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Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

When I was young, and didn’t want to eat something the Flapper served at the dinner table, she would happily chirp, “Good! All the more for us!” She was all about the Freudian theory of opposites, and she thought if she just played up how great a new dish was, my defense would fold and I’d give in to her exceptional strategy. Sometimes it worked!

Which is why I was intrigued with an essay written by Andrew Wilkinson on his tactic of reversing his To-Do-List at work; he applied the theory of opposites by turning his goals upside down and became immeasurably happier. “He wanted to figure out how to improve his day and make it more enjoyable. So, he followed the lead of Charlie Munger, right-hand man of famed investor Warren Buffet, and a proponent of ‘inversion’ – a strategy that looks at problems in reverse, focusing on minimising the negatives instead of maximising the positives.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170919-the-power-of-a-not-to-do-list

Last night, as I was explaining simply what the Jewish New Year meant to me while the 5 and “almost” 3 year old partially listened, it dawned on me that I wanted to start off the year 5778 with a new angle. I promised myself I’d try and look for the silver lining when things go south, I’d apply my Pippy Longstocking pigtails to every new challenge. I’d learn something new.

Just imagine making your New Year resolutions, only this time God has his Book open and he’s writing down everything you’re putting on your To-Do-List, making Rosh Hashana a kind of spiritual reckoning that ends at Yom Kippur and you better have confessed all your sins by that time.

“What’s a sin?” the Love Bug asked. I mumbled something about not listening…

So I thought about changing my resolutions, my intention to “do Better” infers that I haven’t been doing enough, right? What if I chose to make this the year I employ some “Anti-Goals?” Like Wilkinson, who stopped meeting with people he didn’t like, stopped holding morning meetings altogether, and never scheduled more than 2 hours of his workday, I might just say “No” now and then. I wonder how he dealt with his emails?

Let’s all try and reverse our thinking for a day, a week or maybe even a year. Let’s just put the wrong shoe on the right foot for once and walk around like a toddler not caring one iota! What will bring you more joy in the New Year? Let’s all make our very own “Not-To-Do-List!”

Happy Birthday to the World and I promise never to stop fighting for climate science education, because otherwise our great-grandchildren will have to populate another planet and start over. And I’m not so sure God would start out with “Let there be Light” again, since we didn’t listen the first time.

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My very first job as a preschool teacher in the federal housing projects of Jersey City, NJ was very enlightening. I had a classroom of four year olds who only wanted to sit on my lap and stroke my long, blonde hair when we first met and that was ok with me. I taught them about sharing by breaking popsicles in two. When we had free play time in the classroom, I noticed how the girls immediately gravitated to the mini-kitchen area to play “house,” while the boys all started building with the big wooden blocks and trucks.

I was a new feminist, still feeling my wings after college and a starter marriage. This little example of playing house was not quite as important to me in the 1970s. I was more interested in getting my children ready to learn, ready for Kindergarten before there was a pre-K, by teaching them about language and math concepts through movement and singing and play. I was intent on breaking a cycle of poverty; I still thought I could save the world.

But now that I’m nearing 70 myself, that first Head Start classroom seems prescient. We still don’t tell our young boys that they will make great fathers one day. We figured out we need to tell our young girls they can be anything they want to be, but most of us still forget to tell our young boys they will make wonderful daddys in the future! In fact, it was surprising to the Bride, when her nanny bought our little guy a baby doll last year for his second birthday, that so many people wondered if that was OK with her?

Child-rearing practices vary widely across different cultures, and views about gender differences change over time, but there do seem to be some clear consistencies in the way boys and girls are treated, especially during the first few years of life. According to Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory of gender development, parents often have clear gender stereotypes about “appropriate” behavior for different genders and rely on punishment and rewards to ensure that their children abide by these expectations. Boys are often discouraged from playing with dolls or acting “effeminately,” while girls are often prevented from doing any physically risky activities. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201706/do-fathers-treat-their-sons-and-daughters-differently

Yesterday was a twelve hour Nana day for me since Bob is back in Cville getting the house ready for our closing. Because the Love Bug spent the morning in Kindergarten, I had some special time with our little 2 1/2 year old grandson. We cleared off his train table and built some new tracks, we built a tower with the wooden blocks his Great Grandpa Hudson carved for his Mother. And we played “pretend,” where he was the daddy and I was the mommy. Sometimes a monster truck was the baby, and sometimes it was a stuffed animal or a doll. Every single time he was as sweet as sugar.

