How to deal with deceit and dishonesty in people who have power over you?

"Gaslighting exploits weaknesses in the human mind and has a debilitating effect on the victim's ability to think rationally and to function independently of the gaslighter. It can take many forms. In all instances, however, it involves the clever manipulation of 'reality' by the predator that undermines the victim's independent mental functioning for the gaslighter's own political, financial, or psychological motives."

Dr. Bryant Welch, Assault On The American Mind, p. 6

One of the more difficult things for me to deal with as a psychotherapist is to sit in the counseling room and watch a spouse swear up and down that he/she is not having an affair, being unfaithful, and lying when it fact there is proof positive evidence that the spouse is having an affair and is lying about it. Sometimes I watch parents tell their children that things are one way when they are in fact another and they are wanting the child's cooperation, compliance, and loyalty. I have worked in organizations when supervisory personnel only told employees what was going on on a "need to know basis" to maintain control over the workforce which might otherwise object to the company's operational procedures.

When politicians lie to their constituents, there is a break down in democracy because constituents can no longer play an authentic role in the life of their community, state, and nation. They are kept blind to what the real agendas are and why things are happening in their name which do not have their agreement and assent. Lying, saying one thing and doing another, creating a charade to project one reality when something else is going on, is a crazy making experience.

It is cause for great concern that the reality projected to the American people has been distorted for political purposes. It has made us all anxious, depressed, confused, and dependent. This is good for the pharmaceutical industry but not good for our democracy.

There are some positive signs with fake news shows like The Daily Show and Colbert Report which daily poke fun at the hypocrisy, duplicity, and inanity which passes these days for leadership. There are the Scott McClellan's whose conscience would no longer allow him to not speak up and openly admit to the deceit. This is hardly news because we all knew it all along, but to have an administrative official publicly admit it, is the first step in recovery.

The ability to recognize gaslighting is a higher level skill. Not all Americans are emotionally capable of reflecting on their own experience, and observing this communication dynamic. Back in the 60s we called gaslighting a "mind fuck" which means that we knew we were being fucked with. Gaslighting works best, of course, when it is so subtle that it cannot be observed, when it is not noticed. The national therapeutic effort is to help people recognize gaslighting and hold the gaslighters accountable. Individually, in our families, our communities, and our nation we would be much better off psychologically, socially, and politically.

This will require a level of literacy never before achieved in a society. And more than just literacy, it will require a level of emotional intelligence never before achieved as well. The major question which needs answering is how to manage deceit and dishonesty in people who have power over you? The answer is very carefully. I will write more about this in the next few days.

McClellan is finally getting it right about how the Bush administration has gotten it wrong. Illuminating the gaslighting being perpetrated against the American people

Former Press Secretary Scott McClellan now thinks telling the truth is important even though Republicans suggest he is disloyal and should have taken the lies to his grave. Really. They really suggest this. Watch the associated press video which lasts 1:50 seconds.

In some ways this is good therapy. It is time, in the United States for the truth. The gaslighting which has been going on for 7 years is finally being exposed. Do Americans have the stomach for the truth or do they still want to be lied to? I sure hope they have the courage to face up to the truth. These hearings are a form of national psychotherapy which is good for the national soul.

America, as a nation, is badly in need of psychotherapy

"Why did Americans become so vulnerable to divisive political tactics? Why did America get dragged into such an unwise war in Iraq? Wy have fundamentalist groups, Fox News, and hate-filled right wing radio played such influential roles in America's landscape? Why are long accepted scientific ideas like evolution under siege? These questions and others puzzle people from all points on the American political spectrum and from all points around the world. What has happened to the American mind?" p.2

Dr. Bryant Welch, State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault On The American Mind

The answer is that certain politicians, religious leaders, and media celebrities have deliberatedly manipulated the emotionally vulnerable by suggesting a false reality so that the perpetrator can control this emotionally vulnerable population in order to pursue their own devious purposes. The examples of this behavior are plentiful and it goes by the name of gaslighting or what I have called mystification.

You have people like James Dobson, the founder of Focus On The Family, the largest right wing religious organization in America who says things like "Tolerance is a kind of watchword of those who reject the concept of right and worng. It's a kind of a desensitization to evil of all varieties. Everything has become acceptable to those who are tolerant."

Dobson is a demogoge who is preaching hate, distrust, paranoia to the emotionally vulnerable under the guise of religion. Forget the fact that Jesus said to love your enemies, be kind to those who persecute you, and died that way to demonstrate his teaching. Dobson has set himself up opposite of Jesus and yet people love Dobson and follow him and he has tremendous influence along with Falwell, Robertson, and the other false teachers who have gained such popularity in a confused and vulnerable American mind.

Dobson has said, "State universities are breeding grounds, quite literally, for sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), homosexual behavior, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, alcoholism, and drug abuse."

