Dear Future Child

Dear Future Child, don’t be like your mother. Don’t spend your childhood sprawled on the floors of bookshops, reading those books. Books are dangerous. They will turn you into a thinker, and rarely are thinkers happy people. They are bound to have a rough inner life. Lemony Snicket was right: “All the secrets of the […]

If Emotions Were My Friends

The six basic human emotions are: happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust, fear. Now, if these emotions were my friends, they would be personified as thus— … Happiness would be a guy—effervescent, charming, Golden Boy. Now this boy, I love having around (as does everyone else). But Happiness is not the type who likes to stay […]

Psychotherapy 101

“Growing up, I was always intrigued by how people change. My mother, a clinical psychotherapist, would occasionally see patients at home in the evening. She would shut the door to the living room, and I imagined magical things happened in that room.” — Daniel Reisel, neuroscientist  … Magical. The word strikes me because that’s precisely […]

The Necessity of Madness: Creativity’s Curse

“No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.” — Aristotle … Greatness, especially in the arts, has often been correlated with madness—or at least a touch of it. Artists in general have a reputation for being eccentric, obsessive, and unstable, and the really legendary ones are often perceived to have straddled “the […]

La Belle Indifférence

There’s this concept in psychology I was fascinated to learn about. Conversion disorder is a condition in which an individual experiences a loss of some sensory or motor function (e.g. blindness or paralysis) but with no demonstrable medical evidence for the disability (e.g. upon examination, the eyes are perfectly free from defect, but the person is truly […]

Insanity: When Faking It Means Making It

  It’s interesting how the field of psychiatry is still battling the same questions it did 40 years ago. This talk by Jon Ronson reminds me of a 1973 experiment by D.L. Rosenhan that tried to get 8 psychologically stable people admitted to mental hospitals. All 8 “pseudopatients” gave accurate histories, except for their names […]