OF COURSE I CRIED, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Jason, a smiley, playful, 6-year-old boy recently had an appointment with his pediatrician.

“The doctor had to give me two needles,” he said.

“Wow. Did they hurt?”

“Yes!”

“Did you cry?”

“Of course I cried!” he said, looking like the question was beyond silly, that crying was what any normal person would do.

“How about your sister? Did she get a needle?”

“Yes. And she cried too! Really loud!”

Then Jason put on his father’s huge sweatshirt that went down to his knees. “This really looks good,” he said. “I love it.”

Creativity and spontaneity are so often crushed by “mature” adults who are so sure they know what’s right and what’s wrong. They know all about religion, sexuality, and who we should and who we should not hate. They know how we should feel and how a man should act and how a woman should act.

It’s so impressive that we are surrounded by know-it-alls. It’s also very impressive that many of the people we have elected to run our government are so sure that they are right, that they are willing to make all of us suffer to make their point.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award-winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry, Raising Children, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

MICHAEL SAM, HERO OR PARIAH? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

A group of students formed a human wall outside of Mizzou Stadium to block from view members of a Baptist Church who were protesting against the outpouring of support for Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year. When he signs with an NFL franchise, he will be the 1st openly gay NFL player.

Religious zealots have been attacking “outsiders” for centuries.

Actor and comedian, Alec Mapa said it beautifully, “I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear that religious people are coming for me and my family the one thing I can think is: Shouldn’t you be reading to the blind? Aren’t there homeless people in your area who could benefit from a kind word or a hot meal? Could there possibly be a better use of your time and resources than going after the lives and freedom of people you’ll never meet, whose lives and freedom will never affect you in any other way?”

It’s amazing that so many people know what’s right and will fight and sometimes even kill anyone who disagrees.

Women shouldn’t vote — repealed 1912 in the US. Now in 2014, Sharia Law professes that women shouldn’t read or attend school.

Prohibition — repealed 1933

Medical school quotas against Jews, unpublicized and denied, — stopped in 1960s

McCarthyism — Communist witch hunts against anyone who opposed Senator Joe McCarthy’s ideas. Finally stopped by President Eisenhower in 1954

George Wallace, governor of Alabama, stated in 1963, “In the name of the greatest people that have trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

Is Michael Sam a hero and a new role model?

YES.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Bullying, Psychiatry, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

HOW EASY IS IT TO DO THE RIGHT THING? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

It took over 200 years to end slavery, and we’re still in the process of making the repercussions right.

96 years ago, the 19th amendment to the constitution was ratified, and women got the right to vote. Soon, we may have our 1st woman president. Men are still “enjoying” the repercussions of that decision.

CVS pharmacy just announced that they will give up a profit of 2 billion dollars a year and stop selling tobacco in October 2014. They should still make a billion and a half before the cut-off date, but with that in their coffers, they can scream to the world how righteous they are. AND, finally, they are being righteous.

So what are smokers supposed to do? Don’t they have the right to create little cancer cells in their alveoli and bronchial tubes? Don’t they have the right to cost our nation billions of dollars in health care costs? How will pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons make a living? What about the tobacco companies. Now they’ll have to ship their products to third world countries where people don’t know how to read!

Wait. Doesn’t Cuba sell Cubanos? It’s a little further than CVS, but think of the great music, beaches and sexy women. Hmm. Do women have the vote in Cuba?

Dr. Art Smukler is the award winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

STARBUCKS & FACIAL HAIR, A RESEARCH PROJECT, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Being a famous, author & psychiatrist (well maybe not famous, but 2 out of 3 isn’t bad), I decided to do a non-double-blind study on the incidence of facial hair. I ordered a grande half-cafe and a blueberry scone and parked myself in a comfortable chair. Being a careful researcher, I ordered the half-cafe so I wouldn’t be too amped up, and the scone so I wouldn’t pass out from malnutrition.

Using all my observational, psychiatric skills, I sipped my coffee, munched on the scone, and counted. This erudite study, which lasted about 45 minutes, showed that 85 out of 100 had some form of facial hair. There was one woman with a heavy shadow above her lip, but in the end, I decided not to include women.

