Dr. Sharon R. Kahn is a licensed psychologist who resides and practices in New York City. I deplore the massive shift in the conduct of psychotherapy to that which operates akin to the equivalent of a sweatshop, where psychologists are debased into providers who no longer mutually plan the dosage of treatment with the client, but are forced to give all clients half an hour, twice a month. As Ferenczi once said, "Who is crazy, us or the patient." He too deplored the setting of 19th Century psychoanalysis and the idea of a "blank screen." He oversaw the rise of clinics, which at that time gave clinic patients the same dose of treatment as private patients, albeit in more austere settings.
COVID update: The need for kindness and empathy has never been greater! Regardless of theoretical orientation, psychologists have stayed silent on the authoritarian shame and blame game. COVID-SARS-19 is a virus. Virii mutate. It's what they do. They mutate worldwide, regardless of the masks, hygiene, and social distancing. However, individuals can keep risks down and keep the immediate environment SAFER--by the use of masks, improved hygiene, etc. This is what is known as harm reduction. Which can be reinforced by psychological praxis.
There appear to be few behavioral specialists involved in contact tracing to control the pandemic who understand the basic Skinnerian principles of shaping behavioral change through consequences, either reinforcements or punishments.
Punishment doesn't always work for many reasons. First, it doesn't work when one is being punished for species-specific needs, such as those sketched out by Maslow in his pyramid of motivations. The most basic is the first step: Oxygen, food, clean water. The second is a safe home base.
Millions of people have lost their jobs in the past quarter, threatening their ability to have a home. Prior to that, 10% of New York City public school children were homeless. Now those numbers have racheted up. Starvation and want loom upon our nation.
Even for those who still have homes, the need for love and belongingness (Step 3 for Maslow's hierarchy)may be missing. Zoom parties do not offer skin-to-skin contact or offer treatment for problems of ordinary life. Theere are no chance meetings,and no enchanted ones either.
Punishing for such losses is puritanism at its worst, because meting out punishment only serves to alienate people further from the punishers. It foments rebellion when normal wants, desires and needs are expressed and then shamed or punished.
People who have always led comfortable lives are now finding that the most basic aspects of their lives — safe sanitation and secure access to food -- cannot be accessed. Anxiety and depression rise in a world where there are increased expectations, reduced means and no guidance or resources.
Second, punishing people with anger doesn’t work. Angry leaders just model anger; they don’t offer solutions. Anger is just as contagious as COVID-19 and just as destructive to healthy human functioning. Anger leads to punishments, where everyone acts as a punisher, doing such things as posting photographs on social media showing violations of social distancing and masks. Others tag them, as if they were hurling rotten produce at someone in a bygone stockade.
Worse, some people intentionally violate social distancing to punish others, such as one woman who pepper sprayed another who stood too close to her.
Other punishments, such as fining those who refuse to cooperate with contact tracing, or who refuse to wear masks, are sure to backfire. Expect lawsuits by the ACLU. In Israel, few people pay such fines. There are lawsuits pending there. Furthermore, expect people to claim they are being confused with someone else. For example, my own name, Sharon Kahn, is shared with several women in Manhattan
One other Sharon Kahn and I shop at various on-line sites and I at times receive e-mails confirming her purchases. She probably receives mine at times. Another Sharon Kahn and I once shared a gynecologist. But only once, because at my first visit, the gynecologist said: “Well, the last time you were here, it was for . . . ” I told him I had never been there. And after that visit, I never was again.
Anger is energizing but absent of action it only increases the death toll. Take away the rhetoric and you hear nothing but the sound of websites crashing. Instead of punishment and anger, politicians need to immediately provide for the biological and safety needs of the population. Punishment, in order to be effective, needs to be consistent. Not applied solely to lower castes and ignored with others.
The actions that should be stressed should be based on harm reduction.