Last night I watched his big sister practice a forward somersault over and over again, taking a running start and jumping headlong into some bean bags, stretching herself tall with a very self-satisfied “Ta Da!” at the end. It never occurred to me that this might be risky, or that I should curtail such a fun and exhilarating activity. In fact, I filmed her with my iPhone and sent it to her parents at their hospitals! The Bride sent back a few hand clapping emojis 🙂

And in another bit of TN news, a House member from Memphis has decided he’s done with Mr T “playing” at being the President. Memphis Democrat US Rep Steve Cohen is filing articles of impeachment today against Mr T largely as a result of his reaction to Charlottesville. Maybe more House members will stop playing at their jobs on the Hill, we can only hope.

President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership. No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry. No moral president would ever question the values of Americans protesting in opposition of such actions, one of whom was murdered by one of the white nationalists. … If the President can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us. …http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/federal-government/article/20972898/cohen-files-to-impeach-trump

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Last weekend, as we were rolling into our new home in Nashville, we heard about the death of Mayor Meghan Barry’s only child Max. Her son died of an overdose at the age of 22 in Colorado. I have to give Mayor Barry credit for being honest and open about his death; drug addiction is an insidious disease, an equal opportunity killer. Too often parents feel shame regarding this issue, and the stigma only grows in the dark.

Bob has always said, “There are no fifty year old addicts.”

“Our family would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and would respectfully ask for privacy as we mourn the loss of our child and begin to understand a world without his laughter and love in our lives,” the Mayor said in a statement.

Almost every American family has been touched by this epidemic. If you don’t have a family member who is suffering or recovering, you most certainly will know someone who does. And when I told the Bride about Meghan Barry’s tragedy, she was shocked and saddened. They met at a medical conference just last year and she has a lot of respect for the Mayor. .

My daughter is currently on a beach vacation and not in Nashville, so lucky for her she’s been media-free. She asked if it was opioids and I didn’t know; the fact is an addiction is an addiction, is an addiction. Heroin, pills, alcohol? In my mind, your drug of choice is secondary to the disease. Although politicians would like to blame the current opioid crisis on the health system, I think we need to dig deeper.

While we were discussing the rain in Florida and the grandbabies, the Bride told me about a book she’s reading, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” by Brene Brown. The author is a story teller and a researcher, her area of interest is what makes a person’s life authentic? And what does shame have to do with it? To reference my previous post – how does one remain real in this world?

“Participants who were living “amazing and inspiring lives” reported embracing imperfection and vulnerability and being grateful and authentic. As Brown writes, they talked about these things “in a way that was completely new to me.” These participants were living life and loving with their whole hearts.”

Before you tell me this sounds like a jewelry commercial, think about it for awhile. Once you have a child, you will become as vulnerable as a newly hatched soft shell crab. You will wake to a whimper, sit up all night with a fever, and foolishly try to shield your child from the rough parts of life. If you had a child who had to learn from his own mistakes, you know what I mean. But protecting a child too much can interfere with their growth. It’s a delicate balance, parenting.

Brown talks about cultivating three things –  courage, compassion and connection. Once we send our children off to school, these qualities may become elusive in our Kardashian culture. I just heard of parents in NJ who are suing a school system for not addressing the bullying their daughter was receiving. Instagram and Snapchat were weaponized by her peers. The 12 year old girl eventually killed herself. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/02/after-months-of-bullying-a-12-year-old-new-jersey-girl-killed-herself-her-parents-blame-the-school/?utm_term=.ffbf01eb5a92

This was SIXTH grade, in the town right next to our hometown.

I don’t know if Max Barry was bullied in school. I don’t even know if he suffered from a mental illness. But I can tell you this parents, if you keep those lines of communication open, if you can manage to stay connected to your children, they might just stand a chance. Disconnect from your cell phones and don’t worry about being the “perfect parent,” there is no such thing.

And have courage if your firstborn is starting Kindergarten this month!  IMG_1031

 

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People are always asking Bob what’s retirement like; do you miss doctoring, what do you do all day? For an old codger he remains pretty busy. He just started flying again, and will have to study and practice to get his instrument rating up to date. After all, who doesn’t want to fly through clouds? And he packed up a U-Haul truck with some of our furniture, drove it over 500 miles to Nashville, and is currently reupholstering some chairs!

Now, if you were to ask ME what his retirement is like, you might get another story. A therapist once told me that he explains it this way to the men he counsels: “Imagine you’re still working, and your wife comes into your office and sits down by your desk every day. And never leaves.”

Is that transparent enough?

