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Helen Smith

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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Six: A Free Feature Length Documentary on Teen Murderers

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

I often get requests to see my video Six about a group of teenagers who killed a family in East Tennessee. I am no longer selling the documentary, but PJM has been kind enough to upload it to YouTube so that PJM readers can watch it if they wish. It is now almost a decade old but much of the complexity of mass murder still holds true today. I hope my readers find it of interest.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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Why Don’t Americans Trust Each Other?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 - by Helen Smith


I just read this AP article about the lack of trust we feel for each other in our society:

WASHINGTON (AP) — You can take our word for it. Americans don’t trust each other anymore.

We’re not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away.

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

Why the lack of trust? According to the article:

There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust.

The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust.

Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II.

University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, puts the blame elsewhere: economic inequality.

Trust has declined as the gap between the nation’s rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They’ve lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth.

The article goes on to give some more explanations about why we don’t trust each other–racism, poverty etc. My guess however, is that it is the emphasis on race and poverty that is often the problem. People grow up on a steady diet of victimhood and are told daily that if they are not Bill Gates, rich, successful and white, they should feel resentful and mistrustful. Added to this, the government and school systems fuel the flames of resentment and make people feel that others are taking a piece of the pie that should belong to them. Hard work and financial success is no longer valued and being honest, decent and hard working is seen as a “sucker’s game” with the only “reward” being paying higher taxes, being called a capitalist pig, and people resenting you. In addition, the erosion and downright mockery of morality, a fear and disdain for men who are Shriners or in an Elk’s lodge or even an all-male bowling team and you have a recipe for people bailing out of these clubs to sit alone watching TV and feeling mistrustful of the world. The final straw is cable TV and 24 hour news coverage to add fuel to the fire and it is a wonder we trust each other at all.

That’s a bit of my analysis–though it is just the tip of the iceberg on why we have lost trust. Most people can no longer even show up on time to meet someone, attend a class or a meeting which worsens the trust issue.

If you have some more ideas about why we have lost trust in other Americans, please add a comment.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image courtesy shutterstock / auremar

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Can Sexting Keep a Man OUT of Jail?

Friday, November 29th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


This is a comment over at CNN in response to an article by Roxanne Jones entitled, “Young men, get a ‘yes’ text before sex”:

It seems nearly every week, we hear news stories about sexual encounters at parties where everyone is drinking — and a young woman says she was raped, and a young man insists the encounter was consensual.

Make no mistake, no woman — no matter how much she parties — is asking to be raped. But too often when heavy drinking is involved, the meaning of consent can be misconstrued on both sides. But I know from my own fun-filled years at Penn State that campus life can be confusing even for the best of kids. So I taught him how to do his own laundry, grocery shop and cook — just so he wouldn’t have to depend on anyone else to do those things. But lately, I’ve been worried that I left out one important piece of advice that is a must-do today:

Never have sex with a girl unless she’s sent you a text that proves the sexual relationship is consensual beforehand. And it’s a good idea to even follow up any sexual encounter with a tasteful text message saying how you both enjoyed being with one another — even if you never plan on hooking up again.

Crazy, I know, but I’ve actually been encouraging my son and his friends to use sexting — minus the lewd photos – to protect themselves from being wrongly accused of rape.

I think the commenter hit the nail on the head. Why is it that women can’t think if drunk but men can? Why is it always about men controlling themselves and being responsible for any sex act while women are treated as children?


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image courtesy shutterstock / MJTH

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Yoga for Men?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


I go to a yoga class every week and each time, there are a few more men. Not a lot, maybe five out of twenty but not bad. I ran across this article today called “Men strike a pose in yoga classes just for them” and thought it was kind of interesting:

On a perfect November Saturday afternoon when they could have been pumping iron at the gym or hanging out with friends over a couple of pale ales, half a dozen men slipped through the back entrance to a spartan yoga studio on the main drag of Westmont in Camden County.

They were there, bravely and voluntarily, to spend two hours doing yoga.

Never mind that the ancient Indian practice linking breath, body, and spirit was developed and taught by men. In America, yoga is a woman’s domain.

