Friday, July 31, 2015

The Donald Rises

For now, it’s all Donald Trump. This morning Peggy Noonan pens an encomium to the real estate developer by channeling an acquaintance from Georgia, a true believer who shares what Noonan calls Trump’s contempt for government and who agrees that if Donald says he can do it he can do it.

Noonan writes:

So, why Trump? “The whole country will be in better shape. And ISIS won’t like it that he’s in charge. He’s very wealthy and can turn around the economy. He’ll get things moving. The Donald will kick a—.” She knows other supporters locally and among friends of her son, an Iraq vet. “They’re completely disgusted and just furious, and he’s igniting their passion. He’s telling them ‘I will make this country great again,’ and they believe him.” Mr. Trump is dismissed as exciting, but “we have to get excited to get up out of the chair to vote.”

Hmmm… being wealthy means that you can turn around the economy? Does this Georgian have any evidence to support the assertion?

Trump’s positions have been all over the political spectrum. Sometimes they verge on incoherent, and clearly there is no reason to believe that he can do the job. We are talking about some very serious on-the-job training. Unless you believe that Vladimir Putin is going to start quaking at the prospect of confronting the Donald....

None of it seems to bother people who thrill to the notion that someone is finally standing up, not just to the Democrats, but to Islamic terrorists and the media elites who have cowed the rest of the opposition into silence.

Trump is the polar opposite of an administration that has been sucking up the ayatollahs. The spectacle of America surrendering in negotiations with Iran has impelled the candidacy of someone who, whatever mess he might make, will not be crawling to Tehran, begging for a deal.

One understands that Trump seems to be ready to restore wounded American pride. One admires his supporters’ enthusiasm, but still, new polls yesterday came out showing that Trump is the one major Republican candidate who is losing to all three top Democrats… by a lot. It’s not because of a lack of name recognition. Trump is down substantially when he is pitted against Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

Many Republicans have now chosen not to fight the Trump steamroller. They are waiting—and hoping—that it runs out of steam on its own.

One must say, however,  that next to Trump, the other Republican candidates are looking small. Stature and gravitas matter, even though, as happens with Trump it is more show than substance. After all, people who have accomplished great things let their achievements speak for them.

When it comes to governance Trump has no achievements to speak of; thus, he can do no more than bluff by insisting boisterously that he can do it. I suspect that he believes every word he says, but that does not make it true.

By comparison, note Camille Paglia’s description of Rand Paul, someone with whom she generally sympathizes. She offers a cogent explanation for why the Rand Paul campaign is moribund:

As a libertarian, I find myself agreeing with Rand Paul on so many different social and political issues. Unfortunately, however, Paul lacks gravitas as a physical presence. The U.S. presidency has a highly ceremonial aspect.  The president isn’t merely a prime minister, a political leader–he’s the symbolic embodiment of the nation. Therefore, physical attributes and vocal style are very important.  

One might say the same of Jeb Bush, another conspicuous casualty of Trumpmania.

Curiously, while the chattering classes and the moneyed interests have been convinced that the presidential candidates would be named Clinton and Bush, I have suspected that neither Clinton nor Bush would be on the ballot. For now it seems clear that Jeb is not going to make it. He’s fading in the polls. At a time when people want tomorrow’s candidate, he is increasingly looking like yesterday’s news.

In Paglia’s words:

The major media have been constantly saying that Jeb is the GOP front-runner, which is utter nonsense. It’s the same thing with Hillary–the polls have just been showing name recognition, nothing more. I’ve been looking at the comments on political news articles since last year, and Jeb Bush seems to have absolutely no support whatever–like zero!  To this day, I’ve never seen an online commenter enthusiastically supporting him.  It’s really strange!  All these rich people throw big money at him, but I don’t know who his voters could possibly be.

Of course, Paglia has always been a stern critic of Hillary Clinton, and I agree with her that Clinton’s chances have been fading with her approval ratings.  Democrats are currently looking around for anyone who can replace her… that means Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden.

And yet, the only other candidate who has approval ratings as bad as Mrs. Clinton’s is Donald Trump. Strangely, more and more Republicans are embracing him as their savior.

Strangely, Paglia seems to believe that Barack Obama had exactly the right kind of gravitas to be president. She sees him as a commanding presence:

He projects a sober, unflappable confidence and presents himself with elegance and grace–all of which produced his success early on, when Hillary was the frontrunner in 2008.

In principle, we should all know better than that by now. Obama’s deer-in-the-headlights look, his tendency to believe in his own lies ... none of it makes him appear to be a strong leader, a commanding presence. Paglia is wrong to overlook the manifest weakness, the pusillanimous demeanor of our current president.

Of course, Trump does not display the calm confidence of a true leader. But, next to Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi… to say nothing of the weak-looking Boehner and McConnell… Trump looks like the real thing.

Keep in mind, it’s much easier to project an image when you do not have to forge political compromises and to defend a record.

For Paglia, Obama is a blind spot. But, on the topic of presidential stature and presence, Paglia’s remarks are on point:

In the primary debates, Cruz will benefit from having a tall and commanding physique, as Bill De Blasio did in the New York mayoral debates.  On the whole, Republicans don’t seem to realize that persona and self-presentation are crucial in a media age.  For example, Rand Paul has obviously had his eye on the presidency for years, so it’s astonishing that he apparently has never given any thought to how he should dress or cut his hair or even stand in front of cameras.  It’s as if his idea of style was flash-frozen in the Everly Brothers era. The tall candidate often has a big advantage in any campaign….  People do want a sense of implicit authority in the president. 

If she’s right, look for Joe Biden to enter the race at some point in the fall. One recalls that he managed to make Paul Ryan look small in the 2012 vice presidential debate. Those who thrilled at Ryan’s marvelous intellect failed to notice his inability to project a commanding presence.

What do Republicans have against Donald Trump… aside from the fact that he does not look like he can win the election? For a more substantive critique we turn to  David Goldman, aka Spengler:

He [Trump] blames most of America’s problems on a “tidal wave” of illegal Hispanic immigrants and unfair Chinese trade practices. He reminds me of H.L. Mencken’s classic one-liner: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” One might add, “dangerous,” because Trump appeals to our desire to blame someone else for problems we created.

