Mar 05

Not the Oscars: Most-Searched MT Movies of 2017

The following movies of 2017 were the most searched on “Minding Therapy.” Post excerpts reveal key elements of interest to my readers. Click on the links for further details.

I. “The Last Word”: A Shallow View of OCPD

…OCPD is different, by the way, from OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder. As Jenny TurnerThe Guardian, stated as “the single most useful fact” she gleaned from David Adam‘s book about OCD, The Man Who Couldn’t Stop (2014):

OCD is completely different from OCPD, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, which is simply to be a person with an unusually low tolerance for mess and imperfection – joke-anal people, like Monica from Friends. The need for order and ritual in the lives of OCPD people is ‘ego-syntonic’, odd and possibly anti-social, but simply part of who they are. In OCD people, on the other hand, the thoughts are ‘harrowing, ego-dystonic’, in endless, exhausting conflict with the person’s other drives and hopes. It’s like having a phobia, but worse, in that you can’t avoid it just by avoiding planes or spiders. The stimulus is internal. You generate it yourself.

II. “Gifted” Child: What Happens When She Grows Up?

…As JR Thorpe recently outlined in Bustle, there are several ways giftedness does “change the game a bit.” Click on the link for details.

  • You May Be More Likely To Have Specific Emotional Problems…
  • You May Be More Likely To Choose Your Path According To Social Pressures…
  • You May Have More Difficulty Picking Between Passions…
  • You May Have A Hard Time Turning Giftedness Into Adult Achievement…

Gail Post, PhD (Gifted Challenges blog), on what’s often seen, particularly with females: “Gifted girls…may hide their abilities, ‘dumb themselves down’ and avoid traditionally masculine fields of study to remain popular.”

III. “To the Bone”: Intensive Treatment of Anorexia

Hadley FreemanThe Guardian…:

…[Dr. Beckham] proves his unconventionality by swearing occasionally and insisting his methods are totally different from anyone else’s (they’re not: they rely on therapy and healthy eating, as almost all eating-disorder treatments do). He also clearly enjoys his power over his mainly female patients and a braver, less conventional film would have explored this more. Instead, To the Bone merely accepts the doctor’s version of himself as the brilliant, patriarchal medical professional who can fix women.

IV. “Phantom Thread”: Some Psychology

…(P)sychiatrist Marc Feldman…the author of an upcoming book on various types of medical deception, told [Anna] Silman (The Cut) he sees in Alma “’Munchausen syndrome by adult proxy,’ a form of abuse in which a caregiver artificially induces illness in someone he/she is caring for.”

On the other hand, adult-to-adult cases are apparently very rare, and “Feldman says he has never seen a case where (à la Phantom Thread) the victim colludes with the perpetrator to achieve some sort of gratification. That’s because in most cases the victims tend to be unable to comprehend the abuse they are undergoing or unable to resist, often because they are physically or intellectually disabled.”

Well, it turns out that director Paul Thomas Anderson had Munchausen on his mind too in preparing to make Phantom Thread

V. “Ingrid Goes West”: Social Media Obsession to Extreme

Sheila O’

‘Ingrid Goes West’ is a biting expose on How We Live Now: sitting on our phones, rote scrolling through someone else’s online life, clicking ‘Hearts’ without even taking a moment to absorb the image. The film lampoons stuff that didn’t even exist 10 years ago but has now become such a part of our everyday lives that no one takes a second to consider the potential negative effects. If everything is public, then where is the Self? Is turning yourself into a ‘brand’ really a good idea? If you don’t take a picture of it and – crucially – share it with the world, did it really happen?

Mar 02

Toxic People, Says Author, “Idealize, Devalue, Discard”

And despite some differences between each disorder, the bottom line is that their relationship cycles can be predicted like clockwork: Idealize, Devalue, Discard. Jackson MacKenzie, Psychopath Free (Expanded Edition): Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People

Author Jackson MacKenzie‘s expanded edition of Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships With Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other Toxic People was published in 2015. He wants you to know that if you’re willing to take a look at how and why you’ve been intimately connected with any of these types of victimizers, there’s hope. He’s, in fact, survived it himself.

