When Mental Anguish Can be Difficult to Relinquish


“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” 

― Thich Nhat Hanh

“Whether ’tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows or outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them…But you don’t do either.” -Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.

Memories, even bittersweet ones, are better than nothing.

-Jennifer Armentrout

It seems counterintuitive that individuals may find it challenging to put an end to their mental anguish. But Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote, “People have a hard time letting go of anguish out of fear of the unknown,” encapsulates a profound insight into human nature and the complexities of our relationship with suffering. It suggests that individuals often cling to their misery because they fear what might lie beyond it. In this essay, I will explore the reasons behind this fear and the potential consequences of holding onto grief.

What is being referred to when we speak of suffering in this context is psychological suffering or mental anguish. It is essential to state that mental problems such as stress and grief have long-term consequences on physical health. Mind and body are not separate. Suffering, mental pain, and anguish all lead to heightened blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, addiction, and more.

Suffering, in its various forms, can become deeply ingrained in our lives. It may arise from past traumas, unresolved conflicts, or ongoing challenges. Despite the pain it causes, suffering can provide a sense of familiarity and security. It becomes a known and predictable state, offering a certain level of comfort even in discomfort. The fear of the unknown arises when individuals contemplate letting go of this familiar suffering and stepping into uncharted territory.

One reason people fear the unknown is the uncertainty it brings. Letting go of suffering means venturing into unfamiliar emotional, mental, or physical spaces. It requires confronting the possibility of change, which can be unsettling and anxiety-inducing. The fear of what might come after letting go can lead individuals to cling to their suffering to avoid uncertainties and potential challenges.

Another reason people struggle to let go of suffering is the fear of losing their identity. Grief can become intertwined with one’s sense of self, shaping their beliefs, behaviors, and relationships. It can become a defining characteristic, providing a sense of purpose or validation. Letting go of suffering may raise questions about who one is without it, leaving individuals feeling lost or unsure of their identity. This fear can create a barrier to embracing healing and growth.

Growing up in an environment where suffering was the norm, a person may have internalized the belief that their worthiness and value are tied to their ability to endure pain. It creates a subconscious attachment to suffering, making it difficult to let go of familiar patterns and embrace a life free from constant struggle.

Feelings of guilt are another factor connected to suffering. Children quickly assume they are why their family is engaged in conflict. Childhood guilty thoughts and feelings are easily carried into adulthood. When that happens, the individual is ready to take the blame for every negative outcome imaginable. 

It is common for people who suffer to change out of fear of the unknown. That can stem from a need for more trust in oneself or the change process. Feeling apprehensive about what lies beyond suffering is natural, especially when one has become accustomed to its presence. Doubts about one’s ability to cope with new circumstances or fears of making the wrong choices can contribute to resistance to letting go. This fear can keep individuals trapped in a cycle of suffering, preventing them from exploring the possibilities of a life free from pain.

However, holding onto suffering out of fear of the unknown can have detrimental consequences. It can perpetuate a cycle of unhappiness, hinder personal growth, and limit one’s potential for fulfillment. By clinging to suffering, individuals deny themselves the opportunity to heal, learn, and discover alternative paths toward well-being.

Overcoming the fear of the unknown requires courage, self-compassion, and a willingness to embrace change. It involves acknowledging the discomfort and uncertainties that may arise and recognizing the potential for growth and transformation. Seeking support from trusted individuals, such as therapists, friends, or support groups, can provide guidance and encouragement during this process.

In conclusion, the quotes above highlight the human tendency to endure suffering because of the fear of the unknown. It sheds light on the complexities of our relationship with pain and the challenges we face when contemplating letting go. By understanding the reasons behind this fear and the potential consequences of holding onto suffering, individuals can cultivate the courage and resilience needed to embrace healing and move towards a life free from unnecessary pain.


Climate Change and Mental Health

Growing up in the Bronx, New York City, one of my memories of the 1950s was that the weather was predictable. During the Fall season, the temperature dropped, and the tree leaves turned into different colors. Winter, Spring, and Summer progressed in typical fashion. During August, when kids played in the streets, we could hear thunder rumbling and darkened clouds as the rain started to fall. All of us kids sought shelter and waited for the storm to pass. In a few minutes, the sky cleared, and we emerged into the streets to continue our play.

What was once predictable has become its opposite. Two years ago, on a lovely morning, the streets filled with smoke, and police and firefighters knocked on everyone’s doors to alert them to the wildfire that had suddenly broken out. When the raging fires finally ended, families discovered they lost their homes as well as their prized possessions and heirlooms, all of which were burnt into ashes. It was shocking and traumatizing. 

The wildfire in an urban neighborhood resulted from draught conditions and an extremely windy morning, which helped quickly spread the flames.

