STUDENT MUZZLED BY SCHOOL by Brian Cook

Recently I attended a high school graduation ceremony. The class president and also valedictorian was making his speech. I noticed that he began speaking critically about the school administration and how it abused its authority with an authoritarian style that tended to ignore student opinion. He complained that unnecessary restrictions were placed on the students, restrictions that tended to stifle students’ right to be heard and their educational development. Suddenly, his microphone went dead. A school official approached and told him to stop the speech, and the student proceeded to walk off stage. Most of the students appeared to cheer their president, as did many in the audience.

The event burst on social media and also went national with coverage on outlets like CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. The student was also interviewed on Jimmy Kimmel Live. I found all this attention interesting, a relatively small occurrence  gaining such national attention. It all raised a lot of questions in my mind, though.

Some say the school essentially censored the student. Hmm. Maybe. But perhaps there was some justification. The student admitted he had to submit a speech for prior approval, but he did not include the brief critical section, knowing the administration would not approve it. During the speech he chose to go off-script, clearly violating the stated arrangement. This is interesting!

Our system includes many Constitutional freedoms bestowed on an individual, such as freedom of speech, and we value them dearly. But then again, “There is a time and a place for everything.” Why did he choose to make his point at a ceremony honoring the graduates and their families?

I also can’t help but wonder if the entire class agreed with him. In fact, I doubt many even knew of his plan other than a few classmates really close to him. Seems as though he kept everything “close to the vest,” knowing that he might get shut down. Could this be a bit of self-indulgence on his part? Of course, if he wanted maximum exposure for his point, he sure succeeded.

How about the school officials? One could argue they had every right to shut him down because he intentionally “blindsided” them by going off-script. He chose to do what he wanted to do instead of honoring the previously-arranged agreement (standard procedure at the school).

Many will give this young man a pat on the back for this, highlighting his gusto and fervor. They might also note that the school officials missed a great “teaching moment.” What are we teaching here? What is the real message? Do we tell our youth that rules and authority matter? Or, should freedom of speech be held to the highest importance, and in some circumstances rules and authority don’t matter? If we have a point to make, should we not make it despite circumstances and prior arrangements? It is something to think about here.

All these questions make me wonder about the messages we are sending our youth, and the future implications of these from an aggregate viewpoint. Maybe this is small potatoes in the scope of larger issues going on around us today, but maybe not. Is there an accumulation of messages all around us that is potentially shaping the future society we live in? Is the aggregate message healthy or not? Things to consider.  I look forward to any feedback.

FYI, following link includes a video of Kimmel’s interview, plus the text of the speech that was almost delivered.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/06/21/the-valedictorian-who-was-kicked-off-stage-for-an-unapproved-speech-got-to-finish-it-on-kimmel/?utm_term=.27c742f7f802

DRUG ADDICTION COUNSELING, Part II

This posting is provided by Michael Mariano a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He has worked at First Hospital Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, Beth Israel Medical Center Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program in New York City, and is currently at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Northeast New Jersey.

No counseling program for drug/alcohol addiction will work without a committed and motivated client. Family members who drag the addict kicking and screaming into counseling learn this harsh fact very quickly. If, however, you are convinced you have a drug problem and are ready to devote yourself to hard work in dealing with the problem, there are many successful counseling/rehab programs and strategies that can serve you well.

Medically Managed Intensive Residential Treatment. This level of care is what most programs call “detox.” There are some drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and hallucinogens that don’t have physical withdrawal symptoms and thus don’t require this level of care. However, those who actively use opioids (Heroin, Percocet, Codeine), alcohol, and benzodiazepines (Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan) require this level of care before they are referred to any other program because these substances result not only in painful withdrawals, but can be fatal.

Residential Inpatient Treatment. This level of care can be anywhere from 14 days to a year depending on type of payment for services, willingness to remain in treatment, access to available treatment, and appropriateness. Short term programs are typically 14 to 60 days. Any program more than two months is long-term treatment. These programs are in controlled environments that involve a structured schedule of group and individual counseling, recreational therapy, self-help meetings, and possibly psychiatric medication under the care of a psychiatrist.

Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and/or Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP).  IOP programs are mostly 3 days a week 3 hours a day. They include group and individual counseling, random drug testing, and weekly Alcoholics- and/or Narcotics-Anonymous meetings. PHPs are mostly 5 days a week 8 hours a day with group and individual counseling,  random drug testing, required weekly AA or NA meetings, medication management, transportation, and meals. Both of these programs typically have step procedures, which is when the treatment team determines someone no longer has to come to a day of treatment because they are making progress. PHPs are appropriate if you have mental health issues like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Outpatient Counseling. Outpatient treatment is a one day session that focuses on relapse prevention, medication management, and random drug testing to help victims maintain their recovery. I have found that most clients also benefit greatly from individual counseling.

Early Intervention. The purpose of this level of care is to take preventive measures to reduce the probability of addiction, and to engage those with early substance abuse issues. For example, I have conducted outreach programs at high schools to increase drug and alcohol awareness. It is especially important with teenagers to show them how to identify problematic drug use and get help.

Self-Help Meetings. Some individuals are able to detox on their own and attend self-help meetings such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. In my opinion, most of these folks should also get professional help to identify unresolved conflicts that are causing their addictive actions. We noted some of these issues earlier under risk factors. Many of them, like schizophrenia or sexual abuse, can be quite complex and require the assistance of a trained mental health professional to deal with them.

Mindfulness Exercises . Mindfulness can be loosely defined as being aware, focusing on the present, and approaching that moment with compassion. The more we are mindful, the less we are mindless. When we are able to focus on the present, the more we have control in our choices. I have taught many clients meditative practices from breathing exercises to full body scans to strengthen their mind-body connection. Most individuals in substance abuse treatment crave instant gratification, and I have had individuals with decades of drugs and alcohol abuse feel relaxed after a 40-minute meditation session. Often clients tell me that they are able to relax for the first time without an outside substance.

Medication Assisted Therapy. This approach uses medication like suboxone or methadone while engaged in counseling. Vivitrol can also help addicts maintain their sobriety while in an outpatient treatment. Whatever the medication used, the client must also be engaged in some form of additional treatment to receive the full benefit.

Relapse Prevention Plan. Recovering addicts must acquire the tools to help them deal with the stress of everyday life. You can start your own plan by identifying triggers to substance abuse that are around you, such as particular people, places, things, and emotions. You can also work on developing coping skills like those covered in this blog to help you avoid a relapse. It is important to remember, however, that following a prevention plan does not give you permission to relapse any more than wearing a seatbelt  gives you permission to get in an accident.

No matter what your program, it is important for your recovery to find and nurture meaningful connections with others. Such connections will greatly facilitate your recovery. It is basic human nature to want to feel needed and loved. Feeling connected to those around you, whether in group therapy or life in general, will keep you motivated toward your goals. In self-help groups like AA and NA, getting a trusted and supportive sponsor is an essential step in helping you feel connected. Those feelings will make you more engaged in your recovery and at a lower risk of relapse. Once you feel connected you will feel more open and honest in your communication with others. Throughout your recovery, having meaningful connections with others will give you support and validation needed when coping with cravings for drugs and alcohol.

REMODELING COPING QUICKIE

A lady friend of ours just had new cabinets and countertop installed in her kitchen. The guaranteed two-week job stretched to nearly five weeks, and most days were filled with inactivity. You know the drill: “The supplier was out of parts.” “The plumber had an emergency call.” “A section of the granite was not cut right.”

In the fourth week our friend lost her patience, and told the contractor, “I am a company executive. I have overseen numerous construction projects at our facilities. I’m no novice and I’ve had it with this inefficiency. Get your crew moving and finish this job by the end of the week.” Two days later the job was complete.

We were helping our friend inspect the final product, and at one point she said, “You know, he deserves a taste of his own medicine. I think I’ll take a few weeks getting the final payment to him.” (The comment surprised me because this woman is not at all vindictive.)

She paused about ten seconds after the comment, and then added, “No, I won’t sit on it. That’s not who I am. I’ll mail the check tomorrow.”

“Not who I am.” I just nodded and smiled at her look in the mirror, and the resulting perfect example of effective coping. I imagine she slept well that night!

DRUG ADDICTION COUNSELING, Part I

This posting is provided by Michael Mariano a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He has worked at First Hospital Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, Beth Israel Medical Center Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program in New York City, and is currently at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Northeast New Jersey.

Addiction can be loosely defined as a behavior that you cannot manage, is done impulsively, and results in major areas of your life becoming unmanageable. The longer and more often you use drugs and alcohol will make it increasingly more difficult to have a stable and healthy life.  

