Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Liberal Intolerance

At first glance liberal intolerance feels like a contradiction in terms. Isn't liberalism the soul of tolerance, even to the point of worshiping diversity?

Yes and no. Today's liberals are happy to extend the helping hand of tolerance to anyone who belongs to a disadvantaged minority or who can claim to be a victim of the system. This does not mean that they want to help the poor. More often they seem to be looking for sad stories that make for good propaganda, the better to further their cause.

No one should be surprised at Dr. Helen Smith's column on how many liberals lack empathy for those who disagree with their ideas and feel that they have the right to treat them disrespectfully. Link here.

Liberalism is not about people; it is about loving ideas more than people. When liberal policies fail, good liberals do not go back to the drawing board. They see themselves challenged to produce a logical contortion that explains why they are not at fault.

When it comes to dealing with those who take exception to liberal orthodoxy, many of today's liberals are intolerant to an extreme. If liberalism began in the nineteenth century by asserting the value of freedom, today's true liberals are really libertarians. Old style liberals believed in free markets, free trade, free speech, and the free and open exchange of ideas. Many of today's liberals believe in none of it.

Why are liberals so disrespectful of opposing viewpoints? I will leave it to forensic psychologists like Dr. Helen to determine whether or not their behavior rises to the level of psychopathy. For my part I am comfortable saying that it is a character flaw, a piece of dysfunctional behavior that has become a bad habit for far too many people.

If good adult behavior in society involves learning how to negotiate differences, the inability to respect opposing points of view, to the point of slandering and shunning those that hold them, is anything but good behavior. Anyone who acts that way in business or in a relationship will soon discover that refusing to respect the feelings and thoughts of others will quickly lead to major system failure.

I will stipulate that no one is saying that all liberals are intolerant louts. Yet, far too many are, and if you are a Republican or a libertarian living among liberal Democrats you have undoubtedly been visited with the a full dose of liberal contempt.

You might be attending a New York dinner party. Good food and good conversation all around. Until the moment when one of the guests manages to blurt out that she is pro-life. A palpable hush descends on the table. No one had ever suspected such a thing. Everyone had thought that she belonged, that she was one of them, that she was one of the crowd. Now, without saying a word they are all thinking that she is a misogynist or a fanatic, or both, and that she really does not belong in polite company.

No one engages her in conversation. No one asks her to explain how she came to her belief. She has just sworn heretical allegiance to an alien god. For her deviation she will be slandered and shunned.

If you favor Obama's health plan, you have recently been told, by Frank Rich in the New York Times, that anyone who disagrees with you is a racist. If you follow Rich's suggestion-- believe me, I feel sorry for you if you do-- you will slander and shun any of your friends whose opposition to Obamacare has just revealed their true racist feelings.

Among the other forms of liberal slander, we find the notion that people who doubt the validity of man-made global warming are equivalent to holocaust deniers. We all know the right way to treat holocaust deniers.

If someone in your presence admits to having voted for George Bush, you should only stick around long enough to call him a war criminal. If he protests and offers to engage a conversation, you must either shout him down or immediately vacate the premises.

As Dr. Helen says, once you have been stigmatized with one of these labels, there will be no fellow feeling, no wish to understand your position, no suggestion that you might have a valid argument or two. You will be treated as a pariah, as subhuman, and you will be shunned.

It is a nasty business, one that is, as Dr. Helen explains, very, very difficult to deal with, and one that has absolutely nothing to do with the marketplace of ideas. Nor does it have anything to do with persuasion, deliberation, discussion, or debate.

It's purpose is not to clarify issues or to arrive at a truth that all can acknowledge. When people threaten you with slander and ostracism they are trying to enforce ideological conformity. Nothing more or less.

This habit of slander and shun comes to us from the great totalitarian socialist governments and their practice of thought reform, also known as brainwashing.

But brainwashing involves more than slander and shun. It is most effective when it holds out a carrot of redemption, a pot of emotional gold, for those who renounce their deviant beliefs and adhere to the liberal orthodoxy. And they must also renounce their non-liberal friends and colleagues and family members.

If you have been cast out of polite society or slandered by the media for being a red necked cretin, there are two things that can transform you into a brilliant statesman, a man of discerning judgment and exception insight. You need first to announce that you have changed your mind and have seen the error of your ways. To make your conversion convincing you must also denounce those who were your former comrades. Not once, not twice, but systematically.

What does it look like in practice. Examine the case of John McCain. Didn't John McCain become a media darling, a favorite on the Sunday talk shows, by denouncing Republicans, and especially by reveling in every opportunity to stick a finger in the eye of the Bush administration.

Many would say that John McCain was simply evincing good character and independent judgment. The problem is that when your actions place you in opposition to those in power, you are going to have a problem adjusting to being the one in power. Conscience is well and good, but consistent opposition turns quickly into disloyalty, and that is none too attractive in a presidential candidate. Besides if you made yourself into someone who your leader could barely trust, how can you, become a leader, trust those who are supposed to be your followers.

But perhaps I am being too hard on McCain. I would answer this point by asking how well McCain's good character served him when, during his presidential campaign, he was confronted with a major financial crisis? Did McCain show character in a crisis or did he indulge an empty theatrical gesture, like suspending his campaign and trying to call off a presidential debate?

Could it be that McCain's constant tweaking Republicans was more a sell out to media pressure and less a sign of good character.

As Dr. Helen reminds us, good character involves standing up for what you believe, speaking up and speaking out... especially against attempts to threaten you into changing your opinion. The ability to stand tall and proud when threatened with social oblivion is true courage indeed.

As she also says, it is best not to try to engage in people who insist that ideological conformity is the price of admission into their club. Better to find a different club or a different community. No one should suffer fools gladly and no one should be cowed by social pressure. When someone systematically disrespect you there comes a time when enough is enough.

Once upon a time there was only the mainstream media. At that time, the pressure on politicians to conform to its media bias was enormous. With the advent of Fox News, however, the the mainstream media's monopoly was broken, and its ability to dictate the right opinions to politicians was fatally compromised. By the time Fox News came into existence liberal intellectuals had discovered how to influence opinion through their control of the media and the classroom.

The greatest crime of Fox News was reopening the marketplace of ideas, to the detriment of the mainstream media. Some people will never forgive it.

One final point: how do you know whether someone's disrespect is a real expression of the person's character or is simple mimicry? When people are disrespectful to you, you normally will try to give them a second chance to mend their ways. You might even give them a third chance. But after a time you will discover that you are wasting your time, your energy, and your own character by descending into their own slime.

