Saturday, December 31, 2011


In the words of one of my Idols:
Learn from the past,  Live in the present, Hope for the future.
Albert Eistein

Friday, December 23, 2011

The lights of Hope

“I hate Christmas” she said, tears of sadness and anger welling up in her eyes. “What is so wonderful about this season? Take a look around: people are out of work, they walk with scowling faces, and a kid a wonderful young man is diagnosed with cancer” now the tears are streaming down her flashed face. They can take their cheer and shove it…”

 She is right you know, in a world where Europe, the cradle of Western civilization, the Alma Mata of many of us, is collapsing like a house of cards; where the Middle East remains a Tinder box ready to explode; where our young men fight and die in a back water country where women are killed because they had the temerity to get raped; In a world where USA has 13 million people out of work it is definitely hard to find the cheer in Santa’s HO, HO, HO.

 And yet, and yet… I look at the Christmas tree in the corner of my office heavy with lights and ornaments. Every single ornament lovingly unwrapped and placed on just the right branch because every ornament has a story and a wish attached to it. From time to time I allow myself to get lost in a fantasy of glitter and sparkle. There is the golden ball of hope, and the red one for our most treasured passions, and the glittery sparkling stars to guide our quest for self-understanding and tolerance, and the bells to remind us of something, although I don’t quite remember what, maybe responsibility? And yes, I believe everyone should have a tree. It symbolizes the part of us that has remained tall and proud and untarnished by the toxicity of our world. It is the part of us, the part of humanity that every now and then stretches its branches to the stars, like it has done for hundreds of thousands of years, and yearns and demands to be adorned with the ornaments of appreciation and the lights of hope.

 So, all the sorrows and pains of this world notwithstanding lets trim the tree and light it up with as many lights as possible because we all need a break from reality and a magical place and time to nurture Hope.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011



Freud was famous or infamous (depending on how one chooses to look at it) for saying that his job was not to make people happy but instead to get them rid of their illusions.

Whether we dare to acknowledge it or not, the fact is that we all fall victim to a large number of illusions some of which we begrudgetly acknowledge and rationalize while others we are totally blind to.

Our brain is “hard wired” by evolution to be prone to illusions. Many of these illusions have been sanctioned, reinforced and promulgated by societies and religions from one generation to another through time immemorial. It is an indisputable fact that many of these illusions have helped us survive as a species and flourish. On the other hand, it is also equally and painfully indisputable that a number of these illusions have led to massive injustices and genocides (race, IQ, gender, religion just to mention a few).

Science has managed and continues to unravel many of the dangerous illusions while others continue to defy proof and logic in most stubborn ways. The latter include: Beliefs in the accuracy of memory and the infallibility of eye witnesses, our convictions that we are too smart to be manipulated, that we always have free will and choice, that we know a lot more about events and people than we really do, the belief that our personal moral code is or should be a universal dictate and I am afraid a lot more. Based on these illusions we make decisions about who to marry, who is innocent and who is guilty, when to terminate a relationship or marriage, who to vote for, when to go to war, the way to rear our children and many other decisions from the smallest to the largest.

Now, I am not saying all this because I woke up in a bad mood this morning and decided to spoil every one else’s day too. I am saying it because I believe that with a bit of knowledge and a good deal of courage we can rid ourselves of dangerous illusions. Therapy goes a long way in opening peoples’ minds and so do science and education.
What prompted me to write this blog today is a book that I just finished reading: “The Invisible Gorilla and other ways our illusions deceive us”. It was illuminating and in many ways shocking. I highly recommend it to all brave souls out there who wish to free themselves from the fetters of illusions and/or misguided assumptions.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The tears the eyes will not shed the body will weep

I have for years preached to my patients that grieving does not start
when you lose a loved one or even when you burry him. Grieving begins
when you really let the beloved go, in your mind.

I thought I had cried enough, I was convinced that I raged plenty against
the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune, but his food bowl stayed
on the floor, his favorite pouch next to the fireplace, his bed on the
family couch and his toys strewed all over the place. Any well meant
suggestion that I should be putting these objects away met with a mix
of tears and anger.