Surely, it is possible that some part of Trump’s appeal lies in his ability to shift the blame for America’s problems. But then, Trump has strongly opposed the American media and American politicians. It’s not as though he has limited himself to blaming the Mexicans and the Chinese.

Goldman offers some data to sustain his argument:

Immigration from Mexico actually fell after the 2008 crash, mainly because construction jobs disappeared. The best data we have suggest that net immigration from Mexico was negative between 2005 and 2010–that is, more Mexicans left the US than arrived. Hispanics, to be sure, are more visible in the workforce–their share of total employment has risen from about 14% 10 years to to 17% today–but that is due to the natural increase in the Hispanic population. In 1990, non-Hispanic whites had a fertility rate of 1.7 children per female, vs. 2.9 children for Hispanics. This bumper crop of Hispanic children has been entering the workforce for the past several years. But that has nothing to do with recent trends in immigration.

Somehow or other Goldman neglects to factor in the more recent increases in illegal immigration that followed Obama’s initiatives.

As for the influence of China, Goldman adds this:

As for China: During the early 2000′s, US imports from China were growing at 20%-30% a year. Since 2011, imports from China have hardly grown. That’s because China’s currency has appreciated by one-third since 2005 (from 12 cents to the dollar to 16 cents), making Chinese goods pricier in the American market.

What should we be worrying about? Our loss of industrial and technological competitiveness. Goldman explains:

China is graduating twice as many PhD’s in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines as the US. China’s economy is way behind the US, but catching up fast in key areas. Chinese missiles can sink any US aircraft carrier within a range of several hundred miles from its coast. China can knock out American satellites. Chinese computation capabilities are on par with America’s. China has more industrial robots installed than any country in the world. China is about to become the dominant producer of Internet communications equipment (with Huawei replacing Cisco as the global market leader). China and its periphery manufacture everything that goes into American tech products.

America used to have disruptive, innovative tech companies. Now we have corporate giants run by patent trolls rather than engineers whose mission is to suppress innovation. Apple, a design company that relies on Asian production, now accounts for two-thirds of all profits in the S&P 500 Technology Sub-Index.

America used to have nonpareil defense technology. Now we are betting the defense budget on the F-35, a plane like the proverbial horse designed by a committee, and sold by defense industry lobbyists.

Can Donald Trump reverse these trends with his negotiating skills? Will the pending loss of competitive technological advantage be reversed when Trump talks tough with the Chinese? I have my doubts.

Still, it appears that Trump is working to restore our flagging national pride. Since the Obama administration has been giving it away as though it was of no real value, apparently, it takes a Trump, a flamboyant showman to rise above the din and to remind us of what it can be.

Goldman agrees with Trump that we ought definitely to close the border. If it requires a fence, let’s build a fence. As for reversing the flow of immigrants, apparently the slowdown in the construction industry was a highly effective way to encourage what Mitt Romney called “self-deportation.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

More from Camille Paglia

In the second part of her interview with Salon, Camille Paglia offers more opinions that are worthy of serious attention. Paglia reads like someone who is never at a loss for an interesting and cogent opinion. We are all in her debt.

Here, Paglia opens with a show of contempt for the new brigade of atheists, people like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. As she says, these writers, who most pen polemics against religion and against those who believe in God—which is not the same as being religious—sneer at religion and dismiss it.

In Paglia’s words:

I regard them as adolescents. I say in the introduction to my last book, “Glittering Images”, that “Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.”  It exposes a state of perpetual adolescence that has something to do with their parents– they’re still sneering at dad in some way. 

I don’t think we gain very much by making it all a Daddy issue, but still, the failure to respect religion renders these writers polemicists, people who care less about rational argument than about manipulating the emotions of their audience.

For her part, Paglia is an atheist, but she explains that dismissing religion means dismissing Western Civilization, the good with the bad and the ugly. And she adds that atheist students today have replaced religion with politics.

She says:

All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system.  They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny.  Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.

Paglia is correct to note that those who worship at the altar of science have no access to the metaphysical realm, the world of ideas. But, consider this. My own psychoanalyst once astutely noted that before Kepler discovered the law that determined the orbit of the planets, the law was operational. The planets obeyed it. Assuming that it was an idea whose existence did not depend on whether or not Kepler discovered it or whether or not you thought it, it must have an existence outside of your mind and brain. But then, where was it? And, before Kepler thought it, who was thinking it?

Say what you will, these are pertinent and germane questions. As Paglia suggests, the new atheists would have great difficulty addressing them.

On another matter I would offer a mind disagreement. In place of monotheistic religions, today’s young people have joined cults to a multiplicity of gods. It’s called multiculturalism, but it feels like polytheism. As William James predicted, if Darwinism replaces religion it will do so as a nature cult.

Today, we also have cults to Reason, Science, the Earth, Sensuality and Spring Break. In their original incarnations, these were the gods and the goddesses, in order, Apollo, Athena, Demeter, Aphrodite and Dionysius. If you would like to have a cult to the female victim of a predatory patriarchal male, try Persephone.

Paglia believes that those who sneer at religion are disrespectful and narrow-minded. Their sneer identifies them as members of a certain group, a cult, and suggests that their membership depends on their holding the right beliefs. This, curiously, comes from people who sneer at those who believe in God.

Beyond her distaste for sneering, Paglia has no use for snark, especially the kind of smug in-jokes that have been trafficked (and raised into an art form) by Jon Stewart.

In her words:

I think Stewart’s show demonstrated the decline and vacuity of contemporary comedy. I cannot stand that smug, snarky, superior tone. I hated the fact that young people were getting their news through that filter of sophomoric snark. 

She continues to evaluate Stewart’s influence:

… I’m sorry, but Jon Stewart is not a major figure. He’s certainly a highly successful T.V. personality, but I think he has debased political discourse.  I find nothing incisive in his work.  As for his influence, if he helped produce the hackneyed polarization of moral liberals versus evil conservatives, then he’s partly at fault for the political stalemate in the United States.

But Stewart would then be responsible for the fact that today’s liberals or, more properly, leftists, feel no need to consider differing points of view. One suspects that Paglia is referring to her students, people whose minds have in part been formed by the Jon Stewarts of this world.

They do not know how to think. They do not know how to exercise the faculty of reason. When it comes to opposing points of view, they prefer to malign those who purvey them and to dismiss other ideas as thought crimes.

