Lumping and splitting

As a young psychotherapy researcher I learned that some of my colleagues were “lumpers” and others were “splitters.” The former look at research data and see commonalities. Instead of different kinds of psychotherapy, say, they see a spectrum of styles with a shared core. Lumpers search for universal truths, missing links, ways of combining categories. […]

Christmas 2016, a fable

No one recalled when Rudy joined the teamsters, it may have been several seasons back. Awkward and quiet, he mostly kept to himself. The other guys avoided Rudy. No one ever asked him to join their casual poker games, no one ever invited him to hang out after work. He wasn’t harassed exactly, but their […]

Choose your actions, not your feelings

Again and again in therapy I find myself emphasizing the distinction between feeling an emotion and acting on it. Many patients, and non-patients too, take undue responsibility for their emotions, as though feelings were volitional behaviors, the result of a choice. Often there is a stated or implied should: “I should feel this, not that.” […]

Onedownmanship

Oneupmanship is the art or practice of successively outdoing a rival, staying one step ahead by ​proving superiority. It is straightforward competition, whether playful in tone, as in friends verbally sparring, or deadly serious. Presidential candidate Donald Trump employs oneupmanship incessantly, pointing out that he is richer, more successful, and more popular than his rivals […]

Credulity

As we grow into adulthood, each of us develops a personal comfort zone located on the continuum between paranoia and gullibility. A few of us are highly suspicious by nature, a few are unwitting dupes; most of us are in between. Mental health professionals are no exception, and it shows in our work. Is a […]

We are all fallible experts

It’s a blessing and a curse that we humans are such adept conceptualizers and heuristic thinkers. We continually compare our perceptions about the world to paradigms in our head, performing quick, unconscious goodness-of-fit assessments. We instantly sense danger when a large furry beast rapidly advances. We don’t waste time discerning whether it’s a lion or […]

Behavioral science versus moral judgment

George S. Patton, Jr. commanded the Seventh United States Army, and later the Third Army, in the European Theater of World War II. General Patton, a brilliant strategist as well as larger-than-life fount of harsh words and strong opinions, was also infamous for confronting two soldiers diagnosed with “combat fatigue” — now known as post-traumatic […]