Are you my doctor?

In honor of the New Dr. Seuss book set for release (What Pet Should I Get?) I also wrote a poem.


Are you my doctor?

I can’t sleep or sleep all day, it’s not sunny only gray. Time is endless, I am alone. I don’t want to dress and have no will to atone. In other people I can’t hear, they go on , I can’t care.

Are you my doctor , what do you think, are you my shrink?

I am an intern. I work late for low pay. I am available 24 hrs a day. As your intern I have to be stern. At your best you are depressed.

I will send you to the social worker.

I am anxious I can’t leave my house. I panic and jump like I’ve just seen a mouse.

Are you my doctor , what do you think, are you my shrink?

I am the social worker what’s mine is yours. If you can’t manage it I can do your chores.

Dr. Brilliant Cliche

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Experimenting with a new project

I have started a new blog:

The selfie of the word

A Raw, uncut, as is, unedited, and open to the public Narcissistic introspection. Essentially a selfie of the word.

Let me know what you think. It might be conducive for a twitter but we will see where it goes. Just experimenting with it for now.

(just click on The selfie of the word sentence above and you will be magically whisked to the new blog)

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

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Always on Call for them and not for me:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I work in a profession where long hours and unexpected emergencies are par for the course. My wife knew this when we got married; in fact I think that the fact that I was a good provider was at the top of her list as to why I was husband material. At first my work wasn’t a problem. But we are into year two and she is beginning to resent “taking second seat to your job.”

It strikes me as weird because I haven’t changed at all. I still take her out to dinner and buy her presents. I still call while I’m away and pay attention to her when I am home. It was enough for her before. Why isn’t it anymore?

Mike Missing

Dear Mike,

Two years into a relationship is an entirely different story from dating or honeymoon infatuation. A lot has changed that you may not have noticed. Here are some ideas to consider: 1. Everyone comes into a relationship with hopes, dreams and expectations. By year two reality may have played out very differently. 2. By the end of the first year many couples have all their eggs in one basket. Extended social networks tend to constrict over the course of marriage and new ones need to be formed. “You’re my everything” may be romantic at first, but by year two, it is wearing thin. 3. It is baby time. Was this part of your plans? Are you fulfilling your end of the bargain? This may be as important for her as your job is to you. If a baby comes into the picture, keep in mind that your absences will translate into an inability to provide help. This might be a necessity but it will still be frustrating for her.

Be glad she actually misses you and wants your constant presence in her life. Express your appreciation often and tell her that you understand it is hard. When a baby comes, ask her if she needs a nanny to help out. Many women are silent sufferers and feel guilty if “THEY DON’T DO EVERYTHING.” This type of sacrifice is a sure fire route to divorce.

Oh, I almost forgot- women like to talk about things. If in the last two years you haven’t shared all the ins and outs of your work and daily struggles she is probably feeling left out. Relationships are work. Work at it and you will have a relationship.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

The Granny Doctor wants to point out that the only certainty in life is change. You say you haven’t changed. That may be the problem. Take a good look at your marriage NOW and learn a few new tricks. When you took your vows they probably did not include “I will put our relationship in a box and never reexamine it.” Dr. Brilliant is right- biological time clocks tick louder as time goes on. Whether your plans for the future include babies or not, the issue should be discussed.

And one other question- you don’t mention what your wife does while she waits for you to come home. Does she need fulfilling work of her own? Talk about all of this! It will do more for your marriage than dinner out and a new necklace.

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Age is relative and not related to ones relatives:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I have been the odd man out for the holidays for the last seven years. All of my friends are married by now, some of them even have kids, and I am now in my mid-50’s and have never been to the altar. For a long time, it didn’t bother me, but in the last year or so, I have felt as if I really want to connect with someone and start a home.
This year, I met a wonderful woman who is 25 years younger than I. We were working together on a project and became closer and closer and now we have begun seeing each other in a more intimate manner. She went to see her family for Thanksgiving and I spent the holiday alone, with a couple of friends visiting. All I could do was talk about her. I really think there is a chance this will work, because she seems to want to have a real relationship as much as I. But I am terrified at the thought of meeting her family at Christmas. In fact, I am a bit apprehensive over all.

