THE PRESIDENT AND HIS PREY: Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Donald Trump’s greatest skill is destroying his enemies and competitors. He has an uncanny ability to intuit a person’s weakness and do whatever is necessary to destroy him (or her).

He brings to mind the sense of smell that dogs and other carnivorous mammals have — 1 million to a thousand million times greater than humans have. Think bomb smelling and drug smelling dogs.

We have a president who has the ability to decipher an opponent’s weakness and then go in for the kill — name calling, devaluing or outright bullying. He’s really a winner at what he does because he lacks what most of us have — a conscience.

His lies and clever smoke screens are better than most of us can muster because he doesn’t feel guilt or the sense of responsibility that honesty demands.

What’s the answer? It’s the same answer that a deceived spouse acts upon quite often — if a spouse constantly lies and is incapable of change, divorce him.

How can the American people divorce a president who has no respect for the truth; who attacks people at a whim, including heads-of-state?

If our elected officials don’t do what they should, we need to speak out until they finally listen. It happened with the Vietnam Nam war and Richard Nixon’s lies and there is no rational reason it can’t happen now.

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.

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Posted in Bullying, Politics, Psychiatry, Self Examination, Uncategorized, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

LESSONS FROM THE CHAIN GANG, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Recently, I decided to clean up and reorganize our backyard. We have a number of 50-year-old Spanish clay pots that were left by the previous owners and were sitting in the wrong places. Some of the pots easily weighed a few hundred pounds.

I did what any self-respecting psychiatrist-homeowner would do and called a half-dozen nurseries in the area. I explained the problem and most said they just didn’t come out to move pots. The one that said they could do it, wanted to charge enough for a weekend at a fancy hotel. So, the next morning I decided to do it myself.

First, I had to empty out all the pots. We’re talking about pots that stand over 4 feet high and 3 feet wide and filled with soil so old and hard that it felt like cement. Then I had to carefully move the empty pots, that still easily weighed over a hundred pounds, to their new location. It took almost two days of hard physical labor. A lot of shoveling, lifting, sweating and grunting.

Why does any of this matter? Gardeners do it every day.

Well I don’t. I sit in an office exercising my brain. This was the first time in many years, that I did this kind of work.

It brought to mind my teen years and the many hours I spent working for my Uncle Bill in his auto accessory store. I was assigned to the “chain gang” in the dank basement, where I put together heavy links of chain to make snow chains. Hour after hour I’d work alone, measuring, hauling boxes of uncut metal chain, and cutting and crimping them together. Sweating and cursing to myself I’d work hard, knowing I’d be paid at the end of the day and would always have a hot lunch with the other workers, hosted by my uncle at the neighborhood Puerto Rican restaurant.

Then I’d return to the basement and the chains, wondering what my lot in life would be. Would I be doing this forever? What was going to happen to me when I grew up?

Well, sweating outside in my own garden brought back these poignant memories. I miss my Uncle Bill. I appreciate all the opportunities he gave me to learn the value of hard work and how it would help me for the rest of my life. I miss how he would sometimes come down to the basement, look at what I’d accomplished, and smile.

When parents don’t give their children the opportunity to work hard and earn their way, but just give and give without value for value, they aren’t helping. In fact they are creating a person who often turns into an entitled, selfish individual. Hard work for fair pay should be the rule rather than the exception. Lunches should be earned.

I was also very fortunate that my uncle wasn’t simply a nice guy. He was also someone who enjoyed listening and doing his best to be helpful. He rewarded hard work with respect and love. I didn’t have the wisdom back then to appreciate him, but now I do.

It helped me raise my own family and become a good psychiatrist.

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.

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ASK NICELY AND DON’T INTERRUPT ANYONE, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

This morning I took a bike ride and stopped for coffee at Starbucks. In the spirit of full disclosure I do own stock in Starbucks. Also in the same spirit, not nearly enough. So, I was sitting having coffee and reading the morning news when a 9-year-old (maybe 7 or 8, they grow them big in California), ran over and asked one of the moms something.

Being a psychiatrist I used all my intuitive skills and figured out that the three boys at the next table belonged to the three women sitting next to me.