Today’s liberals have dispensed with the free thinking that used to constitute liberalism and have fallen into a habit of group think. As I once said of New York: it’s a city full of free thinkers, all of whom think exactly the same thing.

Paglia has no patience for today’s liberal left:

The resistance of liberals in the media to new ideas was enormous. Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!  Liberalism has sadly become a knee-jerk ideology, with people barricaded in their comfortable little cells. They think that their views are the only rational ones, and everyone else is not only evil but financed by the Koch brothers.  It’s so simplistic!

Those who do not believe that they need to consider alternate points of view have been trying their best to bury the recent stories about Planned Parenthood. You see, if no one knows about it, it doesn’t exist and it isn’t real. Even though Paglia strongly supports reproductive rights she is appalled by the media censorship:

When the first secret Planned Parenthood video was released in mid-July, anyone who looks only at liberal media was kept totally in the dark about it, even after the second video was released.  But the videos were being run nonstop all over conservative talk shows on radio and television.  It was a huge and disturbing story, but there was total silence in the liberal media.  That kind of censorship was shockingly unprofessional.  The liberal major media were trying to bury the story by ignoring it.  Now I am a former member of Planned Parenthood and a strong supporter of unconstrained reproductive rights.  But I was horrified and disgusted by those videos and immediately felt there were serious breaches of medical ethics in the conduct of Planned Parenthood officials.  But here’s my point:  it is everyone’s obligation, whatever your political views, to look at both liberal and conservative news sources every single day.  You need a full range of viewpoints to understand what is going on in the world

Indeed, you do.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Forever, Camille (Paglia)

It’s always a joy to engage with the mind of Camille Paglia.  At times, her theories diverge from my own. And yet, Paglia comes by her views honestly, and does not kowtow to ideologues. Thus, while there are few points where I agree with today’s aspiring Brown Shirts or Red Guards, I have no problem finding common ground with Paglia.

For example, about Hillary Clinton. I have occasionally remarked about this grotesque irony: this self-proclaimed champion of women’s rights worked long and hard to enable her husband’s preying on women.

Naturally, the media is all abuzz about whatever happened between the Trumps two and a half decades ago, but they have completely forgotten that Juanita Broaddrick went on NBC television for an hour to explain that Bill Clinton raped her. No one cared then and nearly no one cares now.

About Bill Clinton and feminism, Paglia says this:

The horrible truth is that the feminist establishment in the U.S., led by Gloria Steinem, did in fact apply a double standard to Bill Clinton’s behavior because he was a Democrat. The Democratic president and administration supported abortion rights, and therefore it didn’t matter what his personal behavior was.

And then there was Bill Clinton’s treatment of Monica Lewinsky, fully supported by the feminist establishment:

And the actual facts of the matter are that Bill Clinton was a serial abuser of working-class women–he had exploited that power differential even in Arkansas.  And then in the case of Monica Lewinsky–I mean, the failure on the part of Gloria Steinem and company to protect her was an absolute disgrace in feminist history! What bigger power differential could there be than between the president of the United States and this poor innocent girl? Not only an intern but clearly a girl who had a kind of pleading, open look to her–somebody who was looking for a father figure.

America is at once completely open and honest about sexuality and on the other hand, utterly naïve about it. The nation embraces the amateurish decadence portrayed in Fifty Shades of Grey as risqué, but has not even noticed that Bill Clinton, Paglia correctly points out, did not even treat Monica Lewinsky with the respect one accords to a proper mistress. He used her and threw her away:

It was frat house stuff!  And Monica got nothing out of it.  Bill Clinton used her.  Hillary was away or inattentive, and he used Monica in the White House–and in the suite of the Oval Office, of all places. He couldn’t have taken her on some fancy trip? She never got the perks of being a mistress; she was there solely to service him. And her life was completely destroyed by the publicity that followed.  The Clinton’s are responsible for the destruction of Monica Lewinsky! They probably hoped that she would just go on and have a job, get married, have children, and disappear, but instead she’s like this walking ghoul.

By Paglia’s analysis feminism has lost its bearings. It no longer defends women. It has sacrificed women’s lives on the altar of its ideology.

Paglia believes that the problem lies in our generalized ignorance, especially of psychology. Here, dare I say, our views diverge. Paglia is more Freudian than I so she suggests that bad behavior has infantile antecedents. She wants to explain it as a function of bad upbringing. No one is going to deny that childhood development exercises an influence on people. One is going to question whether any insight into such development will have any effect whatever on the behavior.

For now, we will allow her to present her view:

We’re in a period right now where nobody asks any questions about psychology.  No one has any feeling for human motivation.  No one talks about sexuality in terms of emotional needs and symbolism and the legacy of childhood. Sexuality has been politicized–“Don’t ask any questions!”  “No discussion!” “Gay is exactly equivalent to straight!” And thus in this period of psychological blindness or inertness, our art has become dull. There’s nothing interesting being written–in fiction or plays or movies. Everything is boring because of our failure to ask psychological questions.

For my part I believe that the fault lies with ideological tyrannies that do not allow anyone to deviate from the party line. In truth, we blind ourselves to reality and refuse to allow it to intrude on our beliefs.

Trying to explain Clinton and Cosby, Paglia offers the kind of psychological explanation that has often been used to rationalize their behavior. You see, these men are not responsible for their actions; their mothers made them do it.

She writes:

It has something to do with their early sense of being smothered by female power–and this pathetic, abusive and criminal behavior is the result of their sense of inadequacy.

And she adds:

We are formed by all kinds of strange or vague memories from childhood. That kind of understanding is needed to see that Cosby was involved in a symbiotic, push-pull thing with his wife, where he went out and did these awful things to assert his own independence. But for that, he required the women to be inert. He needed them to be dead!  Cosby is actually a necrophiliac–a style that was popular in the late Victorian period in the nineteenth-century.

I don’t know that we need any special psychological explanations for this, but I do find it astute to note that Cosby’s rapes resemble necrophilia. Whether or not this was caused by a smothering mother, I am fully confident that if Cosby had acquired this insight it would have had no effect on his behavior.