If this doesn’t work out, I feel I will NEVER meet someone. I know our age different might be a problem.
I am happy and anxious all at the same time. I’m afraid I’m going to blow this through sheer nerves and over-thinking.

Any suggestions?

Old Man River

Dear O M R,

I am happy for your happiness. The apprehension you are experiencing is 100% normal; if you weren’t worrying about your age difference, there would be something else to worry about.

Integrating with a partner’s family is never simple. Unless children let their parents do the matchmaking, all relationships will be scrutinized. Expectations will have to be adjusted and there will be growing pains. But if the two of you are happy with each other, the family will most likely adjust over time; they really have no choice.

If anyone tries to engage you in conflict, don’t fight with them, just agree to disagree. I wouldn’t ask their permission for your relationship either. They don’t own her and it would probably invite conflict.

Just be yourself- it is the only way anyone will get to know who you are. Understand that her family might not be thrilled at first; but over time if they see the two of you fit together happily, that’s all it usually takes to help them adjust. In the end, most parents just want their kids to be happy. When a parent can’t accept their children’s choice of life style or partner, it isn’t about the kids really, but rather their own stuff. Never let someone else’s neurosis dictate your life.

You didn’t expect this woman to walk into your life… so if this doesn’t work out, there are probably other possibilities out there too. Don’t worry too much about the future; if it’s working for now, that’s what’s important.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I can tell that you are at an age where you are taking this relationship idea very seriously. That’s great- you need to take a relationship seriously if it’s ever going to work.

However, I have a word of advice. I suggest that you make sure you are having a real relationship, not just pumping it up in your head because you need it to be real. Make sure the two of you are on the same page.

Many a woman with her biological time clock ticking has made the mistake of letting her fantasies run wild and has imagined herself married and with three kids… all within five minutes of meeting some guy! People who really want something badly tend to do this. You could be one of these people… your new girlfriend could be too. So keep your eyes open.

You need a relationship to be real at this point in your life. The up side? When you find one, you will be much more likely to succeed at making it work.

I can’t tell you what will happen here, but whoever you are with, there will be problems. If you are honest with yourself, and with each other, whatever happens, you will deal with it like two adults- and that’s the kind of relationship people of ALL ages should have.

No regrets,


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Environment matters:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

My adult nephew suffers from mental illness but after 35 years he has done well in his coping. He has taken some responsibility for his behavior and the consequences of his actions on others around him, including his family. This wasn’t the case early on.

What I am concerned about today is his daughter. She has been on psychiatric medications since the age of 4 and by now is on quite a lot of them and some are seriously strong medications. She has been, and still is, a handful according to my nephew. None of the medications she is on seem to work forever. Currently he doesn’t see the pills as doing much good but he fears that removing them could make her worse. Neither he or his wife can afford to miss work should this happen. They are on the cusp financially.

What can he do?


Dear concerned,

Life is like a table. It has many legs. Medications are only one leg and relying on only one leg makes the whole table unstable. All very young children are primarily instinctual. How they feel determines how they act. As children grow, logic and data are supposed to kick in to help them learn to make good choices. But people need to make an effort to discriminate when it is appropriate to act or not act on their feelings. It is seldom a natural ability. Many normal adults never acquire this skill but in every case of mental illness, the thinking remains nearly entirely feeling based.

Look at the table again. Now look at your nephew’s daughter. If she is a table, and they are using only medication to control her problem, then it is being addressed solely on one leg. This could prevent her from ever acquiring the skills to help manage her own feelings or assume personal responsibility. It could keep her emotionally like a child forever.

This is why psychiatric medication, if used alone and without additional learning and therapy, is not a long term solution. If a patient relies solely on medications, after a ten year period they are worse off than before they ever took medications in the first place. Medication alone will not help them to acquire the skills that teach them to not be a feeling based reflexic automaton.