Climate change is one of the most pressing concerns of our time, and its impact extends far beyond the changing weather patterns and rising sea levels. Scientists, psychologists, and researchers are increasingly exploring how climate change affects mental well-being.

First, it’s essential to recognize that climate change brings many significant consequences, such as extreme heat waves, severe storms, and prolonged droughts. These events are causing immense physical and economic damage. In addition, it is triggering feelings of anxiety, fear, and helplessness in individuals. Losing homes, livelihoods, and familiar landscapes profoundly impacts the emotional well-being of affected communities and the entire nation.

Moreover, worries about the weather contribute to an intensified sense of uncertainty about the future. The unpredictability of weather patterns, the increasing frequency of natural disasters, and the overall instability of the environment can generate a sense of powerlessness and despair among people. This uncertainty can manifest as heightened levels of anxiety, depression, and chronic stress, ultimately impacting individuals’ mental health.

Additionally, changing climate conditions can disrupt ecosystems and lead to biodiversity loss, affecting the natural world. Research has shown that exposure to nature and green spaces positively impacts mental health, promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and fostering feelings of happiness. However, the loss of natural habitats and the increasing prevalence of extreme weather events can erode these beneficial effects, potentially exacerbating people’s negative emotions.

Furthermore, climate change has a direct effect on mental health through its impact on social and economic factors. As extreme weather events become more frequent and intense, they can disrupt local economies, leading to job losses, food shortages, and increased poverty. These challenges can further exacerbate mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation.

It’s worth noting that different individuals may respond to climate change in various ways, and some may exhibit resilience or adaptability in the face of adversity. However, the overarching trend suggests that climate change’s impact on people’s moods is predominantly negative.

Addressing the growing mental health concerns related to climate change requires a multidimensional approach. This includes implementing policies and initiatives to mitigate the effects of climate change, promoting sustainable practices, and supporting affected communities. It also involves raising awareness about the psychological impacts of climate change, destigmatizing mental health struggles, and providing accessible mental health resources for those affected.

The far-reaching consequences of climate change extend beyond physical and environmental damage. The emotional toll of these changes can be significant, with individuals experiencing a range of negative emotions such as anxiety, helplessness, and uncertainty. 

By recognizing and addressing the mental health challenges associated with climate change, we can work towards creating a more resilient and compassionate society that supports the well-being of individuals facing these unprecedented global challenges.



Hatred and Genocide Must End


“Love, friendship, and respect do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.” Anton Chekhov

“Hatred does not cease by hatred but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” Buddha

“Every human being is equal in the eyes of God.”

“He who saves one life saves the entire world.”

” ‘Never again’ is the rallying cry for all who believe that mankind must speak out against genocide.” Jon Corzine

There is an excellent book written by psychiatrist psychoanalyst Richard Gaylin entitled “Hatred.” Gaylin delves deep into the origins and manifestations of hatred, examining its psychological, social, and cultural aspects. He argues that hatred often arises from fear, ignorance, or a sense of threat. He points out that when people feel that their core values are being challenged or undermined, they might respond with hatred towards those they perceive as responsible. This can be fueled by a sense of moral superiority or a desire to maintain the status quo.

Additionally, Gaylin points out that dehumanization plays a significant role in promoting hatred. When individuals or groups are stripped of their humanity and reduced to stereotypes or caricatures, it becomes easier to justify mistreatment or discrimination.

The world, sadly, is filled with hatred. Tragic events like the war in Ukraine and Israel exemplify it. These events have become an excuse for people to demonstrate for one side of the United States. However, showing what you believe in is not a problem in a free and democratic nation. The problem is that the demonstrations become violent. Those confront those who gather together for their beliefs with opposing views, and fights break out. There are death threats against Americans who are Islamic, Israeli, and Jewish. In one recent incident, a young Asian American Cornell University student was arrested after posting violent anti-Jewish comments on Facebook.

A key aspect of hatred arises from fear and ignorance of the “other.” The “other” is perceived as different regarding their beliefs, values, or appearance. People sometimes resort to attacking or belittling those who differ from them to cope with this perceived threat. This fear can stem from a primal instinct to protect one’s identity or community. Unfortunately, this can escalate into acts of discrimination and violence.

It is a learned behavior. Children absorb the values and attitudes of their families and surroundings. Suppose they grow up in an environment where the dehumanization of others is prevalent. In that case, they are likely to imitate those behaviors. Media, peer influence, and societal norms all contribute to shaping these attitudes, perpetuating a cycle of Hate.

Individuals who hate often suffer from their own internal struggles and personal insecurities, feelings of inadequacy, and unresolved traumas. Projecting these negative emotions onto others allows them to temporarily alleviate their inner pain in an unhealthy and destructive way.