Surely, it is correct to turn the other cheek, but after a while you are going to run out of cheeks.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Coaching Lessons: The Difference between Self-Esteem and Self-Respect

I daresay that I always try to distinguish between self-esteem and self-respect. I do not always succeed, but it is not for lack of awareness.

I am very well aware that what self-esteem is to therapy self-respect is to coaching. Thus, the distinction is vitally important to me and to this blog.

According to Theodore Dalrymple, self-esteem: "... is the appreciation of one's own worth and importance." Link here.

Self-esteem means knowing your value and knowing how important you are. As well as I can guess, the term derives from the fact that we say that we hold certain people in high esteem. We admire them; we respect them; we look up to them; we recognize their importance; we want to be like them.

But it is not quite the same thing to say that you hold yourself in high esteem. At the least, that involves arrogance; at worst, it is conceptually incoherent. What would it mean to say that you look up to yourself, or that you would want to emulate yourself?

Perhaps that is the key to understanding the concept of self-esteem: it is nonsense.

It doesn't make much sense to say that you hold yourself in low esteem. Nor does it help to use the term as the therapy culture seems to require, where it has become, in Dalrymple's words, a catch-all excuse for: "any undesirable behavior or experience... from eating too much to mass murder."

Once the concept is applied to widely, it becomes nearly meaningless. Which makes its own sense.

When someone says that he has low self-esteem, he is using a socially acceptable excuse. He is showing that he expects to be forgiven and expects to avoid responsibility because he is showing himself to be a member in good standing of the therapy culture.

Therapeutically speaking, the term suggests, as Dalrymple says, that people have been induced to believe that if they get a "transfusion" of self-esteem, then "the quality of their lives will improve as the night succeeds the day."

Self-esteem would then be a psychological elixir, a panacea, a cure-all, a philosopher's stone that will magically transform your leaden misery into golden happiness.

Self-esteem tends to be auto-generated. People talk themselves into feeling good about themselves. They stand in front of the mirror intoning: I am worthy; I am better than they think: I am better than my accomplishments.

It is self-congratulatory self-puffery.

Worse yet, Dalrymple notes, people have come to believe that they have a right to self-esteem. And that others must recognize them for the way they feel about themselves, not for the value of any accomplishment. They believe that society owes them esteem, whether they deserve it or not, whether they have earned it or not.

When others do not acknowledge the person who has puffed up his self-esteem, that person will become angry and resentful, and will feel disrespected or dissed. If your accomplishments are not commensurates with your sense of how great you are, you will resent the world that refuses to recognize you and to accord you your due.

Self-respect is something else. Dalrymple describes it: "Where self-esteem is entirely egotistical, requiring that the world should pay court to oneself whatever oneself happens to be like or do, and demands nothing of the person who wants it, self-respect is a social virtue, a discipline, that requires an awareness of and sensitivity to the feelings of others."

So, self-esteem involves convincing yourself that you are better than you are. Self-respect involves building your character so that you become as good as you should be. And where self-esteem values your feelings about yourself self-respect requires you to accept how others feel about you.

The Trouble with Marriage Therapy

The first thing I did after reading Jill Lepore's article on the trouble with marriage therapy was to search out her bio. Who was Jill Lepore and why was she saying these things? Link here.

When I began reading her article I found myself nodding sympathetically. Her initial observations are credible: "Up to eighty percent of therapists practice couples therapy. Today, something like forty percent of husbands and wives receive premarital counseling, often pastoral, and millions of married couples seek therapy. Doubtless, many receive a great deal of help, expert and caring. Nevertheless, a 1995 Consumer Reports survey ranked marriage counselors last, among providers of mental health services, in achieving results."

While there is surely some truth here, it is also true that there are many different kinds of couples counselors-- pastoral counseling is not the same as conflict resolution, therapy is not the same as coaching, and sex therapy has no connection to Salvador Mnuchin's family therapy-- and that it is too facile to dismiss it all.

In much therapy the quality of results depends very much on the quality of the relationship established between patient and therapist, or client and coach. Human connections are helpful, even if the therapist's ability to establish them has little or nothing to do with science.

For some of my own past views of couples counseling, see this post.

Lepore, however, considers marriage therapy as a single thing, because she sees it as the outgrowth of the theory and practice of one man. And she is going to blame its failings uniformly on the residual influence of the man who seems to have begun it. That man is Paul Popenoe.

Lepore does not spend very much time considering the theory and practice of Popenoe; he is not another Freud or Jung. She prefers to argue his influence from his prominence and celebrity. Which is dubious in and of itself.

You may not have heard of Paul Popenoe. Before reading Lepore's article I had only been vaguely familiar with the name. According to Lepore, Popenoe originated marriage therapy. He wrote the famed Ladies Home Journal column, "Can This Marriage Be Saved?", founded the now defunct American Institute of Family Relations, authored marriage manuals, books and a syndicated newspaper column, had his own radio and television shows, and so on. In his day Paul Popenoe was "Mr. Marriage."

Born in 1888 Popenoe was also a stone cold racist and eugenicist. He wanted to save the marriages of those who were biologically superior because he wanted to purify the race. He favored sterilizing the infirm and the feeble-minded. He thought that lighter-skinned blond people were genetically superior to their darker-skinned brethren, and he sympathized with Hitler.

There is little doubt that Popenoe was a racist. But is his racism the reason that so much couples counseling is less than effective? Is his racism the reason that so many people seek out couples counselors in order to achieve what Lepore calls personal fulfillment through self-expression?

I have certainly expressed my own considerable doubts about the therapy culture's promotion of personal fulfillment through self-expression. To see its origin in racism is an absurdity. To say that because racists want to improve the purity of the race, anyone who seeks out self-improvement or marital improvement, is, by extension, a racist is, dare I say, idiotic. It simply shows that the author does not understand syllogisms.

Lepore's notion that Popenoe's racism is the root concept in marriage therapy is a slanderous oversimplification. Do you believe that all those who currently practice couples counseling are, unbeknownst to themselves, part and parcel of a eugenics program whose purpose is to cleanse the race? Since Lepore makes no distinctions between the different kinds of marriage and couples counseling, her article lends itself to such a conclusion.

Unfortunately, Lepore also neglects to explain the basic tenets of Popenoe's theories or practice. Once she can establish, correctly, that he is a racist, she concludes, incorrectly, that all of his work must promote racism.

You may believe that I am exaggerating. Unfortunately I am not. In the course of her essay Lepore takes a look at Lori Gottlieb's recent, and much discussed, book where she encouraged women to settle for a man who was good enough. The book elicited much commentary and debate.

