Dr. Judy 24/7
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."

Thursday
Dec232010

Dr. Judy talks Aerosmith's Steven Tyler & 'Idol'

 

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, a new judge on American Idol, is being credited as “Resuscitating the Show”!  He sure juiced up my Z100 radio call-in show LovePhones when he was an “Honorary Love Doctor” adding his advice to mine.  This photo is of Tyler with Dr. Judy backstage at the 25th anniversary of the original Woodstock (1969)!  Also check out Tyler’s advice on sex and love in my book “Generation Sex” which you can buy here    

Thursday
Dec232010

Dr. Judy travels back down memory lane with CNN's Larry King

 

It seems like just yesterday!  Here we are at the Democratic National Convention in 1992, behind the scenes at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  How time flies!  It is now years later and Larry King is going off the air after 25 years as the 'king' of his signature CNN talk show.  I’ve seen it many times when I’ve been traveling all over the world.  I recall one time in particular, having breakfast at my hotel in Beijing  (of course due to the time zone difference, when it’s night in NY, it’s morning in Asia).  Take a look at the transcript from Larry’s show, “Stars’ Secret Battle with Depression”, that I was on.  Other guests were actor Robin Givens, country music star Tanya Tucker and TV anchor Deborah Norville, all of whom shared their personal experiences while I offered advice about how to cope.

Monday
Nov292010

Stop Sex Slavery: Efforts Honored by the UN and CNN

A brave diminutive Nepalese woman was voted the CNN Hero of the Year 2010 in the star-studded Thanksgiving eve televised celebration of real people who make a difference in the world. The 10 men and women from around the world had been nominated and voted by the public on CNN’s website throughout the year.  Hollywood celebrity and anti-slavery activist Demi Moore, was on stage to hug Anuradha Koirala, when she accepted her award and $100,000 from CNN. 

Koirala, who said, “Human trafficking is a crime, a heinous crime, a shame to humanity…I ask everyone to join me to create a society free of trafficking. We need to do this for all our daughters,” Koirala said.

It’s a testimony to the fact that the world is paying attention to the problem of trafficking. 

About 3 years ago at a screening at the United Nations, I had seen a riveting docu-drama about child sex trafficking called “Holly,” produced by Israeli-born producer Guy Jacobsen, who founded the Redlight Children Campaign to help fight child prostitution after being horrified while being solicited by little girls while wandering the streets of Cambodia, with a little one telling him, “I yum yum very good.” Posing as a client to film scenes of the underworld, the writer-director Guy Moshe had bodyguards and had to smuggle footage out, facing contracts taken out on their lives during filming.

I knew trafficking was happening in other parts of the world, but then one of my colleagues at the United Nations, Joan Levy (who co-developed the International Student Journalism program with me), told me that the problem is right here in America too. I interviewed Joan about the work of her NGO, End Child Prostitution and Sexual Trafficking of Children for a television series I hosted of UN NGO leaders:  http://www.lightmillennium.org/unngo_profiles/joan_alevy_drjudy.html.

Then just recently, the issue of trafficking was front and center again at the United Nations, when Demi Moore and her husband joined the UN Secretary General for the formal launch of the Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking at a panel on November 4, 2010 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. 

Moore described the plight of a 17-year young girl she met who had been plunged into sex slavery, “When she was 11years old, she was given a mandate to make $1,500 a night. If not, she was beaten.” 

The story resounds for thousands of girls around the world trapped in trafficking, a global problem Moore and her actor/activist husband, Ashton Kutcher, are devoted to stop through the work of their DNA Foundation (the Demi & Ashton Foundation).

The Trust Fund is part of the new United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly last July. The plan coordinates efforts of countries and organizations against trafficking which victimizes more than 2.4 million people, mostly women and children, in forms of exploitation like sex trade, domestic servitude, organ removal and forced labor, forced marriage or begging.

UN Secretary General G Ban Ki-Moon described the plight of the victims, that “they end up stranded, friendless, trapped in modern day slavery” and that “they may be seized by fear – fear that they will be treated as criminals even though they have been forced to engage in criminal acts.”

Other panelists included UN General Assembly President, Joseph Deiss, New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning author-journalist, Nicholas Kristof (co-author of “Half the Sky: From Oppression to Opportunity for Women Worldwide”), Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which is managing the Fund and UNODC New York office Chief, Simone Monasebian.  In the audience were civil society leaders in victims’ rights, experts from academia and law enforcement, NGO representatives, and sex slavery survivors.

