Dec 28

Most-Read Minding Therapy Posts 2017: Part 2

As the year ends, a second installment of updates regarding some of the most-read posts on Minding Therapy in 2017. For Part One, see this link.

I. “Attached”: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant Styles (published 10-5-16)

Sharon Martin, LCSW, explains ways “to have more satisfying relationships” if you suffer from an anxious attachment style (excerpt from Psych Central post):

  • If you’re single, look for a partner with a secure attachment.
  • Learn ways to soothe yourself.
  • Spend time getting to know yourself.
  • Practice communicating your feelings and needs directly.
  • Set realistic expectations in relationships (for example, recognizing that your partner can’t meet all of your needs all the time).
  • Be aware of over-reactions and jumping to conclusions about your partner.
  • Consider working with a therapist (individually and/or as a couple).
  • Be patient with yourself and your partner. Change is hard work and it takes lots of practice.
  • Give yourself love and compassion.

II. “Detach with Love”: The Why, The How, The Meaning (4-2-15)

How can you handle being in a close relationship with an addict? Lighthouse Treatment Center advises the following steps toward detaching with love. Click on their link for more info.

  • Understand that they are Irrational 
  • Stop Assuming Responsibility
  • Putting Yourself First
  • Stop Giving Without Reciprocation

III. Should You Detach from Your Family? David P. Celani’s “Leaving Home” (3-21-12)

Sharon Martin, LCSW, also points out (Psych Central) that Al-Anon provides a helpful acronym:


IV. “Fatal Attraction”: Another Look at Alex’s Mental Health (6-11-13)

KT Hawbaker, Chicago Tribune, recently reported an interesting twist in the making of the 1987 film Fatal Attraction. The original ending had Michael Douglas‘s character being exposed by the two leading women as a cheater—but this type of power claim by women turned out to displease test audiences. Glenn Close, who played Alex, resisted revising that ending but lost out.

Fast forward to today’s pop cultural milieu, however, and women have finally been allowed to express their outrage on small and large screens. One example offered by Hawbaker is the TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. More on this topic:

‘Female anger is so taboo, but these shows and movies are now claiming the right to it. Expressing anger is a means of gaining agency,’ says Sady Doyle, author of ‘Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear … and Why.’ Doyle says that previous depictions of the scorned woman — like Alex — played on stereotypes that threatened patriarchal norms. These characters were often women in positions of power who would snap, then ‘go crazy and ruin men’s lives’.

V. “Gypsy”: Role Model for Unethical Therapists Everywhere (6-30-17)

Many readers are curious in general about the ethics of therapists, who are often poorly portrayed on screen. Well, Zoe Williams, The Guardian, went to the specifics when she wrote a recent article called “From Gypsy to The Sopranos, what do real psychotherapists think of TV shrinks?”

One psychoanalyst and author, Philippa Perry, offered this professional opinion regarding a perceived failure of Gypsy‘s storytelling process:

One final feature of Gypsy gets, I think, to the heart of why therapy is so fascinating and so hard to render. All [therapist] Jean Holloway’s sessions are very boring. ‘My clients never bore me,’ Perry says, ‘and I’ll tell you why. If someone’s boring you, it’s because they’re not saying what’s on their mind. They’re not giving you a part of them. If I’m not engaged, I’ll say, ‘It’s odd, because I keep drifting off. Is there something you’re not talking about?’

Dec 26

Most-Read Minding Therapy Posts 2017: Part I

As the year ends, updates of some of the most-read posts on Minding Therapy in 2017:

I. Childhood Emotional Neglect: “Running on Empty” (published 1-13-17)

In May Yahoo reprinted an article from Running on Empty‘s author, Jonice Webb: “10 Things Emotionally Neglected Kids Grow Up Believing – That Are NOT True.” For further details, click on the link.

