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Entries by Dr. Judy Kuriansky (112)

Sunday
Jan202019

Lessons on love from Martin Luther King Jr.: A psychologist's dream

On January 21st, the “Peace Prophet” and Civil Rights Champion would be 90, a good time to reflect on his eternal contributions to our lives.  To my delight, not only are we indebted to his civil rights activism but to his lessons about love. 

King graduated in 1948 at the age of 19 from Morehouse College with a B.A. degree in sociology and then went on to much theological study, but in fact, some of his sermons make him a psychologist’s dream. Like his “Levels of Love.”

The Levels of Love

“Love is the greatest power in all the world.”

When you think of the brilliant sermons of Martin Luther King, surely “I Have a Dream” and "I've Been to the Mountaintop" come to mind.  Less talked about, but certainly powerful, were his words about love.  As a psychologist, I resonate greatly with his “Levels of Love” sermon series. The wisdom fits perfectly with psychological principles.  Several others make him a psychologist’s dream. 

King did a sermon series on love at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.  He wanted to do so because love is certainly most sought after but also misunderstood. 

His series included preaching on “Loving Your Enemies” and “Love in Action,” based on the prayer of Jesus Christ on the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

His “Levels of Love” sermon on September 16, 1962, describes six levels, from the lowest to the highest.

1. Utilitarian love.  

“Here one loves another for his usefulness to him. The individual loves that person that he can use…There are some people who never get beyond the level of utilitarian love. They see other people as mere steps by which they can climb to their personal ends and ambitions, and the minute they discover that they can’t use those persons they disassociate themselves, they lose this affection that they once had for them.”

This type of love is the lowest form according to King. He warned that it’s selfish and conditional, being based on what someone can do for you.

Refuse to use others or to be used.  Instead, strive for the opposite.  Instead of depersonalizing someone as an “it,” King urged, attain the “I-Thou” relationship described by Jewish philosopher Martin Buber where equals are honored an respected.

2. Romantic love.  

“There is something beautiful about romantic love. When it reaches its height, there is nothing more beautiful in all the world. A romantic love rises above utilitarian love in the sense that it does have a degree of altruism, for a person who really loves with romantic love will die for the object of his love. A person who is really engaged in true romantic love will do anything to satisfy the object of that love, the great love.”

King considered romantic love as real love, where you would go to extremes and even die for your loved one like in the classic love stories of Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Tristan and Isolde.

In King’s allusions to Greek words for love, this type of love is eros. But, King warns, this love is also selfish, because it is based on how the person attracts you – their looks or intellect – and can also lead to jealousy.

I note that psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term "limerence" in her 1979 book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, describing the infatuated thrill of falling in love and becoming dizzy, love-sick, and deeply obsessed with a love object. When it ends, the lover feels the world has come to an end.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg’s triangular Theory of Love posed three components: intimacy, passion and commitment.

In my “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to A Healthy Relationship,” I explain essential dimensions, including self-love, compatibility, cooperation, communication, commitment, romance, and spiritual love. Keeping the romance alive is crucial to a long-lasting relationship.  It’s the most common question people asked me in my years as a radio advice host, “How do we keep the love life alive?”

3.  Mother’s love.

“Oh, when life presents it in its beauty, it gives us something that we never forget, for there is nothing more beautiful than the loving care, the tender concern, and the patience of a real mother.”

Mother’s love brings sunshine into dark places. No matter how low the child sinks, if it's a real mother, she still loves him.”

But even this love has a degree of selfishness, King said, in the act of adoring one’s own child as the product of oneself.

Developmental psychology describes many stages of the mother-child bond, starting from symbiotic attachment when the child is fully dependent on mother, to the “separation-individuation” phase, popularly known as the “terrible twos”, where the child starts pulling away from mother, to define one’s independence and self.  Attachment theory proposes that needs for closeness or separation continue to be negotiated throughout life.

A mother’s unconditional affection without limits or expectations is considered in psychology as the healthiest basis for later successful adult relationships. King describes this quality of unconditional love later, as the highest state of love.

4.  Friendship. 

“It moves a little higher, not because the love itself is deeper, not because the person who is participating in the love is any more genuine of concern, but because its scope is broader, because it is more inclusive…

In romantic love, the individuals in love sit face to face absorbed in each other. In friendship, the individuals sit side by side absorbed in some great concern and some great cause and some great issue beyond themselves, something they like to do together. It may be hunting. It may be going and swimming together. It may be discussing great ideas together. It may be in a great movement of freedom together. Friendship is beautiful.”

True friends united in common interest rise above the jealousy and absorption in each other of romantic love, King claimed. But while appreciating this type of love, the Greek philio, even it is selfish and limiting, being based on liking someone.

5. Humanitarian love.

“It gets a little higher because it gets a little broad and more inclusive. The individual rises to the point that he loves humanity. And he rises to the point of saying that within every man there is a divine spark. He rises to the point of saying that within every man there is something sacred and so all humanity must be loved.”

But danger lies here too, says King, in the fact this love is an abstraction, and excludes any one person.  To support his point, he quotes the Russian novelist Dostoyevsky, that “I love humanity in general so much that I don't love anybody in particular.”

6. Unconditional love.

“The person may be ugly, or the person may be beautiful. The person may be tall, or the person may be short. The person may be light, or the person may be dark. The person may be rich, or the person may be poor. The person may be up and in; the person may be down and out. The person may be white; the person may be black. The person may be Jew; the person may be Gentile. The person may be Catholic; the person may be Protestant. In other words, you come to the point of loving every man and become an all-inclusive love. It is the love of God operating in the human heart. And it comes to the point that you even love the enemy.”