From an excerpt on the book’s Amazon page, the following are “30 Red Flags” to help you recognize whether you’ve been overly involved with a toxic individual. Click on the link for detailed explanations.

• Gaslighting and crazy-making.
• Cannot put themselves in your shoes, or anyone else’s, for that matter.
• The ultimate hypocrite. 
• Pathological lying and excuses.
• Focuses on your mistakes and ignores their own.
• You find yourself explaining the basic elements of human respect to a full-grown man or woman.
• Selfishness and a crippling thirst for attention.
• Accuses you of feeling emotions that they are intentionally provoking.
• You find yourself playing detective.
• You are the only one who sees their true colors.
• You fear that any fight could be your last.
• Slowly and steadily erodes your boundaries.
• They withhold attention and undermine your self-esteem.
• They expect you to read their mind.
• You feel on edge around this person, but you still want them to like you.
• An unusual number of “crazy” people in their past.
• Provokes jealousy and rivalries while maintaining their cover of innocence.
• Idealization, love-bombing, and flattery.
• Compares you to everyone else in their life.
• The qualities they once claimed to admire about you suddenly become glaring faults.
• Cracks in their mask.
• Easily bored.
• Triangulation.
• Covert abuse.
• Pity plays and sympathy stories.
• The mean and sweet cycle.
• This person becomes your entire life. 
• Arrogance.
• Backstabbing gossip that changes on a whim.
• Your feelings (are becoming increasingly uncomfortable)

Pertinent Quotes from Psychopath Free:

Everyone messes up every now and then, but psychopaths recite excuses more often than they actually follow through with promises. Their actions never match up with their words. You are disappointed so frequently that you feel relieved when they do something decent—they condition you to become grateful for the mediocre.

No matter how much they screw up, they will always pass off their pathetic behavior as comedy—a mask to minimize their failures.

In normal relationships, flaws are flaws and strengths are strengths. In a psychopathic relationship, their strengths are fake and your flaws are manufactured.

Like sandpaper, the psychopath will wear away at your self-esteem through a calculated mean-and-sweet cycle. Slowly, your standards will fall so low that you become grateful for the utterly mediocre. Like a frog in boiling water, you won’t even realize what happened until it’s far too late. Your friends and family will wonder what happened to the man or woman who used to be so strong & energetic.

Unlike any other mental disorder, psychopaths are keenly aware of the impact that their behavior has on others. That’s half the fun for them—watching you suffer. They pick up on insecurities and vulnerabilities in a heartbeat, and then make the conscious choice to exploit those qualities. They know right from wrong, and simply choose to steamroll straight through it.

Feb 28

R.D. Laing, Psychiatrist: “Mad to Be Normal”

Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.

Insanity — a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world. Quotes by R.D. Laing

R.D. Laing (1927-1989) was a psychiatrist and author who, though not to his own liking, became viewed as leader of an “anti-psychiatry” movement. One of his controversial theories was that schizophrenia sprang from environmental dysfunction, often within the family—as in “a hopeless ‘heads-I-win, tails-you-lose’ emotional situation…Finding such a situation intolerable, a boy or girl escapes this unbearable pain through schizophrenia” (New York Times).

Laing, states Stephen Dalton (Hollywood Reporter) “was something like a Scottish Timothy Leary, a Swinging Sixties counterculture icon who attracted a cult following among the young, shared a stage with The Grateful Dead and dropped LSD with Sean Connery….A radical opponent of prison-like asylums and anti-psychotic drugs, the Glasgow-born guru challenged the medical establishment while enjoying a hedonistic rock-star lifestyle, partying with famous fans including The Beatles.”

Interestingly, in the book R.D. Laing: A Life his son Adrian described the fact that “despite his astonishing empathy with the disturbed, Laing failed to address his own family problems…” (publisher’s blurb).

David Tennant stars as Laing in Robert Mullan‘s new film Mad to be Normal, now on DVD, which places much of its focus on Laing’s work between 1965-70 at Kingsley Hall (London), his residential facility for those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Whereas conventional medications were generally eschewed there, LSD as treatment was not.

