Misogyny has to go

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It is time for Dr. Bossypants to step up and say with whatever authority she can muster: People. It is time to admit, understand, and eradicate misogyny. Many failings of human reasoning and behavior gave us the horrific president we are now enduring but one of the taproots is especially deep, complex, and ancient. The second-class status (indeed, the throw-away status) of females globally, and throughout history, is an enduring evil. It is a pernicious toxicity that destroys human potential and promotes human violence.

There is little gain in arguing which of our many prejudices causes more suffering, especially if the effect is to pit the prejudices against each other, using up precious energy that could instead be devoted to healing. But just as parenting is the world’s oldest profession, the preferred status given to males is the oldest prejudice.

Humans seem to love hierarchical dualities—right/wrong, black/white, female/male, rich/poor. Maybe this is because we want to be on the upside of somebody. But there are better ways to explore these contrasting attributes. First, very little is “one or the other.” Perceived opposites exist on a continuum. Racial purity is a silly myth. Thanks to many brave souls, we are beginning to understand sexual attractions and gender exist on a continuum. Rich and poor are relative terms. Class is a human invention. The key concept here is continuum. We all have a little of the “other” inside us. This is another version of that wise saying “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Enemy? But wait. A second way to consider these contrasts is through the lens of the dialectic: For every set of opposing views, there is a truth attained only by the contribution of both. We are missing a tremendous opportunity when we fail to consider the wonders of this synthesis. Whew, howdy. This is hard work, drawing on human consciousness, heart, soul, and patience. To even begin this practice requires learning to listen—and I DO mean listen. Listen so well that you can repeat your so-called opponent’s point of view to the satisfaction of your opponent (Carl Rogers, thank you for modeling how to work on this astonishingly hard task).

Now, back to misogyny. A bucket load of white women voted for our current misogynist-in-chief. How can this be? Also, I have the good fortune of having honest relationships with a few males who voted for him too. More than one told me no way would they vote for that … (rhythms with runt). What gives? Where does this destructive hatred come from?

Some devaluing of femaleness is just blind habit. Some is internalized–unconsciously embraced as a survival mechanism. Some is driven by wrong-head interpretations of faith systems. Some is fear-based. Some is power-driven. Some is laziness (I admit I’d like a “naturally” inferior being to do my bidding and clean my house). Whatever the sources, humans are still quite prone to blame, judge, use, abuse, mutilate, and devalue women. We need to consciously, deliberately, willfully, stubbornly, and steadily get over this impediment to full human potential. This will be a spiritual victory and an evolutionary step forward for all of us.


Dr. BP: Liberal Primary Process

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Dear Conservative:

I wish we could be friends and somehow save the world together. Naturally, I think I see the world accurately, and I wish you saw it my way, but frankly, I’m not even convinced you want to save the world…or anything. Here’s how I think you see the world:

You disbelieve in climate change, or believe human activities are not contributing to it—this belief is challenged by over 90% of reputable scientists. Why would liberals try to trick us into believing pollution is bad for us? Why would they spend their lives defending nature and the planet? Unlikely to be greed. I think their motives are relatively selfless, with an eye to the future……So what are your motives and beliefs? Do you think humans can do anything they feel like doing to the planet and somehow, the planet will recover? Do you think it is more important to provide jobs now, at the risk of destroying of vast parts of the earth? It is and will be painful to dismantle the oil and coal industries, but there are viable alternatives. Someday, if we manage to not blow ourselves up, we will make this transition. Why not save the forests and oceans and atmosphere, and do it now? There will be jobs–lots of jobs–in this transition. But those accustomed to being rich and in control due to extraction and exploitation will have a bit of a jolt to endure.

You don’t like to pay taxes. You think it is better to keep “your” money and not invest in roads, health, children, education, clean air, clean water, science, food safety, police, fire fighters, feeding/sheltering needy or elderly people, and creating new jobs aimed at a better world. But you’re okay with more military and bigger prisons. Higher wages for law-makers and billionaires. Do I have this right?

