Listening with the Third Ear (using intuition and a sixth sense to intuit what’s really going on in the minds and hearts of my patients) also applies to me.
Sitting in Starbucks this morning, I began to wonder what I was really doing — starting a blog, taking classes on Social Media, writing and publishing a book. The whole process made me anxious and not centered. Why not just see my patients, spend time with my family and friends, read the novels that I enjoy, play tennis and bike ride? Last week my son wanted to know if I was going through a mid-life crisis. My wife laughed and said that I’m too old for a mid-life crisis.

If not a mid-life crisis, then why am I so anxious? I started thinking about how the summer was half over and in just three weeks the college football season would start. That led me to think about Penn State’s head football coach, Joe Paterno. JoePa is 84 years old and still going strong. He is active, fought his way back from a recent fractured hip and leg, and is determined to only quit when he can’t function effectively anymore. According to Black Shoe Diaries by Chris Grovich, JoePa is planning on coaching another four or five years. Some in the sports world think he’s stubborn and hurting the program. Others, like myself, applaud him and his convictions. I also applaud his intellect and philosophical view of the world. Recently at Big Ten Media Day he said, “The kids today ought to go back and read Socrates. Socrates, 400 BC said, ‘The kids today are terrible tyrants. They don’t pay attention.’ That’s 2500 years ago. Ok? Anyway, I’m shooting my mouth off too much. Let’s go.”

Why even write about JoePa on a site that is allegedly about psychiatry and psychological issues? Because this, in my mind, is a great example of how Listening with the Third Ear works. Once my thoughts switched to football and then Joe Paterno and the risks that he’s taking, I realized that publishing my writing, something that I’ve loved and done for many years, is also a risk. It is a change in my everyday life, a change that might leave me vulnerable to criticism. Currently, I’m a successful and respected psychiatrist. What if this new endeavor is a bust and I’m exposed — the wizard hiding out behind his couch? 

What’s the worst that can happen? People won’t like my writing. What’s the worst that can happen to JoePa? He’ll lose more games than the fans want. What does it mean? It means that exposing myself is anxiety producing. If the end result is that some people won’t like my writing and Joe will lose some games… We’ll both survive.

 Once I figured this out, my anxiety actually went away! In its place is even more excitement and commitment to this new project. Now, if only Penn State can beat Alabama!

Letting your mind wander and then examining why it went where it went is how Listening with the Third Ear works.                                                                                                                                     

4 thoughts on “JOE PATERNO IS MY HERO, by Art Smukler MD

  1. Art, thanks for sharing your story. Further proof that Coach Paterno is continuing to make an impact everyday with professionals like yourself as well as our student athletes throughout PENN STATE!


  2. I agree with you about JoePa because he is far more than a coach. Most know him for what he does on the playing field of football. However what he is and does on the playing field of life is something that we all can admire and learn from. .


  3. Art: This is a wonderful blog and I can’t wait to read your book. I don’t think this is a mid-life, twilight-life or anything other kind of life crisis at all. You are just continuing your journey through life with new interests that your fertile mind is leading you to–writing novels and obsessing at Starbucks (although the latter may not be a new thing). And, I must admit, I have major JoePa envy in that I am a UCLA fan, and if my Third Ear ever leads me to thinking about UCLA football, I will be running to your office for a prescription for Prozac. I do like your conclusion that in the end if someone doesn’t like your book or if JoePa loses too many games, you will both survive. Well, not so sure about JoePa.



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