To an uneducated, lower class population, this is music to their ears to learn that better educated people have been contaminated at State Universities. This subtle appeal to classism is a divisive and destructive tactic in the United States and leads to dependence on religious authorities rather than on education of the free and developing mind.

The point is that there is an element in the United States fueled by ignorance and fear that is ripe for manipulation by psychopaths who would pry on the emotionally vulnerable for their own gain. This is not only a huge mental health issue but a huge moral issue as well. We as a society need to raise our level of consciousness so that we are aware of the psychopaths among us who would exploit us for their own purposes. These psychopathic terrorists are not abroad as they would have us believe but right here at home taking advantage of us daily. They are among us killing and injuring our soldiers, impoverishing all but the very rich, trashing our environment, destroying our commons, and manipulating our democracy for the advantage of the corporations and the very rich.

There are a few of us, but unfortunately not many, who realize that the emperor has no clothes on. We understand their crazy making tactics and watch our fellow citizens become "dumbed down" every day. We see the fear in our fellow citizens eyes as they pay over $4.00 at the gas pump, and are told that the Iraq war will go on for a 100 years. We see the demonizing that is perpetrated against us blaming the immigrant, the poor, the gay, women who want to have control over their own bodies and their reproductive health to distract us from their devious behavior and purposes.

America is badly in need of psychotherapy, a therapy which will make the unconscious conscious so that the gaslighting and mystification is illuminated and labeled, help the nation make better decisions that are reality based not fantasy based, and improve national functioning so that we can live in a society with one another which is much more satisfying and fulfilling.

Addiction to attention which turns into promiscuous sex

Loose girl On June 11, 2008, Deborah Harper, President of Psychjourney interviewed Kerry Cohen, the author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity about her book, her life, and her work as a psychotherapist.

Ms. Cohen talks about her addiction to attention which she obtained by projecting herself as a sex object for numerous boys. As Ms. Cohen says it wasn't about the sex as much as the hope in getting their attention that they would make her whole.

This interview lasts about 30 minutes and is well worth listening to by any psychotherapist working with young women, and/or parents of young women, or young women themselves who crave attention and use their sex appeal to obtain that attention.

I am reminded of a client of mine, a 17 year old young woman,who told me "I'd rather be used than be alone."

I recommend this interview. You can go to the psychjourney web site by clicking on the link below.


Should psychological fitness be a standard for holding public office?

I wonder how Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Don Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Richard Pearle, Paul Wolfawitz, Colin Powell, George Tenant sleep at night?

Either they knew better and lied to the American people, or they were fooled and made huge errors in judgment. In either case the American People, the Iraqi people and other people around the world deserved much better leadership than what they got and what they are getting.

Is this kind of error in judgment and/or deceptiveness a sign of mental illness? Are these people examples of personality disorders or Axis I diagnoses?

The fact that Bush and Cheney have substance abuse disorders is well documented even if disregarded by the American people for holding the jobs they were elected to. People who would be red-flagged for employment at my agency were elected to the two top positions in the American government which makes me question the mental health of the American public as well.

When people with mental illness reach high levels of public office and have concomitant power to make policy and engage in actions which affect millions of people, it would seem that psychological fitness might be a standard to use in the selection process. Police officers in major cities go through more psychological evaluation for their jobs than politicians who make policy to govern the police officers' actions.

Could a standard of psychological fitness be politicized and misused and abused? Yes, there is a huge potential there, and yet if we see psychological standards being increasingly used in other human service professions in criminal justice, ministry, counseling and mental health, education, would it be too much to ask that our political leaders also be subjected to such evaluations?

Had they been in place, I doubt that George W. Bush and Richard Cheney would have passed. Of course, I doubt if the loonies on the far right and far left could pass either.

It appears that John McCain has some significant mental health issues given the various reports about his functioning. Connecting the dots about his temper, his unusual marriages, his current wife's history of substance abuse problems, his flip flop on the issues, his synchophancy with George W. Bush, his malaprops, you have to wonder.

Facts and opinions - making our own reality

The New Agers tell us that we can create our own reality.

What they mean is, as best as I can determine, that we can make our own meaning.

We usually cannot change the facts or the circumstances.

As the proverb says, "You have a right to your own opinion, but you do not have a right to your own facts."

As the bumper sticker says, "Reality is when it happens to you."

The facts can be tough sometimes. The truth can hurt. Shit happens.

In the United States we have lived though a delusional period in our national politics when policies were based on ideology not on reality. Many people are now calling for a reality based politics not an ideologically based politics.

In our personal lives, we probably function more effectively and efficiently, if not not more happily, when our decisions and choices are based on reality rather than fantasy.

If a 12 oz. can of soda has 6 oz. left it it, it is a fact that there are 6 oz. gone, but whether you choose to interpret this fact as the can being half empy or half full is up to you and the expectations of others for how they would like you to interpret the fact.

