Feb 07

“You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!”: Transgender Myths

This is the book every trans ally needs to read this year. Cristina Arreola, Bustle, 2017, regarding “You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!,” a book that presents myths about transgender individuals

“You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!”: And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions About Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People, by psychiatrist Laura Erickson-Schroth and therapist Laura A. Jacobs, aims to educate people about some frequently held but misguided beliefs on this topic.

How do the authors, for instance, counter the title’s implied trans myth? With the important fact that “there are no documented cases of trans people assaulting anyone in a bathroom. Ever. In fact, trans people are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and many groups keep statistics on the number of trans people murdered each year because it is so common” (Jacobs, HuffPost).

In the same HuffPost article Jacobs lists some additional trans myths that are addressed:

  • You’ve Never Met a Transgender Person
  • All Trans People Want to Be Either Barbie or Ken

  • Trans People Are “Trapped in the Wrong Body”

  • Trans People are Mentally Ill and Therapy Can Change Them
  • Laws Support Trans People

The facts regarding each, in brief, follow:

Chances are good that you actually have met a trans person—but may not realize it. The thing is,  many don’t have surgeries or gender reassignment, for one thing. Related to this, many transgender individuals now identify as “genderqueer” or “gender-nonconforming” or “non-binary” and aren’t interested in traditional concepts of masculine and feminine à la Ken and Barbie. They just are who they are and may not broadcast this in ways you’d necessarily perceive.

Evidence is lacking about the notion of being “trapped in the wrong body.” Some trans folks feel this way “while others understand their identities as more complicated, and as potentially involving choice rather than being predetermined by biology.”

Although being transgender is not a mental illness to be changed via therapy, listing “Gender Identity Disorder” as recently as 2013 in the DSM, the primary psychiatric diagnostic handbook, did serve to unfairly stigmatize. Similarly, the newer DSMs use of “Gender Dysphoria” remains problematic. Just because someone’s identity may be in variance with the mainstream doesn’t mean they have “dysphoria,” or dissatisfaction. And if they do, it’s likely to be a byproduct of oppression, one type of which is manifested when such unwarranted psychiatric diagnoses are misguidedly assigned.

Interestingly, homosexuality also was once a psychiatric disorder per the DSM, which in 1973 was eliminated, leaving “ego-dystonic” homosexuality as an option in a newer edition. Eventually “sexual disorder not otherwise specified” was all that remained for clinicians to misuse when seeing lesbian and gay clients. Today homosexuality is gone from the DSM, as transgender issues also deserve to be.

Jacobs additionally states regarding the myth of transgender mental illness:

Although being transgender is not a mental illness, trans populations do have higher than average rates of depression, suicidality, and substance abuse, though researchers have shown that this is largely due to social stigma and not being trans in itself. Trans youth in supportive environments show no higher rates of mental illness than their cisgender peers.

As for laws, federal protections for transgender people don’t look promising under the Trump administration. At this point, therefore, trans rights are sought and better achieved on various other levels, e.g., in cities and states.

For an excerpt from “You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!” click on this Bustle link. It’s Myth 12: Trans People Are a Danger to Others, Especially Children. Hint: they’re not.

Feb 05

“Swearing Is Good”: Plus Two Other Self-Help Books

How do you feel about swearing? Below are three recent and popular self-help books that either use swearing to make their points or support a belief that, as the third title suggests, “swearing is good.”

I. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (2016), by Mark Manson.

Jennifer Haupt, Psychology Today, lists eight things many of us may care too much about, per Manson:

  1. Impressing other people
  2. Being right all the time
  3. Being “successful”
  4. Being pleasant and polite
  5. Being happy
  6. Feeling good all the time
  7. Being “perfect”
  8. Feeling secure and certain

How can you change this, i.e., not give a f**k? Manson presented this book excerpt in a blog post :




Kirkus Reviews:

Popular blogger Manson…criticizes self-help books for their fundamentally flawed approach of telling readers they’re special, assuring them that they can surpass—but, notably, not solve—problems, and encouraging them to embrace their exceptionalism. The author sternly disagrees…Throughout, the author continually slaps readers sharply across the face, using blunt, funny, and deceptively offhand language when expanding on his key principle…This book, full of counterintuitive suggestions that often make great sense, is a pleasure to read and worthy of rereading.

II. Unf*ck Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life (2017), by Gary John Bishop.

From the publisher’s blurb:

Are you tired of feeling fu*ked up? If you are, Gary John Bishop has the answer. In this straightforward handbook, he gives you the tools and advice you need to demolish the slag weighing you down and become the truly unfu*ked version of yourself. ‘Wake up to the miracle you are,’ he directs. ‘Here’s what you’ve forgotten: You’re a fu*king miracle of being.’

The following seven assertions serve as Bishop’s focus:

I am willing.
I am wired to win.
I got this.
I embrace the uncertainty.
I am not my thoughts; I am what I do.
I am relentless.
I expect nothing and accept everything.

