Bob Schwartz

Tag: Psychology

“Trump blames White House air conditioning on Obama.”

Associated Press, July 26, 2019:

WASHINGTON (AP) — In President Donald Trump’s view, even the inadequate air conditioning at the White House is Barack Obama’s fault.

Trump offered the new gripe about his predecessor as he explained in the Oval Office Friday why he’ll be spending some time at his New Jersey resort in August.

The president says “it’s never a vacation” when he goes to Bedminster, New Jersey, and that he would rather be at the White House.

He says that some of his time away from the White House gives crews time to do maintenance work.

He says, for example, “The Obama administration worked out a brand new air conditioning system for the West Wing. It was so good before they did the system. Now that they did this system, it’s freezing or hot.”

In the movie The Caine Mutiny, officers of the USS Caine determined that the conduct of their captain is so erratic that they must attempt to take over command of the ship. In one incident, Captain Queeg becomes obsessed with a missing container of strawberries. At the court martial of an officer charged with mutiny, Queeg testifies—and famously reveals just how psychologically disturbed he is:

Decent Americans Are Suffering from Learned Helplessness

American Psychological Association:

Learned helplessness is a phenomenon in which repeated exposure to uncontrollable stressors results in individuals failing to use any control options that may later become available. Essentially, individuals are said to learn that they lack behavioral control over environmental events, which, in turn, undermines the motivation to make changes or attempt to alter situations….In the 1970s, Martin E. P. Seligman extended the concept from nonhuman animal research to clinical depression in humans and proposed a learned helplessness theory to explain the development of or vulnerability to depression. According to this theory, people repeatedly exposed to stressful situations beyond their control develop an inability to make decisions or engage effectively in purposeful behavior. Subsequent researchers have noted a robust fit between the concept and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Every day, I see those in the news and those in personal life expressing serial frustration at the latest outrage from national leadership. After repeating the sordid details of cruelty and immorality, they then ask, increasingly rhetorically, why those who could do something don’t stop it. Yes some try to fight, yes some succeed or at least delay the worst, but mostly the answer seems to be to wait until the possible, though not certain, election of a new president.

Learned helplessness is, for example, at the heart of abusive situations, such as being married to a narcissistic monster. We didn’t need research psychologists to clinically identify the phenomenon of people being beaten down to the point of powerlessness and just giving up. We know it happens.

And yet…

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas

DSM-5: Antagonism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder



This post was first published more than two years ago. It refers to no individual by name, but since it is regularly viewed by dozens of people each week, I am confident the message got through. Now that the issue of this personality disorder is finally at the top of the news, here it is again for those who may have missed it. Still no name mentioned, but there is no doubt what it suggests.

Mental health is a serious matter and mental health practitioners are serious professionals. These are not to be treated lightly and off-handedly.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the “bible” of the mental health profession: “a classification of mental disorders with associated criteria designed to facilitate more reliable diagnoses of these disorders.” It is not a reference to be thrown around and used casually by non-professionals.

The DSM can nonetheless be fascinating, especially when certain strong behavioral traits observed in others seem to closely match the traits and possible related disorders referenced in the DSM.

With the above caution and caveat, here are selections from DSM-5 about the Personality Trait Domain of Antagonism. More from the DSM about the way this may or may not relate to Narcissistic Personality Disorder will follow in a subsequent post.

Personality trait: A tendency to behave, feel, perceive, and think in relatively consistent ways across time and across situations in which the trait may be manifest.

Personality trait facets: Specific personality components that make up the five broad personality trait domains in the dimensional taxonomy of Section III “Alternative DSM-5 Model for Personality Disorders.” For example, the broad domain Antagonism has the following component facets: Manipulativeness, Deceitfulness, Grandiosity, Attention Seeking, Callousness, and Hostility.

Antagonism: Behaviors that put an individual at odds with other people, such as an exaggerated sense of self-importance with a concomitant expectation of special treatment, as well as a callous antipathy toward others, encompassing both unawareness of others’ needs and feelings, and a readiness to use others in the service of self-enhancement. Antagonism is one of the five broad personality trait domains defined in Section III “Alternative DSM-5 Model for Personality Disorders.”

Manipulativeness: Use of subterfuge to influence or control others; use of seduction, charm, glibness, or ingratiation to achieve one’s ends. Manipulativeness is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Grandiosity: Believing that one is superior to others and deserves special treatment; self-centeredness; feelings of entitlement; condescension toward others. Grandiosity is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Deceitfulness: Dishonesty and fraudulence; misrepresentation of self; embellishment or fabrication when relating events. Deceitfulness is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Attention seeking: Engaging in behavior designed to attract notice and to make oneself the focus of others’ attention and admiration. Attention seeking is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Callousness: Lack of concern for the feelings or problems of others; lack of guilt or remorse about the negative or harmful effects of one’s actions on others. Callousness is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Hostility: Persistent or frequent angry feelings; anger or irritability in response to minor slights and insults; mean, nasty, or vengeful behavior. Hostility is a facet of the broad personality trait domain Antagonism.

