He has another wife and another life:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I just discovered that my husband is, and has been, involved for quite some time with a woman in another city. He travels for business and spends at least a third of the year in Venezuela at his company’s main headquarters. It turns out that not only is he having an affair- he has a whole other life he has been maintaining for many years. This other woman is part of his business and social life, the same as I am here. She is now pregnant with their SECOND child! This is how I discovered what was going on- I found a bill from the GYN clinic in his pocket.

Aside from the sense of betrayal, I feel utter astonishment. The thing is that he is an excellent husband while he is home. He is attentive to both me and our son, he helps around the house, takes an interest in what I do, and is reasonable and responsible in the life we have built together. I have never heard even a hint that he has cheated on me here, and trust me, word nearly always gets out when something like that happens amongst my friends.

Here is my ultimate dilemma- I was completely happy before I learned the truth, and I almost wish I didn’t know. His time in Venezuela is so separate from our life here that it doesn’t touch it. If I didn’t lose face by everyone finding out, I would honestly rather live with things as they are than end what I have with him and go out alone with our son to build a new life. I don’t want a new life- I want the one I have. I just wish there wasn’t someone else sharing my husband with me.

I need some perspective on this. Can you help?


Sharon Unwillingly


Dear Sharon,

Inevitably you would have found out, even if only at the will when both you and the other wife showed up.  Your life is your choice to do with what you want. There is no right way to live it. The only problem here is that you can’t become unaware once you are aware; it will just drive you nuts.

You need to make a decision, but there is no immediate need to act.  Whatever you decide you need to make exigency plans, establish your own bank account and do whatever you need to insure your own security and that of your son. If you choose to stay there is no guarantee he will always come back from his other life.  You should definitely seek legal counsel as to what your rights are. Your marriage, or the other, might be illegal if he married this other woman too. Keep records, receipts, and proof.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: twenty years ago, I might have advised you to dump the bastard. The irony here though is that other than having another family, your husband isn’t a bastard at all. His treatment of you during the time he spends shows that in an isolated way, he respects and cares for you and feels duty towards the family.

Unfortunately, you are living in a glass house. Circumstances have been such so far that he has not been forced to choose between you and this other woman, or to reconsider his ties to you. But what if she became ill and he decided his first loyalty was to her? What if his other children had an exceptional need for him? Or his company asked him to transfer to Venezuela permanently? This is a world of change and uncertainty and anything could happen.

Seek legal counsel. Who is he is leaving his support to in his will? Are you better educated and does he consider you to be better able to support yourself after he is gone? Change your own will if you have one. Leave everything to your son. The legal aspects are of far more importance than the emotional ones in many ways, because feelings come and go but an estate is forever.

Quite honestly, I understand your reluctance to change. There are few good men out there, and he treats you very well when he is with you. But a man who is capable of such a great deception is capable of many other things. Keep in mind that the man you know may not necessarily be the man he really is.

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Act or be killed:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I was listening to a talk show on NPR and a listener called in with this experience-

A bully with 10 friends surrounded this guy, and he knew he wasn’t going to get away. They engaged and humiliated him. I commented that he should have broken the bully’s nose before the first sentence came out, it was the only real chance he had. I said that the guy didn’t know they would just humiliate him, and he must assume they will kill him. If anyone attacks you, you must assume it’s to kill and react accordingly. My wife, who was also listening, said that was stupid, and that hitting the bully could have caused the gang to kill the guy, not just humiliated him. But this guy is still affected by what happened 30 years later!

It seems to me that if he’d taken action, he could have spared himself the lingering trauma. What do you think?

Non-Neutral Ned

Dear Ned,

I agree with you. I was taught in Judo that if some is attacking you, you need to assume their intent is to kill you. The goal is to get away and whatever allows for that must be done. Besides, you can’t know someone’s intent and there often is only seconds to make a decision. I am not sure this changes even if the aggressor’s age or gender changes. Think about the planes that were hijacked in 911.The only plane not to succeed was the one where the passengers assumed they were already dead. People often react wrong assuming the aggressor can’t possibly be thinking so abhorrent. People assume other people can’t possibly be that evil or broken, but they can be.