In England, for example, social distancing has been reduced to one meter (about one yard). Small changes such as this toward a larger goal are easier to reinforce and inspire a feeling of success. Furthermore, in the medical literature, English journals noted that social distancing is rarely successful—hand washing and improved hygiene do better.
And instead of shaming people who refuse to wear masks in public places, free masks could be offered at the entrance. Smiling greeters could reinforce this with words such as, “You’re never fully dressed without your mask.”
Harm-reduction measures are easier to put into action. Rewards can be easily offered. People want to feel like the things they do make a difference. Reward people for the smallest steps to public safety
People become depressed and anxious when they feel helpless and hopeless. Giving people a small, yet doable task increases morale. Cooperation increases when people feel what they do is valued by society.
Instead of scary, angry politicians sucking all the air out of their daily, televised news conferences, have them encourage literacy. Imagine public officials reading a chapter from a Harry Potter book each day, a story about a boy who each year goes to school where someone tries to kill him. Still, for him, it is better than staying at home.
Further imagine a daily contest where schoolchildren send in illustrations to be projected on the screen during the story. Winners would receive monetary rewards. Even very young children would feel a sense of increased agency and feel a part of their society. Furthermore, personal protective equipment (PPE) can be incorporated into elementary school curriculums using songs and physical movements. This is routinely done in Israel. It normalizes new routines and models activity.
Another suggestion is to find informal community leaders and ask how they can incentivize people to cooperate with the contact tracing. Have role models such as Beyonce, Jay-Z, Spike Lee or Al Sharpton make public service announcements.
For adults, there could be jingle-writing contests for public service announcements. Musicians could be encouraged to write an original song about conquering the virus, using positive, major chords and allaying anxieties with knowledge.
Obstacles to masks, for example, also can be conquered. One major issue is breathing. Masks require different breathing techniques; otherwise anxious people easily succumb to panic attacks, which they associate with masks, thus causing less compliance. Public service announcements can also demonstrate proper breathing techniques with easy to remember jingles.
People are discouraged when websites for unemployment repeatedly crash. But there is no need to go to a website. Instead, states can pay people pandemic relief funds. Every adult and child should be offered a stipend. Child stipends are a routine part of many European and Asian societies. This would be easily accomplished because all school-age children are registered for school and adults can be easily be found via state ID’s, voter registration records, driving licenses, etc.
So, to gain compliance with new norms, be ashamed to shame. Offer monetary compensation for a minimum of three months, begin a child-stipend program, offer free PPE at all venues where mask wearing is mandatory and reinforce via small steps each incremental activity toward the goal of a safer society through high caste models and tangential social and monetary rewards.
I have always believed in the power of simple songs. I have long participated in the Winter Solstice. This was taken months before the COVID bane destroyed all of our spiritual lives, on December 22, 2019.
So much of the praxis of therapy has been debased, by both psychologists and their patients. I only conduct psychotherapy if I believe that I could offer something to a potential client. I round out my day by conducting evaluations for Workers' Compensation, for Social Security, and for private lawyers. I conduct research on PTSD, ADHD, single-payer treatment, and the roots of psychotherapy. You can view my works under the publications and presentations tab. You can learn more about my current concerns in my blog.
NYCPsych.com is hosted by Sharon R. Kahn, Ph.D. The purpose of this web site is to restore the functional art of contemplation back into the science of psychology. We should not forget that the roots of psychology began with applied introspection. And yet, contemplation, introspection, or the occasional interior monologue are derided and derailed in contemporary American society, as they have little to do with the serious business of making and getting money.
Even psychotherapy, that last bastion of serious reflection in the presence of an interested other, has been conquered and enslaved by market forces. Contemplation is not a disease and truly contemplative individuals should not be forced to bow to its lash of rationed reimbursement.