The mom said, “Ask nicely and don’t interrupt anyone.”
The little boy nodded and ran over to ask the barista for whatever he wanted. My psychiatric skills didn’t include deciphering what the little boy whispered in his mother’s ear.

A while later, as I stood up to leave, I said to the mom who gave her son the kind advice, “Sorry to interrupt, but I couldn’t help but hear you say to your son, ‘Ask nicely, and don’t interrupt anyone’. I wish you were Donald Trump’s mother.”
The three moms laughed. Maybe I should have been a stand-up comedian… The mom I spoke to said, “Me too. Thank you for saying that to me.” I smiled and we all waved goodbye.

I got on my bike and pedaled home.

Some of Trump’s ideas, which I won’t AGAIN belabor, are not all bad. His behavior and the way he talks to people and about people is abominable.

Ten billion dollars can’t buy a person sensitivity to others or the ability to put our nation before his own need to inflate himself. How much hot air does it take before he explodes?

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.

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DONALD TRUMP IS A LOSER, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

DONALD TRUMP IS A LOSER

Donald Trump is the president of the United States. These are his current accomplishments.

Millions of women from all over the country and world find his attitude and style deplorable. Misogynism, sexism and bigotry are not what they want in a person, much less a president. They marched in every major city in the country to express their powerful feelings that would give them equal rights with men in the market place, pro-choice and the right to not be personally and sexually exploited.

Trump is on the verge of making the US the largest country in the world to sabotage climate control. His rationale is that his way will lower production costs and produce more jobs. Short term gain versus long term planet disaster.

Trump will cost the country billions of dollars to treat and care for millions of unwanted children who will be born, because of his war on Planned Parenthood.

Name calling and branding competitors is Trump’s forte. All ready our children and fellow Americans think it’s fine to disrespect anyone who opposes them. The president does it, why can’t we?

Trump teaches ethics by example. Your investors can lose money, but you always need to make sure to protect yourself. Think Atlantic City.

Trump doesn’t pay income taxes. Why? Because he can.

Trump praises Putin. What better way to identify yourself as a fellow monarch? Democracy is for weaklings.

If Trump doesn’t win his point, he never graciously accepts defeat. He keeps doubling down. If he still doesn’t get what he wants, he has all his stooges lie and change the facts. Welcome to alternate reality.

The president isn’t helping the people of our country come together and fix the many things that need repair. He is really only interested in proving how smart and clever he is.

He has great ideas about repairing taxes, protecting our borders, battling terrorism, improving international trade and maybe even the Middle East. But, he’s too busy trying to get us all to think that he’s a winner instead of trying to really help the people of this country. It is a sad state that as of this moment…

Donald Trump is a LOSER.

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 | 7 Comments

IS THE LEADERSHIP OF THE UNITED STATES CRAZY, GREEDY OR JUST INEPT? Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

I love reading and writing mysteries. I also love reading espionage novels. Fellow aficionados can attest to one overriding theme that all espionage writers seem to share. It is a full out war between the acronyms. CIA, FBI, DOD, NSA, Homeland Security, and whatever letters none of us know about.

The storyline in the novel often goes something like this… The hero has been lied to by his own acronym and is out their alone in the cold as the acronym tries to destroy him. Out of necessity and love-of-country, he and his new love-interest try to avoid capture/execution and still save us from the foreign despots who are trying to destroy the United States.

You might understandably say, that’s fiction! Why wouldn’t the acronyms share information and focus on the real villains? A very reasonable assumption, but if you read my last post “Fiction is the Ultimate Truth”, you can see where I’m going with this. The novel is an opportunity for writers with a deep knowledge of a subject to have his/her character tell us what really goes on in the clandestine services. It may even be more accurate than “factual” papers written by people who are afraid to be politically incorrect and fired or reprimanded by the chief of service or even the president (Now that Trump will be in charge).

Okay, be skeptical, but let’s examine the facts.

The CIA got it entirely wrong that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Based on that erroneous information, we invaded Iraq and destabilized the Middle East. HOW? Was there pressure exerted by the White House?