1. It’s not good to be too happy or too sad.

2. You are overly sensitive.

3. Your needs and preferences are irrelevant.

4. Talking about a problem will unnecessarily burden other people.

5. Crying is a weakness.

6. Others will judge you for showing your feelings.

7. Anger is a negative emotion and should be avoided.

8. Relying on another is setting yourself up for disappointment.

9. Others are not interested in what you have to say.

10. You are alone in the world.

II. “Emotionally Immature Parents”: Can You Relate? (5-4-16)

A quote from the book Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson:

No child can be good enough to evoke love from a highly self-involved parent. Nevertheless, these children come to believe that the price of making a connection is to put other people first and treat them as more important. They think they can keep relationships by being the giver. Children who try to be good enough to win their parents’ love have no way of knowing that unconditional love cannot be bought with conditional behavior.

III. Three Memoirs About Surviving Gay Conversion Therapy (3-20-17)

A popular 2012 novel, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily danforth, has been adapted for film and is due to be released pretty soon. Chloë Grace Moretz plays Cameron, a teen “forced into a gay conversion therapy center.”

IV. “The Last Word”: A Shallow View of OCPD (4-3-17) and “You Are Not Your Brain”: Manage OCD, Overthinking (10-31-16)

Understanding OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder) vs. OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is a topic of major interest. Below a video explains the difference between the two disorders:

V. Living with Anxiety: Five Memoirs to Consider (6-5-17)

Selected quotes from three of the authors represented in this post:

Mental illness isn’t like tuberculosis, which is always caused by one particular bacterium. Anxiety disorders almost certainly have multiple causes — from genetics to childhood trauma to how your parents interact with you. And for any given person, the mix of these factors will be as singular as a fingerprint. (Andrea Petersen, On Edge)

Some social phobics find even positive attention to be aversive. Think of the young child who bursts into tears when guests sing “Happy Birthday” to her at a party—or of Elfriede Jelinek afraid to pick up her Nobel Prize. Social attention—even positive, supportive attention—activates the neurocircuitry of fear. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Calling positive attention to yourself can incite jealousy or generate new rivalries. (Scott Stossel, My Age of Anxiety)

First, contrary to popular belief, Buddhists can actually be very anxious people. That’s often why they become Buddhists in the first place. Buddhism was made for the anxious like Christianity was made for the downtrodden or AA for the addicted. Its entire purpose is to foster equanimity, to tame excesses of thought and emotion. The Buddhists have a great term for these excesses. They refer to them as the condition of “monkey mind.” A person in the throes of monkey mind suffers from a consciousness whose constituent parts will not stop bouncing from skull-side to skull-side, which keep flipping and jumping and flinging feces at the walls and swinging from loose neurons like howlers from vines. Buddhist practices are designed explicitly to collar these monkeys of the mind and bring them down to earth—to pacify them. Is it any wonder that Buddhism has had such tremendous success in the bastions of American nervousness, on the West Coast and in the New York metro area? (Daniel B. Smith, Monkey Mind)

Feb 01

“Groundhog Day” Revisited: Therapy and Self-Help

What would you do if there were truly no tomorrow, if you knew everything that was going to happen on a given day and nothing you did ever had even a hint of consequences? Kenneth Turan, on a key question posed by Groundhog Day (Los Angeles Times)

Groundhog Day (1993), starring Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a narcissistic TV weatherman who’s somehow been doomed to relive one February 2nd indefinitely, “has gradually achieved the status of beloved. The American Film Institute rates it No.34 on its list of all-time funniest movies…” (Michael Booth, Denver Post, 2007).

Watch the trailer below:

So, what does Phil actually do upon realizing his terrible plight? Janet Maslin, New York Times, lists some of his ensuing actions: “Phil eagerly explores every self-destructive possibility now open to him, from jumping off buildings to smoking cigarettes to overeating and refusing to floss; at one point he even casually robs an armored truck, just to see if he can. ‘Well, what if there is no tomorrow?’ he anxiously asks someone. ‘There wasn’t one today!'”

Phil also, though, consults a therapist—one who’s, of course, ill prepared to handle the unusual problem. In fact, much to Phil’s chagrin, at the end of the session the shrink can only offer words that are so not pretty: “I think we should meet tomorrow.”  (See a brief clip below.)

Phil does eventually get a better handle on the repetitive story of his life. But what’s the lesson of Groundhog Day?

A few years ago Ryan Gilbey (The Guardian) got the following quote from David O. Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook (among other movies), who claims Groundhog Day as one of his all-time faves: “Very much like Silver Linings Playbook, it’s about someone fighting their demons using all that humble, difficult, baby-steps hard work that it takes, but doing it in such a hilarious way. It shows that until you wake up and get things right, you’re gonna live that stuff until you die: the same emotional prison every day. Phil has to go through every incarnation of what he thinks love is until he really gets it.”

Jennifer M. Wood, Mental Floss, goes beyond this, naming eight different “creative interpretations” of the film. The six I won’t be highlighting:

  • Bill Murray as Savior
  • Punxsutawney Phil as the resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • Punxsutawney as Purgatory
  • a metaphor for Judaism
  • a comparison for military boredom
  • economic theory

The two in which I have more interest: a metaphor for psychoanalysis (or therapy of any kind, I might add) and a means of self-help.

Many psychoanalysts apparently told the film’s director and co-writer, Harold Ramis (1944-2014), of their endorsement. Ramis: “Obviously the movie’s a metaphor for psychoanalysis, because we revisit the same stories and keep reliving these same patterns in our life. And the whole goal of psychoanalysis is to break those patterns of behavior.”

More from Wood on this topic:

In 2006, the International Journal of Psychoanalysis printed an essay entitled, ‘Revisiting Groundhog Day: Cinematic Depiction of Mutative Process,’ which explained that the film ‘shows us a man trapped by his narcissistic defenses. The device of repetition becomes a representation of developmental arrest and closure from object relatedness. Repetition also becomes a means of escape from his characterological dilemma. The opportunity to redo and learn from experience—in particular, to love and learn through experience with a good object—symbolizes the redemptive, reparative possibilities in every life.’

And motivational speaker Paul Hannam, who wrote The Magic of Groundhog Day (2008), uses the movie as a means of self-help. His book aims to teach readers to “learn how to unlock the magic of the movie to transform your life at home and at work” and to “break free from repetitive thoughts and behaviors that keep you stuck in a rut.”

Dec 30

“Minding Therapy” 2016: A Whole Lot of Trumpism

Part Two of my presentation of additions and updates to popular Minding Therapy topics of 2016 contains multiple issues related to Trumpism. Some interesting stuff! (Sad!)

3-4-16: GOP Presidential Candidates Missed Some Things

Notably, the GOP primary candidates often attacked each other in fits of immaturity. If you missed the Clinton campaign ad that featured this, movie parallels were drawn to the biggest bully of the whole bunch. (Update, 2017: video no longer available.)

7-25-16: Donald Trump’s Mental Health: Seriously Considering It

As reported recently by Richard Greene, Huffington Post, a letter dated November 29th was sent to President Obama from several distinguished mental health professionals: Judith Herman, M.D., Nanette Gartrell, M.D., and Dee Mosbacher, M.D., Ph.D. The beginning content:

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect. Professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally. Nevertheless, his widely reported symptoms of mental instability — including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality — lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office. We strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he receive a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators.

No word on whether the current president has plans to follow up on their suggestion.

By the way, there’s also been a petition with similar intent.

9-5-16: Manifesto Against Trumpism: For Therapists Et Al.

The founder of Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism, Bill Doherty, recently announced his next stage of international activism: “Citizen Therapists for Democracy is scheduled to launch on Inauguration Day. The following missions were identified: “Learning and spreading transformative ways to practice therapy with a public dimension, rebuilding democratic capacity in communities, and resisting anti-democratic ideologies and practices.”

States Doherty, “More information to follow via email and the Facebook group which has over 1,800 members.” (I got on the email list when I signed the therapists’ Manifesto Against Trumpism that circulated months ahead of the presidential election.)

10-17-16: Sexual Assault Disclosures: Belief and Disbelief

The Huffington Post has kept “A Running List of the Women Who’ve Accused Donald Trump of Sexual Assault,” with the last update occurring in late October.

When one of these women, “Jane Doe,” who claims she was raped at age 13 by Trump, was about to hold a press conference with her lawyer Lisa Bloom in early November, she received so many threats she cancelled—and then also dropped her federal lawsuit.

Doe’s allegations, as filed in the original suit, included this bombshell: “Immediately following this rape, Defendant Trump threatened me that, were I ever to reveal any of the details of Defendant Trump’s sexual and physical abuse of me, my family and I would be physically harmed if not killed.”

Soon after the failed news conference, Lisa Boyne spoke with Bloom about her own experience of sexual harassment by Trump:

7-28-16: “Fight Song” for Candidate Hillary Clinton

…I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me. (From “Fight Song”)

Hillary, the day after the election: “To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.”

Dec 28

Popular “Minding Therapy” Topics 2016: Updates

As always, it’s my pleasure to offer additions and updates to the most popular Minding Therapy topics published in 2016. This post represents Part One, and Part Two will come in a couple days.


8-17-16: “Florence Foster Jenkins”: Psychology of Her Delusions

From Moze Halperin, Flavorwire, ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ and Donald Trump: Two Sides of American Delusion“:

Florence Foster Jenkins made me long for a future where delusion — one of the aspects of the human mind that’s at once beautiful and troubling — can seem less of the latter. In that future, the freedom to imagine oneself as something greater is not limited to the ultra-rich, nor is it a threat to society, but rather legitimately a means of self-preservation, improvement, and happiness. It’s just that right now, talentlessness and inexperience have overtaken America, with the rest of us under its boot. When there are no checks on the power of individuals and their capital, there are no checks on their fantasies, and that’s more shudder-inducing than the even most gruesomely botched aria.

4-25-16: “Kimmy Schmidt”: Let the Therapy Begin

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon: “For a show that’s broadly, absurdly comical, ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ is also incredibly intelligent in its depiction of trauma and its understanding that even hopeful, sunny, resolutely glass-half-full individuals like Kimmy can experience and suffer from it — and even fantasize about lighting a tormentor’s spine like a firecracker.”


2/12/16: Single People Have a Strong Voice in Bella DePaulo

Among the many posts DePaulo has published since I last wrote about her, one about researchers Lori Bratto and Morag Yule showing that “Asexuality Is a Sexual Orientation, Not a Sexual Dysfunction” (Psychology Today) supports information previously presented here.

Five ways in which asexuality fits the criteria for an orientation:

  1. Asexuals always felt that way. 
  2. Biomarkers are associated with certain sexual orientations, and asexuals have biomarkers that set them apart from others, statistically. “Examples include handedness and fraternal birth order.”
  3. Asexuality is evident early in life.
  4. Asexuals’ relative infrequency of sexual behavior parallels their lack of sexual attraction. 
  5. Stability over time of lack of sexual attraction.

Click on the link above for further clarification about asexuality being neither a mental disorder nor a sexual dysfunction.

10-10-16: National Coming Out Day 2016: “Stand in the Light”

David R. Morse, Huffington Post: “Although Donald Trump called himself a ‘supporter’ of LGBTQ rights, his cabinet and senior staff will include some of the most anti-gay politicians in the country.” This list includes but is not limited to Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, and Steve Bannon.

Meanwhile, the voting public increasingly feels more accepting and inclusive about gay relationships and individual LGBT rights. This tweet below, for example, recently went viral—and in a positive direction:

Do we just wait and see what happens? Probably not the best plan. Jared Milrad ( offers “18 Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect LGBTQ Rights Under Donald Trump.”

Also see Will Greenberg‘s (Mother Jones), “Brace Yourselves for an Onslaught of Anti-LGBT Proposals in 2017” and psychologist Michael Radkowsky‘s (Huffington Post), “The LGBT Patriot’s Guide to Fighting Trump’s Bigotry.”