A 2012 study by the Yoga Journal found that 82 percent of yoga practitioners were women.

Walk into most classes and if any men can be found, they are in the back corners, where they can fumble through poses without attracting much notice.

Anatomically, women are no better equipped than men to do yoga, said Larry H. Chou, a physiatrist at Premier Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine in Havertown.

“The resistance has been psychosocial. There was this perception that yoga was less manly,” said Chou, who has consulted with professional sports teams and was a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania’s Sports Medicine Center.

This reluctance to do yoga reminded me of a book I am currently reading (that is very good!) by a retired Navy Seal called The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed. The author has a section on “mental traps” and one of his points is that we have a tendency to avoid things we doubt, rather than investigate them:

A good example is yoga. For years, most American men thought yoga was only for women, wimps or odd people who wore towels on their heads. In reality it is an incredibly advanced personal-development program that will kick your ass and change your life. I have helped break this myth by teaching SEALFIT yoga to thousands, including many Navy Seals.

I must admit, though a woman, I felt the same way–that yoga was too slow and not “hardcore” enough–until recently. I started doing yoga consistently and my balance and flexibility have improved greatly and it is hard. I don’t know how some of the women (or men) in the class do some of the poses. I even invested in a Manduka Yoga Mat suggested by several yoga practitioners and it is terrific at keeping my knees and wrists comfortable.

Do you practice yoga if male? Do you find it intimidating or bothersome being one of the few men or maybe just the opposite?


cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image courtesy shutterstock /  StockLite

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Building the Ultimate Male Body

Monday, November 18th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

leanerI am reading a book by Michael Matthews called Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body (The Build Healthy Muscle Series) and have been finding it quite helpful. Okay, I don’t have a male body to build but I do find these types of books helpful for me and I like to keep up with the interests of men since I blog about and work with those of the male persuasion.

If you are new to fitness, the book is simple and informative though it does seem to promise a lot! Here are a few highlights from the Amazon page:

Getting into awesome shape isn’t nearly as complicated as the fitness industry wants you to believe.

You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars per month on the worthless supplements that steroid freaks shill in advertisements.

You don’t need to constantly change up your exercise routines to “confuse” your muscles. I’m pretty sure muscles lack cognitive abilities, but this approach is a good way to just confuse you instead.

You don’t need to burn through buckets of protein powder every month, stuffing down enough protein each day to feed a third world village.

You don’t need to toil away in the gym for a couple of hours per day, doing tons of sets, supersets, drop sets, giant sets, etc. (As a matter of fact, this is a great way to stunt gains and get nowhere.)

You don’t need to grind out hours and hours of boring cardio to shed ugly belly fat and love handles and get a shredded six-pack. (How many flabby treadmillers have you come across over the years?)

Hey, I’m one of those flabby treadmillers, it’s hard to realize that this may be a waste of time but it probably is. Though my weight is fine, my overall bodyfat is ridiculously high and always has been except for one brief period of time when it went down to 17%. I am an outlier, I guess.

Anyway, the book gives good points about shortening your workouts using just the basics, mainly squats, deadlifts, and benchpresses. There are some good chapters on diet with tips such as “have a cheat meal.” This meal is just some additional carbs, not an all-out gorge or anything. The other tip I got from the book was to eat a slow-digesting protein before going to sleep to help repair muscle. The author gives examples such as egg protein, 0% Greek yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese. I eat a lot of protein during the day but at night, I tend to eat carbs so maybe switching it out for protein might help, although eating nothing at night would probably be better.

After reading the book, I feel very motivated about going to the gym and trying out a few things and trying to tweak my diet a little more. I definitely think if you are a guy wanting to get the body-building basics, this book is a good one and gives you a free bonus report in the back of the book where apparently, one can download more workouts and some of the recipes from his cookbook. It would also make a nice stocking stuffer for any guys on your list interested in fitness.


Cross-posted at Dr Helen.

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Is a Stolen Pet Equivalent to a Kidnapped Child in Today’s America?

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


I was recently looking at the news site of our local station and saw a story on how pets are being stolen and “flipped” for cash:

(KSDK) Criminals are finding a new way to make money on other people’s pets. They’re flipping pets, and it’s happening across the country.

