Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When Little Obsessions Become the Bully

Most of the time our little obsessions are somewhat inconvenient, mostly to other people, but doing no real harm to others or ourselves. The frequent, repetitive behaviors we use to pass the time and soothe our emotions can quickly turn into an obsession that may lead to self-abuse.

To some degree we are all self bullies, letting our emotions rule over sensible behavior. We may overindulge in food, drink, work, play, television, computer, gaming, gambling, social media, or any other activity. And, who has not castigated oneself for doing something so utterly dumb, embarrassing, and/or senseless, vowing never to do that again? Yet, we do it again and again.

But obsessions and addictions, while bullying to our sense of self, can make us a bully in turn. Who has not demanded a loved one give “just one more minute while I finish this game…cup of coffee…tv show…newspaper...”

Unfortunately, at some point, our seemingly harmless obsessive behavior may cross the line and negatively impact the lives of other people. Sometimes the act becomes not only a moral issue but a legal one, too, and the victim has a responsibility to report the behavior seek help.

In writing a previous article, Consequences, I researched and reported on an anesthesiologist, Dr. Arthur Zilberstein, who has had his license suspended for sexting, having sex with a former patient, and illegally prescribing drugs while on duty at a local Seattle hospital.    

As reported by Carol M. Ostrom at the Seattle times,
“The patients listed in the statement of charges were undergoing various surgeries, most often deliveries, including cesareans, but also for a cardiac-probe insertion procedure, a laparoscopic esophagus repair and a laparoscopic pediatric appendectomy, from April through August 2013.

The charges say those were just examples, taken from six days while Zilberstein was on duty.

In one case — the esophagus repair — the state says Zilberstein exchanged 45 text messages with sexual innuendo in less than an hour and a half, with 21 initiated by Zilberstein.”

I think it would be safe to say that the man-who-can’t-keep-it-in-his-pants has, at the least, an obsession with, and likely an addiction to, sex. It is an example of addiction becoming the bully, as the self becomes the victim of uncontrollable behavior.

It is confusing to me that someone with the wherewithal to make it through medical school, not to mention the aptitude and fortitude to go through the rigorous training to become a doctor, could exhibit such an extreme lack of regard for his profession, peers and patients, ethics and the laws.

But that is the nature of obsessions that become addictions. While he slides down the slippery slope, (in his case I would call it an avalanche), he takes with him a whole lot of people, those who know him as a son, brother, uncle, friend, lover, student, as well as colleague. It would seem an easy decision to get professional help so readily available, but like a bully who has the victim under his domination, the addict, or obsessed person, cannot always make rational choices.

I applaud those who have wrestled their demons into submission, who have entered therapy, twelve-step programs, group meetings or self-help regimens. Bullies of whatever size, shape and dimension can be converted, can be transcended, transformed or transmuted. Now I have to go; there is chocolate waiting for me. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Writing Everyday: The Diary Habit

"It is necessary only that a life should be interesting to the person who lives that life. It you have a desire to keep a diary, it follows that your existence is interesting to you. Otherwise obviously you would not wish to make a record of it." - Arnold Bennett, author of Self and Self-Management: Essays on Existing (published in 1918) Read a longer excerpt here>>

30 Days to a Better Man Day 8: Start a Journal
"My grandpa, Bill Hurst, was a journal writer his entire life. His journal was quite simple. He just kept a small notebook in the pocket of his pearl snap shirts and jotted down a short description of the things he did and the people he did it with. This is something he did pretty much every day for his entire life. He also kept extensive diaries of his time as a forest ranger in the Wasatch Range.

About 12 years ago, my grandpa took all these diaries and daily journal entries and began to write his memoir for his children and grandchildren. The finished product was a 500 page behemoth filled with stories from my grandfather’s life." Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Making Habits, Breaking Habits

What are the keys to breaking a bad habit or creating a good one? How long does it take? Why are habits good for us?

According to psychologist Jeremy Dean, making and breaking habits involves understanding how habits work, how our brain uses habits to make its job easier, and how some situations encourage specific habits.

Dean's book Making Habits, Breaking Habits presents an in-depth exploration of the research on habits. He writes, "The connection is context. We tend to do the same things in the same circumstances. Indeed, it’s partly this correspondence between the situation and behavior that causes habits to form in the first place."

The book begins by defining habits, examining their roots, and uncovering the brain's tendency to to things automatically. Dean then explores how habits look in our everyday lives and how habitual thoughts affect our moods. The book ends with specific techniques to break bad habits, create new good habits, and how to use this information to be more creative.

My main takeaway from this book: Working with your good and bad habits may feel hopeless at times but with knowledge, patience and creativity, we can use our brain's power to go on "autopilot" to our own advantage.

Find Making Habits, Breaking Habits on>>
Read more from Jeremy Dean on his blog PsyBlog>>

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


con·se·quence ˈkänsikwəns,-ˌkwens/ noun: consequence; plural noun: consequences     1. a result or effect of an action or condition.    

For every action there is a reaction. It is a basic concept that usually comes with a hard lesson learned. One young teenage girl learned this the hard way when her response to intimidation and bullying on Facebook by her peers resulted in her parents confiscating her phone and putting her on restriction.

“No fair,” she protested, “I was the victim!” “But,” her parents responded, “your language was inappropriate. You should have told us and let us handle it in the right way.”    

Her parents took the information for a conference with the principal. The bullies were suspended from school for that incident and others. The parents told their daughter that she could “earn” back the privilege of having her phone by doing an unasked good deed and her chores without being nagged for a point a day, one hundred days.    

This is a perfect example of good parenting. They monitored telephone calls and computer time. They were aware of and responded with swift actions to the good, bad and ugly situation. They simultaneously supported their daughter by going to principal at her school, making the authority aware of the problem, and reprimanded their daughter for bad choices of words and irresponsible behavior. Finally, the parents allowed their daughter to work and earn back not only her cell phone, but the respect of her parents and others as she does some nice deed. All this was accomplished while the parents reinforced the values inherent in the discipline without drama, violence or recrimination. What a wonderful way to turn a potentially ugly situation into a positive way to teach values, appropriate behavior in a negative social arena, and a means to ‘save face’ for a burgeoning adult.    

Then there is the example of an anesthesiologist, Dr. Arthur Zilberstein, at Swedish Medical hospital who has had his license suspended and is charged with sexting and sending explicit selfies while on duty and in charge of patients. He is in trouble also for prescribing drugs without proper evaluation and treatment plan and also prescribing drugs to his girlfriend who was a former patient, and having sex with her in the doctors’ lounge and hospital call room, while on duty, leaving unattended patients under anesthesia, and improperly diagnosing and treating other patients.    

These are serious charges and very alarming when considering that if a person is under anesthesia, one can only trust that the medical team is ensuring one’s survival and optimal care. Who goes to the hospital with a checklist of questions for the medical team? Did you wash your hands? Is everyone on the medical team competent? Anyone have a personal problem that might affect his/her ability to do the job? You depend on the ethical and professional skills of the doctors and nurses to help you survive. I should not have to worry about staph infections, MRSA, or sexual predators.

The man-who-can’t-keep-it-in-his-pants has violated the medical code of ethics and jeopardized patients, exposing not only his genitals but his total disregard for the law, peers, institution and patients. For that he got a suspension and cannot practice in the state of Washington. Perhaps the positive thing about his selfies is that they will always be there on the Web, and future employers will have access to viewing them. Consequently, I can only hope that he cannot ever practice in another state, anytime, in his lifetime. Or mine.