You believe in trickle-down economics. Make the rich richer, and they will then make everyone rich. Have you read even the basics in the Bible about human nature? Have you observed what the rich actually do with money? Have you noticed what you do when you have a little extra money? We need laws that equalize and elevate less-advantaged people. We all long to be rich. We all want a slave or ten answering to our every whim. These are longings that need forgiveness and redemption, not legal assistance.

You tolerate or endorse racism. This is totally beyond me. It is a form of hatred and ignorance fed by the worst of our human tendencies. Fear, selfishness, and a longing to be superior.

You don’t want immigrants to come to the US. Most likely, you are of immigrant lineage. The world is in tough shape, with millions dislocated, starving, futureless. To whom much is given, much is required. We can solve global distress, not by turning our backs and hunkering down over our good fortune, but by working interactively with global needs and trends. “America first” is selfish, short-sighted, dangerous, and doomed.

You don’t like gay, lesbian, transgendered or otherwise differently-created human beings. You are more tolerant of rapists, gropers, adulterers, and liars. What in the world is wrong with you? Has a gay person ever been a threat to you? You won’t admit that human greed needs to be tempered by collective laws, but you are willing to try and legislate what consenting adults do behind closed doors? Transgendered people are no more demonic than Galileo. The world isn’t flat. The sun does not revolve around the earth. God isn’t threatened by science, and quite obviously, loves diversity.

You believe no one should have the right to end a pregnancy. You believe in forcing a woman to use her body to allow an unwanted embryo to develop into a fetus, and then a baby, and be born. This will be a human unwanted by its mother. Ask yourself, would you really want to come into the world that way? Sometimes, even the mother’s health, well-being, or life is endangered. Would you willingly hurt or kill your mother to be born? You value a potential human over an existing human? How can this possibly be? Can’t we devote ourselves, together, to making unintended pregnancies a thing of the past?

A few of you honestly believe the Bible (or other Holy Writing) underscores your beliefs. It does not. As I hope you know, biblical phrases can be distorted to justify all sorts of hatred, cruelty, and limitations. God expects better of us.

Spoiler Alert: I’m a liberal psychologist who believes in a benevolent creator. This benevolent creator and I are rooting for the human race to get kinder, wiser, less afraid, more grateful, less judgmental, and more joyful. Go, humans, go. You can choose to be less selfish, less fearful, less short-sighted. You can choose to give, share, and rejoice in human potential. When you die (and we all die), you’ll feel so much better about the time you spent working to make it a better, happier, healthier, wiser place than the time you spent hoarding your goods into bigger barns. I’m sure of it.

Common Sense

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Common Sense: A Shapely Poem by Bossypants

This little planet is all we have. We should take care of it.

Every day, you have a chance to choose gratitude and kindness.

Violence is a byproduct of anger, laziness, and lack of imagination.

This one little life is all you’ve got, buddy. You are mortal. You will die.

We need to pay taxes and give generously. There’s no need to be greedy pigs.

We are here, individually, for a very short time. There’s not much point in hoarding.

Everyone needs food, shelter, companionship, meaningful work, and time for recreation.

We should not allow people to get rich by destroying the planet or making others sick.

We should not worship rich people. In fact, we should not worship people at all.

We do not need the rich to get richer. It does not make them better people.

We should not shame poor people. In fact, shame is quite destructive.

We should curb our appetite for energy, and support renewables.

We should eat fewer bananas if we live in cold climates.

It is okay to be confused. It is not okay to be cruel.









Fake News: Moral Incontinence

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As a psychologist interested in ethics, Dr. Bossypants spends many hours contemplating the human condition. Lately, she’s been fascinated with the facile ascent of fake news and the apparent gullibility and complicity of humans in this phenomenon. Here is the first of perhaps many speculations.