If an individual doesn’t learn to address their own life and advocate for themselves, their lives certainly won’t get any better or different. They never develop personal will or choice. Mental illness doesn’t bypass this system. It is a result of this system.

If your nephew doesn’t get his daughter into counseling, get her involved in karate or some sport, Art, and other activities that will gain her skills and mastery of her emotions and behaviors she will be on medication and be a mental health patient for the rest of her life-guaranteed. Our current paradigm says it’s all genetic and intervention doesn’t matter much. PURE BALLONY. I have seen children of mentally ill parents excel after being given good resources and different opportunities from those their parents had. I have also seen kids from supposedly healthy homes who are given indulgence, poor resources, and poor skill acquisition. They have not fared so well.

Environment matters, it has even been shown recently to alter ones DNA.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I agree with BALONEY etc.

I also have to express astonishment that some group of medical assholes actually used their best professional judgement to put a child unattended on increasing medications…and some parent gave permission.

I will simply give Nephew a warning that at this point the child’s system is so polluted with drugs that if they are withdrawn cold turkey it could be life threatening. I would recommend strongly that Nephew seek the advice of a medical psychiatrist with a more holistic approach who can begin to get the freakin’ poison out of this poor girl without damaging her any further in the effort.

Shame on you, whoever did this.

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All people are a cliché:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I am not sure if it is a problem but my situation just feels weird sometimes. I have been married for over 15 years and my wife can finish my thoughts before I can even formulate what I was going to say.
Because of this, it feels like, “why bother if I am I that predictable? How can she not be bored with me if I don’t need to actually participate?”
Is this normal? And if so, why can’t I do the same with her? I never know what she is thinking. I can’t tell if she is mad at me or just having a bad day.

Just a Guy

Dear Guy

A professor I once worked under used to say, “All people are a cliché.” What he meant was that what people have done before, they will do again, and in more or less the same pattern. It makes sense if you consider this fact- you can only know what you know and what you do is based on what you know. Some people are better at recognizing the clichés than others. Your wife pays attention to you, or she would not know you so well, and that is not a bad thing. All people are predictable if you are paying attention.

I wouldn’t say you bore her. That is your issue, probably due to your self-esteem. Besides, predictability and stability in a relationship are not bad things. Unpredictable relationships are rollercoaster’s. But if you are worried about it, surprise her. Buy her some flowers tonight.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: if your wife were bored with you, instead of paying such close attention that she can predict your every thought, she would ignore you, day dream about more exciting partners and have no idea what you are going to say because she doesn’t give a crap.

Here is another cliche, but one that is true- heterosexual men are not nearly as intuitive as heterosexual women and gay men. It’s an actual feature of brain development, not some sort of character deficiency in you. Heterosexual men and gay women are more mechanically inclined and less connected to their emotional and intuitive centers. However, if you take a cue from your wife and start paying the sort of attention to her that she pays to you, you will begin to notice many things about her that You don’t notice now.

Intuition is not a magical power that comes out of the blue. Intuition is the result of careful observation, a good memory, and the ability to process a lot of information and draw conclusions based on multiple evidence. If you went to police training school, you would learn how to develop keen powers of observation. Cops see a lot because they learned how. You can learn too. And Granny intuitively predicts that when you become more observant, not only will you understand your wife better, you will BOTH find yourself much less boring. :)

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Be Gracious, it not worth your sweat to fret:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I worked for 10 years at a company that offered a good salary and benefits. When the recession hit, both myself and many of my friends were laid off due to budget cuts. It’s been several years and I still haven’t managed to find a full time job. I live from grant project to grant project.
One of my laid-off work friends, Debra, had put in 20 years of service before getting canned. She was searching for a couple years and FINALLY found a new job the other week. Another friend told me about it and I was very happy for Debra, until I was told that Debra instructed this other friend: “Whatever you do, don’t tell Cindy I got this job!” Debra had insinuated that because I hadn’t found full time work yet, it would just upset me to hear someone else’s good news.

