Dr. Judy 24/7
Monday
May302011

Lights Go Out as Songwriter Commits Suicide at time when Father and Son both Face Serious Assault Charges

     73-year old Oscar-wining songwriter James Brooks and his musician son Nicolas, 25, both faced assault charges – until the father trumped the law by ending his life.  On HLN’s Issues show, Jane Velez Mitchell asked me, “Is it coincidence or bad blood?”

    My answer:

     There is a genetic predisposition to violence, aggression and even suicide. The father was luring Hollywood hopefuls to his apartment and forcing them to have sex, and the son was charged with murdering his designer girlfriend in a fancy New York hotel.

     Psychologically, behaviors are usually a mix of “nature-nurture.” Some determinants are in the genes and a proportion is learned by experience or example.

    Brooks, the “You Light Up my Life” songwriter, won an Academy Award in 1977 for his cheery tune but his life hardly matched his lyrics. His horrific demise is worse than the story lines of the cancelled ABC-TV soaps. The skeletal elderly man  (looking like death warmed over, likely from years of drug abuse) died from a crude home-made “suicide kit” (also called an “exit bag”) that causes asphyxiation by wrapping a plastic dry-cleaning bag around his head, with a tube attached to a helium gas tank.

     My suspicion:

     Though it was officially called a suicide, could someone else have been involved? Brooks was feeble from two strokes and reportedly couldn’t even open a juice bottle he purchased that morning, so how could he wrap a towel tightly around his neck, which was part of the “helium hood” contraption to insure he got gassed?  Besides, the gruesome technique is described in online euthanasia how-to’s – and euthanasia usually means “assisted suicide.” On top of that, a woman had supposedly been helping him lure the women into his sordid lair.

     Committing suicide in that manner is rare; people do asphyxiate themselves in cars but it is far more common, and less elaborate, to overdose. Psychologically the method of suicide always has some significance; for example, it matters how violent the action was (a self-inflicted gunshot obviously reflects more anger than quietly going to sleep after taking pills). Also, the asphyxiation method has a sexual component -- considering that helium gets people high, which was consistent with Brooks’ sexual perversion.  

     Clearly this sad rapist had nothing to live for.  There are plenty of examples of people who are facing legal charges they clearly will not beat, who take their own life rather than face conviction and consequences.   

     My good friend Jane Velez Mitchell likes to call such stories “cautionary tales” and  indeed this is one. Women need to stop falling prey to bad men (even Brooks’ daughter called him a bully, scary and intimidating) Hollywood hopefuls need to stop falling falling into the casting couch.

Monday
May302011

Raped 11 year old Girl Gives Birth

 

     In another example of how real life can be more drastic than the soaps (recently cancelled by ABC-TV), a 12-year old girl, with special ed needs, gave birth to a baby boy after being raped and infected with a sexually transmitted disease  That means she was impregnated when she was 11 years old!  Sad. Shocking.  

     How astounding is it that one report has estimated that up to one in four 6 graders in Philadelphia have reportedly been sexually active.

     Girls are maturing at younger and younger ages, due to hormonal changes.  Just in our lifetime, baby boomers were getting their period at 15 or 16; then the next generation of girls were menstruating by 13, and now the age of sexual maturation has plunged as low as 8  -- even more reason to support comprehensive sexuality education as a solution instead of blaming such sex ed, as some do.

     The rape happened in a YMCA camp, by a 17 year old boy -- even more reason to have life skills education in schools, for boys to learn how to keep their hormones in check, how to treat young girls, what sex is and what constitutes rape.

Monday
May302011

Dive IN to life, says my alma mater Smith College commencement speaker

      Graduation season is a time to inspire young people at a time of monumental life transition.  It’s a big job for any commencement speaker.  The honor this year for my alma mater, Smith College, went to a woman pioneer in a traditional male field. Sylvia Earle is a noted underwater explorer, dubbed a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress – consistent with the spirit of Smith as a school that nurtures female leaders nad change-makers, like Gloria Steinem.  Barbara Bush is also a famous alum.

     Funny I can’t remember who my commencement speaker was – and I was intrigued to find out how these speakers are now picked.  Students are presented with a list and vote on their preferences.

     Appealing to the radical Smith population, Earle could not resist taking a political jab in the context of applauding the traditional illumination of the campus, by quipping that “most of the world lives in the dark all the time, not just Washington D.C.” She also clearly aimed to please by continuing the light theme by saying that the class is “bringing light to the world,” and telling a female-power story about a young boy reading her book about her undersea adventures and asking his dad, “Dad, when I grow up...I mean...well, can boys get to do things like this, too?”

