Mar 30

Introversion: A Summary of Helpful Resources

Although Susan Cain‘s Quiet (2012) may be the best known of the introversion resources/books, the following are some additional suggestions.

I. Books on Introversion

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can only be administered by certified practitioners, but a book by David KeirseyPlease Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence (1998), offers a quick test, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, that gives results similar to the MBTI. Keirsey gives detailed descriptions of each of the 16 types. Introversion is one of the key traits analyzed.

Additional books:

II. Article on Introversion

Possibly my favorite resource is an article by Jonathan Rauch entitled “Caring For Your Introvert: The Habits and Needs of a Little-Understood Group” (The Atlantic), March 2003.

Although tongue-in-cheek, the many good points in this piece have resonated with tons of people since its publication. Some excerpts:

  • Introverts are not necessarily shy…Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say ‘Hell is other people at breakfast.’ Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.
  • For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: ‘I’m okay, you’re okay–in small doses.’
  • Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome.
  • The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.
  • We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking…
  • The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves.

Rauch’s concluding remarks offer a (naturally) cheeky response to the following question: How can I let the introvert in my life know that I support him and respect his choice?

First, recognize that it’s not a choice. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s an orientation.

Second, when you see an introvert lost in thought, don’t say, ‘What’s the matter?’ or ‘Are you all right?’

Third, don’t say anything else, either.

III. A Test to Measure Introversion and a Chart

Scott Barry Kaufman in Scientific American introduces a test that purports to measure four different aspects of introversion based on previous academic findings of Jennifer Odessa Grimes. Go to the above-linked article and scroll down to “What Kind of Introvert Are You?” to take the test.

When you score your results you’ll have a number for each type. It’s not about the highest score being your type—rather, each score indicates how much of that type is part of your introversion.

For a quick read, go to this popular Huffington Post article by Lindsay Holmes, who provides an illustrated chart, “Dr. Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted,” by artist Roman Jones.

Mar 23

“What My Bones Know”: Complex-PTSD Memoir

The widely acclaimed new book by Stephanie Foo, What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma, is bound to educate many about a type of PTSD we don’t often hear about—C-PTSD (complex PTSD). It can occur when trauma is repeated and prolonged.

Sarah McCammon, NPR, introduces Foo:

Stephanie Foo grew up in California, the only child of immigrants who abused her for years and then abandoned her as a teenager. As an adult, Foo seemed to thrive. She graduated from college, landed a job at ‘This American Life,’ became an award-winning radio producer, was dating a lovely man, but she was also struggling. Years of trauma and violent abuse as a child had left her with a diagnosis – complex PTSD, a little-studied condition that Foo was determined to understand.

C-PTSD, however, is not to be found in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This, despite its widespread recognition among trauma experts since psychiatrist Judith Herman coined the term back in 1988.

And unfortunately, many of Foo’s initial treatment experiences weren’t too helpful. As she wrote in Mental Health Journalism:

I began to try everything: acupuncture, yoga, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR, meditation, tapping my face, hyperventilating, researching Buddhism, microdosing on acid, megadosing on psilocybin, tracking my brainwaves, joining a support group. I began researching groundbreaking possible treatments, like wearables that predict future emotions or epigenetic treatments. And throughout this process, I struggled with the loneliness of my experimentation.

Foo then heard a podcast that featured a therapist who compared complex PTSD to the Incredible Hulk (NPR interview):

Because the Incredible Hulk was actually abused as a kid. His father was an alcoholic, and now he had a hard time controlling his emotions when he was angry. He would sort of literally not be able to speak well, and he would just focus on surviving. And that is exactly what having complex PTSD is like. But the Hulk is not a villain. The Hulk is a hero.

She eventually chose him as her own shrink. Although this has certainly been helpful, her course of treatment is about management, not cure—as is the case with most chronic conditions. As Foo told NPR:

…I don’t think that you ever totally heal from complex PTSD. It’s sort of something that you carry with you all the time. But I feel like if the burden, the weight of complex PTSD, is like a pack on my back, then the process of healing has made me stronger. Does that mean, of course, that sometimes the pack gets really, really heavy and I need to sit down and take a break and cry a little bit and figure some new stuff out? Of course. Of course. That’s what life is. But now I feel like I can hold the sadness and the anger and the joy all together.

Selected Reviews of What My Bones Know

Publishers Weekly: “What takes this brilliant work from a personal story to a cultural touch point is the way Foo situates her experiences into a larger conversation about intergenerational trauma, immigration, and the mind-body connection…This is a work of immense beauty.”

Kirkus Reviews: “As Foo sheds necessary light on the little-discussed topic of C-PTSD, she holds out the hope that while ‘healing is never final…along with the losses are the triumphs’ that can positively transform a traumatized life.”

