Brain and Behavior

Living in a Bigger Story

Out beyond the shadows of our old thinking, a wholly different world appears. A world that delights in our explorations, our need to join with others. A world that welcomes and supports our endeavors. The world knows how to change and grow. ~ Margaret J. Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers, A Simpler Way
We love epic stories, those invoking the heroic journey. We resonate and identify with larger-than-life characters, not simply because we are fascinated with their exploits, but because we are drawn to the archetypal qualities they represent. And that allows us to tap into the inner resources we can discover in our own inner treasure chest:
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Ethics & Morality

Buddhism, Spirituality & Dependency

Recently I attended a six-day Zen meditation retreat (sesshin in Japanese) which included the celebration of Rohatsu on December 8. Rohatsu is said to be the day that Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, came to his great enlightenment.

As a couples therapist and student of attachment theory, I cannot deny what seem to be inherent contradictions of this spiritual path and current research on healthy dependency. First, Siddhartha left his home, his wife, his newborn, his parents, and his duties as a prince to go alone on a spiritual quest. Accounts also say that he left at night and did not say goodbye to his wife or see his newborn son.

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Caregivers

Responding to Humanitarian Crises

According to World Vision, more than 12 million are affected by the crisis in Syria. That is far more than those affected by Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, and the Indian Ocean tsunami combined.

Recent events remind us of a dark time in Europe when other refugees were denied haven and abandoned to fate. Once again, large numbers of people are targets of violence and trauma. After years of suffering, they have left their homes and everything they love and care for because life has become intolerable. They have endured a hellish journey to find safety. And then they have been greeted by faces and hearts of stone.

Thankfully, it seems that voices of compassion are prevailing and refugees are being allowed to proceed to refuge, as international law guarantees civilians fleeing war.

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Disorders

Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health issues now are the leading cause of illness in the workplace. A study conducted by the American Institute of Stress in 2014 showed that job pressure was the leading cause of stress in the U.S. The annual cost to employers in health care and missed work topped $300 billion.

Ignoring mental health in the workplace doesn’t make good business sense. Research shows that companies in the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index (FTSE 100) that prioritize employee engagement and well-being outperform the rest of the FTSE 100 by 10 percent. We know that work performance and effectiveness largely is dependent on mental health and well-being. With as many as one in four of us experiencing mental health problems in the course of a year, organizations understand that this is an important issue for them and their staff.

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Ethics & Morality

American Psychological Association’s New Torture Policy is Unenforceable

In a resolution that only people who love the intricacies of governance could appreciate, the American Psychological Association's (APA) Council of Representatives voted on August 7 to institute a new policy for the organization. Namely, that APA psychologist members can no longer engage in enhanced interrogation techniques, or in any way be a part of them as a consultant or otherwise. (The new policy is the result of the Council of Representatives Resolution 23B (PDF).)

And while it made for some great headlines in the newspapers and on countless professional mailing lists, one important fact flew under the radar -- the new policy is completely, 100 percent unenforceable. Today, no psychologist can be removed from the APA for violating this policy.

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Ethics & Morality

American Psychological Association’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

This has been a rough week for the staff and leadership at the American Psychological Association (APA). After sitting on the Hoffman Report for nearly a week, they faced a major New York Times story because someone (ethically) leaked it to the newspaper. Rather than getting in front of the story and discussing the report before the media got a hold of it, they again demonstrated the lack of leadership the organization has suffered from for years.

And that was just the beginning of the week for the once stalwart professional organization representing many psychologists in the United States. Although the independent inquiry into the governance and ethical practices of the APA named dozens of high-level APA staffers and elected leaders, the APA reacted with a resounding thud -- "letting go" just one person named in the report in the first week the organization had the report.

To date, the APA still hasn't responded to important questions regarding the findings of the inquiry. The fire is only going to get hotter as the APA's silence speaks volumes.

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Disorders

Disability, Work, and Recovery

I’ve established myself as an advocate of getting people off of long-term disability. Too many people with mental illness are discouraged from living at their most productive. Disability condemns them to living within a system that doles out subsistence pay and prohibits the risk and reward of work. There are many incentives to stay on assistance, and many stigmas and barriers to stepping out and being fully responsible for one’s present and future. I believe work is beneficial and healing, and everyone who can work should find the opportunity.
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Ethics & Morality

APA Has Lost 10,000+ Members in Less Than 6 Years

Perhaps due to the ethical quandaries that the American Psychological Association (APA) appears to be continuously facing nowadays, the professional organization that represents psychologists in the United States appears to be hemorrhaging regular bread-and-butter members.

At the height of its membership in 2008, the APA counted 92,322 members (8,318 of which were associate members -- members who have no voting rights in the organization). In 2013, the last year which the APA makes membership statistics available, they had only 82,153 members. That's a drop of 10,169 members in just 6 years -- a loss of about 11 percent of its membership.

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Brain and Behavior

How to Avoid Being Hurt at Church

I consider myself to be highly spiritual. Just like many other people throughout the world, I go to church, read the Bible, and try very hard to demonstrate love wherever I go. Over the years, my spirituality has allowed me to develop a great respect for church leaders and the work that they do. Yet, I quickly realized that church leaders are human and sometimes they make mistakes. So, what happens when the people who you respect so much let you down?

Not all church leaders are manipulative or bad. In fact, I believe that most are amazing men and women who have a strong desire to help others. However, every individual, regardless of role, has imperfections. Sometimes these can result in miscommunication, hurt feelings, anger, and even a flareup of mental health symptoms among the most emotionally vulnerable people.

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Ethics & Morality

The Hoffman Report: After Years of Lies, Who Holds the APA Accountable?

After years of lying to its members, the public, and other professionals, the American Psychological Association (APA) finds itself in the awkward position of being a professional organization that no longer has a moral or ethical leg to stand on.

According to a new report by independent investigator David Hoffman, not only did individual APA members lie and cover up their extensive involvement with post-9/11 torture. But on behalf of these members, the entire APA organizational structure colluded to keep these lies going.

And not just a decade or more ago. No, the lies and justifications for the lies continued right up until last year. After a book critical of APA's stance on torture was published last year (Risen, 2014), did the APA suggest the book had merit? Nope, instead the APA kept making excuses, discrediting the author and the book saying it was "largely based on innuendo and one-sided reporting" and "a thorough review of these public materials and our standing policies will clearly demonstrate that APA will not tolerate psychologist participation in torture."

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Ethics & Morality

It Is What It Is

When I told my dad how upset I was that I had not been accepted into the college of my choice, he looked up at me and replied, "It is what it is, honey."

I looked at him in disbelief. "Are you serious? Is that the best response you can offer me?" It drives me nuts when he uses that phrase. I told him so but he didn’t get what was so bad about it. He was just stating a fact. "It is what it is, so why go on about it and make yourself feel worse?" was his take on the matter. My take: he's missing an empathy gene.

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Brain and Behavior

Reflections of a White Psychotherapist

I have had the terrible opportunity of experiencing a black child’s first exposure to racism. I was in session with an African-American mom while her 4-year-old son played quietly on the rug. She told me she had recently enrolled her child in an all-white preschool and that the teachers reported her son had been taunted for the color of his skin.

Hearing this, the little boy came over to me and held out his arm. "May I please borrow your special soap to get rid of this brown?" he asked politely, tears on his beautiful little face.

I worked with an economics professor, also black. He told me that while walking the halls of his university in tailored suits he was sometimes mistaken for janitorial staff. "I’ve even tried an ascot, for pity’s sake," he said.

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