Posted by: JDM..... | January 31, 2013

There I go…

…taking myself too seriously again…

too serious_450

Posted by: JDM..... | October 29, 2014

Fear & ignorance.….

the loving parents of injustice….

I have certainly been guilty of breaking my own resolve, but I generally avoid internet “comment” opportunities and the like. Despite frequent claims to the contrary, such environs are not reservoirs of intellectual stimulation and discussion. Those who never launched a stream of mother-cuts and other character disembowelments as a kid have no business entering such places. That would be like Mr. Peepers barging into a biker bar.

Owing to my partially misspent youth, I am credentialed to frequent such seedier loci, and have done so, at least until I realized that the experience always felt like “déjà vu”, the reason being that the regulars either were fourteen years old, or middle aged with severely arrested emotional development, a bona fide diagnosis, or both.

Anyway, I suppose I needed a refresher course or something because this morning I found myself inexplicably staring at the invitation to comment at the foot of an online news item about the Maine nurse held in quarantine in New Jersey and then hunkered down in her home, under siege, because she had been in West Africa treating ebola patients, even though she was not symptomatic.

I succumbed to temptation and scrolled down through the vitriol.

It was like a one note concert. Virtually all who commented viciously accused the nurse as being uncaring, selfish, self centered, stupid, an idiot, unfit to practice her profession and on and on. Most said she should lose her license, many said they hoped she comes down with ebola, and a few opined that she should be shot. Standard internet fare.

While there were one or two commenters who identified themselves as nurses and condemned Kaci Hickox for bucking mandatory quarantine anyway, almost all demonstrated little or no understanding of the disease and the history of the current situation.

My thoughts on the matter:

First of all, I am opinionated and have rarely passed up an opportunity to exercise that characteristic. I claim no expertise on the matters of medicine, law, or ebola. However, I do claim a modicum of skill when it comes to extracting a message from a sea of misapplied verbiage, reading between the lines, and knowing when and where to look for information about a subject rather than try to pretend I actually know anything about it by hiding behind a paper shield of bellicosity. My somewhat eclectic work history included being an editor and working in the mental health field as a counselor. I specialized in probationers and people most folks would not wish to be alone in a elevator with.

Selfishness-self centeredness-self interest

That said, I would first like to address the rampant use of the word “selfish”, almost universally applied as a pejorative rather than as the description of a thought process or personality characteristic. I understand that it sounds more authoritative and legitimate than “shit head“, but it doesn’t communicate anything of substance about the speaker or the target.

People confuse the term selfish with self-centered and self interest.

Selfishness, as used by those commenting about nurse Kaci Hickox, is intended to imply a general lack of concern for, or interest in the needs or desires of others. It is the act of consciously placing one’s own interests before all others. Considering the fact that Kaci Hickox is a Registered Nurse, and voluntarily travelled halfway around the world to battle a deadly disease in spite of the potential risk to herself, selfish just doesn’t seem to fit. Now, those brandishing their pitchforks and squealing for her essential incarceration, without due cause and without due process, because of their own fears and poverty of knowledge, might qualify for such a moniker….I don’t know. When a person is transported to a hospital because knowledgeable people have assessed that he appears to be a danger to himself or others, a considerable amount of time, paperwork, and an appearance before a Judge precedes that person’s involuntary restraint and treatment.

Self centeredness can appear similar to selfishness, but it has a different etiology, perhaps stemming from a developmental glitch or personality disorder. It may involve some awareness, but not necessarily intent.

Self interest is something else entirely, and seems to be mistaken here for one or both of the preceding issues. Self interest is a process of decision making and action based on an understanding and recognition of one’s own self worth and value. One practicing self interest tries to live in ways that honor and respect their sense of self worth. Often, that means standing up to those who would violate that principle by demeaning one’s worth and right of self determination. This may spark resentment and ire in others who are not comfortable in the company of self assuredness and assertiveness, or who have been unexpectedly disagreed with. Self interest does not exclude respecting those same qualities and rights in others, however. In fact, it demands it.

Think of selfishness as a behavior, self centeredness as a mindset, and self interest as a conscious process of decision and action.

As a related sidebar, I would include altruism for consideration.

Altruism is considered to be the antithesis of selfishness, and thus may be incorrectly believed to be antithetical to self interest. It is not, although altruism implies selflessness while self interest is the practice of valuing oneself. Altruism is actually a philosophical ideal rather than a definable quality. One may be said to act “altruistically” as demonstrated by a dedication to some service or cause, but that does not preclude self interest. Altruism in the common understanding does disallow self interest, and may in fact require observable sacrifice or humility in practice.