 

The stage was adorned by signage of the UNODC and the Blue Heart Campaign -- the Blue Heart is the international symbol against human trafficking and of solidarity with its victims.  “Have a Heart for Victims of Human Trafficking” is the Trust Fund’s fund-raising appeal.   

 

Fedotov noted the 3 P’s of the strategy: Prevention of trafficking in persons, Prosecution of perpetrators, and Protection of victims. 

Identifying victims is often difficult, however, because of indoctrination and blackmail that makes them fear for their lives and their families.  

Eradicating trafficking has to include governments, celebrities and others,”said Fedotov, quoting Ashton Kutcher that trafficking is “not cool.” Acknowledged were Ambassador Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima of Cape Verde and Ambassador José Filipe Moraes Cabral of Portugal for their leadership in establishing the Global Action Plan, and UNODC Goodwill Ambassadors, actors Mira Sorvino and Nicholas Cage and painter Ross Bleckner, for their advocacy on behalf of trafficked victims.

Moore was introduced as being “a master on the internet” as “she has 6 million followers on twitter and the UN has only 125,000.”  The audience laughed.  Moore is well-known for her staring roles in films such as “Ghost,” “Indecent Proposal,” “A Few Good Men,” “Striptease,” “GI Jane” and last year’s “The Joneses.” 

How did the Moore and Kutcher decide on this issue?  Moore explained, “We didn’t think we had something we connected with…Then we met some girls who had been abducted….and could not just sit back…we spent a year educating ourselves…[we] became overwhelmed about the numbers of vulnerable children who were being robbed of their childhoods.”  

Moore noted myths including that the girls want to do it; that sex slavery is such an invisible crime that people can say “I’m not seeing it.”; that it’s an epidemic with no cure; and that “the collective unconscious needs to change” to celebrate women and respect their bodies. 

“It’s difficult to motivate people to have that dirty little conversation [about trafficking]”, Moore said, wondering about how you would sit around the dinner table and tell children about 3 year olds being raped by gangs of 20 men.  Yet people have to know.  “Drugs can’t talk, arms can’t talk, but people can,” she said.  “They can be allies in trafficking if they know how the dirty industry works.”

Expressing sensitivity speaking to a UN audience, Kutcher apologized for only speaking in the English language, and for his impassioned speaking style, saying “I’m sorry I get so fired up…you’re not supposed to do that at these things.”  The audience chuckled and  a panelist said that he should be made a UN Ambassador.

Kutcher, well-known for his role in the Fox sitcom “That 70’s Show” and producing and hosting the popular TV show “Punk’d”, and lately in movies like “Valentine’s Day,” is now known for the phrase “Real men don’t buy girls.”

Once men hear about trafficking of girls from the average age of 13, Kutcher said, “suddenly it does not become sexy.”  He added, “Men should be standing up against this crime…Men need to know that girls don’t grow up saying, ‘When I grow up, I want to sleep with strangers’” and that they have “an optionless life,” he said, urging, “Stop calling it ‘the oldest profession’ as if it were a job.”

Panelists acknowledged Sweden’s success in combating trafficking by putting pressure on the “johns” and making the business less successful.  Prosecuting the customers (not the women), making anonymous johns “not so anonymous” and making male customers accountable, resulted in reducing the number of johns by 75% and reducing the numbers of commercial sex slaves by half.    

“There is a difference between the desire for sex and sex itself…. Sex for itself is a wonderful thing [and a choice], but buying sex is not [and is different],” Moore said. She described pimps as “Daddy Day Care” offering promises of treats and trips to the mall, as well as love and the sense of belonging that troubled girls respond to and need. 

Panelist Ruchira Gupta, founder of the NGO Apne Aap which promotes anti-human trafficking initiatives and women's rights in India, said UN pressure is necessary and that member states need to band together.  Besides rescuing the women and providing shelters, the women need job training to establish an independent life and need “to be treated as human beings” who can make decisions.   

Other solutions noted by panelists: Attitudes have to be changed, for example, that men have unbridled sex drives, and that giving out condoms solves the problem when in reality it protects the men from AIDS but does not protect the girl victims. Also, women need to be considered equal; “Equality is a campaign that needs to be launched.” Additionally, the “business model” of trafficking has to be affected, such that money is not made; in one example, an owner turned her brothel into a grocery store.