Paglia uses the same psychological explanation for Bill Clinton:

And it’s the same thing with Bill Clinton: to find the answer, you have to look at his relationship to his flamboyant mother.  He felt smothered by her in some way.  But let’s be clear–I’m not trying to blame the mother!   What I’m saying is that male sexuality is extremely complicated, and the formation of male identity is very tentative and sensitive–but feminist rhetoric doesn’t allow for it. This is why women are having so much trouble dealing with men in the feminist era.  They don’t understand men, and they demonize men. They accord to men far more power than men actually have in sex.  Women control the sexual world in ways that most feminists simply don’t understand.

Paglia makes an important point here. Beyond the fact that she is blaming  mothers, she is correct to say that feminism has failed to understand sexual dynamics. It has refused to see that when it comes to romance women have home field advantage. Feminism sees men as predators (unless they are named Bill Clinton) and women as victims. Thus, it does not allow women to take charge of their romantic lives and to exercise a form of power that they have always had.

But, feminism has reduced the importance and the relevance of motherhood, thus disempowering women in another way. It has  placed too much emphasis on not conceiving children. It has suggested that motherhood is a conspiracy designed to keep women out of the workplace and to prevent them from finding the fulfillment that they can only gain by living as though they were men.

So feminism has reduced the cultural importance of motherhood:

The erasure of motherhood from feminist rhetoric has led us to this current politicization of sex talk, which doesn’t allow women to recognize their immense power vis-à-vis men. When motherhood was more at the center of culture, you had mothers who understood the fragility of boys and the boy’s need for nurturance and for confidence to overcome his weaknesses.

And this problem has had an interesting impact on relationships between men and women. Young women who have become convinced that they are just as manly as their men want their men to be just as womanly as they are. They do not understand that the sexes are different and they expect to communicate with their husbands the same way they communicate with their girlfriends.

In Paglia’s words:

The heterosexual professional woman, emerging with her shiny Ivy League degree, wants to communicate with her husband exactly the way she communicates with her friends–as in “Sex and the City.” That show really caught the animated way that women actually talk with each other.  But that’s not a style that straight men can do!  Gay men can do it, sure–but not straight men!  Guess what–women are different than men! When will feminism wake up to this basic reality? Women relate differently to each other than they do to men. And straight men do not have the same communication skills or values as women–their brains are different!

And also:

Wherever I go to speak, whether it’s Brazil or Italy or Norway, I find that upper-middle-class professional women are very unhappy. This is a global problem! And it’s coming from the fact that women are expecting men to provide them with the same kind of emotional and conversational support and intimacy that they get from their women friends.  And when they don’t get it, they’re full of resentment and bitterness.  It’s tragic!

Finally, Paglia has a few choice words for Emma Sulkowicz, aka the mattress girl. You recall that Sulkowicz was so convinced that she had been raped and that her rapist was getting away with it that she spent a semester carrying a mattress around campus, up to and including carrying it to the podium when she received her degree.

One must add here, because one has mentioned it before, that Sulkowicz is the daughter of psychoanalysts, of people who presumably are fully cognizant of the Freudian narrative that pretends to explain human behavior:

I call it “mattress feminism.” Perpetually lugging around your bad memories–never evolving or moving on!  It’s like a parody of the worst aspects of that kind of grievance-oriented feminism. I called my feminism “Amazon feminism” or “street-smart feminism,” where you remain vigilant, learn how to defend yourself, and take responsibility for the choices you make.  If something bad happens, you learn from it.  You become stronger and move on. But hauling a mattress around on campus? Columbia, one of the great Ivy League schools with a tremendous history of scholarship, utterly disgraced itself in how it handled that case. It enabled this protracted masochistic exercise where a young woman trapped herself in her own bad memories and publicly labeled herself as a victim, which will now be her identity forever. 

Paglia’s points are well taken. As I have often mentioned, victims of trauma should not advertise their victimhood. They should try to put the experience behind them, to get beyond it, to overcome its toxic effects. By letting herself be identified as the mattress girl, Sulkowicz has, as Paglia notes, identified herself in public as the victim. It will now be her identity forever.

Worse yet, as I noted on the blog, she made a pornographic video of the event in question… one in which she played herself. Perhaps she wanted to martyr herself for the cause du jour, but Paglia is more correct and compassionate to worry about the after-effects of this effort at public self-redefinition.

Improve Your Mental Health Today

Call this a public service, if you like. Otherwise, you can see it as an indication of some of the good advice that therapy has been offering people.

It’s not about medication. It’s not about insight. It’s not about introspecting or getting touch with your feelings. Yet, the advice that Time Magazine offers us will, almost assuredly, improve your mood and lift your spirits.

If you don’t believe me or Time, you can try a lot of it at home.

Some should be obvious, like… get in shape by doing regular exercise. Others-- improve your posture, stand up straight and proud… may seem less obvious. (For the record, if you want to improve your posture, one of the best ways is a regular Pilates class.)

Some of the others should be equally obvious: don’t let yourself be bullied; choose your friends well; talk to people face-to-face; don’t take so many pictures of everything you see; don’t multitask.

I am not going to elaborate on these. I have discussed many of them on various occasions. So, I provide the link. The link provides some advice and direction. For you to do what you will with it all.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wasting Time in Couples Therapy

Maybe, it wasn’t all a loss. Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje and her husband learned nothing of value in couples therapy. They both considered it a waste of time, an exercise in futility.

And yet, perhaps it was good that they went there together. The one saving grace was that they found common ground in their view that their therapists were all ridiculous.

The couples therapists Stoeltje and her husband consulted were, frankly, ridiculous. They offered up a mix of mental pabulum, bromides and platitudes, all of which were empty clichés.

It could be that the young couple stayed married because they were smart enough to know bullshit when they heard it, even when it was presented in the guise of professional advice.

Why did they go to a therapist? Stoeltje explains the problem clearly:

I was the one who couldn’t stop yelling at my husband when he irritated me, which was often. And he couldn’t refrain from yelling right back. We knew this wasn’t good for our child.

How did the therapist assess the problem, analyze its components and offer ways to solve it?


“Do you love each other?” the therapist demanded, fixing us with a steely stare. It was the first thing out of her mouth. Mark and I sat speechless in our respective chairs, staring back. Did we love each other? Good question, but wasn’t that what we were there to find out?