Watch the trailer:

Diagnosed herself with schizophrenia, Stephanie Allan has written a review for The Psychologist. An excerpt:

The impact of Laing’s work that resonates most heavily today is that madness is an understandable response to ‘unlivable situations’; he would even describe extreme mental states as a ‘voyage of self-discovery’. However, these passionate beliefs aren’t demonstrated in any of the Kingsley Hall characters, and I found their portrayal lacking…

Film critic Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, is a bit more complimentary, on the other hand: “…Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon are excellent as his patients: old men who in a later era might be overlooked as care-in-the-community homeless.”

Untrue elements include the existence of Elisabeth Moss as “Laing’s (composite-fictional) partner Angie,” according to Bradshaw, as well as the following, as detailed by Hollywood Reporter:

The real-life death of Laing’s daughter Susan (Alexandra Finnie) from leukemia is brought forward by a decade, a clumsy chronological contrivance of questionable taste. A prickly meeting between Laing and his starchy battle-axe mother also feels like a jarringly artificial bid to stoke up Freudian psychodrama.

Among the fictionalized regulars at Kingsley Hall are Jim (Byrne), a volatile Anglo-Irish depressive who jealously guards his connection to Laing, and Sidney (Gambon), an elderly lost soul who agrees to take LSD to help resolve the lingering trauma of his parents’ death in a grisly murder-suicide. Strangely, Mullan overlooks some of the community’s most famous real alumni, including Mary Barnes, a schizophrenic who became a celebrated painter. Mad to Be Normal also suggests Kingsley Hall was forced to close in 1970 in response to thuggishly hostile locals and self-serving establishment doctors. The real chain of events was inevitably more complex, and involved two patients jumping from the roof.

Dalton’s conclusion, in part:

Almost three decades after his death, the value of Laing’s contributions to psychiatry remain contentious, particularly as he embraced more esoteric New Age methods in later life, declined into alcoholism and lost his license to practice. Mullan’s take-home message is not wholly uncritical but obviously partisan, concluding with the simplistic claim that Laing’s ideas ‘live on.’

Feb 26

Five New Nonfiction Books to Consider

Five new nonfiction books from the beginning of this year that have garnered good reviews.

I.The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative (2017, but new in paperback) by Florence Williams.

“I’m no tree hugger,” remarks author Eric Weiner, “but The Nature Fix made me want to run outside and embrace the nearest oak. Not for the tree’s sake but mine. Florence Williams makes a compelling, and elegant, case that nature is not only beautiful but also good for us. If Thoreau were steeped in modern neuroscience and possessed an endearingly self-deprecating sense of humor, the result would be the book you hold in your hands.”

A worthwhile take-away quote:

The idea of solvitur ambulando (in walking it will be solved) has been around since St. Augustine, but well before that Aristotle thought and taught while walking the open-air parapets of the Lyceum. It has long been believed that walking in restorative settings could lead not only to physical vigor but to mental clarity and even bursts of genius, inspiration (with its etymology in breathing) and overall sanity. As French academic Frederic Gros writes in A Philosophy of Walking, it’s simply ‘the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found.’ Jefferson walked to clear his mind, while Thoreau and Nietzsche, like Aristotle, walked to think…

II. The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris MD.

The work of pediatrician Harris, who is CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, was strongly influenced by reading “The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study” (ACES).

Kirkus Reviews: “In a winning conversational style, Harris explains how adversity ‘harms development and regulation of the immune system throughout someone’s life’ and the ways in which doctors now screen for and treat childhood trauma—sleep, mental health, healthy relationships, exercise, nutrition, and meditation. She notes that adverse childhood experiences affect people of all socioeconomic levels (they are often disguised out of secrecy and shame), and their harmful effects can be passed on from one generation to another.”

III. Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old by John Leland.

In this case the “oldest old” are six New Yorkers aged 85 and up. Lessons learned in Leland’s research “upended contemporary notions of aging, revealing the late stages of life as unexpectedly rich and the elderly as incomparably wise.”

IV. Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness by Melissa Dahl.