The highest level of love King claims is Christian love (he refers to as the Greek term agape), the love of God that is most inclusive of everyone.  In this state, love conquers hate.

King’s concept is akin to the psychological principle of “unconditional positive regard” popularized by humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers as the best foundation for relationships and in counseling, characterized by genuineness, authenticity, openness, acceptance, empathy and approval. 

 “Christian love does something that no other love can do. It says that you love every man. You hate the deed that he does if he's your enemy and he's evil, but you love the person who does the evil deed.”

According to psychological theory and practice, this principle King describes is the best way to raise a child, or to reprimand anyone. You always love the child, but can disapprove of a behavior.  Never criticize the child by naming a quality, saying, “You are lazy” but rather specify the action that is unacceptable troublesome, saying, “When you don’t do your homework, it shows laziness,” and add what would be better.

Love Yourself and Others

Another speech of King’s –my favorite – speaks eloquently to love of self and others. In the “Street Sweeper,” the message aligns with what I have been telling people, especially youngsters, for years in my role as a life and relationships advisor in media and for worldwide audiences. 

" If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven played music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say,...Here lived a great street sweeper."

He elaborated.

“Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley but be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

Go for excellence in whatever you do. Whatever your supposed social status, value and respect yourself and your work at the highest level and for the highest good.  In surveys, over eight out of ten Americans dread their work and wait for retirement. Instead, find joy in every action and live each day to the fullest.

Also, help others also be their best, especially those who serve. Compliment your mailman, store clerk, and bus driver as if they too were Michelangelo, Beethoven or Shakespeare.

King delivered the Street Sweeper sermon in a Baptist Church in Chicago on April 9, 1967.  He gave the same message to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26 of the same year, six months before he was assassinated. He implored them to be their best, and also to stay in school.

He used the parable of the street sweeper to stimulate the youngsters to answer the question: “What is your life’s blueprint?” Your life’s blueprint is your life plan, like an architect designs a building. 

King’s life blueprint to fight against racism was first triggered when he was six years old.  A three-year friendship with a white playmate ended when they entered segregated schools and the boy’s father demanded they not play together anymore. Greatly shocked and asking his parents for an explanation, King learned about racism, and, in his own account, “from that moment on, I was determined to hate every white person. As I grew older and older this feeling continued to grow.”

His blueprint later morphed into an urge to serve humanity. King enrolled into a theological seminary and became a pastor at a Baptist Church. He even got romantically involved with a white woman (before marrying Coretta Scott) but broke it off to prevent interracial tensions.  His leading role in the famous Rosa Parks bus boycott lifted him into a national figure as a civil rights hero.  Guided by his faith, he was striving for the inclusiveness of human rights he valued.

In this way, he can be seen to have reached the highest level of love he described. 

In this way, King reminds us that love is the greatest force in all the world.

Sunday
Jan202019

Lessons about overcoming personality problems from Martin Luther King, Jr.: A psychologist's dream

  
   

The great orator on broad humanitarian issues like peace and civil rights also preached brilliantly about how to overcome personal problems. Nobel peace laureate and social activist leader Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon series during the summer of 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on the “Problems of Personality Integration.”  The topics included “Factors That Determine Character” “The Mastery of Fear” “Overcoming an Inferiority Complex” and “Conquering Self-Centeredness.” This article covers the latter two topics.

For this author, a veteran psychologist, the level of King’s psychological insight is impressive.

The Inferiority Complex

“The inferiority complex is one of the most stagnating and strangulating and crushing conditions…plunging into the abyss of inner conflict.”      

The preacher is on point psychologically that an inferiority complex comes from three main sources: lack of self-acceptance, a gap between the real self and the ideal (or as he says, the desired) self, and coming up short when comparing to others. He accurately cites causes like lack of social charm, ill health, unattractiveness or love failures, and also segregation.

The problem is vast. A psychological survey King cites of hundreds of college students reveals that more than 90% suffered from a nagging, frustrated feeling of inferiority. Great men of history were also dogged. His example in scripture is of Zacchaeus so plagued with feeling unaccepted by his small size that he compensates by becoming a tax collector and making big money.  Unconstructive ways to cope include escaping into fantasy or drowning in drink. 

King speaks like the perfect counselor in noting the fundamental way to overcome this sense of inferiority: self-acceptance. 

“Accept yourself as you actually are. Don’t try to be anybody else except yourself.” 

What helps achieve self-acceptance according to King? 

Prayer. “You count because God loves you,” he said.  Famed psychoanalyst Carl Jung agreed that such conditions can be cured by religious faith, he notes.  

 “The thing that every individual should pray to the Almighty God for is to give them that sense of acceptance of the actual self with all limitations and with all of the endowments that come as the results of our being born in this world.”

He continues. “Every man should somehow say, ‘I, John Doe, accept myself with all of my inherited abilities and handicaps. I accept those conditions within my environment which cannot be altered or which I cannot control. And after accepting these I go back to myself and see what I can do with myself’.” 

Accept your looks and limitations. Embrace your actual self.  

King admitted he once suffered in school when trying to emulate a classmate who was faster at statistics. He had to learn to “come down to the point of accepting myself and my dull tools and doing it the best that I could, and this is the thing that every individual must do.”

“A Ford trying to be a Cadillac is absurd. But if a Ford accepts itself, it can be just as durable as a Cadillac, and it can turn many curves that a Cadillac can’t even make, and park in many places that a Cadillac could never get in and can take off with a speed that a Cadillac can never take off with. And in life some people are Cadillacs, and other people are Fords. And when the Ford learns to accept itself as a Ford, it can do things that the Cadillac could never do.”

Accept what you can do, and do that well.

I have one bone of contention. While I’m impressed King refers to “modern psychological terms,” in all my years of experience I never heard the term “substitutionary compensation.”