Gaylin points out that we can create an environment that nurtures understanding and acceptance by fostering education, empathy, and open dialogue. Reducing hatred requires recognizing the humanity in one another and cultivating compassion. When we try to see beyond differences and understand the perspectives and experiences of others, we begin to dismantle the walls constructed by hatred. Empathy and kindness can break through the barriers of misunderstanding and foster a sense of unity, promoting peace and harmony among diverse communities.

Ultimately, addressing hatred involves a collective effort from both individuals and society. By embracing diversity, seeking knowledge, promoting tolerance, and practicing love, we can counteract the destructive forces of hatred and work towards a more inclusive and compassionate world.

But when hatred becomes widespread in a society and reaches a critical mass, it can lead to the unimaginable horror of genocide. Genocide refers to the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, ethnic, religious, or national group. The act of genocide encompasses more than just killing individuals; it includes various methods aimed at eradicating the targeted group’s existence. These methods can range from mass killings, forced displacement, torture, sexual violence, and other acts intended to destroy the group’s cultural, social, and political identity. 

The term was created in response to the atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II, where millions of Jews, along with other minority groups, were systematically exterminated by the Nazis.

The concept of genocide extends beyond physical extermination to the intent behind the actions. It emphasizes the systematic nature of the destruction, the intentional targeting of a specific group, and the motive behind the violence. 

The meaning of genocide resonates deeply with humanity’s collective responsibility to prevent such atrocities from occurring. It serves as a reminder of the horrific consequences that can arise from discrimination, hatred, and prejudice. Understanding the origin and meaning of the word genocide allows us to acknowledge the past, learn from it, and work toward a future where every individual’s dignity and rights are protected.


Annoyance and Irritability

Grumpy and Grouchy, Sulky and bad-tempered

I’m always grumpy in the morning and irritable, cross, grumbling, crabby, edgy, petulant, cantankerous, testy, grouchy, peevish, crotchety, and cranky. 

These are just a few words to describe an annoyed and irritable feeling.

If you have ever had the experience of being at a dinner, a visit with a family, or at a get-together, and someone keeps talking without stopping, you understand feeling irritable. You feel trapped. You dare not say anything for fear of seeming rude or unfriendly. I have been in that situation, and many others have been as well.

During the height of the Pandemic, people had to wait in long lines at the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions. There were instances nationwide when people became impatient and irritable, and fights broke out.

Annoyance and irritability are emotional states that many people experience. They can be triggered by personal expectations that do not happen, not getting enough sleep, noise that will not stop, repetitive behaviors, and minor inconveniences. 

Irritability refers to heightened sensitivity and easily triggered negative emotions. It typically involves a stronger emotional reaction, ranging from frustration to anger. Irritability can stem from various factors, including stress, fatigue, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, or even certain medical conditions. 

External circumstances, like an overwhelming workload, interpersonal conflicts, or environmental factors, can contribute to irritability.

Annoyance and irritability can significantly affect individuals’ well-being and relationships. They can increase stress levels, mental fatigue, and decreased concentration ability. 

Persistent irritability can strain personal relationships, hinder effective communication, and create a hostile atmosphere in social interactions.

Implementing effective coping strategies can aid individuals in handling these emotional states. Some plans include identifying triggers and implementing self-awareness techniques, such as mindfulness or deep breathing exercises. Engaging in regular physical activity, managing stress through relaxation techniques, or seeking professional help can reduce irritability and annoyance.

Developing practical communication skills can help address and resolve conflicts that often contribute to annoyance and irritability. Individuals can promote understanding and minimize potential triggers by expressing concerns, needs, and expectations appropriately.

Marriage, a partnership brimming with love and commitment, is not immune to the corrosive effects of irritability and annoyance. In the early stages, couples may overlook their partner’s irritability, dismissing it as a temporary setback. However, over time, the accumulation of daily annoyances can breed resentment and emotional distance. 

In marriage, simple behaviors like a lack of consideration, careless remarks, or dismissive attitudes can chip away at the love and affection that were once the linchpin of the relationship. The way you chew gum may annoy her. Or, the way she holds her fork may annoy you. These are small things, but it’s surprising how irritable people can become.

 Communication breakdowns fueled by irritability can lead to misunderstandings and unresolved conflicts, driving a wedge between partners. Spouses must cultivate empathy, patience, and open dialogue to address and resolve the underlying causes of irritability.

Work relationships are another significant area where irritability can have ripple effects. In the workplace, irritability may arise from various stressors, such as heavy workloads, tight deadlines, or disagreements with colleagues. However, when these frustrations manifest as irritability, it can create a toxic work environment marred by tension and hostility.

Coworkers may need more support and respect, leading to decreased morale and productivity. Constant irritability can strain team dynamics, hindering collaboration and inhibiting creativity. Recognizing irritability’s detrimental impact on work relationships is essential for fostering a positive and collaborative environment that allows colleagues to thrive and succeed collectively.

