Sunday, September 25, 2016

What is the TTC Community?

Now that the DSM 5 is out and selling like crazy, it’s time to think up some new diagnoses for the upcoming DSM 6.

As you know, mental health professionals use the diagnostic manual to look up codes for their patients’ mental illnesses. They write the codes on insurance forms so that the companies will pay for treatment.

Anyway, the DSM crew is always looking for new forms of mental illness, and I would like to recommend one. It comes from a letter that was sent to Ask Polly, New York Magazine’s seriously challenged advice columnist.

Today, for reasons of benevolence, I will not pass along any of Polly’s commentary. If you are Polly responds that she does not have the problem the letter writer presents. As you might know, Polly loves to write about herself... about something she thinks she knows.

Anyway, the letter writer brings our attention to what is called the TTC community. TTC means: trying to conceive. Conception is a blessing, Shakespeare told us, but for women who have waited to conceive, the process can be riddled with anxiety. It’s a modern condition, derived largely from the fact that modern well-educated women, for various reasons, have chosen to defer and delay childbearing.

A woman who, for reasons I do not quite understand, calls herself  TTC Lurker describes the syndrome well:

I have a question about pregnancy jealousy. I work for a company in the fertility field. In the interest of getting to know our customer base, I’ve become very involved in what they call the TTC (trying to conceive) community online. And as a recently married early-30-something who is almost-but-not-quite-yet about to start trying for a baby of my own, talking to women who are struggling to conceive all day really freaks me out. All the cycle tracking, temperature taking, peeing on sticks, anxious waiting, jealousy when you see someone else’s pregnancy announcement on Facebook …

For these women, it seems like time spent trying to get pregnant becomes its own phase of life. They form a community of support, have all kinds of inside jokes and acronyms. But even though it’s part of my job to help these women, in the place where there should be empathy, part of me recoils.

For your edification, here is a link to the Bump website. It seems illustrative and, if I may say so, soothing.

Both the letter writer and Polly ignore one salient aspect of this problem.. Women who are suffering from this anxiety are living out the consequence of a life choice.

They were told and they accepted the feminist life plan: namely, that childbearing had to be postponed into a woman’s thirties because career had to come first. Feminists routinely disparage women who marry young and who have children young. The worst thing that can happen to a woman is to sacrifice her career to become a housewife and mother, a useless drudge, tied down to home and babies.

From the feminist perspective, conception is a curse. What used to be called “the curse” is now presumably a blessing. Unless she is trying to conceive. No wonder women are anxious and confused. Women’s health, from a feminist perspective, requires endless conversations about contraception and abortion.

Of course twenty-somethings have far fewer problems with conception. Every woman who is thinking clearly—and women do think about this very, very often—knows that postponing conception entails risk. Every woman has a free choice about whether or not she wants to assume that risk.

She should not however allow herself to be seduced into thinking that if she does as the feminists have told her to do, if she chooses to postpone marriage and conception in the interest of pursuing career opportunities, her chances to have children will not diminish. Life is about trade-offs. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

Now, to keep this all fair and balanced, we note that some women postpone marriage and childbearing because there are fewer and fewer good men, men who are husband material, out there. I need not tell you about the war against men and the disparagement of any man who dares to suggest that he wants to become a breadwinner. One consequence is the TTC community.

Often, as Polly herself did, women become attached to men who are overgrown children, who are incapable of assuming adult paternal responsibilities. Many young women find themselves in the TTC community because breadwinners have become increasingly scarce.

Trumpophobia

Left-thinking New Yorkers are having a nervous breakdown. They are rushing to their therapists to talk through their deep anguish and despair over the current election. Most especially, they are torqued over the candidacy of someone who is… dare I point it out… one of their own.

Read the headline on the Slate story:

Fear, Anxiety, and Depression in the Age of Trump

Therapists and their patients are struggling to cope amid the national nervous breakdown that is the 2016 election.

Fear, anxiety and depression… that’s a trifecta.

Struggling to cope… with what, exactly? With a possibility, with an eventuality. And, why are the therapists also struggling to cope? Do they too suffer from fear, anxiety and depression? If so, what good has therapy done for them?

Evidently, these patients do not know that we are not living in the Age of Trump. We are living in the Age of Obama. Perhaps they are displacing their anguish over the current state of the nation… away from the person responsible to the person they can denounce to their left-thinking therapists.

Trust me, a patient who goes to a therapist’s office to rail about Obama will be denounced as a racist and be told that he needs to spend five years on the couch.