Quite honestly, I find this very insulting! It implies so many negative character traits on my part- that I’m selfish and only want to hear good things if they apply to me; that I’m insecure and can’t handle hearing that someone else got a job when I couldn’t; that I’m just not a very good friend.

Now I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?

Cindy Looper

Dear Cindy,

It sounds to me like your friend’s request was a misguided attempt to protect you. My suggestion is just say, “Hey I heard you finally landed a job. Congratulations!” and leave it at that. It’s what a generous, supportive friend would do; it’s good role modeling. It doesn’t matter whether your past behavior is in question or whether this is just your friend’s problem. Be consistent in your graciousness now and act like the friend you want to be, and voilà- you are that person.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I sense that there are some questions that your friend’s comment set off in your head, that’s why you are so uncomfortable with it. The fact that you have an insecure economic position can make you insecure on an emotional level too. In our society, we are taught to judge our worth by our productivity and our value by whether others value us. I think there’s a combination of factors here- your reaction to Debra’s words was colored by your admitted unhappiness over your work situation- on that level, it seems to confirm your worst fear- you’ll never find a good full-time job again. And on a personal level, it made you doubt your worth in your friend’s esteem. In short, it was all about you… and in a bad way. It’s time to re-direct your own history. As Dr. Brilliant pointed out, deliberately acting like the strong, confident and supportive person you want to be is a step in creating or reinforcing that person in a real way. Congratulate your friend, act like the bigger person; and that becomes part of your history and your mark as an individual. It’s really up to you.

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Another Pippin:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

After I dropped out of school I got caught for a petty crime- shoplifted some CD’s. Anyway, my parents got me into this “rehab” program so I could minimize
the impact of my pilfering. They feel like they’ve done their job, the state thinks I’m reforming and everyone’s happy. I’m supposed to go back to school and get my life on track.
Here’s the problem- I just don’t give a damn. I don’t give a crap about college. I just want to experience life before I lock myself into the prison I’ve watched my parents live in.

I feel like this is all a lie and I just want to run away from it. Any reason I shouldn’t?

Jane Reb

Dear Jane,

Yes- going to prison for real. You may be right, your parents live in a box; we all do in one way or another. But I think you have the wrong idea about freedom. Freedom isn’t getting to do whatever you want whenever you want. That is just a state of limbo as there is nothing to define you. There is no meaning if you live just the moment. With that type of existence, it’s as if you are the wind and you are only defined by the damage you leave behind after you have blown through.

A more valuable freedom lies in getting to choose what defines you. There is freedom in choosing the rules that support the walls of your individual box.

Perhaps your parents chose their children to define them. They probably worked 9-5, paid the mortgage and provided your basic needs so that you had the opportunity to go to school, play baseball and generally have a life. These walls, although invisible, provided the structure and consistency necessary to raise healthy children.

In rejecting any structure, you run the risk of having one imposed on you- for example, prison. You are not unique in your thinking. What people want is often determined by the culture they are trying to escape from; thus when they get what they want it isn’t really what they need. A word of caution- you think you are making judgments on facts when you’re really making them on pure feelings. I suggest that you go see the play Pippin; it is about someone asking the same question you are.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: if you want to experience life, and you want it to be a good experience, you are going to need more than a collection of adventures. You are going to need to be able to take care of yourself in the long run.

Going to college right after high school is not necessarily for everyone. It’s not a bad idea to take some time and see the world; many kids waste their time in college because they don’t know what they want to do. They spend their time partying rather than learning. There is no virtue in being an aimless academic with a hangover.

Just keep this in mind- if you don’t get a college degree, or at least some solid vocational education, you are going to be at a disadvantage wherever you go. A lack of qualifications builds the walls to a box you may never get out of. You won’t be qualified for the rewarding, better paying jobs- unless you happen to be extremely talented, well-connected AND lucky as hell. Most people aren’t.

Take some time off after high school if you want. Travel, get some practical experience. See what interests you, what you are drawn to. But don’t sell yourself short and try to wing it on your fabulous personality and youthful charm. If you get a degree and don’t want to use it, fine. But you will never regret earning one. That is a promise.

