Are People Getting More Primitive, or Is Psychoanalysis?

There is a trend in psychoanalysis that privileges primitive mental states. This trend reflects a turn in theory but doesn't necessarily reflect importantl new insights that increase our therapeutic efficacy. I speculate that the motivations behind this "turn" include the excitement connected to notions of "depth" and a compensatory retreat from seeking greater efficacy.

The Gun Lobby's Hypocrisy About Mental Health

The gun lobby's attempts to divert attention from guns to mental health after Newtown was predictable, but hypocritical. If one looked seriously at what it would take to deal with the psychological causes of gun rampages, the cost and necessary expansion of government would be intolerable to those on the Right pretending to address the problem of mental illness today.

Bruce Springsteen and the Politics of Meaning in America

Bruce Springsteen speaks to needs people have for meaning, connection, recognition, and agency. Progressives need to address these needs in order to defeat the advantage the Right has in money. Thus, we have to speak, like Springsteen, to their broader needs for things in addition to economic justice.

When Progressive Leaders Burn Out, We All Lose

Progressive leaders are too often martyrs who burnout and recreate grim environments unattractive to others. It stems from both external pressures and internal conflicts involving guilt. A combination of organizational and personal changes can alleviate this problem and is essential to the success of our movement.

Obama, Cynicism, and the Need for Meaning

The need for meaning is fundamental in the human psyche. It animates people in politics, work, family, and in both their spiritual and creative lives. When it's frustrated, as it has been by Obama, people become cynical. When it's activated, people will join movements and become their better selves.

Getting to the Bottom of Online Sex

It's fine to judge Anthony Weiner. But if you want to understand the psychology of men drawn to online sex, you have to understand that such outlets provide very particular disconfirming conditions for the anxieties that plague men.

Everything Said About Anthony Weiner Is Wrong

It's fine to be upset with Anthony Weiner for hurting the Democratic Party with his sexual shenanigans. But since we will never know a single thing about his personal psychology, everything we infer about it represents our own projections.

No, Virginia: AT&T Just Seems Like the Great Satan

The helplessness of waiting for being jerked around by customer service and technical support is both toxic and widespread. AT&T is a special culprit in this regard. Too much of our lives are spent subject to this type of powerlessness and indifference. Research shows that it's not necessary.

Only One Side Needs To Be More Civil

The myth is that we need to tone down our rhetoric and restore civility to political life.  The reality is that the real and potential violence in political life today comes from the Right.  The recent tragedy is Arizona is a wake up call for all of us to confront this paranoia of the Right in all of its forms.

In Treatment Is Great T.V. But Terrible Psychotherapy

In Treatment, while great television, reinforces the view that therapists must remain ever-vigilant about "boundary violations," a subtle reminder that they should try to be more neutral and abstinent.  In fact, this axiom is destructive to the profession which needs to focus more on therapeutic outcome and on shaping the relationship entirely to this aim.

Why New Years Resolutions Don't Work

New Year's resolutions invariably fail because they don't take account of the powerful unconscious resistance to change. Unfortnately, the unconscious mind is increasingly getting a bad rap.

Why We Love Dr. Laura

Dr. Laura's popularity derives from the ways she blames and hates victims.  We all have trouble feeling entitled to care, protection, and love.  When people or groups "appear" to Laura to need help, she attacks them in the same way that we all attack ourselves for these apparent crimes. They're not crimes, of course, but are actually normal human needs and vulnerabilities.  

Misunderstanding and Misunderstood By Social Theory

Whenever one analyzes broad social or historical trends, individuals participating in those trends inevitably feel misunderstood.  Still, such analyses and critiques remain important

We Need a Practical Psychoanalysis

Daphne Merkin's essay in a recent NY Times Magazine illustrates the perils of a psychoanalytic culture that privileges understanding over helping.  Current trends involving post-modernism and paradigms focusing on countertransference further muddle the professions commitment to therapeutic aims.  We need a "practical psychoanalysis."