But I certainly know about “sublimation” that he refers to. Sublimation is a defense mechanism whereby you transform an unacceptable urge into a socially acceptable action or behavior.

“You must learn that even though you are inadequate at certain points, you can take those inadequate points and transform them into something adequate. You can compensate, to use another modern psychological phrase, you can sublimate and take these inadequacies and somehow transform them into something meaningful and something constructive. So the young lady who is unattractive, who is homely, can develop a charm and an inner beauty and personality that all of the world will have to respect.”

Abraham Lincoln is his shining example of someone who was defeated so often in life (losing elections, business and a love) until he found his passionate cause – the abolition of slavery – and became President.

Conquering Self-Centeredness

Narcissism -- the extreme of self-centeredness as an obsession with self over others – is rampant in today’s world.  In his personality series, King names the causes and cures, and self-disclosure. 

“[Too many people] live a life of perpetual egotism. And they are the victims all around of the egocentric predicament. They start out, the minute you talk with them, talking about what they can do, what they have done. They’re the people who will tell you, before you talk with them five minutes, where they have been and who they know. They’re the people who can tell you in a few seconds, how many degrees they have and where they went to school and how much money they have.”

Egocentrics suffer from “arrested development,” and act like children, he says, naming his own daughter “who almost cries out, ‘I want what I want when I want it’.” 

Locked in their own “little solar system,” King critiqued, egotists seek endless admiration and attention, and do nothing.

He offers three solutions:

(1) “The best way to handle it is not to suppress the ego but to extend the ego into objectively meaningful channels…. discover some cause and some purpose, some loyalty outside of yourself and give yourself to that something.”   

Give yourself to something outside of yourself, like family, friends or a job. Find a great cause you can become absorbed in and give your life to.

You will always have an ego and basic desires, King admitted, and pointed to three famous psychoanalysts who identify the major basic desire of humans. For Freud, the basic desire is to be loved; for Jung, it is to be secure, and Alfred Adler said we all need to feel important and significant. King values doing something significant. 

Be like Florence Nightingale who nursed the wounded, he instructs.  Or Albert Schweitzer “who looks at men in dark Africa who have been the victims of colonialism and imperialism and there he gives his life to that.” Or Jesus.

(2) “An individual gets away from this type of self-centeredness when he pauses enough to see that no matter what he does in life, he does that because somebody helped him to do it…No matter where you stand, no matter how much popularity you have, no matter how much education you have, no matter how much money you have, you have it because somebody in this universe helped you to get it. And when you see that, you can’t be arrogant, you can’t be supercilious.”

For King, it’s personal. 

“One of the problems that I have to face and even fight every day is this problem of self-centeredness, this tendency that can so easily come to my life now that I’m something special, that I’m something important.”

“I can hardly walk the street in any city of this nation where I’m not confronted with people running up the street, “Isn’t this Reverend King of Alabama?” Living under this it’s easy, it’s a dangerous tendency that I will come to feel that I’m something special, that I stand somewhere in this universe because of my ingenuity and that I’m important, that I can walk around life with a type of arrogance because of an importance that I have. And one of the prayers that I pray to God everyday is: ‘O God, help me to see myself in my true perspective. Help me, O God, to see that I’m just a symbol of a movement. Help me to see that I’m the victim of what the Germans call a Zeitgeist and that something was getting ready to happen in history; history was ready for it. And that a boycott would have taken place in Montgomery, Alabama, if I had never come to Alabama. Help me to realize that I’m where I am because of the forces of history and because of the fifty thousand Negroes of Alabama who will never get their names in the papers and in the headline. O God, help me to see that where I stand today, I stand because others helped me to stand there and because the forces of history projected me there. And this moment would have come in history even if M. L. King had never been born.” 

Appreciate others for their help in your life, to help you get outside yourself.

(3) “Proper religious faith gives you this type of balance and this type of perspective that I’m talking about…on the one hand, it gives man a sense of belonging and on the other hand, it gives him a sense of dependence on something higher. So he realizes that there is something beyond in which he lives and moves and even moves and gains his being.”

Arrogance is dampened to humility, said King, when you realize that “You are what you are because of the grace of the Almighty God.”

This is King’s way to the integrated personality.

Overcoming Depression 

“Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

Depression affects 300 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization. While feeling low occasionally, especially in relation to real stresses in life, is normal, when sadness affects your relationships and work for weeks, it’s time to get help.   

It might be shocking to you to know that the brilliant orator and seemingly fearless leader suffered from depression. Distraught over his adored grandmother’s death, a 12-year old King even allegedly tried to end his life by jumping out of a second-story window. In later years, he has also been considered depressed – or rather deeply frustrated and burdened – about injustice, violence, poverty, and inequities. 

As debilitating or long-lasting as depression may feel, light and joy can still be yours. 

King knew this when he said in his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, delivered on April 3, 1968 at the Church of God in Christ Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, that out of darkness comes light.

Wise lessons about solving personal problems from King, the Prophet of Peace, Justice and Human Rights. Getting your own house in order, so to speak – being as healthy as you can – fits with my philosophy that peace within leads to peace between people in relationship and then expands to peace on a broader scale among communities, societies and peoples.

 

Saturday
Sep292018

Icon artist Frida Kahlo brought to life!

An icon artist yet tortured soul: Frida Kahlo. See her COME TO LIFE in a riveting one-woman show by my friend, actor Susan Rybin. One night only, October 6. You MUST see this astounding performance. At Solo Festival in West side theatre at 410 W 42 St NYC. IN English with some Spanish. Telecharge for tix.


https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/The-Worlds-Largest-Solo-Theatre-Festival-Opens-Tomorrow-at-Theatre-Row-20180912

 

Note about Kahlo's life:  Though she's hailed as a feminist, Kahlo's desperate need for Diego's love is not a model I want women to follow.  He may be her muse, but it is destructive for a woman to be that obsessed with a man.

