The Psychology of Perpetual Youth

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One of the many troubling things about human consciousness is, well, consciousness. We have instincts, but like frosting on a cake, we overlay them with self-awareness that transcends time and space. Consciousness includes the ability to abstract and create. We are a story-telling species, easily frightened by imagined threats, tempted by imagined riches, angered by imagined insults, and thrilled by imagined victories. Witness: the gaming industry.

There are so many directions Dr. Bossypants could go with the astute observations in the previous paragraph, but for today, we’re going to focus on one pernicious outcome of consciousness—our abhorrence of aging and fear of death. The instinct to avoid death appears to be built into all living things (for some good reasons), but humans have taken this avoidance and run with it, far beyond those good reasons.

The longing to be young, healthy, happy, sexy, and rich has propelled medical science forward—we have organ transplants, face lifts, butt tucks, artificial limbs, chemo, pills to drive away sadness, pills to calm us down, rev us up, lower our blood pressure, and cause erections. No doubt we will continue to chip away at reducing or eliminating the effects of injury, disease, disability, and aging. By and large, this is quite laudable. But oh my, there are serious downsides to all this wonderment.

And one of these downsides is denial. Because we are wired to fear and avoid death, we’ve become worshipers of youth and deniers of mortality. We don’t like old people, even if the old people are us. We thus fail to age gracefully, fail to recognize or elevate the positive aspects of aging, and fail to prepare for our demise. We claim to be shocked at the passing of the years, even though we’re a species of historians. Aging and death catch us by surprise, and many of us complain vociferously, as if we are the first to face such indignation.

Dr. Bossypants is quite concerned about the costs of this denial, and the resulting inability to deal with death knowingly and humanely. She is concerned that as we first-worlders age, we tend to bitch and moan, wasting the precious time we have left in a narcissistic dither about how this or that shouldn’t happen to us. Thus, she has written a novel (cleverly entitled Boomers) which she envisions serving as an aid to those who might venture into these topics. Because she had good editors, it isn’t as preachy as she wanted it to be, but it still makes a few discussion-worthy points. And it would be a comfort to Dr. Bossypants if a few people bought this book and thought about the issues she raises. To that end, here’s the link to that evil empire, Amazon, wherein efforts such as these find a home.

 

 

 

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More Musings on Donald Trump’s Personality: Spoiler Alert, We’re Not Talking Narcissism Anymore . . . Because it’s Worse than That

Second installment…

John Sommers-Flanagan

Irrigation SunriseAs I mentioned in Part One, much of the focus on DJT has been on whether he meets the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Allen Francis, who helped write the personality disorder criteria, has expressed many times that DJT is “bad, not mad.” His reasoning is that DJT’s narcissistic traits don’t cause Trump personal distress and haven’t adversely affected his functioning; in fact, DJT was elected president! In diagnostic terminology, Dr. Frances is saying that DJT doesn’t meet either the distress or impairment criteria, at least one of which is needed to make a formal diagnosis.

Despite the objections of Dr. Francis, if you look at the DSM-5 criteria for NPD, it’s easy to see that DJT’s public behaviors could have served as the prototype for the DSM’s authors as they developed the NPD diagnostic criteria. But it still doesn’t mean DJT has NPD. In addition to not meeting…

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On Psychiatric Diagnosis and Whether Donald J. Trump has a Personality Disorder

Dr. John isn’t as bossy, but he might be almost as wise.

John Sommers-Flanagan

IMG_3063Note — This is a three or four part series focusing on complexities of psychiatric diagnosis; then I ramble into an exploration of what specific psychological and interpersonal dynamics might be driving Donald Trump’s behaviors. This piece and the next two or three are a lead-up to an essay I’m doing for Slate Magazine.

Psychiatric diagnosis looks easy.

All you need is a diagnostic manual. In the U.S., you can use the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5; published by the American Psychiatric Association) or the 10th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10; published by the World Health Organization). Even easier, you can search for and find online diagnostic criteria for virtually every mental disorder. The power to diagnose is at your fingertips.

If you think your friend has panic disorder, you can type “panic disorder”…

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The Day the GOP Died

Sometimes, things are that are painfully obvious need said…over and over.

My Secret Magic Blog

IMG_2862A long, long time ago, the Grand Old Party stood for family values, moral values, and apple pie. Now, with Trump as leader, it’s more like family torture, infidelity, and borscht.

Less long ago (Thursday, May 31, 2018), former House Speaker John Boehner quipped: “The Republican Party is kinda taking a nap somewhere.” Boehner was drinking a bloody Mary at the time, so maybe we shouldn’t blame him for not noticing that his former party’s nap has lasted nearly two years.

Given there’s no chance the GOP will get woke, it’s time to say, “Bye, bye American GOP.” See (or listen) at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAsV5-Hv-7U  

The GOP was mortally wounded on a Super Tuesday back in September, 2016. In seven states, the Party of Lincoln voted to nominate Donald Trump for President. Sure, “Lying Ted” won a couple states and a few #NeverTrump folks were hanging on, but the die was…

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Accommodations–Gendered and Otherwise

Dr. Bossypants just jogged up the hill in a pair of black silky long johns constructed for those who have a penis they may wish to free from cloth constraints in order to relieve themselves. It’s pretty nifty how only the penis need be exposed. No such option for me, sans penis, but full bladder. Why was I wearing men’s underwear? This is not relevant to the story, but if you must know, Dr. Bossypants is a gleaner. She found them in a pile of nice, discarded clothing. Don’t worry. They were laundered in hot water. But wearing them was revelatory.

In this day and age, one would think garment inventors could make openings friendly to female genitalia. Yes, a few are trying, and it is possible to purchase a funnel sort of gadget in order to pee standing up, but so far, these efforts are clunky and far from mainstream. We need grab and go, stylish pants and underpants that do not require being peeled to the ankles in order to pee.

I’m not terribly squeamish about urinating in the woods, or in alleys, or along the highway, or in parking lots of big events, but there are forces to contend with beyond shyness. Mosquitoes. Poison Ivy. Freezing temperatures. Tight pants. Awkward positions made even more precarious by having to strip layers of clothing down past one’s knees and then bunching them up to avoid getting them wet. At this point, balance is everything.

Anatomically, the expanse between he-man-male and she-woman-female is populated with interesting gradations, but generally, the penis is still regarded as normative and the object of envy. This is silly. As an intuitive psychologist, Dr. Bossypants happens to know that men secretly (and I mean very secretly) envy the relative discretion and safety of the vagina and the folds that decorate and protect that area. And they envy the uterus which identifies one’s offspring without question (sperm are a great, but often anonymous contribution). And they envy the breast—the only source of perfect baby food. Who in their rational mind would envy a painfully vulnerable appendage that sometimes arises unbidden?  Or a set of obstructions between the legs that sag with age?

Oh, yes. Now I remember. The appendages aren’t the objects of envy. It’s the advantages that come with them—especially if they are attached to a tall, white, Western European hetero pelvis. Frankly, I’m getting too old for this nonsense. Sick to death of it. Dr. Bossypants is determined to continue pointing out the obvious, railing in her own special way about white male privilege and the terrible costs of this wrong-headedness. We must hold out hope for the development and adoption of sensible clothing options for all concerned. And while we’re at it, let’s hope for mercy and justice to extend beyond our physical apparatuses, our myriad shapes and colors, and our circumstances of birth. Radical. But possible.

 

 

The Human Condition

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The human condition defies simple analysis. The arc of our storyline includes both acceptance and defiance. We are consistently contradictory. Storefront “absolutes” fade in the sunshine of experience. Sure-things aren’t. The givens of life slip away as science, rationality, or whim take them apart. Sometimes, they reappear, refined. Sometimes they end up shelved in the great museum of human fallibility. Sometimes, we bury them in shame.

We continue to wrestle with powerful, apparently-biological urges to accumulate and reproduce. Thankfully, within our species, there are many examples of humans doing otherwise. Thus, we know that among our many capacities, we have the capacity to deny biological urges. We can say enough and mean it. We can get by with less than enough when motivated to do so. We do not always reproduce, and those who do often choose to limit the numbers of new beings they create.

But we also know that many humans dedicate their lives to unfettered reproduction and accumulation—whether that be money, homes, widgets, power, underwear, offspring, achievements, titles, friends, or enemies. It can be great fun. Some humans love to push the limits. Other humans love to watch—getting vicarious thrills from the courage, clucking their tongues at the foolishness. Some accumulations and extreme efforts appear to be harmless, but excess should always be examined and balanced. It is the rare accumulator who doesn’t need constraint. It is the rare achiever who doesn’t need the equilibrium provided by humility.

So, yes, we are complex beings, imbued with choice. Our destiny as a species appears to be dependent on the choices we make. Short-sighted greed, cruelty, and destructive accumulation are well within the repertoire of human choice. Denial has become a refined art form. Cruelty and falsehood are endorsed or tolerated in the service of far-fetched conspiracy theories, sometimes cloaked in a fetid version of a contorted God.

Suffering is suffering. Hunger is hunger. Death is death. And the earth, our home, is finite. If we had the will, we could alleviate hunger and reduce suffering. We could choose to live with more compassion, wisdom, and self-sacrifice. It is possible to set in motion systems that will heal and perhaps stabilize our little planet. But no matter what, we will die. No amount of accumulation will change that. No amount of denial.

Therefore, Dr. Bossypants offers this simple suggestion: How about we accept our mortality and plan for our deaths instead of run from them? And since we have a choice, how about we live lives filled with joy and meaning, generosity and connection? Just a suggestion. Up to you.

 

A Practical Guide to Eradicating Misogyny

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Tarana Burke opened the flood gates with two words, “Me too.” Bob Newhart famously said, “Stop it.” Misogyny will not go away until the human race decides it has outgrown this particular evolutionary misstep. Misogyny is a destructive mutation, a failed solution. It is sin. It is wrong-headed. It is unloving. It is dishonest. It is lazy. It is imbalanced, and ultimately, it is deadly.

Dr. Bossypants suggests we devote ourselves to getting rid of it, and provides a few starting points below:

Role-Models:

One of mine is pictured above. We need to create, find, feature, elevate, and support women in every possible undertaking known to humans. We need aspirational visions of women being 51% of all presidents and rulers, all pilots and police officers, all best-sellers, all superintendents, all congresspeople, all professors, all CEOs, CFOs, and UFOs. All directors, actors, janitors. All animated creatures, all muppets, all heroes, all villains, all commentators and editorial writers, all artists, all pastors, all rabbis, all poets, prophets, philosophers, priests—in other words, all people.

I said “aspirational” because we are a far cry from this balance, but we will never achieve it until we feature women in every possible endeavor we can, thus normalizing the vision for little girls and boys…thus creating something to live towards. Fake it until you make it.

Words that might need a make-over:

What does it mean to mother something?

What does it mean to father something?

What does seminal mean? Really?

“He” “Mankind” and “Guy” do not mean everyone.

Things, like God, that are beyond gender should either be nongendered, or be referred to with imaginative balanced inclusiveness.

Policies:

Birth control has got to be free and available for anyone engaging in acts that might result in pregnancy.

All sexual interactions have to be agreed upon by all parties at all times. Radically mutual.

All pregnancies are the business of the one who is pregnant. All medical care and procedures necessary to end the pregnancy or to proceed with the pregnancy must be free and available.

All parents must be equally responsible for the food, shelter, and relationships necessary for their offspring to grow into healthy adults.

Behaviors:

Do not invite more men than women. Do not read more men than women. Do not quote more men than women. Do not give men a break because they are men, or women a break because they are women. Do not listen to more men than women. Do not consult with more men than women. Do not value your sons over your daughters. Try to stop seeing the world through the white male lens. Give your undivided attention to as many women as you do men. Do not laugh at men’s jokes if they are not funny.

This is just the start of a massive list, dear ones. Feel free to share your own curative suggestions for ending this scourge. We are infected with misogyny at the cellular level, handed down from generation to generation. It’s not going away without some serious effort. Roll up those sleeves. Let’s get to it. When I’m as old as my tough, smart, feminist grandmother was when that picture was taken, I’m hoping to see some serious progress.