We Need to Have Empathy for Tea Partiers

The parnoid conspiracy theories found in the Tea-Party movement can be understood as an attempt to find meaning and agency in a world in which they feel helpless and devalued.  This sense of meaning and agency currently is provided by the right-wing media machine that blames government and Obama.  In order to defeat the Right, progressives need to better understand the psychological sources of right wing paranoia and try to speak to their legitimate components with a different, more humane narrative.

Sex Addiction Is An Excuse For Not Thinking

Increasing numbers of men are being labeled sex addicts and are seeking help through 12-step programs.  While helpful to some, these programs tend to not be as effective as those aimed at substance addiction.  The reason is that these guys need psychotherapy in order to more deeply understand the meaning of their compulsions and the label "addiction" too often means that such an inquiry is not a priority.  The problem is that sexual desire, including compulsive forms of it, always involve complicated psychological meanings.  Thus, the rise of yet another aspect of life labeled an "addiction" is part of a broader trend in our culture to approach life's difficulties and problems in a superficial way.

You Don't Know Anything About Tiger Woods, So Shut Up!

Weighing in with judgments about Tiger Woods' character and marriage is absurd on its face.  Unfortunately, it reflects a cultural pathology in which we feel we "own" celebrities.  The bottom line is:  since no one knows really anything about Woods, they should keep their mouths shut.

I Hope Nobody Finds Out: Imposter Syndrome, Survivor Guilt, and the Bane of Progressive Political Organizations

Most people in leadership positions suffer from feelings of fraudulence.  Leaders of labor unions and progressive organizations suffering from a special type because of their discomfort with having power and their identification with the powerless an the victim.  This conflict takes lots of forms that hold these organizations back.  Fortunately, there's a cure!

What Makes Right-Wing Mobs Tick?

What accounts for the passionate irrationality of right wing mobs?  For that matter, what accounts for the self-destructive anti-government attitudes of people on the Right who depend on government and would, in fact, benefit from current health reform?  The answer lies in their intolerance of helplessness, dependency, and innocence, and in the effect of unconscious guilt in producing paranoia.

Spending Time With Your Doctor is a Radical Demand

To get health care reform, you need the support or people who already have insurance.  These latter folks have legitimate needs for care that includes more time with their providers.  Including this as a demand in our movement for health care reform is politically advantageous.

Why Women Want to Cuddle and Men Don't

The age-old conflict between women's need to cuddle and gaze after sex and men's need to roll over and sleep (or, in the old days, to have a cigarette), involves distinctly different attitudes about sex and intimacy, both of which are held up as "normal" but both of which are equally neurotic. A psychoanalyst explains what's really going on.

Mega-Churches, Psychology, and Social Change

The Left should go to Church--a mega-church, that is. The rapid growth of mega-churches, including Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, is a result of their brilliantly conceived strategy of connecting with their members around a wide range of needs. In contrast, progressive organizations see their members in narrow terms using outmoded precepts of psychology.

Frustrated Golfer Syndrome: Causes and Cures

Golfers--especially those of the male variety--can often be seen in various states of frustration, fury, and despair while playing a game that's supposed to be fun.  They have Frustrated Golfer Syndrome.  Fortunately, it can be cured.

The Difference Between Coaching and Therapy is Greatly Overstated

Coaches go to great lengths to distinguish what they do from psychotherapy.  They do so to protect themselves legally and to enhance their professional and financial status.  Unfortunately, psychotherapists collude by holding on to outdated paradigms about therapy that are narrow, rigid, and too often unhelpful to clients.

"Not Tonight, Dear..." Explaining Sexual Boredom

Sexual boredom is universal in long-term intimate relationships.  Its cause is primarily psychological and not biological.  It results from a collapse of separateness and an inhibition of selfishness in the sexual relattionship.

Sexting and Gomorrah

Is sexting--the communication of sexual images on cellphones--a threat to adolescents today?  Or is it just another front in our onging cultue wars about sexuality in general?