Wrestling with Yourself, Part 2

The previous post about the biblical episode of Jacob wrestling with a man or an angel or God is entitled Wrestling with Yourself. Why so?

In the family saga, Jacob comes from a long line of people on an important mission, which mission they use as a rationalization for some sharp practices and lying. Abraham lies about his wife, saying she is his sister. Isaac lies about his wife, saying she is his sister. Jacob lies to his father Isaac, with a plan devised by his mother, saying he is his brother and stealing his brother’s blessing. After the wrestling episode, Jacob’s sons will lie to him, saying their brother is dead, while in fact they have left him to be taken into slavery.

We wonder just what sort of entity Jacob is wrestling with. The Hebrew word ish makes it sound as if it is a man, but the details of the story say otherwise. One enlightening view says that Jacob was actually wrestling with himself. Given his history and the history of the family, such psychological conflict is understandable.

The wrestling match ends in a tie, that is, Jacob refuses to give up, even though he is injured. This is exactly what happens if you wrestle with yourself. You can’t win, but if you don’t give up, you can’t lose either. At best, you come out of the match transformed. Hurt and pained, perhaps, but different enough to merit a new name.

Veterans Month and Mental Health

It is appropriate to talk about this Veterans Day 2018—Sunday, November 11—when talking about veterans and mental health.

Veterans Day was originally celebrated as Armistice Day, the day that World War I ended. This Veterans Day marks the one hundredth anniversary of the end of “the war to end all wars.”

Modern awareness of the widespread psychological effects of warfare began early in World War I, with the phenomenon of “shell shock.” In looking back at the war, there is still a question of how many cases were, in terms then used, “commotional” (due to explosions at close range) and how many cases were “emotional” (due to the psychological experience of war). In either case, numbers of warriors came home different and troubled—troubles which might last for the rest of their lives, and even serve to shorten those lives.

In the wars since, different theories and treatments have been developed, different labels have been attached. Today, those of us on the outside of this experience know it as PTSD. Those on the inside know it as the hell of war and its aftermath.

This will be another month—since a day is absolutely not enough—of honoring veterans. Judging by the still inadequate attention and support, they are more honored in the breach than in the observance. Among the failures too long to list is insufficiently acknowledging and taking responsibility for the mental health of those who we send to serve.

If you don’t want war—blessed are the peacemakers—then work for that. If you want war, or reluctantly think that war is necessary, treat those you send to fight for you as your own family, your own siblings, your own children. Because they are somebody’s.



When you leave take the key
even for a few steps out the front door
out the back.
What if the door locks behind you?
Even if there’s someone inside
to hear you knocking pounding
ringing calling.
What if she locks it
not knowing where you are?
What if she needs help
and you are locked out helpless?
What if she knows and decides
that this trip to the trash
should be your last?
Only a few possibilities
there are more
prevented by that key in pocket.
One man’s prudence
built on irrefutable logic
is an observer’s key to personality.
What of it?
Analysis is theory
being locked out an inconvenient fact.
Take the key.

Dean Chamberlain: Light Paintings of Elder Psychedelic Pioneers

Timothy Leary © Dean Chamberlain

Dean Chamberlain is an extraordinary photographic artist. He works in a technique known as light painting, using hand-held lights to illuminate and color a scene photographed in long exposure. While versions of the technique have been known and used since the early days of photography, Dean was the first artist to work exclusively in the medium.

From Light Painting Photography:

Dean Chamberlain is the father of light painting photography and has been capturing photographs since 1967. It was his passion for photography that led him to the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1974 to pursue a fine art degree. During Dean’s time at Rochester in 1977 he discovered light painting photography. Dean was the first person to coin the term “Light Painting” for his open shutter long exposure photographic technique. He has worked with his unique art form ever since in his various works. Dean has created stunning portraits of well-known individuals such as David Bowie and Paul McCartney. He has also directed numerous music videos. Chamberlain’s work has appeared in publications such as Esquire, Vanity Fair and the Washington Post. He has received an MTV breakthrough award for directing music videos for Arcadia (Missing), Paul McCartney (This One) and Duran Duran (All She Wants Is).

Along with light painting rock stars, landscapes and other subjects, Dean created a unique series called Elder Psychedelic Pioneers. This includes Timothy Leary, Albert Hofmann, Alexander Shulgin, and others—many of whom have now passed on.