Review about the one-woman show in August 2016, in Spanish

“Beyond Frida Kahlo”: Susan Rybin Reenacts Inner World of Mexican Artist

Appearing as Frida Kahlo in the play Kahlo más allá de Frida, (English translation “Beyond Frida Kahlo”) which ran from May 14 to May 16 at Repetorio Español, Susan Rybin digs much deeper than the stern, mysterious “Kahlo face” in her famous self-portraits. Delivered with riveting emotional energy, Rybin’s monologues – a stream of consciousness about Kahlo’s life hours before her death - reveal the inner world of an artist whose work was fueled by Eros as much as Thanatos. Thanks to Rybin’s mesmerizing portrayal, the play is a glimpse into artistic expression inspired by dark psychological dynamics.

For Kahlo, painting is at once self-expression and therapy. Kahlo’s (too short) life of 47 years was truncated by illnesses and injuries. But her relationship with pain is symbiotic - misery is her muse. Kahlo’s first encounter with suffering was at the age of 6, when she was stricken with polio, leaving her to limp for the rest of her life. A traumatizing injury occurred 13 years later during a streetcar collision, when Kahlo’s entire body was impaled with a steel handrail, piercing even her private parts. The pain was so excruciating that Kahlo contemplated suicide several times in her life. As actress Rybin shouts heart-wrenchingly on stage, “Drenched in blood! Drenched in blood! Drenched in blood!” the audience is transported to that fateful moment – that Kahlo considered the first accident in her life.

The second, she declares, is her love for Diego.

Love for prominent Mexican painter Diego Rivera is for Kahlo even more painful than her physical afflictions, complicated by three miscarriages. So obsessed with him and his infidelities that she would “walk off a cliff for him,” she feels constrained to “a mansion of oblivion” in a union between “an elephant and a dove,” as a crippled elephant pining for the affection of a wandering dove. To Frida, Diego was everything: husband, muse, and more (“After Diego, the pope,” she declares). These emotional excesses of Kahlo are powerfully conveyed through Ms. Rybin’s engrossing monologues, made compelling by the dramatization of characters we never see. For example, the audience never catch a glimpse of the debonair Don Juan himself (though Frida speaks in his voice and to his overalls) - but that’s precisely the point, since Diego’s importance to Frida is as much real as imagined.

“As an artist, Kahlo used obsession with this man as a muse for her work, so you repeat what you are rewarded,” said Dr. Judy Kuriansky, a noted clinical psychologist who attended the show, who was as much impressed by the actress Rybin as by the character she portrayed. “Rybin captured Kahlo’s character with all her psychological conflicts, taking us on a cyclone roller coaster ride of a woman’s deep emotions that at once terrify us in their extreme, yet allow us to identify with the universal aspects of her personal pain and obsession.”

In Kuriansky’s analysis, Rybin accurately conveyed the conflicts within a woman locked in isolation yet putting on a flamboyant face and dress in public, and also within a female liberated from traditions of her times yet tortured by stereotypic obsession over the love and attention of a man.

“I’ve advised young women for decades on my radio shows to build self-esteem,” says Kuriansky. “Yet some females even today are still locked in this trap." 

Audience member Celena Vasquez was similarly moved. “Sometimes women in love do crazy things,” she said. Vasquez who described herself in a “good marriage,” added, “You shouldn’t be so attached to a man, especially one who doesn't care for you the way he’s supposed to.”  

“The show reminds us of the immigrant women we work with that face obstacles,” said Rosita Romero, deputy director of the Dominican Women’s Development Center who attended the performance. “Frida is the symbol of women’s ability to deal with pain and difficult life circumstances.”

The relationship between “artist” and “muse” is a perennial theme in plays and movies. The case of a female used then abandoned is also the story of Dora Marr, Pablo Picasso’s mistress, and was recently portrayed in a one-woman show in New York City by actress Michele Farbman. The film 33 Días about Picasso and Marr is reportedly due out next year, starring Antonio Banderas and Gyneth Paltrow.

For Kahlo, Diego’s love and betrayal fuel her endless spiral of psychological torment and artistic genius.

Frida’s inner turmoil is palpable through Ms. Rybin’s performance, as the character insists that she doesn’t paint dreams, only realties. French surrealist André Breton, who launched Kahlo’s career in Paris, famously called Kahlo’s work a “ribbon around a bomb”, but for her, critics like him “poison the air with theories of the artist’s genius”. In contrast, she paints from her gut, where “art is like being - it feeds the soul.”

Ms. Rybin’s virtuosity is most prominent in her portrayal of the dichotomy of two Fridas: the tomboy and the dolled-up princess, the Frida in the throes of hysteria and alternately in tears of despair. The contradiction is evident in her self-description as “a living still life” and as “a piñata, colorful on the outside but fragile on the inside.” For all her liberated artistic expression, Kahlo’s obsession over Rivera is nothing modern.

Rybin had the play in mind for 10 years, perhaps one explanation for her capturing “the real Frida Kahlo” so convincingly. Another reason may be Rybin’s admiration since age nine for American actress Bette Davis, who brought many complicated female characters to life.