Kathleen Hanna: “This book is a major step forward in the study of trauma. It’s also a huge artistic genre-busting achievement. Stephanie Foo’s brilliant storytelling and strong, funny, relatable voice makes complex PTSD enjoyable to read about.”

Nov 17

“The Shrink Next Door”: Wrong Therapist

When it comes to finding the wrong therapist, there’s “wrong” as in not the best match, and then there’s “wrong” as in unethical and/or criminal behavior on the part of the shrink. It’s the latter that is the theme of the new fact-based Apple TV+ mini-series The Shrink Next Door starring Paul Rudd as Dr. Isaac (Ike) Herschkopf and Will Ferrell as Marty Markowitz, the client who had the misfortune in real life of choosing this psychiatrist. Despite the comedic talents of these stars, this is not really a comedy but a tragicomedy.

Another key character is Marty’s sister Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn), who’s apparently responsible for encouraging Marty to seek therapy but who then becomes estranged from Marty because of Dr. Ike’s control.

The Truth Behind The Shrink Next Door

Herschkopf, per Dave Itzkoff, New York Times, was ultimately “ordered in April to surrender his license to practice in New York after a committee convened by the State Health Department found him guilty of multiple professional violations” against not only Markowitz but others too.

How bad was it from Markowitz’s point of view? Kai Green, Parade, reports that he told the New York Post a couple years ago that he’d felt like he was in a cult. “He took over my life very quickly…It was one ethical violation after another.”

Markowitz had no reason to suspect Dr. Ike would be like this; he was well-known on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, counting Gwyneth Paltrow and Courtney Love as two of his clients. Paltrow even attended a party at Markowitz’s home, reportedly. The story came to light when Bloomberg columnist Joe Nocera moved to the Hamptons and was invited to a barbecue at the house next door by someone who he thought was the gardener. Meeting the host, ‘Dr. Ike,’ Nocera was invited back for another get-together, where the good doctor insisted on having a picture of Nocera to add to his pictures of celebrities like Brooke Shields and OJ Simpson. However, Nocera ultimately discovered that the man he thought was the gardener, Martin Markowitz, was the actual homeowner—even though Dr. Ike acted like he owned the place. And that’s just the beginning of the shocking truths Nocera ultimately came to learn about the ‘shrink next door.’

Nocera went on to do a podcast about this true story. Additional information about Markowitz’s case has been reported by Debra Nussbaum Cohen, Forward.com:

New York State’s Department of Health, in its decision, found 16 specifications of professional misconduct – from fraudulence to gross negligence and gross incompetence as well as exercising undue influence and moral unfitness. The decision was based on records and testimony from three of Herschkopf’s patients. Markowitz is ‘Patient A…’

Markowitz says that he is ‘much happier now’ than when he was under Herschkopf’s care. ‘It’s my 40-year ordeal. It was 29 years under his power and 11 years seeking justice. I finally got it.’ What matters most is that ‘I got justice. That’s what I wanted.’

The TV Series

Kristen Baldwin, ew.com, describes the essence of Dr. Ike’s destructive actions:

Using manipulation, mind games, and precision-guided guilt, Dr. Ike inveigles his way into his patient’s business affairs, and even his grand summer home in the Hamptons…At first, therapy seems to do Marty some good, as Dr. Ike encourages him to ‘grab the reins’ to his life and stop living in fear of conflict. But it’s all in service of a larger plan: Herschkopf operates like a one-man cult, slowly alienating Marty from Phyllis, his loyal employees, and anyone else who suggests that the shrink’s methods are suspect.

Dave Nemetz, tvline.com: “It’s almost like What About Bob? in reverse, with the therapist becoming attached to his patient like a parasite.” (See my previous posts about What About Bob? here and here.)

Watch the trailer below:

A second trailer reveals more about Marty and his sister’s rift:

Nov 10

“Ted Lasso” Charges Therapist With Fee-Based Caring

Among the various possible challenges therapists regularly hear from prospective or new clients (or even long-term clients) is that it’s weird to have to pay someone to listen to them. I was reminded of this recently while watching the highly enjoyable series Ted Lasso.

Ted Lasso‘s second season actively deals with both mental health and sports psychology/therapy. To elaborate further (you probably should stop reading here if you haven’t seen the newest season), Coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis), who’s been experiencing panic attacks on a regular basis, supports his players getting therapy from Dr. Sharon Fieldstone (Sarah Niles) but is loath to accept it for himself.

Eventually desperate to feel better, however, he does make attempts to see “Dr. Sharon.” In his second of two very brief sessions (because he keeps bolting) Lasso accuses her of not actually caring for the people she treats because she charges a fee. (He blasts the profession in other ways too.)