     Of course it befits Smithies to foretell their future as trailblazers and leaders.  Earle told the Smithies, “You, lucky you, are here to fly the aircraft, write the songs, dive the subs, find the cures, run the companies, lead this country, lead this world to a better, more prosperous future for all of life on earth.”

     And she particularly pleased me – someone who has been accused of being a workaholic but whom the Friars Club feature re-framed as a “playaholic” -- when she called herself a “Hope-aholic.” She named female pioneer anthropologist Jane Goodall as a hopeaholic, listing her four reasons to hope: the human mind, our ability to craft solutions coupled with the human spirit, the resilience of nature, and belief in the youth of today who don’t know what they can’t do and “who don’t realize that there are things  ‘impossible’ to change.” Earle added, “You have the power..”

     Her final comment hit a high note.  In the spirit of the obligatory inspiration to new graduates, she invited the Smithies to “take a deep breath and dive right in.”

     It was a clever allusion to her career “diving” under water.

     My cherished former Smithie summer interns – whom I was exceedingly thrilled to see graduating that day – are certainly diving in.  For example, Julianne Casey is coming to New York to work with a music management company. And Amanda Calvo is going to Jordan as a journalist.  I’m proud to know I had a hand in nurturing those skills and goals. 

     Commencement speeches are also a challenge for the student speaker  The senior class President, Ketura’h Edwards, impressed her fellow classmates – and me -- (given Smithies’ reputation for being accomplished young women leaders) by saying, “We are ambitious, confident, savvy, and fearless Smithies… So whether you are starting a career, going to grad school, joining Teach For America, embarking on an international adventure, or taking a breather at home before pursuing your dream to be the first female president of the United States; be confident knowing you will be successful.” I resonated with the latter, as when I was interviewed for the 6th grade school newspaper about whether I would like to be the first female President of the United States I said an emphatic “Yes… I would like to serve my country” (some of the other girls said it would be too much work).

     Among the graduation caps, a few hardhats stood out – a sign of Smith’s new engineering major. 

     At the end of the ceremony, as the caps went sailing into the air in the traditional gesture, one couldn’t help but feel the thrill of a new generation of young women making one of the most important transitions of their life and being enthused about their future.

Tuesday
May172011

Terminator will likely not be baaack to wife in light of love child 

In light of the shocking revelations of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s admission about having a love child, I beg women not to steal another woman’s man, and to avoid players. 

 

 

Recent Presidential candidates -- John Edwards – and even former Presidents – Thomas Jefferson – have done it.  So have Hollywood stars -- Mel Gibson. Now, former muscle-man turned politico-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joins the dubious list of married men who have had a love child.

 

What makes them do it?  They can.  Narcissicism.  Power.  Over-sexualization. A sense of entitlement. Women throwing themselves at them.  A thrill personality style.  Add a dash of arrogance – how dare they do that under the nose of their wife and children, and think the public will never find out. 

 

Arnold can be smug that he pulled off a cover-up of the existence of this love child for 10 years and got away with two terms in political office keeping the scandal under wraps. John Edwards wasn’t so lucky; he got found out right away and blown out of the top-office race.

 

All of us – besides his wife Maria – have been fooled.  We didn’t know. 

 

The fiasco proves:

1)      Men will be unfaithful regardless of whether they have an ‘el primo’ wife who has it all – beauty, smarts, even pedigree, like Maria Shriver from the Kennedy dynasty.  Men have affairs for multiple reasons, including their own needs, having nothing to do with whether they are happily married or sexually satisfied.  For one, their ego may demand exorbitant attention (psychologically I note the consistency with a reference in Arnold’s statement that, “I deserve your ‘attention’…[not my family]”.

2)      Women will dig their nails into any man, with no shame, or respect for other women or for their own husband (Arnold paramour was apparently also married). 

 

In my many years on the radio giving advice, I pleaded with women to be honorable to other women, and not “steal” another woman’s man.  “Be a sistah!”  But sadly, many do not heed that; too many women will go for any man for their own selfish needs.  I beg again, women of all ages, watch out for your sisters.  Remember the Golden Rule- do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Or think of karma—bad energy comes back to haunt you in the end in some form.  


I predict women will throw themselves at Arnold now.  They’ll think, ‘look at her (the mother of Arnold’s love child) – she got a kid and now she’s set for life.’  It tings of anthropology, that women are out to protect their children – and what better way than to snare a daddy who will support them for the rest of their life.  