George W. Bush was known to follow the advice of Dick Cheney, who was the chief executive of Halliburton before running for vice president. While Cheney was VP, Halliburton rose to become the seventh-largest military contractor. During the time that Cheney was in office, he actually received 2 million dollars in deferred compensation from Halliburton. Was there even more?

James Comey, formerly a REPUBLICAN, the Director of the FBI, released information about the democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, that probably helped Trump get elected –just weeks before the election!

Donald Trump attacked the entire intelligence community for releasing an unverified report containing salacious allegations about him, that Russia allegedly hacked, to the media.

All the acronyms agree that Russia has been hacking the US data systems, especially the DNC, and that the United States is extremely vulnerable. BUT, Donald Trump has publicly stated that he doesn’t believe it. THE PRESIDENT ELECT DENIES ANY FACTS OFFERED BY ALL OUR INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES.

Donald Trump still won’t release his tax reports, and in essence has not divested himself of his vast holdings. No one in congress is really doing anything about this. How can the leader of the free world not financially benefit from the day-to-day decisions that the chief executive has to make?

Donald Trump has called most of his republican competitors devaluing names, yet they now support him.

Donald Trump attacked John McCain’s years of being a POW. “I like winners, not losers.” Yet dozens of high level military personnel support him.

We call China one country, yet deal with mainland China and Taiwan all the time and pretend that Taiwan is not also China.

When the Iran nuclear deal was consummated, no one made it part of the contract that Iran openly state that our very important ally Israel has the right to exist. We just ignored the fact that Iran continues to support Hezbollah, Lebanon and Syria, all of which are committed to the destruction of Israel.

This is crazy! Right?

But, maybe there are ulterior motives — financial or political.

The motives certainly don’t seem altruistic.

Are they criminal?

We all need to be involved and educated about what’s happening in our country and our world. Ignoring the facts is dangerous. Pretending our leaders are doing a good job is craziness on our part.

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 CHASING BACKWARDS, a psychological murder mystery, Politics, Psychiatry, Self Examination, Skin Dance, a mystery, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, World events, a psychological view, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

FICTION IS THE ULTIMATE TRUTH, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Fiction is the ultimate truth.

Characters that can show us who we really are, and help us get through the dark and lonely times, are truly our friends.

A great writer does more than just tell a story. He creates characters that make the reader care. Holden Caulfield, Jack Reacher, Rabbit Angstrom… We stay up late worrying about them, thinking about their dilemmas, comparing what we would do in similar circumstances.

In Chasing Backwards and Skin Dance, you will meet two of my favorite characters in the world, Joe Belmont, a 1st year medical student, and Jake Robb MD, a psychiatrist. Well, I did give birth to both of them. You didn’t know that all writers have a uterus?

Nevertheless, like all of us, both my sons have their flaws. But, they have one common characteristic that I’ve always admired, they never give up. Whatever the odds — killers, psychosis, lost loves — they do what they have to do, to survive, and do the right thing.

In The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, you will meet me, Art Smukler, as a 1st year psychiatric resident, struggling to understand how to treat a dangerous psychotic patient and what it’s really like to become a psychiatrist.

Dr. Smukler has won the prestigious Golden Ear Award for excellence in teaching at Harbor-UCLA Medical center and excellence in writing fiction at The Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

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 CHASING BACKWARDS, a psychological murder mystery, Childhood Trauma, Psychiatry, Self Examination, Skin Dance, a mystery, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear | 5 Comments

IF ONLY OUR GOVERNMENT HAD SPOKEN TO 14-year-old ZAC BEFORE THEY INVADED IRAQ, ISIS MIGHT NOT EXIST, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Recently, I had the pleasure of going to a JV soccer game in Connecticut. One of the starters on the JV team was Zac, a ninth grader. Zac was the starting center defenseman.

Not knowing much about soccer, I noticed that the mid-fielders (Bend it like Beckham) and the forwards seemed much more active. Zac, even though he’s a really fast runner and an excellent athlete, was only involved in about a dozen plays.

I asked him if he was interested in changing positions, because it seemed like the other players got more of a chance to be in the thick of the action.

He answered, “I really like my position.”

“How come,” I asked.