Here there is no urgency, no threat of third-party punishment. On this site, one can ask questions about psychology, contemplate the contemplations, and achieve insights from such activities. This is not a psychotherapy site. Please do not ask me to give you advice, as human interactions are too complex to be worthily encapsulated on a computer screen and jettisoned into Internet sites, byte by byte. The person-to-person interaction offers the crux by which interpersonal learning occurs. Please contact me if you come to believe that I am a person who can offer you the crux for such learning, such contemplation, such pre-change, change, or post-change adaptations.
Though this is not a psychotherapy site, this can be a safe place to foster thoughtful dialogue about psychology, etc. I am inspired by the Zen Buddhist philosophy as expressed in the following thought: "For if the wind were to stop blowing so that we could catch it, it would no longer be the wind. Life is elusive iin the same way. We try to stop it, to preserve it, to understand it, to define it, so that we can repeat its happy moments and to avoid its sad ones. But life moves on and our efforts to hold it are unsuccessful. What brings happiness one day may bring sorrow the next. Those who try to possess it merely enslave themselves to their own illusions. But the face of the matter is that life has no...logic. We merely impose a logic on it."
Hence this website. Hence the blog.
I welcome any questions about psychology and am willing to provide general advice and offer references for further understanding. Not only can we dialogue, but we can create a meta-dialogue, where your thoughts form blog topics. If you wish to commence a dialogue with me, please go to the Contact Me tab. The rest is routine.
Who are these women on the home page?
Groucho Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Shammai, and Oscar Wilde need no introduction. So I will not at this juncture.
Emma Goldman, Clara Lemlich, Rosa Luxembourg, and Bertha Pappenheim are all women deserving volumes of exploration, if not screenplays and posh Merchant/Ivory movies. All were probably quite unlikeable in their day.
Emma Goldman was an anarchist. Not a socialist. Not a suffragette. An anarchist. She loved Alexander Berkman, another anarchist--the real bomb thrower to the capitalists type. Goldman, at some point after Berkman's death, disavowed bomb throwing (innocents might be harmed). However, to the end, she maintained that anarchy would save the world and rid it of criminality. She was against socialism and women's suffrage (if women could hold public office, they would be not better than men). The only women deserving of the vote were those "heroic Soviet women." Despite her adulation of Soviet women, Goldman kept returning to NYC like the proverbial bad penny, despite repeated deportation by the Feds. Oh, those porous sea wall borders of the era.
Clara Lemlich was a Jewish immigrant who incited sweatshop workers to strike against managment, despite beatings and imprisonment. Her leadership helped form the International Ladies Garment Worker's Union. At a 1910 rally for the Shirtwaist workers, she cried, "I have no more patience...I move we go on a general strike." And the crowd went wild. She was a spark who lit the fire. The next day, 20,000 shirtwaist workers walked out from their factories, with no assurance of any future save that what starvation would bring. They found themselves harassed by prostitutes and their pimps, hired thugs, unemployed boxers, and the NYC police. When arrested, no sympathy was shown by judges, doctors, or the mayor. Within 48 hours, the smaller shirt waist factory bosses allowed their workers to unionize. But the majority of the workers remained on strike. And they persisted. And then the beauteous daughters of the elite, members of Mrs. Astor's 400 joined them in female unity, they found the while the factory bosses remained obdurate, the NYC policemen no longer beat them, and hired thugs no longer waylaid them. And finally, most of the bigger factories yielded and allowed their workers to unionize. Sadly, one of the factories that gave concessions but not unions was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Four months after the strike, it went up in smoke, an accident of an errant cigarette.
Rosa Luxembourg was a Polish journalist, a pro-Marxist, anti-Leninist Socialist who was also imprisoned for her outspoken essays and died under mysterious circumstances.
Bertha Pappenheim was best known as Freud's Anna O, the ur-psychoanalyst. She proposed to Breuer that under hypnosis she should explore the origins of her hysterical symptoms. Her "chimney sweepings" became free associations. After she recovered, she was an activist against white slavery, a trade where poor Jewish females (mainly from Poland) were kidnapped and sent to Turkey to be sexually exploited. She rescued females, taught them useful trades so they could earn a living, and founded the profession of social work.
