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)

Dec 20

Popular Sociopolitical Books 2017: Selected Quotes

The list of this year’s most popular sociopolitical books per the Goodreads Choice Awards (Nonfiction) includes the following:

Below are samples of these authors’ best quotes:

When people discuss the drug war, they are usually referring to the one that began in the 1970s, without realizing that this was, at least, our third drug war in the twentieth century. I found David F. Musto’s The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control to be extremely helpful on the subject. It was depressing to see that drug wars, in this country, are almost never launched purely out of concern for public health. In almost every instance that Musto looks at there is some fear of an outsider—blacks and cocaine, Mexican Americans and marijuana, Chinese Americans and opium. Ta-Nehisi Coates

Every Trump voter is certainly not a white supremacist, just as every white person in the Jim Crow South was not a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it was acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one. Ta-Nehisi Coates

An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. Ta-Nehisi Coates

Charity is no substitute for justice…We must never ignore the injustices that make charity necessary, or the inequalities that make it possible. Michael Eric Dyson

Justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public. Michael Eric Dyson

Do not tell us how we should act if we were you; imagine how you would act if you were us. Imagine living in a society where your white skin marks you for disgust, hate, and fear. Imagine that for many moments. Only when you see black folks as we are, and image yourselves as we have to live our lives, only then will the suffering stop, the hurt cease, the pain go away. Michael Eric Dyson

The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion. Timothy Ferriss

Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Thanksgiving tradition we celebrate today with a feast actually commemorates a betrayal that happened two years after the first arrival of the colonists. In 1622, Myles Standish, an English military officer working for the Pilgrims, heard that Indians planned to raid the newly established white settlement of Wessagussett. Standish organized a militia to repel the attack, but no Indians appeared. So he decided to preemptively attack by luring two Indians to Wessagussett under the pretense of sharing a meal. When they entered the house, Standish and his men killed them. Chris Hayes

The ability to discount darker people and darker nations in order to justify stealing their land and labor was foundational, and none of it would have been possible without those theories of racial supremacy that gave the whole morally bankrupt system a patina of legal respectability. In other words, economics was never separable from “identity politics,” certainly not in colonial nations like the United States—so why would it suddenly be today? Naomi Klein

Dec 18

Five Top Nonfiction Books 2017: Selected Quotes

Below are selected quotes from five top nonfiction books of 2017 (from various “best” lists):

Life is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. Sheryl Sandberg

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity—and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. Sheryl Sandberg

We plant the seeds of resilience in the ways we process negative events. After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization—the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness—the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence—the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. Sheryl Sandberg

One of the most important things I’ve learned is how deeply you can keep loving someone after they die. You may not be able to hold them or talk to them, and you may even date or love someone else, but you can still love them every bit as much. Playwright Robert Woodruff Anderson captured it perfectly: “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.” Sheryl Sandberg

All over the world, there is cultural pressure to conceal negative emotions. In China and Japan, the ideal emotional state is calm and composed. In the United States, we like excitement (OMG!) and enthusiasm (LOL!). As psychologist David Caruso observes, “American culture demands that the answer to the question ‘How are you?’ is not just ‘Good.’… We need to be ‘Awesome.’” Caruso adds, “There’s this relentless drive to mask the expression of our true underlying feelings.” Admitting that you’re having a rough time is “almost inappropriate.” Sheryl Sandberg

Modern life seems set up so that we can avoid loneliness at all costs, but maybe it’s worthwhile to face it occasionally. The further we push aloneness away, the less we are able to cope with it, and the more terrifying it gets. Some philosophers believe that loneliness is the only true feeling there is. Michael Finkel

As a woman, as a fat woman, I am not supposed to take up space. And yet, as a feminist, I am encouraged to believe I can take up space. I live in a contradictory space where I should try to take up space but not too much of it, and not in the wrong way, where the wrong way is any way where my body is concerned. Roxane Gay

It is a powerful lie to equate thinness with self-worth. Roxane Gay

There is no cowardice in removing yourself from a wildly unhealthy and unwinnable situation…You don’t have to be available to everyone. You can stop. Scaachi Koul

The great irony of growing up is that it’s often once you leave your parents’ home that you understand them the most. You get less angry; they get less anxious. Scaachi Koul

Kindness toward others and radical kindness to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all. Anne Lamott

Dec 15

“Terms of Endearment”: Classic Mom-Daughter Drama

Wesley Morris noted recently in the New York Times that over the last 34 years, only two best-picture Oscar winners (”Terms of Endearment” and ”Chicago”) featured two or more major female characters who actually talked to each other. Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

It just so happens that Greta Gerwig, the writer and director of this year’s highly popular indie movie Lady Bird, recently revealed that one of her favorite movies is Terms of Endearment (1983), which, like Lady Bird, features a conflictual but loving mother-daughter relationship. 

The film was based on Larry McMurtry‘s novel, also titled Terms of Endearment, which came out in 1975 and is briefly summarized on Amazon: “Aurora is the kind of woman who makes the whole world orbit around her, including a string of devoted suitors. Widowed and overprotective of her daughter, Aurora adapts at her own pace until life sends two enormous challenges her way: Emma’s hasty marriage and subsequent battle with cancer.”

