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The couch -Blog

Not Only the Lonely

I was asked to evaluate 90-year-old George, a handsome, distinguished-looking gentleman with a full head of white hair. The hospital nurses thought he might be suicidal because he wondered aloud, "What's the point of going on?" You see, it had been three years since George's wife died and, after 62 years of marriage, he was struggling with the promise of another holiday season alone. By his own admission, George wasn't really suicidal. He was "lonesome."

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The Old Men of Summer

An abundance of new research suggests that longevity is not only about good genetics and clean living. Other variables like exercise, meditation, volunteering, and close friendships are also linked to extending your visit here on planet Earth. But more recent findings have revealed that passion -- having a cause, purpose or pursuit -- can also contribute to an increase in longevity.

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The Saboteur

As a psychologist, I was fairly sure I knew what characteristics define successful people. Don't we all? I mean, successful people are confident, ambitious, risk-takers who persevere in the midst of setbacks and challenges. But, just to be sure, I decided to do some research into the characteristics of successful people. What I gleaned from my efforts is this: 1) many successful people write lists of characteristics of successful people, 2) nobody's list looks anything like anybody else's list and 3) therefore, each list of characteristics of successful people is probably nothing more than a flattering self-portrait of the writers themselves.

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The Social Black Belt

“Empowering Our Youth for a Better Future”

Prevention Curriculum Research Summary

How many times have you thought, “I wish someone would have told me that before” or “I wish someone would have given me a manual”? Finally, after 80,000 clinical hours, we (Dr. Christopher Cortman and Dr. Harold Shinitzky), have created The Social Black Belt prevention curriculum based upon our recently published book, Your Mind: An Owner’s Manual for a Better Life (Career Press, 2009).  

The Social Black Belt curriculum summarizes the ten most common struggles people have in life. Our goal with The Social Black Belt is to empower youth with healthy, productive and adaptive coping skills which they can use throughout life. We know from research that fostering the development of specific skills can prevent involvement in at-risk behaviors.

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The Rip Tide

If you spend any time near the ocean, you are likely to hear about a dangerous sea condition known as a Rip Tide. Rip Tides are responsible for dozens of drownings each year, rapidly sweeping unsuspecting swimmers out to sea. Yet, these deaths are preventable if you know how to respond to a Rip Tide.

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The Middle Toe

The middle toe on my right foot really hurt, so I pulled off my sock and shoe to investigate. It was sensitive to the touch and had accumulated a protective layer of skin over the tender area. Beneath the excess skin, I noticed a black dot. Unable to explain the origin of the dot or the extra skin, I started digging. I tore through the top layers of skin until I reached the sweet spot. Then I squeezed the outside of the toe to see what would happen. A small pool of liquid seeped out followed by a surprisingly large splinter. Once the splinter was removed, there was no more extra skin, no more liquid and most importantly, no more pain.

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The Canoe Ride

The early morning lightshow of thunder and lightning should have been enough to dissuade my friend, Paul, and me from pursuing our Saturday morning canoe ride. Knowing that summer storms in Florida are common and fleeting, however, we continued to make our way down to the Peace River in spite of the huge black clouds overhead.

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The Hammer

Last week I saw a patient for the first time in eight years, and I was encouraged to see that she had lost weight, successfully weathered some of life’s storms and emerged with a positive attitude. Previously, we had worked together for almost a year to clean up several issues from a very painful childhood, and we were both quite pleased with her progress at the time. More recently, she had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and her physician believed that reconnecting with her psychologist would be beneficial.

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Taking Care

They are the unspoken heroes of any town. You don't see them around much; they are not often out and about. They work tirelessly, long hours, mostly for no financial gain and sometimes little thanks. Theirs is a true labor of love because it's a job nobody wants. They won't admit it, but often they feel trapped in a position that launches them powerlessly slipping down a slide into a dark abyss, where the only savior from the life sentence is death itself. They are the caregivers.

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Giving Till It Feels Good

Approximately Two Thousand years ago, a very wise man said, "It is more blessed to give than receive." 

(Hint: He's celebrating another birthday this Christmas.) And, although we often behave as a nation of individuals who hinge their happiness upon the latest acquisition, there seems to be sufficient enough reason to resurrect the old Jesus quote. In fact, there may be several good reasons.

First, we live in a county that continues to emphasize philanthropic giving, even in the midst of an economic downturn. In fact, from all indications, charitable donations in Sarasota County are on THE INCREASE contrary to all logical expectations.

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Loving and Losing

I sometimes hear my clients plea with their spouses or significant others in a desperate attempt to save a dying relationship. They say things like “You are throwing away 22 years together for another guy?” or “How can you waste 15 years of my life by leaving me?” or “I had to stay with her, or 34 years of my life would have been poured down the drain!”

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My Secret Identity

I can still remember the conversation, almost verbatim: "Dr. Cortman, this is Rachel from ABC Bank. How are you today, Sir?"

Me: I'm well, thank you, Rachel, unless you tell me otherwise."

Rachel: No, sir. But I did want to ask you a question: "Did you try to move your Home Equity account lately?"

Me: " Move it, no. Why do you ask?"

Rachel:"Well, we had a man in a North Carolina branch yesterday who said he was you. We have you in our files as a doctor; he told us he is a carpenter. Do you know any carpenters?"

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Toxic People

Like every baby boomer I know, I grew up watching Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts” characters come to life on television. Schulz had a knack for bringing universal human tendencies to light via his lovable cartoon characters. Linus is the blanket-carrying insecure person, Lucy controlling and deceitful, Charlie Brown the consummate loser and Snoopy the personification of cool. But my favorite character is Pig Pen.

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Old Dads Young Kids

No one plans on it happening quite this way. There is never a time in childhood when a boy decides he'll start a family twenty or more years behind the rest of his classmates. And yet, one day during the season of life known as middle age, there he is, cradling his spitting image in the body of a new born baby.

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Someone Else’s Life

Edna’s son, Bobby, is 14. He’s not a bad kid by any stretch of the imagination. He’s never been in trouble in school or with the law. He is kind and polite to others. He is unusually honest and trustworthy for a boy his age, but there is one part of Bobby’s behavior that has Edna completely out of sorts and sitting on my couch. Bobby is an underachiever. He’s not failing any of his classes, nor has he ever. It’s clear, however, that Bobby is uninspired by academic life and skates by doing as little as possible. Edna, God bless her, has her sights on much loftier careers for her son than Bobby seems to be aiming towards himself. Edna has hired tutors and psychologists. She has tried lecturing, guilt-tripping, and privilege-removing. In a weak moment of desperation, she has even had Bobby’s palm read to get the inside scoop on his future. So what’s the harm in Edna’s efforts? Probably nothing with a horrible or permanent outcome. But the problem is this--despite Bobby’s periodic half-hearted attempts to appease his mother, he is still underachieving.

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The Wizard

If you grew up in the 1960s, it was almost a requirement to watch the annual showing of "The Wizard of Oz" with your family. As exciting as Dorothy and Toto's yellow-bricked journey to Oz was to me, I thought there were two serious flaws in the movie. First, the flying monkeys regressed my toilet training a good two years.  Secondly, the movie's ending was lamer than Raymond Burr on "Ironside."
 

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