Dr. Sharon’s response when Lasso returns again? Linda Holmes, NPR: “Finally, on his third try, she tells him that she doesn’t appreciate his attitude, particularly given that he is also paid to do a job in which he still legitimately cares about people. This brings Ted around a bit, and he finally sits down across from her to talk.”

The thing is, therapy is neither free nor a friendship—it’s a professional service generally offered by individuals who’ve chosen this as a career because they genuinely care about helping others.

In essence, if a therapist is actually serving solely as a “friend” he or she is doing professional boundaries wrong. Good therapist boundaries, which are established with the welfare of the client in mind, enable clients to develop trust and a feeling of emotional safety. Confiding in a therapist—who follows an actual ethic of keeping things confidential and is trained to be relatively objective and to understand human issues on a deep level—should feel differently helpful than confiding in a friend.

The therapist is not expecting the same in return from a client just as your roofer, to name just one instance, doesn’t expect you to now come over and do his or her roof.

In a friendship, on the other hand, each person might share thoughts and feelings in a back and forth kind of way. If it’s a healthy enough kind of friendship, this helps forge a mutual relationship involving neither payment nor obligation—but also sometimes lacking objectivity, insight, patience, consistency, effective listening skills, and other good stuff worth sometimes paying for.

Nov 03

You Can Learn to Sleep Better Now

Sure, many of us will get an extra hour to sleep this coming weekend. But will this make you sleep better? The CDC has said that more than one-third of Americans lack sufficient sleep—and that’s not just about not having enough time for it.

How can you learn to sleep better?

Certain medications and supplements can help, of course, but what if this alternative isn’t right for you or doesn’t do the trick? Several experts weigh in below.

Professor Richard Wiseman, author of Night School: Wake Up to the Power of Sleep (2014), believes the following 12 techniques are the best to help you work on your sleep (The Guardian):

  1. Avoid the blues–As in the type of light emitted from your screens. Stop using your devices two hours before bedtime. Alternatively, “turn down the brightness or wear amber-tinted glasses designed to block blue light.”
  2. Tub time–A bath or shower right before bed raises your body temperature, which then drops in a way that helps your body sleep.
  3. Steer clear of the nightcap–Which is likely to decrease your deep sleep, increase snoring, and disrupt dreaming.
  4. Follow the 90-minute rule–You can actually figure out how to wake up at the optimal time (when you’ll feel better), which is at the end of a 90-minute cycle. “…(D)ecide when you want to wake up and then count back in 90 minutes blocks to discover the best time to fall asleep.”
  5. Distract your brain–Do something to tire your brain, e.g., counting backwards from 100 in threes. “Or, if you’re not good with numbers, think of a category (countries or fruit and vegetables) and then come up with an example of that category for each letter of the alphabet. A is for Albania, B is for Bulgaria, or A is for apple, B is for banana, etc.”
  6. Make a list–Things that worry you or that you’re anticipating—then leave it be til morning.
  7. Try the magic yawn–“Fool your body into thinking that you are tired by letting your eyes droop, your arms and legs feel heavy, and even faking a yawn or two.”
  8. Fool yourself–“Oddly, attempting to stay awake is surprisingly tiring and helps you fall asleep. But remember that you have to use the power of your mind – you must try to keep your eyes open (you are allowed to blink), but are not allowed to read, watch television, or move about.”
  9. Condition yourself–“Choose a soporific piece of music that you like, and fall asleep with it quietly playing. Over time, your brain will associate the music with sleep, and simply listening to it will help you nod off.”
  10. Don’t just lie there–Don’t stay in bed longer than 20 minutes if you’re awake. Get up and do something non-stimulating.
  11. Relax, don’t worry–Anxiety about not sleeping will just make it worse. Even though you’re not yet sleeping, relaxing in bed is a good thing too.
  12. Consider segmented sleep–It’s okay to sleep for a period, then get up and do things for a while, then go back to bed. Lots of people slept this way, in fact, in pre-industrial times.

Michael J. Breus, otherwise known as “The Sleep Doctor,” also advises “How to Sleep Better,” noting that his first tip below is the most important. For more of his details regarding this topic, click on the link.

  1. KNOW YOUR BEDTIME AND STICK TO ONE SLEEP SCHEDULE
  2. ELIMINATE ALL CAFFEINE STARTING AT 2 PM
  3. NO ALCOHOL WITHIN 3 HOURS OF BEDTIME
  4. STOP EXERCISING 4 HOURS BEFORE BED
  5. GIVE THE SUN A “HIGH 5” EVERY MORNING (15 MINUTES OF MORNING SUNLIGHT)