“It gives me a chance to see the whole field, how everything is evolving. I like that. Often, I can predict what’s going to happen.”

“You don’t seem to get the ball much,” I said.

“”I’m not supposed to. If everyone does his job, I shouldn’t get it. I’m the last resort.”

“Wow,” I said with a nod. “It seems like chess.”

“It is,” he said, and went back to reading his latest novel.

You might already see where I’m going with this.

Back when George W. Bush authorized the US invasion of Iraq, did anyone bother to get the whole picture or even ask the elder Bush’s opinion? (He knew enough to not invade Baghdad). So, we conquered Iraq, a Sunni controlled nation, and eventually executed Sadaam Hussein. Iran, a Shiite nation, must have been ecstatic. After years of having an Iraq/Iran power balance, we basically handed Iraq over to Iran. Maliki, a Shiite, and the Iraqi prime minister, was really a pawn of Iran. When he took vengeance and started murdering the now out-of-power Sunni population, they became desperate and turned to what is now ISIS. They didn’t want to be slaughtered.

This was all predictable.

Seeing the whole field before making a move is called wisdom.

We needed you Zac.

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 CHASING BACKWARDS, a psychological murder mystery, Politics, Psychiatry, Self Examination, Skin Dance, a mystery, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

CAN WRITERS EVER BE FAILURES? by Art Smukler, author and psychiatrist

I just finished one more re-write of my fourth novel, The Search for Macaulay Harris. It’s a great book and it’s now ready to send out to a literary agent. Maybe…

One agent, Kristin Nelson, had some very supportive and somewhat comforting information on her site. She said that getting a first novel published and having it be a blockbuster is 99% fantasy. She implied that maybe the fourth novel might just hit the sweet spot. Four! I like that number.

As all writers know, writing a novel can be grueling. Years of spending a lot of time with our own thoughts can drive even the strongest among us to feelings of despair. And, what if the thoughts are only wonderful in our own minds?

A year or so ago I attended a lecture by Fareed Zakaria, the well-known educator and commentator. He shared some details of an interview he did with Sara Blakely, the self-made billionaire developer of Spanx, the must-have underwear for women.

Ms. Blakely attributed her success to her father. Once a week he would ask Sara, “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.”

Writers are especially vulnerable to failure. Sitting alone staring at a computer screen, as wisps of ideas make their way from the darkened recesses of our pre-conscious mind, is a lonely task. There are no cheerleaders or decibel-shattering student sections to scream when we find the right word or idea. Score a touchdown and the room echoes with silence. Plus, after you re-read that wonderful idea, often it’s not so wonderful.

Since writers’ have plenty of opportunities to fail, Sara Blakely’s lesson is very applicable. The question, “What have I failed at this week?” always has a number of good answers. It’s also true that anytime we sit down to write, something new comes out of our minds.

Even though others may not find value in our work, we are winning. The process of writing is exciting, interesting and challenging. Even if we fail to sell our books, we are winning, because we have the opportunity to do something that is truly creative. What other experience taps into our unconscious minds and produces a unique verbal picture? In the end, it is the process of creating that is so valuable. If we do it long enough, someone, somewhere, may agree that what we write is worth reading and sharing. If they don’t, we still live our lives and create something new every day.

What have I failed at this week?

I wrote four terrible pages, got one rejection, and came up with a new terrible idea. “Great,” Sara’s father would say. “I am very proud of you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Blakely,” I would say. “Thank you for your support and giving us writers another reason to never give up.”

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 | 5 Comments

IF I WERE JEB BUSH, WHAT WOULD I DO? By Art Smukler MD, author and psychiatrist

A few years ago, Jeb Bush spoke at a lecture series I attended in Manhattan Beach, California. He was articulate, energetic, and had a wealth of ideas that really impressed me. He earned my respect and even my prospective vote if he decided to run for president. FYI… I’m not a democrat or a republican. I vote for who I think is the best person for the job.

A year later, Jeb decided to run. We all know what happened. Donald Trump publicly humiliated him. Why? How?

First, let me give you a little of my back-story. I am somewhat obsessed with the idea of one man battling against great odds to survive and be successful. The caveat is always to do it with ethics and honor — fight hard and never give up! Winning is not winning if you’re a dirty fighter.