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Be careful of how you phrase it:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I am a therapist and this “medicate everything” model that is prevalent today drives me nuts. Everybody is on some prescription because everybody has some sort of symptom and that is all you need in order to be medicated. In school they called it the bug and drug approach to medicine.

I write today because I have a client who is a living example of this inability to escape the expectation of symptoms and medicating them. She has a normal IQ but is very concrete in her thinking. She is completely and utterly literal in her interpretation of language. She also believes literally everything she reads and if she has an ache, or pain, or uncomfortable emotion, she spends her day on the internet researching medical sites. She then goes to her doctors and announce: “I have spina bifida.” It would not occur to her to simply say “My back hurts,” and wait for an opinion.

She has been on tons of medication and in numerous psychiatric hospitals. Nothing has made the slightest difference except that she is coming to resemble a zombie.

Today I sat with her and we had a discussion about how she phrases things. By now I feel I know her well enough to believe that she isn’t hearing voices, any more than anyone else hears their inner voice. But being literal and being raised around the bible she interprets her thoughts as “Satan talks to me.” When pressed, she eventually arrives at concrete and fairly workable notions: “Do good for others,” and “Be kind.” But it is an arduous task to get her to come to the point. Socially, she has no concept how people are receiving her and people have NO idea what she is talking about.

Just today, she decided that a disc in her back had slipped and she would most certainly be paralyzed for life. In truth, the symptoms were probably just side effects from the thorazine and haldol given to her. Her doctors continue to medicate her symptoms and no one ever asks “WHY is she feeling this way?”

Her only real problem is probably receptive and expressive learning disorder.

Unfortunately her scenario is not uncommon.

Frustrated Provider

Dear Frustrated,

I feel for your client. In our medical system, you have to “get” some disease or dysfunction in order to go to a provider. This is the expectation of both the client and the doctor. Now that insurance companies limit doctor’s time, the big picture is bypassed in favor of symptom clusters, diagnosed disorders and medication. It takes a too much time and patience for a doctor to really see the big picture with any client. Insurance won’t allow for it.

If people knew what they really needed, and why, they wouldn’t go to therapists in the first place. Most people confuse what they want with what they need. The two are not often in sync. Your client knows what she wants, but has neither the education or understanding to know what she really needs. Learning new skills would probably help her far more than any medication.

A doctor and client need to reach a cooperative relationship. A client needs to advocate for themselves but at the same time a doctor should not be afraid to say “that might not be in your best interest.” Many doctors enable their patient’s misinformed habits. Medicine is an art but insurance doesn’t cover artistry, it just covers the diagnosis and the pills.

It is good you are working to teach your client to be a better advocate for herself. There are also professional patient advocates if needed.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: I honestly blame capitalism for our current medical model. I spend a good part of my year in Taiwan, a country where the health system is set up as social medicine. People pay very little for their health care. No one can make money off of their continued dependence on the system, so there is more of a desire to re-construct people properly then send them on their way to be productive workers; the work ethic is very high here as well. In our country, the more dependent a patient is upon their doctor for continued prescriptions, repeated treatments, and crisis care, the better. Everybody gets their cut.

I spoke with a podiatrist who had traveled to Togo in Africa as part of a medical team. He is angry about the waste in this country. He told me that an insurance company will pay out a total of $5,000 for surgery every year to correct a recurring foot ailment that could be better alleviated with special shoes to correct the actual problem. The shoes would cost about $250, but the insurance company won’t cover them. Patients can’t afford the shoes so they get the free operation. Do the math on this and you will understand why health costs in this country are out of control and mental health problems and chronic disorders are still multiplying by the year.

I have absolutely no advice for you. You can’t change the system. You can only change what you do in your own office. If you have the guts to advocate in your local congress, you would be a huge help to the naturopathic physicians and other healers who are trying to help people through integrative health care.

Good luck.

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Romance is often just looking into the mirror:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

A friend and I have been having this ongoing conversation: what makes a good marriage?