From time immemorial, humans have needed each other to survive. Even rugged individualists and extreme preppers benefit from the collective creativity of the human species. And generally, we don’t want to hang out with just any old Jane Doe or Joe Blow. We seek people who more or less value and agree with us. Usually, outliers start suspecting there’s something wrong with them, and soon enough, there will be. Completely isolated people suffer, and most break down over time.

Within the context of community, humans have a lot of other needs. For example, there are needs for power and control, prestige, order, safety, excitement, love, nourishment, offspring, humor, and attention. There are needs to contribute positively to society, and needs to protect yourself and those you love. This is not an exhaustive list. Some argue that these needs can all be traced back to the urge nature imbedded in us to propagate our genes. Maybe. But like many of our basic animal urges, we must refine, redirect, balance, and sometimes overcome these urges with consciousness, compassion, courage, reason, and love. Nature has no problem with animals dropping their pants and pooping wherever and whenever this natural and necessary need strikes, but I’m a big fan of outhouses and collective expressions of self-control in this domain. The taming of fire as an evolutionary step forward is rivaled in importance by the invention of the diaper. Indoor plumbing came much later, but again, an impressive leap for humankind.

Fake news is tempting for many reasons. As we’ve noted, humans like to feel like they belong. They hang with their homies, even in the face of evidence that their homies might be bad dudes. And humans greatly enjoy being right. Most parents have noticed that the shorter, less mature among us will argue well past the point of absurdity to hold on to a false belief that benefits them. For instance, the possibility of global warming is quite inconvenient. Therefore, the easy route is to simply deny it.

Fake news is generated for financial and political reasons. Fake news is certainly not our best attempt to explain the world or keep ourselves informed. Mature, moral humans can distinguish between fact and propaganda, between rumors and explanations. We have the means and the abilities, but we often lack the will.

So here’s one possible conclusion Dr. Bossypants endorses: Fake news is successful because of moral incontinence. Yes–giving into the temptation to cut corners and indulge in what Freud might have called leakage of the Id.

Aristotle believed humans were prone to moral incontinence when it came to money or self-aggrandizing. And of course, anger. Think about it: When you let yourself get crazy angry, you might say or do things you aren’t proud of later. Similarly, when we let ourselves want to be right at all costs, we gobble up bot-driven absurdities to bolster our beliefs. Sadly, the more frequently and loudly lies are repeated, the more likely they are to be believed. It’s Groupthink on steroids. Generating, promoting, and sharing highly suspicious “facts” in order to reassure our inward little self, be popular, or sell ads is the equivalent of taking a moral dump in a crowded room.

Diaper-up, people. These compelling human needs (to belong, be right, be rich, etc.) set us up for trouble when paired with immaturity and laziness. Sure, it’s thrilling to contribute to massive conspiracy theories. It’s easier to believe than check the facts. It’s also easier to fear, cheer, and jeer than reason, research, and admit being wrong. But easier isn’t better. In fact, sometimes it’s a public health hazard, and pretty much always, it stinks. Of course, there will be people willing to tell you it doesn’t, but trust me on this one folks, it reeks.


Ego and other possibilities


The term “ego” is an ancient one, with Latin roots. It simply means “I” or “Self.” Its first known use in English was in the late 1700s. Psychologists love to argue about whether there actually is an “I” in the sense of predictable personality traits, or whether at any given time, our behaviors and moods are the result of ingesting food, drugs, and alcohol, exercise, responding to the expectations of others, the amount of sunlight in a given day, how much love we’ve soaked in, the amount of sleep we’ve managed to get, and maybe the cosmic forces at work on us.

Of course, a related meaning of ego has to do with our personal valuation of this “I” that may or may not define us. Sometimes, we are more certain of ourselves, our internal integrity, our worth, and our motivations than other times. And of course, for reasons still being debated, some of us vastly, vastly, vastly over-estimate our worth to the world and believe we are entitled to unlimited resources and praise. Why are some people far too humble and others sickeningly prideful?