Besides, isn’t Trump the embodiment of New York values? Isn’t Trump really a liberal Democrat disguised as a Republican? You cannot walk too many blocks in New York City without seeing the name Trump… in giant letters. How did it happen that all of these left-thinking New Yorkers gave it nary a thought when the Donald was among them, but now feel pangs of anguish… to the point of suffering from Trumpophobia… when they think of their man in the White House?

One suspects that they are worried that they will not see honest Hillary, strong and empowered, unable to walk up the steps on her, stumble her way into the White House. The Age of Obama now gives us a terrorist attack or a riot every week or so. Just think of how it will be with tough-talking mealy mouthed Hillary!

A bomb goes off in Chelsea. No problem. Donald Trump... oh, my God!!!

All therapy patients know in their hearts that Hillary is stronger than the man of steel. What do you want to bet that, if she is elected, she will quickly have the opportunity to show how tough she is? After all, the weak-kneed Obama, master of the art of surrender, has made us more vulnerable. Now, all we need, to rouse our enemies, is tough Hillary.

No wonder these patients are going to therapy. They don’t know what they are afraid of.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Picture of Success

I know that Kevin Williamson is a fan favorite around these parts, so I am happy to pass along his description of truly successful people. By his lights, such people are humble and modest. They let their work speak for itself.

Williamson's remarks come from a column this morning about William Buckley:

Truly accomplished people are, in the main, generous, gracious, and open; it is the mediocrities, those who have done a little bit of something or other but still feel the need to convince themselves that they deserve whatever reputation they have, who are hard to take. It is an ordinary and familiar human failing: They are selling you themselves, hard, because they themselves do not quite believe in the product. Baryshnikov never feels the need to say, “You know, I’m a really good dancer.” Bill Gates never feels the need to mention that he is immensely rich. George Clooney never talks about his romantic history.

A Propensity toward Criminality

A few words from Andrew McCarthy about the interactions between blacks and the police. McCarthy is trying to diminish the hold of today’s master narrative, the one that sees white policemen as being a hit squad that was sent out to murder black people. 

He writes:

The elephant in the room, the fundamental to which we must never refer, is propensity toward criminality. It is simply a fact that blacks, and particularly young black men, engage in lawless conduct, very much including violent conduct, at rates (by percentage of population) significantly higher than do other racial or ethnic groups.

This is not a matter of conjecture. Crime gets reported by victims; the police don’t invent it, they investigate it. Overwhelmingly, the victims of black crime are black people. Indeed, as Heather Mac Donald relates in her essential book, The War on Cops, only 4 percent of black homicide victims are killed in police interactions. If African-American parents were really having “the talk” that is pertinent to protecting their children, it would have to involve the reality that those children are overwhelmingly more likely to be shot by other black youths. The police are having “police involved” confrontations with young black men largely because black communities demand police protection — and understandably so.

One understands that no one much cares about the facts. We are being subjected to a steady diet of propaganda masquerading as truth. And we are not allowed to think otherwise. Worse yet, McCarthy notes, by feeding us propaganda and forcing us to believe it culture warriors are depriving us of our rational faculties. 

The Happiness Industry

How could anyone be against happiness? It doesn’t make very much sense to be against happiness, but the Schumpeter columnist at The Economist has done just that.

Does this mean that he is for unhappiness, that he wants us all to be miserable?

Not exactly.

And why, pray tell, do we believe that happiness and unhappiness are the only two alternatives? We do experience other emotions. And we ought to experience emotions that are appropriate to our circumstances. To be happy all the time is to be a blithering fool.

It’s an old debate, going back to Aristotle. The philosopher used eudaimon as his term for happiness. Today it is translated by politically correct thinkers as: flourishing.

Of course, happiness and flourishing are not the same. One understands that feminists have introduced the term “flourishing” to provide a more female-friendly concept of happiness.

Consider Tom Brady playing in the Super Bowl. Would you say that he is flourishing? Consider Dwight Eisenhower on D-Day? Would you choose the word flourishing to describe his mood? Or even consider Douglas MacArthur receiving the Japanese surrender in World War II. If you put yourself in his shoes would you say that you are flourishing?

The term “flourishing” does not account for competitive enterprise. As I have said, it means “flowering” and more aptly describes potted plants.

Now that cognitive psychologists have overcome the gloom and doom of Freud’s tragic ethos and are basking in the glow of happiness, corporate America has jumped on the bandwagon. American companies now have happiness officers. The have mandated that all of their employees be happy.

What could be wrong with that?