Flipping is stealing a pet and reselling it on places like Craigslist, Facebook, Ebay and other websites. Victims across the country said they tried to file police reports to report their pets stolen but many couldn’t. Law enforcement agencies wouldn’t take the report.

In Indianapolis, a full-time officer is hunting down the flippers and charging them.

Officer Theresa Redmon was able to get an older dog named Stewart back to his owners. He disappeared on his mother’s wedding night from his home.

“I hit the street, I was out looking for him,” said Jenelle Carr. She and her 5-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son and husband spent nine heartbreaking days looking for him. “I couldn’t sleep. He’s a Chihuahua. He’s deformed, he has no nails, no teeth.”

Carr knew somebody snatched Stewart. She switched from searching the streets to surfing the web. She landed on a website called Indy Lost Pet Alert.

My question is “how do you make money off a deformed Chihuahua with no nails or teeth? Are they that much in demand?

An officer in the article says the following:

“If you found my kid, my child, my daughter, would you put her on Craigslist tomorrow? It’s the same thing” she said. “Pets are a part of their owner’s family.”

Really? Yes, pets are important but are they as important as a person? So many people are substituting “fur children” for kids that maybe it really is getting to be the same thing. Don’t get me wrong. It’s terrible that anyone should be stealing pets and the police should take a report and find them, but to equate a dog with one’s child seems a bit overboard to me. But maybe I’m wrong on this one, given all the books and TV shows on pets. America is obviously obsessed with them.

What do you think?

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Can Yoga Cure Anxiety?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


There is an interesting article at Psychology Today on yoga stating :”Evidence that yoga can enhance anxiety-killing neurotransmitters in the brain” (via Amy Alkon):

Why does yoga help and a flood of alcohol hurt? Well, the money is on GABA. Gamma-aminobutryic acid is a neurotransmitter I’ve made brief mention of before. GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian nervous system. It cools things off and chills things out. People with depression and anxiety have been shown to have low amounts of GABA in their cerebrospinal fluid. MRI spectroscopy has been used to estimate the amount of GABA in people who are depressed, and the levels are low compared to controls (4). …

In 2010 the same group at BU did a second, somewhat larger study (5) comparing walkers and yoga practitioners. Again, healthy people were studied, not anyone with psychiatric illness. This time, 19 yoga practitioners and 15 walkers did yoga or walked for an hour three times a week for twelve weeks. The yoga practitioners reported improved mood and anxiety compared to the walking controls, and MRIs showed increased GABA in the thalamus (a part of the brain) of the yoga practitioners compared to the walkers. The increase in GABA correlated with the decrease in anxiety scores, which makes sense. Since there is a body of evidence that exercise is helpful in depression and anxiety (6), it is interesting to see that yoga could be even more helpful than regular exercise.

I have started doing yoga and Pilates recently on a regular basis and I have to say that the yoga is much more calming and feels less stressful than either Pilates or weight training. When I was younger, I hated yoga, as it seemed too calm and almost inactive and, frankly, frustrating to me. Recently, however, I have been getting more out of yoga. I don’t know if my mind has calmed down as I have gotten older or if I don’t have the stamina I once did, but yoga is definitely relaxing and seems to be great for those of us who spend the day on the computer.

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image courtesy shutterstock /

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Dick Cheney’s Health Miracle

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 - by Helen Smith


I saw that Dick Cheney has a new book coming out tomorrow with his cardiologist called Heart: An American Medical Odyssey. In an article about Mr. Cheney, his calls his health a miracle:

Cheney had his first heart attack over 35 years ago and has been the recipient of many modern heart treatments that seemed to come along at just the right time. He even had a pump attached directly to his heart while awaiting a transplant. He knows luck played a big role in his life. He says Dr. Reiner once made an analogy between the course of Cheney’s health and treatment and a person who gets up late and drives to work, but he sees all the traffic lights ahead are red. “‘Cheney,’” he says the doctor told him, “‘when you get to them, they all turn green.’ And that’s… a pretty good description,” says Cheney.

