There are some people who are very good at what they do. They are for the most part, among the best of us, having mastered their craft or art, and in many ways, they help define the quality of our society. Their contributions are in service to us, providing the community with their best efforts.
There are are also a select few, that contribute to the very fabric of our society, through their ideas. They challenge the way we think and even make us consider the way we comport ourselves, in private and in public. Dr Sanity is one such person.
Some people hoard knowledge and there are those who willingly share knowledge. Dr Sanity falls into the latter category- unusual for someone with her credentials. She wants to empower us, knowing full well that an empowered person is a contributing and productive person. Her answer to our question about family makes that very clear.
Her insights are luxurious, in a way, in that the presentation of her ideas are clear and well defined. This is by no means a simple matter. All too often, the difficulty in understanding an issue lies in how a problem is perceived, understood and presented. With absolute clarity, Dr Sanity presents the issues of the day in ways that are crystal clear- and thus, how to deal with those issues becomes evident. In Dr Sanity's world, the irrelevant is toxic, as it detracts from the matter at hand.
Dr Sanity's impressive credentials were not bestowed upon her by virtue of her work at NASA as a flight surgeon, or as a well respected psychiatrist or in Ann Arbor, where she continues her work today. It is quite clear those credentials have been earned in the trenches, one patient at a time. Her candidness as she speaks about how her patients have impacted her work and life speaks volumes about the person she is.
It would be easy to say that Dr Sanity is the 'real deal.' She is after all, just that, if we consider her degrees, experience and credentials. That however, is only a part of the picture.
To see the rest of the picture- the most important part of the picture- read the answers to our questions. You will be introduced to an extraordinary person.
You live and work in Ann Arbor- a place some might describe as the Berkeley northern annex. How did you end up there?
My long-suffering spouse reluctantly moved to Houston back in 1984 so I could follow my dream and work for NASA as a flight surgeon; so, when his dream of editing a journal in his field (which is Math) came up, I urged him to go for it. Ann Arbor has been described as “Ten square miles surrounded by Reality” and I have encountered few reasons to alter that perceptive description. On the other hand, it has four beautiful seasons (as opposed to Houston which just has Summer and Pre-Summer) and since I love Autumn and Winter, I enjoy it here quite a bit.
Has your time in Ann Arbor in any way help define or clarify your politics and beliefs? How?
Actually, no. I have been a Libertarian since I was in high school. That was when I first read the fiction of Ayn Rand. Not long afterwards I had the opportunity to meet her, and having contact with that incisive mind forever changed my view of the world. I have voted both Democrat and Republican over the succeeding years. But my values and beliefs—and therefore my politics-- were formed long ago. I’ve had many occasions to more firmly define and clarify them in the various academic environments that I have been in over the years. Politics was not a big part of my life, however, until 9/11. The only other time in my life that I was mobilized politically was during the Reagan years, when I felt his policies towards the Communist USSR were worthy of aggressive support.
Here's a loaded question: Given your experience in a university setting, in your opinion, do lowered academic standards impact campus life and social development?
What worries me more than the low college academic standards is the “dumbing down” of the K-12 curriculum Having a daughter in school has made me all too aware of the extent to which the “self-esteem” gurus and the priests of multiculturalism and political correctness have infiltrated even the hallowed halls of kindergarden! Students are propagandized from age 5 on these days (OK, so I’m exaggerating a little bit) and this is the place where the primary aspects of social –and intellectual—development should begin to flourish. By the time these kids get to college, they have learned that their self-esteem is everyone else’s concern; that their feelings are primary; and that thinking is for suckers. Such an outlook on life is bound to have an impact on campus life and any further social development. Sadly, for most college students, lowered academic standards are what they feel entitled to, and most university professors aren’t highly motivated to take on the consequences of challenging the system. Besides, many of them like the system; particularly since they can have much more of an influence on students who have been properly discouraged from independent thinking.
Your passion for your work is evident, as is your passion for the things you believe in. Do those things ever come into conflict?
I have worked for the Federal government; a state government, and now I work for a county government. There have been times when things I believe have come in conflict with the work that I do. I never let anything compromise what I believe are the best interests of my patients; but I have had to put my job on the line many times. But for me, it is not really a contest. If what I value is in conflict with my work; then first try to change things at work. If that becomes impossible and I am being forced to compromise my principles, then I will look for a new job. I don’t believe the world has to change to accommodate me.
Do you believe in God? Why?
I guess I have to say that I’m an agnostic and don’t take a position on whether God exists or not. I am aware of a very strong emotional part of me that wants very much to believe in an all powerful and all good deity that cares about me and all of humanity. But I also a very strong scientific and rational part that demands objective evidence of the existence of a Supreme Being. These two parts of me exist in a sort of dynamic tension right now and I expect that some day I might find a way to integrate them. Or, maybe not.
Which of your posts is your favorite, and why?
My favorite post is the 3-part series on Narcissism and Society. It was extremely challenging to organize my thinking from about 20 years of personal study and then to write it. I had been pondering the issue of Narcissism for some time and always felt that the concept of the “narcissistic rage” that originates from the “grandiose self” had a counterpart on the “idealized parent” side of the self, but I had never found anyone who wrote about it. Once I clarified my thoughts, it became obvious to me that, what I came to call “Narcissistic Awe or Narcissistic Idealism” explains a lot of social behavior and quite a bit of political behavior. I’m rather proud of my contribution to the discussion and applying these theoretical psychological concepts to social and political behavior.