The gestation time inspired Rubin this original portrayal, of which Rybin is proud. “The way Frida Kahlo plays have been done in the past in Latin American cultures is boring – using just projections, paintings and videos behind the actress as she recounted Kahlo’s life story,” said Rybin, whose Hispanic roots underlie her observations. “We came up with the unique concept of Frida portraying herself through the different phases in her life, and bringing Diego to life in a creative way. ” 

“The original text with Kahlo telling anecdotes of her memories while preparing for a house party was too linear,” said Peruvian director Walter Ventosilla in an email statement. “I wanted to go ‘Beyond Frida’ to create a new rhythm, storyline and context by cutting many of the usual ‘stories’ …and give greater prominence to the presence of death in the skull of “La Catrina” (the beloved grand dame of Mexico’s dance with death) that unites the story of Frida three times.”

While the play doesn’t offer new facts about the well-known details of Kahlo’s life, Rybin’s captivating monologues and the original stage direction invite powerful insights into a tortured soul, and an artist even more fascinating than the work she produced.

“We had producers come from Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Spain, who all appreciated our approach,” said Meiling Macias-Toro, co-producer of the show with Rybin. As the play was in Spanish, many audience members were also Hispanic; English-speaking attendees were offered headset live translation (by Rybin’s daughter, also an actress). “We are considering mounting the show in English,” says Macias-Toro, “But we need to keep the Mexican nuances intact. Obviously you don’t say it in the same way, but the performance will translate the same feelings. When people hear it, they will know if the character is angry, or in pain.”

When not performing herself, Rybin runs a talent management company and the Rybin Studio of Drama offering Spanish/bilingual training for young performers. One of her students is now in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway. Says Rybin, “I get such pleasure out of seeing young people express themselves and become “stars” and I want to make people aware of the talent of Latino actors.”    

written by Qi Xie 

 

Saturday
May262018

12 Tips For Coping With Mass Shootings and Terror Attacks: Advice for Mothers’ Coping

In the wake of so many mass shootings and random terror attacks that have injured such innocent children, mothers have become particularly worried. The fears are sadly warranted, as these tragic events have happened while children are at school, in church, or even just on the street.

Many mothers ask me about what to do. Here’s my advice for the mothers about how to cope.

* Give extra comfort. Child developmental psychology indicates that when trauma occurs, this is the time to give extra comfort. Spend time especially at night when children’s fears can escalate and lead to nightmares. Tell happy stories. Tuck them in. Give them soft toys to cuddle; these serve as “contact comfort” or in psychological terms, as “transitional objects” to represent you as a nurturing and protective figure.

* Talk about facts. Since children can be exposed to news about such attacks through social media or from schoolmates, prevent them from spreading myths and fears by talking to them about the events. Ask, “What did you hear about this terrible event?” to find out first what they know. Reassure them that they can be safe. Be an “askable parent”: Be sure to add, “Please talk to me if you have any questions or worries.”

* Talk about fears. These are escalated when mass shootings target innocent people, and also since “new” weapons of terrorists are common items like knives and vehicles rather than guns or suicide vests, and new targets are “soft” rather than high profile American symbols like the Twin Towers or the Capitol. Best practices in psychology recommend to feel the fear and adjust to a “new normal” to prevent fears from leading to phobias about daily activities. Children can develop school phobia (refusal to go to school) out of fear something may happen to them or to you while they are away. Encourage children to tell you about any fears, but then turn the conversation to happy events, as a psychological technique to recondition positive emotions.

* Notice changes in behavior. Children manifest reactions often in somatic symptoms, like headaches and stomachaches, especially at early ages when verbal skills are not developed. Often these will subside, especially with techniques like the above. If children act aggressively at school, be sure to talk to them or to school authorities, to prevent deep-seeded problems or anyone getting hurt. If any of these issues persist, seek professional help.

* Be conscious of your emotions. Don’t display them to children so they do not transfer to them. Children pick up on and copy parent’s emotions. Don’t obsess about thoughts that these attacks could happen to you.

* Direct your anger where it belongs. Get mad at the shooters or terrorists to avoid the typical psychological tendency to project aggression at others, like at your children for small transgressions like leaving their toys in disarray or not finishing their homework.

* Uncover associations to your past. Publicized victimizations can trigger repressed memories of times you were a victim or mistreated, even decades ago, as outlined in a report in the American Psychologist. Process old experiences and separate them from the present.

* Notice your prejudices. Children often learn about prejudice from their parents. Examine your own views about “the other.” These can be triggered by specifics of a perpetrator’s profile, whether it comes from reports about a shooter having mental problems, or a terrorist being identified as a religious extremist. Be kind to whoever the “other” is to you.

* Accept reality. You cannot be a magician to protect your children. There is no absolute safety or perfect protection for you and them. Indeed, churchgoing and afternoon strolls should be safe. Officials wisely advise, “Be vigilant” and, “If you see something, say something.” Measurement of the psychological principle of “locus of control” shows that even people who feel “captain of their fate” may accept that destiny plays a role; after all, you can simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Teach your children to be cautious but not hyper-vigilant. Also, reassure them to trust authorities, since they have averted some threats.

* Educate yourself. Learn about mass shooters, terrorists and terrorism. Be prepared to answer your child’s questions about such evil people. Knowledge reduces fear. Such individuals are different types with varied motivations. Don’t generalize that all are mentally disturbed, that can only lead to stigma against mental illness. Psychopathy and narcissism are common dynamics. With regard to terrorism, educate yourself about the ideology of radical extremism, foreign fighters, “lone wolves” and abusive use of the internet. These aspects are outlined in the newly released book, A New Counter-Terrorism Strategy: Why the World Failed to Stop Al-Qaeda And ISIL/ISIS And How To Defeat Terrorists Now (ABC-CLIO, 2017) by former Ambassador of Iraq to the UN, Hamid Al-Bayati. Older methods of terrorism used WMDs — weapons of mass destruction — but newer tactics use “Weapons of Mass Psychological Destruction” that aim to erode our emotions, as explained by psychologist Dr. Larry James in his book with that title.