In her book Gottlieb recounted her work with someone named Evan Marc Katz, a man who was "a personal trainer for love." Gottlieb wanted Katz to help her find true love and a husband. The training did not work. As Lepore describes it: "At the end of the book, still single, [Gottlieb] takes the list [of all she wants in a man], stuffs it into a helium balloon and lets go. I think it was Popenoe who fucked up her love life."

Say what? Whatever does Popenoe's racism have to do with making lists of the qualities she is looking for in a husband?

If you are looking for a master of the art of the non-sequitor, of the ad hominen argument, and of syllogistic error, you have come to the right place. Jill Lepore has not learned the lessons that college undergraduates are supposed to have absorbed in Philosophy 101.

Now you can see why I was curious to know who Jill Lepore was. Who would dare to paint an entire profession with the stain of racism because one of its earliest practitioners was a racist? And how does such nonsense make its way into the New Yorker. Maybe the famed New Yorker fact checkers do not extend their considerable expertise to the world of rational thought.

What did I find out about Jill Lepore? I discovered that she is an award-winning writer, and that she possesses a chair in American History at Harvard University. Well, gag me with a spoon. Link here.

If this is the kind of thinking you can find at the summit of the American academic establishment, and if this is being taught to the best and brightest college students as the ultimate in human wisdom, then, surely, we, as a nation, have a problem.

Of course, we do not want tot fall into the same trap that claimed the mind of Jill Lepore. They are not all intellectual deficient. There are many brilliant and accomplished professors at Harvard. And yet, if Harvard has conferred the laurel of academic distinction on a Jill Lepore, then, clearly there is something seriously wrong on the banks of the Charles.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Our Dear, Departed Special Relationships

If you were worried that Obama's humiliation of the Israeli Prime Minister bespoke a hostility to Israel and Jews, David Remnick is here to set your heart at ease. Remnick assures us that some of Obama's best friends are Jewish. Link here.

As editor of the New Yorker Remnick is a pace-setter in the world of New York opinion. He, along with Frank Rich and Tom Friedman, guides people toward correct leftist opinion. When he wrote an article called "Special Relationships" last week, people took notice. They also took notice when Joe Klein, over at Time magazine, weighed in on the American-Israeli flap. Klein's piece was entitled: "Neoconservatives, Loyalty, and Logic." Link here.

Two quick notes about these titles. Remnick's article appeared at the same time that a committee of the British Parliament declared that the "special relationship" between Britain and America was effectively over. Link here.

In the space of little more than a year Barack Obama has succeeded in destroying the "special relationship" that has existed since the time of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. In fact, the term "special relationship" was invented by Churchill.

At the very least, no one is going to blame that on the Likud. Obama has consistently shown contempt to traditional American allies and amity toward America's sworn enemies. That has been the basis of much of his foreign policy. So when we get around to discussing the dustup between Obama and Israel, let us not view it in isolation.

Nor can we forget that Israel represents distinctly American values in the Middle East. If Obama wants to cozy up to Syria and Iran, countries that, we hope, do not represent our values, while trashing the one country that does represent them, then you have to start asking what his own values are.

If he believes that Israel represents American values only when it is ruled by the Labor Party, then he must count as the most partisan of presidents. And if he believes that we need not enjoy a special relationship with the nation that most resembles us-- Great Britain-- you have to ask yourself what his real values are.

As for Klein's title, it says that when neoconservatives criticize Obama they are being disloyal, unpatriotic, and treasonous. This is disgraceful rhetorical hyperbole, easily exceeding what is required for libel. It is fair to say that it does not advance the debate or the discussion. Keep in mind if anyone had ever said that a Democrat who wanted to surrender in Iraq-- as Frank Rich explicitly proposed-- was being less than patriotic, he would have been excoriated by the likes of Joe Klein.

Both Remnick and Klein present the correct leftist opinion about the current problems between America and Israel. They tell us that the fault lies with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is not even the whiff of a suggestion that Obama might have played a role in it.

Both absolve Obama of any and all responsibility for blowing up the relationship with Israel. The fault lies entirely with Israel. It is sobering to think that this is the best that two of America's most prominent Jewish journalists can do.

Klein does pay lip service to Palestinian intransigence. Remnick does not even do that.

As for Obama's humiliating the Israeli Prime Minister, both writers suggest that he had it coming to him. Thus, that it was his fault. They are much more agitated at the horror that befell poor Joe Biden whose trip to Israel was marred by a sub-functionary announcing the building of apartments in an area of Jerusalem that everyone had agreed was always going to be a part of Israel.

Klein is also horrified at the unspeakable humiliation that Palestinians must undergo every day when they have to pass through checkpoints on the way to work. Surely, the same high dudgeon would apply to the existence of the fence separating Israel from the West Bank territories.

Klein never really addresses the question of why the Israelis have felt obliged to introduce such Draconian security measures. If you read Remnick and Klein you would have to assume that they are doing it as a gratuitous insult to the Palestinian people. Neither mentions the fact that the Palestinians continue to be at war against Israel and refuse to recognize its right to exist at all.

As dedicated leftists Remnick and Klein see Israel as a colonial power, engaged in an imperialist occupation of territories that rightfully belong to the Palestinians. Of course, the Palestinian authority, to say nothing of Hamas, believes that Israel is a colonial power, engaged in an imperialist occupation of territories that rightfully belong to them. The only difference is that the Palestinians think that the state of Israel itself is an unjust occupation of Muslim lands, where Remnick and Klein believe that building settlements on the West Bank are an unjust occupation of Muslim lands.

Neither of them will even pay lip service to the fact that Jews have lived in land that is now called Israel for 3,000 years. When Netanyahu tried to explain it to Obama, the American president blew him off, and refused to allow any commemoration of their meeting.

No one should be surprised that Remnick and Klein save their fire for American neoconservatives and the Likud party of Israel. They are not at war against Palestinians, or with terrorists. They are preoccupied fighting their true enemies... Republicans and conservatives.

If the Israeli Labor Party had done what Netanyahu did, these same writers would surely find a clever rationalization for their actions. And if a Republican president had behaved the way Obama is behaving toward Israel, Remnick and Klein would be leading the march to have him impeached for being an anti-semite and anti-American.

I was reminded of this fact while watching Pres. Obama deliver a fine speech justifying the Afghanistan war yesterday in Kabul. During that speech Obama declared that Americans would stick with its Afghan allies, because Americans do not quit.

