Category Archives: Uncategorized

Parenting Kim Jong Un and Donald J Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson

As every parent knows for a threat to be effective the child must believe his father or mother will make good the threat if he does not comply. The child also knows that when the threat is outrageous (“you will be banned from all electronics for life.”) it is also hollow. Still, some children do not listen to threats even when they are consistently followed by reasonable consequences. This is often true of ADHD children, and those for whom the compulsion is too great (OCD) or the aversion to change too strong (ASD).

By the time children are teens the plot thickens. Now they are watching themselves through the eyes of their peers, not just their parents. Now they are clinging to new visions of themselves as capable, independent sentient beings with newly formed logical thinking processes. They are more apt to defy the threat if to comply would undermine this developing sense of self.

And then we have adults. And now for a threat to work it must overcome all the above plus pride if this all occurs privately and secretly, and much more if the threat occurs publicly (shame and loss of face), and more so still if the threatened figure is a man or woman whose sense of self, if not his very existence, depends on the adulation of the crowd.

There are public figures in this world whose behaviour we would like to change. Perhaps there are some of these whose sanity, whose internal stability and strength is sufficient to bring about a good response to threat.

Kim Jong Un is not one of them.

Please do not threaten this man. Never publicly threaten him. He will not respond as you wish him to.

Actually, Donald Trump may just be the right President for the task of soothing North Korea. He could invite Kim to Mar a Lago for a Korean BBQ and treat him like royalty. Let him expound. Set up a private communication system. Help him be more of a hero to his people by feeding and housing them better. Then privately discuss reducing his nuclear arsenal for something in return.

Of course this would require Donald to keep his own ego in check. Vain hope.

Could it be time for Canada to step in here. Are you listening Justin? Making Kim look weak and foolish before his own people could get millions killed. We need a Mike Pearson way of intervening now.

And all of you, including Pence and others saying that your patience is at an end, pay heed to the words of a much smarter man than yourself:

“Talk, talk, talk is better than war, war, war.” – Winston Churchill.

Birds and Squirrels

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I woke up this morning and saw through the window that a mid size but rather colorless bird was pecking at a dead branch. Down, peck, peck, up, look around, down, peck, peck. Was it eating grubs, termites, ants?

A black squirrel scampered along the top of the fence. And I wondered, “Do squirrels ever stroll?”

These observations and the queries they evoked sparked a small pleasure, a small sense of well being.

They also tell me that I am not depressed, that is, depression is not impairing the scanning, inquisitive function of my brain. Nor is my brain under the kind of threat that forces a dramatic reduction in its field of awareness.

I also know that unless I rear up and threaten both the bird and the squirrel I am nothing to them. I do not exist at this moment within their sphere of awareness. And this means, at least with respect to the squirrel and the bird, I am not psychotic. My brain has not created a false narrative regarding my relationship with squirrel and bird.

Do squirrels ever stroll? Do birds ever eat leisurely?

Depression impairs the ability of the brain to scan, focus, inquire, be concerned about, all but itself, its sense of dread, and the unwellness of its own body.

Psychosis impairs the ability of the brain to fathom its boundaries and relationships with others and then, because it is an imperative that we do so, because it is a primitive imperative that the brain find a way of organizing data to determine friend from foe, kin from stranger, threat from security, it applies the band aid of a simple false narrative.

Do squirrels ever stroll? Do birds ever eat leisurely?

The Brain, Cognition and Illness

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The aware, receiving, perceiving, organizing, planning brain.

Two recent writings got me thinking about this. The first was a comment from Mr. Summerville, in support of the absolute discharge of Mr. Vince Li, that Mr. Li showed “no signs of cognitive impairment”. The second was the raw honesty of Mr. Bowers when he writes that when he took a shotgun upstairs with the intention of killing his grandmother he was “bat shit crazy”.

I suffered one of those nasty strains of flu this winter. At the time it seemed to affect every organ in my body. Including my brain. That is my brain was aware this state of body sickness was impairing some of its functions as well.

