where my mind goes. Once a psychoactive drug is in your brain there's no "off" switch. You have to ride out the experience.

I like to be able to embark on unstructured  mental journeys to see where my unconscious leads me, but I want to be able to exert some conscious control.

I have friends who meditate using one or another technique. Almost everyday I spend time just letting my mind wander freely. I am not sure whether this would be considered mediation but I like the experience.

Since my mid-teens I paid a lot attention to my dreams, what Freud called "the royal road to the unconscious" and in fact read two paperback books by Freud when I was in my teens. One was his "Introduction of Psychoanalysis" and the other was "The Interpretation of Dreams."
Karl Jung agreed and wrote that “the dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the psyche.”

These readings led me to understand that there was much more to people, including myself, than they were aware of. This understanding always informed the kind of therapy I practiced for 40 years. I feel the crucial way therapy helps is the relationship between client and therapist, but that there are times with certain clients when it is helpful to facilitate insight into why they are distressed. 

The following article should be both cautionary and reassuring to those using cannabis, which is legal for recreational use in Oregon:

While I've tried high in CBD cannabis edibles to help sleep through the night I find that I don't like the effect that even the amount of THC, usually about a third, has on me. I makes my mind race and causes near hallucinatory images. I don't use any cannabis at all now, but I live in a senior community where many friends and acquaintances use it. If you visit any of the  560 + Oregon pot stores you will see customers ranging in age from 21 to 91 or older.  You will see hipsters looking for a better high to elders with bad hips relying on budmasters, the pot store version of your pharmacist, suggest varieties to help with different ailments.

It should be reassuring to cannabis users that the state is testing the products, but it seems to be common sense that anyone trying a new variety realize that the testing takes time to find contaminants so they need to make changes with caution.


If you watch a Sinclair Broadcast Group owned local station you need to know just how right wing their reporting is. By Hal Brown, MSW

  "Morning Joe" covered this today with clips of local Sinclair owned station anchors reading the exact same script about the Wall...