The map is not the territory - How not to live life.

Wrong_map Us therapists talk about the map not being the territory. We carry around in our heads all these "shoulda, coulda, wouldas" and chastise ourselves because our models, the templates we have in our heads, were not good guides to our behavior and consequential experience.

What do you say to people who have made mistakes and messed up their lives because they have certain assumptions about how life should be and how life is that aren't accurate? As the teenagers used to say, "well, duh..........................!"

My gentle answer to disillusioned clients is to PAY ATTENTION, reflect, observe, and learn from your experience. Make your own maps, don't borrow or use other peoples. Socrates said, "An unexamined life is not worth living." How many people do you know are living examined lives? Most people are walking around in a fog trying to follow their maps and the map is wrong and they don't know it until life hits them up along the side of their head with a two by four.

Some wrong maps in our culture:

    1. Fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.
    2. Money will make you happy.
    3. Life, in the long run, is fair, or life is not fair, so stop your sniveling and suck it up.
    4. People in authority know what they are talking about.
    5. Be afraid, but don't worry, we'll protect you.
    6. You are a sinner and are going to hell if you don't believe and agree with what we tell you.
    7. You were born defective and inadequate and have to work very hard, be very smart, and please everyone to prove that deep down you're not the worthless person that you feel you are.
    8. Drinking, drugging, gambling, overeating, promiscuous and compulsive sex, religiosity, overworking, compulsive exercise, cutting, starving yourself to death will make everything OK.
    9. Taking a prescription drug advertised on TV for people who are unhappy will make everything OK.

There are many, many more maps that people mistakenly take for the territory but, perhaps this is a good start for now. Maybe I'll mention some more in future articles. If you have some of your own suggestions add them to the comments.

Triumphing over misery in dysfunctional families

Dysfunctional_families Growing up in a dysfunctional family has its advantages. Children learn how to deal with dysfunction. Children learn what they don't want to replicate when they grow up in their own families.

Oldest children in dysfunctional families often enter helping professions like Social Work, Psychology, education, nursing, criminal justice, fire fighting. They often make great EMTs and cops because they love bringing order out of chaos.

Children who grow up in functional, happy families often don't know much about life. They are innocent and naive and don't understand why and how hurtful, evil things happen. Children who grow up in dysfunctional families know these things only too well.

I don't wish a dysfunctional family life on anyone. A dysfunctional family life is fraught with hurt, pain, anger, fear, sadness, and tragedies of various types. Dysfunctional families wreak all kinds of havoc from abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction, mental illness, crime, bankruptcy, hunger, incest, exploitation, intimidation, domination, subjugation and terrible, heart wrenching unhappiness. And yet, people who grow up in these situations are either scarred and wounded for life or they thrive and become very vibrant, determined, compassionate, and enlightened people.

In many ways I like people who grow up in dysfunctional families better than people who grow up in functional, happy families. They are much more interesting and have fascinating stories to tell about the resiliency of the human spirit as well as the pathos of evil. Of course, I am a therapist, and being the oldest child in a somewhat dysfunctional family, and the husband and father in a dysfunctional family that I tried to fix for 35 years, I suppose, as the old saying goes, misery likes company, but more than that I like the hopefulness of people who have seen misery and triumphed over it.

Living an examined life in freedom

Crying_child We don't get to pick our families; we are stuck with them until we get our driver's license. We don't get to choose how we are raised; for the most part we are a captive audience.

But when we become adults, if we become aware enough, we begine to see the choices we have and we can begin to live consciously. Socrates said "An unexamined life is not worth living." and I often wonder how many people are living examined lives?

Personal power comes from examining our psychological legacy and making conscious choices about how we will live our lives. To do this requires help from someone more conscious that we are. Find that person and start living today.

Disasterous consequences of economic policies of market driven capitalism over the last several years - tent cities spring up as mortgages are foreclosed

What the Repbulican Administration and corporate media don't want you to see is the number of Americans being forced into poverty as a result of the economic policies of the Republican administration and its belief in the free market economy. It seems strange that you have to go to foreign media to find out about the unkind truths of what's happening to America. Here is a video from the BBC about the "Tent City" that has sprung up in Los Angeles as people have been forced from their forclosed homes. It only lasts about 90 seconds.

TV in the Bedroom Is Not a Teen's Best Friend

Tv_in_bedroom Reuters Health Day had an article on April 7, 2008, about a study in the April, 2008, issue of the journal, Pediatrics, which found that TVs in adolescent bedrooms contributes to several health and behavioral risks. Here is a brief snippet from the HealthDay article:

Although your teenager may poignantly plead that he or she is the only child left in America without a bedroom television, health experts recommend that parents stand their ground and keep TV out of the bedroom. There seems to be a good reason for this.

The latest research, published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, shows that having a bedroom television not only leads to more TV viewing, but also results in less time spent with the family, less time exercising, lower fruit and vegetable intake, more sweetened beverage consumption, and in lower grades.

"The big take-home message from our study is that TVs should be removed from kids' bedrooms, and it could have a positive effect on kids' health," said the study's lead author, Daheia Barr-Anderson, a postdoctoral fellow at the Adolescent Health Protection Research Training Program at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis.

Health professionals have been warning for years about too much television watching among young people, and especially about making the TV set so easily accessible. But past research suggests that many parents aren't heeding that advice. About 68 percent of American youngsters have televisions in their bedrooms, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In my psychotherapy practice, I see the detrimental effects of TVs in children's bedrooms all the time, and when I mention to parents the recommendation of the American Pediatric Association that TVs not be in children's bedrooms the parents usually say that they know this, but they don't want to fight with their children about this.

Once again, I observe that information alone is not enough to change people's behavior. There has to be some incentive to motivate people to change and without the incentive people will continue to engage in destructive behavior for themselves and their children. Even the threat and experience of problems, sickness, and even death is not enough of an incentive for some people to change.

It seems that some people are better equipped to tolerate frustration, deprivation, and sacrifice in the service of longer term goals than others. Daniel Goleman and other psychologists call this emotional intellligence, and as Dan Goleman points out, E. Q. is much more important to later life success, satisfaction and fulfillment, than I.Q. Unfortunately, our nation and world, is full of what I call "educated idiots." They often, because of their intelligence, are promoted to high levels of power and authority and many, even become parents, many of whom allow their children to have TVs in their bedrooms. :-)

Watching Too Much TV Might Hurt Country's Intelligence - Video lasts 3 1/2 minutes Link: MedlinePlus: TV in the Bedroom Is Not a Teen's Best Friend.

NIH Research Suggests Stimulant Treatment for ADHD Does Not Contribute to Substance Abuse Later in Life

Stimulant_drugs According to a April 1, 2008, press release by the National Institutes of Health, NIH, recent studies indicate that the use of stimulate medication to minimize symptoms of ADHD in youth does not contribute to substance abuse. Here is a brief snippet of the release:

Treating children as early as age six or seven with stimulants for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is not likely to increase risk of substance abuse as adults, according to two studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, the studies also showed treatment with stimulants did not prevent substance abuse later in adulthood. The studies, conducted by researchers at New York University School of Medicine (NYU) and the Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School (Mass General) are being published in this month’s American Journal of Psychiatry.

Link: NIH Research Suggests Stimulant Treatment for ADHD Does Not Contribute to Substance Abuse Later in Life, April 1, 2008 News Release - National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Truth be told, military recruiters want our young people to join the military to kill. Is this what we want for them?

Military recruiters target people of color and people from low social economic groups promising them college money, job training, excitement, adventure, and honor by serving their country. Little do the propects know that they will be trained to kill and support those who kill and may well be deployed as a mercenary force to advance the imperial, immoral, and illegal projects of their over-reaching government. They, in fact, will be asked to do things and risk things that those very government officials would not want their own children doing.

Of course, if you watch the news and have half a brain you realize that there is a high risk of being killed, wounded, or psychologically maimed for life. You will be asked to do things which every other responsible adult in our society has told you it is wrong to do - to kill under orders from a superordinate to whom you have sworn allegiance.

Do these vulnerable kids know what they are getting into? Do the recruiters tell them the whole truth or do they glamorize and sugar coat things?

There is an interesting video, produced by the University of California, on counter - recruitment - that is making sure that young people, targeted by military recruiters, have all the information to make an informed decision about the future of their lives. It lasts 27 minutes and is well worth watching. Any young person considering joining the military should watch this video.

Corporations tell young girls they aren't OK for profit

This is an interesting video about pre-teens and body image. It lasts three minutes. It is interesting how young women get so many warped ideas from our culture about their bodies. I believe it comes from advertising and our corporate culture. They sell products to make you look beautiful, attractive, desirable. In order to create a need for their products, the corporations convince young people that they aren't good enough, don't look good enough, just the way they are. The seeds of dysfunction are sown for profit. Take a look and tell me what you think?