Vincent Canby, New York Times, describes the gist of Aurora and Emma’s connection in the movie adaptation:

The film is the story of a possibly smothering mother-daughter relationship that is immediately defined in the film’s very first scene: A young Aurora Greenway ([Shirley] MacLaine) insists on waking her infant daughter, Emma (later to be played by the equally incandescent Debra Winger), to make sure the baby hasn’t succumbed to crib death, while the voice of her off-screen husband tells her, in polite terms, to lay off the kid. Aurora’s problem throughout ‘Terms of Endearment’ is that she can’t.

“It takes all of perhaps five minutes to fall in love with the leading characters in ‘Terms of Endearment’ and from that point on,” states Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News, “the audience is just putty in the extremely capable hands of writer-director James L. Brooks.”

Watch the trailer below:

In a nutshell, over the course of 25 years a lot of interesting things happen. Emma marries Flap (Jeff Daniels), whom Aurora dislikes, and has a few kids. Flap is unfaithful. And while Aurora has a push-pull romance with Jack Nicholson‘s character, Emma fields interest from John Lithgow‘s. As in the book, Emma eventually is faced with cancer, an experience that, needless to say, intensifies the dynamics between her and her mom.

Just last May Joe McGovern, ew.com, wrote the following accolades:

The film won five Oscars including Best Picture, and holds up miraculously today as perhaps the very best huge-hearted Hollywood weepie of its era. Though Terms is often hilariously funny — in large degree thanks to the comic spontaneity of Winger’s performance — it’s the soulfulness and poetry of the movie’s final act which gives it unmistakable classic status.

And back in the day, Roger Ebert (rogerebert.com) had praised the film’s “ability to find the balance between the funny and the sad, between moments of deep truth and other moments of high ridiculousness.”

Back to the present: According to several reports earlier this year, producer/director Lee Daniels said he was in the process of planning a remake that will star Oprah Winfrey in the Aurora (or otherwise named) role. Stephen Galloway, Hollywood Reporter, noted it would take place “in the ’80s and include a storyline about black men who brought HIV/AIDS to their female partners.”

Daniels apparently stated, “I’ve got to tell stories that are important to me, and so many African-American women died. I want to make Flap…gay and infect the Debra Winger character. And then we explore the ’80s in a different way.”

As of this writing, however, not only has Oprah denied knowledge of such a development, but Daniels has offered no further updates.

Dec 13

“The Art of Misdiagnosis”: Investigating a Mom’s Suicide

All I can really do is write my own misdiagnosis of your life. Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis

So states Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide, in this brief trailer to her new book:

The book’s title takes its name from the documentary Brandeis’s 70-year-old mother Arlene was working on “about the rare illnesses she thought ravaged her family: porphyria and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.”

“Whether they were psychosomatically induced or not,” states Kirkus Reviews, “Arlene attested that the illnesses had been repeatedly dismissed or misdiagnosed by the medical community; even the author herself admits to suffering, as a teenager, from a combination of malingering and factitious disorder.” (See this link and this one for definitions of these conditions.)

In an interview with Mutha Magazine, Brandeis states the following about the origins of her book The Art of Misdiagnosis:

My therapist suggested writing a letter to my mom (such great advice!) and that became a thread of the book. The time around her suicide begged to be told in present tense. And as I dug through our old emails and files and the like, certain pieces jumped out at me as needing to be part of the narrative. It took a lot of time and finessing to fit the puzzle pieces together, but the pieces revealed themselves to me with bells on.

What was going on for Brandeis when she lost her mom? Melissa Wuske, Foreword Reviews:

Brandeis’s mother committed suicide one week after Brandeis had a baby. Those deeply contrasting experiences set the scene for the opening of this memoir: a daughter going through her mother’s things, trying to make sense of her death.

And this quest winds up involving a “compulsive, contagious need to know her mother and herself.”

As author Nick Flynn writes in his review: “John Cassavetes offers this: ‘When a character can’t find his way home, that’s where the story begins…’ Gayle Brandeis begins her story where it ends, then slowly—thoughtfully, painfully, lovingly—works her way back. It all circles around a handful of days, where everything happens—birth, death, truth, transformation.”

More about the overall process Brandeis experienced, from Kirkus Reviews:

Desperate for answers, she and her sister fruitlessly scoured their mother’s bedroom, which, much like the woman herself, appeared ‘lovely and elegant on the surface, total chaos underneath.’ The author’s reality soon became even more complex: she wrestled with the grief of her mother’s sudden death, processed her complicated history of paranoia, suspicion, and delusions, and nurtured her newborn. This frustration bleeds into the text as Brandeis recounts episodes where her mother’s inexplicable accusations wreaked havoc on her pregnancy and her marriage. The author then reveals her mother’s history of psychosis, which seemed to stem from the author’s pregnancies, with which Arlene became obsessed.

Author Caroline Leavitt‘s review:

Deeply compassionate, and breathtakingly brave, Brandeis’ memoir is a raw, unflinching trip down a rabbit hole, unspooling both the chaotic life of her mentally unbalanced mother, and how her mother’s obsession with physical illness crash-landed Brandeis’ own life—and health—from girlhood to marriage and motherhood. About the stories we desperately need to make of our lives in order to survive, and how the body sometimes speaks what the mind dare not, this is also an extraordinarily moving portrait of a troubled mother, and of the daughter who fearlessly, poetically, writes her way into discovering her truest self. Truthfully, I am in awe.

On her website Brandeis provides resources for others dealing with suicide.