Though Dr. Bossypants is not Buddhist, she believes Buddhists possess significant wisdom. As she understands it, the Buddhists believe that this “ego” or sense of separate individuality gets in our way of recognizing how artificial the boundaries between apparent “individuals” are. If we had less attachment to ego, we could more clearly see the unity, the connection, the oneness of all the pieces and parts of ourselves and our fellow beings, our earth, our galaxy, and even the time-space continuum.

It is indeed jarring to consider ourselves as one with all living beings, because this would include our current leadership, those aspiring to leadership, our alcoholic uncle, and even terrorists who blow themselves and others to smithereens. Most of us consider it creepy or stupid to seek even a tiny corner of common ground with these fellow human beings who act so abhorrently.

At this juncture, Dr. Bossypants must confess she is about to make claims that can’t be fully substantiated. But as far as it can be studied, it does not appear that the infliction of pain, hatred, deprivation, or even death is effective in changing human behavior for the better. Oh yes, we can change human behavior with such actions, but the change is, at best, temporary compliance, with enhanced motivation for later revenge.

It requires intelligence, tenacity, self-control, creativity, and great strength of character to find common ground with people we refer to as evil. These same attributes, plus wisely-used resources, are necessary to contain, reroute, and/or defeat the spread of destructive behavior. Research suggests that violence begets violence. Dr. Bossypants readily admits that this totally sucks because revenge feels good whereas the application of containment and compassion are tedious, slow, and even dangerous (in the short run).

But the real, long-term dangers are far worse: Ever-deadlier weapons, shriveled empathy, us/them dehumanizing rationalizations, bigger prisons, less education, hungry, abused, or unwanted children, and the increasingly shrill declarations of US FIRST. It just doesn’t work that way, dear readers. The ways we treat each other—including every single “other”—are the building blocks of the future. Just as violence will engender more violence, ultimately, kindness will bring forth more kindness. Humans appear to be uniquely able to make corrective choices. Dr. Bossypants is rooting for us all. With courage, we can choose some better paths.

Ethical Commandments


Fans of Dr. Bossypants may remember that she blogged about ethics for a while before turning to trauma. Clever of her, because she firmly believes the infliction of trauma on others is unethical, so all her blogs are still relevant! And faithful readers also know she believes that trauma damages babies, children, and all people severely. Such damage may result in these same people then inflicting trauma on others later in life, perhaps not even realizing it as such. It is a vicious, potentially deadly cycle.

Philosopher Bernard Gert (1934-2011) created a list of ten moral commandments. Here they are:

  1. Do not kill other human beings.
  2. Do not cause unnecessary pain (this lets surgeons and dentists off the ethical hook).
  3. Do not disable another human being.
  4. Do not deprive another human being of freedom.
  5. Do not deprive another human being of pleasure.
  6. Do not deceive others.
  7. Keep your promises to others.
  8. Do not cheat.
  9. Obey the law.
  10. Do your duties—those required by social relationships, your job, your commitments, and so on.

Gert realized that there may be times when you are certain the deeply moral thing to do is to break one of the commandments. If so, he believed that you should only break it if you’d be willing to allow everyone else, in all times and in all places, to break the same commandment in the same situation.

It seems obvious that killing, hurting, disabling, or depriving people of freedom or pleasure causes some level of trauma in the hurt, disabled or deprived one. Being lied to and cheated isn’t much fun, and in some situations, can also be traumatic. And of course, at the social level, our culture would fall apart if everyone broke the law all the time, and/or failed to do their personal and civic duties. We’d have a broken culture.

But beyond this set of rather obvious conclusions, Dr. B would like readers to ponder another set of costs. We can easily see the cost of such actions on those acted against, or on society at large. But what are the costs of crossing those lines to the actor? The cost of breaking those profoundly basic moral edicts? The killer, the torturer, the liar, the cheat, the dictator–why are they willing or able to cross those lines, and what does it do to their psychological condition?

Dr. B believes in the long run, the actor is diminished in the process of acting unethically. But it is, perhaps, a habit-forming brutal cycle with enough shallow rewards to keep the unethical actor repeating the harmful actions.

Is there a way for society to help cheaters, liars, law-breakers, or brutal people to see the costs to themselves? Is there a way to peel back the “rewards” and help humans see that ill-gotten gains are ultimately malignant? Or could we at least stop tolerating or admiring such actions? Probably not, but Dr. Bossypants is going on record, with the wise Bernard Gert, as saying that killing, hurting, disabling, depriving, lying, cheating, breaking the law, and failing to do your basic duties—these are all unethical, psychological corrosive actions harming the victims, our community, and most likely harming the perpetrators as well.

Thank you for any thoughts you may wish to post. Also, someday soon, Dr. Bossypants promises to write something upbeat. And because of Number 7 above, you can bank on it.

More thoughts on trauma

045 (2)In our continued considerations of trauma and the costs of trauma to human development and functioning, Dr. Bossypants came across a horrifyingly illustrative example, recently published in the New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/03/the-trauma-of-facing-deportation. It has to do with childhood trauma and the extreme physical and psychological costs of such trauma. It also demonstrates the role culture plays how pain and terror are expressed.

The mind is a most amazing expression of life. Dr. Bossypants uses the term “mind” rather than “brain” because some consider the brain a seething mass of neurons, electrical impulses, neurotransmitters, and gray matter—a complex but eventually unravel-able mystery—whereas in Dr. Bossypants’s lexicon, the mind encompasses consciousness and something beyond the sum of the parts of the brain. The mind goes beyond nurture or nature, biology, rewards, or punishments. Victor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Dr. Bossypants might add, “In our response lies our survival.” Regardless of your own leanings, dear reader, at present what we know is that this mind/brain organ adapts, acts, and reacts. It learns and then makes changes accordingly. For the most part, it seeks to survive, but as in the article noted above, sometimes, it assess the hopelessness of a situation and begins to shut down.

The question Dr. Bossypants wants to raise is this: Why do humans hurt each other? Some argue that males hurt each other to show dominance and thus attract mating partners. Dr. Bossypants hastens to note that there is ample evidence this is not necessarily the case.

Is it fear that causes us to hurt each other? Deep down inside, are we so afraid of being hurt that we hurt others so they can’t hurt us? Or is it fear of deprivation, leading us to hurt others for the sake of accumulation, which then becomes greed?

Or expediency? The threat of pain, or pain itself, changes behavior temporarily, but it has a lot of psychological collateral damage. When big people hurt little people, or crowds of people hurt one person, we usually call that bullying. And we generally don’t approve. We’ve come to realize that such bullying causes a lot of damage to the one bullied.

Is it pleasure that causes us to hurt each other? Sadism exists; those who are sadistic enjoy causing pain. How did that twist come to be in that psyche? It doesn’t seem very adaptive, or loving, or helpful…could it have manifested due to early childhood trauma? Could it lie quietly in our cultural narrative, increasingly brought to the surface by media and war? Does it somehow come back to fear?

The sad truth is that Dr. Bossypants does not know the answer to this basic question, and believes that perhaps, no one else does either. In fact, there may be a multiplicity of answers. What is known is that inflicting pain on others, either bodily or psychologically, ultimately does not pay off very well. In the short run, bullies might get the lunch money, but in the long run, Dr. Bossypants suspects that the lunch money will not make the bully happy, and such actions cost the community and the victims a great deal more than the lunch money.

What Dr. Bossypants does know is that humans have choices. We can evolve beyond hurting each other, whether on the playground, the street corner, or the battlefield. Nonviolence takes great courage and extraordinary intelligence. It takes self-restraint and self-sacrifice. It is noble and rare. It begins at home, in the refusal to hurt each other. Potentially, it can extend to a global way of being. Yes, Dr. Bossypants may be guilty of extreme optimism, but no, she hasn’t been smoking anything. And frankly, dear readers, nonviolence will turn out to be a far better choice than the annihilation of our species.