 

Sadly, some men get away with it, and even prosper.  I predict that Arnold will sell more copies of the memoir he’s supposedly preparing, get thousands of dollars for speeches and appearances, and score big roles in Hollywood.  People will want to see the man who could have such “cahounas.”  Too bad our culture is built on rewards to celebrities for bad behavior.     

 

In such an extramarital sexual act, one can ask, “Where was Arnold’s head when he should have been thinking of contraception?”  Not using protection shows really bad judgment, and impulsivity, with a little head overruling a bigger one. Not a reliable quality in a person- or a leader.

 

On Channel 11 News this morning, the anchor said Arnold needed to have read my book “The Complete Idiots Guide to A Healthy Relationship.” In it, he would have learned how to honor Maria.

 

Arnold’s behavior is a grave insult – and the ultimate betrayal -- to Maria, especially having this affair in her own household, under her nose, and secret for so long.  Does the child look like Arnold, or resemble Arnold Maria’s four children (the love child’s half-siblings)? 

 

Maria certainly had warning signs, with all those reputed dalliances of his over the years.  Some reached the level of ugly accusations.  Leopard’s don’t easily change their stripes.

 

Raging hormones lead to sexual acting out; and the body builder was vulnerable to that years ago – even at their first meeting when she found him intriguing (despite defying her parent’s uneasiness over the match, by her own admission).  I saw the glow first hand when I was at their engagement party all those years ago.

 

It will take a long time for Maria to rebuild trust in any relationship.  Now we certainly have more understanding about the raw revelation and appeal she made on the web. She certainly needs the support and love for which she has expressed appreciation on that posting.

 

Maria denied on an Oprah show years ago that she was “bred” to “stand by your man.” Certainly after this compounded betrayal -- especially as she stands for the empowerment of women in her annual women’s conference -- she has to set an example for all women, and for herself, about how a woman has to respect herself, have high self-esteem, trust her independence,  and not put up with bad behavior.

 

In this case, the Terminator should not be baaack.

 

 

 

Tuesday
May032011

The Big "O" is dead! Re-trauma or closure?

 

The demise of the symbol of evil, hatred and terrorism  - Osama bid Laden – has unleashed a plethora of emotional reactions. 

 

Relief, jubilation, celebration, victory, pride – over finally “getting the man” who caused so much pain on that fateful 9/11 day.  But also, there is resurrected grief and anger over what happened that day, as well as increased fears from the reminder that we are still not safe and suffer the possibility of retaliation. The man as the symbol of evil is dead, but the terrorist organization will likely strike again.

 

Psychologically, it is important to accept such a range of emotions, all expected, normal and ripe for processing – especially in light of the imminent tenth anniversary of 9/11.

 

In my years of working with survivors and doing psychological first aid after disasters (natural and man-made) around the world – I know that people are divided about how they react:  some need to express, share and connect, and others want to withdraw and forget.

 

Today, a fireman who dug in the pit for his fellow firemen who perished in the terrorist attacks, told me he wants to be out of town on 9/11/11.  “I spent too much time there, lost my job, and got cancer, I don’t want it in my life anymore.”

 

In stark contrast, a young woman who rushed to Ground Zero as soon as she heard the news about the killing of bin Laden, had the opposite reaction, “I need to be there, to honor those who died and to be part of what my country went through.”

 

I saw the range and intensity of emotions, too, when being a first responder after 9/11, giving mental health support.   On the night shift at Ground Zero, my assignment was to walk around the pit, offering bottled water and knit gloves (on some cold October nights) to those working on the site, and being available to talk when someone wanted to. Some needed to share tears and anger; others wanted to stay silent. Later at the Family Assistance Center, we manned the booth for those who wanted support, after visiting the booths of help for legal and financial issues. 

 

I was affected personally too, as a New Yorker and an American.  I knew people who died.  I was panicked not being able to contact my husband -- who worked for then-Mayor Giuliani and was sequestered in a bunker somewhere.  I go to the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program at Mt. Sinai Hospital for some medical issues resulting from working at the site . 