It is difficult to assign boundaries between all of these concepts, largely because they are not fixed or finite. I am presenting my understanding of them with full appreciation for the possibility that my interpretations may not work for another. Along those lines, I’d like to move on to discuss a thinking structure that I believe is at the core of much of our most egregious interpersonal conflict.

Black and white thinking

So called “black and white” thinking (BWT) goes by many names, but they all describe the same process. Some of the other terms are “polarized” thinking and “all or nothing” thinking. To understand the significance of BWT it may be helpful to consider some of the basics of communication.

Communication is not just “talking” any more than “dining” is just walking by a restaurant. Communication describes the process of transferring information and ideas, and as with a radio signal there must be a transmitter and a receiver. A man wandering about the desert talking to himself is not communicating. If nobody reads what I have written, have I communicated? No, I will simply have written something, as in a journal or diary.

Communication occurs by many means. In face to face, verbal communication, information and ideas are exchanged through the use of words, but that is a very small part of the whole. In fact, most of whatever message is transmitted and received does not involve words. Some say words comprise 15% or less of the average verbal communication. Most of the message is conveyed by the way in which those words are expressed and the body language involved. It is understandable then why written communication, and the internet “chat” format are significantly handicapped and can be volatile. Some 85% of the cues necessary to the efficient exchange of information and ideas is missing!

The art of saying “have a nice day” in a way that communicates “eat $#@! and die” is learned by most of us before reaching high school.

Black & white thinking interferes with clear communication because it involves distorted messages. The English language is rife with idiomatic references and words borrowed from many different languages. When one verbalizes an exaggerated expression, our culture intuitively knows where to draw the line between the data and the bling. “That was the best day ever” actually means “I had a good time and enjoyed myself very much.” The literal interpretation is unlikely to be accurate. We communicate in such a manner on a daily basis.

However, when the exaggerations are unspoken thoughts and provide the foundation for assessments, attitudes, and actions, the outcomes can be problematic or even disastrous in some cases. There are some legitimate explanations for why we gravitate to black and white thinking sometimes and not at others, and regarding the historic basis of such a thinking process, but that is for another time. Here we need only understand the existence of black and white thinking and how it may impact communication.

Black and white thinking is not an abnormality; it is a normal aspect of defense that happens to occur excessively. It is neither conscious nor intentional. What teenager doesn’t classify entire populations such as a rival school or some group as all good or all bad? When one carries such shortcuts into adulthood, however, it can cause great injustice and harm. It is quite normal for people to observe, assess, and make decisions about things and people they encounter in their environments, but when all are assessed on the basis of observations of one, and decisions are made accordingly, trouble ensues. Two major sources of ignorance are lack of knowledge and the application of black and white thinking to otherwise perfectly good knowledge.

I sensed a prevalence of this rigid decision making tree in the comments about the nurse in question. Draco would be proud. Such commentary would easily excuse one from jury duty!

Regarding the underlying issue itself, the question of whether the governors of some states are justified in declaring mandatory quarantine measures, or whether the nurse is justified in challenging that action, I look to what we know and what we don’t know.

What we know:

The most appropriate interventions are the result of a learning process. Those having to respond to potential threats of contamination know more about the nature of ebola today than they did when the Liberian gentleman Thomas Duncan arrived in Texas at the end of September.

The CDC has established guidelines for assessing the risks posed by those returning from West Africa. The four levels of risk run from no risk to one suggesting the advisability of quarantine. Kaci Hickox was not level 4.

Medical scientists know that non-symptomatic subjects are not contagious. Front line people are now practicing extreme methods for putting on and removing protective suits, including using teams to observe each other.

Considering what was known about the nurse, Kaci Hickox, her exposure to ebola patients in Africa, and measures taken to ensure her safety, medical professionals agree that quarantine was not warranted.

There are legitimate questions regarding the legality of holding a person against their will without due cause and due process.

What we don’t know:

We don’t know that public safety is enhanced if those deemed by the public and by politicians to be at risk are sequestered away from the general population regardless of medical assessment and reasoning to the contrary.

I agree that the passionate and overreaching demands for a modern version of the Leper Colony approach without medical justification are excessive, fear based, and hold more potential danger than the disease in question.

Government does indeed bear responsibility for protecting the safety, as well as the liberty, of all citizens. However, it can best fulfill those duties by enlisting, and listening to, those most knowledgeable in the field of concern. I understand they also feel compelled to allay the fears of a reactive public. They can best do that by leading, not by following.