“Remember, everything is solve-able,” states Bishop, “and if you can’t see a solution, it only means you haven’t worked it out yet.”

III. Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language (2018), by Emma Byrne 

On her website Emma Byrne refers to herself as “the Sweary Scientist.” So, her Swearing Is Good for You could be viewed as “the sweary book.”

“Byrne’s book is just the latest evidence that we’re moving toward a more cursing-positive culture,” reports Danielle Friedman, The Cut. “Over the past few years, a growing body of pro-swearing research has suggested cursing can be linked to everything from intelligence to authenticity to a greater ability to withstand pain.”

Kirkus Reviews: Swearing Is Good for You “is divided into seven parts covering neuroscience, pain, a special look at Tourette’s syndrome (though she admits that most afflicted with the disease don’t swear), the workplace, primates, gender, and swearing in other languages.”

It’s not, however, about swearing with abandon; rather, while swearing can serve certain purposes in limited quantities, it can also harm. About the latter, for instance, reviewer Andrew Anthony, The Guardian, states, “In terms of disputes, swearing can just as often be a trigger as a defuser. As Byrne goes on to note: ‘In order to swear you need an understanding of the psychology of others…to be able to anticipate how your words are likely to make someone feel’.”

Feb 01

“Dry January” Didn’t Help? For Feb. “This Naked Mind”

Dry January can be extremely positive or can actually reinforce the stronghold alcohol has on someone. Here’s why. When we give up something we feel is benefiting us, we feel deprived. While you might be able to get through the 31 days of January without drinking, there is a good chance that…you have actually created more of a desire for it. As soon as we tell ourselves we can’t have something we tend to want it even more. Annie Grace to Jess Cording, Forbes

If you’re concerned about your drinking and not sure Dry January has helped, consider Annie Grace‘s strategies, which you’ll find in her book This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life. Grace, who has successfully worked on changing her own alcohol use, has already helped many individuals in similar circumstances via various other resources.

From the publisher’s blurb:

Many people question whether drinking has become too big a part of their lives, and worry that it may even be affecting their health. But, they resist change because they fear losing the pleasure and stress-relief associated with alcohol, and assume giving it up will involve deprivation and misery…

This Naked Mind will give you freedom from alcohol. It removes the psychological dependence so that you will not crave alcohol, allowing you to easily drink less (or stop drinking)…

Disclaimer noted by Grace: This is not for those who may be physically dependent on alcohol, which can require a different kind of detox under a professional’s care. From her website:

It is strongly recommended that you seek professional advice regarding your health before attempting to incorporate any advice…Withdrawal symptoms due to a physical dependence on alcohol have the potential to be severe, and in some cases life-threatening.

A book excerpt posted on Amazon elaborates on Grace’s mission:

I can put you back in control by removing your desire to drink, but be forewarned, getting rid of your desire for alcohol is the easy part. The hard part is going against groupthink, the herd mentality of our alcohol-saturated culture. After all, alcohol is the only drug on earth you have to justify not taking…

I offer a perspective of education and enlightenment based on common sense and the most recent insights across psychology and neuroscience. A perspective that will empower and delight you, allowing you to forever change your relationship with alcohol. And remember, sometimes what you are searching for is in the journey rather than the destination.

Did Dry January fail to work adequately for you? Do you believe you may be psychologically addicted to alcohol? Get the first 40 pages of This Naked Mind for free by signing up here.

Or you can start elsewhere: By reading her blog or listening to her podcast. Or by joining her support community. Or by watching Grace on video. Or all of the above.

Want to try her 30-day Alcohol Experiment? Click on this link if the following five possible benefits, per Grace, interest you:

  1. clarity and focus
  2. your time becomes freed up
  3. better health and sleep, increased libido, reduced anxiety, no hangovers, etc.
  4. whereas failing is not possible, learning is inevitable
  5. mindful relationship with alcohol

Several selected quotes from Grace in This Naked Mind:

You will no longer suffer the mental division caused by one side of your brain wanting a drink and the other side feeling like you should cut back.

While illegal drugs kill 327 people per week, and prescription drugs kill 442 people per week, alcohol kills 1,692 people per week.

I drink as much as I want whenever I want. The truth is I no longer have any desire to drink.

Jan 31

Headlines in Mental Health: Prez Exams & More

Top mental health news headlines from recent weeks:

I. CNN poll: 8-in-10 favor presidential exams for health, mental well-being. Jennifer Agiesta, CNN.

This excerpt summarizes the prevailing public opinion:

The poll finds that 82% feel a president should be required to take an annual physical examination to check the condition of his physical health. Only slightly fewer, 77%, say a president should be required to take an annual exam to check for mental conditions, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or depression…

Support for both physical and mental exams for the president are about the same as they were in polling conducted during the 2004 presidential campaign, when 84% favored annual physical exams and 79% backed annual mental checkups.


