I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of volunteer psychologists over the years, each with their own unique approach to Queendom visitors’ questions. Dr. Bob Rich is unique, however. When you read his responses to people who are hurt, who have suffered, who are trying to get their lives back on track, you will be immediately struck by his genuineness and compassion. Bob doesn’t speak from his psychological high horse: He doesn’t throw around fancy psychoanalytic terms. He gets to the heart of the issue with kindness and empathy. Dr. Rich had his own struggles growing up, and now uses these experiences to supplement his healing approach. Simply put, Bob speaks to you like a friend, a fellow traveler on life’s journey, not a patient. He doesn’t see you as broken, damaged, or deficient but rather, as a wondrous soul having a temporarily difficult human experience.
The following is part 2 of my interview with him (check out part 1 here)
Me: A recent study we conducted at Queendom indicated that young people tend to resort to escapism when they are stressed – more than any other coping mechanism. Why do you feel this is the case? What can you recommend as a healthier alternative?
I agree, and this is true for all ages. Denial – “everything is OK” -– is what most people do. We live in a crazy world, and are, literally, at great danger of destroying all complex life on Earth. And when we unravel the web of life, we also fall through the hole.
There are only two logical reactions: face up to it and do your personal best to improve things, or pretend it’s not true, and carry on with your life. The second is much, much easier. Interested readers should research “cognitive dissonance,” which is the mechanism at work.
The healthier alternative is the message of all the great religions, but you can follow it even if you are an atheist. This is doing both of two apparently contradictory things.
First is, do your best. The hero of my book Ascending Spiral http://bobswriting.com/ascending.html says:
“I dislocated a shoulder in 2009. About two months later, my rehabilitation homework was to play basketball with myself. This is brilliant: increasing strength, flexibility and self-confidence in a pleasurable way.
“OK, I shoot for the basket and get it in. Beauty. I shoot again and miss. So what — I’m still exercising my shoulder.
“We are on this planet for a purpose. This is not to make money or to be better than the neighbor. It is to learn Lessons, to progress toward the ultimate lesson of Love, the message of Jesus (and this is from a Buddhist Jew).”
So, do your best, and don’t measure yourself by outcome.
The second half of the paradox is simple acceptance. What is, is, and is all right. This planet is a school for souls. Whatever happens, happens. All that matters is what you take with you when you die, and what you leave behind in the hearts of others.
When you can manage this attitude, you are invulnerable. And the past is history, the future is a mystery. I give you a PRESENT. This moment is all that exists. So, if you can have peace in your heart now, then you have peace in your heart. If you can’t manage it for now, then know that all things are change. This, too, shall pass.
Me: What are some common misconceptions people have about therapy? What are some tips to finding a good therapist?
My psych website has an explanation of when and why you need psychotherapy, at http://bobswriting.com/psych/whypsych.html
You don’t need to be crazy to benefit from therapy. The requirement is that, for now, you feel overwhelmed, and can’t cope with the problems of your life.
The therapist’s job is not to fix you, or to give you good advice, but to empower you to improve those parts of your situation you can, and to accept with inner peace the parts you can’t.
How do you find a good therapist? Word of mouth is good. Suck it and see: if, after one session, you’re not impressed with this person, then move on.
Me: It seems that these days, when it comes to treating ADHD in children, grief in adults, or anxiety issues, doctors (General Practitioners) opt immediately for medication to treat disorders rather than therapy. Why is this the case? What are the dangers of doing so?
Thank you for this question. Medicalizing human suffering, and using drugs to deal with it, is one of my pet peeves.
There is ADHD, but it is relatively rare. The overwhelming majority of children lumbered with the label are just lively, normal kids.
When a small child is brought to me because, say, the teacher thinks (usually) he has ADHD, I play a pretend game.
Pretend you are a lion.
Pretend you are a monkey.
Pretend you are your teacher.
Pretend you are a coffee table.
A coffee table just stands there on all fours, immobile. Most kids do exactly that. A kid who genuinely has ADHD starts fidgeting within 15 seconds or so.
They rarely do.
Anxiety, depression, all the other monsters torturing people, are the result of habits of thought and emotion. The way to deal with them is to change habits.
Talk therapies cause exactly the same brain changes as drugs do, but without the nasty side effects. When you stop taking the drugs, their effect stops, but the new habits established through therapy are permanent. And if you do experience a relapse, you can fix it, using the same tools.
Why are drugs used so much? Because the pharmaceutical industry has for many years used the same nasty tricks as the tobacco industry, the pesticide industry, the fossil fuel industries, etc., to fool people. I have reproduced with permission three papers on this at my psych site:
I also have an interesting letter from a young woman with Bipolar who can’t take the relevant drugs, at http://bobswriting.com/psych/bipolar-nodrugs.html
Me: What is the best piece of advice you can offer people for the coming new year?
Live every moment as if you were going to die tomorrow, while at the same time, live every moment as if you were going to live forever.
The first half means, go to bed without hate and resentment for any other person, and make peace with everyone who may have a grudge against you. If you wake up dead, you won’t be able to reconcile, will you?
The second half requires you to look after our precious planet and its wonderful web of life. Live simply so you may simply live. Nothing can keep growing in a limited system. By being a good consumer, you are consuming your own future. So, forget wealth, fame, power, and all the other garbage our culture values. Concentrate instead on being of service to others.
If you were going to live forever, you would need to ensure food and other essentials indefinitely. Well, you need to do so, regardless.
That’s it for my interview with Dr. Bob Rich, although I do hope to speak to him again in the future. Bob has also made a generous offer for readers of the Queendom blog:
For anyone who leaves a comment: I’ll do my best to answer every one of them. At the end of two weeks, I’ll randomly select three commentators, who can then claim a free electronic book. The ones on offer are listed at http://bobswriting.com/bookbuy.html
You can also check out his blog, Bobbing Around , and his website. Vote for his new book, Guardian Angel, and take a look at Bob’s blog on the holiday season, both of which are very interesting reads.