A noble sentiment, with which we can all agree. No one in the mainstream media has yet to call out Obama on the fact that this has not always been his position.

And yet, keep in mind that this was the same Obama who voted dozens of times to defund the Iraq war and redeploy the troops out of Iraq. Was it treasonous to want to follow Frank Rich and raise the white flag of surrender? Surely not. The Democrats can muster the courage to support a war, as long as they stand to gain politically from it.

Some of the more radical elements in the Democratic party opposed the Iraq war because they simply do not believe that America, or anything else, is worth fighting for. Others opposed it because they were horrified at the prospect that victory in Iraq would mean more years of Republican power.

Democratic opposition to the Iraq War was pure and simple political expediency, nothing more or less. I thought you would like to know. Keep in mind that Joe Biden recently declared that the Iraq war is one of the Obama administration's greatest successes!

"I Have a Wonderful Wife"

Let's consider this an addendum to my post, "How to Be a Good Wife." Link here.

Some of you will gag on this example, because it concerns the wife of hedge fund billionaire Steven Cohen. When asked to explain his emotional equilibrium, Cohen burst out: "I have a wonderful wife." The quote appears in a story about Cohen's first wife and their divorce, but the picture of Cohen's second wife, Alexandra, stands out like a beacon in the darkness. I do not think that writer Steve Fishman did it intentionally, but still, Alexandra Cohen seems to be a wonderful wife. Link here.

Alexandra Cohen, nee Garcia, did not grow up rich. She was born in the Harlem projects, grew up in Washington Heights, and did not graduate from college. Clearly she did not come from privilege. She does not feel entitled.

Clearly, she lives in a world of absurd wealth, but you get the sense that, however much she enjoys it, her first loyalty is not to the money or the status, but to her husband.

Sometimes women wonder why men like Steve Cohen do not marry the any of well educated, successful and competent women New York has to offer? As I suggested, the answer is that most of them do not want to be wives or do not know what it means to be a wife.

Author Fishman is too polite to ask the question, but it is there: Why would Cohen marry someone like Alexandra Garcia?

Strangely, it is not a mystery at all. When Alex met Steve Cohen through a dating service: "She thought he was the funniest person she'd ever met." Better yet: "Alex didn't want to change Steve; she wanted to be with him."

And New York Magazine describes their relationship in these terms: "These days, Alex helps give away millions to charity, shows up at events on Steve's arms. Still, she wears Gap and drives to Costco, alert to bargains. And she takes care of her man. She doesn't complain that he works too much; she lauds his devotion to their kids. If he has had a bad day at work, she cooks his favorite meal: pasta with anchovies."

The article also mentions that Alexandra Cohen runs the household and the family finances.

Clearly, this is not the portrait of a billionaire's wife. Most of the qualities and attributes that please her husband, and the magazine writer, do not require any expense. They are specific to the role of wife, nothing more or less.

I daresay that they could easily be accomplished by any woman, with or without a career. I would also venture that they could not be accomplished by a feminist, a woman who was wedded to a cause, or by a woman who was in love with money and privilege.

[Late addition: you'll be happy to know-- I am-- that Jessica Grose shares my perspective on marrying alpha males. If you are a feminist, and find the notion of being a wife repugnant, you should not marry a CEO, i.e. alpha male. Link here. Grose also makes clear that if you do not know how to be a wife, your marriage, as Cohen's first, will be a hotbed of drama and contention. If you know how to be a wife, your marriage, as Cohen's second, will be peaceful and harmonious. Finally, be careful who you marry. An alpha male will prefer a wife; an omega male will be more comfortable with criticism and complaining. At least, now, women can make an informed choice.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What Do Women Want... in a Man?

Ever since Freud threw up his arms in despair because he could not decipher the enigma of women's desire, serious intellectuals have assumed that he touched on some basic truth. They have quoted his line-- What do women want?-- as though it explained everything you will ever need to know about women.

Women are mysterious; they dissimulate; they are neither straightforward nor direct; they hide their true desires from even the most penetrating gaze. If this is true the best that a man can do is worship and adore women, in hopes that perhaps his fervor will one day be reciprocated.

By quoting Freud men are affirming that they are so manly that they do not have a clue about women. But they might also be saying that they are happy to keep their distance from such strange and inscrutable creatures.

Unfortunately, Freud was also disrespecting women. He was not merely assuming that men could never fathom the feminine mind. He was also saying that women themselves did not really know what they wanted.

This feels perfectly innocent. In practice, it is not. That woman you just met, the one you have been lusting after, the one who has not shown the least modicum of interest in your earnest entreaties, what if she does not really know what she wants?

What if she does not know that she wants you? Since she is a woman, and does not know what she wants, you need not take her at her word when she says that she does not care to see you. Your task is to show her that she really wants you. Now, with Freud's approval you can continue pursuing her, relentlessly, doggedly, no matter what she says. If she explicitly says that she does not want you, isn't she in denial? Doesn't Freudian theory say that the strength of the denial affirms the opposite?

Once you take Freud's clever little apothegm and put it in context, it feels a lot less wise.

Most people do not understand Freudian theory as a rationalization for stalking. They believe that Freud was referring to a situation where a woman tells you what she wants, and, when you dutifully give it to her, and she says that, No, it was not really what she wanted.

Is this really that much of a mystery? Apparently, it never crossed Freud's mind that women might dissimulate their desires because they do not want to be ordering men, or anyone else, around. Perhaps they do not want to be making excessive demands on men or anyone else. If a man does exactly what a woman tells him, she is going to be dissatisfied, not because she does not know what she wants, but because she knows that she does not want a subservient man.

If you really cannot figure out what a woman wants for her birthday, your anniversary, or Valentine's day, you don't know women very well. I will give you three hints. First, she wants you to remember. Second, she wants you to remember with an action. Third, she does not want a new air conditioner.

Ultimately, if you want to know, in a more general sense, what women want, a good way to find out is to ask one. In the best circumstances she will probably tell you. All you have to do is take her at her word.

Admittedly, if you have done too much therapy you have probably developed the bad habit of looking for hidden meanings, of assuming that people are devious, and of not taking people at their word. I hope you are hard at work overcoming those tendencies.

More prosaically, a week or so ago a young man named Steve wrote to Susan Walsh of the Hooking Up Smart blog, and asked her what women find sexy in men. Link here.

Steve's question may not have attained the elegance of Freud's, but it was on point.

Not surprisingly, Walsh offered an answer that was direct, intelligible, and entirely correct.