How important is 'family' to our collective future?
I agree with Barbara Bush on this one. When you are dying you don’t think to yourself, “I wish I’d spent more time at work.” The family is essential for both the future of the individual as well as the future of the group. I think of the family as the basic social building block—sort of like the atom in physics. I use the word “family” not only in the traditional sense, but also include the many creative variations we have seen over the last several decades. People naturally congregate into “families” for biological and psychological reasons related to survival. People will naturally form into small units and come to think of themselves as “family,” even if they are not blood relations. I think on one level that the family unit is essential for creating and nurturing children and in helping them to acquire the necessary skills for survival in the world. But it also serves an essential role in providing an optimal setting within which to express our human need for intimacy and closeness.
Has there ever been a patient, whose suffering has moved you to tears, or haunted you? What have you ever learned, if anything, from the families of those patients?
I actually cry frequently listening to patients’ stories. Many times I have been haunted by their pain and misery—it is quite a burden to the soul and each therapist must deal with it in their own way—or they will burn out. Patients are often amazed that I could cry for them or with them, but before I am a psychiatrist, I am a human being. I wrote a poem about it once during internship, which was one of the worse years of my life (sleep deprivation does that to you):
You come wounded to me,
On sweaty summer nights; the pain
Is raw, and therapy divine.
How can I heal you?
How can I cry?
Your blood stains my hands,
Your eyes pierce my mind.
Am I your savior, or
Do you pray to other gods before me?
The pain is your burden; you are mine.
I will die more horribly than you,
Piece by screaming piece.
What can you say? “I know
If I could be saved, you would save me?”
Dear God! What can I do?
You come to me, wounded—
Can I come to you?
I originally intended to become a surgeon and went into psychiatry because of a patient’s interaction with me just prior to her death. She was a poet and author who had advanced breast cancer; and who came to the surgical unit because the hope was that surgery would prolong her life. I came to know her and looked forward to talking to her every day. When she died, I was devastated and began to appreciate that perhaps my talking with her every day did more for her (and me) than surgery. It was a life-changing revelation.
Radical Islam is a favorite topic of discussion and examination. Why?
Starting a blog is probably the most assertive I have ever been about my politics and values.. That is because of the 9/11 . I cried for weeks about the attacks on our country, and when I became less emotional, I became determined to understand the enemy and the threat we faced. Even then, I might not have started blogging except that all around me I was witnessing denial about what had happened. I was also outraged at how so many people rushed to blame the Bush Administration; America in general, or Western Civilization-- particularly since I realized that an attack of the scale we witnessed had to have been planned for years and was the product of a hatred and fanaticism on par with the National Socialists of WWII.
The press soon began to shy away from talking about the perpetrators of the attacks; and even excusing them as justified in some bizarre way. I saw a lot of outrage, but it was all directed at the wrong people.
Whenever I want to learn about something, I read. I read everything I could about Islam –including the Koran. I read about the history. I read what Osama and others had written; and I came to realize that Radical Islam was a clear and present danger to Western Civilization and everything I believe in. There is no doubt in my mind that the seeds of radical Islam are to be found in the writings of Islam itself, which is a violent and confused mishmash of ideas. I was particularly outraged at the way Islam has institutionalized misogyny as religious dogma.
I think the media and most of those on the Left are in extreme denial about the threat and would prefer to close their eyes to what is going on in the world. In fact, there are many who actually see the values of the US as inferior to Osama’s. This was too much for me, and it was what got me started looking around in the blogsphere. Eventually, I decided to try blogging myself. My goal was simple initially. I wanted the US to continue on its path of confronting the Islamofascists and I wholeheartedly supported Bush’s re-election the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I had been a tepid supporter of Bush up until 9/11; but his actions since then made me a strong supporter. He was doing exactly what I would have done if I were President. I only fault him for trying to be so politically correct about warfare. There are strong forces in this country and the world that exhibit the same kind of blindness and appeasement that preceeded WWII. I believe we are in the middle of WWIII ( or IV if you count the Cold War) and, since I could not volunteer to go fight for Freedom and Democracy, I decided to blog, as my contribution to the war effort. I try to use my knowledge and expertise in psychiatry and psychology to shed light on issues that I believe are relevant to winning this war against Radical Islam and related issues.
If you were asked to address a group of sixteen year old Muslim girls, what would you tell them? What would you say to sixteen year old Muslim boys?
I would say to both of them: Your mind is the greatest gift given to you by God. That gift requires free will to choose your own path, and personal freedom to find your own happiness. Any person, ideology or God that forces you to place limits on the capability and full use of your mind; and tells you what and how to think and believe on pain of death does not deserve your allegiance. Never surrender your mind—or your freedom – to anyone.
The NYT Best Seller list includes The World According to Dr Sanity. What are the three most important chapters?
1) Denial, Projection, Paranoia, and Other Popular Psychological Manifestations of Tyrants and Those Who Enable Them
2) The Persistent Psychopathology Exhibited by the Left and Its Ideology
3) Free Minds and Free Markets are the solutions to Oppression and Poverty