Albert Hofmann © Dean Chamberlain


Alexander and Ann Shulgin © Dean Chamberlain


Laura Huxley © Dean Chamberlain

The I Ching on Hardship

The ancient sages experienced the hardship of climbing a mountain as well as crossing a river. They also experienced all kinds of hardship in their life journey. Some hardships were avoidable, but others were unavoidable. If one has the right attitude, no matter what kind of hardships there are, they can be overcome….If it is not the right time to overcome hardship, one should keep still. Keeping still does not mean giving up. It is just yielding to the situation and waiting for a more auspicious time.
Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching, Hexagram 39

There are so many sincere, good-hearted and helpful messages being generated at this sad moment of some very public suicides. There is no need for me to add my own thoughts.

But I did wonder if the I Ching, that trusted well of wisdom, might have something to say. It never fails; it didn’t this time.

In answer to the question of suicide, the answer was Hexagram 39—Jian/Hardship.



Originally, Jian meant lame or a lame person. From lame, its meaning extends to encompass difficulty in walking or hardship. Wilhelm translates Jian as obstruction; Blofeld translates it as Trouble. In this book I use Hardship.

Sequence of the Gua: If there is misunderstanding and diversity in a household, surely hardship will result. Thus, after Diversity, Hardship follows.

The ideograph of the gua shows its original meaning—a lame person having difficulty walking. At the top of the ideograph is the roof of a house with a chimney. Below it there is an ideograph of a person, ren. Between the roof and the person, there are two bundles of grass, representing bedding. These images form the upper part of the ideograph: a picture of a person under the roof of a house covered with two pieces of thick bedding to resist the cold. At the bottom, there is an ideograph of a foot. On each side of the foot and underneath the person a pair of crutches is drawn. One can visualize the crutches under the armpits of the person with a lame leg. The blood circulation of a lame leg is poor, thus the image of a cold foot was used to demonstrate a lame person’s difficulty with walking.

The structure of the gua is Water above, Mountain below. It represents a situation of hardship following hardship. Climbing a mountain and crossing a river are arduous undertakings. The attribute of Water is darkness and of Mountain is keeping still. If it is not the right time to overcome hardship, one should keep still. Keeping still does not mean giving up. It is just yielding to the situation and waiting for a more auspicious time. If the proper time comes, it is favorable to seek union or to consult a noble person for constructive advice. Any premature advance will entail risk. Overcoming hardship depends on the correct time, situation, and companions—in Chinese terms Heaven, earth, and human beings, the three primary elements….


Favorable to the southwest.
Unfavorable to the northeast.
Favorable to see a great person. Being steadfast and upright: good fortune.

Commentary on the Decision

Jian is Hardship.
Danger in front.
Seeing the danger and knowing to stand still,
Being conscious and wise.

Favorable in the southwest.
Going forward obtains the central place.
Unfavorable in the northeast.
There is no way out.

Favorable to see a great person;
Going forward, there is achievement.

Proper position,
Being steadfast and upright,
Good fortune,
Rectifying the country.
Great indeed is the function and time of hardship!

Commentary on the Symbol

Water on the Mountain.
An image of Hardship.
In correspondence with this,
The superior person is introspective to cultivate his virtue.


Water above Mountain is an image of hardship following hardship. There is no way to totally avoid hardship in one’s life. Hardship should be overcome; calamity can be prevented. One should not always let things take their own course and resign oneself to one’s fate. This gua tells us how to deal with hardship. The ancient sages experienced the hardship of climbing a mountain as well as crossing a river. They also experienced all kinds of hardship in their life journey. Some hardships were avoidable, but others were unavoidable. If one has the right attitude, no matter what kind of hardships there are, they can be overcome.

Trump’s Ties: The Tragic Comic Idiosyncrasies of Dictators

“The general contemporary rule of thumb is that your tie should fall right at the top of your belt buckle, regardless of tie length, style of the tie, or how tall you are.”

Sometimes, as the Freudian cliche goes, a cigar is just a cigar. And a tie is just a tie.

In the case of Trump’s ludicrously long ties, which point at his crotch, it’s obvious something else is going on.

Dictators are often known for their idiosyncrasies. Sometimes there is a psychological basis. Sometimes it is a signature, part of a brand. Sometimes it is just a personal preference. Fidel Castro, for example, was associated with his cigar, which he obviously liked, which is Cuba’s best-known product, and which, well, is more than a cigar.

Trump is the first president to regularly refer to the size of his “hands”, his “button”, and once in a while, almost directly, his “penis”. The only evidence we have so far about this is from Stormy Daniels, who has only said that Trump is “average.” God willing, that is the only detail we ever have to deal with. But absent evidence, we only have Trump’s word for it. We all know what that’s worth. So most people don’t believe him. Or his ties.

Proof of Dreams

Proof of Dreams

The dreams of last night’s sleep
Are as real and present
As this morning’s coffee.
Otherwise how could they
Poke and tug and shake
As we move on and say
They are over.