I constructed a mausoleum and Sadness and Guilt, the inseparable
companions of Grief, fanned the flames of an irrational, primitive
illusion: what if he is really not gone? As the flames of this insidious
illusion strengthened the headaches started, like a vise around my head
squeezed tighter and tighter every day for 2 months.
Then the “core could not hold anymore” the walls of denial crumbled.
In-between my sobs I heard myself asking: He is not coming back, is he?
No, sweetheart, he is gone my husband said.

As the tears subsided the vise around my head began to loosen itself.
In my mind’s eyes I saw Him prancing into the woods, his tail held
straight up like a little periscope, his ears erect. He turned his
head back to look at me: It was a great life, mom, thanks, and so long…..

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Love is to fall head over heals for 2 huge bright eyes and a tinny mischievous face

Love is to lose yourself and life’s hard edges in joyous playing and laughter.

Love is to share life’s moments, the elation of success and the pain of loss.

Love is to nurse him with tenderness while your heart is shredded to pieces.

Love is to let him go although you want to hold on with every ounce of your body because his dignity demands it.

Love is to reach out and love again and gain because anything less is an insult
to the gift of love he brought into your life.

Monday, April 4, 2011

How many ruined lives will it take?

I was writing a few short weeks back that our technological advances have by far outsripped our ability to understand and integrate them in our ever day living with often disastrous consequences. And here I am again, sounding like a broken record, asking again what would it take for the community, the parents, the educational system to wake up?

Front page in the New York Times last Sunday: A Girl’s Nude Photo, and Altered Lives: At 14 she thought it perfectly logical to sext her boyfriend nude pictures of herself, he in tern found it self aggrandizing to forward these pictures to his best friend who in the penultimate wisdom of his own 14 years on this planet thought nothing of forwarding them to the girl’s archenemy. You can imagine the rest. Or can you? Did you know that circulating pictures of underage kids(even if they are circulated by other kids) is considered distribution of child pornography, a charge carrying imprisonment? Well the kids had no clue, even scarier; their parents had no clue either.

Parents think that it is totally innocuous to give a kid a phone or a computer and leave him/her alone with them. They never stop to think that they are handling their kid a loaded gun and license to destroy lives with impunity. But to be fair, how would parents know the apparently unending possibilities and applications of the new technology? Who is educating the parents?

Would, I wonder, break the budget to have classes for parents, starting from kindergarten all through high school, to educate them about the ethical and legal hazards of the new technology? How much money or time would you be willing to spend to save the live or future reputation of your child? Schools have mandatory inoculations to prevent the spread of epidemics, yet there is an epidemic that is spreading like a wild fire among the youth: the epidemic of ethical irresponsibility out of ignorance. Would it be too much to ask for mandatory inoculations for this epidemic too?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar….

He came to therapy because of his mood swings. He would go from a sweet, laid back, funny guy who everyone loved, to losing his temper because someone cut him off while driving or the kids were too loud or the wind was blowing the wrong way. You name it, it could set him off. If I don’t get my Mr. Hyde under control I will lose my family doc, he said to me in tears.

So, we worked on stabilizing his moods. “Keeping it level” became his new mantra while his great sense of humor kept everyone in his life steadfast in “his corner” while he worked on his issues.

One day he came in with the familiar twinkle in his eye that invariably forecasted a joke.How are you doing? I asked expectantly.
Well, he said, yesterday I went to pick up a pizza for dinner. It smells great, I told Antonio as he handed me the steaming box of pepperoni, my mouth watering already. “Yes, man” Antonio said “keep it level.” I thought it was divine providence reminding me of my resolution not to lose my temper. You too man, you too, I shot back at him with a broad smile and walked out of the restaurant. It was not until I opened the box at home and saw that the whole cheese and sauce had dripped to the side of the box that it dawned on me: “keep the box even, keep the box even!!”

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar or… a pizza. Thanks for all the laughs Joe.