Schumpeter describes this new form of corporate manipulation:

The leading miscreant is Zappos, an online shoe shop. The firm expects its staff to be in a state of barely controlled delirium when they sell shoes. Pret A Manger, a British food chain, specialises in bubbly good humour as well as sandwiches. Air stewards are trained to sound mellifluous but those at Virgin Atlantic seem on the verge of breaking out into a song-and-dance routine. Google until recently had an in-house “jolly good fellow” to spread mindfulness and empathy.

Are these companies happy with their happiness training? You bet they are:

Zappos is so happy with its work on joy that it has spun off a consultancy called Delivering Happiness. It has a chief happiness officer (CHO), a global happiness navigator, a happiness hustler, a happiness alchemist and, for philosophically minded customers, a happiness owl. Plasticity Labs, a technology firm which grew out of an earlier startup called the Smile Epidemic, says it is committed to supporting a billion people on their path to happiness in both their personal and professional lives.

You think that that is strange. Consider the consultant who is teaching “happiness hygiene:”

Shawn Achor, who has taught at Harvard University, now makes a living teaching big companies around the world how to turn contentment into a source of competitive advantage. One of his rules is to create “happiness hygiene”. Just as we brush our teeth every day, goes his theory, we should think positive thoughts and write positive e-mails.

One understands that this is coming to us from positive psychology. Then again, you might also recall the popularity of an old book called The Power of Positive Thinking, Its author, Norman Vincent Peale was a minister, and, as you suspect, his was a God-centered approach. Perhaps all of this positive psychology is a way to market God to unbelievers.

Businessmen love happiness because they see happy workers as more productive workers. Happy people attract more friends. Happy staff members attract more customers. Surely, it makes sense:

Dale Carnegie, a leadership guru, said the best way to win friends and influence people was to seem upbeat. Disneyland is still “the happiest place on Earth”. American firms regularly bid their customers to “have a nice day”. One of the sharpest books published on the phenomenon is “The Managed Heart” from 1983, in which Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that many employers demanded “emotional labour” from workers in the form of smiles and other expressions of “positive emotion”. Firms are keen to extract still more happiness from their employees as the service sector plays an ever greater role in the economy. Run-of-the-mill service firms are fighting for their lives against discounters. As customers, most people prefer their service with a smile rather than a snarl.

Now that everyone has figured out that psychotherapy is not likely to make you any happier and that psychoanalysis is very likely to make you depressed, companies are using yoga and meditation to help their employees find true happiness or a reasonable facsimile:

Some firms are trying to create some wellbeing, too, showering their employees with mindfulness courses, yoga lessons and anything else that proves that managers are interested in “the whole person”. Only happy fools would take that at face value. Management theorists note that a big threat to corporate performance is widespread disengagement among workers. Happy people are more engaged and productive, say psychologists. Gallup claimed in 2013 that the “unhappiness” of employees costs the American economy $500 billion a year in lost productivity.

It sounds good. It sounds unimpeachable. It even sounds perfectly harmless. We appreciate Schumpeter for laying out the issue so clearly. And we also appreciate his critiquing it all.

He begins with the salient observation that we do not really know to any degree of certainty whether someone is happy or miserable or neither. Given today’s technocratic age, this uncertainty has inspired companies to find new, better gadgets to measure your state of mind. As though they have a right to do so.

Schumpeter writes:

One problem with tracking happiness is that it is such a vague metric: it is difficult to prove or disprove Gallup’s numbers since it is not entirely clear what is being measured. Companies would be much better off forgetting wishy-washy goals like encouraging contentment. They should concentrate on eliminating specific annoyances, such as time-wasting meetings and pointless memos. Instead, they are likely to develop ever more sophisticated ways of measuring the emotional state of their employees. Academics are already busy creating smartphone apps that help people keep track of their moods, such as Track Your Happiness and Moodscope. It may not be long before human-resource departments start measuring workplace euphoria via apps, cameras and voice recorders.

If you believe this to be invasive, you are probably right. Given the mania about happiness and positive thinking, no one really cares. Given the assurance that this is all for the best, no one has a right to care.

Of course, Schumpeter cares and so do we. When companies force their employees to feel a certain form of euphoria, said employees might tune out the real world. Or, they might become overconfident.

They might become so contented that they forget to do the grueling work of checking the details of a project. Engineered happiness does not necessarily make you a better employee. It might, at the limit, make you a better sales person, but if your happiness has been produced artificially by a pill or a pep talk, as opposed to your track record and the quality of what you are selling, the chances are good that your customers will eventually see through the mask.