If I were to add to this quartet of unlikeable ladies (unliked by the male establishment, mainly) I might add Ida Bauer--Freud's Dora. It is obvious from reading the case history that Freud didn't appreciate her, and neither did any of her subsequent analysts. By the time she was in her 40's, one analyst found her to be thoroughly disagreeable.
Here is a picture I found of Ms. Bauer:
And here is a picture of me, after years of dealing with the mental health junta (thank you, Munch--it was THE SCREAM).
As stated, I am a psychological philosophizer. I enjoy discussing the unlikely genesis of psychoanalysis. In fact, I am writing a musical about the multiply triangulated relationships between Sigmund Freud, Sandor Ferenczi, and Giselle Palos. One of the biggest hitches in my getting it up is this tragic fact: I am a fair lyricist and a horrid melodist.
Do you find yourself puzzled about the origins of Freud's psychoanalytic duchy? Here is a song which predicted its demise, based on their incompatible horoscopes. Was it Oedipus Rex? Or Diaper Rash? (Letters after the line indicate chords. You got to imagine this with music).
Oedipus Rex, Diaper Rash:Lyrics: Sharon R. Kahn Music: Anne Husick
Freud’s phantasy of conquest was no mere beau geste G/C
Born wrapped up in a caul, the midwife said it best D/G
“Frau Freud, your golden Siggi will excel, pass all life’s tests G/C
Gods gifted our Taurus w/ chutzpah, (kind of means a pest)” D/G
(Repeat: B7/Emaj, Amaj/D)
His aegis was his intellect and cigars stoked this bull
Analysis might be a cure for existential lulls
Several pledged their troth to Freud, received their rings as pull
Gods who rule the sky above laughed at Freud the fool
Freud exalted Oedipus: the emblem of his reign
Hoisted him high by his horns, displayed like lovesick swain
“Are you my friend, go look to Oedipus, be free of stains
Would you topple him? Godspeed and leave, sir, you’re insane”
Handsome, goyische Jung:quintessential crown prince. G/c
But Jung a Leo, to an Aryan playground would mince D/G
“ It’s archetypes, not Oedipus,” he sneered through gold nez-pince G/C
Shrugged Freud, “In league with the devil, don’t complain of fire” or wince. D/G
Then B7/E, A/D
Brown, bland Adler, Aquarian born 2cd of six.
Couldn’t bear bossy big brother wouldn’t be his bitch
He carried his own water: ordinal position became his niche.
Oedipus was an only child, should have died after birth in a ditch.
Chatty careless little Rank, “why can’t there be a dozen like he.”
Analysis like childbirth, 9 mo’s, and then they’re free
If Oedipus analyzed birth trauma, his eyes would still now see
Freud lacked insight— bulls in Vienna would only disagree.
Spake the gods dulce decorum of Freud’s phallocentric porn. Gmin/Dmin
Who can Taurus work with: why two Capricorns Amin/C
Sachs was a lawyer, Sach’s torts leave none to mourn Gmin/Dmin
“Social character,” no sib to Oedipus, stillborne. Amin/C
Jones gave psychosexual tests,for this from his job was torn.Gmaj/D min
Made pilgrimage, kissed the ring, failed to grab Freud’s horns.Amin/C
Our Welsh lacks gemultlikeit, for Anna he’s lovelorn G maj/Dmaj
For analysis: Budapest, be Ferenczi’s thorn. Amin/C
But Jones wrote Ferenczi’s obit, and said of his mind he had been shorn. Bflat/D
Freud expelled each infidel,, but if only he consulted their charts
So many violent stillbirths in a movement rocked from its start
Left with nincompoops, no-brainers, & jumped up farts
Freud taurine nature transformed Oedipus into feces not art.
Four strokes per chord. Repeat first verse, after the B7/E, A/D, strum G maj slowly.