I guess it’s tricky. We are aware when our stomachs aren’t working as we would wish them, when our prostates and kidneys are not quite right, when perhaps our livers are acting up, our eyes, our inner and middle ears, our calf muscles are balking. Well, really, it is our brain noticing these things. But when the brain is acting up, not quite functioning smoothly in one of its functions, there is no one left to tell us. That is, no other organ in the body is prepared to tell us that the brain is a little off. “Liver here. Brain, your thinking is off.” or “Brain, your medulla oblongata is a little sluggish this morning. Your perceptions are clouded.”

I have also suffered, by my own count, three depressions of clinical severity so far in my life. Perhaps the cause of these can be traced to my circumstances each time, perhaps my genetics, perhaps to my childhood, probably a combination of genetics and circumstances. But each time it happened I know my brain was impaired, not functioning well, not scanning, perceiving, reviewing, interpreting as it normally does.

You can find a list of the symptoms of “depression” in the DSM and on many a website not to mention TV advertisements for the latest antidepressant. But of course the organ experiencing these symptoms is the same one reading and hearing about them.

It is often family members and close friends who notice first. You are not yourself, they say. Or “the spark has gone from your eyes.” And always when I treat someone for depression and they improve, it is family members who notice the improvement first. The patient tells me they don’t notice any change, though I see his or her eyes are livelier, his face a little less strained, and the corners of his mouth more agile. And the mother or wife points out he came down for dinner, engaged in conversation, laughed at a joke. The brain of the patient hasn’t noticed these changes yet, because… well because its perceptual, interpreting, responding, scanning apparatus is still partially impaired.

Liver illness impairs the functioning of the liver. Mental illness impairs the functioning of the brain, and that can be some or many of its functions. Mental illness is a brain illness.

So let’s go back to Vince Li. His brain was absolutely definitely impaired at the time of his crime. And at this point if he is not terrified of relapsing, and thus wanting help for the rest of his life to keep himself from relapsing, if he does not himself (his brain) understand and want all safeguards in place to keep himself from relapsing, if he thinks he can just change his name and move on, then his brain is still impaired in some of its functions. If this is the case then his perceptual, cognitive, judgmental processes are still impaired.

Contrast that with the Blog written by Mr. Bowers. He has fully recovered from being “bat shit crazy” and he is fully aware he never wants to go there again, and he is fully aware (the perceptual, organizing, planning, monitoring, cognitive processes of his brain are functioning well) that he needs help and vigilance to never go back to that place again.

Trump Speak

By Dr David Laing Dawson

The collection of laughable, inane, grossly inaccurate, and stupid things that Donald Trump says grows by the week. They have become the fodder of late night talk shows and the target of journalists’ disdain. Satirists don’t have to satirize; they merely repeat what he says.

On the internet one can also find several collections of odd, funny, nonsensical things that came out of George W. Bush’s mouth. George occasionally mangled syntax; he created the odd neologism, mixing two words to make a third; he put his adjectives in the wrong place; he stumbled over language and grammar. One could make the case that he is a little dyslexic, or simply not gifted in the spoken language department.

He was on the Ellen DeGeneres show recently and he said, “…I’m going to use a big word now – symbiotic…” Ellen said, “Wow, four syllables..” The audience laughed, George smiled. And I rather liked him for a moment.

These days the journalists, the pundits, the comedians, the talk show hosts, pounce on the words of Donald J. Trump and point out their inanity, their inaccuracies, their wrongheadedness, and their untruthfulness. But beyond what he says and tweets, a true revelation of the depth of trouble we are in can be found in the way he says what he says. That is, not so much in the simple meaning to be found in his tweets and statements but the meaning hidden in the structure and form of his sentences (or lack thereof).

Whatever the subject, the reference point is himself. Whatever the subject, no matter the population actually affected, how it affects Donald is supreme. Whatever the subject, his words imply that he is supreme; they always imply that he is supreme.