I also had a heart attack at 37 and am the recipient of modern technology. It truly is a miracle and we are lucky to be alive at a time when some medical problems can be corrected, at least for heart patients. I hope that other medical advances proceed at such a level.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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The Soul Mate Myth: There is No One

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


Rollo Tomassi’s new book The Rational Male is very detailed with tiny print making it hard to read more than a chapter at a time. He really needs an index but that said, the information he lays out is informative and necessary for men to know as they enter the dating world or even if they have been in it for years. I was reading over Chapter I on “The Soul Mate Myth” and his thoughts on society’s obsession with it make sense. He defines ONEitis as:

“An unhealthy romantic obsession with a single person. Usually accompanied by unreciprocated affection and completely unrealistic idealization of the said person.”

Tomassi writes about how ONEitis can paralyze you and even lead to depression or suicide (thanks to commenter rayc2 for pointing out this link). If we believe that there is only one person out there for us, then it makes sense that to lose that person is upsetting to some and can be devastating to others, especially to a someone with emotional problems such as depression or a personality disorder. It is important to have some perspective. As Tomassi states:

“The definition of Power is not financial success, status or influence over others, but the degree to which we have control over our own lives. Subscribing to the soul-mate mythology necessitates that we recognize powerlessness in this arena of our lives.”

Not bad advice.


Shutterstock / Bruce Rolff

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What Books Does Dr. Helen Smith Recommend for 2013?">What Books Does Dr. Helen Smith Recommend for 2013?

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

What books does Dr. Helen Smith recommend for 2013? Click here to see her picks at the Freedom Academy Book Club.


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An 8-Year-Old Fights the Patriarchy at Half Price Books in Berkeley

Monday, October 7th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


I was kind of shocked (okay,it’s Berkeley, nothing should shock me) when I read that a store had pulled books from a book store at Half Price Books, in Berkeley, Calif. because an 8 year old girl called them sexist:

Constance Cooper’s daughter, KC, is no shrinking violet. In fact, Cooper describes her 8-year-old as articulate, passionate and a great reader, qualities parents hope their children exhibit as they grow.

So it was not a huge surprise to Cooper when, this past summer, KC became upset after an ordinary trip to their local bookstore, Half Price Books, in Berkeley, Calif.

“We were browsing around in the bookstore, and suddenly I heard my daughter calling out, ‘Mama! You have to look at this!’” recalls Cooper. “So, of course, I thought she’d found something she wanted to buy, but it was completely the opposite. She was looking at two books that had made her so enraged she was actually in tears.”

The books, titled “How To Survive (Almost) Anything,” included a boy version and a girl version. In the boy version, the chapters covered topics such as “How to Survive a Shark Attack,” “How to Survive in a Desert,” and “How to Survive Whitewater Rapids.”….

KC was so upset at the sexist nature of the books that a bookstore employee took notice and asked her what was wrong.

“After looking through the books, the employee agreed they were offensive and pulled them from the shelves! She said if she had seen them first they wouldn’t have been there to begin with. She was great because she took action and validated my daughter’s feelings.”

Cooper, a science fiction writer, is proud of her daughter for drawing attention to the books and having them removed from the store, and took this experience as a lesson learned for both KC and herself.

So at my local Barnes and Noble, there are many books I find offensive and sexist. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg is one and Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men by Michael Kimmel is another. I was once in that bookstore reading Lean In (I don’t want to pay for it) and feeling upset by the sexism and flippant attitude towards men. Any chance they will ban those books? Hah!

And why should they? Is it fair to ban books because we don’t like what they say? The mom in this story is proud of her daughter–it’s fine if the daughter wants to speak up but she shouldn’t be proud that they removed the books from the store, she should be horrified that she and the store clerk are teaching an 8 year old that it is okay to be a PC fascist who gets her jollies from restricting free speech. How would mom feel as a SF writer if they banned her books from stores?


