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Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’

There are foods no rational human would knowingly ingest:  the stuff listed on this website.

Why would you eat a double bacon peanut butter egg and cheese burger with chipotle mayo?

Because you think it will taste good.

To be precise, a little child inside you thinks it will taste good.  That little child is unconscious, and he seeks pleasure.  Freud called him the “Id.”  He doesn’t think.  He reaches for something shiny because it’s shiny.

Welcome to the appeal of Sarah Palin.

Sarah is the political equivalent of marshmallow fluff, chocolate fudge, mac & cheese and cookie dough in a deep fryer.

Why does she look like she’ll taste good – and why is she so bad for you?:

FIRST REASON:  Sarah has an easy answer for EVERYTHING.

Millions of Americans without healthcare?  Sarah would shrink government while lowering costs, cutting taxes and creating jobs.  It’s THAT SIMPLE!!

Foreign Affairs?  Sarah would stand tall against our enemies and stop terrorism in its tracks while keeping us the strongest nation in the world.

Immigration? Sarah would stand up for real Americans and protect our jobs.

The environment?  There’s plenty of oil – we just have to drill for it!  Sarah doesn’t believe in global warming.  We can do whatever we want.  That’s what the planet’s there for – having fun!

What else is there?

Who cares!

Sarah would cut taxes, build the economy, create jobs, shrink government, make America strong and bring the family back – like things used to be in the olden days!  Everything would be super!!

You betcha.

Does any of this make sense?

Does washing down a bag of Doritos with a two liter bottle of Mountain Dew and a super-size bag of peanut butter M&M’s make sense?  Does it have to make sense?

It feels good.  Until a few hours later.  When you throw up.

SECOND REASON:  Sarah’s just like you!

Palin’s Tea Party supporters are always stressing how “real” Sarah is.  That word – “real” – is code for “just like me!”  Your Id, like a small child, is by definition a narcissist – he cannot see where he stops and another person begins, so doesn’t see anyone or anything beyond his own reflection.

Neither does Sarah!

She brings you…you.  Not like that weirdo Obama, who’s…well…umm…he looks “different” –  you know what I mean?

Your Id wants to have fun.  He seeks pleasure.  That’s the “Pleasure Principle.”   Your unconscious – this child – is utterly regressed.  He likes sugar, and shiny things.  He likes Sarah.

In case you need a male Sarah Palin?  Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

That would be Scott Brown.

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The first researchers to observe chimpanzees in the wild were left with an idyllic impression of our close ape cousins.  They appeared to be a peaceful tribe of vegetarians, who cuddled and groomed and cared for one another in extended family units, sharing fruit and showering their young with affection.

Only later, when in-depth studies were attempted, did it become clear that this was merely part of the picture.  These serene vegetarians were also capable of shocking violence towards members of their own species, including murder.

Chimpanzees are gentle, loving and family-oriented within their own territorial mating group.  But with chimps from outside that circle, they can turn vicious.

In this respect, chimps resemble humans.

You, for example, would never display intentional cruelty towards another human being.

That is – unless you knew that other human being wasn’t like you.  Then you might be surprised at what you could do.

Welcome to in-group/out-group psychology.

Consider the guards at Auschwitz.  They thought of themselves as nice people.

An album of photos was made public in 2008 containing photographs taken by members of the SS who worked at Auschwitz. These pictures are not what you would expect.  Dating from 1944, they show laughing, singing, smiling people reveling at Solahütte, an SS recreation home located just outside the death camp.

There’s even a shot of an SS officer lighting the Auschwitz Christmas tree only a few miles from the place where millions were being starved, beaten and gassed.

The question becomes how you convince yourself that other human beings are not like you – that they are outsiders.

One common method is to place them outside of your religious system.  Religion is often credited with teaching morals and enforcing good behavior among human beings.  More often, it is used to justify the abuse of out-groups by defining the parameters of an in-group.  As Freud put it:  “a religion, even when it calls itself the religion of love, must be hard and loveless against those who do not belong to it.”

Freud watched Hitler march into Austria during the Anschluss in 1938, as the powerful Roman Catholic church stood by offering no resistance whatsoever.  As Peter Gay describes it:

“The Austrian prelates, keepers of the Roman Catholic conscience, did nothing to mobilize whatever forces of sanity and decency still remained;  with Theodor Cardinal Innitzer setting the tone, priests celebrated Hitler’s accomplishments from the pulpit, promised to cooperate joyfully with the new dispensation, and ordered the swastika flag to be hoisted over church steeples on suitable occasions.”