Below is a list of things Donald J. Trump has tweeted or said. Let me point out what is happening in the first two. These two statements followed briefings by experts on the two subjects at hand. In them Trump indirectly admits that perhaps he didn’t fully understand the complex subject before, but then he quickly points out that “nobody” does. He has to say this to retain the fiction in his own mind that he is brilliant, superior, supreme, that he knows all there is to know, and all that anybody can know.

This is a very dangerous level of narcissism.

“It’s an unbelievably complex subject, nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” (Health Care Policy)

“It’s a very complex subject. I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know.” (climate change)

“I know words; I have the best words.”

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border”

“I’ve never had any trouble in bed, but if I’d had affairs with half the starlets and female athletes the newspapers linked me with, I’d have no time to breathe.”

“I love the poorly educated.”

“He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

“I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.”

“Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.”

“Cher is somewhat of a loser. She’s lonely. She’s unhappy. She’s very miserable. And her sound-enhanced and computer-enhanced music doesn’t do it for me.”

When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say China, in a trade deal? I beat China all the time. All the time.”

“I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

“Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich.”

“I dealt with Qaddafi. I rented him a piece of land. He paid me more for one night than the land was worth for two years, and then I didn’t let him use the land.”

“Number one, I have great respect for women. I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women”

These quotes (and much of what he says and writes in tweets) boldly display:

  1. An appalling lack of understanding of issues/technologies/events/history/the world…
  2. An appalling lack of awareness of his own shortcomings and deficits.
  3. An appalling (and child-like) lack of awareness of a world beyond himself.

He could do great damage to the world within four years if he stays energetic, active, engaged, provocative and disruptive.

But clearly he has a short attention span and he doesn’t particularly like to read, work, study, or listen. So while he is watching cable news, golfing and dining at Mar a Lago, some contemporary Rasputins (Bannon for one) will be able to do great damage to the world.

We are about to find out just how solid and resilient and principled American Democracy really is.

 

 

 

 

Popular TV and Mental Illness Misrepresentation

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Currently two serial TV shows of the thriller/spy genre feature major characters who suffer from bipolar illness. Both usually take their medication and acknowledge that it keeps them stable. So far so good. They are successful likable characters and thus could be seen as antidotes to stigma, to the usual poor representation of mental illness by film and television. But in both story lines the characters go off their medication in order to decipher a complex conspiracy. They become manic, paper the walls of their rooms with clippings, photos, lists, time lines, arrows, connecting lines, question marks.

Voila. The unlikely pattern becomes clear to them. And once again the myth of madness and genius being one and the same is exploited for entertainment.

Our brains are organizing machines. They are always looking for patterns, recognizable and logical patterns. In a state of mania and hypomania, aroused, alert and scanning for such patterns, the brain does indeed find them more readily, that is, the brain invents them. The manic person sees connections and patterns where none exist, and to make this connection the manic brain often invents forces, and powers and conspiracies that are pure fictions. This might result in an interesting piece of art, a fascinating stream of consciousness, or even an entertaining performance, but it is a dysfunctional state and it does not result in valuable insight. The usual result is loss of employment, loss of community, loss of reputation, and eventually loss of freedom.

To portray mania as a form of genius does great disservice to those who actually suffer from this illness.

Of course mental illness does not discriminate so we are as likely to find that it strikes a brilliant mind as often as that of an oaf. And that is not a pattern either. Just statistical probability.

We are Now in Big Trouble

by Dr David Laing Dawson

The other evening Mr. Tapper of CNN came out directly and asked the following question: Does Mr. Trump know the difference between the truth and a lie? Does he say these things as strategic gambits, all the while knowing they are falsehoods, in some cases outrageous falsehoods, or is he incapable of knowing the difference? This dichotomy suggests either he lies nastily and without regard for any semblance of truth as a political strategy, a gimmick, a distraction, or he is incapacitated.

Neither answer is very reassuring. And if this is an incapacity what is the nature of it?

There is a simple and consistent answer to this question. Pathological narcissism.

Trump’s lies are responses to that which his inflated ego cannot accept. All information, evidence, facts that suggest Trump is not supreme, the best, the most popular is unacceptable to him and therefore must be denied or rebuffed with “alternative facts”. Any successes or glory he does achieve must be revisited, replayed, exaggerated over and over again.