Don’t we know that different emotions, from fear to joy to anger to sadness, provide you with information about your reality? It makes no sense to feel happy when you should be sad over someone’s loss. When someone insults you, you should feel angry, not happy. If you are happy you will be setting yourself up for more insults. If your products are badly made you should be feeling anxiety and should do what is necessary to correct the mistake. To be happy is to miss the point entirely.

If you go around sporting the same stupid grin no matter what is happening, you are going look like you are wearing a mask. And that you are off in your own world, blinded to reality.

Schumpeter see it as an infringement of one’s liberty:

Companies have a right to ask their employees to be polite when they deal with members of the public. They do not have a right to try to regulate their workers’ psychological states and turn happiness into an instrument of corporate control.

The larger issue is this: the current wave of positive thinking and happiness production has gotten it backwards. To coin a phrase, it has put the cart before the horse. Were you to glance, however furtively, at Aristotle you would discover that he saw happiness as an end, not as the means. You are happy for having succeeded, for having achieved something. Happiness is what you feel after you have completed the task, not something that you bring to the task.

Keep in mind, God rested after creating the world. He did not bask in contentment before the fact.

If you are in sales, you ought to show a confident and upbeat demeanor. But, that demeanor should correlate with a track record of success. If we imagine that you can take a pill that will make you feel happy, won’t you still be pretending. Feeling happy when you have nothing to feel happy about is a pretense. No one is against pretense and no one is against faking it, but happiness is not necessarily the best motivator.

Sometimes you are more motivated by your wish to avoid failure or by your wish not to let down your teammates.  Happiness is a good slogan for a cartoon. Making it a panacea oversimplifies human emotion and human motivation.

Race and Murder in the USA

Sometimes a chart speaks a thousand words. For those who care to shed a little light on the reality of racial murder in the United States, I submit the following (via Maggie's Farm):

Friday, September 23, 2016

Depressed Men in Therapy

Depression affects women more than men. And yet, when men become depressed they rarely seek treatment. So explains Elizabeth Bernstein in her Bonds column this week.

Therapists are concerned about male depression, but not sufficiently concerned to see that they might be more the problem than the solution.

After all, no self-respecting man is going to sit in a therapist’s office and try to get in touch with his feelings. It will be worse when the therapist is a woman. The experience is alien to his being. He will do everything in his power to avoid debasing himself in front of a woman, especially a woman therapist. Moreover he will suspect, correctly, that a woman will not understand the extent to which his self-regard depends on his career success.

Most of today’s therapists are female. And they are more likely to want a man to get in touch with his feminine side, to get in touch with his feelings, to express what he is bottling up inside. It’s what they know how to do. About the world of men they know very little.

Worse yet, in many cases today’s therapists are indoctrinating people in politically correct pieties. Today’s female therapists are invariably feminists and they use their practice to pass along the feminist party line. They will tell men to support their wives’ careers and to diminish their commitments to their careers in order to have work/life balance.

Again, it’s what they know. And it’s what they believe.

When men become depressed the reason most often has to do with being less successful in their careers. Not always, but very often. If they bought the notion of work/life balance and have cut back their hours on the job they will most likely fall behind their colleagues who have not done the same. This loss of status, this sense of being second rate cannot be solved with a pill and cannot be solved by getting in touch with anyone’s feelings.

To be fair they might have been persuaded to do as Mark Zuckerberg did, to take time off to play Mr. Mom with their newborn. Their wives might have told them: If Mark Zuckerberg can do it, why can't you? They did not understand that Zuckerberg was pulling an arrogant stunt, and that if a man who is not worth billions and does not own the company does as
Zuckerberg did, his career prospects will decline precipitously.

Of course, men today are subjected to constant male and husband bashing. They are guilt-tripped about being part of the patriarchy. If they are white they are trashed for their white privilege. If they are Asian they are still trashed for their white privilege. They are taken to be potential or actual rapists. They are disrespected and insulted with impunity. If they dare to fight back they are threatened.

Given the cultural climate and given male instinct they are disinclined to see a female therapist.

More than a few men have seen their career success systematically undermined by their wives. And yet, they cannot leave their marriages because they want what is best for their children. They feel trapped and helpless.

If a depressed man goes to see a feminist therapist she will most likely tell him to man up and do the dishes. She will tell him that he needs to get over his patriarchal longings and his white privilege. Then she will tell him that he has control issues and unresolved pathological narcissism.

So, why would he want to go to see such a therapist? Someone who is doling out the party line and pretending that it is science.