Most drugs are physically addicting (presence of physical withdrawals) while others are more psychologically addicting, such as cocaine and marijuana. No matter what the substance, recovery from addiction requires developing a recovery plan uniquely designed for you. Regardless of how you became addicted, there is a high probability it started with some form of physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. Other than that common core, there is no discrimination when it comes to addiction. I have treated those from all socio-economic backgrounds, races, ages, vocations, and educational levels.  

Addiction is a progressive disease that gets drastically worse before most sufferers seek treatment. It can start as innocently with having a drink after work to take the edge off a stressful day. Before you know it, whenever you feel stress you reach for a drink and develop a physical dependence. It can start from getting injured and receiving narcotic medication for pain. When the prescription runs out, you go through withdrawal symptoms and resort to buying them illicitly on the street.  

Street purchasing becomes expensive, and a “friend” tells you about heroin, how it is a fraction of the cost but with all the “bang.” The downward spiral begins into the pits of addiction, where many struggle and die before making it out alive. The facility where I work has lost over 30 patients in the last 5 years, mind you, this only accounts for those that we know of and only account for the ones that I have directly worked with. The number is much higher considering we lose over a 100 individuals a day to drugs and alcohol. Believe me when I say, we are dealing with a life and death issue that requires effective coping skills.

The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk for addiction. Here are some of the more common risk factors I have seen over the years: Lack of formal education, family history of drug and alcohol problems, poverty, lack of parental supervision, unstable parental relationships, sexual abuse when young (one of the strongest risks), and mental health issues. Three other clear warning signals are: using drugs at an early age, little social support from reliable friends and family, and a lack of available treatment programs and facilities. 

There are also protectors that can reduce and even cancel out the adverse effects of  risks. These are like a protective armor that shield and strengthen you. Examples would be: successful formal education, emotional support from a financially stable family, exposure to drug educational programs in school, engaging and healthy hobbies, social support from mentors and peers, self confidence, and presence of meaningful relationships. 

One of the hardest things about addiction is that it is almost impossible to treat if you don’t want the help. Finding that motivational kick is a highly individual matter, but again, many of the other entries in this book give you specific actions to take charge of your life. One thing is certain: the earlier you begin treatment, the better your prognosis for success.

 For many, the strongest motivator to seek help is the legal system. Unfortunately, that motivation usually lasts only as long as the legal issue itself. Fortunately there are other, more permanent strategies and I will discuss these in Part II.

 

IS ALEXA A BAD PARENT?

Eight-year old Susie is emailing Grandma about her birthday party and her presents from the neighborhood kids. Mom is nearby and she says, “Hey, Mommy. Could you please spell ‘neighbor’ for me?” Mom replies, “Sure, Honey, it’s n-e-i-g-h-b-o-r.” “Thank you, Mommy. I’m telling Grams about my birthday party.”

Nice, kid; even said “Please” when asking for the spelling. But let’s say Mom is in another part of the house. Susie is there in the family room, alone except for Alexa. “Ah!” Susie, thinks, “I can ask Alexa! Hey, you big zit loser, Alexa, how do you spell neighbor?” Alexa willingly accommodates: “Neighbor is spelled n-e-i-g-h-b-o-r.” “Thanks you big phony pimple face!” says Susie, laughing at her mastery of presidential language.

I recently saw an article in the newspaper bemoaning the “Alexification” of our kids. The idea is that Susie got an answer to her question, even though she posed it in a very crude, impolite way. In the language of Psychology, Alexa reinforced Susie’s nastiness, thus strengthening her tendency to be nasty when seeking information from others. Reinforce bad behavior and the bad behavior will be more likely to occur in the future. The conclusion: Alexa is a bad influence on our kids.

This issue reminds me of a similar one that was hot back in the 1960s and ‘70s: Are children likely to imitate the violence they see on TV?  This was a big debate, folks, and Congress even got involved, holding hearings to hear from experts. The lawmakers were wrestling with whether they should pass legislation monitoring and controlling the level of violence on TV.

Not surprisingly, the debate stimulated all sorts of psychological research into the question. As the results filtered in some answers began to emerge to the question, “Is violence in the media causing aggressive behavior in children?”

Now any good critical-thinking educated Psychology major will know that the answer is not likely yes/no, black/white, either/or, but something a little more nuanced. As I always used to tell my students again and again, “The answer to most psychological questions is, ‘It depends!’”

