Family

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We have chosen collectively, as a society, to use the year-end holidays to mark the passage of our years.  This means that both memories and emotions seem to pour out of the heavens and clobber us all. None of us has had, to my knowledge, a Thanksgiving that looked anything like the Norman Rockwell painting of everyone sitting at the table being fed by a loving grandmother — a reality that has been soundly parodied.

Despite efforts at legislating “political correctness”, there are plenty of people who are not Christian suffering through Christmas — especially those with children who watch television and assimilate its methods. When I was very young and going to a Jewish religious school, the intensity of the group identity made it easy, even though there were several group activities my parents did not let me participate in. They were mostly the Sabbath-oriented ones, as we drove in cars and turned on lights and did other things the very Orthodox, who ran the place, did not do. It was clear even to a very young psyche, that Chanukah was a warm and light-filled time, with special games and special treats and special songs and special joys. Read more on Christmas For Religious Minorities…

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I had never seen this slightly disheveled 52 year old woman before and she was crying her heart out. Her father had died 24 hours earlier from what she could only call an “all over the place” kind of cancer. His struggle had been long and hard and she thought she had done a good job of preparing herself psychologically. But still, the depth of her grief was pretty immense, so I managed to get her to talk. She said that all her life, she felt she had never been able to please her father, and now she knew she never would. He wanted all kinds of academic achievements and prestigious jobs for her, none of which she got. It simply made her feel like a failure.

Well, even though I am mainly a “pill pushing mama” to the world, I wanted desperately to say something to ease her pain. It would not help much if I told her the truth of what is going on, that she was crying not for dad, but for her own feelings of inadequacy. Read more on Pleasing Daddy — And Failing…

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“I really don’t need medicine.  I am fine and I applied to the fire department and I will be a firefighter.”

This is a typical response from a man.  In our culture, we raise junior John Wayne types — tough and independent.

He was in the room with his mother, who was fighting back tears.  “I have tried everything to make him take medicine.  I can beg him, but he does not take it very often.” Read more on The Mother Who Learned To Trust…

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My husband and I went to the movies yesterday.  We are not excited by hype or first run or being the first on our block to see or do anything. So we went to a second-run movie and saw the third in the “Shrek” series.  Now the story was fine and the animation was impeccable.  But me, being me, I always look for the “meta-message” in movies.  What “message,” what lesson are the children (and adults) who sit through this movie getting pumped into their subconscious mind? I am assuming we are talking about the subconscious mind, since I have never heard other people talk very much spontaneously about this issue, which to me is a very fascinating one. First, a little about Shrek III for those adults and children who may have missed it.

Shrek is bored with the non-ogre like life as a father of a family with Fiona, his own true love.  So much so that he signs a pact with Rumpelstiltskin – who seems to have purchased the embodiment of evil franchise from Satan.  This launches him into a plot that is essentially the same as Jimmy Stewart in “It’s A Wonderful Life” (and if you’ve never seen that movie, just wait until Christmas season and it will be on every TV channel night and day for a month). Read more on Movies Give Us The Meta-Message…

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Of all the trials and tribulations we can suffer in life, none is so devastating as the loss of a loved one.

Unfortunately, we will all eventually suffer such a great loss and the grief that it brings.

Believe it or not, a properly trained professional can help minimize the grief and help those sufferers to cope. Much of this horrible experience can be truncated, if not removed, by people who know what they are doing.

But it seems that most people don’t believe this, and some people will never learn. Read more on No Need To Suffer Through Grief — Get Help!…

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The Fourth of July has come and gone this year. Once again, I have managed to avoid every parade and every fireworks display. This time, I did not even hear a firecracker.

The last time I saw fireworks was several years ago when a chronically depressed and critical (but on some level intellectual, highly cultured, and fun-loving) threw a party as she happened to be living in a rented home from which three fireworks displays were easily visible.  I remember that although I was my usually pretty stone cold sober self, many of her intellectual, highly cultured, and fun-loving friends had no trouble becoming rip-roaring drunk.