The fact Donald Trump’s narcissism is extreme enough to require this level of denial of reality (the size of the crowds, the “3 – 5 million illegal votes”, murder rate, wire taps) means it is incapacitating. He is incapacitated.

His lies, his tweets, are not even bounded by plausibility. They will continue, grow more outrageous, and dissolve in a wild lashing out.

Unfortunately Kim Jong Un and the excited commentary on American television may be providing Mr. Trump a way to lash out and destroy. And then, which I am sure aligns with an image in his head, he can stand akimbo in his great black coat upon the scorched battlefield like a Vulcan God.

Follow Up – Education More Important Than Ever

By Marvin Ross

I’ve been contemplating a personal follow up to David’s blog on the importance of public education but I’ve been procrastinating. I decided to write it after having lunch with someone who was complaining that a grandchild was being sent to a private school at a cost of $25,000. His argument was that the local school the child goes to is quite good and he will have to be driven to the new school where he will lose contact with all his friends in the area.

The ability to play with other kids on the block, walk to and from school with them, and to hang out is an invaluable educational tool. I grew up in a Toronto that was just starting to break free of the grip of the Loyal Orange Order – a Protestant fraternal group that celebrated the defeat of the Catholics at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Most important jobs were reserved for Orangemen who proudly marched on Yonge St every July 12 behind someone outfitted on a white steed playing King Billy to celebrate the victory of William of Orange over Catholics.

Toronto was just beginning to see an influx of immigrants from all over the world at that time. Up to then, the main immigrants were Jews and Italians. The elementary schools were becoming mix of ethnicities and we all mingled and played together (with the occasional fights that were settled easily). As English Protestants ruled, classes began with the Lord’s Prayer and the singing of God Save the Queen. Once a week, some kindly minister conducted a class on religion.

Jews could be excused but I stayed as did most of the others as I recall. This invariably led to our existence being recognized by the holy man who talked about religion in general rather than his own denomination. We learned about and from each other. Groups of kids from different backgrounds would share experiences outside of class. I can still remember our comparing what we ate for Christmas dinner (which I didn’t have) and being intrigued because my best friend was Japanese and they ate octopus.

As I progressed through the years, more diverse people began showing up in class. At this time, most Blacks were descendants of those who came via the underground railroad but we were soon joined by people from the Caribbean. In elementary school, I went to a drop in centre across the street from our house run by the African Episcopal Methodist Church. One year, I was one of the three wise men in their Christmas pageant. Of new arrivals at that time, the most exotic was a new Algebra teacher called Mr Gupta. No one had ever seen a South Asian before but what was most remarkable was that his two sons were in his class. They were math whizzes much to our disgust.

I don’t want to give the impression that there was no racism as there was but it was slowly beginning to break down thanks to the children from large groups of people from diverse places. We mingled together in school, played and fought together on the playgrounds in the neighborhood and began to develop understandings of each other. In her book on growing up in Toronto as a child of Holocaust survivors (When Their Memories Became Mine: Moving Beyond My Parents’ Past), Pearl Goodman describes how playing with the neighbourhood kids and dealing with them in the local school, helped her contend with the views and trauma her parents had from their experiences.   The outliers were Jewish kids in the area who were sent to Jewish parochial schools rather than the public schools. They were quite different from us and even talked differently with the sing song accents so familiar to those whose first language was Yiddish.

During that time, there was even a radio program hosted by the Minister of Citizenship, Jack Pickersgill, who gave his audience information about the various immigrant groups (called New Canadians), who were flooding into the country. The Governments attempt to help them gain acceptance

Education was a prime reason that fear and distrust of others began to break down. Aside from the fact that most kids in my high school could swear in Yiddish (as Jews were the largest group), tolerance and understanding was starting to emerge in all areas. A holdover from the War was the fact that high schools in those days all had cadet corps affiliated with various regiments and often our teachers were called by their military rank. My history teacher was a major.

