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 Change.org 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 (Mic.com) 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.”

Jul 08

“Minding Therapy” An E-Book Again!

I’m pleased to announce that my novel Minding Therapy is now available again at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble in e-book form.

Artemis Press, my original publisher, will always have my gratitude for putting it out there first, back in 2002. (They are no longer in the biz.) And I’ll never forget my first unsolicited review, submitted to their website from a mental health professional soon after publication. From “A Reader in Wisconsin,” words that articulated for me what I had actually set out to do:

Whether you’re a therapist yourself, have ever gone to a therapist, or have ever thought of going to a therapist, you’ll really be able to relate to a lot of the experiences in the book Minding Therapy. Some of the scenes were funny and made me laugh, others brought tears to my eyes. The whole book was really just about being human, and was another one of life’s teachings that we’re all very vulnerable creatures, and any one of us might discover that seeing a therapist and getting an objective viewpoint can give us some direction we aren’t able to find on our own.

Daryl’s burnout was something I could relate to as a mental health professional–she had me shaking my head in recognition, and laughing at the same time. I found myself underlining many passages in the book that I could relate to from personal experience. And it just reaffirmed to me that my thoughts and feelings were perfectly normal. I’m not the only one who gets sick of people and their problems (including my own!).

I highly recommend this story to every lesbian, to every woman–heck, to everyone! It was a fun read, and hard to put down. My thanks to the author, and one question–when is the sequel going to be available?!

Another major hoot was finding an Amazon “Listmania” by “Fiction Editor” that ranked Minding Therapy third in a top-ten list of “lesbian books to keep you up all night”—in the same company, for instance, as Katherine Forrest‘s classic Curious Wine. The reviewer stated about Minding Therapy, “If you’ve ever been in therapy, as either a client or therapist, this wildly funny and satirical story will leave you in stitches.”

And then there was the review from FriedSocialWorker.com (yes, this website actually exists!). An excerpt:

What I appreciated most about this novel was the way in which the author weaves the problem of burnout into the overall context of the therapist’s life. Burnout rarely occurs in isolation, does it? It occurs in the midst of all the other burdens we carry through life.

If you’ve ever worked in mental health, you’ll appreciate Daryl’s one-liners and sarcastic running commentary as she freely shares her views on community mental health, clients, supervisors, family, and just about everything else!

One final and significant news item: Although Artemis Press had set out to be a publisher of ebooks only, eventually they did issue some Minding Therapy‘s in paperback form—though not for long. While looking into self-publishing I discovered the darnedest thing—a highly rated independent seller is currently offering a copy for $500 (not kidding!) plus shipping at this Amazon link.

Come to think of it, I have a few copies I’ve been saving myself. Imagine the bidding war! (Not.)

In summary: no available affordable paperbacks, just dirt cheap e-books are now on sale. So, run walk heck you could crawl to your nearest bookstore computer or smart phone or tablet and place your order now any old time you feel like it. Unlike real books E-books are always right there, ready to roll when you are.

Jan 04

Updates of 10 Posts On “Minding Therapy”

To start 2016, instead of listing the regular—and largely repetitive—end-of-year top ten (Shawshank Redemption, What About Bob?, Therapy Office Design, etc.) on Minding Therapy, I’m going to provide updates of 10 posts on “Minding Therapy.”

Charlie Brown’s Mental Health  (Aug. 2012)

Near the release of this year’s new movie starring the “Peanuts” gang, long-time fan Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian, related his childhood appreciation of Charlie Brown’s neuroses:

In four frames [Charles Schulz] told truths that every child knows but too often go unrecognised when adults write for kids: namely, that life is difficult, one’s shortcomings feel insuperable and that, when fate has laid you low, it comes along to kick you again in the proverbials.

For adults, the only certainties in life were death and taxes. For kids like me and Charlie Brown there was a third one – our constant companion is, and will always be, worry. ‘Sometimes you lie in bed and you don’t have a single thing to worry about,’ Charlie Brown reflected once. ‘That always worries me.’

Psychiatrist Jokes (Sept. 2012)

One such joke not previously posted comes from a book by Stanley Victor Paskavich and goes like this: “I’m afraid to see a psychiatrist about the voices in my head. She might know who they are.”


Hearing Voices (Oct. 2012)

Hearing voices is not really a funny matter, of course. Want to understand this phenomenon better? A new app (source: Mad In America) “simulate(s) the experience of hearing voices” using the expertise “of a wide range of healthcare professionals, learners and voice hearers.” An intro:

Animal-Assisted Therapy For Veterans (Nov. 2012)

Veterans themselves aren’t the only military-related individuals who benefit from therapy animals—so do the kids of those serving. The video clip below explains the mission of “Operation Purple Camps,” a main feature of which is the use of therapy dogs: “With a helping paw, a shoulder to cry on, or just a wagging tail, these dogs can help provide comfort for these children in uncertain times.”

OCD: A Powerful Poem by Neil Hilborn (Aug. 2013)

Neil Hilborn gave OCD in humans a lot of attention via his viral poem. Below Laurel Braitman, author of Animal Madness (2014), focuses on animals’ OCD:

Adults Who Were Bullied in Childhood (Feb. 2013)

More than one recent study confirms what was already thought. From 2014 research at King’s College London (Medical News Today), for example: “…(A)t age 50, participants who had been bullied when they were children were more likely to be in poorer physical and psychological health and have worse cognitive functioning than people who had not been bullied.”

“Childhood Disrupted”: ACES and Your Physical Health (Jul. 2015)

A new film pertinent to all kinds of childhood trauma, Resilience, has recently been accepted into Sundance, according to Aces Too Higha website that reports on “research about adverse childhood experiences” (ACES). The trailer’s below:

To Divorce or Not: Questions to Consider (Oct. 2014)

One of the major factors many couples considering divorce contemplate is the effect it might have on the kids. Statistics show that most couples postpone divorcing until the holidays are over, a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article confirms. Divorces increase in January and February, peaking in March.

How to Increase Self-Acceptance (Apr. 2014)

Homework! SMART Recovery has a Self-Acceptance Exercise

Selfishness and Selflessness (And In Between) (Jul. 2013)

These two seemingly opposite traits are actually linked. Rachel Kendal (The Guardian) writes about “Why Selflessness Evolved For Selfish Reasons.” One concluding quote:

The many heroic and selfless actions of individual humans – for example, rescuing strangers in mortal danger, and the donation of money or blood – are inspiring and admirable. Yet, however distasteful to contemplate, it is likely that these individuals gain in terms of their reputation and future cooperation from others, known as indirect reciprocity.