Here is a list of some things that people find annoying:

  1. Lack of Empathy:
  2. One of the primary ways people provoke annoyance is through a profound lack of empathy. It is infuriating when individuals do not consider the points of view of others’ perspectives or disregard their feelings and needs. This behavior, often driven by self-centeredness or ignorance, creates misunderstandings.
  3. Constant Interruptions:
  4. Interrupting others during conversations is another expected annoyance-triggering behavior. It shows a lack of respect for others’ opinions and undermines their sense of involvement in the discussion. Repeated interruptions can disrupt the flow of communication and impede meaningful exchange.
  5. Excessive Complaining:
  6. The persistent habit of complaining is another behavior that provokes irritation in others. When individuals consistently focus on the negative aspects of life, it can create a toxic atmosphere and drain the energy from those around them. Excessive complaining can cause emotional exhaustion and make social interactions burdensome.
  7. Poor Listening Skills:
  8. Active listening is crucial for effective communication and maintaining healthy relationships. People who show poor listening skills by constantly forgetting details, not paying attention, or steering the conversation back to themselves can trigger annoyance. It conveys a lack of respect and consideration for others’ thoughts and experiences.
  9. Passive-Aggressive Behaviors:
  10. Passive-aggressive behaviors, fake compliments, sarcasm, or intentionally withholding information are highly irritating. These actions create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, leaving others feeling manipulated and frustrated.
  11. Disregarding Personal Space:
  12. Invading personal space without permission is another behavior capable of evoking intense annoyance. When individuals cannot respect personal boundaries, whether physical or emotional, it can leave people feeling uncomfortable, violated, and irritated.
  13. Constant Distractions:
  14. Individuals who are consistently distracted and cannot prioritize their time can provoke frustration in others. This behavior can manifest as frequently checking smartphones during conversations or swinging focus to unrelated tasks. Such actions communicate disinterest and devalue the presence and time of others.

Reducing irritability and annoyance can significantly improve your overall well-being and relationships. Here are some strategies that you can incorporate into your daily life to address these feelings:

Foremost, practicing self-awareness is critical. Take the time to understand your own triggers and patterns of irritability. Pay attention to situations, environments, or behaviors that provoke these emotions. You can begin finding effective ways to address these triggers by recognizing them.

Consider incorporating relaxation techniques into your routine. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided meditation can help calm your mind and body, reducing stress and irritability. Take brief breaks throughout the day to engage in these practices and allow yourself to rest.

Engaging in regular physical activity can be a powerful tool in managing irritability. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Find an activity you enjoy, such as walking, running, swimming, or dancing, and make it a regular part of your routine. Not only will it help reduce irritability, but it will also contribute to your overall well-being.

It’s essential to get a good night’s sleep.

Nutrition also plays a role in managing irritability. Avoid skipping meals and opt for a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It’s essential to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water as well. A well-nourished body is better equipped to handle stress and frustration.

Make time for activities that you find enjoyable and fulfilling. Engage in hobbies, spend time with loved ones, or pursue creative outlets. You can boost your mood and mitigate irritability by doing things that bring you joy.

It’s also vital to set realistic expectations for yourself and others. Unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and annoyance when they are not met. Practice self-compassion and allow yourself to make mistakes. Similarly, approach others with understanding and empathy, recognizing they might face challenges.

If irritability persists and significantly affects your quality of life, seeking support from a mental health professional can be beneficial. They can help you explore deeper underlying causes, provide personalized coping strategies, and guide you toward emotional well-being.

Remember, reducing irritability and annoyance requires consistent effort and self-reflection. By incorporating these strategies into your life, you can cultivate a calmer and more content mindset, improving overall happiness and well-being.


Try a Little Kindness

We are living when people feel very troubled. We have only recently emerged from the coronavirus pandemic. Now, there is a war between Russia and Ukraine and terror attacks in Israel, which have led to a brutal war in the Gaza Strip. Bitter political bickering and instability in the United States Congress and animosity between Democrats and Right-wing Republicans have created an atmosphere of hostility and violence among Americans. 

It is no longer possible for Americans to debate politics with friends, neighbors, and family members without hatred and rage. Some of that hatred and fury is shown by a rash of mass shootings that claim the lives of innocent people of all ages.

Against the backdrop of this drama are rising prices for food, clothes, cars, mortgages, rents, and more. These things are taking a toll on mental health. At the least, people feel stress. At worst, they feel depressed, worried, and anxious.

It is possible to feel empowered by what people can do to help themselves and others. 

A wonderful song from the 1970s delivers an essential message for everyone. The song is “Try a Little Kindness,” with Glenn Campbell singing the lyrics, and it is one of Campbell’s favorite songs.

The Complete Lyrics:

Try A Little Kindness

Glen Campbell

… If you see your brother standing by the road

With a heavy load from the seeds he sowed

And if you see your sister falling by the way

Just stop and say, “You’re going the wrong way”

… You’ve got to try a little kindness

Yes, show a little kindness

Just shine your light for everyone to see

And if you try a little kindness

Then you’ll overlook the blindness

Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

… Don’t walk around the down and out

Lend a helping hand instead of doubt

And the kindness that you show every day

Will help someone along their way

… You got to try a little kindness

Yes, show a little kindness

Just shine your light for everyone to see

And if you try a little kindness

Then you’ll overlook the blindness

Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

… You got to try a little kindness

Yes, show a little kindness

Just shine your light for everyone to see

And if you try a little kindness

Then you’ll overlook the blindness

Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets


Try a Little Kindness serves as a timeless reminder of the positive impact individuals can have on society through acts of kindness. Its message encourages listeners to embrace empathy and compassion, fostering a sense of unity and kindness that can ultimately lead to a more harmonious world.

The worry is that people are “trying a little kindness,” as little as possible.

We may need to embrace Buddhist teachings.

The teachings of the Dalai Lama are rooted in the principles of Buddhism, compassion, and mindfulness. His teachings emphasize cultivating inner peace, promoting ethical behavior, and fostering harmony among individuals and societies. Here are some critical aspects of the Dalai Lama’s teachings:

1. Compassion: The Dalai Lama emphasizes the practice of compassion as a fundamental aspect of human nature. He encourages individuals to cultivate a sense of empathy and kindness towards all beings, promoting a sense of interconnectedness and reducing suffering in the world.

2. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a central practice in the Dalai Lama’s teachings. It involves being fully present in the moment and observing one’s thoughts and emotions without judgment. Through mindfulness, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them, leading to greater clarity and inner peace.

3. Non-violence: The Dalai Lama advocates for non-violence to resolve conflicts and promote peace. He believes that violence only perpetuates more violence and that lasting peace can only be achieved through dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation.

4. Interfaith Dialogue: The Dalai Lama promotes interfaith dialogue and understanding among religious traditions. He encourages individuals to respect and learn from diverse spiritual paths, recognizing all religions’ shared values and goals.

5. Environmental Stewardship: The Dalai Lama emphasizes caring for the environment and living in harmony with nature. He recognizes the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world, advocating for sustainable practices and preserving the Earth’s resources.

6. Education: The Dalai Lama believes in the transformative power of education. He emphasizes the need for a holistic education that nurtures intellectual development and emotional and ethical growth. He promotes education to cultivate compassionate and responsible individuals who can contribute positively to society.

7. Inner Peace: The Dalai Lama teaches that true happiness and fulfillment come from cultivating inner peace and contentment. He encourages individuals to look inward, develop self-awareness, and produce positive mental states such as love, compassion, and forgiveness.

8. Universal Ethics: The Dalai Lama promotes the idea of universal ethics, which transcends religious, cultural, and national boundaries. He believes that ethical values such as kindness, honesty, and fairness are essential for the well-being of individuals, communities, and the world.

Overall, the teachings of the Dalai Lama emphasize the importance of cultivating compassion, mindfulness, and ethical behavior to foster personal and global well-being. His teachings inspire individuals to live with kindness, wisdom, and responsibility towards others and the planet.


The Damaging Effects of Family Secrecy

Keeping secrets in the family leads to unexpected consequences for relatives.

Family secrecy can significantly affect family members, leading to emotional and psychological consequences. It is essential to explore the reasons behind it, the potential outcomes it causes, and how individuals within families are affected.

Secrecy means deliberately withholding information or keeping certain aspects of life hidden from others. It arises from various sources, such as unresolved conflicts, past traumas, hidden addictions, shame, financial difficulties, or a desire to maintain a particular reputation. The long-term effects can be detrimental.

One of the critical effects of family secrecy is the erosion of trust among family members. When vital information is concealed or spoken about in hushed tones, it creates a sense of unease and uncertainty. Family members may struggle to communicate openly, leading to strained relationships and emotional distance. The lack of transparency can breed suspicion and feelings of betrayal, creating barriers to forming deep connections within the family.

Family secrecy perpetuates a cycle of unhealthy communication patterns. Individuals learn to suppress their thoughts, emotions, and experiences when specific topics are off-limits or glossed over. What results from this suppression are difficulties in speaking openly to family members, making it difficult to resolve conflicts. Family relationships and communication are complicated by a perceived need to be self-protective about what is revealed.

When integral aspects of family history, relationships, or personal narratives are hidden, individuals may question their identity and wonder about the truth of their existence. This uncertainty can lead to a sense of not belonging to the family. A common suspicion among many children is the question, “Was I adopted or left on the doorstep? When the background of a family is based on being covert, it affects the self-esteem and overall well-being of the family. With a clear understanding of their family history and dynamics, individuals can make sense of their place in the world.

