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Plumbing the Depths of Power

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
plumbing-depths7I prefer to see therapy not as a method or a technique, but as the shared pursuit of power, power that paradoxically results from penetrating and excavating, like an archaeologist, the places within which powerlessness resides, which are usually the very places that most of us ...

Tell Me a Story: The Power of Storytelling

Saturday, June 21st, 2014
tell-story“Information brings knowledge, but stories bring wisdom.” These words guide my clinical work more than any others, for I have learned that it is the power of the patient’s story, rather than that of the patient’s dogged data, that defines and informs psychotherapy’s curative ...

The Adolescent Saboteur

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
The Adolescent SaboteurWe frequently use the term “self-sabotage” to describe behavior that, at least on the surface, appears to work to the patient’s disadvantage. Wikipedia defines sabotage as “a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity or corporation through subversion, obstruction, disruption, destruction or underhand ...

The Therapeutic Relationship in CBT

Thursday, May 16th, 2013
In a recent online discussion, a colleague wrote "Perhaps psychodynamic therapists have relied too heavily on the relationship at the expense of client skill-building, while the opposite tends to be true for CBT therapists."  This is a common criticism of CBT, but is there reason to believe that CBT therapists emphasize client skill-building at the ...

Is Your Greatest Liability also Your Greatest Asset?

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
What happens if you ask a child to look into an empty box and just pretend that something is there? In an interesting series of experiments, some children were asked to pretend that a puppy dog was in the box. As part of the experiment, the researcher was called out of the room, after which the children would often sneak a second peak at the puppy, some would even stick a hand in the box to check it out. Then there was a second group of children who were asked to pretend that a monster was in the box. These poor kids sat paralyzed in the chair, some cried, some even fled the room. The conclusion of the research was that children have difficulty separating pretense from reality. But what about adults?

The Most Powerful Emotion of All

Friday, March 15th, 2013
Burning BooksFor centuries, poets and priests have reflected on the influence of emotion, noting its ability to suddenly take control of thought and behavior. After reading Paul Ekman’s research on universal emotions, I was curious to know which emotion is most powerful. Some would suggest it is love. Having begun my career as a domestic violence counselor for violent and abusive men, I have direct knowledge of how powerful anger and rage can be, often trumping the intentions of love. Is there anything more powerful than anger and rage? I decided that I would answer the question through research. Because I wanted my results to be robust, I collected a very large amount of data (approximately 13 million subjects). With a preference for practical methods, I used a methodology that can be easily replicated by anyone with internet access, Google Books in particular. Using the search engine’s ability to locate each instance that a specific word group appears in written literature, I counted the number of hits for phrases such as “anger made me” or “sadness made me,” each time substituting a different emotional term. The results were both surprising and obvious, once I thought about it.

Upending Neodarwinism

Saturday, March 5th, 2011
The Selfish Gene got it backwards. Dawkins accepted Tennyson's metaphor of "tooth and claw," expressed W. D. Hamilton's ideas in plain language, worked in synchrony with Hawk and Dove fans, and reinforced the image of selfishness "learning" cooperation. (Irony: all of this happened despite tenuous degrees of kinship between the investigators!) Strogatz ...

Logic and Human Destiny

Friday, February 11th, 2000
I've toyed for several years with using "complexity theory" to understand human interactions. It really does work and in some very powerful ways. Meanwhile, Robert Wright independently applied the ideas to human social evolution and wrote Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, recently published by Pantheon. Thus, I've reacted to his ideas ...

The Narcissus Letters

Thursday, May 20th, 1999
Patients express themselves in many ways. As therapists we have an obligation to listen and an opportunity to learn from each expression. However, it is often difficult to know what it is our patients are tying to ...

Diagnosis and Evolutionary Theory

Thursday, January 21st, 1999
Reminders of Our Past First, it was noticed recently that some of our female ancestors in Africa had smaller leg bones and a different ankle structure than the males, suggesting to modern scientists that women came to ground from the trees long after the males did. Observers next watched American children on playgrounds; surprisingly, ...