Donors in the audience spoke. The delegate from the government of Egypt announced that the First Lady of Egypt, Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, has launched an initiative to “Stop Human Trafficking Now.” The delegate from Luxembourg pledged to donate money and the speaker from Malaysia pledged USD$5,000, saying that “While the amount is not big, it is a commitment.” Other donors are the Government of Qatar ($500,000) and Orascom Telecom.

U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who had just won re-election and whose district includes the United Nations, congratulated the UN on the Voluntary Trust Fund, and mentioned the importance of legislation.  She noted that trafficking rates are high in the U.S. and that the American government is giving this crime priority, with the effort being bi-partisan despite new divides in Congress. That reminded on my friend Joan Levy’s NGOs’ efforts.

Two survivors of trafficking who founded NGOs to prevent their fate, were in the audience: Rani Hong, founder of the Tronie Foundation and Rachel Lloyd, founder of GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services).  Lloyd expressed disappointment the panel did not include survivors, suggesting that “our voices are not as valid as other experts… but our voice is as valid.” The significance of her journey and her presence at the meeting was acknowledged from the chair. 

For more information, see http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking-fund.html and to pledge to the Trust Fund – by governments, foundations, organizations or individuals -- contact Ms. Simone Monasebian, Chief of UNODC New York Office, at 1-212-963-5631, or email monasebian@un.org

Monday
Nov292010

Rosanne Cash on Life, the List and Johnny Cash’s Big Black Hats

 

 

The late country music icon, Johnny Cash, was asked one day by a fan, “Are you Rosanne Cash’s father?”  Now Cash’s daughter, Rosanne, is telling her story of the challenges of growing up as the child of that superstar performer and how she finally came in to her own.

 

The auditorium of the 92 Street Y in New York City was packed on October 7, 2010, as Rosanne was interviewed by American novelist A.M. Homes in an engaging conversation style, answered audience questions, played her favorite Bob Dylan song live, and later signed copies of her new book, “Composed.” 

 

As a psychologist, of course I was fascinated by her revelations about her childhood and how she overcame writer’s block and brain surgery.  Some highlights from the evening on:

 

(1) Growing up the daughter of Johnny Cash (and his first wife, before his marriage to June Carter).  Rosanne admitted that “At first, it was difficult growing up with a famous dad, who was ‘an iconic figure’.” She “resented it at first” and “had a chip on my shoulder about my parents” but then went on the road with him (when she was 18 years old) and “realized I could be bitter, but saw he had a bigger mission.”  Still, she moved to Europe to “separate myself” and later felt about her heritage that “it became beautiful.”



 

(2) Her favorite topic:  quantum physics, as she says, “there is such poetry in the language of physics.” Her pay-off for speaking at Harvard’s Kirkland House was meeting any professor at the top Ivy League school.  She picked physics professor Lisa Randall, featured in the New York Times for her work on extra dimensions, whom Cash says, “dumbed down for me… asked me about music and became a friend.” Quantum physics unravels mysteries of the universe!

 

(3) Overcoming fears in her career. As a 24-year old, she wrote a song about street people, that became a big hit, but she says, it “scared me to death.” Despite being an Grammy-award winner, Rosanne reveals, “I had a lot of fear to overcome…I had stage fright… [thinking] Why am I doing this? [wondering] should I just be “in my father’s shadow all my life…never being as good as Bob Dylan (her favorite songwriter).”

She got over writers blocks by saying to herself, “Keep doing it” until in her 40s, when she decided “I got it.”  Now, she says, “When it’s really not coming, I go to the refrigerator.”

A recent big success is her studio album, “The List,” with 12 of the 100 songs her father gave her when she was 18 on a list of essential country and American songs.  (The album includes vocal duets with Brice Springsteen and Elvis Costello among others). 

She finds inspiration from American philosopher, inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller, in his advice to “always to tell only the truth, and all the truth, and to do so promptly—right now.”

(4) Overcoming adversity. Rosanne echoed a phrase my mom often tells me, about having to develop a “thick skin” once she moved to New York City – which anyone who lives here knows you need to survive this tough environment.  Fortunately (describing a perfect combination in my psychological view), she said she has “a thick skin but an open heart.”