 

Personally I like – and need -- to process (not surprising for a psychologist).  For years I attended 9/11 anniversaries, in the first few years as a mental health volunteer (when such services were offered), and then playing at memorial concerts with my band, the Stand Up for Peace Project.  A student of mine from Columbia University Teachers College had composed a song for the class project I assigned the students to do something healing.  “Towers of Light” (www.towersoflightsong.com) -- which I helped write by adding psychologically relevant phrases -- honored the heroes and the souls that took flight that day.  We’ve performed it many times  -- at interfaith memorials every year on the Hudson River Pier, in Mexico at a UN NGO disarmament conference, and in Japan every year, including for the Dalai Lama (who crossed the stage at the International Peace Festival in Hiroshima, took our hands and said, “Very powerful”).   

 

I’ve been upset when the number and attendance of events and memorials every year in New York dwindled, and when some politicos justified the reduction, saying, “Enough. Move on.” For some, it’s not enough.

 

When I watched the President’s speech Sunday night, I welled up in tears, with grief over what happened and what could happen, and with pride for my country, and for the military and intelligence agents to carried out the courageous mission (which resonated with me, as an army brat who is now so patriotic).   

 

The extent of the crowds assembled at the White House and Ground Zero so quickly after news of the operation that led to bin Laden’s death was released, proves an important psychological point:  people still need to gather together to share momentous events and intense emotions.  Such spontaneous mob-formation counters the infection of isolation.  It’s mindful of whathappened in Cairo with thousands of people coming together. Coming together is a psychological gold standard in healing.  It is evident in the immediate aftermath of 9/1l, with people creating spontaneous memorials, laying wreaths, signage on walls, and gatherings in parks to talk and sing.  Deaths of celebrities (like Princess Diana and pop star Michael Jackson) have elicited the same public response.

 

The jubilation, cheers and chants (“USA, USA”) reminded me of Super Bowl fan fever erupting over their winning team.  Expressions of winning (too bad that Charlie Sheen polluted that word) are not just fanatic but can be healing.   

 

I've been asked, as a psychologist commentator on Jane Velez Mitchell’s Issues TV show on HLN this evening, whether bin Laden’s death re-traumatizes people – or brings closure.  Certainly any reminder revives traumatic feelings from such a major loss, but in such cases as this, it is healthy for everyone to continue to process emotion s from the experience.  In doing so, there are several questions I suggest people ask themselves: “Where was I on that day?” “Who was I with?”  “What did I experience then and what do I feel now?”  “Why do I feel this way? For example, if I want to run from the feelings, what am I running from? And if I am reacting in the extreme, what other losses or pains I am suffering today does this event trigger?”

 

Ask others to share feelings if they like. I was touched when in the green room, my old friend from Z100 radio days, Showbiz Tonight host A.J. Hammer, told me his experience.  Reading the New York Times on the Sunday before 9/11, about another bombing in Israel, he and a friend remarked about the contrast between that horror and their safe haven.  Then two days later, the planes hit the twin towers and his perspective on life was forever changed.    

 

The bin Laden demise does not bring full closure.  For example, families who lost loved ones will always feel the pain and can be helped with ongoing processing.  Also, fears may not end, as the specter of future terrorist attacks looms.   

 

Some people are even left with suspicion, no matter the photos or DNA of bin Laden’s body after being shot in the head.  They questioned, “Was it really him – since his body was gone in a day” and “Why did it take so long to get him?”

 

An interesting, other, observation: the military used simulation to rehearse the attack on bin Laden’s safehouse with an exact replica. Such simulation has long been used in training for space travel, and now it’s being applied in surgery (I recently went to a presentation at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital debuting plans for simulation surgery).  Such rehearsal is also a psychological technique, proven successful in sports: to insure success in a real endeavor, rehearse the exact experience in your mind and “feel” the successful results. 

 

Use bin Laden’s capture and death for some lessons in life, like about identifying your own style of dealing with traumas (expressing or repressing); not giving up (it took ten years but “we finally got him”); and resilience (you can bounce back from any disaster).

Friday
Apr292011

Flamboyant sexuality is in, what with Michael Douglas set to play LIberace in a movie about the extreme entertainer's life, and "Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the Musical" on Broadway.  I spotted the hit years ago when I saw it in Sydney Australia, and told my Boardway producer friends to mount it!  This morning, after the roal wedding kisses, Drama Desk award nominations were announced at the Friars Club, with Priscilla agrnering some (wellearned!).  My psychological interpretation:  them ore stressed out lide, the more extremem we need our entertainment escapes. 

Similarly we are not holding back with words - given the Boradway play title, "Motherfu-ker with a Hat"- who would have thought we could put that on a marquee?  Viev Shreiber, who announced the nominees, with Audra McDonald, let the word roll of his tongue with aplomb, while the gathered audience giggled. 