Donald Trump sucker-punched Jeb Bush and Jeb never recovered. Trump called him names and publicly mocked his gentle and studious style. True, Trump has an innate ability to find someone’s weakness and exploit that weakness. But, it’s a twisted gift that many bullies exploit, mainly in grade school.

Bush and his fellow republicans didn’t know how to deal with all Trump’s low blows. Politics, as they knew it, was not practiced that way.

Okay, so Trump won that round. Now what?

If I were Jeb Bush, I’d pull in every chit that anyone in power owed me and speak at the Republican National Convention or in a parallel venue. I would openly admit that I was sucker-punched and behaved poorly. I didn’t fight back in a way that made me proud. I would throw politics down the crapper and point out my true opinion of Donald Trump. His insensitive, juvenile mocking style and his aggressive, narcissistic personality make him a dangerous choice for President of the United States. I would advise ALL delegates to vote with their heart and mind and to realize that by supporting someone who behaves the way their chosen delegate behaves is IN THE LONG RUN a big mistake.

Art Smukler is an award-winning psychiatrist and author 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, CHASING BACKWARDS, a psychological murder mystery, Politics, Psychiatry, Self Examination, Skin Dance, a mystery, The Man with a Microphone in his Ear, World events, a psychological view | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

WHY IS THE MIND A MYSTERY? by Art Smukler MD, author & psychiatrist

We’ve gone to the moon and back in a spaceship, invented the Internet, computers, airplanes, internal combustion and electric automobile engines, electricity, television and radio, atomic bombs, antibiotics, antidepressants and antipsychotics, open heart surgery, the wheel, the outside jump shot, a great cup of coffee, the Cuban cigar and Sambuca, and of course the teeny weeny polka dot bikini.

So what’s with the fact that most of us keep doing downright stupid things and make recurrently bad decisions that lead to ongoing misery? If brilliant people can invent all that stuff, why can’t they give us the tools to stop making bad decisions?

When a patient describes an awful decision that he is on the verge of carrying out, I try to help. I say, “Are you sure that’s a good idea? Or; you’re doing the wrong thing! Or; don’t do that! It’s a terrible mistake. Or you’re reliving what happened when you were a boy.” You guessed it. Most of the time, they do it anyway. They are driven beyond reason to do what they have already decided. Rational discussion doesn’t work. It’s like they are psychotic, even though by any reasonable standards, they are perfectly normal.

Here’s one example. Ted, an attractive thirty-year-old attorney, had asked Sally, an attractive accountant, to marry him. In spite of their constant bickering, unsatisfying sexual relations, and a lack of emotional connection after three years of dating, she agreed.

So when I confronted him with these obvious red flags, he ignored my comments, and went ahead with his decision. Twenty years later, I ran into Ted at a party and learned that he was unhappily married and having an affair.

So what’s Ted’s back-story? He had a cold, verbally abusive father and a mother who never protected him from this man. Ted had spent his whole life trying to get his father to love him — he even chose a wife that was the emotional duplicate of him. And Sally, the perfect psychological choice, never disappointed. She spent twenty years verbally abusing him and he kept hoping that she would change and love him.

The underlying psychological dynamic is called a Repetition Compulsion. It is the need to undue early trauma and make it better. It is a very common occurence. Consciously a person chooses a spouse because of beauty, intelligence, money… Unconsciously, he or she chooses a spouse to fix whatever hurt was endured during childhood.

Repetition Compulsion is unconscious. A person doesn’t know he or she is doing this. It is the part of the iceberg that is far below the surface and invisible, yet it holds up the ice that is seen. It is only later, if one has the capacity to examine his or her life and the decisions that were made, that the destructive pattern emerges. Once one sees the pattern, it’s still not so easy to change. But, it can be done. That’s what psychotherapy is all about –- observing the unconscious and getting the courage to change. By examining patterns, dreams, behavior, and the transference relationship between the patient and the therapist, the hidden code of unconscious behavior can be broken.

Art Smukler is an award-winning psychiatrist and author 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 Childhood Trauma, Psychiatry, Self Examination | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments