. . . and it's not their genes either. – Dr. C

Posts tagged ‘psychiatry’

Children’s Temperament Traits: STARS

Star Shape

Do Your Own Thing

The STAR child stands alone in the lifelong quest for adventure and freedom. Not the simple freedom of choice, for that would only tease this youngster. The STAR chooses to act on a whim, to spend the most recent impulse, to revel in spontaneity in order to achieve their unique sense of self-esteem. “Do your own thing” is a command, not an option, for the fun-first STAR.

STAR children are fine-tuned to their senses and inner workings of their bodies.  They seek pleasure through sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. They can be “good-eaters,” as they expend an enormous amount of energy in a day. They enjoy textures, colors, and tones as they seek to play and manipulate them. Like no other shapes, STARS are at their best as they go about flipping, jumping, and hopping through space looking for opportunities to play. They enjoy these activities even more if others are watching.

STARS can be burgeoning brain surgeons or high wire acrobats or Generals or gamblers or dancers or glass blowers or Wall Street investors – or presidents. About a third of our presidents have been STARS, from both sides of the political spectrum, including Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. (You can read more about presidential temperaments at: http://keirsey.com/presidents.aspx.)

STARS may throw themselves completely into today’s activity, only to lose interest the next. Maybe something else caught their eye, maybe not, frustrating parents and supervisors of these youngsters. Adults often make a mistake when they insist the STAR “re-ignite” their lost interest. Impulses are, well, impulsive, not to be “prodded” by even the most caring – or authoritative – adults. Especially authoritative adults.

The most physically expressive of the four shapes, most STARS love a challenge. Tell them you bet they can’t climb that tree over there, and watch them sprint to be the first to try. Unlike the SPHERE, who avoids competition, for the majority of STARS, competition is their life-blood. Winning and losing – the game or the job – and the excitement of the contest creates motivation in the STAR.  This is a key to effective education, training and counseling – and parenting too.

STAR children can be charming and are usually well liked by their peers. They are fiercely loyal, and expect the same. They desire an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” relationship with friends – and adults too — when they can find it. In the company of other STAR friends each tends to encourage the other’s nature, with the consequences of their behavior receding into the background as excitement increases.

While we all experience to some degree the SQUARES need for belonging, the SPHERE’S search for authenticity, and the CUBE’S yearning for competency, action without forethought or purpose – action for action’s sake – is usually to be avoided. Social conventions require preparation, practice, and storage of impulses “until the proper time,” something the STAR finds wholly unsatisfactory.

STARS can be difficult to manage, if the goal is simply to manage them. As a result, the STAR is a constant source of frustration for child managers and parents as traditional means of intervention have little effect, other than confinement or exclusion, for the freedom-seeking STAR.

If the SQUARE is the “rule-maker” then the STAR by contrast is the “rule-breaker.” Even though directives may eventually be followed, it won’t be without many arguments and confrontations. Parents, teachers, and counselors of all kinds will say, “these kids take up most of my time!

There are numerous directives and re-directives given, even for daily routines. Too often, compliance becomes secondary to supervising adults. Whether the task is completed or not, the STAR tends to be confronted, but not for his performance. More often than not adults will state: “His attitude is the problem!

These youngsters may be especially adept at recess, athletics, art, music, manipulating tools, crafts, and any activity that allows for unrehearsed movement. As adults, these children gravitate to professions encouraging spontaneous action. Whether it’s hours on the basketball court or at the piano, the STAR is engaged in an activity. If they happen to become very good at the activity, even better. That’s a second or third goal, if at all. Spending the impulse, at the moment, is the goal. Moreover, once the impulse is spent it is spent, not to be “stimulated” by others’ insistance – or threats.

The STAR child needs a stage, and an audience to show their talents. Whether a one-person audience or a thousand, abilities are on display in need of applause and applause and applause. The STAR seeks recognition for their unique artistic skills, and unless others notice, they will seek an “audience” in other ways. For the shame filled STAR, if applause is not forthcoming, scorn from their supervisors will do.

STARS IN SCHOOL
School can be a place where a handful of STARS can shine. Young athletes, musicians, and dancers can find a way to express their energy in organized school activities.  They are routinely “on stage,” their talents on display for everyone to see. Regrettably, for the non-athlete, musician or dancer, there is little at school to hold their attention. This is a matter of poor teaching skills, not “poor learning skills,” as modern educators have little understanding how STARS learn. Instead, STARS are constantly told to “sit still, keep your eyes forward, and do your work!” Frustrated educators and psychologists will officially declare the STAR as “educationally handicapped,” in need of special education.

STAR children are, regrettably, relentlessly given stimulants by ill-informed medics for ADD, ADHD, Conduct Disorder, and other false diseases, generally a result of being tagged as “inattentive” by the frustrated teacher. In fact, the STAR is stimulated by many activities. They simply “attend” to whatever catches their interest at the moment. If the teacher or schoolwork is not doing the trick, it could be the ruckus in the schoolyard, the birds flying outside, or the pigtails of the girl in front of him.

Rather than “inattentive,” just the opposite is true for many STARS. Place a STAR in a room with something they like to manipulate, and see how focused their attention becomes. Whether alone with the flute, or with a coach at the gymnasium, or with a group in a dance studio – or concentrating for hours at a time at their game console – the STAR can focus like few others can.

The STAR is pegged as “inattentive” in as much as “he doesn’t stay on task,” so say their teachers, therapists, and counselors. From the view of the STAR, tasks are to be avoided in direct relation to the amount of boredom and drudgery that accompanies them. Structure and routine, intended to be a source of safety and security for children, are the very attributes from which the STAR flees.

All children get bored, no doubt. However, boredom is as unbearable to the STAR as sorrow is to the SQUARE, self-doubt is to the CUBE, and detachment is to the CIRCLE. Note that the latter three – sorrow, self-doubt, detachment – will often find a sympathetic ear from concerned adults. After all, we often commiserate with children who are too sad, too insecure, and too alone. Not so with boredom. Adults have little patience with boredom, most often coming up with a “find something to do!” or “do it anyway!” solution.

When their life-impulse is suppressed by design or necessity over time, and a crisis of esteem is apparent, like all four shapes, behavior changes from productive to protective. The primary means with which the STAR attempts to protect themselves from the lost excitement they yearn is through retribution. Now the attempt is to “even the score” with those people thought to be responsible for their lost impulses, to “pay back” in harmful ways by desecrating themselves, or others.

All rules and norms, even if previously complied with, can come into question. Adults may refer to them as a “hot head,” seemingly defiant and disruptive for no visible purpose. The purpose, of course, is to again find the lost excitement they seek, even if the cost is the many real or threatened consequences that forever follow these children.

The frustrations, admonishments, worry, and reprimands offered by others in order to “make sure he doesn’t get away with it” have almost no effect in stopping unwanted behaviors. Too often the adults spend an enormous amount of energy devising strategies to stop behaviors, and is a joyous source of fun and excitement to this natural “resistor.”

SUMMARY
Illogical restrictions, punishments, long-term consequences, threats, and traditional therapeutic means often have little effect. Continued failure by professionals will have them assert, “before we can help him, he has to help himself,” thus formally relegating responsibility for failure to their student. Nonetheless, the STAR child can take satisfaction in accomplishing their goal of frustrating the best efforts of those responsible to care for them.

Action is their master” states Keirsey, and the insightful practitioner uses this natural performers talents as a means to offer change. Not a saver like the SQUARE, the STAR is the spender: of impulses, time, money, and excitement.

Like no other child, encouragement of new or present behaviors, with tangible and immediate rewards, insuring they “spend” in appropriate ways, is more likely to aid these young artisans in the pursuit of their special road to self-esteem.

DISLIKES/COMPLAINS ABOUT
• Following the rules • Saving: time, money, impulses • Restrictions
• Others “making me do x!” • Boredom/ennui • Repetition and routine
• Work first, then play  • “Get in line” • “Wait your turn”   • “Do as I say”

PROTECTIVE BEHAVIORS
• “Getting even” • Defames and devalues others • Impulsivity
• Addictive behavior • Narcissism • Poor school performance
• “Anti-social” •  “Chip on shoulder” • “Cocky”
•  Aggressive • Pain-resistant • “Can’t sit still”

ENJOYS
• Freedom •  Activities/action • Variety
• Living for the moment  • The physical world • Nature lovers
• Excitement • Pay-off (“what do I get”) • Being different/rebel
• Spending: time, money, impulses • “Showing off”
• Working with tools, instruments, art and crafts, athletics, music

CHILD MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES

• Logical consequences (for a stipulated time period) • Blackmail
• Rehearsal • Bribery • Vacuum
• Defusing • Distraction • Decommercializing

• Psychodrama • Gestalt • Symbolic Projection

• Music/Art Therapy • Reality Therapy • Relaxation techniques

• Strict behavior-modification (i.e., reward good behavior and ignore poor behavior)

Encouraging a STAR to do something (action), rather than NOT to do something (inaction) is a key to success for insightful parents and practitioners.

 

 

 

 

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Children’s Temperament Traits

“Human action can be modified to some extent,
but human nature cannot be changed.”    – Abraham Lincoln

Medium Shapes

I developed Children’s Temperament Traits (CTT) in the mid-1980’s.  By then I was completing my doctoral dissertation.  I was also running the first of three different treatment facilities for children and I was training my staff in temperaments and techniques.  I’ve also used this material to train thousands of professionals and parents in workshops throughout California.  Most of the professionals were licensed therapists, interns, school teachers and aides, and child-care counselors.

Though I knew he wouldn’t remember me – I had one class from him while I was a student at Cal State Fullerton – on the outside chance I might hear back, I mailed CTT to David Keirsey for his critique, sometime in the late 1980’s.  He was long retired by then, and I hadn’t seen him in several years.  I wasn’t sure if he would reply.  Thankfully, he did, in a manner of speaking.

Dr. Keirsey sent back my entire essay, with edits hand-written in the margins, other words crossed out and replaced, and other changes.  He added no other comments, other than a “good job!” on the very bottom of the last page.  The edits he made were all gems, and I quickly made the changes.

I’ve made a few more since, though not too many.  Now that I have time, I’m primed to do some long overdue research, writing and lecturing about children, temperament, and techniques.  I also hope to find people who are adept, and so inclined, to take on this endeavor.  It’s never been done, as far as I know.

Sorters
I experimented 30 years ago with a children’s “sorter” of my own.  I didn’t like it, and I don’t like children temperament sorters in general.  I’ve reviewed a few on different websites.  The ones I found seemed to “miniaturize” adult sorters.  It’s really not that simple.  Children aren’t merely smaller versions of their adult counterparts.  In Keirseyan temperament theory, children arrive whole, already equipped.  Our job then, as child managers, is to understand who they are and to help them unfold.

More important, a sorter for children relies on adults to give answers to the written questions, so it’s fraught with the bias – and temperament – of the adult.  Too much “mind-reading” occurs and, when discovering a person’s temperament, “mind-reading” is not allowed.  Observation – watching what children do – is, as far as I’m concerned, the most accurate way to understand what makes a child move.

Child Management Techniques
The specific techniques we choose as parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors to manage troubled or troublesome children is temperament dependent.  To follow is a list of techniques that I’ve collected, used, and trained on over the years.

The majority of the techniques (except for Amnesty) found in Reactive and Proactive sections are gleaned from Keirsey’s little known yet very useful work, Corrective Intervention:  A Manual for Casualty Reduction Specialists in Pupil Personnel Services, copyright, 1972.  Though I’ll write more about this later, this small, obscure handbook may have had the most impact on my career – and the children in my care.

After I post the four portraits – the next blog will be about the STARS –  I’ll provide a description of each technique, as well as how they are best used with STARS, SQUARES, SPHERES and CUBES.  For now, the list of techniques include:

1.  Therapy Techniques
•  
Reflection (Client Centered Therapy):  Carl Rogers, Inventor
•  Psychodrama:  Jacob Moreno, Inventor
•  Rational-Emotive Therapy:  Albert Ellis, Inventor
•  Gestalt Therapy (NOT to be confused with Gestalt theory):  Fritz Perls, Inventor
•  Behavior Modification:  A generic term, behaviorism began with the writings of John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner
•  Reality Therapy:  William Glasser, Inventor
•  Insight Therapy (Psychoanalysis):  Also a generic term and used by many, the inventor of this technique is Sigmund Freud.

2.  Reactive Techniques
•  Restriction         •  Abuse         •  Restitution        •  Deprivation      •  Amnesty

3.  Proactive Techniques
•  The Easy Task   •  Blackmail       •  Bribery        •  Defusing           •  Distraction
•  Frontloading     •  Moratorium  •  Rehearsal    •  Sidetracking     •  Signaling

4.  Group Techniques
•  Adolescent Interactive Group (AIG)       •  The Truth Chair           •  Challenge
•  GIDE (Group Interaction and Drug Education)
•  GIVE (Group Interaction and Violence Education)

5.  Other Techniques
•  The Baldy Maneuver•   Logical Consequences
•  Active Response Training (ART)  –
           ~  Regardless & Nevertheless                       ~  The Sponge
           ~  The “You Win” Proposition                         ~  The Takeover Maneuver
(ART is pre-esclation training for school, residential care, and other mental health facility personnel.  Considered “basic training” in my facilities, ART began in California as Alternatives to Restraint Training in 1989.)

CTT Portraits
Each of the four portraits will include a description of the four shapes.  In addition, each portrait will conclude with a section on:
(1) Dislikes/Complains About
(2) Worrisome Behaviors
(3) Enjoys
(4) Praise for/Responds to
(5)  Intervention Techniques, for each of the four shapes.

I’ll start with the STARS, the most troublesome of the four shapes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Next Blog:  CTT Portrait:  STARS – “Do your own thing!”

Why Shapes?

Large Shapes

I’ve been asked a few times where I got the idea for the four shapes I selected to represent the four Keirseyan temperaments.   As a reminder, they are:

    Star Shape  STARS (Young Artisans) 

  Cube Shape  CUBES ( Young Rationals)      

Sphere Shape  SPHERES (Young Idealists)

Square Shape  SQUARES (Young Guardians)

About 25 years ago I started doing CEU[i] workshops for therapists, social workers, counselors, teachers, teacher aides and parents in child management techniques and temperament.  They go hand in hand, by the way.  A technique that may be useful for the Square may have no effect on the Star, and sometimes may make things worse.  The name of the workshop was “Kids Come in All Shapes.”  Participants learned about the four temperaments of children, and left after 6 hours training with some new techniques for each temperament.

Back then, I was a maturing student of Gestalt psychology, thanks to David Keirsey.  Gestalt is the German word for form or shape, and it designates  “wholeness,” a fundamental concept for this long forgotten and much more humane theory of human psychology.

By the way, for those who may be interested, Gestalt psychologists believe “modern” psychology isn’t so modern.  We believe the “elemental psychologists” (the other 99%!) look at human behavior and personality inside out – literally.  The “elementalists” see human psychology as made up of different “parts” or “elements,” and it’s the parts that make up the whole.  Holists (Gestaltists), like me and Dr. Keirsey, believe wholes are fundamental, and much, much more than the sum of it’s parts.

More than that, the current psychiatric elementalists believe that the cause of poor behavior can be understood by looking through a microscope, whether it’s measuring “neurotransmitters” (chemicals), or by “decoding” a persons “genome.”  It’s all nonsense – and I’ll be writing more about this soon – however, it is today’s “modern science” for most professionals, and lay people.

Anyway, I wanted to develop a temperament metaphor using the wholeness idea.  At the time, there were a few other temperament metaphors for children, usually animals.  They included beaver and bear for Guardians, dolphin and unicorn for the Idealist, the owl for Rationals, and the fox (and monkey) for the Artisans.  They were okay, but I didn’t use them too much.  Both kids and parents often liked or didn’t like one animal over another, regardless of temperament.  Instead, I came up with the idea of geometric shapes.  They are unique from one another, and each alone has no particular meaning or value.  Shapes are neutral.

So, I started with the Artisans, about 40% of all earthlings (I was still calling them “SP’s” way back then).  I thought of a star almost immediately for the Artisan.  There are an abundance of stars in the sky, no two the same, but all of them must shine, each a little differently.  While the star symbol I chose is yellow, Stars come in all colors.  The most stylish of all temperaments, Stars also need a stage and must have an audience to appreciate their art – even the quiet ones.  So, without much ado, young Artisans became Stars for me.

Squares, about half the Earth’s population, came to me quickly too.  A square has a solid foundation, and all right angles. Two squares next to each other make a rectangle, rectangles make foundations, and foundations are the building blocks of our society.  I used black and white for the Square because there is very little “grey area” from the perspective of the Guardian.  Right is right, and wrong is wrong, period, so says the Square.  Also, though a little outdated, the slang use of the word “square” seems to fit for the work first-play later, serious minded, routine oriented, industrious, diligent Guardian.

The quest for self-actualization by the Idealist lead me to the Sphere (I made a silly choice in the beginning and used the term “Circle” instead of Sphere because I thought sphere was too hard to pronounce!).  The Sphere must be whole.  A Sphere is symmetrical, symbolic of many Idealists yearning for authenticity.  There’s also a “glow” to the Sphere not found in other shapes, and points to the natural warmth these rare individuals provide.  Though I chose red to signify the heart they tend to wear on their sleeves, Spheres can glow in different colors when engaged with other people.  Keirsey has said that the world could use more Idealists.  He was right about that too.  Only about one in twenty among us are the imaginative, harmonious, people-loving Spheres.

The cube took a long time coming, for some reason.  I thought of a few geometric shapes including a triangle, a pentagon, a cone, a pyramid, even a cylinder.  I settled on the cube, after a while, for the often odd young rational.  Some of you may remember the “Borg” from the 2nd generation Star Trek series.  This half human, half machine, impeccably logical, emotion-free entity traveled the Universe – in a cube.  Ironically, a cube has the unique property of “changing shapes” right in fromt of you.  That is, if you stare at a three dimensional cube on a two dimensional page long enough, you’ll notice that sometimes the cube points to the left, and then, just as quickly, it points to the right.[ii]

Once I decided on these shapes, the rest was easy.  At my workshops, attendees where expected to know their own temperament when they arrived, or soon afterward.  I gave them a nametag with the appropriate shape, and for the next six hours we had some fun, had some great discussions, and the participants left with new ways to interact with their children, and a new perspective about themselves too.  I did this, off and on, for the next 20 years in dozens of foster care and residential facilities in California.

Then, a little more than two years ago, David Keirsey and I went out to lunch.  It was our first meeting in nearly 30 years.  I told him what I had been doing, I gave him some of my material, and I told him about the shapes – or forms – that I had been using for each temperament.  I was a little nervous, as you might imagine.

He didn’t like Star, in the beginning.  I told him the metaphor was about the star on stage, and their need to shine.  “Oh,” he said, “that’s what you mean.  I like that.”  He liked the Square for Guardians, and he really liked the Cube for the Rationals.  I told him I was using the term “circle” for “sphere,” and my reasoning to do so.  He found my reasoning – that sphere was hard to pronounce – rather weak.  “It’s not so hard to pronounce,” he said with a grin, and a little sarcasm, “listen.  Sphere.”  So, sphere it is.  He also said:  “Am I the first to notice that the Cube and the Sphere are three dimensional?”  He was, other than me.  “The extra dimension,” he said, “is imagination.”  Right again, Dr. Keirsey, right again.

I had his blessings, finally, and that meant a great deal to me.  I also went over the slogans I created for the four shapes.  His son Mark was with us for that, and they both approved.  They are:

STARS – “Do your own thing!”  

SPHERES – “To thine own self be true”

 CUBES – “Looking for a better idea”

SQUARES – Longing for belonging”

So, to the point, what are these “techniques” that I’ve been talking about, and how are they used with temperaments?  Well, first, I’ll give some details about the observable behavior for each of the four shapes.  I’ll start with the Stars, the most “troubling” of the young temperaments.


[i] Continuing Education Units – This is required annual training for most professionals.  More here.

[ii] This phenomenon is called – fittingly enough – a “Gestalt.” You can see more Gestalt images here, and you can read about Getalt principles here.

~~~~~~~~~~

NEXT TIME:  Temperament Traits – STARS

Star Traits Page

THE HORRIBLE KID – Chapter IV: A tale from the Lone Arranger

Horrible Kid 2

Chapter IV:  The Plan
Angela and I began to talk about a plan on the way back to the office.  Two things were evident.

There was an ongoing crisis at home.  Gloria changed jobs, moved her family from their long time home in Orange County, leaving security and friendships behind.  Gloria and her mother Eleanor were hopeful and optimistic that a new start, in a new school, in a new neighborhood, would reap new behaviors.  Instead, now isolated and desperate, the family was disintegrating.  Unless we intervened, quickly, in a beneficial way, the county social worker was “leaning” towards removing Jerry from his home and placing him in foster care “to make sure he received “‘treatment.’”  That would, I knew, inevitably lead to Jerry being “medicated” with one or more of those toxic chemicals, for his “disease.”  And that, in my view, was intolerable.

Also evident, the school was out of ideas.  The school psychologist told me “Jerry has not improved over the last three months despite our concentrated efforts.”  He followed with, “and his behavior just seems to be getting worse and worse.”  This type of logic makes me wince.  Schools, treatment facilities, and other places where children gather to learn, to be trained, or to be helped are quick to take credit for a child’s success by touting the elements of their “evidence based” program.  When no learning or training or help occurs, they are just as quick to place blame on the child for her own “failure to improve,” due to a “learning disability” or “psychiatric disorder,” or some other “deficiency.”

There was going to be two parts to the plan.  Part I:  Get Jerry to school.  Part II:  Make school a good experience so he wants to be there.  I was confident about Part I.  After all, he was nine years old.  To be sure, mother and grandmother were engaging in some very common mistakes when managing Jerry.  With coaching and some very intense initial support by our team, I knew it wouldn’t take long for mother to be back in control of her son.

I was less confident about Part II.  The school, the principal proudly told me, was a “Zero Tolerance” campus.  This is when a school decides they will model intolerance to their students and their families, and claim this as a virtue.  This failed model of “control” is designed to fortify adults, at the expense of the children they supervise.  Principals, some with a dab of zealotry, can become very hard to manage when “armed” with Zero Tolerance.

Team Meeting
As a reminder, we received this referral on a Friday morning.  I visited the family the following Monday.  Angela and I met with the school on Tuesday.  The next day was our regularly scheduled Wednesday staff meeting.

Our team included a therapist, Jordan, a Mental Health Resource Specialist (MHRS)[i], Vincent, Angela, and me.  We formally had three services we could provide: therapy, social work, and counseling.  Less formally, as a wraparound program, I knew we could do anything we needed to do to help this family, and that gave us great latitude.  Here’s what we decided that Wednesday morning.

PART I
1.  Starting that day, enroll mother and grandmother in our Family Night every Wednesday.

We started Family Night six months earlier.  We had about four or five families that showed up every Wednesday at 5:00 PM.  We provided transportation as needed.  Once there, we had coffee and edibles for the adults, and we talked about the past week.  We interacted for about 90 minutes, 30 of those minutes used for training in child management techniques.  As important, the parents got to know each other and, as they shared many common stories, they comforted one another.  Jordan and I provided guidance for this part the support group.  We encouraged the parents to bring their kids.

Angela and Vincent took care of the kids once they arrived.  Sometimes they would take them out for pizza.  Other times, they had arts and crafts projects they were working on at the office, and they’d bring in food.  At the time there were two young teenage girls, a 12 year old boy, an 8 year old girl (who eventually befriended Jerry), and a 6 year old boy that often stayed with her mother and the rest of us adults.  (A year later we had nearly two dozen families involved, and about 40 children – we had to add an extra night!)

So, right after our morning staff meeting, I called Gloria to invite her to Family Night.  It was short notice, however, I was sure that if we made it easy, she would jump at the chance.  She did.  I told her Angela would pick up the three of them by 4:00 PM, and we would have them back home no later that 7:00 PM.  This was also going to be a great chance for Angela to meet Jerry.  The two of them were going to end up spending a lot of time together.  As important, it was a priority to get everyone out of that house for a little while, every week.  They had been “trapped” for many months.  Over the next six months, they never missed our Wednesday Family Night.

2.  Beginning on Monday, one of us on the team would arrive at Gloria’s home by 6:30 AM to help get Jerry out of bed, dressed, fed, out the door, into the van, and off to school.

We committed to do this every day until it was no longer necessary for one of us to be there.  This was key.  Everyone’s day in the household began with turmoil.  Every night each of them went to bed, unhappy, dreading the inevitable morning encounter.  That had to stop.  So, our plan was to take turns, each of us doing a week at a time.  We had other cases we were working so our schedules had to adjust.  Since we were going to have Angela spend a lot of time at school, Vincent took the first week, Jordan the second week, and I had week three.  We intended to do this between the three of us for as long as it took to get Jerry into school everyday, without incident.

Who was “Out of Control?”
Parents and professionals make similar mistakes when trying to get “back in control” of recalcitrant children.  The most common mistake?  Arguments.  Once you acquiesce and engage in a “yes you will – no I won’t!” conversation, whether with a 3 year old or 17 year old – while in the middle of giving a directive – the ending is nearly always unpleasant.  Most unpleasant, these kinds of confrontations don’t really end at all.  If you’re in an argument, it means there’s a negotiation taking place, something you did not intend.  By the way, children love to “negotiate,” for as long as you are willing and then some, especially when it comes to school, chores, and other unpleasant endeavors they want to avoid.

However, when arguing occurs daily for even the most minor directives, over time everyone’s emotions are unsettled, and everyone’s moods can, and do, “adjust” from moment to moment as “negotiations” continue.  Arguments often deteriorate and may include a variety of invectives, and other hurtful words.  For parents – especially conscientious parents – frustration mounts.

On the other hand, for children, especially bright children, an argument can be ignited – and fueled – simply by ignoring you, imploring you, delaying you, faulting you, or in other ways letting you know they will prevail in an argument you never intended to have in the first place.  Inevitability, these types of two-way conversations lead to the second most common mistake well-informed, loving parents unwittingly engage in:  threats.

Threats sound like this:  If you don’t get your butt off the chair right now and into your room and take out the trash then . . . ,” followed by something you’re going to take way from him, whether a privilege, a possession, a level of freedom, or some other form of punishment.  Giving If . . . then!” directives unwittingly gives control of the outcome of the argument to the child, perhaps the most of unintended of all consequences.[ii]

So, after first hand experience in her home, we knew we had to help Gloria avoid arguments and threats, however subtle or habitual they were.  Much more important, we gave her new tools to handle those “escalating” conversations.  Over the next few weeks, we were there every morning to model these techniques.[iii]

PART II
Beginning on Monday, Angela would be at school every day to assist Jerry in the classroom.

I called the principal that Wednesday afternoon and met with her the next day.  While the classroom teacher may appreciate the help, school districts have rules to follow, with formal “protocols” for nearly everything.  Adding a new person to the classroom would take some doing.  Fortunately, I had a good relationship with Jerry’s school principal, and she was an advocate of our new “wraparound” program.  It took an extra week before we could go into the classroom, but it was worth the wait.  Now we had the support of the court, the principal, as well as the classroom teacher and her aides.  Our full “team” was in place.

Angela showed up at school every morning at 10 AM.  The classroom teacher was relieved.  She knew she had “extra” help every day, just for Jerry, so Jerry became less of a management concern.  She had Jerry’s schoolwork for that day prepared ahead of time.  The other two classroom aides, who usually spent a good portion for their day grudgingly arguing, threatening, cajoling and in other ways, “managing” Jerry, had other children to attend to, and looked forward to “handing” Jerry over to Angela at 10 AM every day.  Jerry, as much as anyone, looked forward to his time with Angela too.

Angela stayed until 1 PM every day.  We thought it was a good idea to be there through lunch.  Jerry was eating lunch with one of the aides who was “assigned” to him, in a separate room, because he was so disruptive.  That changed immediately.  Angela and Jerry sat together in the cafeteria with the other kids and adults for lunch.  Within a few days, she organized some games during lunch for a few of the kids, Jerry joining in.

There’s often a “honeymoon period” when new elements are brought into relationships.  Jerry had less apprehension about school, and so did the school staff.  We altered the obvious yet unaware patterns of behavior of the adults in Jerry’s life that were exacerbating the otherwise normal behaviors of this 9-year-old Star.  We also knew we had to take advantage of the “honeymoon period.”  They usually don’t last too long without fundamental changes taking place.

One more thing, before I tell you about our results.  When Family Night was over that evening, I told Jerry I would come by on Friday so we could play catch.  He grinned.  When I got there on Friday, I told him, as I was leaving, that I would see him again on Monday after school.  He grinned again.  For the first week, I showed up every day after school at 3 PM – except Wednesdays when the entire family came to the office.  I usually stayed for about an hour.  We played catch, we talked about the day, I checked in with mother and grandmother, and I left.  The second week I showed up on Monday and Friday and, by the third week, I showed up Friday only – and every Friday after that, for the next 3 months.

Results at Home
I mentioned earlier that I had the third week to get Jerry out of bed and off to school. By then our team had met many times.  Both Jordan and Vincent, though different in their approaches and temperaments, were successful.  By the second or third day of their week, each of them was tested.  Jerry didn’t want to go to school on those days, and he made sure he let everyone know, in his own inimitable way.  So, with Jordan and Vincent equipped with patience, technique, and an undying persistence, Jerry got to school anyway.  Both Jordan and Vincent had one day, and two days, respectively, when they had to drive Jerry to school because he didn’t get in the van on time.  Nonetheless, he arrived at school.  Persistence, training, and a conviction to avoid arguments and threats, paid off.

Now it was my turn.  Keep in mind, I had spent a lot of time with Jerry.  He liked me, and he trusted me, little by little.  The first day, Monday, was a good day.  I got there at 6:30 AM.  He knew I was coming.  He was up already, and he was cooperative, though a few times I had to give some “reminders.”  Still, I got him off to school. (I forgot to mention that our team took over in the morning.  We gave the directives to Jerry, and we were responsible to get him off to school.  There were no confrontations between Jerry and his mother while we were there, and that was a good thing.)

By the second day, not nearly so easy.  Jerry woke up in what his mother always called “a foul mood,” and he didn’t want to go to school that day.  So, like Jordan and Vincent, I stuck with our techniques, and I was persistent.  On my third day, Jerry declined to get up, period. He was in full-blown refusal mode.  Still, he got into the van on time.  Please remember, he also knew by then that Angela would be at school by 10 AM.  That made a difference.

By the way, what do you think we did?  You’d be right to think we chased after him, sometimes, around his room.  On his worst days, we would corral him, verbally, and, avoiding arguments and threats, continue –  like a broken record – to insist he get out of bed, in his clothes, fed, and off to school, even if that meant we would drive him there.

I mentioned earlier that Gloria had Mondays off.  On a hunch, I checked with the school.  Jerry never missed school on a Monday.  Other days were hit and miss, Friday the most common missed day, but not Monday.  Not even once.  She could get him there on Monday, but not without a lot of turmoil.  Still, she got him there.

If you play a slot machine and it pays off every once in a while, you keep playing.  If your slot machine never paid off, you’d stop playing.  Jerry figured out that some days his antics “paid off,” so he kept playing.  It’s worth repeating:  whatever those antics were – and they were energetic – they didn’t “work” on Mondays.

On my fourth day, I arrived on time as usual.  By then, Jerry had more or less succumbed to the idea that he was going to school.  He didn’t make it easy.  He was also “persistent” in his “techniques” to avoid school.  However, there was an inevitability that seemed to finally win the day – as it always eventually does.  After a few contentious moments in the next 90 minutes, Jerry got in the van and left for school.  That’s when Gloria asked to talk to me.

“Dr. Cima,” she said, “you don’t have to come tomorrow.  And you don’t have to send anyone else next week either.  I can handle this myself,” she said, a little sheepishly, I noticed.

We honored her request, though we suggested one of us to come by at 8 AM starting the following week, just to see how she was doing.  She thought that was a good idea, so we did.  The next week we showed up as promised, this time at 8 AM.  The week was not without incident.  Mother had one or two hard days.  However, we never had to intervene, nor did we have to transport Jerry to school.  He got in the van every day.  It was getting easier for everyone.  So was school.

Results at school
Angela was doing what I anticipated.  She provided enthusiasm and fresh energy in a negative environment.  He was no longer a “target.”  He couldn’t be.  Once he got to school, he only had to make it to 10 AM, and he knew Angela would show up.  Once she showed up, he got her complete attention.  That eased the pressure on the entire classroom, kids and adults.  Within a few weeks, Jerry improved dramatically.  Who’s surprised?

In addition to his lessons, Angela had him drawing every day.  He got better and better at something he was already doing.  More important, he received acknowledgement from his teacher, aides, and classmates.  The teacher, with Angela’s urging, announced she was going to have an art contest.  Jerry won.  Whether he deserved to win or not, he won.  There was much less to frown about at school – for everyone.

He was befriended by two boys in class who started to eat with him at lunch.  This took some time to develop.  Jerry hadn’t had any real friends, well, ever.  He was the problem child in school and his neighborhood nearly from the beginning of his school life.  Other kids shied away, Jerry’s behavior so unpredictable, and adult responses so intense.  Angela spent a lot of time helping him nurture his new found friendships.  He also had a friend – a girl – he met from Family Night.  She was also a Star.  She also needed a friend.

By week five, Angela showed up 3 days a week.  The following week, twice.  By the beginning of the third month, she met with Jerry, and his teacher, once a week until the end of the school year.  By then, it was a “lunch date,” as Angela arrived in time to have lunch with the two of them in the cafeteria.  Was he still, at times, hard to manage?  Of course.  He was nine.  However, by then, he was no worse or better than anyone else in class.

We had regularly scheduled weekly meetings with the team at school, and that included Gloria.  Once a month the county social worker joined us.  Progress was undeniable. Crisis avoided.

What about “Therapy?”
There was no time for therapy when we started.  More important, therapy has nothing to do with child management.  Unless they receive training, therapists haven’t a clue how to manage children, nor should they.  Child management is not taught in graduate school.  Level systems or point systems or other forms of behavior modification can be useful to start new behaviors, when used and designed for an individual child, and not a group of childrenTo the degree “b-mod” is used to stop unwanted behaviors or as a “discipline tool,” they continually fail.

Nonetheless, we had a gifted therapist.  She made it a point to spend private times with all our parents on Family Night.  She had a good relationship with Gloria.  After the crisis was averted, she began to spend more private time with Gloria because, as Jordan told me, “now she can talk about other things in her life besides Jerry.”  As you may guess, Gloria had a lot to talk about with Jordan.  Jordan began to meet with Gloria every other week for an hour or so, just to talk.  By then, Gloria started to get a grin too.

Luck Happens!
Vincent, our Mental Health Resource Specialist, was very resourceful.  By the second month, he began to search for a Big Brother and, after interviewing a few candidates, he selected Domenic, a 25-year-old graduate school student, majoring in economics, with a minor in physical education.  Domenic was single, stable, lived close, liked kids, and he was a great model for this long time fatherless – and friendless –  child.  Domenic was the perfect “medicine.”

Looking back, I think this may have been the most important addition to this family.  We were all gradually withdrawing our involvement, as we inevitably needed to do.  Domenic took to Jerry immediately, and vice versa.  He saw Jerry at least twice a week, and usually for a half day every weekend.  They went places and they did things.  That’s all that was needed.

A Few Final Thoughts
Yes, it took this much initial effort to avoid a catastrophe that had been brewing for several years.  By the time we were involved, everyone was overwhelmed.  The school knew all about Jerry long before he arrived.  The prior school sent all of Jerry’s “incident reports” along with his academic shortcomings to the new school.  The psychologist told me that they knew they were getting “a firecracker!”  Reputations matter.  It was as if he had a giant “X” on his back from the first day.  (I’ll be writing about “The Baldy Maneuver,” a reputation-changing technique that we used with much success during our meetings with school personnel and the county social worker.)

By the way, do you remember John, one of the teacher’s aides in Jerry’s class who was also the transport driver in the van?  I told you he was likable, and very poorly trained.  Well, since he was there every morning with us, everyone on our staff got to know him too.  Six months later, he applied for a job in our expanding program, and I hired him.  Also, the teacher became good friends with Angela and, with her urging, convinced the principal to have us come in and do some child management training for the school.  We did, once a month, for the next six months.

About a year after I first got the referral, I was offered and accepted a position as Executive Director for a residential facility that housed teenage boys.  I managed to leave the wraparound program in good hands.  At that time, Domenic was still involved with Jerry.  About three months later, I had lunch with my replacement.  I learned that Gloria took her family back to Orange County.  The program lost touch with her.  I don’t know if Domenic was still involved, but I like to think he was.

What happened, exactly?  The adults in his life changed their behaviors, and Jerry inevitably followed.  Maybe, I speculate, if he had a different Kindergarten teacher, trained in different methods that encouraged his innate ways, none of this would have occurred.  He certainly didn’t have a “disability” or “disorder.”  That was clear, despite the insistence of doctors and educators.  If so, where did this “disability” go?

No. This wasn’t a “learning disability,” or “ADHD,” or a “disorder” that needed “medical treatment” or some other flaw in Jerry, and other kids just like him.  Instead, this common school experience points to a “teaching disability,” the most prevalent problem in modern day public and private education.

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TEMPERMENT ADDENDUM
Based on the “Average Freshman Graduation Rate,”[iv] nationwide, the school drop out rate is 25-30%, and has been for decades. This means, out of a random pool of 100 students, 25 to 30 who start high school as freshman drop out before they graduate.  We not-so-affectionately call them “high school dropouts.”  If I was to convince you the majority of “dropouts” come from one temperament, Stars, what would you conclude?  There seems to be two possibilities.  One, Stars are not suited for school or, two, schools are not suited for Stars.  Over time, I will make every effort to persuade you it’s the latter.  I will provide some solutions.

The next blog will be about the genesis of the four shapes I use for each of the four temperaments.  Squares, Stars, Spheres, and Cubes as metaphors have, at their root, a basis in holistic psychology.  I spent time talking to David Keirsey about these terms, and I’ll share his thoughts as well.  Then, I will follow with Temperament Traits, a concise and comprehensive review of the four children’s temperaments.  Because they cause adults so much grief when in confined spaces where compliance to rules is essential, I’ll start with the Stars.

In the next few months, I’ll also be writing a shorter story about Timmy, the first “autistic” boy I met 30 years ago.  Since there is no such “disease” or “disorder” as autism – sadly, you have been duped by my fellow professionals if you think otherwise – you may find Timmy and his family interesting.  The vast majority of children given this bogus designation are Composer Artisans.  The latest iteration of this false disease now includes “Aspergers Syndrome,” sometimes referred to as “autism with words,” an equally bogus designation.  Consolidated as “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” this now includes introverted Cubes (Rationals) that have this “disease.”

Finally, Active Response Training techniques, and Keirsey’s proactive and reactive strategies, will be a major focus in upcoming blogs.  I value your interest.  I intend to earn your trust.

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Rule # 7:  If it’s a question of whether to do what’s fun or what is supposed to be good for you, and nobody is hurt whichever you do, always do what’s fun.

Harpo Marx – Family Rules[v]
Temperament – Artisan Composer


[i] In the Mental Health System in California, an MHRS is the equivalent of a Social Worker.

[ii] Here’s a another example.  After 10 minutes of arguing, a mother tells her 16 year old daughter, in no uncertain terms:  “If you don’t get your room clean, I’ll take your cell phone!!”  Her daughter quickly replies, with a sense of confidence mother doesn’t appreciate: “I don’t give a crap about my cell phone!,” and throws it at her mother as she does.  Mom has been trumped.  Now she’s stuck with her meaningless threat, a still unclean bedroom, and a phone she didn’t really want.  Worse, there’s nothing she can do about it because, inadvertently, she gave her daughter a choice.  Either clean your room or lose her phone.  She made her choice, something else mother didn’t intend.  Worse, she can expect more of the same tomorrow.  Why?  This kind of exchange “works” for her daughter.