Perhaps patriotic holidays are one of those days, like New Year’s (Eve) when the “amateurs” get drunk; the people who otherwise are not terribly likely to do so.  The “professionals,” the backbone of Alcoholics Anonymous, probably watch fireworks stone cold sober while smiling at the “amateurs.” Read more on Public Displays of Patriotism…

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During residency training in psychiatry, when I was learning how to do psychotherapy, I learned that the lady at the front desk ran the clinic.  She did the “statistics.”

I thought she was hyper, but she told me she subsisted on coffee and crashed on the weekends.  She actually told me so much personal information, I suggested she become a patient at the resident clinic.  She said there was a rule against it.  I told her to go to another clinic, but she told me she could not get time off, something I never quite believed.  But she told me, also, that she understood what was going on with me.  This was news to me, except that I knew I was struggling to be a good psychotherapist.

The stories of everybody’s lives that they told me were so terrible I thought I might just go home and cry every night.  I did a little at first, but I got over it.  Then, she told me my “statistics.” It seemed that more of my patients came back for more visits than anyone else’s.  They liked me. Read more on You Don’t Have To Be A Jewish Mother To Have Empathy…

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He was an urban youth.  I could not even determine his racial origin and I had to ask him (county regulations – tracking who it paid for – not my choice). It was mixed, and essentially indeterminate, a regular American melting-pot.

His head was shaved, so I could not make any guesses on the basis of hair type. There were facial tattoos, of the tribal sort, lots of triangles, but nothing as fiercely antisocial as some of the obscene drawings or sayings I had seen tattooed on prison inmates faces.  Or in the case before me – ex-cons. And there was one of those little cylinders in his earlobe –the kind that men wear to stretch the open hole in their earlobes large enough to allow passage by a small sparrow.  I believe the tradition is for tribal identity to prove something about achievement in the face of pain.  It differs according to whom you ask, and this young man was not ripe for asking about that topic.

baby daddy

“I’m depressed.  Real depressed.”

I wanted to know why.  “I got kids.  Seven of them, three different states.  The seventh one was born three days ago.  I was with the Mommy, and we were really happy because he looks just like me.”

Quite an achievement for someone only 22 years old. However, my congratulations did not bring him solace. “I guess you aren’t feeling too great about it, though, or else you wouldn’t be here, feeling depressed.”

At least he wasn’t suicidal.  I could treat him as an outpatient. Read more on Male Postpartum Depression (Yes — MALE!)…

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She was twenty four, and beautiful – magazine cover, MTV video beautiful — with long black hair and exotic features.  She was telling me about her childhood abuse, her drug abuse, and how she left childhood for pregnancy and married a husband who was in many ways more abusive than her own parents had been with her.

Although the precise details do not matter, this woman gradually revealed herself to be a victim of physical, emotional, and sexual battering so severe that that she actually looked back fondly on her time spent in a variety of foster homes.  I rarely hear this.  She told about her abuse with a certain flatness of facial expression and vocal tone, a certain acceptance.  This is not uncommon in those who have survived a lot of emotional abuse.  It is a survival mechanism; a way to put up a wall.  I could understand that.

Time Magazine Sex Education

She was actually a fairly reasonable person to interview.  She did not have many holes in her memory and managed to answer most of my questions with believable facts.  I had to ask about her education.  She had been doing well in school when she dropped out because of pregnancy.  She had not used contraception then, still didn’t.  When I asked her, she told me simply that since her family was Christian, such topics were not discussed. Read more on The Harm Done By NOT Providing Sex Education…

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I first heard the term “helicopter parent” on some news broadcast.  I started my search, as I do with all new concepts, with Wikipedia.  Despite or perhaps because of its imperfections, I have come to rely on Wikipedia as my first line on what people think and do.

These are the folks who originated the name tag, and sell the products that are supposed to help fix the problem.

helicopter parent

Read more on “Helicopter Parenting”: The Ultimate Over-Protection…

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