Freud managed to escape to England with his immediate family.  Four of his sisters, each of them over 70 years old, were not so lucky.  These helpless elderly women were murdered in concentration camps.

In-group/out-group psychology, coupled with religion, explains a lot about wars, inquisitions, crusades, burnings at stakes, pogroms, terrorism and the ugly history of mankind in general.

Another way to ostracize a group is to link them to disease.  When Glenn Beck calls Progressivism a “cancer” in America, he implies that Progressives, those people like myself who believe in Progressive causes, are the embodiment of that cancer.  He is borrowing a page from Adolf Hitler’s playbook.  One of the Fuehrer’s favorite tropes was to compare Jews to tuberculosis bacilli infecting the German nation.

If people are tuberculosis bacilli – or cancer cells – it becomes much easier to abuse them.

Still another way to justify dehumanizing a group of people is to isolate them because they have a different ethnic background, or physical appearance. This country began as a slave colony, based on the firm notion that people with dark skin could be beaten, abused, tortured, murdered, and bought and sold as chattel because they weren’t really “human” at all – they were more like animals.  This is another example of in-group/out-group psychology at work.

The Tea Party movement lends itself to in-group/out-group psychology because it is a homogenous population – an excellent candidate for an in-group.  According to a CNN poll, active supporters of the Tea Party, those who have attended a rally or donated money, are much more likely to be wealthy, male, have graduated from college and reside in rural areas that are already GOP and conservative strongholds.  According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 88% of the Tea Partiers are white.  They are also almost entirely Republican.  It’s a fair guess that most of them are Christian, too, and probably fundamentalist.

This might explain their obsession with attempting to prove that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, was somehow not born here or is somehow not American.

He’s different from them.  That makes him a member of an out-group.

Mr. Obama’s out-group status, in turn, permits the Tea Party people to justify treating him in ways they would never treat one of their own.  That explains shouting “You lie” at him in the middle of a joint session of the US Congress, or flaunting firearms at events where the President is speaking.  Since he is an out-group member, they can justify treating Mr. Obama with a level of disrespect that might otherwise be difficult to fathom, especially from people who claim to respect the office he fills.

More disturbing, perhaps, is the way the Republicans treat their fellow Americans who happen to lack healthcare.

If another human person were injured or ill, and needing to be taken to a hospital, it is hard to imagine anyone, whatever their political or religious beliefs, refusing to come to that person’s aid.

But the Republicans have managed to convince themselves that denying healthcare to their fellow Americans is morally defensible.  Perhaps it’s a Christian doctrine that an atheist outsider, like myself or Sigmund Freud, could never comprehend.

More likely, for the Republicans, it’s simply that any American living without healthcare must be a member of an out-group.  Perhaps they are all Socialists, African-Americans or Progressives, or even part of the “cancer” that Glenn Beck battles on tv.

The latest example of in-group/out-group psychology at work has appeared in the form of threats of violence by radical Right-wingers against Democratic politicians who supported the healthcare bill and voted it into law last week.  Black and gay politicians have had nasty names shouted at them.  One Democratic congressman was called “baby killer” by his Republican colleague on the floor of the US House of Representatives.  There have been death threats and acts of vandalism.

You wouldn’t do these things to someone whom you considered an equal.

The truth seems to be that, for the Republicans, anyone who disagrees with their political agenda is an outsider.  The code word for “outsider” is that you are not a “real American.”  Sarah Palin warned you about those people, the “fake Americans” – the outsiders.  You can place gun targets over their faces.  You can threaten their lives.

As I’ve said time and time again, this column is strictly without political bias.

But perhaps it is time for the Republicans and their Tea Party minions to rise above the level of chimpanzees and Nazis, and to recognize the humanity of their fellow citizens.  For decades, tens of millions of us have been denied access to decent healthcare.  As a result, each year tens of thousands of us have died.

The issue of healthcare is finally being addressed with a mainstream political solution, thanks to President Obama and the Democrats.

But the Republicans still need to learn a basic lesson in citizenship.

They are not the in-group, and everyone else is not the out-group.

There is no out-group.

There is one America, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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Children need a lot of attention.  When they don’t get it, they’ll often act out – misbehave – in a desperate attempt to be paid attention to, even if the result is negative attention.

I had a patient who used to vomit frequently as a child.  It became an unpleasant regular event during family meals – but he managed to distract his mother for a few minutes.  Even if she was cross and impatient with him, at least she was paying attention.

Scott Brown, the newly-elected US Senator from Massachusetts, grew up in a family where there wasn’t much time available to devote to raising children.  His parents divorced when he was an infant, and both the mother and the father have since remarried three times each.