Admittedly, Walsh is talking about the normal desires of a normal woman. And we will stipulate that not all women have normal desires; not all men do either. But norms exist, because without them there would be no anomalies. And that would not be a lot of fun.

Walsh answered that women are attracted to men who show social dominance. I think it fair to say that, in her view, women are attracted to men who are great at what they are good at.

You might think this is painfully self-evident. If it is so well-known then why are so many men are not spending their spare time become great at what they are good at, but are taking lessons in how to pick up girls at bars?

Walsh is saying that men are attractive when they are acting as men, not when they are serving or even sucking up to women. Women are attracted to alpha maleness, not to the kind of imitation alpha male behavior exhibited by pick up artists and other assorted lotharios.

A man who can walk into a room and take over, who can take charge of a situation, who can exhibit a very high level of skill, even excellence, at a task or in a field of endeavor is going to attract women. Moreover, he is going to attract the best women.

Walsh offers the example of chef Bobby Flay of the Food Network. Here is a man who knows his stuff, who is completely involved in what he is doing, and who does it very, very well.

He is also a man at peace with himself, who is not suffering emotional turmoil, who displays the kind of serenity and confidence and focus that comes with excellence.

Men who attract women, who attract them for something other than a hook up, possess what I have called superskills. To develop them you need first to identify what you are good at and then to work very, very hard at improving them. Link here.

I want to underscore what Walsh is not saying. She has avoided the notion that men should become well-rounded, or that they should learn to express their feelings, or that they should share domestic chores, or that they should become more self-aware, more guilt-ridden, and more willing to do a woman's bidding.

The sensitive man, the man who has deep feelings, who is on the side of women in the culture wars, such a man will turn women off. All of the effort he has put into developing his feminine side is effort that he has not invested in developing his superskills.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

How to Be a Good Wife

It's not news. I have been hearing about it in my office for more than two decades. Young women want to get married; they want to be brides; they want to be mothers... but they do not want to be wives.

If you are somewhat advanced in age, you can only greet this information with surprise. A marriage is a social relationship; it has defined rules and roles; these rules and roles imply obligations and duties. Without all of that you have two autonomous human monads going bump in the night. Not much of a marriage that.

I started reflecting about these questions while reading Lisa Belkin's columns on the topic. Links here and here.

I am not sure that it is fair to say that women object to being wives. After all, wife is merely a variant of the term woman. In French the same word femme serves double duty. It means woman and wife.

In truth, feminists object to the term wife, and no small number of them also believe that the term woman is prejudicial to their interests. They are offended by the fact that there is a "man" in wo-man. The indignity of it all...

This is of a piece with the larger theoretical effort to neuter the language and to tyrannize those who do not comply with politically correct dicta. Don't say man and woman; we are all persons. Replace mother and father with parents. In place of husband and wife, we have partners or spouses. And get rid of son and daughter. They are two gender specific. Your offspring must always be called children, even when they grow up.

Feminists are not just trying to unsex men; the more radical among them have been more than happy to unsex women tpp.

Feminism imagines that language creates reality, and that gender differences can be erased if they are banned from the language. It is a kind of willful self-blinding, the kind that only works if everyone has their head in the sand.

Feminists have imagined that group of male tyrants got together one day and created gender-specific terms in order to empower themselves and to make everyone else into chattel slaves. They concluded that the best way to correct this injustice was to empower themselves and to force everyone to talk the way they want them to talk.

If, however, our language reflects things as they are, if it helps us to make our way in the real world, then feminists have fallen prey to an illusion. They have failed to come to terms with reality. Refusing to look at something does not make it disappear.

Language develops through usage. Most of it is the product of the way everyday people talk. It feels like a marketplace phenomenon, where time and usage, the crucible of human experience, produces a language that works for people, that serves their purposes. You can always try to control or to rewrite the language, just as people try to control the marketplace, but it is surely a fool's errand.
In one sense feminists believe that language must be punished for dividing the sexes. In another they believe that certain words retain a link to customs that have been prejudicial to certain people.

If wives were prohibited from owning property in their own names a few centuries ago, then, according to feminist reasoning, every time you use the word wife you are dragging along this unpleasant history.

To which one might reply that the institution of marriage, during the better part of human history, involved arrangements in which women had very little, if any, say about the choice of a husband.

During the past few centuries, especially in the West, and most especially in Great Britain and America, women have gained the right to choose their husbands freely. Has the institution of marriage changed for as much? I would say that it has, in an important way. The new regimen brought love into marriage. When marriages were arranged, romantic love was the province of adultery... through courtly love, and with courtesans, concubines, favorites, mistresses, and the like.

If the institution has changed appreciable, then why don't we call it something other than marriage? Why are we not afraid that the word is so thoroughly charged with the sense of arrangement that every time you utter it you will evoke memories of the old days when women were forced to submit to arranged marriages?

Apparently, no one thinks that should happen.

Take another problem that has preoccupied feminists: naming. Today it is commonplace for a woman to feel that she has a free choice between taking her husband's name and keeping what is called her own name.

In some situations it is inconvenient for an established professional woman to change her name. This makes good sense.

But more is going on here. A woman's own name, the name she was given at birth, is her father's name. More accurately, it is the name of the man her mother declared to be the father. Or even better, according to the law, the father is simply the woman's husband.

Everyone knows that there is always some doubt about the identity of a child's father. For all I know, men were allowed to give their names to their wives' children as a positive affirmation of their paternity, to increase their investment in the child and make them more likely to work hard to support him.

Either way, a child has no choice in the matter of receiving her father's name. To say that a woman's father's name is her own name takes it a step too far. It is the most familiar name, but ownership is really something quite different.

So a woman in our society can choose between taking the last name of a man she has freely chosen as her husband and keeping a name that was given to her without her choice or consent. Happily, she is free to choose.

But the question is more complicated than feminists imagine.

Feminists have also declared that the term wife implies possession. They have even trotted out the notion that when a man uses the possessive expression "my wife" he is asserting that he owns his wife. Doesn't a possessive pronoun mean that he really wants to possess her body and soul?

This is almost too silly to address. If the same woman refers to a man as "my husband" does that also mean that she wants to possess him body and soul?

To believe that possessive pronouns imply chattel slavery is fatuous and mindless.

Someone will want to interject that feminists find it prejudicial that a girl receives her father's name. They have preferred hyphenated baby names: Johnny Smith-Jones or Sally Brown-Green.

Of course, this did not work in practice. What will happen when Johnny Smith-Jones marries Sally Brown-Green and the happy couple has a child named Morgan. You would have Morgan Smith-Jones-Brown-Green.