The therapist told us that we had landed in her office “just in the nick of time,” but that’s about all I remember from our sessions together, which numbered only a few. She dispensed what we’d later come to find was boilerplate couples therapy advice: use “I-statements” instead of accusations (“I feel bad when you say that” versus “You’re an idiot”), don’t take each other for granted, go out on date nights.

This means that the therapist was not paying attention to what was being said. It was not an auspicious beginning. Think of how many years of study it took for this therapist to become credentialed.

The first couples therapist was not an outlier. The others were just as empty-headed.

Allow Stoeltje to describe some of her other therapists:

The same could be said of the half-dozen therapists we would sit across from in the following years. We’d start out serious and committed, earnestly writing down what we loved about the other, pausing and counting to 10 instead of going on the attack. But by session three or four or six, we’d tire of the energy it took to be relationship paragons and start making fun of the therapist.

There was the young woman in Houston with the incongruous henna tattoos on her hands, still doing her doctorate in psychology. She was shy and quiet, almost pathologically so, prompting me to want to grab her notebook and ask, “What’s the trouble, dear?”

Then there was the dashing doctor in the Don Johnson suit who told us true love was being dependent on your partner without him or her knowing it — pretzel logic that Mark and I could never quite figure out.

He was followed years later by the 20-something woman who’d never been married, who pinned our relationship trouble on my habit of watching “Seinfeld” every Thursday night. She’s the one who counseled us to say “Purpose?” whenever one of us said something hurtful, as a way to unearth hidden motivations. Of course, we turned it into a private joke, spouting “Purpose?!” whenever one of us said something even remotely snide.

Not to forget the little Jewish grandmother who told Mark that he needed to quit bugging me about my drinking. (Man, did I love her!)

How did the couple, now married for thirty years, get through it all? First, Melissa eventually got sober and started attending AA meetings. Both she and her husband went to individual therapy.

Since she does not specify the type of individual therapy she underwent we cannot reasonably comment on it.

Adolescent Cutting

No one seems to know why it is happening, but more and more American adolescents are engaging in self-injury, especially cutting themselves. True enough, boys do self-injure, but cutting is largely a girl’s activity.

Adolescent psychologists say there has been a sharp rise in recent years in the number of teens found to be engaging in self injury, mostly cutting, which usually involves using a sharp object such as a razor blade to inflict small cuts on the arms or elsewhere. The teens, both girls and boys, come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and include good students and struggling ones. 

And also:

Cutting has become “the unfortunate coping strategy of our youth in the 21st century,” says Dr. Miller, of Albert Einstein College. In the past, teens often blew off steam in less self-destructive ways, such as talking with friends and family or unwinding in front of the TV, he says.

Based on recent research, she calculated updated figures for The Wall Street Journal and found that 9% of U.S. adolescents reported self-injuring in the previous year, and nearly 20% said they had tried it at some point in the past.

Children who do it often speak openly about it to their friends. After all, “cutting” has been destigmatized, and when you destigmatize bad behavior you tend to get more bad behavior:

Social media posts that feature cutting sometimes draw curious adolescents who want to try it, in what psychologists call a social-contagion effect. More teens also appear to be admitting to the behavior, or telling adults about friends who do it, because cutting has lost some of the social stigma it once had.

As for treatment, schools have been adopting Marsha Linehan’s dialectical-behavioral therapy, discussed (and even promoted) on this blog. See this link.

For now, I note this comment in the Journal article:

“One of the key mechanisms of action [in DBT] seems to be to give them replacement behaviors,” says Alec Miller, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and one of the authors of the DBT study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

I have often quoted Aristotle’s idea that the best way to overcome bad habits is to replace them with good habits, or, as Dr. Miller calls them: “replacement behaviors.” Seeing this concept at work in therapy is good news indeed.

As for why so many young people are finding it so difficult to deal with the stress of high school we can only speculate. I would note a point that the article, modestly, does not mention. The children who are caught up in this activity are pubescent. Since puberty is a monumentally important biological and social event, we should ask ourselves whether these children are having an easy or a difficult time adjusting to it. There’s more to the cutting problem than social media.

One has read that large numbers of adolescents participate in activities like sexting.  Those who do not are still obliged to live in a culture where sexuality is exposed and exhibited, sometimes through pictures, sometimes through words.

Children undergoing puberty need private time and private space to process and adapt to the changes their bodies are undergoing. Instead, they find that their sexuality, regardless of whether they have even sexted or discussed it, is constantly being discussed and exposed.

Privacy seems impossible. Even children who have not made the mistake of sexting feel exposed. They live in a world where sex is a ubiquitous presence. They cannot deal with it without help because they are simply too young to deal with it.

One should not imagine that children who sext images of their genitalia are going to emerge from the experience unharmed. And one should not imagine that a culture that purveys images and talk about sexuality all the time and that makes such material readily available to adolescents is not going to pay a price.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Can You Be Anything You Want?

It sounds unobjectionable, like an encouraging pat on the back from a coach.

For many people, it’s a rule to live by. It resembles a moral precept. It constitutes one of the bases of today’s therapy culture.  After they buy it, people do not understand why it doesn’t work. The rule says that people can be whatever they want to be.

San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge has been fighting the good fight against this rule. She has also led the charge against the self-esteemism that buttresses it.

Leslie Garrett quotes Twenge in her Aeon article:

‘You can be anything you want to be’ is pithy advice that isn’t helping most of the young launch careers or find satisfaction in life. If we really think about it, few of us mean it literally. Twenge has told her daughter that ‘when people say you can be anything, it’s not true. For example, you can’t be a dinosaur.’ 

Of course, even if you can’t be a dinosaur, you might be able to become Bruce Jenner. I hear that the job is open.

Funnily enough, children who are told that they can be what they want to be are often skeptical. Gwenyth is around 12. Garret reports this exchange:

Her teacher, Mrs Ensing, who is optimistic about Gwenyth’s prospects, routinely tells her elite group that they can be anything they want to be.

Gwenyth likes her teacher but is troubled by this philosophy. ‘You can’t be anything,’ she says, ‘if you don’t manage to get the marks good enough, or if you have the wrong idea about it. There was a guy on YouTube who wanted to be a veterinarian and they made him watch a video of something happening to an animal and he fainted, so he didn’t get the job.’

Even a child understands that that this new precept, this new way to live your life, is nonsense. How many adults are reasoning at a twelve-year-old level?

So, we have gotten in the habit of lying to children. It’s not a good thing. It’s even worse when we decide that we must use the school system to force these children to believe that the lies are a higher truth.

One recalls that famed management consultant Peter Drucker advised young people to do what they were good at. Don’t follow your bliss or your wishes. Let your talent by your guide.

Drucker explained, in a pamphlet called “Managing Oneself,” that you will be more successful and happier if you become great at something you are good at than to become good at something you are mediocre at.

Others have made the same point:

Having lofty dreams can be a wonderful thing. It’s a natural part of childhood to imagine great things for ourselves, says Laura Berk, a professor emerita of economics at Illinois State University and one of the world’s experts on play. And, as kids grow and try, and succeed and fail, the world will shape those dreams.

Behind the bromides is the wish that we not be bound by our talents, by our genetics, by our temperament, by our character

The problem arises when we counter the world’s feedback with platitudes such as ‘you can be anything you want’ or ‘don’t give up.’ Tracey Cleantis, a psychotherapist in California and the author of The Next Happy (2015), says that behind such bromides ‘is a kind of wish of parents or ourselves that we’re not bound by our talents, by our genetics, by our temperament, by our character. I think it really creates shame and guilt and feelings of failure.’

If you lack the talent to excel at an activity you will be wasting your time and money pursuing it. For example, yesterday, I was watching an interview with David Rubenstein, co-founder of the private equity firm, The Carlyle Group, on a show called Wall Street Week.

Rubenstein explained that after he graduated from law school a senior partner in his law firm took him aside and told him that he would never be a great lawyer. So Rubenstein went to work in government and eventually found what he was good at: private equity.

Another problem with bad advice is that it skews your values. If you imagine that success befalls those who really, really want something, you will be less likely to work at your job and more likely to work at intensifying your desire. You will assume that failure signals the fact that you do not want it badly enough.

Garrett explains:

‘What it essentially says to our children,’ adds Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success (2007), ‘is that, if they don’t achieve their dreams, they have no one to blame but themselves.’ Indeed, the transition to adulthood is already overwrought, and it’s made only more difficult when you think you can do anything and then feel completely incompetent when you can’t.

We’ve seen ‘rising expectations among everybody for work that’s more than just a salary,’ says Krznaric. ‘You see this among people who are highly educated or [those who] don’t have very many qualifications, and that helps explain why job dissatisfaction tends to rise over the past couple of decades, because people are asking … to use their talents or passions in their work.’

Those who follow this advice might also believe that if only they think positive thoughts, reality will return the favor:

‘This links to the cult of positive thinking,’ says Krznaric, ‘where we’re always wanting to feel up and good and send positive messages… and so we feel that we should only be sending good messages and positive messages to our children and to young people. That it’s somehow wrong or bad or inappropriate to tell them: actually, it isn’t possible.’


Instead of emphasising you’re special, you’re great, ‘teach self-control and hard work,’ Twenge says. ‘Those two things are actually connected to success.’

Those who tell us to follow our passions have simply gotten it backwards. If we follow our talent and work hard at it we will love our work. If we have no talent and follow a passion we will become disillusioned and bitter.

Cal Newport explained it clearly, as summarized by Garrett:

Cal Newport, the author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You (2012) and a computer science researcher at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, adds that we have got the passion/purpose equation backwards. ‘It misrepresents how people actually end up passionate about their work,’ he says. ‘It assumes that people must have a pre-existing passion, and the only challenge is identifying it and raising the courage to pursue it. But this is nonsense.’ Passion doesn’t lead to purpose but rather, the other way around. People who get really good at something that’s useful and that the world values become passionate about what they’re doing. Finding a great career is a matter of picking something that feels useful and interesting. Not only will you find great meaning in the honing of the craft itself, but having a hard-won skill puts you in a position to dictate how your professional life unfolds.

How To Be a Great Negotiator

That I am not sure Eric Barker 's advice is going to make you an expert negotiator, but it will definitely point you in the right direction.

Barker wants us to understand That negotiation is a cooperative enterprise, not a conflict. One is trying to craft a deal that is fair to both parties involved. If you think That negotiation is a semi-polite way to take advantage of someone else, You have gotten it wrong.

Barker Explains:

Often we associate With Being tough negotiation or manipulative. While there are Situations Where Certainly that's the case, a great deal of the recent research says we can improve increase our results by thinking more about making friends than waging war.

Negotiation is not a blood sport. Today, one presidential candidate, in particular touts his status as a tough negotiator. Since he's only ever dealt in business negotiations, it is difficult to know how his tough-guy shtick would go over in the political arena. One suspects that it would not go over very well.

By now, it ought to be obvious that our current president, as inept as a negotiator we have seen in quite some time, believes that negotiation with foreign powers while giving in negotiation with His political opponents requires constant confrontation and insults.

What does it take to be a good negotiator? Barker explains: being a decent person, having good character ... Being polite, courteous and kind. No one is going to negotiate in good faith With Someone who is trying to take advantage of him and is neither trustworthy nor likable.

Barker offers several pieces of excellent advice. To be a good negotiator, You Should Be warm and friendly, not cold and distant. You should be polite and optimistic. Try adding a touch of mood and offer something to eat or drink. People Who share meals are more likely to want to work together than people Who Do not.

Also, You should extend an open hand of trust. You should pay close attention to what the other person wants or needs to get out of the deal. Because negotiation Involves reciprocal give-and-take. You will need to give up something in order to get something. And you should know what matters to your partner. You can only figure this out by listening closely.

A great negotiator does not try to bluff his way through the process by bloviating and playing tough guy. He does not threaten His partner and does not make public announcements grandiose About how have is going to force His partner to do this or that. A good deal has to be face-saving for Both parties.

Negotiating a private business deal has very little to do with negotiating on behalf of your nation with a foreign government.

Keep in mind, the leaders of other nations Have Their pride, too. If you announce that you 'are going to humiliate them, That you are going to force them to do what you want and to pay for it too, They will never, never, never access to the demands. If negotiating with you IMPLIES a loss of face, your partner will go to war before I will access to your demands.

All of these pieces of advice are important. No one wants to do  business with someone who is out to get him, to take advantage of him. You would not make a deal with such a person, would you?

Yet, the one factor that Barker omits and that I would underscore is this: a great negotiator has expertise and experience. A truly great negotiator has complete command of all the Relevant information. There are no short-cuts. You need to know it all. Then you will manifest the quiet confidence of Someone who is really in charge.

That's why inexperienced negotiators, or at least Negotiators have no experience in government, how great must insist constantly  that they are. They do not have a track record of political accomplishment to support the boast. Anyone who has spent a career in real estate can not have any taken the time and effort to know all that he needs to know about foreign policy and international trade. He will have to bluff. Sometimes it might work. More often it will not.

Apparently, a considerable number of Republican voters believe that someone with no experience in government will effortlessly beat down foreign governments and ply them to his will. And They believe that such a person will overwhelm the political opposition by the sheer force of his personality.

As Aerosmith put it: Dream on.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Millennial Women Seek Work/Life Balance

It was never realistic to believe that women could have it all, that they could be all things to all people at all times. Even men have never been able to do that.

And yet, feminists have insisted that women should have it all, that they should be able to combine their work as high powered career women with their duties to home and children. Since feminists want there to be gender equity at all levels of the corporate hierarchy, many women have tried to fulfill this dream.

They have only rarely succeeded. At times, they had to neglect their children. At times, they were less focused on their jobs. At times, they have alienated their husbands and gotten divorced.

Today, many of their daughters, having witnessed their struggle, are choosing career paths that will allow them more flexibility. They might want to be more available to care for their children when their children require their presence. They might choose less demanding careers or they might take more time off from their work. Fewer of them expect that their career paths must correspond to those of their husbands. Those who want to have important careers are increasingly saying that they are willing not to have children.

As feminist ideology loses its hold on women, women are making decisions based on what is best for them and for their children. It’s far better than making decisions based on what is best for feminism.

Claire Cain Miller describes it:

 In the Harvard survey, fewer young women than older women said they expected to successfully combine work and family or have a career equal to that of their husband.

She continues:

“With the boomers, there was a real ascendance in this idea of having very egalitarian partnerships and the ability to have high-powered careers, and that has diminished with Generation X and even more so with this millennial generation,” said Colleen Ammerman, assistant director of the Harvard gender initiative.

By the numbers it looks like this:

By age 30, nearly half of the women in the Harvard study who were married said they had chosen a job with more flexibility, 26 percent had slowed down the pace of their career and 9 percent had declined a promotion because of family responsibilities. 

Clearly, the surveys show a trend:

Women’s expectations have declined: 66 percent of millennial women said they expected their careers to be equal to those of their spouses, compared with 79 percent of baby boomers. Three-quarters of millennial women said they expected to succeed in combining their careers and family life, but that is a significant drop from the 86 percent of baby boomer women who said the same.

Millennial women have learned that life is about give-and-take. You cannot force it to fit into an ideological mold.

In Miller’s words:

You might call them the planning generation: Their approach is less all or nothing — climb the career ladder or stay home with children — and more give and take.

Will these women be less likely to follow the advice of Sheryl Sandberg and lean in?

Miller thinks not:

Young women do not seem to be lowering their ambitions — or “leaving before you leave,” as Sheryl Sandberg described it in “Lean In.” Their career goals, and their accomplishments in the years immediately after business school, were indistinguishable from those of men. Rather, they say, they are thinking ahead to some potentially tough decisions.

This feels slightly confusing. If women are more willing to balance career with childcare responsibilities, they will surely be lowering their ambitions… for a time, at least.

Feminists believe that these changes have all come about because women became more conscious of their oppressed condition and rebelled against it.

Allow an alternative explanation. Twentieth century advances in medicine and sanitation have radically increased human life expectancy. A century ago the lifespan of Americans was around 46. Even if this number is distorted by the number of children who died in infancy, still, most people did not expect to live too much beyond their fifties.  By the time Franklin Roosevelt established Social Security in the mid- 1930s, average life expectancy was 61. Today, that number has increased by twenty years.

Women who know that their normal lifespan is over 80 will feel less pressure to have children when they are young. Women who know that their children are very likely to survive childhood can delay childbearing for a time, without taking any inordinate risks. And they will know that when their children have left home they will still have many productive years in the workforce.

Of course, the fact that a woman has more latitude in choosing when to have children does not mean that she can wait forever. Increased longevity offers women more choices. It does not mean that they can or should believe that their lives should be precisely the same as those of men.

If a woman is going to be the primary caregiving parent she will not be having the same career path as her husband. But, why should the male life plan be the gold standard, anyway?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Treating PTSD

When he founded psychoanalysis, the first version of talk therapy, Freud constructed a narrative to explain mental illness. He posited that people fell ill for failing to accept something into consciousness. At first, Freud argued that trauma victims became hysterics because they had forgotten past experiences of sexual abuse. By the logic of his narrative, they needed to recall the trauma and tell it as a story. This would release its hold on the psyche and eliminate the need for the trauma to express itself through symptoms. Within Freud’s narrative nothing is ever really forgotten. If you cannot express it in words it will express itself in symptoms.

(For a lengthier discussion of these questions, see my book, The Last Psychoanalyst.)

When Freud’s cures turned out to be mirages, he was obliged to revise his theory. He decided that hysterics were not really suffering from their traumas. They had fallen ill because they could not accept that the trauma was something that they had really, really wanted to happen. At that point, it doesn’t really matter whether a neurotic has been traumatized. As long as he is repudiating his nasty fantasies and perverted desires, he is going to fall ill.

Needless to say, this is an appalling instance of blaming the victim. By the logic of Freud’s narrative, children who are traumatized by sexual abuse really wanted it to happen. You could even trot out some Freudian theories of infantile sexuality to justify that point of view.

Even most Freudians no longer support this aspect of Freudian theory. And yet, those who still adhere to the letter of the Freudian text—French analysts, for example-- will occasionally argue that those who were traumatized by sexual abuse fell ill because the events corresponded to a repressed fantasy.

Freud based his early theorizing on what he called the pleasure principle. It was not as original as he thought, but we will leave that for another time. Patients had repressed their traumas and had repudiated their perverse fantasies because both of them, in different ways, produced experiences of unpleasure.

And yet, Freud had a problem when he started seeing patients who could not forget or repress their horrid thoughts. They could not get the thoughts out of their heads. They felt that they were being assailed and assaulted by these ideas and images.

Among them were cases of what were called war neurotics, survivors of World War I who could not forget their wartime experiences. Freud suggested that they seemed to be compelled to repeat the experience, perhaps in a futile effort to master it.

Freud was less concerned with how he was going to treat these patients than with the possibility that these cases contradicted his famous pleasure principle. If the mind is naturally inclined toward pleasure, we might well expect it to repress or ignore experiences or fantasies that produce unpleasure. So far so good. But, how then can his theory explain why people cannot get painful traumas out of their minds?

To respond to this challenge Freud revised his theory and produced a new narrative. He decided that the human mind had been written into a grander narrative of Biblical proportions, in which it was structured by a conflict between an instinct that seeks life and one that seeks death.

Freud named them Eros and Thanatos, after two Greek mythological figures. Later thinkers added the possibility that the lust after death could produce its own form of satisfaction, one that was more intense, more orgasmic, more powerful than mere pleasure.

Freud did not quite say it, but he implied that if people did not get well by doing psychoanalysis the reason was that they wanted to stay sick, that there was someone extremely powerful inside them that was directing them toward death. Even Freud could not fight so powerful a force.

Freud did not know about post-traumatic stress disorder, but clearly the shell shock experienced by many World War I veterans was its precursor. Today, no one still imagines that Freudian psychoanalysis can treat or cure PTSD. Instead, the American military has chosen to throw in with a psychologist named Edna Foa and her invention: prolonged exposure therapy.

One notes that Foa’s treatment is considered to be a cognitive-behavioral treatment. One notes also that it bears a certain eerie similarity to Freud’s theory of repetition compulsion. If one is to believe David Morris, a former Marine who underwent it, its effectiveness needs seriously to be questioned.

 Morris describes prolonged exposure therapy:

In 2006, the VA began treating veterans with a form of therapy charmingly known as prolonged exposure. It is now a central piece in the VA’s war on PTSD and its most popular type of individual psychotherapy. Prolonged exposure is heavily promoted by the VA, which describes it as the “gold standard” treatment for PTSD.

Prolonged exposure therapy works roughly like this: After taking a brief inventory of the patient’s military service, the therapist asks the veteran to recount the story of his or her worst trauma over and over and over again with eyes closed until the memory of it becomes “habituated,” losing its traumatic charge and becoming like any other normal autobiographical memory. The typical course of treatment lasts about eight weeks and, according to Marsden McGuire, the deputy consultant for mental health care standards at the VA, produces some improvement in 60 percent of veterans who undergo it.

The evidence for its effectiveness is mixed. In some cases it works but in others it has produced negative outcomes:

The problem with prolonged exposure is that it also has made a number of veterans violent, suicidal, and depressed, and it has a dropout rate that some researchers put at more than 50 percent, the highest dropout rate of any PTSD therapy that has been widely studied so far.

One understands that Foa's method comes from the cognitive-behavior treatment of phobias. The latter involves a gradual exposure to different versions and variants of the phobic object. If you are terrified of spiders a therapist might begin by showing you a picture of a spider. Then he might show a more realistic picture. Later he might show you some specimens of spiders. Finally, you will be allowed to examine living spiders under glass. Before you know it you will be allowing tarantulas to crawl up your arm. Voila.

As it happens, exposure and desensitization therapy for phobias is the best treatment available. All forms of psychodynamic therapies have failed to produce anything resembling good results.

Be that as it may, one might well question whether PTSD is another form of phobia and whether it works as well on PTSD as it does with phobias. In some cases it does. In some it does not.

Morris explains his personal experience:

After briefly surveying my time in Iraq with a therapist, who I’ll call Scott here, I was asked to tell the story of my near-death experience in an IED ambush in Baghdad in 2007. In the sessions that followed, I retold this story dozens of times. Whenever I tried to change the subject to another part of my time in Iraq, I was told that the only way forward was to tell my IED ambush story over and over until it no longer bothered me or got my heart rate up. Repetition is the key, Scott explained. After telling the story of my close call in Baghdad roughly 100 times, I began to have trouble sleeping. Eventually, I broke down altogether and was unable to read, write, or leave the house. One night after my cellphone failed to dial out, I stabbed it repeatedly with a stainless steel kitchen knife until I bent the blade 90 degrees.

While the military has decided that exposure therapy is the gold standard, some important psychiatrists have raised significant objections:

In 1991, Roger Pitman, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, discontinued a pilot study of six Vietnam veterans treated with a technique similar to prolonged exposure, known as imaginal flooding, that resulted in two of the patients becoming suicidal and a third breaking 19 months of sobriety. Other patients became severely depressed or began suffering panic attacks between treatment sessions. The results were so unexpected that Pitman conducted a larger study using 20 Vietnam veterans as subjects, published in 1996 in Comprehensive Psychiatry, and found similar outcomes.

And also:

It is important to emphasize that exposure [therapy] may lead to serious complications,” wrote Bessel van der Kolk in his widely cited 2006 book Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body and Society. In a recent letter in response to a New York Times article I wrote on prolonged exposure, van der Kolk expanded upon these ideas, saying, “The premise that the trauma needs to be relived over and over in order to heal has questionable scientific merit, because the brain areas that go offline during a traumatic experience and precipitate PTSD are once again deactivated when people are pressed to re-create the horrors of the past.”

Obviously, Foa’s method is counterintuitive. Rather than allow patients to feel assailed and assaulted by the trauma, the patient undergoing her therapy is instructed, even badgered, into taking control of the narrative, mastering its arrival.

In principle, it’s better to feel that you can control the narrative than to feel that you are prey to it.

If the treatment works in some cases, this must be one of the reasons.

On the other hand, the treatment might also aggravate the problem by focusing so intently on the trauma that everything else is obscured or neglected.

One basic problem with trauma is that its victims often come to believe that the trauma is the meaning of their lives, that they were once victimized and will forever be victims. If they weren’t a victim before, they are now. And they will act accordingly.

But, if the trauma does not reflect your character, you ought to learn to function as though it never happened. Instead of focusing on the trauma to the exclusion of all else, you should then examine the behaviors and life habits that reflect the trauma and find a way to replace them with more constructive habits.