Threats, in the middle of an argument, can become an exciting challenge for some kids, young and old.  They either call your bluff, or they let you know they are willing to experience whatever punishment you can dish up, rather than clean that room.  Children are famous for biting off their own nose.  Some seem to cherish it.  They think as long as you “lose,” they “win.”  That’s why we call them children.  And that’s why we should never argue or threaten, when giving directives to children.  Ever.

[iii] The techniques we trained on are taken from Active Response Training (ART), my own creation.  This was mandatory training for all professionals who worked at my facilities.  Incorporated into ART are a dozen effective proactive and reactive strategies found and developed by Dr. David Keirsey.  I will be following this story with a series of blogs about these techniques and how they are used for each temperament.

[iv] Read more about drop out rates here

[v] See all of Harpo’s family rules here.

Note from the Lone Arranger: About “The Horrible Kid”


Lone Ranger JPEG

For a number of personal and professional reasons, I’ve been away from my blog for much too long.  I’ve heard from a few of you, wondering if I was going to finish “The Horrible Kid.”  I did.  It’s  longer than the other chapters however, I wanted to finish the story.   Thank you for your patience, and your interest.

For now, to follow directly after this post, please see “THE HORRIBLE KID – Chapter IV:  A tale from the Lone Arranger.”  Thanks.

Dr. C

THE HORRIBLE KID – Chapter I: A tale from the Lone Arranger

Horrible Kid 2

The Horrible Kid

 Chapter I:  How “horrible” can a kid be?

In 1999, a well established mental health agency in California opened one of the first private, non-profit “wraparound” programs in the State.  I was selected as the Executive Director.

Wraparound programs were established to provide services to families struggling with troubled or troublesome children while the child was still living in the home.  Without these services, children were in jeopardy of being removed from their families and placed in either a foster home, a group home, or a larger mental health facility.  After all criteria is met, referrals to these programs come from the county Department of Social Services, the Mental Health Department and, though rare, a school district.  As a bonus, it was much more cost effective than out-of-home placement – at least it began that way.

After 12 months of operation, we had a number of successes with the families we were entrusted to help.  Our team was routinely out in the community and in the homes of our families doing “whatever it takes” – the battle cry of all wraparound programs at the time – to keep the family intact.  We had exceptional people working in the program filling the roles of counselor, Mental Health Resource Specialist (MHRS), and therapist.  Though we were still learning, we were dedicated, and we were confident we had the skills to help our families.

One day I got a call from a county social worker.  We were providing services for two of her families already, and she was pleased with our work.  She wanted to refer a nine year old boy she had on her caseload for three months.  Let’s call him Jerry.  Without our help, she feared, Jerry was headed for out-of-home placement.  “If I have to remove Jerry from his home,” she said with some caution, “I’m not so sure I’ll be able to find a foster parent willing to put up with this horrible kid!

She gave me details, and I accepted the referral.  A few days later, I contacted Jerry’s school and spoke with his school counselor.  I asked how Jerry was doing.  She told me he was enrolled three months earlier, and he was in special classes for the “learning disabled.”  She let me know Jerry was performing below grade level.  When asked, she also said he didn’t have any friends, adding “he’s just horrible in the classroom!” 

They did some testing.  Schools love to “test” kids, especially kids they have don’t know how to manage.  The school counselor told me their psychologist determined Jerry “likely has ADHD.”  She was frustrated with Jerry’s mother because, “I told her we wanted to refer Jerry to a child psychiatrist because of the benefits medication can have, and she refused.  Perhaps,” she implored me, “you can help her accept the idea that Jerry has a real disability.” 

 Since there is no such thing as “disability,” I knew we were going to have to consider the school’s perspective as we developed our plan to help.

Jerry’s Story

“Horrible . . . just horrible.” 

That’s what Jerry’s mother said when I asked, for the first time, how Jerry was doing.  We were in her home, her eyes a little misty, she was dejected – not mad.  Her name, for this tale, is Gloria.  Gloria had more or less surrendered herself to the idea Jerry was always going to be her responsibility regardless of the never-ending burden, and that he would never really improve.  She had been told as much by a number of professionals by then.  “The school is right,” she told me, “Jerry is unmanageable.”

Maybe you know kids like this.  Tell him to go left, he goes right – often because you told him to go left.  “Sit down and be quiet!” only seemed to provoke more animated refusals.  “Time-outs” were, well, a waste of time, because he simply wouldn’t comply.  Punishment – the most overused and least effective of all techniques – got nowhere.

Rewards?  Desperation, and continued failure, placed the professionals in his life in the unenviable position of rewarding Jerry for not doing something.  This is common in schools and treatment facilities.  Rewarding a child for not having a tantrum is counter to behavioral techniques and, mostly, another waste of time.  Rewards are provided to start behaviors you want to encourage, not to stop behaviors you want to discourage.  Thus, this approach was also ineffective, leading to an inevitable, irresponsible, and much too common assertion from nearly everyone: “we’ve tried everything, and nothing works.”

Getting him to school was hit and miss.  Gloria did her best in the morning corralling him into the school van that showed up, often with the help of the van driver. Too often, both would yield to the tantrums.  Consequently, Jerry missed a lot of school.  Once he got to there, it was no cakewalk.  Jerry was famous.  Everyone in the small school – including office staff, nurse, maintenance, all the teachers and teacher’s aides, and every administrator in the building knew Jerry.

If sufficiently provoked, it was not uncommon for Jerry to throw objects, tip over chairs and anything else in his way, curse at the top of his lungs, and in other ways defy any and all directives from the adults in his life, sometimes to the point of physical restraint.  He often did so with a sense of glee – and a grin on his face –  that only served to irritate the adults in charge even more.  He had the attention of everyone.  They all greeted him the same way on those days when he did arrive at school.  “Lets have good day today, Jerry . . .” adding, with an apprehensive smile, “. . . okay?”

The Path to Horrible

Jerry never new his father.  Gloria married when she was 28 years old, and she was pregnant a year later.  Her husband left one day when Jerry was nearly two, and never returned.  Gloria and her young son were abandoned, with no means, so she moved in with her mother.  I’ll call her Eleanor.  At the time, Eleanor lived in a nice home in Orange County, California.  Gloria was Eleanor’s second child.  She had an older daughter in Florida.  Jerry was her only grandson.  Eleanor was widowed a year before Jerry was born.

When she first moved into her mother’s home, everything was “okay,” so said Gloria.  Jerry was mostly happy, and always active.  He was alone most of the time, and seemed to enjoy himself.  There were no other family members in California.  Gloria was a full time bookkeeper for a department store, working 40 hours a week to support the family.  Because her mother was home while Gloria worked, and because of financial considerations, Jerry never attended pre-school.  He hadn’t had much interaction with other children his age until he started Kindergarten.

Real trouble didn’t start until Jerry entered school.  By the time he was in the first grade, “he just refused to pay attention to his teacher,” said his mother.  “He hated sitting still in the classroom,” adding, “I was constantly getting phone calls from school that he was becoming harder and harder to manage, and that he was falling behind his classmates.”