He says marriage is a contract and a partnership built on mutual intent, and requires a plan.

I say that marriage is not just partnership because friends or business acquaintances can be partners but the tie between spouses is different. I think a marriage is a union where two people become one. Therefore, there are more obligations in a marriage. I think marriage must involve romance.

He says that romance is a fantasy that has more to do with the individual believing in their own ideal of a partner, rather than anything to do with reality. He says basing marriage on romance contributes to the failure of more than half of all relationships.

I say whether it is reality or not, people believe in romance and need it. Romance is what people yearn for. It gives them HOPE and something to strive for. Romance is beautiful…and shouldn’t we want our lives to be beautiful?

He says people need to use relationship skills in order to make a marriage work long term and fantasies have nothing to do with that. Fantasies can even impede learning anything new. He says our definitions of relationship are based on Disney and capitalism and not on universal truths. He thinks that what I describe is more art than reality.

Dr. Brilliant what do you say to this- which one of us is right?

Shakespeare in Love

Dear Shakespeare,

As is usual in arguments, both of you can be right. It depends whether you are talking about romantic gestures and not romance as the basis for a relationship. Romance as the foundation for marriage is like trying to win lotto based on instinct, or using denial to fit reality into fantasy version of something. Fantasy and denial are usually entirely one sided. It’s an artful interpretation that may or may not have anything to do with reality. Ideas of what romance is might be entirely different from one partner to the other. The real danger is that romance can be like just looking into the mirror.

I try to teach that relationships are only relationships if there is mutual intent, mutually agreed upon goals. I believe meaning comes from choice and intention otherwise there is no real point.

Having an intentional life philosophy can include romantic gestures because they can be used to show appreciation and respect. But a romantic life philosophy can act as a delusion, dealing in denial and expecting beasts and frogs to transform into princes. This is why the book and movie “50 Shades of Gray” is seen as a love story instead of as dysfunctional insanity.

Maybe you are one of the few relationship lotto winners in life and you actually found a mutual intent based relationship without having discussing plans and goals. You could have gotten lucky and just picked well. Most people aren’t that lucky and need to have a realistic conversation about their relationship goals if they want their marriage to last.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: this argument has been kicked around since the institute of marriage began. Dr. Brilliant is right when he says that both people can be right. But he is talking about an argument between friends. When it comes to marriage, there is only one point of view that can be right, and it is the one you both share. It doesn’t matter what that idea is. What matters is that you stay true to it to that shared vision. If such a rule is in place, even two hopeless romantics can make a long term relationship work. Here’s why.

The rules of romantic love say that the other person is your other half, your soul mate, and you probably have a great sex life as well. Such all-inclusive love requires that couples share their thoughts and feelings. If one or the other of the partners begins to lose the fantasy, or realize the other person doesn’t fit it, the respectful thing to do is to give that once beloved partner the gift of the truth, so that they can find their own happiness.

Obviously, a contract, intent driven marriage requires the same thing. It’s practical, it makes sense, it’s how business is done. But it is certainly not only practical people who deal ethically with each other.

I believe that marriages fall apart when couples betray their own original intent, whatever that intent might be. A romance based marriage with constant gestures of appreciation, could help two people weather many a world storm. An intent based relationship which requires constant conversation and negotiation, could also provide a sanctuary for both partners in a conflicted world.

However, once any partner, romantic or intent driven, betrays the original premise and goes off dealing with crap on their own without letting the other partner know, that’s when things fall apart. It doesn’t matter if the marriage is intent based or romance based. People with intent are just as capable of being selfish and messed up as romantic people. They just tend to be more self-righteous and have more rational explanations for it.

Bottom line- find a partner who wants what you do, and promise each other that if you ever change, you will be a sport and let the other person know so they at least have a chance to throw some perspective on the matter. Sometimes that’s all it takes. And sometimes marriages just break up because people are freakin’ bored with each other. Oh, and a word to Mr. Intent Based Marriage- nothing is more boring than an unemotional business deal that leaves no room for human longing and desire.

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