OK, in the case of imitating TV violence, depends on what? Under what conditions is TV violence likely to encourage aggressive behavior in kids? The research showed two factors definitely playing a role: The degree to which a child sees depictions of violence on TV as real life, and the degree to which a child identifies (admires, wants to be like) with a violent character (typically the “bad guy”) on TV. Makes good sense, but it begs another question: “What makes a kid more likely to see TV as real, or more likely to identify with the bad guy?”

Not surprisingly, that question appears to be answered by kids’ home lives. The research shows that kids who imitate violence on TV have parents who are mostly cold, disengaged from their kids, and rejecting. “Can’t you see I’m busy, Danny? Go watch TV or something.” It certainly makes sense that a kid who has a non-supportive, frustrating, and anxiety-laden home life filled with criticism might turn to the more reassuring world of TV, especially shows that show violence as a real way to achieve goals.

The point is, we’re not going to take a random child, place him or her in front of a TV to watch violent shows, and turn that child into an aggressive bully (or worse!). There have to be other factors in the child’s life that “fit in” with the TV violence and make the child more vulnerable to seeing an aggressive world where lashing out at others is a real way to resolve problems.

I have a feeling the issue with Alexa is the same. If a child lives in a home with warm, supportive parents who are engaged in the child’s life, and who take an active role in teaching and guiding their child, that child will easily learn that human interaction has rules of courtesy and respect that are always to be followed.

So parents, don’t fret if you catch your child telling Alexa to go to hell. Always remember that Alexa, TV, social media, or crude and profane politicians do not alone have the power to turn your sons and daughters into callous, insensitive jerks. It is only with your help that these agents of current society can produce their evil effects. You must, therefore, fight them every step of the way by guiding, mentoring, teaching, and loving your children. Help them develop a social conscience and learn to act with dignity, grace, courtesy, and respect.

 

ARE YOU PSYCHOLOGIZED?

Last time I noted how some people become “psychologized” by our psychology-conscious society. By “psychologized” I mean wearing on your chest, like some sort of medal of valor, your stress, anxiety, conflicts, and any psychological diagnosis you may have received. The message to others is, “Hey, folks, treat me with care. I’m psychologically troubled.”

Over 41 years of teaching psychology in college I ran across this behavior more than a few times. I remember one first-year student taking Intro Psych who came up to me after the first class meeting of the semester. She said, “I need to get a tutor in this course. Having a copy of your lecture notes would also help me.”

Trying to show my surprise at her comment, I replied, “A tutor? We’ve only had one class! How do you know you will need a tutor?”

“I have borderline personality disorder,” she volunteered, “and my meds interfere with my studies. They gave me a lot of trouble in high school. College is going to be a lot harder on me.”

I sensed she was setting me up to enable her and, right or wrong, I wasn’t buying into it. I told her tutoring was premature but she could always register with the tutoring center. I also informed her that I did not use lecture notes. “Before class I write down one-word prompts or a phrase to direct me. It won’t be any help to you. Guess you’ll have to pay attention in class.”

She never repeated her requests and I don’t know if she ever got tutoring. She did, however, turn out to be a fairly good student, ending up with a B in the course. She withdrew from school after one semester, though. Too bad. With some guts she could have made great progress toward self-discovery.

Playing the “psychological-disorder card,” a definite symptom of “Psychologized Syndrome,” (nothing is really credible unless it’s called a “syndrome”!) is a form of wimpy avoidance. The message to others is, “Treat me gently; pad the corners of my world for me. I suffer a lot of psychological stress and am damaged goods. Don’t make me face the realities of life.”

You know what the big problem is when you work hard to avoid your stresses?  You are taking the first step down the road to depression. Let’s analyze that road a little more.

No doubt you have experienced your share of bad days. They’re no fun, and if you’re like most people you would prefer to avoid them altogether. Anxiety, guilt, anger, fear, frustration……..who wants to be confronted with those emotions? Better to get rid of them, right?

With that question in mind, settle back into a comfy chair or sofa and close your eyes. Now picture in your mind all the people and events that give you occasional stress and sometimes cause you to have a bad day. As you go along it’s OK to open your eyes to write them down on a piece of paper.

When you’re done check out your list and see who’s on it: Mom and dad, maybe? Spouse or partner? Kids? Siblings? Co-workers? Your boss? A BFF? The dog? Christmas? Anniversaries and birthdays? Computers? Smart phones? Vacations? Facebook? I bet if you took enough time your list would be quite long.