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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A Dwarf Kept Me Up Last Night

Sunday, October 6th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


No, it’s not as exciting–or face it, just plain weird–as the headline makes it sound. I was up reading Harry Stein’s new book, Will Tripp: Pissed Off Attorney at Lawabout a dwarf who takes on his PC opponents and actually wins. I have to admit, I typically don’t like fiction but the theme of this book was right up my alley and I could not put it down:

Will Tripp is a dwarf lawyer who despises all things p.c. and takes on only clients at war with the totalitarian left. In this first book in the series, Will and his idiosyncratic ‘dream team’ go after a ruthless campus feminist adored by a fawning media.

The lawyer’s older brother is a professor at an Ivy League college where he is accused of “verbal rape” when he speaks angrily about his ex-wife who ran off with another woman. A marine who has a Ph.D and teaches at the college is railroaded by militant feminists and their male sycophants. The lawyer seeks to help both men, often using his adversaries’ own political correctness against them which is all the more satisfying. This book is a real gem and fun for those of us who seek justice for everyone, not just those who follow the herd.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

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The War on Football

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


Sadly, I saw that a former Amazon CFO, Joy Covey, died in a bike crash on Wednesday:

She died Wednesday after colliding with a minivan while riding her bicycle downhill on Skyline Blvd. near Portola Valley, Calif., according to Art Montiel, a public information officer at the California Highway Patrol in Redwood City. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

After this tragedy, are people calling out to ban bikes? Apparently, 677 people were killed on bikes in 2011 and many more were injured. The article I linked mentions that the health benefits of biking offset some of the risks. Why is it okay to get hurt or injured on a bike but when it comes to a sport like football that is safer than bicycling, the PC community is up in arms and wants to ban it? That is one of the questions that Daniel Flynn tackles in his new book The War on Football: Saving America’s Game. From Amazon:

From concussion doctors pushing “science” that benefits their hidden business interests to lawyers clamoring for billion-dollar settlements in scam litigation, America’s game has become so big that everybody wants a cut. And those chasing the dollars show themselves more than willing to trash a great sport in hot pursuit of a buck.

Everything they say about football is wrong. Football players don’t commit suicide at elevated levels, die younger than their peers, or suffer disproportionately from heart disease. In fact, professional players live longer, healthier lives than American men in general.

More than that, football is America’s most popular sport. It brings us together. It is, and has been, a rite of passage for millions of American boys.

But fear over concussions and other injuries could put football on ice. School districts are already considering doing away with football as too dangerous. Parents who used to see football as character-building now worry that it may be mind-destroying. Even the president has jumped on the pile by fretting that he might prevent a son from playing if he had one.

But as author Daniel J. Flynn reports, football is actually safer than skateboarding, bicycling, or skiing. And in a nation facing an obesity crisis, a little extra running, jumping, and tackling could do us all good.

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Why Am I No Longer Horny?

Friday, October 4th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


Dr. Dan Purser explains why in his book Improving Male Sexuality, Fertility and Testosterone: A Handbook Based on the Medical Literature. I was touched as I read the inside of the paperback version of the book and saw that Dr. Purser had dedicated the book as follows:

To those poor men who have been damaged and don’t even know it–instead they’ve been diagnosed as having a fluoxetine or alprazolam deficiency and are treated until they end their lives in desperation.

This book is for you, with a prayer that you are in the future treated properly and that you get happy and whole again, at least as whole as those of us who are broken ever get.

And to my best bud, Mike, God rest your soul. Your life and dedications will not be forgotten. Thanks for being an example for those of us who are not as capable.

It is good to see that a doctor is dedicated to helping men and searching for the correct diagnosis for men who have lost interest in sex and have become depressed and sad. In the first chapter of the book, Dr. Purser describes how men come into his office telling him they are depressed and sad and don’t know why, yet they never mention a low libido. He describes how instead, they tell him about not being able to sleep, headaches, digestive problems and high cholesterol, all symptoms he says, of low testosterone and low libido.

Often the guy says he has been to a doctor who tells him his testosterone is “fine.” Purser goes on to describe the labs he does and other chapters examine the many misdiagnoses that doctors often make such as depression instead of low testosterone and how doctors use Prozac or other meds that do not work.

The book is an easy read and seems to be helpful for guys who are dealing with some of these issues.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s blog

image courtesy shutterstock / PathDoc

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Do You Suffer from iPosture?