Addressing family secrecy requires open and honest communication. Families must recognize the importance of transparency and create a safe environment where secrets can be shared without fear of judgment or reprisal. Professional intervention, such as family therapy, breaks the cycle of being covert.

There is an excellent novel called “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.” The novel describes a tragic incident that leads to a secret being kept, and that has even more tragic consequences later in the lives of all the characters who cannot communicate with each other because of the existence of the secret. Upon the birth of twin daughters, one has Down syndrome. The father sends the down’s syndrome away to be placed in an institution. The father tells his wife that one daughter died. The mother was under sedation and had no memory of the birth. A series of tragic events occur in the lives of everyone connected to the family. The story is an excellent example of how secrecy leads to tragic consequences.

Did you grow up in a family where secrets were kept from family members? Were secrets kept from you? Were these secrets hidden, or did everyone know or suspect something was being hidden?

During my years of experience working with families, I encountered situations where the most unbelievable types of information were hidden from someone.

Some examples of family secrets:
1) A child is not told that he is not his father’s biological son, who adopted him when he was born. However, he appears in a photograph with his parents on their marriage day.

2) A young woman is raped when she is in college. She keeps this a secret from her family, friends, and the police. This secret stays with her for ten years before she finally reveals it to her therapist.

3) A father of young children has a dark secret known by no one but his wife. He wears women’s underwear under his clothes. He hides this when he is out of the house, but the underwear shows when he is at home. He and his wife deny that everyone in the family probably suspects what he is doing.

4) A woman knows she is adopted, but her parents fail to tell her that her biological mother is alive and has made inquiries about her because she wants to meet her.

5) A woman has alternated between two men she dated for many years: the man she finally married and the former boyfriend she couldn’t give up. Although the two men know each other, the husband is unaware that his wife meets the other man at least twice per week. She cannot bear the thought of giving up either man.

6) A wife has good reason to believe that her family is financially secure because her husband is a successful businessperson. She does not know that he has a gambling addiction and that they are on the verge of bankruptcy because of his enormous gambling debts.

Motivations for Secrecy in Families:
Shame is a powerful motive for keeping secrets.
Some categories of things about which people feel shame:

There was a time when divorce was rare compared with today. For most people, it wasn’t very comfortable to admit. It was not unusual to attempt to hide a divorce from the community. In addition, many husbands and wives remained in unhappy marriages out of religious belief or feelings of shame from the family and larger community.

Even today, when the public knows more than ever about mental illness, many families continue to maintain a shroud of secrecy about a relative who suffers from one of the psychoses, such as schizophrenia. Years ago, these feelings of shame were so powerful that schizophrenic family members were permanently locked away in mental institutions where they were never seen or heard from. Other families locked their mentally ill relative in a room and maintained isolation and secrecy about this person.

Some women were raped in early adolescence, late adolescence, or adulthood and kept the trauma a complete secret. These survivors of violent rape attacks blamed themselves for the rape and continued to feel guilty well into late adulthood.

Sexual issues and various sexually transmitted diseases are sources of extreme shame and embarrassment for males and females. However, if someone has a sexually transmitted disease (STD), keeping it a secret runs the risk of spreading it to other potential partners. With marriage, a husband or wife may feel too ashamed to reveal the disease or fearful of divorce.

Some families treat adoption as something to be ashamed of. Perhaps this is because of the fear that others will judge them for being unable to have their children. In addition, some parents fear that if their children learn they are adopted, they will want to find their biological parents and turn away from their adopted ones. As a result, those unfortunate families keep the adoption a secret from their children.

Another example of being covert is hiding the drug and alcohol addiction of one of their adult children. Sometimes, the driving force is denial or blindness to the habit. In other cases, the secrecy stems from shame and the fear of being judged by family and community members.

One of the most daunting driving forces for being covert is bisexuality and homosexuality in marriage. There was a case in which the chairman of a department at a university said that he had left his marriage of 25 years to live in a homosexual relationship with his lover. He had kept his real sexual identity hidden from his wife, children, colleagues, and friends out of shame and the fear of rejection. It was the era of increased sexual tolerance and greater public awareness that allowed him to “come out of the closet.” At first shocked, his daughters later came to accept him, and his wife had always suspected something was not quite right.

Covert gambling often has tragic consequences. When gambling is an addiction, it leads to bankruptcy. There is more than one case of a spouse leaning off their debt only after the gambling spouse dies or if it is no longer possible to pay bills.

There are many more reasons families keep secrets. Criminal behavior, violations of the incest taboo, and suicide are additional examples of the many other factors leading to lies and secrets.


Are You a Compulsive Shopper?

Compulsive or pathological buying, or monomania, is a preoccupation with impulses to make purchases. The motivations are irresistible, intrusive, and senseless. The shopping behavior causes marked distress, interferes with social functioning and marriage, and often results in financial problems.