In 2007, Rosanne had brain surgery, While fortunately the tumor was benign, as a result, she sometimes has headaches and aphasia, once saying “batteries” when she really meant to say “credit card.” The upside, she says, is that she still gets some great ideas and that her “music got 27% better.” Also -- as everyone who has gone through trauma knows – while you can feel as Rosanne does, that “there is not enough time to complete what I have to complete,” you also develop like Rosanne, “a sense of the precious every day.”

(5) About musicians needing to have social responsibility:  We often hold celebrities and artists to a high standard, insisting they be role models for a better world. Says Rosanne in response, “There’s nothing worse than proselytizing, but be your authentic self.”

 

(6) Cultural clothing symbols.  Rosanne liked my jacket (see picture), A grey Nicole Miller with beaded lapels.  Funny how a piece of wardrobe can take on a life on its own, becoming a cultural symbol.  Johnny Cash was always known for his big black hat, but daughter Rosanne says “he was not a big hat guy.”

 

Rosanne’s address to the adults followed a discussion with a group of youth, launching an educational outreach program, “The Lyricist’s Voice,” provided free to New York City high school students, combining classroom sessions, workshops, and meetings with award-winning authors and musicians about their art. The 92nd Street Y's Poetry Center Schools Project is supported by Time Warner Cable New York and Ovation TV (the interesting TV culture-channel for whom for whom my long-time friend from CBS-TV, Ellen Schned, works).

 

 

 

Sunday
Nov142010

Commitments for Social Change

Clinton Global Initiative Helmets for Kids
 
A man holding colorful helmets immediately drew my attention as I entered the bustling exhibit hall at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).  Grieg Craft, founder of Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF), explained to me that over 100 million motorbikes on the roads of Asia have resulted in traffic accidents that have become the major killer of young people and children.  Grieg’s organization gave 350,000 children in Vietnam lightweight “tropical” helmets that have saved many from death.  Just as touching, the helmets are assembled by physically disabled workers.

 

 

I was impressed with Craft’s story because I experienced the terror of the roads in Vietnam first hand.  On a trip to that country after giving a speech in Singapore, I was walking one rainy night in the streets of DaNang with my assistant, Deborah Shoenblum (at the time, one of my students at Columbia University Teachers College, now a full-fledged social worker, doing good for people), darting among bikes and motorbikes perilously zipping, zigging and zagging in both directions.  Sure enough, an older man on a bike skidded in front of an oncoming car and was thrown to the ground, bleeding. No one made a move to his aide, so I rushed to his side and begged a passing driver to take us to the nearest hospital.  Driving through dark back streets, we finally arrived at a dilapidated hospital building.  After a long wait, he was brought into a room and laid on an old torn, falling-apart chair, that to my shock, as a dentist’s daughter, I recognized as an antiquated dental chair.  The instruments were from a similar era.  I paid his treatment bill, and tried unsuccessfully to reach any relatives.  The experience was traumatizing, and the memory made me really appreciate Craft’s project.

“Helmets are not a sexy issue,” Craft told me (using a catchy phrase he didn’t realize related to a field I knew well).  “But in the development world,” he added. “This is a road war of epidemic proportions.”  Given that road accidents without helmets cause brain damage and kill more people than malaria and other diseases, Craft refers to this project as the “Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative.”

Craft’s commitment is deep, given that one brother was killed in a motorbike accident and another was hit by a speeding drunk driver. Also, in 1996, he told me, he was a successful and ambitious Ferrari-driving party-going entrepreneur in real estate, steel, oil and gas, but when a big deal went sour, his soul felt “empty” and he had an epiphany:  “I woke up one morning and said, “There has to be more in life than this.”  I hear a similar story from a growing number of people who tell me, “I want to make a difference in this world.”

The American-born philanthropist has been successful in launching a national helmet wearing law in his beloved Vietnam, with compliance resulting in a 24% reduction in injuries and 14% fewer deaths in one year, despite that people persistently complain that wearing one is “hot and heavy” or “ruins my hair.”

His campaign is now expanding into India and Africa (Senegal and Uganda), thanks to partners like the InterAmerican Development Bank.  Of course, there has to be funding, and CGI is an ideal place to bring donors together with do-gooders.

