Saturday, May 6, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dr. Freud!

Do we really want clinical psychologists who know Structural Equation Modeling but not Shakespeare or Freud?
"In the opening soliloquy to Shakespeare's Richard III, Gloucester, who subsequently becomes King, says:
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature,
Deform'd, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable,
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain,
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
At a first glance this tirade may perhaps seem unrelated to our present theme. Richard seems to say nothing more than: ‘I find these idle times tedious, and I want to enjoy myself. As I cannot play the lover on account of my deformity, I will play the villain; I will intrigue, murder and do anything else I please.’ Such a frivolous motivation could not but stifle any stirring of sympathy in the audience, if it were not a screen for something much more serious. Otherwise the play would be psychologically impossible, for the writer must know how to furnish us with a secret background of sympathy for his hero, if we are to admire his boldness and adroitness without inward protest; and such sympathy can only be based on understanding or on a sense of a possible inner fellow-feeling for him.
I think, therefore, that Richard's soliloquy does not say everything; it merely gives a hint, and leaves us to fill in what it hints at. When we do so, however, the appearance of frivolity vanishes, the bitterness and minuteness with which Richard has depicted his deformity make their full effect, and we clearly perceive the fellow-feeling which compels our sympathy even with a villain like him. What the soliloquy thus means is: ‘Nature has done me a grievous wrong in denying me the beauty of form which wins human love. Life owes me reparation for this, and I will see that I get it. I have a right to be an exception, to disregard the scruples by which others let themselves be held back. I may do wrong myself, since wrong has been done to me.’ And now we feel that we ourselves might become like Richard, that on a small scale, indeed, we are already like him. Richard is an enormous magnification of something we find in ourselves as well. We all think we have reason to reproach Nature and our destiny for congenital and infantile disadvantages; we all demand reparation for early wounds to our narcissism, our self-love. Why did not Nature give us the golden curls of Balder or the strength of Siegfried or the lofty brow of genius or the noble profile of aristocracy? Why were we born in a middle-class home instead of in a royal palace? We could carry off beauty and distinction quite as well as any of those whom we are now obliged to envy for these qualities.
It is, however, a subtle economy of art in the poet that he does not permit his hero to give open and complete expression to all his secret motives. By this means he obliges us to supplement them; he engages our intellectual activity, diverts it from critical reflection and keeps us firmly identified with his hero. A bungler in his place would give conscious expression to all that he wishes to reveal to us, and would then find himself confronted by our cool, untrammelled intelligence, which would preclude any deepening of the illusion."

Sigmund Freud, Some Character Types Met with in Psychoanalytical Work


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"The world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best." -- Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)

“You may of course ask whether we really need to refer to "saints." Wouldn't it suffice just to refer to decent people? It is true that they form a minority. More than that, they always will remain a minority. And yet I see therein the very challenge to join the minority. For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.

So, let us be alert — alert in a twofold sense:

Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of.

And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.”

Postscript 1984 : The Case for a Tragic Optimism, based on a lecture at the Third World Congress of Logotherapy, Regensburg University (19 June 1983)



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Does academia suffer from a deficit of barroom brawlers?

Harry Crews, writer and professor of creative writing, University of Florida

"Crews poured himself into his students’ work with the same energy that he did his own. In class, he would amaze students by offering page-by-page suggestions on minor details about their stories, from memory. Even after the class concluded, he was known to run into students in the hall and offer comments on work the student hadn’t thought about for months. 
His rough exterior camouflaged a deep compassion for his students. The fledgling writers in his classroom poured their souls onto the page. Crews understood that vulnerability, and the responsibility that came with accepting it. "They are bringing me their blood and bone," he liked to say. 
To attend a Crews lecture, students would say, was to witness a performance, or a sermon. Former students, looking back from a window of 30 years, remember him pacing back and forth across the stage, waving his arms as he proclaims the virtues of a particular passage by Hemingway or O’Connor. Or they will describe a night sitting around a table in the dark corner of a bar, where the discussion had moved after class, Crews holding court, buying round after round of drinks and regaling his students with stories, each of which tried to answer for them the essential question each needed to answer: What does it take to be a real writer?
There is a belief in some parts of higher education today that the student is a blank slate, and the onus is on the professor to produce an educated, employable graduate. Anything less is a failure.
If students learned anything in a Crews classroom, it was that the opposite was true. Success, whatever that might be, was 100 percent dependent on the student. It was right there in a Crews course syllabus: "I hope you will not do yourself the disservice of thinking that you are an empty vessel that it is my duty to pour full of knowledge.""

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Medical Marijuana for Heroin Addiction? Sure, what the hell.

Image result for cannabis doctor
"Dude, I'm so baked right now -- I can't even write this prescription for medical marijuana."

"A new drug treatment program says it has a cure for heroin addiction: marijuana.
The claim has attracted national attention, but the history of analogous miracle cures is as long as it is discouraging. 
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some American physicians were persuaded that the best treatment for what was then called "alcoholism" or "inebriety" was morphine, an opiate. Even as late as the 1960s, researchers documented that a number of then-living morphine-addicted patients had been introduced to the drug by physicians as a treatment for their problem drinking.
At the turn of the 20th century, Bayer Corp., best known today for aspirin, rolled out what it marketed as a "safe, nonaddictive" alternative to morphine: heroin. Initially proposed as a pain killer and cough suppressant, it briefly gained a following among doctors who thought it a cure for morphine addiction and alcoholism.
William White, a historian of the addiction field, notes that a well-meaning philanthropic organization known as the Saint James Society actually "started a campaign to provide free samples of heroin to any morphine addict who wanted to take the cure."
Meanwhile, other physicians — most famously Sigmund Freud — touted yet another new wonder drug that would supposedly cure addiction to morphine, alcohol, heroin and tobacco too. It was cocaine, which claimed new victims of addiction, including William Halsted, a medical doctor, the founder of modern surgical practice.
In each case, initial enthusiasm for the "miracle treatment" waned when the new drug more often compounded than relieved the problems of addicted patients. Like an invasive species introduced intentionally into an environment to combat other invasive species, each new cure eventually became a problem in itself.
What accounts for these cycles of enthusiasm and disappointment? Historian David Courtwright of the University of North Florida emphasizes that medicine is surprisingly prone to fads.
"Physicians like new drugs. When one becomes available it often gets overused. In the 1970s, for example, physicians prescribed Valium for a wide range of conditions, from anxiety to insomnia to muscle spasms. Quite a few patients became dependent." Not incidentally, Valium was a benzodiazepine, a class of drugs that had been marketed as safer alternatives to barbiturates, a previous wonder drug that also proved to be addictive and dangerous."

Monday, April 17, 2017

Women abused in childhood prefer mates with autistic traits

Image result for autistic traits
This is a pretty crazy-cool study. Women who were abused as children (perhaps in part because they displayed autistic traits) were more likely to select mates with autistic traits. Which might be why autism risk has been associated with maternal child victimization.

2017 Apr 9. doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3115-3. [Epub ahead of print]

Maternal Exposure to Childhood Abuse is Associated with Mate Selection: Implications for Autism in Offspring.



Maternal experience of childhood abuse has been associated with offspring autism. To explore whether familial tendency towards autistic traits-presumably related to genetic predisposition-accounts for this association, we examined whether women who experienced childhood abuse were more likely to select mates with high levels of autistic traits, and whether parental autistic traits accounted for the association of maternal abuse and offspring autism in 209 autism cases and 833 controls. Maternal childhood abuse was strongly associated with high paternal autistic traits (severe abuse, OR = 3.98, 95% CI = 1.26, 8.31). Maternal and paternal autistic traits accounted for 21% of the association between maternal abuse and offspring autism. These results provide evidence that childhood abuse affects mate selection, with implications for offspring health.


Autism; Childhood abuse; Genetics; Mate selection; Maternal factors; Paternal factors


Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Friend Killed in the War -- Anthony Hecht

Image result for flare at night

Night, the fat serpent, slipped among the plants,
Intent upon the apples of his eyes;
A heavy bandoleer hung like a prize
Around his neck, and tropical red ants
Mounted his body, and he heard advance,
Little by little, the thin female cries
Of mortar shells. He thought of Paradise.
Such is the vision that extremity grants.

In the clean brightness of magnesium
Flares, there were seven angels by a tree.
Their hair flashed diamonds, and they made him doubt
They were not really from Elysium.
And his flesh opened like a peony,
Red at the heart, white petals furling out.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

You're Gonna Miss This -- Trace Atkins (2007)

Image result for You're Gonna Miss This -- Trace Adkins

She was staring out that window, of that SUV
Complaining, saying I can't wait to turn 18
She said I'll make my own money, and I'll make my own rules
Mamma put the car in park out there in front of the school
Then she kissed her head and said I was just like you

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These Are Some Good Times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this

Before she knows it she's a brand new bride
In a one-bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by
He tells her It's a nice place
She says It'll do for now
Starts talking about babies and buying a house
Daddy shakes his head and says Baby, just slow down

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These Are Some Good Times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this

Five years later there's a plumber workin' on the water heater
Dog's barkin', phone's ringin'
One kid's cryin', one kid's screamin'
She keeps apologizin'
He says They don't bother me.
I've got 2 babies of my own.
One's 36, one's 23.
Huh, it's hard to believe, but ...

You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These Are Some Good Times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you're gonna miss this
You're gonna miss this
Yeah, you're gonna miss this