Sunday, January 2, 2022

Grilling with dementia

My dad, who is in early stages of dementia, just got a new tall grill for Christmas and I'm worried he'll get hurt trying to use it. The steaks have never been higher.

Saturday, January 1, 2022


 What kind of tea is painfully difficult to swallow?


Epictetus and the Serenity Prayer

 The Serenity Prayer is famous and often shared in Alcoholics Anonymous and addiction treatment programs. It seems fundamental to a positive path of recovery. The Serenity Prayer has been attributed to many sources. I was surprised to read this entry for January 1 in the Daily Stoic day by day calendar from Epictetus

The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals but within myself to the choices that are my own..." Discourses, 2.5.4-6

The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim - Moral Models

In 2022 I have added a new feature to Markham's Behavioral Health which is called, "Book Of The Month." During the month, articles regarding ideas raised in the book being read will be posted. It is hoped that readers of this blog might also read the book and comment. Even if you don't read the book please add your comments about the ideas raised anyway. The book for January, 2022 is The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim.

Today, as in times past, the most important and also the most difficult task in raising a child is helping him to find meaning in life. Many growth experiences are needed to achieve this. The child, as he develops, must learn step by step to understand himself better; with this he becomes more able to understand others, and eventually can relate to them in ways which are mutually satisfying and meaningful.

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment (p. 3). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

The idea of “moral models” has long interested me. Some might call this a “world view” and others might call it a “meta-narrative.” Whatever it is called, it is the belief system which we unconsciously develop which we believe is real that governs how we think about ourselves and the world.

We act based on what we believe. What we believe is based on what we have been told. What we have been told is based on the incentives of those who have the power to do the telling. This insight leads to other interesting questions like do the storytellers believe the story they are telling or are they being manipulative for the story tellers benefit?

One of the most important results of storytelling, after entertainment, is survival. Survival involves getting basic needs met for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and safety. Once survival needs are met then there are the psychological needs of belonging, emotional and social support, and lastly actualization of innate desires, talents, and abilities.

Fairy tales communicate what is to be expected from life. They create a perceptual bias.

What were you told as a child what life was like and what to expect? By whom? At what age? For what purpose?

Looking back and becoming conscious now of processes that were unconscious back then, what do you think the motivations were of the storytellers to tell you the stories they told you?

Monday, December 27, 2021

Psychotherapeutic Humanities - The play, Equus, by Peter Shaffer

Equus is a Tony Award winning play by Peter Shaffer about a seventeen year old male, Peter Strang,  who blinds six horses with a metal spike and is committed to a mental hospital in which his psychiatrist, Dr. Martin Dysart, attempts to understand the motivation and meaning of Peter’s  behavior. This play is considered by some a classic and has been studied in various college courses.

The intended audience is adults with an interest in psychodynamics and the impact of  religiosity on behavior. 

The creative tension builds as the psychiatrist, in the course of his psychotherapeutic work, must work through the difficulties in his own life.

There might be many lessons derived from the story. The main one seems to be that repressive upbringing in the 50s led to repressed sexual energy which was acted out in destructive ways. This seems to be a lesson which in subsequent decades has been learned as patriarchal structures have been deconstructed as feminist values have manfiested more prevalently in society.

The story seems a bit outdated since the play was first produced in 1973. In the last fifty years the values and attitudes about sexual expression have radically changed. The main utility of studying the play at this time might be to increase the understanding of the management of sexual impulses in previous decades influenced by the cultural conditioning of the time.

The play is recommended to those interested in the dynamics of sexual repression in previous decades in western societies especially of England and the United States.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Best way to "read": paper book, eBook, audiobook?


What's the best way to "read" a book: paper book, e book, audiobook? 

Here's a great video which in about 10 minutes gives you the advantages and disadvantages of each format depending on your purpose for reading.

Click here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Let's make America well again. MAWA

There is a great deal of frustration, sadness, and fear in the United States over the rise of infection rates of the Omicron and other Covid variants. 

There are many factors which give rise to these increasingly high infection rates. One of those factors is individual choice over protective measures to limit infection. The further question might be what are the factors that influence these individual choices? A large factor is social norms and attitudes. Another is regulatory enforcement.

Social norms and attitudes have been politicized in the United States by those who seek the advantage of accumulated power by obtaining votes for their election to office. This creates a symbiotic tie between the representative elected and the people who want to be told what they want to hear, not the truth. This symbiotic relationship is well known in the field of mental health as the folie au deux. A folie au deux is a relationship based on a commonly held delusional belief. A folie au deux is considered to be a mental disorder requiring psychiatric treatment.

It is time to think outside the box. Anger and further polarization will get us nowhere. We mental health professionals  supposedly know how to manage neurotic and psychotic symptoms as they manifest in individuals and groups.

I learned several decades ago, early in my psychiatric social work career in two state hospitals, that you not only cannot argue a delusional patient out of their delusion, but that it only exacerbates the delusional symptoms and is counter productive. What is helpful is to reframe the topic in a larger frame of reference. There are many possibilities for a reframe such as an "opportunity to help one's family and neighbors."

How about a meme like "Good neighbors get vaccinated so they don't pass the virus along."? and "Let's make America well again." MAWA.