* Get active. Action reduces anxiety and increases a sense of control. Encourage schools to educate youth about such events, perpetrators, and violence, and to hold memorials when appropriate. Put pressure on congressional leaders to prioritize public safety, and on social media companies to prevent abuse of technology that encourages violence. Participate in a local media campaign.

* Talk to kids about the meaning of life. Don’t shy away from profound questions that children may ask, like about life. Know for yourself that it’s normal to have an existential crisis about the purpose of life, but don’t lose faith. Violent perpetrators don’t win when you get on with your life, going to church, and as New Yorkers did celebrating Halloween and enjoying the city’s weekend marathon. This is an opportunity to teach them about being resilient, which means when you are knocked down, get back up. Violence is tragic but not a reason to give up on life, hope and believing in others.

Saturday
May262018

Achieving Poverty Eradication by Sustainable Health, Well-being and Education: The Case of Ebola in West Africa and other Epidemics and Disasters Worldwide

 

 

 

30 Jan 2018 -  Side Event during the Commission for Social Development 2018 (CSocD56) Given the Priority Theme on: “Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”. 
This side event focuses on the urgency of awareness and attention to long-term recovery and resilience of communities suffering the after effects of health epidemics that have plagued countries and regions worldwide. The importance of this is highlighted in efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals, namely, SDG3 of Health and Well-being for All, including specifically target 3.4 which relates to “promoting mental health and well-being” as well as SDG4 -“Education for All,” in the context of these being relevant to the “road out of poverty.” The panel serves as an example of SDG 17, given that it represents various sectors. The deliverable is to call for policies and programmes that address sustainable long-term care and capacity building in health crises, as well as a multi-stakeholder partnership to implement interventions.

Saturday
May262018

Lessons from Memorial Day for daily life

As the world faces ongoing conflicts and threats of violence around the globe, please set aside political views for a moment, to consider valuable emotional lessons we can learn from those who gave the ultimate sacrifice whom we honor on this Memorial Day.   

Pride. There was a day when pride in flag and country prevailed.  As a child growing up on an army base in Kentucky, I have vivid memories when taps were played (signaling the lowering of the flag and the “lights out” command at day's end) when our family was driving in the car and my a father, an officer, would stop the car, get out, face the direction of the flag, stand at stiff attention and salute. A line of soldiers similarly outside their stopped cars were doing the same.  

Similarly, every morning on my way to school on the base, I saw soldiers dropping out of the sky, practicing parachuting. I was so proud of those men, that every time I hear the name of 101st Airborne Division – as I did during the Iraqi invasion – or hear the national anthem sung like at a baseball or football game, my chest gets tight and tears flood my eyes.



So on this Memorial Day, I am motivated to ask myself and everyone, “What or whom are you proud of in your life now?” and “How do you show that pride?”  

Mothers are proud of their kids, lovers of each other, mentors of their protégés.  

As a psychologist, I reflect that too rarely do we acknowledge or elaborate that pride.  Yet, it is fulfilling to feel pride of others and for them to hear you express that pride in them. 

In some cultures pride is looked upon negatively, as a sign of hubris, vanity, or superior status, or in Christianity, as one of the seven deadly sins.  In contrast, pride can be a virtue as Aristotle postulated, or a sign of group identity that counters shame and stigma as for ethnicities and gender identities, or as in psychology as a sign of esteem, acknowledgement and appreciation of self or others. 

Tell yourself what you’re proud of in yourself, like your achievements or positive qualities. Don’t feel egotistic to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. 

Also, tell others, “I am proud of you for …. (fill in the blank).”   

Sacrifice. On this Memorial Day, we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in service of country. Dare to consider, “What or whom am I willing to die for?” What matters to you so much that you would face danger?   Most people I asked answered, “My children.” 

Some people also added that they could never be in the position of a general or military strategist giving an order knowing the death risks. President Roosevelt did this, when he approved the landing on the exposed Normandy beach in WWII risking brave young soldiers being target practice for enemy fire. And on the TV show “West Wing,” the president (played by actor Michael Sheen) is deeply troubled when briefed about the high percentage of men vulnerable to being shot in the operation of a dangerous mission, but gives the order anyway.   

Bravery. On this Memorial Day, I am moved to ponder, “What motivates people to be  brave?”  In the movie “Braveheart,” Mel Gibson’s freedom-fighting character lies on the enemy’s chopping block, being eviscerated (his guts cut out), as he screams out, “Freedom!”  The scene is indeed gut-wrenching to us as viewers, yet ever so awe- inspiring. 

Romance novels and literary classics are filled with characters willing to die for love.   

What passion or duty do you hold so dear that you would be willing to die for it? It’s a tough consideration. 

Loyalty is another characteristic of war, worthy of examining in our own life. Marine troops live by the credo, “Semper Fi,” pledging faithful brotherhood, going to all lengths to cover each other’s back and rescue any buddy in trouble. In another powerful scene from my childhood in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, I remember seeing a paratrooper in the sky grab his fellow serviceman whose chute did not open, bringing him down to safety.   

When’s the last time you went out of your way for someone else, regardless of the risk to yourself?  What can you do today for someone that puts you out?  Whose back are you covering? 

Courage is another lesson.  Consider soldiers who volunteer for dangerous missions, on the front lines or scouting. I keep my father’s army helmet hanging on the wall near my desk, reminding me of him being on the front lines, as a dentist, patching together the jaws of young soldiers blown apart by enemy fire. I also hold dear a patch from the “Flying Tigers,” a courageous WWII fighter squadron that operated in China.   