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 - by Helen Smith


I know I do even if I am over the age group they are discussing in this article at the Daily Mail:

Do you suffer from iPosture? Tablets and smartphones are causing an epidemic of back pain as people hunch over devices

84 per cent of 18-24 year olds have admitted to suffering back pain in the last 12 months, according to a survey by Simplyhealth
The results also showed almost all age groups spend as much time in front of a PC, laptop or tablet screen in total as they do asleep in bed
Brian Hammond, CEO of BackCare, warned hunching over handheld devices is a contributory factor in back pain reported by different generations

It sounds like the latest gadget from Apple. But ‘iPosture’ is being blamed for an alarming level of back pain among 18 to 24-year-olds.

The term is being used to describe the stooped body shape adopted by those texting, emailing or playing games on their iPad or smartphone.

Luckily, for my back, I have been standing at this Furinno Adjustable Vented Laptop Table Laptop Computer Desk and that has helped my back immensely.

But it is not just back pain but also eyestrain that is a problem for me. I seem to be addicted to screens, even at the gym, I find myself staring at TV screens when I don’t want to –just out of a bad habit. It’s hard to break.


cross-posted from Dr Helen’s blog

image courtesy shutterstock / Sergey Nivens

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The Bright Side of Pessimism

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 - by Helen Smith


Are you a pessimist who wonders how to get rid of the negative feelings? Maybe you don’t have to or want to, according to the book I am reading. Psychologist Shawn Smith’s book The User’s Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do about It is quite an interesting read, particularly if you tend toward pessimism. Stephen Hayes, a professor says about the book “You would not use your dishwasher without a manual. Come on. Time to take a look.” I doubt the human mind is that similar to a dishwasher but a manual wouldn’t hurt. Some goals of the book are to “find out how your mind tries to limit your behavior and your potential, discover how pessimism functions as your mind’s error management system, learn why you shouldn’t believe everything you think and how to overrule your thoughts and feelings and take charge of your mind and life.” The book’s premise is that your mind is not built to make you happy, it’s built to help you survive and so far, it’s doing a good job since all of us reading this are alive. We may not always be happy and anxiety-free but alive is good.

The Guide teaches the reader how to live more anxiety free and with less worry but it does so in a way that embraces pessimism, and doesn’t tell the reader just to “think positively!” In a section called “It isn’t Pessimism–it’s Error Management,” Smith says that it often pays to err on the side of pessimism. For example, an aversion to strangers is a universal experience that makes sense. There is no immediate cost if you avoid the neighboring clan but if you mistakenly think they are friendly and trust-worthy, it could be fatal.

Pessimism can also help to solve problems, according to psychologist Robert Leahy. When pessimistic, we tend to slow down and have a chance to think; we have the chance to devise solutions or simply to sidestep oncoming difficulties. How do you live with a pessimistic mind? Perhaps by becoming a “defensive pessimist.” “Hosogoshi and Kodama (2009) found that defensive pessimists experience better health when they learn to accept, rather than fight, their negative thoughts. They also noticed that people who become mired in fearful, depressive thoughts perceive little control over a situation. That prevents planning and motivation.

Defensive pessimists tend to perform best when they indulge their negative thoughts before they perform. Mark Seery and his colleagues (2008) point out that those negative predictions often come bundled with unpleasant feelings, but that those negative feelings actually facilitate preparatory performance.

So instead of submitting totally to negative thoughts or fighting against them, “simply notice what the mind is doing. It is calculating probabilities and helping us make the best possible mistakes in a word where mistakes are inevitable.” Remember that the next time some Pollyanna tells you to buck up and think more positively! It may not be the best advice–for your mind.


Cross-posted at Dr. Helen.

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A Family Friendly Guide to Allergy Free Cooking

Monday, August 5th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

allergy free cooking

If you have ever had food allergies, then you know how hard it is to find recipes and put together meals that don’t trigger them. I have some weird food allergies: carrots, pears, apples, and a host of other “good for you” foods that I am not supposed to eat. Luckily, Victoria Mazur’s book Allergy Free Cooking: A Family Friendly Cookbook – No Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, Soy, Shellfish, or Nuts showed up in our mail the other day and I picked it up to get some ideas.