Signs that a person might have a shopping addiction include:

  • Always thinking about things they plan to purchase
  • Being unable to stop their compulsive shopping
  • Experiencing a rush of euphoria after buying something
  • Feeling regret or guilt about items soon after they have been purchased
  • Financial problems or an inability to pay off debts
  • Lying about things they have bought or hiding their purchases
  • Opening new credit cards without paying off balances on existing cards
  • Purchasing stuff they don’t need
  • Shopping when they are stressed or sad

Those suffering from monomania often experience feeling elated after making a purchase. However, the thrill wears off once the shopper has taken the item home. Depression and a feeling of emptiness return. Suze Orman, psychologist and financial author of many books about finances, says, “Our emotions influence up to 80 percent of our financial decisions.” Therefore, it is no surprise that this compulsive shopping disorder would be interwoven with feelings and emotions.

What is the old joke, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping?” In actuality, the opposite is true. Compulsive is often a failed attempt to cope with emotions that cannot be tolerated. 

Like people with addictions, the individual must get out and go to the stores and spend money on unnecessary items. Often, there is a risk of bankruptcy because the accumulated expenses become overwhelming, and the person cannot meet their bills.

In some ways, monomania is connected to hoarding. Purchases are repetitively made of items that the person already has. By and large, these things are stored and not used once they are home. For instance, many types of watches, pocketbooks, or shoes may be purchased. However, once home, they are put in the drawer or closet, along with all the other watches, never to be seen or worn again. Then, purchases can pile up, much like what happens with a hoarder. In this case, the whole emphasis is on shopping and buying. At the very same time, there is a tendency for the shopper to keep the purchases a secret from friends and family.

It has been found that 1% to 6% of the population suffers from this illness. Among those, 90% are female. The causes are not clear. Some experts believe the source of the problem lies in some form of neurological disorder. Other suggestions are that there may be a correlation between having been abused or unloved during childhood and developing this disorder.

While it may seem to loved ones that this destructive behavior is deliberate, it is not. This is an illness in which people are driven to shop and spend money. 



Quotations about curiosity:

Curiosity is lying in wait for every secret. Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Kids are born curious about the world. What adults primarily do in the presence of kids is unwittingly thwart the curiosity of children.”  Neil deGrasse Tyson

The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity. ‘Who, what, where, why, when, and how!’ They never stop asking questions, and I never stop asking questions, just like a five year old.  Sylvia Earle

When our children were very young, I remember them insistently asking, “But daddy, why? It seemed there were a thousand “whys” for every phenomenon. They were very curious, as most children are.

Curiosity and questions are paramount, as Albert Einstein famously emphasized. He said, “I have no special talent. I am passionately curious.”These fundamental aspects of human nature are crucial in driving progress, expanding knowledge, and fostering innovation in various domains. Asking questions and seeking answers helps us better understand the world. It allows for meaningful conversations and constructive dialogue.

Asking questions is an exciting tool, enabling us to explore new opportunities and discover ways for personal growth. The best way to learn is always to be inquisitive. Doing so helps us gain knowledge and reveals new possibilities to take action on that knowledge. That is why NASA launched a rocket that took seven years to arrive at a distant asteroid and gather samples to bring back to Earth. We now have those samples and await more information about how the universe was formed.

One of my favorite podcasts on YouTube is StarTalk, with Astro-Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. In a recent episode, he pointed out that we know 4% about the universe. However, he then stated that as we learn more about the universe, we discover we remain at 4% of what there is to know because the universe is so complex that all we manage to accomplish with our human technology is to realize that we never discover everything. That is both understandable and astonishing.

There is a strong connection between curiosity and education. Education destroys the motivation that youngsters have to learn. Classes are boring as schools demand conformity and discipline.

Asking questions is the tool through which curiosity is expressed, and knowledge is gained. Individuals actively engage with their surroundings by asking questions, seeking clarification, deeper understanding, and alternative perspectives. 

In conclusion, curiosity and questions are vital components of human nature that fuel progress, expand knowledge, and drive innovation. They are the catalysts for exploration, discovery, and personal growth. By embracing curiosity and actively asking questions, individuals and society can unlock new possibilities, challenge the status quo, and embark on continuous learning and improvement.



The Therapeutic Power of Reading

Reading novels and literature is a great way to relieve stress.

Nurturing Imagination and Mental Well-being

Growing up, reading fiction was one of my favorite activities outside of swimming, punchball, and television. There were Jules Verne, Alexander Dumas, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, and many more. They were captivating and adventuresome, especially for a kid growing up in the Bronx. These books were not required reading for school. There were no compositions that I needed to write about these books. I did not have to study for any quizzes or exams for these books. However, there was one exceptional teacher.