Next, rid yourself of all your stressful times, all those bad days, by imagining your life without any of those problem people and events in your life. The goal is to imagine a world where you avoid all your sources of stress. So close your eyes and start designing your relaxing new world by deleting all those stresses. “Wait a minute,” you protest, “you want me to get rid of my kids, my parents, even the dog? All those people I love. Give up my job and my friends? The dog? Are you kidding me? I’m going to end up with an empty world!”

Bingo! If you work really hard to avoid stress in your life, you will stop living! Stress is a vital of being alive and trying to eliminate it is a losing strategy. In fact, you’ll end up not only alone, but also lonely. You’ll suffer despair, helplessness, and hopelessness; your self-esteem and confidence will be in the toilet; your world will spin out of control and the directional sign on your next life path will be “Caution: Depression Ahead.”

Stress, challenges, obstacles, hard work, frustration, anger, anxiety, and a host of other things you prefer to avoid must not be avoided. Those bothersome emotions are a part of you; they are not alien invaders. To try and avoid them will compromise your very being. So rather than avoid them, attack them! Confront them, meet them head on, deal with them, and resolve them.

The task may sound easier than it is, but if you are willing to play by the rules, learning to confront the challenges in your life can become quite natural. And that’s what effective coping with the realities of life is all about: Devising a plan to confront the challenges of life and the emotions they arouse.

Your plan must include specific actions to take. Avoidance actions? No, not unless you have no control over the person or the situation, and in that case you must disengage and avoid. Directing personal empowerment at events over which you have no control is a waste of time and self-defeating. Focus on those things you can control: Your thoughts and your actions.

In carrying out your plan remember to live in the present, accept the stress in your life, learn from your failures, and keep in fighting shape with exercise and diet. Above all, remember that positive actions are more powerful than positive thoughts, so structure your plan around positive actions. Here are some examples:

*Stop apologizing to yourself or others for being emotional in certain situations.

*Channel your stress into productive activities like volunteering, joining a gym, taking a surprise family outing, having lunch with friends, or other enjoyable things.

*Keep a record of when you feel stressed and what you are doing at the time. You’ll be surprised at the positive consequences of doing so.

*Don’t focus on the stress you feel. Focus on positive actions you can take to confront your problem.

*Keep a precise record of when you perform bad habits like smoking, drinking, overeating, gambling, yelling, or any other behavior that causes you concern. Again, you will be surprised at the positive consequences.

*Rather than ask someone else to do something for you, do it yourself.

*Schedule stressful events at times when you expect relatively few demands on you.

*Schedule relaxing activities each day, even if only for a few minutes.

*Devote high-quality time to important aspects of your life, such as marriage, career, children, friendships and family.

*In confrontational situations, take slow, deep, steady breaths and concentrate on making calm but assertive comments.

*Admit to your weakness, but never be defined by them.

*Accept who you are and present that self to others.

*Monitor and modify your negative, self-defeating thoughts.

That last item is important. People often ask, “How do I control my thoughts? How do I stop thinking negative things, self-critical thoughts; how do I handle all those ideas that are downers and torment me?”

How about this? Perform positive, constructive actions that bring you a sense of satisfaction and empowerment. Then you can think about those actions during the day. Not only will you be teaching yourself to think positively, but you will also get a sense of fulfillment, peace, and competence. You’ll feel good about yourself, with the added benefit of being less stressed out! And you get to keep the dog!

 

TOO MUCH PSYCHOLOGY!

Recently I noticed a newspaper piece dealing with the importance of college internships. The writer noted that these opportunities not only give a student a good feel for the demands and skills involved in a particular vocation, but also provide valuable experience that will look good on the resume’ when searching for that first job. In fact, the article made me remember an occasion years ago when one of our senior psychology majors came to see me about three weeks into her internship working one-on-one with an autistic child.

“How’s it going?” I asked. She replied, “Well, I’m going to see this thing through the end of the semester because the parents really appreciate it when I’m at their home to help out. But one thing for sure, I’ll never look for a job working with autistic kids! It’s not for me. I thought this was what I wanted to do, but now I see that reading about it in a book just doesn’t show the stress and frustration involved. What an eye-opener!”

We chatted some more and we both agreed that even though it was going to be a challenge to stick it out, this was already a very successful internship because of what she had learned about this line of work.

But let me get back to the newspaper article because I’m not blogging about internships. The news writer gave an example of a student who was doing an internship in computer science during the spring semester of her junior year in college. Thanks to the internship the student discovered that she was more of a people-person and didn’t find the CS work fulfilling.

The writer commented: “Imagine the emotional stress of having to find a new career path one year shy of getting your college degree.”