Unfortunately, I am not much of a cook, my husband does most of the cooking. It’s hard, however, to come up with simple tasteful meals that take into account food allergies and don’t take hours to make. Mazur’s book is a good one for those of us who are not chefs and who need to come up with good meals that are simple and don’t require time scouring the aisles of the supermarket for expensive, hard to find items that are allergy or gluten free.

The book is divided into food categories such as Soups, Poultry, Lamb, Beef, Pork and Fish and even I could follow the recipes. For example, a salmon dish uses only 9 ingredients and has clear instructions: Four 6 oz. salmon steaks, 2 T. olive oil, 1 T. Brown sugar, 1 T. Honey, one-forth cup Dijon mustard, 2 T. lemon juice, 1 T. finely grated ginger and salt and pepper. Basically, then combine all the ingredients (but the fish) and whisk and coat the salmon and cook.

Okay, even I can do that. I will have to try out some of these recipes and help out more with the cooking. For those of you wondering why someone who advocates for equality between the sexes is falling down on the job, I do the laundry and most of the cleaning in our house. But I would like to help out more with meals as it gets tiring for any one person to have to plan meals consistently.

Do you have any food allergies that require special cooking? If so, how do you cope with it? Or share a recipe in the comments.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Hen-Pecking Does Not Work

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 - by Helen Smith


Psychology Today has an article on hen-pecked husbands by psychiatrist Jerry. R. Bruns (thanks to the reader who emailed this link):

A new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships by researchers at the University of Arizona assessed the sex differences in communication styles of heterosexual couples. It confirmed a 2011 study headed up by Neil Warner of Creative Conflict Resolutions that found that appeasement by the male is not the way to relational peace in our time.

The Creative Conflict Resolution study found that 68% of men preferred to say, “yes dear” or “uh huh” instead of sharing their true feelings to please their quarreling mate. The Arizona study found that girlfriends and wives are not fooled by this capitulation and that this “no mas” defense actually antagonizes and frustrates these women, who then have a lower opinion of the relationship because there is no real satisfactory resolution of the conflict.

The author starts off okay with the article but descends into blaming men for the problem:

After the thrill of the physical part of the relationship fades, many women discover they have bonded with a compliant wimp who observes the letter of the marriage or cohabitation and secretly years for just a little peace from a woman of clashing temperaments and few if any shared interests or goals. These hen-pecked men will kindle a simmering resentment from living with an incompatible mate, but rarely openly voice their true feelings. They will attempt to find opportunities to covertly do the things they really like such as hiding out in their “man caves” or volunteering for business trips so they can find a quiet refuge where they can eat pork rinds and corn nuts and watch their beloved ESPN in peace. Eventually many women discover that their one time Prince Charming has no core beliefs besides pleasing her. These wives and girlfriends will lose all respect for their spineless men who stand for nothing. Then the magic of the marriage or cohabitation will be over.

So close, but the author had to go and ruin what could have been a decent piece. Yes, hen-pecking doesn’t work and men are resentful, but in today’s modern marriage, what is he to do? If he raises his voice, he might be charged with domestic abuse. He doesn’t want to get mad because he might lose control — which society frowns on. Finally, if the wife wants to fight back, she has the force of the state, the legal system, and the culture on her side. He has little recourse. I definitely think there are ways to engage in more productive communication with one’s wife than stewing in the basement, but men are not taught these skills, any more than women are taught the boundaries of aggression. The author claims men are wimps but offers no solutions.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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‘The Majority of Service Members Who Are Sexually Assaulted Each Year Are Men…’

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


The New York Times (Hat Tip: James Taranto):

But in a debate that has focused largely on women, this fact is often overlooked: the majority of service members who are sexually assaulted each year are men.

In its latest report on sexual assault, the Pentagon estimated that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Of those cases, the Pentagon says, 53 percent involved attacks on men, mostly by other men.


image courtesy shutterstock /  for you design

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Men On Strike at the Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

I talk with host Mary Kissel at the WSJ about my new book, why men are boycotting marriage and why men can’t speak out.


