Monday, April 23, 2007


I challenged someone today. I told a teenage client that they would find more happiness from going out of their way to give back to a friend than they do manipulating them to get what they want all the time. In fact, I bet them it would be the highlight of their week.

This particular person looked at me like I was crazy.

Which, now that I think of it, is a perfectly reasonable response from their view of how the world works. When relationships are thought of as comptetitions for scant resources, when the world is one big zero sum game with clearly defined winners and losers, then manipulation begins to make sense as a strategy in life.

But, of course, the world is more complex than that. Attempts to manipulate others to get what we want end up distancing us from everyone who once supported us. Our very ability to get our needs met depends upon our ability to give, to maintain our friendships. Our happiness depends on the happiness of others. And theirs upon ours.

Which got me thinking about much that is wrong in our world and in our country. Like how we divide ourselves politically into camps and celebrate our "enemy's" defeats as much as the victories of our side. Like how so many people marginalize or demonize groups of people based on race or economic status or legal history or sexual orientation.

We forget, somehow, that our happiness depends on the happiness of others, even of others with whom we powerfully disagree.

I pray that we come to more fully realize the wisdom in Christ's teaching that we should love even our enemies.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

an update (and an apology)

I feel somehow as if I've been neglectful, what with my paucity of posts of late. My apologies.

Without meaning to make excuses, it has been a rather busy time of late. Last weekend I attended the wedding of E, whom I referred to as "the one" in a previous post. Then on the Thursday and Friday before this weekend I was gone at an autism spectrum disorders (ASD) conference where I spoke to teachers, parents, and others working with children suffering from ASD's.

Did I finish my presentation well ahead of time so that I could take it easy for the few days before the conference? Did I have a few bits put together ahead of time and had to finish the damn thing the morning of the speech (leading to a rather hectic trip to a local copy store to make transparencies)? Well, yes.

But despite my abhorrent lack of preparation, the speech itself went well and I received generally positive feedback. My only concern looking back on it is that the point of view and recommendations I put forward (which focused on addressing underlying cognitive deficits such as cognitive flexibility, episodic memory, experience sharing, etc.) were in stark contrast to the perspectives of the other major speakers (who focused on behavioral objectives like "eye contact" and reducing tantrums). So while my speech went well and was well received, I worry that some of the listeners might have ended up confused as to what to think when they heard such different points of view.

As far as the previous weekend is concerned, the wedding was lovely. It was held at little Swedenborgian church that was the perfect size for the number of people in attendance. And the ceremony's focus on marriage was truly inspiring -- emphasizing the importance of joy, of mutual happiness, of being a good partner for each other.

I have to admit that attending that wedding was an occasion of ambivalence for me. Yet it was good, I think. Good to see E so happy. Good to know that she is with someone who treats her so well. Good to have that sense of finality.

Peace to you all, my friends.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Six Weird Things About Me

I was tagged by my friend, More Cows, to do this meme. So here goes...

Six Weird Things About Me:

1. I'm a huge Sci-Fi fan. I love Star Wars, most of the Star Trek series, the new Battlestar Galactica, and am a HUGE fan of the (sadly) cancelled TV show, Firefly. IMHO, the new Battlestar Galactica and Firefly are the two best shows of all time.

2. Along with my college roommate, I wrote and submitted a script for the TV show Star Trek: Voyager. Our script was entitled "Compassion" and involved the intrepid crew's encounter with an alien culture of telepaths whose world was decimated by the Borg (Lost? That's OK, it just means you're not as big a Sci-Fi geek as I am!) Anyway, the script was rejected, but I still think the episode was quite good. I really enjoyed the process of putting a script together, and the pleasant daydream of leaving this crazy job as a psychologist and becoming a hollywood script writer (oh the glory!)

3. "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory" scared the bejeezus out of me when I was a kid. Who the heck were those Oompa Loompa guys, anyway?!

4. I have a strange fondness for certain kinds of action movies. Or, perhaps more accurately, for mocking said movies. Usually just by pointing out things like how hard it is for the bad guys to get good help, how the bad guys always seem to always have terrible aim, etc. An old friend of mine and I used to watch the "American Ninja" movies in high school and laugh hysterically.

5. Like my father, my sweet tooth seems to go in cycles. For awhile, I just really crave Breyer's Natural Vanilla. Then for awhile, I'll crave a Butterfinger blizzard from Dairy Queen. Then maybe it'll be something else. But it seems to last for like a week or two before I move on to something else. Even I don't entirely get this one. To a lesser extent, I go through cycles like this with other kinds of foods as well.

6. I'm an Eagle Scout, but I generally dislike camping, hiking, and "roughing it" kinds of activities. Why, you ask, did I become an Eagle Scout? Well, my father was a scout master. My older brother was an Eagle Scout. My younger brother eventually became one as well. It was an expectation in my family and a way of making my Dad happy, I guess.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I had a discussion with someone recently about anxiety and how it was affecting their life. We discussed how anxiety can becoming consuming, about how courage is like a muscle and if we're not using it regularly (pushing ourselves, taking risks) then the muscle weakens and is harder to use when we need it.

And then there was this thought: "You should never let anxiety keep you from doing something when you're acting out of love. Anxiety is actually pretty useful and good at stopping us when we're about to do something stupid...but when it keeps us from acting out of love, it becomes a prison."

Peace to you all.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I've been reading over and over about the White House calling Democrats "irresponsible" for the Iraq war funding bill they passed (that included a time-frame for withdrawal), and for leaving Washington for a Spring break after passing the bills.


How about getting us into an extremely ill-conceived war, bumbling the execution of said war with mind-numbing incompetence, and leaving us stuck in the middle of a civil war that threatens to broaden to the wider middle east region?

How's that for irresponsible?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Thoughts from a calendar (part 2)

"All of the wonderful things that you are looking for -- happiness, peace and joy -- can be FOUND inside of you. You do not need to LOOK anywhere else."

Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, April 02, 2007


1. OK, so I ran across a news headline this morning: "Venomous box jellyfish have human-like eyes." I was just really struck by how poetic that sounded. Like Zen poetry, maybe. Hmm...

2. I was having a discussion with a fellow psychologist I work with about "self esteem" and he surprised me a little bit by telling me that he doesn't really like the notion of self-esteem. Instead, he prefers to think about Bandura's term "self-efficacy." In other words, he prefers to focus his work on whether people perceive themselves as capable of having an impact on their world (social and otherwise). Interesting...

3. We also talked about the idea that progress in therapy is not so much substituting one belief about ourselves for another -- but creating a better ability to realistically appraise ourselves, and then to take actions in our lives designed to improve our self-image or maintain a generally positive self-image. The notion here is that it is no more healthy to have an unchanging but positive self-image (e.g., thinking positively about oneself while treating others poorly) than it is to have an unchanging but negative one (e.g., as in the case of depression). The goal should be to have a self-image that is flexible, that we regulate through our thoughts and actions.