Saturday, May 1, 2010

“Tipping Point.”

“Tipping Point.”

Malcolm Galdwell in his first best seller “The Tipping Point” makes an interesting and powerful argument that it is often our general environment that creates radical change in individuals and not particularly individual work. As proof he runs us through the deplorable state of New Your City not so many years ago when murder rates soared to, at times over 2000, a year and felonies were though the roof while the subway was literally wall to wall graffiti.  Then within a very short time everything reversed spearheaded, according to Galdwell, by a drive to cleanup the subway. The drive was an all out attack; no train was to be let out of the barn with graffiti on it once clean. The point is, and the argument is, that all the criminals did not move out of New York. So why did they quit doing crime?

Environment matters. 

We tend to have an either or perspective and look to the individual or to the community for solutions. And on the level of,  say, criminality we certainly do not think that a simple change of venue, or cleaning service,  might be enough to change a life but if we consider what often is so often given as the proximal  cause of harmful actions maybe it is not such a stretch. 

What is hard to explain is the force that makes the difference, indeed the “tipping point.”  I talk a great deal about our day to day battle against confusion and being hurt. No one likes to be hurt or confused.  Each of us has various capacities to handle incoming messages and it is not a difficult thought to think that a pleasant beach would be more attractive than a war zone and that people have different capacities to handle those environments. And that is about the extent of it.  But Bruit once a “Paris” with beaches is something quite different now and of course Paris has often been something quite different from her ideal. So it is more than just “place.”

But all this said, another way to say this is that people want a certain quality of life and simply do not get it. They desire things. And we often are wrong in thinking that what they/we need is all that much.  Small changes can indeed result in large changes.

We see people floundering and we want to “shake them” and say my god stand up and straighten yourself out.” Yet there has to be a “place” in which to do that. Is there?

(New York now has an annual murder rate under 1000 similar to what it was in 1965 but with a greater population. See:
Brian Lynch (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)

Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.

Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In memoriam

 Father Michael van der Peet, S.C.J. 
Yesterday, I attended the funeral and burial of my friend Farther Michael van der Peet S.C.J. in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Of course each is in relation to other with a personal history and biography.  Many people have rich lives growing up with large families and a number of friends they will have throughout their lives. It is too noted that your siblings are those you will probably know longer than anyone else in your life. Now with his passing I note with  great sadness that  it so happens in my life that here is one of the few people that I knew from my early life that has followed me into my adulthood and one that cared about and for me, truly cared about me that is no longer with me.

Way leads on to way and as we say in my business  we "repress" our better instincts and so I did until yesterday and until now realize his importance as a family friend and personal friend who I should have paid more attention too.

I had met him as a child through my sister who for a while was a nun . My most extended contact with him was on a road trip to Mexico with the family and him to visit her. On the way back I remember there was some promise to visit "The Alamo" but time was short and we missed the turn off. He sensed my bitter disappoint and tried to speak to it. I know I had very mixed emotions at the time but  a lasting effect held that he tried to connect with me and recognize my pain. I find this advanced parenting technique even today.

Later, not so long ago, I asked his opinion on some psychological material I had put together and I must say that to this day he is one of only several  people in over a decade that have taken the time to do such a thoughtful critique as he did.

And so I lament not having taken the drive north, to meet if only a couple of more times. 

Our loves and interests should so much be in the doing.

It is  ourselves we weep for.

Brian Lynch April 29th, 2010.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010



It is certainly not as simple as having to do with food.  In fact it has almost noting to do with food.

The reason most of us are overweight is, in fact, well known but oddly avoided. We come upon the concept that it might have something to do with our feelings but for the most part quickly set this possibility aside.

True enough, our culture offers many reasons to help us avoid: Plenty of food, and even if poor plenty of empty and innutritious calories, “not enough time for activity” and “the fat gene.” In short we throw up our hands in despair.

It is confusing and the reasons we do not act fold in on each other causing more despair worsening the emotional turmoil.

Bottom line is much of our eating is to self medicate. Much of our weight has to do with shame, the shame in the sense that I have wanted something other than food and not gotten it. My desire has been thwarted.  It hurts and I do something about it, I eat.

As has often been pointed out we do not need to smoke or drink or use drugs but we have to eat.

And we now know so much more about how to articulate what happens to us.

One easily elicited reason for our state of girth is the shame that comes with the pounds. As I said we eat due to shame but then are thrown into a shame spiral or “bind.”  We feel shame for our very weight. This alone can increase the eating but we also now isolate ourselves so as not to be seen. It is a viscous circle. Shame begets shame and eating begets eating. 

This is often exacerbated by our self image that we now know is so much determined by our social status and family. We often, that is, will not surpass our family; to do better than my parents would shame them and myself.  My mother is big I cannot lose more than her or I will shame her.

True enough there are all kinds of exceptions and genes do play a role. Adopted thin kids in large families tend not to be large! It takes discipline to read and learn from various sources. But if the shoe fits wear it. I am not discounting genes. I am saying a hundred years ago we probably had much the same genes what we didn’t have was the same activity and eating habits. 

What then in this society where well over half of adults are overweight? Being overweight becomes “normal.”  It becomes a family emblem, “the way to be.”  Again if I  lose weight and take care of myself it will be shaming to all those that are not doing it! Thus this ignites another vicious cycle. Those shamed will oh so subtly or viscously sabotage my every effort to be different:  To lose weight, to be healthy.

Then there is the painful logic of the 30-40 year olds who have “just gone to the doctor” and been told that they are in perfect health. Yet they are a  100lbs over weight. This is what  I call “disavow.”  Disavowal of any thought of the disaster that might and probably will come in ten years of heart disease, diabetes and stroke or out and out death. It simply reminds me of the patient I saw the other day that I had long worried about who had been doing well on  one long term contract that I knew had to end someday, and so it did, and now he is in shock in this poor economy. So we we hope as doctors that our overweight patients will have a “minor” stroke or heart attack before a major one at to see if they might take the hint.

A confession dear reader; so was I about ten years ago as in terms of my weight. I was much over the mark. .

Yes being overweight has little to do with food. (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)

W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090