Shrieber also got laighs when he referred ot himself as the "Jackie Chan of Yiddish theatre."

As is psychologically typical, opposites create balance, so Broadway also has thought-provoking fare, like a revival of Sharkespear's Merchant of Venice (with Al Pacino).   

Surprise that the Trey Parker and Matt Stone of TV satire are now on the Broadway boards, with the Book of Mormon... Let that be an inspiration to you that you can transfer your skills, and do anything.

Wednesday
Apr272011

BOXING AND FAIR FIGHTING

Boxing has become popular, in films and TV shows.  I’ve become a new fan since my neighbor stars in a brilliant series Tuesday nights on FX called “Lights Out.”  Holt McCallanhy plays an Irish boxer with a heart; whose wife, doing her residency in her medical school training, tries to convince him to retire. 

 

Normally the sport is thought of as matches between overly aggressive animals trying to tear each other apart. Some are. After all, what civilized person bites off an ear? You hear stories about boxers beating up their women.  But at tonight’s Friars Club tribute to boxing, famous promoters said they are only interested in working with guys who are not just killing machines. 

 

As a psychologist, I note with interest that a tamed down version of the sport is even a “homework” exercise given to certain couples in counseling who are already at each other’s throats. They are given rules about “fair fighting.” These include “no hitting below the belt” which literally means no harm to sexual parts (e.g. “you’re bad in bed”) but in general parlance means you talk about the behavrio that upset you and not the person  (“I don’t like when you said … “ not “you’re nasty”). 

 

Other rules of fair fighting: The below are “Foul” (the first appraoch) versus “Fair: (the second approach)          

•      Generalizing (“you always / never….”) versus Sticking to the present (“this time you…”)

•      Blackmailing (“if you don’t…”) versus Making agreements (“what can we resolve?”)

•      Stereotyping (“all men/women…”) versus Pointing out specific behavior (“when you interrupt me, I get upset”)

•      Using negatives (“don’t...”, “you never…”) versus Being positive (“next time, will you…”)

•      Personal attacks (“bore”, “slob”) versus Concentrating on the specific act

•      Testing (“if you loved me…”) versus Describing feelings (I feel unloved when…”)

•      Judging (“you’re wrong”) versus Seeing each others point of view (“I can understand”)

•       Put-downs (“you’re worthless”) versus Respect

•       Sulking or withdrawing versus Facing the issue

•       Blaming parents (“you’re just like your parents”) versus Sticking to individual behaviors

•       Blaming (“you made me…”) versus Making “I” statements (“I was upset when you…”)

•       Being vague versus Giving details

•       Interrupting versus hearing the other person out

•       Close-minded versus Open-minded

•       Speaking for the other person versus Letting echa person have his/her say

•       Trivializing ideas versus Taking points seriously

•       Dismissing points versus Considering everything

•       Making threats versus Requesting change

•       Using profanity versus Choosing gracious wording

•       Getting verbally or physically abusive versus Staying respectful and in control

 

Pretend boxing for couples can be fun, to gently get out aggression.  A boxing ring was featured as one of the “fantasy” themes in a Japanese love hotel that I filmed for a story for Fox TV’s show “A Current Affair” (years ago).

 

Another technique is to have regular gripe session to air your grievances, so they don’t “gunnysack” (build up) and explode – after which you feel sorry.

 

Reportedly Barbra Streisand, 68, and hubby James Brolin, 70, use this technique to keep their 13-year relationship strong. In regular sessions he calls “tune-ups,” they have frank and difficult conversations about unsaid things and problems – like her tendency to control and his penchant for being left alone.  Supposedly recommending a referee (mediator, shrink, “guy from your church”), Jim is right when he says that by the end of such sessions you’ll be surprised how close you can feel.

 

Apparently tattooed tough guy boxing champ Mike Tyson has tamed his own demons by a longtime hobby of racing homing-pigeons.  Promoting his new reality series “Takingo n Tyson” on Animal Planet, the 44 year old ex-boxer revealed how he battled drinking and drug problems even ODing every day, thanks to his new (third) wife who nelieve sin him and makes him happy.

 

I can’t resist telling my favorite joke about boxing, which I learned at the Friars Club, where I am a member.  Their boxing days over, an aging Rocky Graciano was walking with equally aging Jake LaMotta, talking about how they can make more money since they were now “greeters” at hotels in Atlantic City. 