Oh, for heaven’s sake, stop it with the emotional stress garbage! Why does every unexpected event, every challenge to one’s plans, every conflict, every OMG intrusion into one’s world have to be psychologically debilitating? Dozens of times in my classes over the years I called this phenomenon the “psychologizing” of society, and cautioned my students that every personal issue is not necessarily a psychological crisis. Emotional stress my derriere!

I can’t begin to remember how many times a student came to me in the junior year and said, “I’ve decided to change my career plans. I always thought I wanted to be a psychologist, but now I don’t!”

Never once did I reply, “I’ll give the Counseling Center a call so you can deal with the stress and anxiety you must be feeling!” In fact, such a thought never even occurred to me in 41 years of college teaching. Never! My reaction was always along the lines of, “Cool! You’re learning about yourself! That’s what college is all about.”

I remember one particular case that was kind of extreme. A second-semester junior came into my office late in the spring and said, “We have to change my schedule for next fall. I’ll keep Senior Seminar so I can finish my psyc major, but after taking this Principles of Management course this semester I’ve decided I want to apply for an MBA degree after graduation, not a Masters in psyc.” Naturally I reflexively reached for the phone to call the Counseling Center  (JUST KIDDING! LOL!)

I said, “Good for you! Shows you’ve been doing some good thinking lately. The first thing I want you to do is go to the Chair of Bus Ad in the business school and get an advisor in that department. Find out what courses you need at a minimum to be considered a serious candidate for an MBA program, and what ones will be offered next year, including over the summer. I have no idea what they would be so find out at the source. Then get back to me and we’ll work with your business advisor on changing your schedule for the fall and even look ahead to the spring. A summer course may be needed. I agree about keeping Senior Seminar. That’s the last course you need to complete the psych major.”

The student ended up taking two business courses over the summer at a community college near his home. Over the course of his senior year he took 9 business courses, plus psychology senior seminar. Spring of his senior year he applied to three MBA programs and was invited to interview at all three schools.

The interviews went well because, as the he told me, “Once it was determined that I had the business course prerequisites, all the interviewers wanted to talk about was my psych major! They asked me what psyc courses I saw as most relevant to the business world, what did I see as the role of psychology in business, all sorts of stuff like that, just like you said they would. Good thing I was prepared because I really had some good answers, at least I think and hope I did!”

I guess he did because all three MBA programs accepted him. I don’t know how things worked out in the long run because he didn’t keep in touch. Still, to me the lesson is clear: When the best-laid plans suddenly and unexpectedly go off track, your life is hardly over. Emotional stress? Don’t buy into that psychologizing message. Use your resources to adapt to the challenge of change.

Don’t get me wrong. Over the years I had many students who suffered genuine crises in their lives, events that understandably gave them a lot of stress. They needed help getting through those times, and some ended up dropping out of college. I’m not talking about those types of cases. What I’m irritated about is students (and newspaper writers) who take the slightest mishap and turn it into a psychological crisis. And you know why it happens?……Because it’s stylish to “play the psychology card.” Society not only allows this card to be played, but also encourages young people to make the stress, anxiety excuse.

Recently I was talking to a retiree about this and he gave me his story: “My first-semester midterm gpa was 1.3. Good start, huh? Sure I was in the wrong major and a little overwhelmed, but I was also spending a lot of time in the student center shooting pool instead of studying more and going to the tutoring center. Final first-semester gpa? How about 1.7? But you know what? Never did anyone, no friend, no parent, no teacher, no advisor…….no one ever said to me, ‘You should go to the Counseling Center.’

“But a wise teacher said to me before I left for semester break: ‘Why don’t you drop one of those D courses for next semester, maybe Chemistry, and substitute something totally different.” Over the holidays one of my parents casually mentioned one day, ‘You could try sociology. I really liked that in college.’

“What the hell, first thing I did when I returned to campus was see a Dean and drop Chemistry and pick up…………you guessed it, Intro to Sociology. Played less pool, too. Ended up with a C in sociology and a second-semester gpa of 2.7. Also decided that I wanted to take more sociology!” (He ended up as a social worker and eventually Director of a county child-care agency.)

Here’s the thing, folks. No matter what the issue, effective coping does not mean wearing a badge saying “anxiety sufferer” on your chest and seeking professional help. If you’re psychologized see what you can do to deal with your stress. Empower yourself and go into attack mode! Confront the stress and take charge of your life. More on that next time.