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Posted by: JDM..... | October 28, 2014

Random thought….

Tyranny never seems to be perpetrated in the name of tyranny, but in the name of some alleged “good” by the disturbed, the naive, or the well-meaning who are afflicted with tunnel vision and egoism.


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Posted by: JDM..... | October 24, 2014

Just say “NO”………


Posted by: JDM..... | October 19, 2014

Group therapy…


Posted by: JDM..... | October 11, 2014

Boys will be boys…

they must be taught to be men….

The media thrives on unpleasantries, which isn’t necessarily bad. After all, bandage makers thrive on injuries, but just as there are good bandages and there are cheap knockoffs that aren’t worth a toot, there’s good journalism and tabloid garbage. When a story is “reported” instead of just mined for the dirt, I’ll read it.

Today, I ran across a news item regarding seven teenage football players who are in serious trouble because of allegations of hazing and significant sexual assault and other charges that have been occurring within their team culture. Their school cancelled the football season, and it has not yet been determined which, if any, of the young men will be released to the custody of their families and which will remain incarcerated for the time being.

It would seem that anyone who has been at least moderately socialized would find this story disturbing. Being a male, I have observed and experienced some of the more unsavory residual behaviors that somehow have been passed down from generation to generation since the first of us stood upright. Adolescence is the Marine boot camp of life, and very few reach their thirties without some nicks and dings. For most, these nicks and dings are learning experiences, and the manner in which some engage and adapt to the challenges sometimes contributes to the development of desirable character traits. For others, those experiences are traumatic and significantly impact how they will navigate the ensuing sixty years or so.

No longer being among the primitive fauna where brutishness , or at least the capacity for it, may be necessary to survival, human beings have largely suppressed and redirected such energies towards competitions like sports and other positive creative outlets. But, the potential has not been bred out of our species, regardless of our self-serving claims to the contrary. Human beings can be, and frequently are, violent members of the animal kingdom. Like it or not, it is part of our underlying nature, and without it we would probably have to be downgraded to join the mosses and lichens.

All of that being said, the other aspect of our nature is to strive for nonviolence and peaceful interactions. We are “civilized”, yet like other species, we tend to congregate with or nearby our own kind. Being out of one’s element engenders anxiety and hyper-alertness. Having “outsiders” enter our “space” creates similar responses while the intruder is assessed and identified as friend or foe. That particular behavior has not been bred out of our species either, and outlawing it doesn’t make it magically go away.

Adolescence as a whole, and Teen sports in particular, is a time when these human characteristics are identified and the current socially preferred adaptations and expressions of them are learned and practiced. Mistakes are made, and while we normally don’t respond to teen transgressions the same as we would with an adult perpetrator, the intervention is equally important, perhaps even more so.

The investigations will produce knowledge regarding the alleged hazing and sexual misconduct. It is crucial that two things occur as part of whatever interventions are applied.

First of all, as the story reports, those harmed must be healed.

Second of all, those responsible for the harm must be corrected and redirected. The interventions for 15 to 17 year olds must not be formulated from a 40, 50, or 60 year old perspective, though the ultimate goal is to teach them to adopt those adult social and cultural standards. There is no life experience to draw on for the adolescent to “see” through that lens, but adults may be able to remember how to at least access some recollection of the teen view. Look at this way: if you want to teach American literature to a Spaniard, you had better learn to teach it in Spanish.

During my 25 years in the behavioral health field, I specialized in working with adults and adolescents referred by the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services because of problems with substance abuse, and later as a part of the support staff for a residential psychiatric facility. According to my peers and supervisors, one of my strong points apparently was a knack for “meeting them where they’re at.” Whether that was a compliment or a zinger depends upon one’s viewpoint; I choose to stick with the former. Finding that turf could be an interesting prospect when trying to establish a connection with a street wise sixteen year old who doesn’t trust anybody and probably with good reason.

It is vitally important that the young men who committed the illegal and immoral behaviors be engaged in a way that facilitates them being redirected and corrected without condemning them to association with the Dark Side of the adult world to which they will likely gravitate if nothing is done at all. Those responding to them must ask what kind of men do they want these errant teenagers to become. Just writing them off as “bad” eggs may vindicate the adults, but it doesn’t do much to help them make course corrections toward productive citizenship in the future. Consequences for unacceptable behavior are important, but if the message is just negative, expecting positive behaviors to follow is misguided. Just threatening or beating someone into compliance is not “change”, absolves the subject of responsibility for making internal changes, and is only appropriate for the unapproachable cases.