 

Rocky says to Jake, “Hey, you know how people are paying big money to go to the moon, we’ll set up a new business and take people to the sun.”

 

Jake looks at Rocky like his brains have been fried (of course they have a bit), and says, “Rocky, it’s hot. If they go to the sun, they’ll burn.”

 

Un-phased, Rocky counters, “Oh, then, we’ll go at night.”

 

Lights Out.

 

Sunday
Apr172011

The Heinous Womb Raider

      Women are victims but they are also perpetrators of evil.

      Like the Kentucky woman womb raider – not tomb raider as in the movie which starred Angelina Jolie.  A woman identified as 33 year old Kathy Michelle Coy was arrested and accused of kidnapping and murdering a young pregnant woman and stealing her baby.

     I had just seen a Lifetime Made for TV movie about this heinous crime.  A woman posed as a nurse to steal a young pregnant woman’s baby. 

     It has happened in real life: 271 cases in the U.S. have been reported since 1983, out of about 4 million babies born every year.  Half of abduction cases happen in health care facilities where a woman masqueraded as a hospital employee.

      Why does a woman do this, especially if she supposedly already had children?  I was asked by HLN host Jane Velez Mitchell on her TV show ISSUES which aired April 15,

     Some womb raiders are already mothers, but have a pathological need to have babies to bear children and to feel fulfilled, as they are empty inside.  This can be cultural, as women who are fertile and mothers are valued, given status and attention.  Others are infertile or have had miscarriages, and envy pregnant women or must have the baby to keep a man.

     In any case, womb raider/child snatchers are criminals and con artists.  They may also have personality disorders and have a psychotic delusion of having three baby, but I doubt they can be defended on the basis of temporary insanity (requiring a failure to know the difference between right and wrong) as they plan for a long time, befriending the pregnant woman, pretending to be a nurse, or in this case, lying that she was pregnant too and that she worked for a program providing diapers and clothes for newborns, changing her hair color, and ditching the woman’s body in the woods. 

     In this case, the coroner would not release the details about how the baby was extracted at this time.  But I know the horror that in other cases the baby snatcher uses scissors, knives or even box cutters to cut the pregnant woman’s stomach, performing a crude Caesarean.  

     Thus, the act has been called “newborn kidnapping by Caesarean section.”

     Thankfully in this case the infant survived (some die). The little boy will need professional support when he finds out the circumstances of his birth, and mourns his mother’s death and suffers anger towards the womb raider. 

     Grave sympathy to the father, who will always morn how his son was born.

     The neighbors also deserve sympathy.  They are victims too, as one neighbor expressed how she believed the womb raider when she said she was pregnant, thought “nothing seemed out of place” when she bought baby items from her yard sale, and had no idea she would do such a thing.  It’s that old mystery that the perpetrator of evil “seemed so normal” to others. The neighbors were all duped and undoubtedly will suffer too from questioning their judgment.

     Many in this tragedy need healing.     

     One last word about Facebook and its dangers.  Having just seen the made for TV movie The Craigslist killer, who met his prey on the internet, here’s another horrific use of social media: the womb raider met and befriended her prey, the pregnant woman, and her husband, on Facebook.

Sunday
Apr172011

Mother Drowns Self and Children: Why and What about the Boy who Survived

     In the infamous case years ago, Susan Smith locked her children in a car and sent it into the river, drowning and killing them.  She reportedly thought they were inhibiting her relationship with a man.

     Now, another woman does the same, but this time, grabbing on tightly her children with her in the car, driving it into the Hudson River, to kill them.

     Miraculously, her 10 year old son survived, crawling out of the car window and swimming to safety. 

     He then took the police to the place where the car went under.  Was this wise? I was asked by TV host Jane Velez Mitchell on her TV show ISSUES, which aired April 15th.       

As many people might suspect from common sense, going back to the scene of a trauma right away can be re-traumatizing for some, especially when someone is in shock, and especially for a little boy.  Later, returning to the scene can help processing – I have done this b taking people to the water’s edge after they experiences the terrors and loss after the tsunami in Sri Lanka -- but only if there is psychological help in how to process by releasing the anxiety of the experience (which this boy did not apparently get).

     The NY Post newspaper headline screamed “River Boys’ Smile.”  I am shocked. People can smile in nervousness and fear but this child is undoubtedly in shock and severe trauma; he was just trapped in a car to drown – by his mother, grabbing on to his leg, from which he struggled free.

     I fear for his suffering from survivor guilt, that he was the only one to escape when his younger subs – 5 and 2 year old half brothers and 11 month old half sister – drowned. He could not save them.  Worse yet, he had plans to teach them to swim, which never were realized.

     No doubt he will be depressed from the loss and trauma of his experience.  And furious at his mother, for this act.  He said his mother was holding on to all of them, saying “If I’m going to die, you’re all going to die with me.” He also she had regrets at the end.

     The trauma can lead to much dysfunction in relationships -- including distrust and anger and even disgust towards women, given not only his mother’s heinous act, but her desperation leading to suicide and homicide from feeling so abandoned by the children’s father. What message does this give the little boy about women feeling strong and empowered? 

     I fear too for the time when this little boy has children and fears what their mother might do.  It’s possible he may never want to have children, fearing such a repeated fate.

      It is essential that he get help from a child psychologist.             

     Facebook plays a role in this tragedy too; as the mother posted on her Facebook page “I’m sorry everyone forgive me please for what I’m gonna do… this is it!!!”  Her fantasy was to “always B 2together” – not an uncommon motive for a suicide, homicide or maternal filicide.   

     A woman must not be so desperate for a man or humiliated by his lack of attention or flaunting other women, hinging her life on him, losing her will to love if a man and deadbeat dad abandons her. Certainly mothers need to protect their children and not punish or endanger them or drag them down with her own fear of being alone or into her own depression.   

Friday
Apr152011

Freud Fans

  

  Consider understanding why you behave as you do according to a vision of a man struggling in a horse-driven carriage.  According to Freud, the horse is our id (driving us forth with passion), the carriage is the superego (which holds us back) and the man is the ego (negotiating the two).  I became fascinated with this metaphor in Psych 101 in college – that got me committed to being a psychologist. 

     While Freud has been much debated for his views, especially on sexuality, there is no denying that he was brilliant.  My training at NYU for my PhD was psychoanalytic and while cognitive-behavior therapy is all the vogue these days, I tell my students they should have a foundation in psychoanalytic theory since you cannot just alter thoughts and actions for lasting change - you must understand basic personality and family dynamics

     Another of Freud’s concepts I find valid: life can be understood in terms of two drives: eros (life, love, sex) and thanatos (aggression, death). 

     And who cannot be fascinated with the unconscious, dream analysis and of course “Freudian slips.” 

     If you have any fascination with Freud, you must see the play “Freud's Last Session” at the West Side Y in NYC. Two brilliant actors bring to life the two characters – an 83-year old Freud and a 41 year old Oxford professor -- as they banter and debate the question of whether God exists (Freud does not think so), and of course eventually touch upon Freud’s theory of sex as the lens for understanding all of life. Everyone is bisexual, says Freud.  Disputing the Bible, he says that no sex before marriage is “not only naïve, it’s mindless cruelty.. Like sending a young man off to perform his first concert with an orchestra when the only times he’s ever played his piccolo was alone in his room!”

     What justification for sex before marriage!

    And while Freud dodges the question of whether he ever had an affair, yet there have been rumors of dalliance with his sister-in-law.

     The young professor is hypothetically C.S. Lewis – the famed author of the masterpiece Chronicles of Narnia (now a movie).

     The performances of Martin Raynor as Freud, complete with the gestures and movements of an elderly man, and of Mark H. Dodd as Lewis, reflected their Shakespearean credits. Their timing, inflections, motions and emotions were all so impeccable, smooth, and perfect, making us in the audience think we were observing real people, looking in on Freud’s study in Hampstead, London, in 1939.  An air raid startles us, as it does them, and we are riveted to the radio, with reports from {rime Minister Chamberlain announcing news about the war (which Freud doubts will be the war to end all wars…),

     I learned some new things about Freud from the play (tho they maybe literary license…). Gods & Goddesses statues sat on Freud’s desk (Buddha, Zeus, Athena, Eros) which -- when challenged as evidence of a belief in God -- he explains as an "interest in ancient belief systems." Freud has two thousand pieces in storage, he says (I wonder how can Freud in 1939 have storage? I thought storage was a thing of the present, as people like me are overcome with stuff, evident in the TV show about hoarding). “I can’t go to a new city without seeking (things) out,” says Freud.  I must always have an object to love.”  Cleverly, Lewis replies, “Objects are safer than people.”

     Also, in the play Freud turns off music on the radio, explaining that he “objects to manipulation" -- that it is like listening to language without knowing what they are saying. I am surprised; I would have suspected Freud would enjoy the reveries and indulgence on fantasy that music can inspire.