If you can still stomach the possibility of being a wife, you then would want to know what makes for a good wife. Belkin seems to believe that women are less wifely if they do not know how to make bread from scratch. Why you would want to identify wifedom with household chores is beyond me. Aristocrats became wives and they certainly did not bake a lot of bread from scratch.

Happily for many people, modern technology and industry has changed the nature of housework, for the better.

This does not change the fact that women identify more closely with home than men do, and that women most often want to take more responsibility and exercise more authority in the home.

It is always good to see couples cooperating in these tasks, but, truth be told, for every woman who marvels at her husband's ability to iron the laundry there are a much larger number that are dismayed at masculine interference in their abode.

Many women have asserted to me that they cannot organize a household if their husbands are constantly interfering, constantly leaving things out of place, constantly undermining their authority.

Husband and wife define a household division of labor, one that is probably more efficient and more economical than having both domestic partners working together preparing meals.

But why should it be thus? Perhaps because men and women are different and have different relationships to child rearing. A woman has a larger investment of time and energy in producing a child and in raising the child. It makes sense that she would know her child better than her husband and would want to have greater authority in raising him.

Traditionally, this was buttressed by the fact that a man's sphere of influence was outside of the home. Men were breadwinners; they were out in the world; they supported the family, protected and provided for their wives and children.

Now, that role has been somewhat compromised because more and more women earn a living and contribute substantially to the household. Does this change the economy of housework and homemaking and childrearing? Surely, it does. Is this a reason to jettison the roles of husband and wife? No, it is not.

People adapt to circumstances, and women are perfectly capable of functioning and thriving in the world of work. It is true that men are somewhat capable of caring for home and hearth and children, but they seem ill-suited to it. Making a man into a househusband is fraught with dangers. And many women are far from comfortable leaving their children with their husbands... not because they do not care, not because they do not love his children, but because men's instincts are not as good as mothers'.

When it comes to the terms of husband and wife, we ought to recognize that these terms only prevail in only one of the world's many languages. If a husband and wife take a trip around the world, at every stop, whomever they meet, they can introduce each other as husband and wife, and be recognized as married. Trust me, if he says that sh is his wife, they are not going to think that she is a possession, like a lamp.

If, however, they introduce themselves as domestic partners, or as just plain partners, most of the world's peoples will look at them as though they are just plain weird.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Obama's War on Success

There is method to Obama's madness. He may not know it; he may not even know the meaning or repercussions of his actions, but he is defining his presidency as an effort to shame and stigmatize success.

If he does not know what he is doing, then he is an instrument for propagating an ideology. Whether he knows it or not, he is not merely trying to redistribute wealth, he is also trying to redistribute pride.

Since this is supposed to make those lacking in pride and self-esteem feel better about themselves, without doing anything to earn it, this counts in some quarters as therapy.

Obama's treatment of the Israeli Prime Minister is the latest, and one of the more flagrant, examples. The President of the United States humiliated, shamed and stigmatized the Prime Minister of Israel, and, by extension, the nation of Israel. Treating Netanyahu like pariah has method and purpose to it. Whether Obama understands it or not, it has a meaning that goes beyond any intention.

Obama may have felt piqued because Netanyahu refused to accept his demands. He may have taken personal offense at a failure to show proper obeisance and subservience. Perhaps he is so small minded that he feels he must throw a tantrum to show who's the boss.

Whatever he meant, the gesture means something. It resonates on the world stage and produces consequences, intended or not.

In the Arab world, among the European intelligentsia, with groups that have long since joined the Palestinian cause and declared Israel the problem, not the solution, people understood that Obama was delegitimating the nation of Israel, and, more importantly, stripping it of its pride.

Israelis are rightfully proud of what they have achieved. They have earned their place among the world's most prosperous and free industrial democracies. To Obama their pride does not really belong to them; it is not illegitimate. To right the wrong Obama is trying to take it from them.

We can understand this by asking a few questions. What is the greatest problem in the Middle East: Israeli success or Arab failure?

If you humiliate and stigmatize Israel, if you place the onus for the continued conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors on the Jewish state, you are saying that Israeli success is the problem, and that the solution is to spread the wealth and pride around.

Thereby Obama has enacted the disgraceful canard that says that Israel's success took place at the expense of the Palestinians. Israelis did not build a great nation; they stole it from the Palestinians.

If that is true, then Israel must be punished. Only then will social justice be established in the Holy Land. As we know, in Obama's mind everything that is wrong with the world is summed up by the concept of social injustice.

Moreover,Obama's actions declare that Israeli success caused the Palestinians and other Middle Eastern Arab states to lose their pride and self-esteem. If these states and peoples feel embarrassed or ashamed at the comparison between their failure and Israel's success, the fault, according to Obama's gestures, lies with Israel. And if Arab shame is causing Arab intransigence, then the cure for that shame is to diminish Israel's pride.

Ask yourself this: Is the real problem Israeli settlements or Palestinian refugee camps? Is the problem what the Israelis build or what the Palestinians have not built? Is the failure of Palestinians to build homes for their people the fault of Israel?

Which would be more constructive; punishing Israel for housing its citizens or helping the Palestinians to build housing for its community?

Obama's war on success extends beyond his efforts to humiliate Israel. He has also set out to humiliate Wall Street bankers and employees of investment banks like Goldman Sachs. Again, he acts as though people can only become rich at someone's expense.

High taxes produce more social justice. If Wall Street bankers are rich while others are poor, Obama believes that they are thieves. To a point, that can be solved by taxing them, and perhaps eventually by confiscating their wealth.

But Obama also believes that the rich need to be shamed, to be humiliated, to be stigmatized, to lose their status, their reputations, and the pride they have gained from achievement.

Now, wealthy liberals do not really care if their taxes go up. When you are Warren Buffett or George Soros no tax bill will have any real effect on your lifestyle. Being rich and liberal means that you are so rich that your tax bill is chump change. More than that, it feels like another gift to charity. And that extra gift should establish your extra moral virtue.

Will any of this change when wealthy liberals begin to understand that Obama is not just interesting in increasing their marginal tax rates? He resents their success and considers it, like the success of Israel, to be thinly disguised thievery. So he does not just want to take their money. He wants to take their pride. He wants to humiliate them, to shame them, and to diminish their reputations.

Now we are waiting to see if they understand what is going on and if they are willing to let him get away with it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When Mr. Right Feels Wrong

Nowadays it is perfectly normal for a woman to arrive at her late 20s and decide that the time is right to find a mate. And let's assume that she is sufficiently fortunate to meet Mr. Right.