In an interview with Angela Chen, The Verge, Dahl describes what she set out to study:

I had to think deeply about how to define awkwardness when I was invited to speak at this amazing tiny little psychology conference called the Symposium of Neglected Emotions…I think awkwardness is self-consciousness with this undercurrent of uncertainty. You’re really aware of how you’re coming off to the world and then there’s an ambiguity about what to do next.

Embarrassment is a huge part of it, too. But embarrassment is like when you get pantsed in high school. I don’t think we’d call that awkward.

Author Adam Grant: “A stunningly captivating, clever, and comical look at why social discomfort haunts us long beyond our teenage years. This book didn’t just help me make sense of my most awkward moments. It liberated me from feeling embarrassed by them. Well, most of them.”

V. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink.

From the review by Matthew Hutson, The Washington Post:

…[Pink calls this] not a how-to book but ‘a when-to book.’

Some tidbits: Exercise in the morning to keep a routine or boost your mood; exercise later in the day to perform better and enjoy it more. Before marrying, date for at least a year and finish your education. The best time to switch jobs for a salary bump is after three years (once you’ve garnered some skills) but before five years (so you’re not too tied to your company).

Feb 22

“Everything Happens for a Reason”: Or NOT

It’s a book title that says it all: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. Professor Kate Bowler of Duke Divinity School, age 35 and known for her previous writing on the “prosperity gospel” (Blessed), has now had some life- and mind-changing circumstances via Stage Four cancer.

What is the prosperity gospel? Per Bowler (The New York Times): “…the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith.” Have the wrong kind, then, and you could be screwed. Have the right kind and…hey, so, what happened to Bowler’s just rewards for living the Christian way?

“Bowler points out the ironies of fighting a deadly battle against her own body,” states Kirkus Reviews, “while relating to a strand of Christianity that teaches that faith, holiness, and confidence will provide any sort of blessing or healing the believer needs.”

Author Glennon Doyle reviewing Everything Happens for a Reason: “Her writing is naked, elegant, and gripping—she’s like a Christian Joan Didion. I left Kate’s story feeling more present, more grateful, and a hell of a lot less alone.”

And Amy K. Butler, minister: “The Kate Bowler you will come to know in this book is 100 percent real: honest, brave, holy, ridiculous, profane, hilarious, human—her fierce and beautiful words will make you ugly-cry and laugh out loud inappropriately in public places, and they will make you long for the courage to tell the truth about your life.”

In addition to chronicling her struggles, medical as well as theological, Bowler offers tips in Everything Happens for a Reason about how to be there for someone in your life who’s in difficult straits. One example per NPR, “She writes that sometimes silence is the best response: ‘The truth is that no one knows what to say. It’s awkward. Pain is awkward. Tragedy is awkward. People’s weird, suffering bodies are awkward. But take the advice of one man, who wrote to me with his policy: Show up and shut up’.”

And she strongly advises against this question: “How are the treatments going and how are you really?” Actually, says Bowler, This is the toughest one of all. I can hear you trying to be in my world and be on my side. But picture the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. Got it? Now try to put it in a sentence. Now say it aloud 50 times a day. Does your head hurt? Do you feel sad? Me too. So let’s just see if I want to talk about it today, because sometimes I do and sometimes I want a hug and a recap of American Ninja Warrior.”

In list form, 10 things Bowler says you can do and say for the struggling women in your life (Female First), some with brief excerpts from her explanations. (Click on the link for further details.)

  1. Tell her she’s lovely and wonderful and probably perfect
  2. Ask if you can hug her…
  3. Offers for help are best when they are: short, specific, immediate…
  4. Do NOT get her a “topical” gift. Seriously, what can a person do with 12 “Beat Cancer” teddy bears or Livestrong bracelets?…
  5. She probably doesn’t care about your “expert research.” Unless you are her oncologist, therapist, or pastor, someone she professionally hires already has that covered…
  6. Respect her desire to share or withhold…
  7. Try not to make comparisons between what she is going through to something your cousin, your dog, or your favorite TV character experienced…
  8. She wants your presence more than an uplifting card…
  9. Avoid platitudes: …the worst things you can say to someone going through a tough time are phrases that minimize their suffering or tell them to grin and bear it…
  10. Words of comfort don’t have to be perfect!…