My school was affiliated with the Queen’s Own Rifles, an old and respected regiment that landed at Normandy on D-Day and fought its way north to help in the liberation of Belgium and The Netherlands. We had to go on a Church Parade one Sunday to the regimental church and when we got there, the Sgt had us all lined up. His command was Jews and Catholics, fall out and we did and spent the church service in the basement playing foot hockey while the poor Protestants had to endure a religious service.

Education helped us integrate and learn to understand and tolerate each other and is very crucial today more than ever. And it is this understanding and respect for each other that results in US Muslim Vets offering to stand guard to protect Jewish cemeteries from vandals or Toronto Jews standing guard at Mosques to show solidarity.

It has always been important for us to learn about and accept others as equals and that process flourishes when we all go to school together.

Trump’s grandiosity.

by Dr. David Laing Dawson

I have been watching too much CNN. I must control this new addiction. It is bad enough to find oneself compelled to watch a train wreck or a car accident, to have to slow down and gawk, but now I’m following the ambulances into the ER and waiting to hear the pronouncements of the doctors and nurses and next of kin.

Each evening several panels comprised of both political persuasions dissect the president’s tweets and statements, seeking substance, direction, and meaning, seeking precedent for his personal attacks, sometimes deftly skipping past his actual words to re-frame and reword the proclamation in question. They are often concerned about the political advantage or disadvantage his words might have. As George Orwell and Mark Twain and others have told us, when the outrageous lie becomes commonplace it loses its ability to outrage us. It becomes “strong opinion”. It may even become “alternative fact”.

But none of these panelists seem to pay attention to a part of Donald Trump’s speech that I think they should. Perhaps they need a linguist on one of their panels. Like a child
Trump calls the judge a “so-called judge”; like an envious teenager he revels in the low ratings of Arnold Schwartzenegger; he demonstrates every day he has no boundaries, personal, professional, or ethical.

But this is the kind of sentence I find most frightening:

“I comprehend very well, better than I think almost anybody.”

Without irony or a wink he begins to tell us that he comprehends better than anybody, that he is smarter than everybody else. Then as he is forming the words he catches a glimpse of how this will sound to others, and he squeezes in the phrase, “I think almost”.

He did the same when he said, “I am very smart.” He squeezed in the word “like” to soften the statement a tad, even if it ended up sounding adolescent.

I can analyze this as a grandiosity that is really an over-compensation for insecurity, but it is, nonetheless, grandiosity: A belief in his own powers, in this case his intellectual powers, that far exceeds reality.

As President Kirkman said last season: “There is nothing more dangerous than a pawn that thinks it’s a queen.”

It is this grandiosity that will bring down the house, or some day implode in rage.

Understanding the Disease Model

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I had a friendly argument with a colleague the other day. He reminded me that we had been arguing about this topic for 40 years. I think our arguments are mostly ways of clarifying our own thoughts about a very complicated question involving concepts of mind, of cognition, and of the brain, that organ who’s function makes us human.

Mental illness, disease, disorder, serious mental illness, continuum, spectrum, problem, affliction – when is it both valid and useful to consider aberrations (or non-typical) variations in behaviour and thought, illnesses? In some ways these words are just words, and few would care if we referred to arthritis in any of these terms. But when it comes to behavior, thought, and communication (rather than joint flexibility and joint pain) our dearly held beliefs about self, autonomy, will, power, consciousness, and mortality come into play. The discussion becomes political.

Before the medical disease concept evolved in the 18th and 19th century most afflictions were considered very personal and specific, and the causes very personal and specific. An obvious grouping of afflictions might mean God was particularly disappointed in a whole family or tribe. The Miasmists thought that perhaps God did not have that much control over everything and proposed that the causes might be found in the atmosphere, the miasma, physical, spiritual, emotional. An excess or a deficit. The Naturopaths liked this idea but knowing nothing of physiology, metabolism, or nutrition, concocted potions and powders with dozens of ingredients positing that the body might choose from the lot that which it needed. Each of these ideas continues to echo in the pursuit of health today. Especially in the commercial exploitation of our pursuit of health.