He is everything she is looking for in a man. Yet, she feels mildly indifferent to his interest. She is willing to go out on dates, even to get closer to him, to give it her best effort, but still she feels less than attracted to him. Her mind is saying yes; her heart is saying, maybe. He may be Mr. Right, but somehow it feels wrong.

To keep things interesting, let's imagine that there is another man in her life, call him Mr. Wrong. This man bears a close resemblance to some bad ex-boyfriends,but she finds him nearly irresistible. His swagger may be fake; his pretense may be galling to everyone she knows; he may be a chronic slacker; still, she can barely control herself when she is around him.

She has found Mr. Right, but her heart and other unmentionable parts of her body are drawn to Mr. Wrong. She cannot get too involved with Mr. Right, because, given how she feels, it would not be fair to him. Should she have one last fling with Mr Wrong? She does not know.

How did she get to this place? One that I would say is not entirely uncommon. If I were aiming for philosophy here, I would say that she has a mind/body problem.

Perhaps she did not spend her twenties hooking up with whomever was in closest proximity, but she did have several relationships, all of which ended badly and painfully. By definition... otherwise she would not still be single.

She is hardly a novice with men, but her experiences with them, truth be told, have been less than satisfying. Even when the relationships were good, they were marred by betrayals, turmoil, drama, fights, walkouts, and by the simple fact that they did not work out.

She feels scarred and marred. Perhaps Mr. Right, once he gets to know her better, will discover that she is not up to his standards.

As she steps forth to try to build a relationship with Mr. Right, she brings what we used to call, quaintly, a lot of baggage. No more than many other women of her generation. But still, a lot. Her relationships with men have contained good and bad, but since they have not worked out as she would have wished, they count as traumas.

It might be a positive thing for women to marry later, but the delay, and the intervening relationships, are inevitably going to make the process more difficult.

As we know, trauma distorts judgment.

Once you have been traumatized your mind shifts into trauma avoidance mode. It will direct you to do what it takes to avoid past traumas. If that means not getting too close to someone who might break your heart, then it will help you maintain your distance.

Of course, she knows that if she does not give her heart to Mr. Right, then he will eventually lost interest and hurt her again.

She may believe that she must heal the trauma before she can love anyone else. Isn't that what her therapist told her.

And yet, how to go about the healing process. Does she think to herself that if she gets involved with another Mr. Wrong, then she can show herself that she can handle being dumped or living in turmoil? Or she might believe that she must settle the score with a Mr. Wrong, to hurt him as much as his predecessors hurt her, before she can have the right frame of mind to deal with Mr. Right.

So, if you ask why she might be drawn to the kind of man who has hurt her in the past, the answer is that she is self-medicating.

Still, she does not know whether to follow her mind or her heart with Mr. Right. For all she knows-- and for all I know-- he might just not be right for her. Perhaps she should stick with him; perhaps she should move on to someone else. How is she to know? And how is she to know that a brief fling with Mr. Wrong will not cleanse her system of any temptation to descend into the kind of abjection that previous boyfriends have brought on her.

In truth, there is no sure guide that is going to tell you, through the din of the aftershocks of the trauma, that Mr. Right is really right for you. Only experience will tell you definitively, and even then...

Obama Humiliates Netanyahu

Much has already been written about Obama's disgraceful treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. That the leader of a democratic nation and U. S. ally was snuck out of the back door of the White House, after having had a meeting that did not receive any real recognition from the White House, tells that Obama has taken sides against Israel.

No photo op, no statement, no press conference, no recognition of lasting friendship... Obama was trying to put Israel in its place, and that place was no longer as part of the discussion. When Netanyahu refused to budge on the settlement issue, Obama unceremoniously walked out of the meeting to have dinner... without his guest. Link here.

Where George Bush refused to speak to Yassir Arafat, Barack Obama has no problem dressing down Netanyahu, to the cheers of Palestinians everywhere. Links here and here and here. Now, given the diplomatic green light by Obama, the Arab League will be meeting to reassert its desire to take back Jerusalem.

Why did Obama do it? Because he can. Obama knows that the American Jewish community, a group that supported him generously and fully, will not call him on it.

It was all well and good that House Democrats offered a hand of friendship to the beleaguered and besieged Israeli leader, but unless they renounce the appalling treatment Netanyahu received from Obama, they are complicit in the humiliation. And unless Obama's Jewish supporters denounce the way this meeting was conducted, they will rightfully be considered as enablers of the policy.

[Jennifer Rubin raises the issue of American Jewish support for Obama on the Commentary Contentions blog today. Link here. I would add that I think that Jewish Democratic members of Congress should be leading the charge.]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Treating a Chronic Tendency to Self-Sabotage

In Monday's New York Times Dr. Richard Friedman wrote a column about patients who suffer chronically self-defeating behavior. Link here.

For the record, Dr. Friedman is a distinguished psychiatrist at a distinguished psychiatric facility. He represents the best that the profession has to offer. If you, as did many of the Times commenters, find his approach lacking, you can draw a conclusion from that fact. You might even want to muse over the fact that many of the masters of the Wall Street universe are treated by psychiatrists who think like Dr. Friedman.

I am not alone in finding his article disappointing. Many commenters expressed frustration and annoyance at his condescending attitude toward his patients. I haven't read all the comments, but I would recommend #24, #35, and #55. Link here.

If you read through the comments you will get a very good sense of the debate surrounding psychotherapy today.

One commenter noted that Dr. Friedman's article centers around an epiphany he had. Dr. Friedman saw the light when he discovered that patients who are invested in failure will usually be compelled to fail at therapy too.

In the not-too-distant past case studies used to contain patient epiphanies where the suffering individual discovered a truth about his childhood, recovered the memory of a trauma, and felt liberated to march off into the sunset. Now, we have a psychiatrist having an epiphany telling him that it's not his fault that his patients do not get better.

Having labelled these patients as masochists-- with some commenters taking vigorous exception-- Dr. Friedman despairs of not having a pill to erase their now-eroticized impulse toward self-defeatism. Beyond that, as the commenters note, he is unsympathetic, condescending, and defeatist himself.

Dr. Friedman's approach seems to involve telling the patients that they are themselves responsible for their failures-- in itself, unobjectionable-- and that they are doing it for a reason-- in itself, objectionable. Telling people that they are failing because they want to and because they are deriving a perverse sexual enjoyment from it is not likely to help them to improve their condition.