When’s the last time you had courage in the face of potential danger and were willing to take a risk?  For me, it was when the Ebola virus epidemic broke out in West Africa and I went to Sierra Leone to help run trainings and workshops to offer psychosocial support for the villagers, children and health workers facing drastic deaths and illness. Everyone said to me, “Are you crazy going to the center of a place with a deadly virus?”  I didn’t think about that, I only thought about what I could do to help. 

Overcoming fear. Fear, anxieties and panic attacks run rampant in our daily life these  days. I have great admiration for those who contain their fear in drastic real dangers like war.  I remember a soldier being asked by a TV reporter about his feelings about fighting in a far-away war. “I may not be happy about it,” he said, “but we have a job to do.” Too often fear in everyday life paralyzes us.  

One of my favorite phrases that can guide many situations in everyday life is, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”    

Honor.  Honor and respect has eroded in our current sadly selfish society.  I hear so many parents complain of smart-alecky kids, teachers of disrespectful students, and spouses of overly-critical partners. In grave opposition to the abuse that led to the #MeToo movement of today, another current movement revives the ancient tradition of “honoring the goddess” whereby women respect themselves and men treat women with reverence. The corresponding ancient Sanskrit greeting “Namaste” indicates that “the divinity in me honors (greets and sees) the divinity in you.”   

A beautiful video about remembering those who died in Vietnam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6y64zTRlrmo 

Bless all the men and women who perished in the course of conflict and war so that we may live courage, devotion to others, pride, loyalty and honor, in peace.    

Sunday
Nov052017

9 Tips for Coping with the NYC Terror Attack

 In the wake of the terror attack in New York City, in which an ISIS devotee driving a rented truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on the street, killing 8 people before crashing into a school bus and injuring two other adults and two children. Called the “deadliest terror attack since 9/11,” the tragedy triggers emotional reactions that can run high and disrupt your life and relationships.

Here’s how to cope:

 Talk about fears. These are escalated now, since “new” weapons of terrorists are common items like knives and vehicles rather than guns or suicide vests, and new targets are “soft” – meaning normal people in daily activities -- rather than high profile American symbols like the Twin Towers or the Capital. Best practices in psychology counsel to feel the fear and adjust to a “new normal,” to prevent fears leading to phobias about daily activities. Don’t obsess about thoughts that since the NYC terrorist rammed into bikers and a school bus injuring children and adults inside, that it could happen to you.

• Direct anger where it belongs. Get mad at the terrorists, to avoid the typical psychological tendency to project aggression at people at home or work.  Partners should especially share reactions and accept any differences in their ways of coping to prevent arguments.
   

* Uncover associations to your past. Publicized victimizations can trigger repressed memories of times you were mistreated, even decades ago, as outlined in a report in the American Psychologist. Process this old experience and separate it from the present.

• Notice prejudices and xenophobia.  These can triggered by the NYC terrorist shouting, "God is Great" in Arabic. Be kind to Muslims and whoever the “other” is to you. 

• Pay particular attention to children.  Since youngsters can be exposed to the attack on social media or from schoolmates, prevent their spreading myths and fears, by talking to them about the event. Child developmental psychology indicates this is the time to give extra comforting and notice changes in their behavior.  

• Accept reality. There is no absolute safety or perfect protection for you and your children. Indeed, as teens who watched the NYC terrorist from their Stuyvesant High School windows said, “We’ve lost our innocence.” Officials wisely advise “Be vigilant”
 and “If you see something, say something.” But, take breaks from being “on guard” to reduce stress. Measurement of the psychological principle of “locus of control” shows that even people who feel “captain of their fate” may accept that destiny plays a role; after all, you can simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, trust authorities; they have averted other threats.

• Learn about terrorists and terrorism. Terrorists can be religious extremists and/or be socially and mentally maladjusted. Don’t generalize. Educate yourself about the ideology of radical extremism, foreign fighters, “lone wolves,” and abusive use of the internet. These aspects are outlined in the newly released book, “A New Counter-Terrorism Strategy: Why the World Failed to Stop Al-Qaeda And ISIL/ISIS And How To Defeat Terrorists Now” (ABC-CLIO, 2017) by former Ambassador of Iraq to the UN, Hamid Al-Bayati. For example, a “lone wolf” is a misnomer, even a terrorist who acts alone usually has extremist contacts. Older methods of terrorism used WMDs – weapons of mass destruction – but newer tactics use “Weapons of Mass Psychological Destruction” that aim to erode our emotions, as explained by psychologist Dr. Larry James in his book with that title.

• Consider activism. Action reduces anxiety and increases a sense of control.  Put pressure on congressional leaders to prioritize public safety and on social media companies to stop terrorists’ abuse of technology. Participate in a local media campaign, and encourage schools to educate youth about terrorism.  

• Reexamine your philosophy of life. It’s normal to have an existential crisis about the purpose of life but don’t lose faith. Terrorists won’t win when you get on with your life, as New Yorkers did celebrating Halloween and enjoying the city’s weekend marathon. Be resilient: when knocked down, get back up. Terror attacks are tragic but not a reason to give up on life, hope and believing in others. 

 

 

Monday
Jul172017

Friendship & the Rise of "Temple of the Souls"


Why are Dr. Judy Kuriansky and Reporter Jane Valez-Mitchell teaming up?
 
The two longtime friends are connected in many ways to the play and its themes: Friendship and Family.
 
Jane and Dr. Judy have been fast friends since 1982 when they were both reporters at WCBS-TV in New York, with ongoing illustrious media careers and interests and expertise in relationships.
 