The disease model is founded on the idea that if a number of people suffer the same symptoms and signs, and if their affliction follows the same course with the same outcome then perhaps these people suffer from the same “thing”. This in turn raises the possibility that the cause is the same in all cases and that a treatment that works for one will work for the others. To study this we need to name (diagnose) the thing and describe it’s symptoms, signs, and natural course. Given that we are biological beings it is reasonable to think that some of the signs of these diseases will be biological, and that the causes might be as well. But first the chore is to observe, study, collate, find groupings and test this hypothesis.

In a sense the disease model has picked off all the low hanging fruit, those illnesses with very specific causes and courses and, of course, those for which we have found specific treatments, cures and prevention.

The disease model, and some rudimentary epidemiology, led Dr. John Snow to the source of an outbreak of cholera and then to speculate that the cause, residing in the water supply, “behaved as if it were a living organism”. This before we knew about bacteria, let alone viruses, prions, DNA, and neurohomones.

The same disease model has led to the near eradication of Polio. Drs. Alzheimer and Kraeplin applied the disease model to older people with failing cognitive processes and singled out an illness we now call Alzheimers. Dr. Alzheimer had the advantage of being able to examine the brains of his patients soon after diagnosis. Dr. Kraeplin went on to apply the disease model to a younger group of patients with peculiar cognitive difficulties, some similar to dementia, some not, and singled out a group he called dementia praecox, and another group he called manic depressive. Similarly and more recently the disease model singled out autism from the broader group of mentally handicapped children.

The disease model also allows us to study afflictions and find remedies before, sometimes long before we establish with certainty the causes of the affliction. Who on earth but a cruel idealogue would want us to stop treating and reducing suffering until we find an exact and specific cause of the affliction in question, be it cancer, arthritis, or schizophrenia. Yet that is the cant of the anti-psychiatry folks.

Yet the disease model allows us, sometimes by accident, to find remedies that work, can be proven to work, before we nail down etiology. Now, as mentioned earlier, the disease model has picked off the low hanging fruit, those afflictions caused by single alien organisms, and very specific genetic aberrations. We are left with those that are undoubtedly the product of complex combinations of genetic vulnerability, epigenetic influences in the womb, environmental influences, developmental timing, excesses, and deficits.

But we should no more give up on the disease model for schizophrenia and depression than for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, ALS, and dementia.

Our argument was actually about OCD. Having some Obsessive and Compulsive traits can be an asset of course, and of great help in medical school, while extreme OC traits can be debilitating. The “D” of OCD is the initial for “disorder” of course, but is OCD, in annoying to debilitating form, a disease?

Unfortunately the word “disease” has become freighted with negative association, and for my friend, too much associated with “biological cause”.

Ultimately he may think of OCD as a mind problem, while I may think of it as a mind/brain problem, but it is the discipline of the medical disease concept that allows us to study it and find remedies we can test.

Strategies That Help Us Feel Better

By Dr David Laing Dawson

On Monday morning this week, driving to the clinic in minus 14 degree weather, while I was stopped at a light, a well dressed woman pulling a large suitcase hurried along the edge of the ice-filled gutter toward me. She waved at me. I rolled down the window on the passenger side. She told me in thick Spanish accent she needed a ride to the center of town. I unlocked the door. She clambered in, pulling the suitcase in after her. She talked quickly about many things. I dropped her off near the bus stop in the center of town. She blessed me profusely and I drove on to work.

At the end of the day as I walked to my car in the carport another woman flagged me down and hurried toward me, this time a Chinese woman wearing a dust mask to ward off the cold or viruses. She asked to borrow my cell phone. I dialed for her and watched as she told her husband where she was and that her car battery was dead. The call ended successfully and she smiled and waved at me as I drove away.

In between these events, during the day, while walking from the secretary’s desk down the hall to my office, I noticed a large group of people in the boardroom standing in a circle with arms raised above in that position of lordly praise. I turned to the secretary and said, “My God, we have a revivalist meeting going on in there.” She said, “That must be the CBT group.” And I said, “Let me know if they start speaking in tongues.”