Road safety even got the attention of the United Nations, when Secretary General Kofi Annan launched the World Traffic Report on Road Traffic Safety, and, I remember, Iran’s UN envoy, Mohammed Javad Zarif, Acting President of the United Nations’ 58th General Assembly, chaired a session addressing global road safety.

The CGI exhibit hall, like at most conferences, is a room with booths where organizations and companies addressing global problems like disease and hunger display their projects and network.  The exhibit occurs on the first day of the CGI, held yearly at the Sheraton Center in New York City, to bring together heads of state, CEOs, Peace Prize Laureates, NGOs, philanthropists, media and celebrities to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, and to make commitments of their time, talent and/or treasure to make a difference.  The three-day conference happens in September to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly when world leaders are in New York.

 

Other projects that intrigued me at the exhibit included a reading project for Arab children and the American Jewish World Service’s commitment to Haiti (given my own work in recovery there and being invited to join Clinton’s Haiti Action Network).
 

 

 

At the opening ceremony, President Clinton announced new commitments focused on relief to disaster-affected areas in the Gold Coast, Pakistan and Haiti for which he is the UN envoy (and launched the Haiti Action Network facilitated by Digicel Groups’ Denis O’Brien, which I have been invited to join).  Commitments have been made worth $224 million to help the country “build back better” (other postings describe my own commitments to that country).

The four topics this year were Global Health, Education, Economic Empowerment, and Environment and Energy.  But there was much focus on empowering girls and women.  For example, CBS’ Katie Couric moderated a session on Empowering Girls and Women, featuring the female Liberian President, the CEO of Coca-Cola, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton also announced an impressive commitment of $60 million to supply 100 million homes with clean cook stoves, to replace open fires and dirty stoves, and thereby reduce illnesses like childhood pneumonia and low birth weight.  Morgan Stanley, the Shell Foundation and the UN Food Program are pitching in.  Another project helping women is Stree Mukti Sanhatana’s commitment to train poor women rag pickers. 

Mobile phones were also a big topic of discussion, with cell technology being harnessed for economic empowerment to provide access to data to help girls stay in school and farmers get their products to market.  Refugees United committed to register families about missing loved ones; Tostan’s Jokko Initiative teaches literacy in Senegal; and Digital Democracy is establishing a text-messaging service in Haiti to connect women leaders and a call center for gender- based violence, and training women to document attacks in camps.  I’ve heard that financial transactions will all be online in the future, and the Mobile Money for the Unbanked project is already piloting mobile money platforms! 

Celebrities with a cause are always present.  In the past, I watched Angelina Jolie address throngs gathered to see her.  This year I was in the elevator with Barbra Streisand (in trademark black) and her husband James Brolin.  On panels were Ashley Judd (board member of Population Services International) and Ashton Kutcher (co-chair of the Demi and Ashton Foundation).  Of personal interest, the former President of my alma mater Smith College, Ruth Brown, now President of Brown, was on a panel about “Investing in Women and Girls.”   

President Obama came to the closing session, introducing his wife as the featured speaker, with the most flattering speech I’ve ever heard about a spouse, saying that her popularity outranks his, making him glad he doesn’t have to run against her for an office.  The First Lady spoke about her passionate cause:  those American troops and their spouses be called upon to serve as consultants and assistants in world projects.  The events ended with Clinton interviewing Bill Gates, who has traveled with Clinton to many parts of the world, especially Africa.  Many of us were surprised that the billionaire philanthropist was not so optimistic about the reduction of world hunger and the eradication of major diseases, two of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals that governments of the world agreed to address and have been struggling to achieve. 

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Oct282010

The 8th Annual We Are Family Foundation Gala hosted at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City

 

“We are Family” is a tune that stays in your head.  Remember Sister Sledge singing lyrics like  “I got all my sisters with me...We’re giving love in a family dose…Have faith in you and the things you do…”?

I love those messages.

The song was co-written by legendary songwriter and producer Nile Rodgers, a friend of mine.  Nile wrote huge hits of the disco scene, like "Le Freak" and "Everybody Dance," and also produced the likes of David Bowie, Duran Duran, INKS, Diana Ross, the B-52s and Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” album.   

Then after 9/11, he started the “We are Family Foundation” (WAFF), (www.wearefamilyfoundation.org), a nonprofit organzition, inspired to promote a global family, and now supporting educational projects in 20 countries.  After 9/11, the master musician organized re-recording the hit song with over 200 musicians, celebrities and personalities, which was then made into a music video, documentary and version with children’s TV characters.