     Freud was also funny. The character in the play says his dog is his “emotional barometer” – “If a patient is calm, he stretches out at my feet. But if a patient is agitated, Jo-Fi stands at my side and never takes his eyes off him.”

     Freud’s favorite joke, he relates in the play, is about the Pastor and the Village Atheist.  The Village Atheist was an Insurance Agent.  He asked the local Pastor if he could make a sick call.  The Atheist’s family was astonished; he was on his deathbed, they couldn’t believe he had the strength to speak with the Pastor, of all people.  One day the two men quarreled all night until finally at dawn the weary Pastor stumbled from the house.  The Villager had died, still an atheist.  But the Pastor was fully insured.

     The audience roared with laughter.  

     The humor is offset by pain. I kept wondering how such a celebrated and brilliant man who changed the face of psychology and history in all ways can live with the critiques and moments of private agony.  We never know what people are experiencing every day.

     Freud had oral cancer – a cruel twist of fate for a man who brilliantly defined stages of development as oral, anal and phallic.  Yet he does not give up cigar smoking – admitting that he is regressing to the oral stage.  I knew intellectually that Freud suffered from oral cancer, but his pain becomes emotionally visceral in the play.  I also never knew that he considered suicide - or so he says in the play, “I’ll kill myself before the cancer does.”             

    Another aspect of Freud’s life that has been discussed and debated intellectually is the subtext of his relationship with his daughter Anna and how much it influenced his theories about child sexual development based on the parent-child relationship.  In the play, Freud says that he only person permitted to touch his mouth, to help with the prosthesis put in his mouth as a result of surgery that removed his upper palate and jaw and seals off the roof of his mouth from his nasal cavity (but which he embarrassedly says smells) is his daughter Anna -- clearly ripe for Freudian interpretation.  And when he answers her phone call, his voice becomes sultry, petulant when he learns she will be late, and thrilled when a subsequent phone call alerts that she is arriving.

     Anna presented a professional paper for acceptance into the Psychoanalytic Society, Freud explains in the play, on the topic of sado-masochistic fantasies (an intriguing thought, given the S-M of Hitler), and surprisingly based on her own analysis, by Freud – her father!  This all supports how Freud could come up with his theories of sexuality! 

     In the play Freud tells the professor that Anna never married.  In true interpretive style, one of the eminent psychologists I saw the play with, Florence Denmark – equally intrigued and appreciative of the play – noted how Anna never marrying suggests her fixation on her father, suggesting that no man was ever enough in comparison.  I note that so many women in real life now can suffer from the same phenomenon, that no man can measure up to daddy’s adoration of her.

     Denmark, former President of the American Psychological Association and now a Professor Emeritus at Pace University in NY City and a fellow representative at the United Nations for my organization (the International Association of Applied Psychology) was intrigued with the debated question about whether there is an afterlife.  Freud’s clever answer to C.S. Lewis who believes in it:  “If you are right, you can tell me I’m wrong, but if I am right, you’ll never know.” 

     Another psychologist friend who saw the play with me, Tara Pir, noted how the Freud character said that everyone is bisexual. Tir, founder and CEO/Executive Director of the Institute for Multicultural Counseling and Education Services, Inc. in Los Angeles,  was touched by the vulnerability and humanness enacted in the Freud character, the variety of the contradictions in his repartee with Lewis, and Freud’s humbleness and acceptance of his fears at the end.

     In true Freudian analytic thinking, when Lewis says he feared and detested his father, Freud notes, “A normal father-son dynamic.  Childlike adoration turns to realization of his weaknesses, then the desire to displace him.”

     I remember doing a TV story when I was a feature news reporter for WCBS-TV on the Oedipal complex, and the five year old son of my husband’s friend Rick Mezan, actually took a bat to his father’s head and said “I’m going to kill you and marry mommy.”  Straight out of Freud’s textbook phallic stage!

     “I apply the term ‘sexual’ to all interactions that bring pleasurable feelings,” says the Freud character.  “Genital contact, an infant suckling at its mother’s breast or the delight of a four year old girl sitting at her father’s knee.  Sexuality is the font of all happiness.”

     Pir treated us to a script, with signatures of the actors and playwright, Mark St. Germain, with proceeds going to Broadway Cares.  It allowed me to check back into the joke        

     We all know about Freudian slips – how things we say supposedly accidentally reveal truth.  A great quote related to communication from the play:  "What people say is less important than what they cannot."

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