All of which got me thinking about what, besides pharmacological tweaking of the neuro- hormones in our brains, makes us troubled humans feel better.

Last time I looked there were literally hundreds of varieties of counseling and therapy, each with its own proponents and economic systems. But might not reality be simpler than that? Much like all that we know about good nutrition can be summed up in one short sentence: “Eat, not too much, mostly plants.”

Here is my short list of things that help us feel better when we are sad or depressed, worried or severely anxious, mildly distressed or in a state of panic.

  1. Help others. I am sure it is simply in our DNA and one of those traits that allowed us to grow our tribes and dominate life on earth. And this is why becoming an addiction counselor is one of the most successful ways of overcoming addiction.
  2. Do something in a group. I suspect it doesn’t matter if it is CBT, RTB, ABC, curling or building an ark together. It is being part of, participating in a group activity that helps us feel better.
  3. Touch. Hand to hand, hand to body, body to body. Within a consensual primary relationship of course. But failing that, perhaps a pet, a friend. And failing that, a massage therapist and even a chiropractor.
  4. Talk to someone who is actually interested in your life. The best counselors, therapists, professional or not, besides being empathic and non-judgmental and possessing some wisdom, have one other important trait. They are very curious about other people’s lives. They listen.
  5. Share a laugh. Laughter is probably not really the “best medicine”, but it is a signaling system unique to our species. (Hyenas and Kookaburras “laugh” for other reasons). For us it is a shared moment lacking in threat, caution and animosity, a moment of letting down the guard. And we always feel better for at least several minutes afterward.
  6. Understand. Have a way of understanding, or organizing, or thinking about, yourself and the world around you. Again I am sure it doesn’t matter a great deal whether it is a profoundly complicated mix of anthropology/neurology/evolution/ and quantum mechanics or the AA 12 step program, or the teachings of Buddha or Jesus or Mohammed, as long as it is not rigid, nasty, nihilistic and exclusionary. But the brain demands organization of its experiences, its sensory input. It need not be true in any absolute sense to be helpful. And this is probably why we have so many theories of psychology, so many forms of therapy and counseling. So if you want to believe in astrology and it gives you a way of understanding your friend’s behaviour, go ahead.
  7. Move. Exercise. Long before we knew anything about the dopamine, the serotonin in our brains, and the manner they are influenced and, in turn, influence our sense of well-being, Hippocrates proclaimed his treatment for depression: “Go for a walk. And if you are still depressed upon returning, go for another walk.”
  8. Quell the Inquisitor in your brain, at least for part of each day. By “inquisitor” I mean that brain mechanism that,  at its best, allows us to plan our day,  govern our behaviour, censor our worst notions, doubt and second guess our poor ideas, and at its worst tortures us obsessively with fears and follies. Find a way of taking a holiday from this. Preferably not with alcohol or marijuana. But rather with real holidays, meditation, yoga, playing a sport, playing music, engaging in an absorbing activity. For me it is painting, art. You will know when you have been there because you have lost track of time.
  9. Get a good night’s sleep. Our biology is probably programmed, for optimal performance, to stay active and outdoors through the daylight hours, and then go to our mats, our caves, our beds shortly after the sun goes down. This leads to two sleeps of about 4 to 5  hours each, with a period of semi-wakefulness in between. But then we discovered fire and telling stories around the fire, and Mr. Tesla and Edison came along and we never really adapted. So, turn off the lights and the electronics, use, within reason, whatever aids you require, and get some sleep. The cleaners can’t come through and remove the debris if everybody is still working in the office.
  10. Make something. A birdhouse, a cake, a sous vide prime rib, a back porch, a fire pit. I suspect again that it doesn’t really matter what we make, but we are undoubtedly programmed to be rewarded (internally at least) by our own productivity.  It is how we survived to become the dominant species. Of course this making of things has included making better and better weapons, which is in part, I think, the source of the current puffery of Kim Jong Un, Donald J. Trump, and Vladmir Putin.  Okay. That last thought means it is time to revisit item 8 on this list.