WAFF had their big fund-raiser Tuesday night with awards and performances by a bevy of stars.  

I was delighted to see B52’s Kate Pierson, with her gorgeous flaming red hair and clear blue eyes.  It was especially moving because just the day before I had met an adorable little girl with red hair and freckles (in Sam’s Club), whom my mom and I had told she was beautiful.  Sadly, her dad shared with me she is constantly picked on – bullied – by other girls in school, pointing out her freckles and red hair and calling her ugly. 

I was so upset.  “What do you do to help her,” I asked the dad?

“We do the “and” and ‘so’ technique,” he explained: that when the girls say mean things to her, she should be calm (since bullies like a reaction) and simply say “so” and “and” and walk away.

He explained that he has also called the bully girls’ parents and they supposedly talked to their children but that he fears it only makes things worse. Telling school officials, he said, have also not stopped the verbal attacks.

My mom and I both looked at the little girl and told her, “You are so beautiful.  You  are special. I know it’s hard to de with this, and for you to believe now that you are beautiful but you are!  You are different – in a wonderful way! The other girls are jealous.”

I suggested to her, “How about saying to them calmly, ‘It would be better for you to be nice.’  That might show how confident you are and not upset by them.” Maybe it would also teach them a lesson.

She looked at me shyly and agreed she would try that.

I asked Kate Pierson what she would say to that little girl, as she also has beautful blue eyes and even more flaming red hair.

“I would tell her that she should appreciate who she is!” Kate told me. 

Great answer! It’s right in the We Are Family spirit!

Another guest that night had a message that appealed to me as a psychologist. Susan Cohn Rockefeller produced the documentary “Striking a Chord:  Music can Heal Invisible Wounds” (www.strikingachirdthemovie.com); I certainly know that research proves that music has power to heal. In fact, my own band The Stand Up for Peace Project, writes and performs music to heal, and our first song was specifically for healing after 9/11, just like the birth of WAFF!

Co-host of the night political satirist Mo Rocco said the perfect comment to me (as a psychologist), when I asked him about what he feels is special about him.  “I am good to touch,” he said, describing that the skin on his face is so soft and that his velvet jacket feels good to touch.  “You’re very right,” I told him, “Touch is very powerful, not just for pleasure but for healing.”

WAFF embodies the message of Noble Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu: “If you want to change, you must be the change.”  In the spirit of peace, the WAFF Humanitarian award that night went to Jackson Browne for spreading peaceful messages through music. 

When Browne was being interviewed by Lauren Mikler, my friend from HLN’s ShowBiz Tonight now at NY1, she asked him the perfect question, right in my ballpark: how does his more folksy-style music combines with Nile’s more up-tempo disco sound? He described how well they complement each other!

In my lingo, it’s the question:  “Do opposites attract?”  So many people ask me that, in my role as a psychologist and dating expert. We get along great, Jackson explained. I agree!  Opposites can attract balance each other, and learn from each other.  And it is also true, by the way, that “birds of a feather flock together.”

Jackson and Nile also epitomized another wonderful psychological principle: friendship and supporting each other’s lives and work glues people together – even if you go separate ways for years.  That was proved by a surprise reunion that night for Jackson and my wonderful videographer teammate (who produced and edited the video in this story), Sandi Bachom, who grew up with Jackson in California, and brought along a photo (with a message on the back) of him at 17 years old looking handsome holding his guitar.  Seeing Sandi, he gushed!  Even she and I have had our own reunion, after meeting years ago at the spa Rancho La Puerta but not reunited until I noticed this energetic redhead filming Kurtis Sliwa’s fundraiser. 

The evening turned gold in another way: an impressive $2 million was raised—amazing for this economy, when the NY Times only recently ran an article about benefits suffering.  Some of the money goes to support another of WAFF’s laudable projects, Three Dot Dash, which supports teen leaders around the world working for peace.   A true child prodigy was at the gala, who spoke like such a mature young man, who told me that his musical preferences range from Chopin to the Beatles.  It’s encouraging to see such talent and composure in such a youth – encouraging for our future in music and life!

Page 1 ... 6 7 8 9 10 ... 11 Next 10 Entries »