By mid-semester, the school suggested a special class for Jerry.  Gloria dutifully agreed.  After the required school meeting that included his mother and the relevant professionals in his life, Jerry was officially declared, “learning disabled.”  Now six years old, his school career was getting off to a very rocky start.  Over the next year, behaviors worsened.

Jerry was becoming harder to manage at home as well.  By the time he was seven, he was a “terror” at home, according his mom.  Both mother and grandmother were frightened by his outbursts and did what they could to appease him.  By then, raising Jerry had become a full time job for Gloria and her mother.  Speaking of jobs, Gloria told me she began to miss more and more work due to a series of crises involving Jerry and his school.  As if not enough stress already for this family, Jerry was known in the neighborhood as the “wild child.”  Neighbors kept their children away from him.

There were dozens of meetings, new plans were developed, and a string of professionals had come and gone, with no results.  At some point, social services became involved.  With encouragement from many, Gloria and Eleanor decided to move.  Maybe, everyone reasoned, a fresh start in a different setting was in order.  Eleanor found a tenant for her home in Orange County, and the family moved to an isolated home, in a small desert city, on the outskirts of Southern California.  Social services transferred the case to the new county.

Three months later, we were asked to help.

Chapter II: Time for Change

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 ADDENDUM:  For the temperament trained reader

Jerry’s Temperament:  Star (Artisan).  In Please Understand Me, and Please Understand me II, David Keirsey referred to the Artisan Composer (ISFP) as the “most misunderstood of all the types,” and “the least understood of all,” respectively.  Wow.  So very accurate.  After 30 years implementing temperament theory as a means to understand and help children, I can tell you first hand, Keirsey nailed this one.  Like no other children, Stars are medicated, cajoled, bargained with, threatened, and isolated, all as a means to get them the “STOP!” doing whatever it is they are doing, so they can “START!” listening to you.  Stars need to shine, and they need an audience.  Unfortunately, unless guided, any audience will do.

YKAS 3: Culture of Chemicals

We are addicted to our chemicals, you and me, and that’s a problem.  Not just for you or me.  It’s a problem for our kids.  Equipped from birth to imitate us, what do we show them?

Got a headache?  Grab an aspirin or an ibuprofen, or something else for pain.  We have many choices.  Seems harmless enough.  And it is – most of the time.  After all, they sell “baby aspirins” for babies.  They seem to work too, if given properly, and not too much.  Makes sense.  A headache isn’t, really, behavior.  The chemical we take works on our physical body, right?

Sometimes, though, when we’re too tense, or there’s too much stress in our life at the moment, a headache – or a backache, or a soreness somewhere else in your body – can occur.  We say it’s “stress-related.”  That’s what our doctors, friends and family members will tell us.  Even in the modern world, stress and tension affects all of us.  You too?

We’ve found out, over time, that some kind of sedative – a Xanax or two – will give us relief – and if we plan on it, we probably won’t need an aspirin for pain.  Pain relief is important, of course.  Relief allows us to get on with the day, minus the headache, backache, or soreness.  It’s something going on in human tissue – maybe our blood vessels are “constricted,” maybe our muscles are “tense,” or maybe we just need to calm down.  Anyway, it doesn’t matter.  The pill seems to help.

Maybe you know someone who’s been in a funk for a while.  You’re informed.  Why not give a friend a Valium if you think it will help her?  After all, why suffer the “symptoms” of this “disease” when relief is a pill away?  No need to go to a doctor, except for that damn prescription.  You know your friend is depressed.  You know her story.  She needs a “boost” to get over the funk.  It’s obvious.

Or, instead of sharing your chemicals, you provide your own diagnosis, and you make a referral.

“Bob, you’re bi-polar.  Maybe you need some medication.  It’s really helped me.  Please call my doctor.”

Bob does.  The psychiatrist provides the right diagnosis within the first ten minutes, he suggests a chemical, and Bob agrees.  Bob says he finds comfort in that pill. He becomes convinced he has a “chemical imbalance” of some kind, and the fix is in.

Not only is Bob relieved of his symptoms, he is now among the informed, and an advocate.  Why wouldn’t he be?  By the way, Bob’s doctor has a host of chemicals to “treat” bi-polar disorder.  There are 52 to choose from, including Zyprexa, Zoloft, Wellburtrin, Tegretol, Seroquel, Risperdal, Lexapro, Geodon, Effexor, Depakote, Abilify – and 41 others.  (See the rest here)

Maybe you had a recent tragedy you can’t seem to get over.  There’s relief for you at the drug store too.  Oddly enough, if one of your problems is abusing an illegal chemical, you can find a legal chemical to help you shake your chemical addiction.

There are chemicals, we are told by our doctors, for anxiety, depression, too much activity, or not enough activity.  There are mood elevators, mood depressants, and chemicals for hallucinations.  You can get a chemical to help with bedwetting, obsessing or compulsing too much, as well as lack of hunger or too much hunger.  Chemicals are sold to help you sleep, to mute your aggression, or to help you with social isolation.

And, ladies, there’s more to come, though you’ll have to have a “disease” if you want the chemical.  Big Pharma companies are sprinting as fast as they can to be the first to offer a chemical to “treat” the recently created new “disease”:  Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder in Women.  (Don’t believe it?  Check it out here.)

It’s the race to develop “female Viagara,” and Big Pharma is drooling.

The prize goes to the first one to get approval by the FDA.  It will be worth billions worldwide, and it’s a business response to customer demand.  After all, if men can have Viagara, why can’t women have something too?  You will.  I’m confident you’ll have many choices from which to choose.  “Love Potion #9” seems like it might be a good name – and a big seller.  Look for the ads.

For some convoluted but alarmingly convincing reasons, we have, in the past 25 years in particular, gotten accustomed to going to a medical doctor for help for behavioral problems, as if difficult behavioral problems are medical in nature.  They are not, but it really doesn’t matter.  There is relief found in those chemicals.  Even when there isn’t, at least you’re “in treatment.”  You have an imbalance of some kind, and you feel better taking your chemicals.

Psychiatrists are more than willing to help, of course.  There’s no pretense anymore.  You see a psychiatrist, and a psychiatrist sees you, to prescribe you a chemical to relieve your discomfort.  You go to someone else for therapy.  More than that, you soon become a disciple, adept at diagnosing and prescribing all at the same time.

The chemicals seem to work so well, we reason, we should give them to our children.  After all, we give them chemicals for the flu or asthma, why not for their “disorders.”  And it’s on the rise.  The use of chemicals to address these false “diseases” has risen four fold in 20 years.  No cures, mind you.  Just lots of “diseases,” and lots and lots of chemicals.

You may have to lower your expectations too, just a little bit.  Many believe children with these “diseases” are “handicapped” or “disabled.”  Maybe you believe it’s true too.

It isn’t, of course.  It’s nonsense.  Your kids aren’t sick.

Selling chemicals is a business. You, me – and our kids – are customers.

NEXT YKAS ESSAY:  The Business of Selling Chemicals

(NOTE:  I recently published an article I wrote back in 1988.  It was about the growing chemical culture nearly a quarter century ago.  It’s eerily relevant.  When you can, please see The Era of Chemicals – Redux.   – RC)