Scott’s mother was living on welfare at various periods during his youth, and Scott sometimes ended up getting shipped off to live with his grandparents or his aunt.  He had siblings, too.  My guess is there were enough other children around to consume whatever time was available for Scott.

How did the young Scott Brown respond to this situation?  He acted out – badly.  By the time he was 12 years old, Scott was arrested for shop-lifting from a record store and brought before a judge.

This is where things get interesting.  Brown’s story is that the judge, Samuel Zoll, shamed him by sentencing him to write a 1500-word essay on how his siblings would feel watching Brown play basketball in jail.

The People’s Therapist suspects something else happened, too.  Scott had finally forced a father figure – Judge Zoll – to pay attention to him.

That’s why he stole from the record store in the first place.  He didn’t need records.  He needed a parent-figure’s attention.  And he got it – even if it was negative attention.

From that point on, we see a string of events suggesting that grabbing attention – even negative attention – became an unconscious impulse in Brown’s life.  Here are a few examples that jump out at you:

1.  Posing nude for Cosmopolitan Magazine as a law student;

2.  Using the “F-word” as a State Senator during a debate on gay marriage at a high school; and

3.  Presenting his daughters, Ayla and Arianna Brown, as “available” (whatever that was supposed to mean) during his acceptance speech for the US Senate.

The biggest attention-getter of all was politics itself.  Brown seemed to run compulsively for everything there was to run for, from Property Assessor to Selectman to State Representative to State Senator.

This latest campaign, for the US Senate, was an even bigger attention-getter, and once again, it was negative attention. Brown’s role was the spoiler.

Teddy Kennedy, a legend in the Senate, devoted much of his life to fighting to guarantee decent healthcare for all Americans. On the cusp of achieving this goal, Kennedy died after a courageous battle with brain cancer.  Brown’s job?  To get elected on a wave of Tea-Party cash, so he could shatter Kennedy’s dream.  Brown had to get elected so he could be the 41st vote that would allow the small Republican minority from mostly under-populated states, representing an even tinier minority of Americans, to abuse the filibuster rule and destroy years of hard work by blocking healthcare reform.

We can only hope a father figure – perhaps President Obama could fill in for Judge Zoll? – will arrive to give Brown the attention he needs.  Maybe he should be forced to write a 1500-word essay on how his siblings would feel watching him destroy a chance at decent, affordable healthcare for millions of Americans.

This country has had enough of angry little children in positions of authority.

We need leaders who can behave like adults – who win our admiration for what they achieve.  We do not need another attention-grabbing miscreant who will stop everyone in their tracks by throwing up at dinner.

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The People’s Therapist is of course strictly non-partisan.  It is hardly my place to take sides in political matters, and I am loathe to betray a hint of bias in these pages.

However.

How could anyone NOT admire our magnificent President, Barack Obama, as he faced down those ignorant Republican hacks in Baltimore last week?

The most striking feature of the President’s performance, beyond his clarity of purpose, intellectual stamina and firm grasp of the issues, was his perfect calm under pressure.  There’s a reason they call him “O-calma.”

The Republicans hurled their snide partisan attacks, distorting the facts in their own inimitable way.

Obama stood at the podium, holding his ground, even smiling, and reached out in friendship and cooperation.  His face expressed perfect equanimity.  When a brief lull came in the Republican attack machine, he explained why it wasn’t about politics – it was about action.

He was masterful.  It reminded me of the Buddha.

I’m serious.  Here’s why.

When Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, renounced wealth and privilege and left his father’s palace to wander as a monk, one of the first disciplines he sought in his path to enlightenment was meditation.

Following the meditation practices of his time, the Buddha embraced three refusals.

First, the refusal to move.  He learned to sit perfectly still.

Second, the refusal to breathe.  He mastered slowing his breaths until they were barely detectable.

Third, the refusal to think.  He cleared his mind of all extraneous distraction so he could sit in perfect peace.

These refusals were designed to promote calm – to permit an inner space to exist, where he could be strong within himself.

Like a mighty tree – the wind blows, the storms howl, the seasons change.  But you are stillness, firmly rooted in the earth.

A self-barrier, an invisible boundary, protects you from attack, granting you the space to contemplate all paths and decide on your direction ahead.

Young children have no self barrier – they spill their emotion in all directions and confuse other’s emotions with their own. But an adult can learn to contain his feelings, and to insulate himself from the attacks of others.  He can find a place of serenity within.