We were in Junior High School in 9th grade. All of us had “homeroom teachers.” Homeroom meant all students met in class at the start of the day, and the teacher took attendance, which was then sent to the Principal. Mr. Bengas was our homeroom teacher, and he was unforgettable. Regrettably, besides homeroom, he was not one of my subject teachers.

Each morning, he sat on his high chair, wore a Sherlock Homes hat, and talked about one mystery he was reading. He was an expert on Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. His enthusiasm inspired many students, including myself, to read these beautiful mysteries. It was easy for me to imagine living in London during the 19th century. Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Bengas became unforgettable heroes in my mind.

Do youngsters read today? Are their imaginations stimulated today?

In a fast-paced and digitally driven world, pursuing mental well-being has become a pressing concern for many. Amidst the din of daily life, reading emerges as a beacon of solace and an invaluable tool for nurturing mental health. Let’s explore how reading helps people cope with these difficult times.

Escapism and Stress Reduction
An immediate mental health benefit of reading lies in its ability to escape daily life’s pressures and anxieties. One begins a journey to distant lands and explores the depths of the human imagination when one reads the book’s pages. In this experience, readers temporarily detach from their own worries, finding comfort in the lives and stories of fictional characters. This pause from reality’s demands significantly reduces stress levels, allowing the mind to re-energize and recover.

Empathy and Emotional Resonance
Reading is a gateway to understanding human emotions and experiences. Through the lens of literature, readers gain access to diverse perspectives and cultures, cultivating a deep sense of empathy. As they walk in the shoes of characters from various backgrounds and circumstances, they develop a heightened sensitivity to the emotions and struggles of others. This enhanced empathy enriches their social interactions and fosters a sense of connectedness and belonging, which is essential for maintaining good mental health.

Cognitive Stimulation and Mental Agility
Reading is an exercise for the mind. Unlike passive forms of entertainment, such as watching television, reading demands active engagement. Readers visualize characters, settings, and events. They decipher plots and interpret the symbolism and metaphors within the text. This mental stimulation promotes cognitive growth and enhances critical thinking. Regular reading bolsters mental agility, which is vital for maintaining cognitive health.

Stress Reduction
Research has shown that reading minutes lowers stress levels and makes it a simple yet effective coping mechanism. The act of reading induces a state of relaxation by slowing down the heart rate and reducing muscle tension.

For those who feel depressed, anxious, and stressed, I recommend two things:

  1. I read novels, poetry, and literature
  2. I am available for consultation at:


Mental Health, When Stress Rises and Parents Shout

We know that rates of anxiety, depression, and worry have increased for various reasons. Often, it is children who endure parental stress.

What damage does shouting at a child do?
New research suggests that yelling at kids can be as harmful as hitting them; in the two-year study, harsh physical and verbal discipline effects were frighteningly similar. A child who is yelled at is more likely to exhibit problem behavior, eliciting more yelling. It’s a sad cycle.

New research suggests that yelling at kids can be as harmful as hitting them; in the two-year study, harsh physical and verbal discipline effects were frighteningly similar. A child who is yelled at is more likely to exhibit problem behavior, eliciting more yelling. It’s a sad cycle.

Can yelling at a child cause trauma?

When fear, for example, is repeatedly triggered by a harsh environment, where there is a lot of yelling, automatic physical and emotional reactions occur that cause traumatic stress to a child.

Why Are Some Parents Angrier Today?

There are many reasons people may feel angry in the United States today, and these reasons can be highly individual. However, some common factors include:

1. Political Division: The US is currently experiencing significant political polarization, with deep divisions over issues such as immigration, health care, race, and the role of government. This division can often lead to anger and frustration.

2. Economic Inequality: Many Americans are frustrated by economic inequality, with wealth increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. It leads to feelings of anger and resentment. Inflation and unemployment are serious problems. To make things worse, many people cannot afford to pay their rent and mortgages because of inflation and incomes that are not keeping pace with soaring prices.

3. Social Injustice: Racial injustice, gender inequality, and police brutality have sparked anger and protests nationwide. Besides gender inequality there is the intense anger over LBGT+ issues.

4. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread fear, stress, and uncertainty, and controversy over vaccines. All of this increases anger and frustration. Conspiracy theories have intensified frustration, anxiety, and stress.

5. Social Media: The rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle amplifies anger by constantly highlighting conflict and controversy. Add to this the fact that children are exposed to some of the social media’s content inappropriate for children.

6. Mental Health Issues: Increased rates of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety also contribute to feelings of anger. The anger and anxiety is increased as a result these problems.

It’s important to remember that anger is a natural human emotion and can be a healthy response to injustice or wrongdoing. However, when it becomes chronic or is not managed constructively, it can lead to problems such as aggression, violence, and harm to one’s mental and physical health. Sadly, we are experiencing a mental health crisis in America stemming from these problems.

To discuss these issues please contact Dr. Schwartz


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