So why are men so into hirsuitism? There was a time when only hippies, long-in-the-tooth poets, and backwoods Appalachian moonshine distillers had facial hair, but according to my sophisticated research, times have definitely changed.

Hair makes you look cool. If Brad Pitt and Mark Wahlberg are examples, it’s just a matter of time before the ladies will begin to pound down your door.

Who wants to shave every morning? Gillette makes a fortune and men waste hundreds of hours during their lifetime trying to get every little bit of stubble erased from their faces.

Country-Western music is definitely the in-thing. Is there a respectable male singer, other than the late Johnny Cash, who doesn’t have facial hair?

I tossed my cup in the trash and went home, a wiser man.

Then, I looked in the mirror. I had a stubble beard! Move over Mark! I’m on my way to Hollywood.

Dr. Art Smukler is the award winning writer of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

DO BULLIES HAUNT YOU? A REPRISE, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

All day in the office, I listen to people who have been abused, bullied and devalued. Battling evil and insensitivity in the world is a never ending battle.

An earlier post came to mind and a reprise seemed in order.

The camp was idyllic, on a lake, cabins scattered among tall Pine trees, with dirt trails connecting everything to ball fields, the dining room and a recreation center. There were 12 waiters, 16-17-year-old boys, who were housed in the cabin closest to the dining room.

Rocko, the leader, was 6 feet tall with a physique that suited a Neanderthal. He was assigning jobs to the 11 boys who were all in various stages of making their beds and unpacking their trunks. The first day of camp was filled with learning dining room protocol, and that evening the boys were organizing their personal belongings.

“Hey douchbag, you’re not listening to me,” Rocko yelled to the slim boy at the far end of the cabin.

“I’m making my bed,” the boy said.

Seconds later Rocko was standing chest to chest with the slim boy. “I said I was talking to you! When I talk, you stop everything and listen.”

The boy stood still, a hard expression forming around his mouth and eyes.

“Are you deaf or just a dumb shit? Answer me!”

The slim boy stood very still, not moving in the slightest.

“Say something asshole.”

He chest butted the boy and put his face just inches from his face.

“If you don’t like it, do something about it,” Rocko spat out, his 200 pounds of muscle tensed for an onslaught.

The slim boy regained his balance and just stared back.

“Chicken shit! Do something or do exactly what I say.”

The boy just stood and stared, not moving a muscle, not blinking.

Rocko pushed the boy and walked away. “Chicken shit.”

It was 11 years before they spoke again. The slim boy, now a doctor and a resident in psychiatry, was moonlighting doing insurance exams for a friend, an insurance agent who had been a fellow waiter that same summer. The patient he was paid to examine was no other than Rocko, who was 30 pounds lighter, had pale skin and a dead look in his eyes.

The doctor asked all the appropriate questions and did a careful physical exam. Rocko had Hodgkins Lymphoma, a serious form of lymphatic cancer. The 2 men never referred to the decades-old altercation and never would. Rocko died a few years later.

The doctor experienced no joy in observing Rocko’s terminal illness or any sense that justice had been served. There was only the feeling he had failed himself by not handling the old situation with more courage.

Now, decades after Rocko’s death, there is finally closure for the slim boy who became a psychiatrist. Joe Belmont, the main character in his novel Chasing Backwards, doesn’t let people push him around, even if those people are the police or professional criminals.

It feels good having your character do what he needs to do.

It always feels good to not be afraid, whether in fiction or more importantly in real life.

Please feel free to leave any comments.

If you enjoyed reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Bullying, CHASING BACKWARDS, a psychological murder mystery, Childhood Trauma, Psychiatry, Self Examination, Writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

ALL MYSTERIES START SOMEWHERE; THIS ONE STARTED IN A STRIP CLUB, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Some years ago, a friend had a bachelor party and invited a dozen friends out to dinner. After dinner, someone said, “Hey, let’s go to a strip bar”.

An hour later, we were seated next to an s-shaped stage, as a buxom blond raised her leg 180 degrees onto a silver dancing pole. As we watched, Rod Stewart screamed, “If you want my body, and you think I’m sexy…” so loudly that everyone within earshot was guaranteed a visit to the House clinic, a famous ear hospital in LA, for middle ear surgery. Just as I was wondering whether my insurance covered such a procedure, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear.