The events of your personal life and our national life roll on. These events are facts and indesputable, but you get to write the history and the history you write will influence how future events and facts are perceived.

As Bobby McFerrin sang in his great song, "Don't worry, be happy." Video lasts 3:43

To be kind, honesty is required.

I share with my clients the idea that honesty is the sine qua non of a good relationship. A relationship based on dishonesty is not worth having because the feedback one gets from the partner is distorted, it is based on illusions and misunderstandings. The feedback has very little value. As they say in the computer field, "garbage in, garbage out."

Further, lying takes unnecessary emotional energy. The liars' anxiety goes up a bit because now they must expend the energy to keep the lie straight with other communications and/or to keep the truth in the dark. That lying is stressful for most people, and has physiological symptoms of stress, is the underlying assumption of how lie detectors work. These machines, supposedly, are able to detect these more subtle symptoms of stress which the human eye cannot detect.

Can people who lie be kind? At a superficial level, I suppose they can, but at a spiritual level it is very difficult because there is a pretense, a charade, and illusion created which is not authentic, not genuine, and comes between the people in the relationship.

In counseling I often hear the complaint, "He/she is not the man/woman I thought he/she was!" Or, "if I knew then what I know now, I would never have done it."

Learning the "truth" can be very disillusioning and often comes with a sense of betrayal. The dishonest presentation of self was not kind, but in the long wrong cruel, even if the cruelty was unintended.

Honesty is the best policy and in the long run is the kindest thing. Remember, being nice and being kind are not the same thing. You can be "nice" and lie your ass off - salespeople and politicians do it all the time, but being kind always requires honesty.

Honesty is also directly related to one's mental health. People who lie and equivocate loose track of who they really are, what they really think, how they really feel. They not only mystify others, they even mystify themselves and they loose their authentic voice. As Polonius says in Hamlet, "This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man."

Failure is the path to success


Failure is often filled with embarassment, shame, and sometimes guilt. Because of the shame mostly, we are motivated to avoid failure and sometimes to lie about it to save face. Of course this a perverse and pernicious priniciple because we learn from mistakes and failures all the time. Watch a baby learn to walk, How many times does the baby stumble and fall? Watch a person learn any skill like riding a bike. How many times must they fall before they learn to keep their balance?

Mistakes are a staple of life. Cursed is the person paralyzed because they are inert out of fear of making a mistake.

Creativity and success requires risk and the willingness to make mistakes, to fail.

I tell people to make as many mistakes as they like. My only rule is that when you make a mistake take respoonsibility for it and clean up your mess. Don't put it off on others by blaming them or leaving the consequences for them to repair.


Reality forces a person to grow up.

Shit happens My favorite bumper sticker of all time is "Reality is when it happens to you."

In adolescence you are immortal, will live forever, and you have a passionate sense that nobody in the universe has ever experienced your thoughts and feelings. Parents are old fogeys, old farts, who have no idea what they are talking about, and you and your peers will make the world a new.

This is great until tragedy strikes or frustration and depression sets in. One day you may realize that those things that happen to other people have now happened to you and you have a brush with reality. Innocence is lost, naivete decreases, the harsh aspects of maturity start to appear.

Life is full of pain and sorrow, heartache and betrayal, remorse and regret, stupidity and ignorance, jealousy and possessiveness, meaness and cruelty, sadism and masochism, fear and rage -  as the bumper sticker so eloquently and succinctly says - "Shit happens!" My favorite said, "Mega shit happens!" When my two kids were killed, I understood. Reality was in my face.

Catastrophe sometimes brings sweet relief.

Divorce There is the idea in the substance abuse field, one to which I do not subscribe, that before things can get better, before an addict is willing to face his addiction, he has to "hit bottom." "Hitting bottom" is defined as catastrophe, something terrible, like a DWI arrest, a divorce, getting fired from a job, a life threatening event, perhaps even a death. Hitting bottom is the whack along side the head with a 2 x 4 but even that sometime is not enough to bring relief, to bring awareness, to bring the sobering encounter with reality.

In relationships sometimes me limp along knowing things aren't right hoping for the best and avoiding the final decision that changes need to be made. We move as Andrew Body writes in his little book, Daily Afflictions, "...from minor disaster to minor disaster, but it takes truly heroic stamina to see things through to total catastrophe." p. 41

Sometimes we are waiting for the catastrophe to occur because then the rationale for our release will be crystal clear  and our explanation for the change to others will be unequivocal. Everyone will understand why things couldn't go on the way they were.

As Andrew Boyd writes, "It's a catastrophe, but it's the one I need." and yet while it brings crisis, it is a crisis sweet with relief that things, as we knew them, are over, thank God. As people say, when they arrive at that point, "I just couldn't do it anymore!"