The Right To Die

Photo: rjhuttondfw

The notion that dying is a right seems nonsensical to argue:  death is given to all of us equally without the need of anyone’s sanction.  The right to die well, on the other hand—well, that’s another matter entirely.  A good death is, in many cases, something our fellow human beings have great power to grant or deny, and is therefore, sadly, a right for which we must indeed fight. Continue reading…

The Courage To Hear The Truth

Photo: pichado photography

Years ago, I was having lunch with a friend who’d developed a reputation for being difficult.  He complained frequently and bitterly, often about things no one else found bothersome.  In general, he was perceived as negative and over-entitled.  I thought most of the time the points he made were valid but that the way he expressed them was off-putting and prevented others from being open to his ideas.  After thinking about it for a while, I decided, for his sake, I should let him know. Continue reading…

Crazy Makers

Photo: Maks Karochkin

“The Buddha’s compassion is perfectly equal and impartial.  The Buddha views all beings as his own children and strives to elevate them to attain his same enlightened state of life.  It’s not that there are no differences among people.  Rather, it’s that the Buddha, while fully recognizing people’s differences, does not discriminate among them.”

—Daisaku Ikeda Continue reading…

How To Overcome Shyness

Photo: kaibara87

When I was a teenager, I was afflicted with terrible shyness.  Not in every context or with all people—mostly just with girls.  Not unlike millions of other adolescent males, when in the presence of a girl I found attractive, I would become tongue tied, awkward, and lose all self-confidence.

As I grew older, this reaction gradually diminished, until (luckily) by the time I’d met my wife, it had largely vanished.  I’d always explained this to myself as a simple function of maturation, but recently I realized that while growing older does indeed often result in increased self-confidence (we experience more, handle it, and realize we handled it), age wasn’t, in fact, responsible at all. Continue reading…

When Someone You Love Is Unhappy

Photo: Alex E. Proimos

A patient of mine has a mentally ill brother who’s depressed and anxious, as well as manipulative and stubborn.  He often refuses to take medication that’s helped him in the past and as a result often ends up lying at home in his bed, unwashed and unkempt, for days at a time.  When my patient discovers him in this state, she tries various things:  taking him to the ER (which she’s learned leads nowhere), contacting his therapist (which sometimes helps, sometimes not), and even walking away, both figuratively and literally.  She struggles with how much she may be enabling his behavior and with how unhappy his unhappiness is making her. Continue reading…

How To Comfort Yourself

Photo: pipitdapo

The other week, a patient of mine told me he’d recently come to the realization that he has a tendency to become almost embarrassingly needy in certain situations, something he attributed to several early childhood experiences.  When he was three, he told me, his five-year-old sister died of cancer.  He doesn’t specifically remember her dying but does remember being left alone with a maid for a year and feeling abandoned.  His father, an alcoholic, left his family soon after.  He counts as his first memory seeing his father’s suitcase lying open across a bed. Continue reading…

Redemption

Photo: Ms. Phoenix

Over a decade ago, I did something about which I remain ashamed to this day:  I broke a promise to someone in a way that hurt her terribly.  I rationalized my decision by arguing that I hadn’t wanted to make the promise in the first place but had been pressured into it.  Many of the people in my life agreed at the time that for a variety of reasons my action was more than justified, framing the situation in different terms that made it seem more palatable. Continue reading…

The Problem With Turning The Other Cheek

Photo: Anamorphic Mike

In a previous post, The Three Realms Of Confidence, I told a story from my childhood (how I was bullied in seventh grade because I was Jewish) to introduce the concept that confidence exists in three separate realms.  In response to that post, a reader commented (on the Psychology Today blog where my posts also appear):  “I was periodically beaten up, but I ran away or didn’t fight back because I operated under the assumption that you should always ‘turn the other cheek’ and never fight back, regardless of the circumstances.  The moral directive was to allow yourself to get beaten up…” Continue reading…

What Makes A Hero

Photo: nordique

I saw a patient of mine recently whose appearance in my office always makes me smile.  He’s challenging—not because he’s a difficult person (quite the opposite), but because he has so many serious medical problems about which I can do little.  Why, then, does seeing him so consistently lighten my mood?  Because it reminds me that for all the terrible things that go on—the abuse, the discrimination, the injustice, the downright nastiness—good still exists in the world.  Because, you see, he’s a hero. Continue reading…

When A Beloved Pet Dies

Photo: wsilver

Several years ago, my wife and I had to put down one of our cats.  Minnie was really my wife’s cat, having journeyed with her from Vancouver to Chicago almost a decade earlier.  At some point during that time Minnie had developed a urinary tract infection that had damaged her kidneys.  After that, according to my wife, her personality changed.  By the time I met her, Minnie was no longer friendly and affectionate but somewhat aloof and disdainful (and, yes, I know this is the baseline personality of many otherwise healthy cats). Continue reading…