“Are you Doctor Smukler?”

“What?” I said, startled, and pivoted toward the pretty, sweet-smelling whisperer.

“Remember me? I’m Cathy. They call me Candy here.” She had full, pouty lips, 5’6” tall, long dark hair, and a costume that left nothing about her figure to the imagination.

“I do. I remember you,” I said, getting my surprise and embarrassment under control. A year ago, 22-year-old Cathy/Candy was sent for therapy by her parents to help her “find herself”. She attended 3 sessions and never scheduled another appointment.

“You really helped me, ” she said.

“Jesus”, I thought, wondering what sort of help that might have been.

“Thanks!” I said loudly, having to compete with Rod.

“Bye. Nice seeing you,” she said, and undulated away, leaving me staring at the naked, blond woman dancing around the pole.

A few weeks later, I signed up for a class on how to start and run your own strip bar. Really! There were a lot of Tony Soprano types, women with big boobs, and me.
After a few more months of research , the journal kind, I started my own strip club — just kidding. What I did do was start writing Skin Dance, a mystery.

Our experiences, often the most embarrassing ones, can be the nidus that begins our story. It takes a lot of passion to write 300 or so pages. Accepting that it’s okay to have all sorts of feelings, especially the politically incorrect ones, is as necessary as including sugar in a cookie mix.

If you enjoyed reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry, Self Examination, Skin Dance, a mystery, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

WHEN DO YOU FINALLY GIVE UP? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

How about never?

Think about Matt McGloin, the quarterback for the Oakland Raiders and New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, and of course, Nelson Mandela.

McGloin was originally a Penn State walk-on who had to compete with sought after scholarship QBs, and a guy who wasn’t even drafted by the NFL. He was told that he was wasting his time. Gillibrand, likewise, a former Litigator, was warned of certain failure when she decided to run for public office. Both, determined and talented, decided to believe in themselves, rather than what other more “mature” and “wise” elders told them to do.

Very importantly, this belief wasn’t just a “in the end it’ll all work out” fantasy. It was a fantasy based on enormously hard work and a passion that fed a 24/7 devotion to succeed.

Inertia, the principle in physics that states, bodies in motion stay in motion and bodies at rest stay at rest, implies that change is REALLY difficult. It takes a unique person to get someone, anyone, to change. The Nelson Mandela’s of the world are very, very special. Even in prison, Mandela didn’t give up on what he believed or give up trying to get a whole society to change their way of thinking.

A professor friend from USC said, “You don’t need a PHD but a PSD – POOR, DETERMINED, SMART to be successful.”

However you say it, the bottom line is this. Work hard and don’t give up. The naysayers may mean well, but they are not you. They don’t have your determination, courage or work ethic. Their logic is a herd logic, one that encourages you to follow your fellow wildebeests over the cliff into the same old same. Change is frightening. Let them be afraid, while you take your own journey.

If you enjoyed reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry | 3 Comments

WHAT DID YOU FAIL AT THIS WEEK? by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

I wish someone had asked me this question when I was a kid, and I had done the same for my children.

This is now third-hand, but who cares? Good information should be passed along.

Fareed Zakaria, a brilliant educator and commentator, shared some details of an interview with Sara Blakely, the self-made billionaire developer of Spanx, a must-have underwear for women.

Ms. Blakely attributed her success to her father. Once a week he would ask, “What did you fail at this week?”

“Daddy, why do you keep asking that? I didn’t fail at anything!” Sara said, a puzzled expression on her face.

“I want you to live up to your full potential. If you only try safe things and are afraid to fail, how can you grow and improve?”

So one day, Sara told her father about something that she tried and how miserably she failed. Her father beamed with pleasure, raised his hand and hi-fived his lovely daughter. “I’m so proud of you!” he said. “So very, very proud.”

This lesson applies to all of us, no matter how old, or how jaded we’ve become. Trying new things and risking failure to follow a dream is sure to entail periods of anguish.