The first time I heard the word transparent to describe people and not paper, or windows, was from my psychologist brother, Dr Jim’s lips. Years ago he was talking about people from California, because he’d married Anita in Big Sur and chose to live and work there among the tomato and wine vineyards. In general, he was describing  someone who is happy in their own skin, who is not guarded.

Think of Woody Allen movies, where the lighting is so scorchingly bright on the West Coast, and diffuse and dark on the East.

The next time I heard about transparency was while writing for The Berkshire Eagle. I learned that reporters could access any and all public records. You may not remember this, but back in the day when women had to be married to get birth control and credit cards, many records were sealed, including our own medical records! And then we the people passed “Sunshine Laws!”

Through sunshine laws, administrative agencies are required to do their work in public, and as a result, the process is sometimes called “government in the sunshine.” A law that requires open meetings ordinarily specifies the only instances when a meeting can be closed to the public and mandates that certain procedures be followed before a particular meeting is closed. The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C.A. § 552) requires agencies to share information they have obtained with the public. Exceptions are permitted, in general, in the interest of national security or to safeguard the privacy of businesses. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Sunshine+Law

The Freedom of Information Act was passed by Congress in 1966 and not surprisingly was spearheaded by California Congressman John Moss. If you’d like to look up a Citizen’s Guide to Using the Freedom of Information Act and the amended Privacy Act of 1974, you will find the following quote from our 4th President who lived right over the hill at Montpelier:

“A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”  James Madison

So we should arm ourselves with knowledge. That. Bears. Repeating. I’ve been thinking alot lately about how this Russian thing is a “Prologue to a Farce,” or perhaps even a tragedy in the form of treason.

Now the third time I thought about transparency was after being elected to a school board. Because it really wasn’t until I found myself on the other side of the table, the side that held closed meetings to discuss policy and personnel, that I realized there is a Yin and Yang, a dark and a light side to everything. Of course we didn’t want to disclose “on the record” why a teacher wasn’t getting tenure, and of course that teacher’s union could appeal to an administrative law judge, but in reality Due Process takes time…

These are the times that try our souls. Mr T has been celebrating Bastille Day, which is like our Fourth of July, in Paris. He was parading around, shaking hands a little less forcefully, while still defending his dear boy Donald Jr from the “Witch Hunt” of “Fake News.” One glaringly inappropriate, if not sexist, remark to Brigette Macron, the First Lady of France, stands out. Looking her up and down he said:

“You’re in such great shape,” then Mr T turned to her husband Emmanuel Macron, nodding approval and delivered one word, “Beautiful.”

Maybe he hasn’t seen many 60+ year old women in his tower, after all he’s traded in trophy wives a few times. We have a lecherous ex-Miss Universe owner for a President who is running our country like a reality show. To quote Olivia, “Let’s get physical, let’s get into physical. Let me hear your body talk.” Is that transparent enough?

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As many of you know, Bob and I have listed our mountain home for sale. Which means when we are not in Nashville, we must vacate the premises periodically for a “showing” to potential buyers. In other words, super-clean the house and pack up Ms Bean for a two hour tour – cue the Gilligan’s Island theme song now!

You might think this is easy.

After all, we have no children in the house; no crumbs, or petrified hot dogs lurking about. A petrified mouse in the basement? Maybe. After all, we are a country house in the forest, with a long gravel driveway and a buried gas tank and a well…sooo, our windows may get dusty but more importantly, our dog gets car sick. Really, really car sick.

The first time we packed Ms Bean up for a ride into town we gave her the Vet’s super-duper anti-nausea pill. It must be given at least two hours ahead of time and costs about $20 per pill. This is the pill she gets for the nine hour ride to TN and the six hour ride to NJ. It lasts about 24 hours and I have to admit can make her a little loopy. We had a great time on the Historic Downtown Mall where dogs are welcome and almost every store is dog-friendly.

The second time a realtor called, we decided to try some people medicine on her, even though the Vet warned us against this tactic. Generic Benadryl costs a nickel for each 25 mg pill. On GoodRx, a coupon site for drugs, it’s half that price; pennies per pill. And its duration would be only four hours, which was more than enough time for someone to walk through our house and find their way down to the river.

It was a hazy, hot and muggy summer day, so we drove just a few miles to a local antique mall. I sheepishly asked the woman at the counter if my dog could come in, or should I leave her with my husband in the car? “She’s a very good dog,” I pleaded. Lucky for us, the woman calculated correctly, that a man sitting with a dog while his wife shops is a Win-Win. Bob was happy and Ms Bean was just fine! There was no foaming at the mouth, Benadryl for the goal!

Yesterday was the third time we had to pack up the dog, and yesterday was the charm. Since the weather was cooperating, dappled sunshine high 70s, we decided to stay in the neighborhood and take her for a walk. And we didn’t medicate her. We drove down the mountain to a development nearby and parked the car. Everything was going according to plan when I thought I saw a bear in the woods. Bean was pulling me hard toward a big black shape stomping through the leaves, but it turned out to be a goat! Mission accomplished. Car-sickness and bear-shaped goats were in our rear-view window.

And Ms Bean was fine! Our little special needs pup experienced no gagging, or foaming, she just curled up and relaxed for the ride.

So in anticipation of more impromptu, realtor-related car trips this summer, I suggested to Bob the idea of a service animal vest for Bean, that would get us out of the heat and into some air conditioning! After researching this a bit, we discovered you can purchase an “emotional support” vest for your dog on Amazon for about a hundred dollars. I mean what dog isn’t an emotional sponge for their owners? Some sites even offer certification, obviously the government hasn’t regulated these things which is why you may see a parrot on your next flight to Disney World.

Still, I’m a basically honest person and it just doesn’t seem right. Instead, I’d like to design a new vest for dogs – the “Shopping Support” vest! I will train my dog to sit and stay when she sees me pick up something I don’t need. If I don’t put it down immediately, she will lay down and not move. A silent protest. I will look down at her, come to my senses, and place the dreaded, overpriced article back on the shelf. This could work for any addiction. A second glass of wine? Walking toward a casino? The OCD dog vest could revolutionize treatment for millions of people.

I wonder if the new Republican Senate Healthcare bill would cover these vests? https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/whats-in-the-senate-republican-health-care-bill/531258/

After a long day in the car, Ms Bean rests her weary head on the lookout for rabbits. IMG_0846

 

 

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Do you remember your 8th Graders trip to the Nation’s Capital? We lived just three miles away from the ocean, our kids went to Rumson’s middle school where they pretty much lived in shorts and surf tee shorts. But we parents were advised to send our young teens to DC with shirts and ties for the boys, dresses for the girls, because as Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man (or woman).” The Principal told us that over the years she had found that when students dressed well, their behavior improved…and an overnight trip like this could get a little dicey with all those hormones charging around.

This morning I was reading a list of “Ten Books to read for June” from the BBC website http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170602-ten-books-to-read-in-june – not that I will be able to read ten books in one month, but I found this title fascinating, “Strange Contagion,” by Lee Daniel Kravitz. “Kravetz gathers research on social contagions – the ways in which others influence our lives by catchable thoughts, emotions and behaviours.” 

Kravitz looked into the Palo Alto suicide clusters of teens throwing themselves onto train tracks in 2009 and again in 2014. I wrote about this and the term “affluenza” in a study published in the Atlantic here: https://mountainmornings.net/2016/01/03/a-study-in-money/

And I’ve had occasion to think about it recently. Not suicide, but social stress, the whole keeping up with somebody syndrome. One friend hires a company to update her closet, and before you know it the whole subdivision is installing custom closets. Men were comparing notes on woodstoves in the Berkshires, in the Blue Ridge they talk about tractors. You’ve heard of the study about how hanging with overweight friends will make you fat, right?

“…the study’s conclusion that if you have heavier friends, family members, and colleagues, it is more likely that you will be heavier, too. The stronger the relationship between the two people, the stronger the link between their weights. But only one of the pathways—number three—explained why people of the same size clustered together. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-your-friends-make-you-fat—the-social-network-of-weight-201105242666

The three pathways the Harvard study referenced were: 1) Collaboration; 2) Peer Pressure; and 3) Monkey See Monkey Do! So that curious little monkey is responsible for our widening waistlines? How many of us have gone out to dinner with friends and heard, “Well if you’re ordering an appetizer…” or, on the other hand, maybe everyone says “No thanks” to the dessert menu and you refuse it too, even though you’ve been dying for a piece of their famous apple pie!

The need to belong, to fit into a certain cultural place is universal. Whenever we would show family and neighbors the mechanical room in our basement’s “Not so Big” house and its tankless water heater, they would marvel. To think you never run out of hot water, and you save money by not heating up gallons of water that just sits there waiting for you to get into the shower.

I’m hoping beyond hope that social contagion will keep our country on the road to fewer carbon emissions and a sustainable future despite Mr T’s backtracking on the Paris Agreement. I’ve already heard that California and New York are committed to moving forward with green energy, oh and Pittsburgh didn’t like being lumped into Mr T’s speech yesterday either. The NYTimes reports a coalition is forming to proceed anyway, defying Mr T!

The unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations. “We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/american-cities-climate-standards.html?_r=0

So catch this thought Mr T, we Americans can dilute your damaging policy and defend Mother Earth. We will not all follow you off that negative/denial cliff, some of us would like to protect our world for future generations. It’s the least and the most we can do. Now if I could just get Bob to buy a Tesla!      IMG_0538

 

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In the run-up last year to our 50th high school reunion, my best friend could not be found.

Her name was JoEllen, and she appeared in 1962 like me, out of the blue. Only instead of going to Sacred Heart Elementary School, she had attended a private school. But in all other ways we connected. We were outliers, outsiders. My step-father was Jewish, and her parents were Jewish. We didn’t wear the typical public school uniform of the day for girls; girdles, stockings, teased hair and make-up.

We didn’t really fit in with any clique, so we made up our own insulated poetic/drama/dweeb club. We sat with some of the kids going on to college in the cafeteria (the Big Chill), and they graciously accepted us. Two strange blondes appearing on the scene, with no other friends. When I started dating Bob, we became full-fledged members. We felt different, and we dressed differently, in kilts, knee socks and Weejuns. In a sea of beautiful 60s era Mad Men Young Women, who were being told to go on to secretarial school, or maybe nursing, including myself with my paltry “B” average, we acted like we didn’t care what others thought.

Of course all teenagers care deeply, but we had each other as a lifeline. We were inseparable, in fact they called us the Bobbsey Twins.

I thought of JoEllen last night after cleaning up the kitchen and running the dishwasher. Bob walked in for some ice cream, and I said, “The kitchen is closed!” This is what her German housekeeper would say to us whenever I slept over at her house. with a thick German accent of course. We would sneak downstairs later, to raid the refrigerator. Her bedroom was beautifully decorated, with twin beds set at an angle so we could talk all night. I had never before seen matching bedspreads and drapes…

Her father was a doctor, and my step-father was a lawyer and a judge. This too set us apart, nobody wanted the daughter of the town judge to go out partying, drinking beer or stirring up trouble.

I remember once we vacationed in Atlantic City with the Flapper and the Judge, and we put on an accent (what kind I can’t recall) and insisted we were really fraternal twins to every new acquaintance and giggled ourselves silly later. We wore bikinis and that was new and risque. It was pre-Borat hilarity! We had FUN together; she exhibited a kind of strength, and confidence I admired. She was the strong one, and I followed her lead, like Zadie Smith in “Swing Time.”

JoEllen grew up wealthy, privileged to a certain degree having traveled the world. I grew up dirt poor, traveling from my foster home in NJ to the Flapper’s house in PA, and finally settling in with my biological family. Still we were a team, an egalitarian brazen duo, we found a safe harbor in each other, we needed each other to navigate the halls of our public high school. No one could touch us, and now, no one could find her.

I’d heard she moved to NYC and became an orthodontist. That was at our ten year reunion, but she didn’t show up that time either. She’s not on Facebook. Bob is a super sleuth with internet search engines, and even he couldn’t find her. Great Grandma Ada knows everyone and everything about the Jewish community in our old town, and even she didn’t know what happened to her parents. It was a great mystery.

When we find ourselves attending Town Halls without our congressmen present it’s unnerving. Tomorrow night’s Correspondent’s Dinner sans Mr T sends another glaring social signal. Sometimes lines cannot be erased, and the divide in our country grows larger. If you can’t bother to show up, you can’t be bothered with us! Didn’t Woody Allen say, “Showing up is 80% of life?”

When I showed a shred of sympathy for the rude treatment Ivanka Trump received in Germany, I was told she is not worthy. Because of who she is, because of her father. It’s US vs THEM and that’s a recipe for war; it’s universal and compelling. And I’m tired of war. When I wrote for a newspaper, I covered both sides of the river. We have a class and a caste system in this country; and we have a profound problem with racism, which is why our democratic pendulum swung from O to T.

The Sacred Heart nuns taught me to respect everyone, it was the catholic way. And the Flapper told me everyone has a story. At least Ivanka showed up. I found this announcement of JoEllen’s wedding in 1971, there is no mention of her graduating our high school. And then she dropped off the end of the earth. http://www.nytimes.com/1971/08/15/archives/joellen-dicker-wed-to-lawyer.html?_r=0

JoEllen Dicker Trench Coat 20170428

 

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