Crossposted from Dr. Helen’s Blog

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‘Fathers Haven’t the Same Sentimental Appeal That Mothers Have.’

Monday, June 17th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


I was researching Father’s Day and saw that it was Richard Nixon who made it a federal holiday:

The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not meet with the same enthusiasm–perhaps because, as one florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event explicitly in honor of fathers, a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, but it was a one-time commemoration and not an annual holiday. The next year, a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910….

In 1972, in the middle of a hard-fought presidential re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday at last. Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts.

It seems to me that with all that fathers do for our country, it is the least that can be done. Fathers are important, just like mothers and it is unfair to pretend that they are not.

So Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Is a Man Doomed to Be Labeled ‘Immature’ No Matter What?

Saturday, June 15th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

The Telegraph has an article stating that men mature 11 years later than women and are 43 before they start acting respectable(!), according to this study (via Newsalert):

A study into the differences in maturity between genders revealed both men and women agree men remain ‘immature’ well into their late 30s and early 40s.

But the average age at which women mature emerged as 32.

Alarmingly, eight out of ten women believe that men ‘never stop being childish’ – with breaking wind, burping, eating fast food in the early hours and playing videogames their biggest bug-bears.

Staying silent during arguments, not being able to cook simple meals and re-telling the same old jokes and stories when with the lads were also hailed as signs of immaturity…

One quarter of women felt they were the ones made all the important decisions in the relationship with the same percentage wishing their partner would talk about themselves and what they’re feeling more often.

So, whatever men do is viewed as “immature,” even by the men themselves. Everything that men do is seen as immature; women’s behavior is viewed as mature. Silent during an argument? Immature. Yell, confront, and raise a man’s blood pressure? Mature. It’s very easy to play this game. Men are not displaying the behavior that women want; that’s always immature.

I wonder what would happen if the men truly opened up and started really talking about themselves and how they truly feel, not just how women say they should feel. Do you really think women would view this as mature? I would love to be a fly on the wall to watch that happen.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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The Sexual Harassment Industry

Thursday, June 6th, 2013 - by Helen Smith


Over at Minding the Campus, Peter Wood writes an important article called “Sexual Harassment–The Feds Go Way Too Far”:

The DOJ/OCR Montana letter is a grab for power. To that extent, it is self-explaining. Opposing sexual harassment is a profession and, to some extent, an industry. The self-interest of the people who make their living opposing sexual harassment lies on the side of lower standards of evidence, broader definitions, and minimization of obstacles to new regulations. Regulatory self-aggrandizement is not a mystery, though it is usually mysterious to the regulators themselves who have a level of difficulty in apprehending their own motives akin to that of anorexics attempting to form an accurate picture of their bodies.

But empire building is only part of the story. The Montana letter is a step in the long progression of feminism towards a surveillance society. Fifteen years ago Daphne Patai in her book Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism diagnosed feminism’s effort to write “a new chapter in the dystopian tradition of surveillance and unfreedom.” Patai saw the coming emphasis on “transparency, whereby one’s every gesture, every thought, is exposed to the judgment of one’s fellow citizens.” OCR is of course far from this level of intrusiveness, but not in spirit.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

Image courtesy shutterstock / Camilo Torres

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‘Mating Preferences, After All, Are Driven Not Only By Attraction But By Attainability.’

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 - by Helen Smith

James Taranto at Best of the Web: “Rich Woman, Poor Man: Why do female breadwinners tend to have unhappy marriages?”:

Why are men averse to higher-income women? Perhaps because they understand that women are averse to lower-income men. Mating preferences, after all, are driven not only by attraction but by attainability. In theory all men should be attracted to supermodels; in practice few would have the confidence to ask one out.

If, as Mundy suggests, female breadwinners find it a “struggle” to remain attracted to their husbands, then avoiding such a marriage seems a wise defensive move for a man. If the evolutionary psychologists are right, it’s a relatively easy one to make, since a woman’s earning power would not exert much emotional or sexual pull on a man.


Cross-posted from Dr. Helen 

image courtesy shutterstock /  Andresr

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