Of course, positive redirection and creative consequences may not work with all of them. There are some who, for any one of a number of reasons, may already be firmly on a path of self-destruction. In fact, in my field, there were more non-successes than successes. In those cases, “containment” and control may be the only realistic options. After all, the victims must be healed, and future potential victims must be protected.

I’m retired now, but I couldn’t help but think while reading the story, if I was a part of the response team and was given a choice of which kids to work with, I’d choose the ones who are probably rightfully scared, rightfully in very deep shit, and most certainly in need of a guide who knows how to peel an onion to its core without ruining it.


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Posted by: JDM..... | October 8, 2014

What if…

Crayola_2a mount

Posted by: JDM..... | September 18, 2014

Promises, promises, promises…


Posted by: JDM..... | September 16, 2014

Last call…..

Don’t bet on it…..


Posted by: JDM..... | September 12, 2014

News is the new Vaudeville…

except it’s ridiculous, not funny….

Never a moment’s rest, it seems. The tabloidesque media hardly has time to whip some incident of alleged inadequate interracial or ethnic obeisance, social turpitude with sexual undertones, or some other trendy no-no into a lather when someone else steps in a yard cookie. Jeese!

I’m tempted to make reference to “the latest” issue to get wanna-be investigative reporters wallowing in dumpsters at midnight and demanding fifth grade report cards et al under the Freedom of Information Act, but I know another will likely hit the fan any minute now. Regardless, the hot issue at present is the Ray Rice controversy, wherein the star Baltimore Ravens running back was video-recorded giving his now-wife a knuckle sandwich in an elevator about five months ago.

Not unlike when a size 12 disrupts the integrity of an ant hill, the revelation, the video, and NFL resumes hit the fan as Rice was kicked off his “job”, relieved of the trainload of money he was contracted to earn, and the feeding frenzy was on. Who knew what, when did they know it, and what did they have for lunch that day? Film at eleven….probably the same one everybody saw at six in the morning, at noon, mid afternoon, and after supper. Only the details change as the taint of responsibility wicks through all in the neighborhood.

Interesting. When a similar thing happened in my town recently, as it unfortunately does on a regular basis, the accused was arrested, made the Police Reports in the morning paper, went to jail, bailed out, and was scheduled for a court date a few months in the future. If he is convicted, appropriate consequences will be handed down in a court of law. Meanwhile, other than having no contact with the victim and a few other restrictions, he returns to his normal routine and is innocent until proven guilty.

Employers are often supportive of valued employees who run into trouble, except in cases of heinous felonies, of course, and unless the frowned upon and/or illegal behavior has become a habit for the employee. When big Names and big Dollars are involved however, “employers” can’t wait to shake the Name off and away like a tenacious booger

Rice, Commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL in general, and somebody’s third cousin, no doubt, are all being tried by the rabid media. Fingers are pointing in multiple directions in a game of “Musical Who Gets to Live Under the Bus“. Meanwhile, there has been no involvement by the law enforcement side of the equation.

Here’s my take on it, political correctitude and the media be damned:

Domestic violence is against the law, and while it is not tolerated in our society, it happens to more than 1,300,000 men and women in the United States every year. Consequences may include incarceration, probation, financial penalties, and more. The goal is not only to protect the victim and exact punishment, but to address the abuser’s issues in an effort to prevent subsequent assaults.

Like it or not, we do have an unofficial caste system, and people of fame and wealth, whether it be in politics, the entertainment world, or in sports, are treated differently. Ray Rice should have been held accountable under the law just as any other man would have been. No consequences should have been levied until he had had the benefit of his day in court, and any consequences should be the business of the court, not the NFL. And even if the NFL were to have a say, it seems to me the incident should be mulled over by some sort of tribunal before they draw and quarter the man in the town square.

Rice and other people of note should not be immune from prosecution, nor should they be punished and stripped of their assets without benefit of first being allowed to present a defense to prosecution.


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Posted by: JDM..... | September 9, 2014

I’m sorry….

and other moments of ennui…..

I see that the Apology Epidemic continues to chug along nicely, or at least the media flies continue to swarm around it like a July barnyard. I have some thoughts on the matter.

First of all, “apology” is a misunderstood reference today, though with unintentional but exquisite irony its application is almost always as apt now as it would have been when the ancient Greeks coined the word’s precursor to denote the act of speaking in defense of something. In the modern context, that usually means the apologizer’s ass.


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