From their days at Channel 2 News together, Jane Velez-Mitchell went on to host many shows including on HLN-TV, “Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell” having previously worked as a fill-in host for Nancy Grace.  An advocate for social justice and human rights, she was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in 2010 for outstanding TV Journalism.  Her top-rated books include  “iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life” chronicling her journey overcoming alcohol addiction; “Addict Nation: An Intervention for America”; and “Secrets Can Be Murder: The Killer Next Door” about sensational trials that she has covered over her stellar journalism career; and “Exposed: the Secret Life of Jodie Arias.”  She is now an avid advocate for animal rights.
 
Dr. Judy Kuriansky went on to host the wildly popular radio call-in advice show, Lovephones, aired on the top-rated Z100 radio station, with rock stars adding their sex advice, and then to become a United Nations advisor to an African government and run two NGOs to the UN, where she, like Jane, also advocated – to successfully get mental health and well-being included in the new UN agenda for the first time; and also to become a professor at Columbia University Teachers College, and to criss-cross the world providing disaster relief after earthquakes in Haiti, China and Japan, hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Superstorm Sandy in NY.  Her theatre interests date back to 3rd grade when she was given the role of Queen in her 3rd grade play.
 
The background collaboration story of Temple of the Souls is rooted in a family history of the writers: Jane is the daughter of story creator Anita Velez-Mitchell and the aunt co-book writers of sisters Lorca Peress and Anika Paris. Their mother is an award-winning poet Gloria Vando and their father is music conductor and author Maurice Peress. Lorca and Anika's maternal grandparents, Anita Velez-Mitchell and Erasmo Vando have their life's work archived in the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.
 
Dr. Judy and Jane are available to speak to you about their involvement in the show and their feelings on friendship and family, and thee topics of their career, getting over addictions, and controversial celebrity trials today (for example, Bill Cosby, for which Dr. Judy gave psychological opinion for a TV special, “Bill Cosby: An American Scandal”.

Don't miss this great opportunity to come enjoy this amazing musical!
For tickets, contact http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/temple-souls/ or call 212-352-3101. 

Sunday
Jul162017

The Reason Why You Should Go See "Temple of the Souls"

Popular Sex Therapist and UN Advisor, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, is the Executive Producer of the upcoming world premiere musical Temple of the Souls at the New York Musical Festival (NYMF).

"The virtual extinction of the native Taíno people by Spanish colonizers in 16th-century Puerto Rico serves as the background for the new musical, Temple of the Souls... Using a "Romeo and Juliet" love affair between a Taíno man and the daughter of a conquistador to depict the tragic consequences of that cultural collision.” (Backstage)

The theme of cultural-divide in Temple of the Souls – with the Taíno natives persecuted by the conquering Spaniards -- is a passion of Dr. Judy's as she has produced multiple events at the UN, such as the “World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development” and “Interfaith Harmony Week,” as well as her books on the Middle East crisis, including “Terror in the Holy Land” and “Beyond Bullets and Bombs,” and her work for peace, in her “Stand Up for Peace Project” and “Global Kids Connect Project.”

In the play, set in the 16th Century Puerto Rico, the lovers, Guario, a young Taíno runaway, and Amada, the daughter of a Spanish Conquistador, meet by chance during a raucous Fiesta, but their union is thwarted by the intolerant world around them. The star-crossed lovers escape to the Temple of the Souls, to blend their two worlds with their forbidden love stronger than death. 

The theme of cultural divide is exceptionally relevant in today’s world.  Says, psychologist Kuriansky, a professor at Columbia University, who is popularly known as “Dr. Judy” from her years giving top-rated call-in advice on the radio, “The success of this romance is imperative to show the world today about the power of blending culture and race, and in turn, to decrease hatred and increase social tolerance and peace.  This is the hope for our present and future.”  

Dr. Judy is available to talk about her involvement in the play and her expertise on the subject of cultural differences.

For tickets, contact http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/temple-souls/ or call 212-352-3101.

 

 

Saturday
Jul152017

Proudly Presents "Temple of the Souls"

History repeats itself, an unfortunate truth when it comes to the persecution of people from certain cultures, whether it is the siege of Masada, the Holocaust, the Puerto Rican Taínos, or today’s crisis in Syria and the Middle East.
 
Popular clinical psychologist, radio and TV personality and United Nations NGO representative, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, is the Executive Producer of the upcoming world premiere musical Temple of the Souls at the New York Musical Festival (NYMF), a love story that deals with the theme of cultural persecution – when the Taíno natives in the 1600s were victimized by the conquering Spaniards and leapt to their deaths off El Yunque rainforest cliffs rather than be enslaved, much like the Jewish people who jumped to their deaths from the Masada plateau rather than be massacred by the Romans in 35 BC.  Cultural understanding is a passion of Dr. Judy, given that she has produced multiple events at the UN, including the “World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development” and “Interfaith Harmony Week,” has written two books on the Middle East crisis, including “Terror in the Holy Land” and “Beyond Bullets and Bombs,” and done symposia and concerts for peace through her “Stand Up for Peace Project” and “Global Kids Connect Project.”
 
Interestingly, Temple of the Souls is created by sisters Anika Paris and Lorca Peress, who are half Jewish. On their Polish side, members of their family lost their lives in the Holocaust, and on their Puerto Rican side, they were victims of the Taíno struggle. Paris states, "We have this type of discrimination in our history on both sides and are extremely passionate about it, as well as the fact that it is so poignant and relevant in today’s political climate." 
 
“The Romeo-and-Juliet theme in Temple of the Souls reminds us of the importance of resolving world conflicts so that love can survive and heal the world,” adds Dr. Judy.
 
Dr. Judy, Paris, and Peress are all available to speak to you about the play and their expertise and experience about cultural diversity and victimization.  I've enclosed the press release for your perusal, and look forward to speaking to you about this unique  story angle and exceptional play, being performed July 19-23.
Catch limited performances at festival. For tickets, contact http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/temple-souls/ or call 212-352-3101.