I have no doubt that Obama felt anger at the Republicans’ hypocrisy.  Perhaps he also felt fearful of the immense challenges ahead in his administration.

But, like the Buddha, his self-barrier remained intact.  Within, he located a place of calm. The clamor and tumult outside only strengthened his resolve to walk the Middle Path – the path of moderation.

There is a useful lesson in the President’s grace and his dignity.

Let’s save the planet from environmental dangers.

Let’s treat immigrants with the respect and gratitude they deserve.

Let’s provide every American with decent healthcare.

Let’s give LGBT people equality, which is all they ask.

Let’s work to establish understanding, and peace among nations.

This isn’t politics – it is an expression of our best selves as humankind.

We can follow the path of the Buddha, and remain strong within ourselves.  We can refuse to be drawn into fear or anger.

In so doing, we can make the world a better place.

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The first thing the People’s Therapist notices about the Tea Party people is that they come to everything from a sense of deprivation.  They are always – always always always – talking about their money, and how they don’t want anyone to get their hands on it.  It’s theirs.  They need it.

There isn’t enough of it.

If we spend their money on other people – say, on healthcare or schools or feeding the poor – then they’ll starve.  This is a famine.  It is every man for himself.

If the Tea Party people are willing to spend money on anything, it’s guns.  Their own guns, and a seemingly endless supply of guns for the military, which can never have enough guns, because there are ENEMIES everywhere.  We are in danger.  We need to entrench, hunker down in a defensive posture, and wait out the storm, gripping our guns tightly and hoarding our money just like we hoard our food.

To many people, the fact that other developed countries offer free healthcare – as well as free schools, free fire departments and lots of other basic necessities and still somehow manage to eat and breathe and go about their daily lives, argues strongly that the Tea Partiers are over-reacting.  In fact, to many Americans, those Tea Party people seem a little…well…nuts.

What’s going on  here?

As a starting place, it is a basic principle in psychotherapy that money is a surrogate for security in love.

Young children love security – they flourish in an environment that most adults would find stifling.  The safer the better is a good general rule for raising a happy child.  You’ve probably noticed that when you finish reading a picture book to a small child he doesn’t want you to read another book to him.  He wants you to read THE SAME BOOK to him, again.  And then THE SAME BOOK again.  And then again.  It feels safer that way.

Young children like dinner to be at the same time every night.  And breakfast at the same time every morning.  And yep, they like lunch at the same time – in fact, they like to eat the same thing every single time, if possible (preferably something safe, like pizza or chicken nuggets.)

Most of all, children crave security in love.  They need you to love them ABSOLUTELY, unconditionally and totally.  In fact, they are literally of you – they came from your bodies – so you must love them as you love yourself.  You must delight in them, utterly, or they will sense that something is wrong, and blame themselves, and start to worry.

That’s where the problems start.

What if a parent doesn’t love herself?  Not all parents are certain that they like who they are.  Nor are they all capable of providing an environment of absolute stability or safety.  Life can feel like a storm-tossed sea sometimes, and even good parents often feel overwhelmed and filled with doubt about themselves and their future.

A child raised in a house that doesn’t feel safe will start to compensate by trying to create safety on his own.  This can lead to a host of symptoms that follow him into adulthood.

Children in an insecure environment can employ magical thinking, imagining themselves having impossible powers and responsibilities, such as the power and responsibility to keep parents from fighting or abuse from recurring.  Roles get reversed, and the child believes it has the responsibilities of the parent.  The child can learn to distrust authority and feel he has to do everything for himself.  Sometimes this ties into obsessive compulsive behaviors, eating disorders, sexual compulsiveness – a whole gamut of issues.

These children can also adapt hoarding behaviors, trying to create safety by collecting possessions.  It could start with matchboxes or comic books and develop into a full-blown hoarding compulsion, or an obsession with money instead of the things that really matter in the world – other people, love, caring, relationships and connection with our fellow beings.

Any of this sound like those Tea Party people?

My work with the Tea Partiers (if they were to file, en masse, into my office) would be to symbolically re-parent them, to take them back to the scared children they once were, in a world that felt insecure, and to have them address themselves as the parents they needed, and still need, in order to feel safe and secure.  They need to learn to self-soothe, to address messages to themselves intended to calm those scared children.

Then maybe they can accept that President Obama isn’t Adolf Hitler, providing healthcare to all Americans isn’t going to result in the apocalypse, the military isn’t the only route to a feeling of safety in the world – and putting money before people is the surest route to a wasted life.

On the other hand, helping others – offering care from a place of abundance – is the surest path to joy.

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