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Sunday, May 31, 2009

She Said What?

I can’t resist but to throw out some quotes and thoughts about this whole Sonia Sotomayor controversy. You know the issue, way back when, she said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion that a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Wow, if she said that to me at a cocktail party, I’d think she’s totally conceited, grandiose, pretentious, narcissistic! And if I had at least two glasses of Pinot, I would throw my gauntlet down and engage in a civilized debate about just what she meant by that. Of course we know she must remain silent during this courting phase of the nomination. The opposition to her nomination isn’t necessarily attacking her, but rather asking for clarification. The White House dude Gibbs didn’t help when he tried defending her by saying she was “simply saying she has a different background that could lead to different conclusions.” Because guess what, a “different” conclusion may not be the best, most ethical, most unbiased conclusion. So here’s the spot where I have to stick in a quote from a famous white guy…Benjamin Franklin said, “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.” The point here is, what she said was not a racist remark; it was a remark about herself, about her excessive appreciation of her own self-worth, about her lack of empathy…a revelation of her character. On face value, her comment speaks to her belief that she is unique, better, above others. On face value, her comment speaks to her narrow view that others may not have lived the kind of life she has, and that her life experience was “better.” I keep using the word “better” because that is what she said. Another great quote from a white guy…Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” We all say stupid things, even people who graduated second in their class at Princeton! Everyone keeps talking about her intellect and college resume, but all the intelligence in the world doesn’t make up for innate character flaws. Let’s wait and hear what she says about it. Another white man quote…Albert Einstein said, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I Think I'm Gonna Be Sad

I think I’m gonna be sad…Karen Carpenter sang that line in her song Ticket to Ride. I love that line because it reminds me I have choices. I can choose how I will react to a situation. I’ve recently returned from a stellar conference on depression. There were reviews of the latest medications and treatments, but the one thing that stuck with me the most was the discussion about patient self-ratings of their mood. I started wondering, what if on that particular day they chose to be a bit sadder than the day before, and how does that sway the rating? And how does that rating effect the treatment? The most difficult part of treating people with depression is figuring out its origin. Depression is a symptom. Just like chest pain is a symptom. Are you depressed because your brain neurotransmitters aren’t working right? Are you having chest pain because you are having a heart attack? Are you depressed because your spouse died? Are you having chest pain because you are about to have a job interview and you’re nervous? So maybe there are times we can’t choose. You can’t choose not to have a neurotransmitter malfunction and you can’t choose not to have a heart attack. So what’s Karen Carpenter singing about? She’s singing about perception. Who knew she was an undercover philosopher posing as a fabulous singer! Most of my depressed patients need medication, and it is often a long road to finding the right one. But I’m walking the road with you, and we are simultaneously working on the philosophy of perception. What does perception have to do with depression? Perception is the effect or product of perceiving…and perceiving is to become aware, to attain awareness. The Dalai Lama said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Karen Carpenter was right! She chose to be sad that day…that day she sang about her man leaving. The lesson here is simple…don’t miss your therapy appointments! The medication alone will not make you feel your best. You must work on your perceptions and reactions to outside events. You can choose to suffer, or you can choose to learn, grow and move on. Shakespeare said it best, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Secrets and Karma

May 3, 2009

I’m not sure I wanted to know about waterboarding. Who’s with me on this? Did we need or want to know about the action known as waterboarding. The American Civil Liberties Union thinks we should know and see waterboarding. They filed a lawsuit in an effort to expose pictures and interrogation notebooks. What I know right now is that I’ve felt safe since 9/11. I’ve felt that my government did what they needed to at that particular moment in time to keep us safe. Even President Obama acknowledges that the information gained from Abu Zubaydah after he was waterboarded most likely disrupted major al-Qaida attacks and saved us all. But then Obama said, “waterboarding violates our ideals and our values.” There is even some sort of official secrets act from the Senate Intelligence committee that made it a crime to disclose any type of classified information. I’m so confused! Was it the right thing to do or not? Like it or not, President Obama has guided us into the world of “transparency.” So now we have to grapple with waterboarding. Truthfully, I liked it better when it was a secret. Solomon Ibn Gabirol said, “Your secret is your prisoner; once you reveal it, you become its slave.” Is waterboarding worse than the death penalty? Is it worse than shooting three pirates in the head? The names of the men who developed and implemented waterboarding were released to the public, mug shots and all. So do we get to see the people who shot the pirates in the head? How about mug shots of all the people who gave a lethal injection? We can all remember times in our lives when we heard a secret and it was detrimental, even painful. And after learning the secret, were you better off than before? Most likely…just scorned. To me, revealing the waterboarding secret is not about justice. Justice is a man-made concept based on reward and punishment. It’s really about karma. Karma is the natural law of cause and effect. It is a response in the moment, a response based on how you feel at that moment. So waterboarding seemed like the right thing at that moment? Maybe. So it seemed like the right thing to do when President Obama gave the order to shoot three pirates in the head, right? Three people died to save one. Is that ok? Just as it seems like the right thing to do when we kill a death row inmate? There’s two points to all this. Think long and hard about the effects of transparency before you tell a secret, and, remember the natural laws of cause and effect. Listen to how you feel in the moment, and ask yourself if it feels like the right thing to do.