Since patients who fail at love or work are failing in public, Dr. Friedman is telling them that a certain group of the enlightened sees through their mask and knows that they are repressed masochists who have sublimated their deviant sexual impulses into self-sabotage. How would you feel if your psychiatrist told you that the world knows something about you that is deeply humiliating, only you do not know it yourself?

If that is the interpretation, then treatment would consist in persuading the patient that that his repressed masochistic impulses are directing his behavior. Do you think that once he accepts the interpretation and embraces his inner masochist, he will feel motivated to succeed.

I have no intention of leaving things in such a morass. Surely, there are better ways of treating people who engage in repeated self-sabotaging behavior.

Cognitive therapy is one step in the right direction because it will challenge the patient's basic assumption, namely that he always fails. At best, it will help him to marshal evidence of his basic competence and successes. It is easier to build on success than to imagine that you are destined to fail.

Dr. Friedman seems to accept his patients' all-or-nothing thinking, even though I am sure he knows that it expresses depressive thought patterns.

Another approach, more in line with good coaching practice, would also ignore all reference to past history or to the behavior's hidden meaning. It would would see him as having become mired in bad habits, not knowing how to succeed. Coaching would then help him to develop good habits to replace the bad ones, roughly as Aristotle would have recommended.

Teaching him how to succeed would seem to be preferable than telling him that he is destined to fail at everything.

"IT Careers: Can You Survive Unemployment?"

Ostensibly, Meridith Levinson wrote this article for IT professionals. I find that it applies well to anyone who is struggling with the trauma of unemployment. Link here.

As with the Levinson article I linked in my last post, the clear message is that if you are unemployed you need to develop a clear plan to deal with the problem, you need to follow the plan religiously, and you need to consider yourself involved in a struggle against depression.

Also, you will need to reach out to others and to take the good advice that will surely be offered you.

"Unemployed? 10 Ways to Fight Depression in Your Job Search"

At, Meridith Levinson has just posted an excellent new article about how to fight depression when you are unemployed. Link here.

As you will discover, I was among those who contributed to this piece. Generally, all of the advice is useful and valuable. For those who are unemployed and fighting off a depression, they would do well to follow it.

And they should pay special heed to Levinson's use of the word: fight. It is exactly the right word and it conveys exactly the right concept. When you are unemployed, you are in a very serious fight and you need to approach it as a fight... by training for it, by attacking it, by surveying the situation, and then, by moving in for the kill.

Should You Short Obama?

Giddy over Obama's health care win, financial journalist Daniel Gross wrote a column saying that the people who doubted Obama, or who shorted him, were wrong and have been losing money. Link here.

Gross comments both on the political futures market and the stock market. Since most of us have more money tied up in the stock market than in the political futures market, so I will limit my comments to the Dow and the S&P.

Apparently, Gross is unaware of the Obama Disapproval Indicator. See my discussion here. Since I count myself, immodestly, as one of those who first discovered this indicator, I am happy to revisit it here.

Let's look at the tape:

In the spring of 2008, when Obama first took the lead over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, the Dow was at something like 13,000.

When Obama first drew ahead of John McCain in September, 2008, the Dow was well over 11,000.

When Obama took office in January, 2009, the Dow was in the 8,000 range.

And when Obama's approval ratings hit their all time high of 70% approval, in late February, 2009, the Dow was close to its early March low of something like 6500.

Now, ever since that time, Obama's disapproval ratings have been rising. As has the Dow and the S&P. Right now, his disapproval rating is at an all time high of over 50%. Last week, amid the glee of liberals like Daniel Gross, more people disapproved of Obama than approved of him.

As I said in the post I linked above, as long as Obama's disapproval rating keeps rising, it is OK to be long the market. If ever that rating starts to fall, and if ever Obama's approval rating starts to rise... that will be the moment to exit the market.

If you had shorted the rise of Obama and had covered your shorts when his disapproval rating bottomed in a flurry of irrational exuberance, you would be doing quite well. If you had gone long when his approval rating peaked, you would have made money as the market rose with his disapproval rating.

Daniel Gross may be a financial journalist, but here, at least, his bias seems to have gotten the best of him.

Psychological Flexibility

The couple of times I wrote about "cognitive fluency" I remarked that if you just heard the term, without any explanation or definition, you would have no idea what it meant. Link here.

Ironically, because cognitive fluency means that a simple, direct, expression of a concept, one that is intuitively easy to grasp, is likely to be more valid and more persuasive than one that is complex, convoluted, and nearly impossible to understand.

Cognitive fluency remains an excellent idea; if only its authors had used their own cognitive fluency in naming it.

All that to introduce a new concept from the world of psychological research: psychological flexibility. It comes to us from the Melbourne School of Business. Thus, it addresses how best to exercise business leadership. Link here.

Can you guess what it could possibly mean?

It means: curb your anger. A leader who can control his anger, who can separate himself from his emotions and choose appropriate moments to express them will be more effective than his counterpart who is boiling over with anger or some other emotion.

In some ways this is a radical idea. It attempts to undo some of the damage we have suffered through the influence of the therapy culture.

Until very recently the therapy culture peddled the mantra: express your emotions, especially your anger. It believed, mistakenly, that expelling your toxic emotional gases was going to make you feel better.

The mantra comes down to us from Freud. One day Freud conjectured that depression was anger turned against the self. If that were true, therapists reasoned, then depression could be cured by teaching people to direct their anger outside of themselves.

This caused generations of therapists to lead generations of patients to get in touch with their anger and then to blurt it out at the most inappropriate moments. Throwing a tantrum became a sign of emotional authenticity. It also produced a cathartic release that made people feel better, at least, momentarily.

After several generations therapists finally discovered that it did not work. When you throw a tantrum or indulge an inappropriate expression of emotion you make yourself look like a fool. In itself, that will make you feel worse about yourself. It turns out that depression is about feeling demoralized and diminished; any actions that make you feel more demoralized and diminished feed the depression.

A tantrum might offer a momentary release. The aftermath, the moment when you become aware of what you just did, takes it away, and then some.

Anyway, the researchers from Melbourne have shown that a leader cannot function effectively by expressing his emotions willy-nilly.

A leader who can control his emotions will also be able to control his group. His emotional equanimity will set the standard for others in the group. It will diminish the possibilities for using drama to address differences and difficulties.

The less emotion is involved, the less the issue will be the torments of anyone's soul, and the more the focus will be on the task at hand.

So, I am happy to recommend psychological flexibility, and not just when you rise to the position of being a business leader. If anger causes you to lose focus and to incur the disrespect of others, it will induce you to commit errors... in business and in life.