Back in the day when women were becoming more prominent in the therapy world they were trolling for female clients. They used to say that no man could ever understand a woman’s experience. No man could feel the proper amount of empathy for a woman… as though such empathy and introspective soul-searching would ever help a woman to get along in the world.

Obviously enough, their argument must also entail that most women do not really understand a man’s experience. Given their predilection to believe that feminist pieties are scientific fact, many female therapists are not going to understand men at any time in the near future.

Besides, keep in mind that most depression today is treated with medication. We can argue about whether the medication is effective, but if talk therapy were really an effective treatment of depression, the nation would not be awash in Prozac.

One understands that therapists are licensed and credentialed professionals, but if you think that it’s easy to treat depression or, for example, addiction, you should think again.

One needs to mention, if only as a public service, that men who are suffering from depression would do better to get a trainer than to get a therapist. Better to get a trainer who conditions them than to find a therapist who will tell them to get in touch with their feelings. By now, everyone knows that exercise is a great treatment for depression, but one needs to keep mentioning it.

Also, when it comes to treatment,  keep in mind the immortal words of Harvard psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Mollica: “The best anti-depressant is a job.” Not just a job of course, but a job in which one is succeeding. If a man compromises his job prospects to find work/life balance, and thus sees others doing better than he, he will have lost face. And lost face is a form of depression.

Work/life balance is becoming the epitaph on the tombstones of many a man’s dead career.

I emphasize again: being in touch with your feelings has very little to do with learning how to function in the world. And no therapist can help a patient learn how to function in the world if the therapist does not know how the world functions.

Most therapists whine about emotion because that’s what they know. It’s their domain. The world of business, commerce and the professions… is not their bailiwick. Instead of trying to make sense out of a difficult work situation or a complex marital negotiation, they are likely to fall back on the idiot question: How does that make you feel?

I promise you, no man has any idea of what that means. If he answers the question he will only be going through the motions.

When therapists get over their mania about feelings they tell their patients that it’s all a control issue. But, what good does that do? Either you can help a patient get control of his life or you cannot. Saying that he has control issues is mindless pabulum.

As it happens, Bernstein uses male therapists in her column. A wise choice, indeed. And yet, the male therapists seem more to be metrosexual. They want you to learn how to express your emotions.

Shouldn’t they know that a man who expresses his emotions openly and freely will lose the respect of his colleagues, his manager and his staff. Most men will think that they are not only being invited to learn how better to whine, and they know that if they go to therapy and develop the bad habit of expressing their emotions, the habit will not remain contained within the walls of the therapist’s office.

So-called experts affirm this assessment. Bernstein explains:

Some men aren’t in touch with their feelings. But the larger problem is that men have been conditioned not to talk about them. “There is that sense that they should be in control of their emotions and that being depressed can be viewed as a sign of weakness,” says Jeffrey Borenstein, a psychiatrist and president of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation in New York. Men are expected to handle problems on their own, he says.

Actually, it’s not such a bad idea for women to learn how to handle problems. If women and men are taught by therapists to get in touch with their feelings they will be avoiding their problems in favor of soul searching and navel-gazing.

For a man, this emotion centered therapy will feel like an invitation to weakness. They know that it will make them feel more depressed and more ineffectual:

This sense of weakness can make depression worse for men, therapists say. “For women, depression is a signal for getting help, that something needs to be addressed in a fundamental way,” says Nando Pelusi, a clinical psychologist in New York. “For men, it’s a signal that they are a failure and are submitting to defeat.”

As it happens, these insight-oriented therapies are largely a waste of time. Bernstein points out that the most effective treatments for depression are based on cognitive exercises or on changing behavior:

There are several types of psychotherapy that have been shown to successfully treat depression and that focus on changing one’s behavior. These include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which helps a person change his thoughts, and Behavioral Activation, which helps him become more engaged in his day-to-day life. These may be more comfortable to many men.

Of course, it’s not really about making this more comfortable for men. It is about getting men more engaged in their jobs and their careers. And yet, in order to help a man to do this one must have a good sense of how the world works, how a business is organized, what demands and requirements are involved.

How many therapists really know much of anything about any of this? Precious few, I believe. The men who refuse to submit themselves to a therapy that will tell them to get in touch with their feelings, that will tell them to express their feelings, that will tell them to accept a reasonable work/life balance, that will tell them to get in touch with their feminine sides, that will disrespect their drive to get ahead in the world and will demean their manliness… are doing the best that they can under the circumstances.