Writers are especially vulnerable. Sitting alone staring at your Apple screen, as wisps of ideas make their way from the darkened recesses of your pre-conscious mind, is a unique task and leaves one vulnerable and disquieted. There are no cheerleaders or decibel-shattering student sections to urge you on when you find the right word or idea. You are a cheering section of one.

The chances of success may at times seem dim and foolish, but four times a month you get to ask yourself the question, “What have I failed at this week?” No agent. No publisher. No signing deal. Buck up fellow writers. Next week is another chance to fail!

If you enjoyed reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Psychiatry, Self Examination, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

HAZING IN PRO-FOOTBALL, A PSYCHIATRIST THINKS ABOUT THE MARTIN-INCOGNITO CONTROVERSY, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

How is it that so many really intelligent and talented guys still buy into all that I-want-to-be-part-of-the-group neediness? Instead of neediness, I wanted to use the word “crap”, but thought it wouldn’t be all that professional.

The sadistic quality of fraternity hazing has gone on for years. Older brothers torture the younger wannabes just like the older brothers were tortured when they were freshman. If you want to be part of the hallowed group, you’re obligated to put up with it.

Now we’re learning that the same thing goes on in the NFL. Being the most talented athletes in the country, and making millions of dollars, obviously doesn’t change that need to belong. The fact that “more mature” coaches and general managers buy into this culture is obviously part of the problem.

Maybe I’m in the minority calling it a problem, but even in college it seemed ludicrous to let older “brothers” have that kind of sadistic control. I knew I wasn’t cut out to join Kappa Alpha Ridiculous when three guys stormed my dorm room at 3am screaming, “You’re in! You’re going to be a Ridiculous! The fact that I had a chemistry exam the next morning never occurred to anyone except me.

Maybe I made a mistake? If only I had joined, I could have tortured other freshman and really felt like a big man.

Oh, but what about bonding? When the youngsters are tortured by the older, more mature guys the young guys come together as a group. Love, caring and solidarity are achieved. The theory is that the more brutal the torturing, the closer the new class becomes.

That’s the answer, brutality breeds love. WE ARE THE MARINES.

Welcome to a society based on a ridiculous premise.

If you enjoy reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Bullying, Psychiatry, Self Examination, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

OUR INFANT PUPPETEER, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Let’s not dwell on the past

We’ll start from now and go forward.

Sometimes clichés are just shorthand for inane assumptions.

Not using information from our past is like trying to build a hi-rise and leaving out the foundation. It looks good until that first Santa Ana wind hits it’s eastern facade. Boom. No substance. All show.

The problem, and it’s a big one, is that our past is often hidden from our conscious thoughts. It’s there directing what we do, and we’re blithely assuming that we are making logical, conscious decisions. The truth, as difficult as it may be to accept, is that the child part of us, the infant, desperate to have his needs met, is often the puppeteer controlling our “adult” behavior.

One major example that I see all the time, is how we “adults” choose our spouse. On the surface, it’s all so straightforward. We meet someone, feel attracted and connected, and make a conscious decision to spend the rest of our lives with this person. Simple, right?

Not in my opinion. We handpick spouses who unconsciously meet a deep need from our childhood. For example, we consciously pick someone who we love, yet so often, our choice has many of the same flaws that our father or mother had. The same hurt is now re-lived, here in the present, just like it happened when we were little. Over and over, like a Chinese water torture, until the pain is so great you join 50% of your peers and get divorced.

What’s the answer? How do we stop being driven by the baby puppeteer?

Ah, we need a super-hero to help us.

Enter Freud, wearing a cape and driving a black Freud-mobile (an eco-friendly, convertible Tesla). After carefully removing his cape and settling into his well-worn, easy chair, what does the great man do?

He asks about your past. He helps you see the similarities between your life as a child and how you are now reliving that same life with your wife. Most importantly, he helps you see YOUR part in perpetuating this flawed reliving of an old bad movie.

It takes a while to tease out the past from the present, but eventually the immature puppeteer is exposed, and then the REAL YOU can make healthy choices and not be driven by a past that you can’t understand.

If you enjoy reading, Inside the Mind of a Psychiatrist, you might also enjoy Dr. Smukler’s novels, Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear. All are available as paperbacks and eBooks.

Posted in Childhood Trauma, Psychiatry, Self Examination | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments