Archives for July, 2011
I’ll bet you thought you have more than enough to worry about. And now, our nation’s capital has managed to come up with something else—whether or not we’ll raise the national debt ceiling. Never mind that the debt ceiling isn’t about new spending at all. Raising the ceiling only allows the government to pay the bills it has already incurred. Failing to raise the debt ceiling is like going on a spending spree, taking all of the stuff you bought home, then getting a bill and refusing to pay it. Failing to raise the ceiling, in effect, puts the nation in default.
It’s monsoon season here in New Mexico. We’re finally getting a few afternoon storms. Clouds and rolling sounds of thunder accompany a few spits of rain. Our dog Sadie has suddenly developed brontophobia—a fear of thunder. I realized that the other day when I was reading and she suddenly jumped up on my lap. Having a 67 pound mound of fur on your lap is pretty attention getting. The newspaper I was reading was shredded in the process.
The New York Times recently ran an article bemoaning the ever increasing focus on safety at our nation’s playgrounds. Today, you rarely see monkey bars and tire swings. And playground surfaces feel like walking on a giant sponge. Tall, fast slides have shrunk, leveled out, and slowed down. Signs warn parents everywhere about potential dangers. But this emphasis doesn’t stop at playgrounds. When is the last time you drove by a school bus stop and saw only children? You’re just as likely to see more parents and caretakers than children waiting for the bus. Newspapers run articles all of the time that warn of potential dangers to kids. It seems that the media can’t get enough of these stories.
I don’t generally watch television during the day. However, I have an injury that requires me to sit down with an ice pack a few times a day. So, I ended up watching a bit of the hearings with James and Rupert Murdoch (the family that runs News Corporation--a mega media conglomerate) at the English Parliament. During the time I was watching, someone in the audience threw, what appeared to be a plate of shaving cream, into Mr. Murdoch senior’s face. After a break in the proceedings to clean up, the hearings continued. Mr. Murdoch was praised for his bravery in continuing after the trauma he experienced. The reason for the hearing was to establish who was responsible for hacking into phones of crime victims (including a young murder victim), deceased soldiers, politicians, celebrities, and possibly 9/11 victims.
Coming up with a topic for an interesting, original weekly blog can sometimes be challenging. So, when one of the grand-kids says something that we can use for blog material, it’s quite a gift. And of course we love to talk about our grand-kids! This week, we heard profoundly sad news about a woman we know who had won her first fight with cancer, but now is faced with another tough battle. Her odds are not very good. When bad things happen to people our own age, like most people, we feel grief but also a bit of fear. We must face the fact that bad things happen to everyone.
You’ve read about the ongoing controversy over the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. Luminary psychologists such as Dr. Robert DeRubeis and Dr. Irving Kirsch have made persuasive arguments supporting the idea that most, if not all, of the effectiveness of antidepressant medication appears to be due to the so-called placebo effect. In other words, their analysis of studies has led them to conclude that when patients improve on antidepressant medication, that most of that improvement is readily chalked up to the expectations of improvement that come when people take a pill they believe will improve their symptoms.
The public seems to be mesmerized by the Casey Anthony trial and the verdict of not guilty. Frankly, we didn't follow the trial or much of the media frenzy. We don’t really know anything about Casey’s allegedly dysfunctional family or what really happened to young Caylee. Psychologists shouldn't try to diagnose someone they have never met—it’s just not appropriate, ethical, or good practice. However, it does seem pretty likely that Caylee didn't always have the care and attention that she needed in her short life. Six million cases of abuse are reported in the US every year. About 5 kids die each day as a result of child abuse. Children are most often abused by a family or household member. We thought that given the attention that the trial has brought to the issues that a review of signs of child abuse would be appropriate. Here are some:
As the holiday weekend has come to a close, perhaps you have a little regret over having indulged in too much food, or spent too much on fireworks or entertainment. We want to address the guilt over too much spending. We know lots of people whose primary worries and anxieties revolve around money and finances. People worry about saving enough for retirement; they fret over having enough to pay their bills, and they feel anxious about unexpected expenses. But when money anxieties mount, a surprising common response is to simply “check out.” In other words, when worries start to overwhelm them, many people cope with these concerns by paying absolutely no attention to the inflow and outflow of their money. They have no idea where their money is going and they don’t want to know. You see, actively monitoring their money makes them anxious so they don’t do it.
Most of you have seen the news reports on the fires in New Mexico. The Los Conchas Fire that has threatened Los Alamos and the National Labs, is now ranked the biggest forest fire in our history and is only 3 or 4% contained. Although the Las Conchas fire has gotten the most publicity, other fires around the state are also raging, largely out of control. We are experiencing an incredible drought. In New Mexico we have had less than a quarter inch of rain this year. That’s right, this year! And the spring winds, which usually stop sometime in the spring, have not yet abated. But, most forest fires are caused by humans not nature. Although dry and windy conditions lead to the spread of a forest fire, the initial cause is usually a mismanaged camp fire, a tossed cigarette, carelessness, or at times a deliberate attempt to start a fire.