Any sitting president’s health and mental health is a public health concern, and forensic psychiatrist Bandy Lee, editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, and government ethicist Norman Eisen have an opinion (USA Today) about the need for a more in-depth neurological exam as well as a psychological assessment of Trump. The latter hasn’t been conducted at all.

Regarding the recent physical that Trump underwent: “[It] was insufficient to thoroughly judge his mental fitness for office, and could even be giving Americans a false sense of reassurance…”

III. Is Trump Warping Our Sense of Time? Alan Burdick, New York Times.

Depends on your general perspective, of course. A pertinent excerpt:

Under Mr. Trump, did 2017 fly by or did it feel interminable? The brain manages time perception differently over long intervals, like hours, days and years, than over short ones. At those longer time scales, the speed at which time seems to pass depends far less on momentary moods than it does on how engaged you are with life. A study done in geriatric homes found that the people who say some version of ‘Time is speeding by’ tended to be more active and happier, whereas those who said time was moving slowly tended to be inactive and depressed.

IV. More College Students Seem to Be Majoring in Perfectionism. Jane Adams, New York Times.

“New data from American, Canadian and British college students indicates that perfectionism, especially when influenced by social media, has increased by 33 percent since 1989.”

As stated in the published study (Psychological Bulletin), “Thinking that others in their social network expect a lot of them is even more important to young adults than the expectations of parents and professors.”

Read the article for tips parents and others can use.

V. So Many Young Women Are Being Prescribed ADHD Meds. Melissa Dahl, The Cut.

Why? Who knows. Notable intro:

Sometimes news is best delivered in the starkness of numbers. From 2003 to 2015, prescription rates for ADHD increased ‘by 700 percent among women aged 25 to 29, and by 560 percent among women aged 30 to 34.’ That’s according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported this week by the New York Times. More numbers: This study included more than 4 million women (all with private health insurance that covered prescription drugs) over a dozen years, tracking only prescriptions — not diagnoses — for medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse.

Reading news reports on studies like these is fascinating but often frustrating, because the CDC only tracked the rise in the use of these medications, and not the reasons for that rise…

Jan 29

“Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” by Dan Harris

…(W)hat meditation has taught me is that we tend to make our suffering worse than it needs to be. Mindfulness – the self-awareness generated through meditation – has helped me draw the line between useless rumination and what I call “constructive anguish.” This made a huge difference for me – boosting my resilience and creativity at work, while improving my relationships at home. Dan Harris, author of Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, to Daily Stoic

The follow-up to Dan Harris‘s 10% Happier (2014) is Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book, co-written by Jeffrey Warren and Carlyle Adler. (See my post on the former book.)

Mindfulness meditation has been life-changing for TV newsman Harris since suffering a panic attack on air several years ago. However, as his new book’s blurb states, he’d previously thought “that meditation was for people who collect crystals, play Ultimate Frisbee, and use the word ‘namaste’ without irony.”

Having written about his success with meditation, a practice that is in actuality backed by research and science, he’d hoped doubters would see the light and want to get on board. But many still seemed resistant despite his imparted wisdom, he notes self-deprecatingly.

So he and co-author Warren went around the country to find out why, which enabled them to now leave readers with “the strange and hilarious story of what happens when a congenitally sarcastic, type-A journalist and a groovy Canadian mystic embark on an epic road trip into America’s neurotic underbelly, as well as their own.”

One obstacle often cited for not trying meditation, it turns out, is lack of time. What Harris told Rachel Martin, NPR, about ways to overcome this:

The good news is that I think five to 10 minutes a day is a great meditation habit, and I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the neuroscientists who study what meditation does to the brain. They haven’t cracked the dosage question fully, but generally speaking, [the scientists] say, ‘Yes — five to 10 minutes should be enough to derive the advertised benefits of meditation.’ So that’s the good news. The better news is that I truly believe one minute counts, and that it doesn’t need to be one minute every day. You can shoot for daily-ish.

Harris revealed his specific advice for achieving this to The Daily Stoic:

  • Find a reasonably quiet place (it doesn’t have to be pristine – and if it’s a little noisy, just wear headphones)
  • Set the alarm on your phone for one minute
  • Sit comfortably with your back reasonably straight (so as to prevent an unintentional nap – although, to be honest, worse things could happen)
  • Bring your full attention to the feeling of your breath coming in and going out. Pick a spot where’s it’s most prominent: your nose, your chest, your belly, wherever…
  • Whenever you get distracted – which you will, a million times – just gently start over

How else can you learn to meditate? You can watch the following brief video, “Learn Meditation in 5 Minutes with Dan Harris.” Or you can buy the book, which will also get you access to the 10% Happier app, which offers guided audio versions of meditations found in Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics.

Harris has learned, though, that lecturing people is no good, he told Daily Stoic. “My rule is that I only talk about meditation when asked. For example, until recently, my own wife didn’t meditate!”

A restraint reminder, he says, is “a great cartoon that recently ran in The New Yorker. It depicted two women having lunch. One says to the other, ‘I’ve been gluten free for a week, and I’m already annoying’.”