If you are attacked or surrounded by a group of potential attackers especially if there is alcohol on their breath assume they are one of those. Do what it takes to get out of there.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dear Ned;

Both you and Dr. Cliché are seriously misinformed.

First, I’d like to mention that the radio call-in guy wasn’t killed, illustrating the point that not every attacker means to kill you. In fact, this guy wasn’t even attacked, as far as I can tell. He was humiliated by this gang, not beaten. So the judo advice of what to assume and how to act when attacked is not even relevant to this case.

Second, I do predict that if the victim in this case had punched the bully in the nose, it would have done nothing but make the bully and his friends angry. A punch from a guy is the equivalent of a slap in the face from a girl. When I train women in self-defense, I tell them to never slap an attacker. Why? It just pisses your attacker off and makes him feel the need to subdue you more harshly. If you are going to strike out at an attacker, you have to actually damage him, not just hurt him. Don’t scratch a face, rip an eyeball out. Crush their trachea so that they suffocate. This forces him into a position of self-preservation and will enable you to get away.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by 11 attackers and you know with absolute certainty that they intend to kill you, you have one chance, and this chance exists only if you know specific techniques and can execute them with the full adrenalin and power of your being. You need to grab the person closest to you and damage them so badly that they are either dead or mutilated. Bite their freaking’ face off if you have to. Gouge those eyes. Break their neck. It is the ONLY thing that will convince a gang to leave you alone. No one wants to risk being maimed or killed, and at this point, the gang knows you are going to take some of them down with you if they attack.

None of these last-ditch self-defense tactics are something that you can take back, and the post-trauma experienced from executing them is not inconsiderable… so if you aren’t sure of the situation, you may want to THINK before reflexively maiming another person for life. If you are on a hijacked plane, the need for drastic action is obvious. But if I were on a school campus and a small group of students surrounded me, I would not jump to the immediate conclusion they wanted to kill me. You need to use common sense.

Be realistic- if all you have in your arsenal is a punch in the nose and you aren’t a trained fighter, don’t just flail out. If the surrounding gang didn’t intend to beat you senseless before, they surely will after that. It’s not a fair fight, and that’s what bullies love most.

Right now, the guy from the radio show has lingering trauma. But he could have ended up both with lingering trauma and be confined to a wheelchair for life- or be six feet under.

And I gotta ask- how the hell did that guy allow himself to get into a situation like that to begin with? There just are not that many normal situations in life where you find yourself alone and surrounded by a gang. The idea of prevention may not be as ego-gratifying as the thought punching a bully in the nose, but it’s by far a more intelligent method of self-defense.

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People can be mean:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I am having terrible luck with relationships and I don’t understand why.  I have heard that girls usually look for someone who resembles their father and this is why so many women from dysfunctional families with lousy dads end up in abusive relationships. But my own father was wonderful! He always made me feel loved and special- he supported me in my interests and listened when I was having problems. You would think I would be attracted to similar guys, right? Unfortunately, just about every guy I’ve gone out with seems as wonderful as my father at first. But the minute I start trusting them and feel close, they start taking me for granted…or just start running after someone else. What is the deal? Why am I getting the same abusive jerks that girls with awful dads are instead of someone nice like my own father?

Daddy’s Girl


Dear DG,

People who come from opposite backgrounds often get the same results on a functional level. Those who are treated poorly expect to be treated poorly so they don’t run from dysfunctional people as they should. People who are treated well expect to be treated well and don’t believe that dysfunctional male seduction could be insincere calculation, so they don’t run either. Misinterpreting the intent of others can get you in trouble.

I imagine that you give people the benefit of the doubt. You might even misinterpret their behavior, rationalize, or make excuses for it, as you just can’t fathom how someone can be uncaring, mean or disrespectful behind a polite facade. Unfortunately, as I have seen over and over, they most certainly can.

Many people are douche bags, and 25% of people are mentally ill. You need to learn awareness and figure out how to read people for who they are rather than what you expect them to be. Otherwise, your life will be of poor quality and your relationships will fail. Behavioral economics research has shown that humans are not altruistic by nature. People behave well when others are watching, but very differently if they think they are not seen.

Not all people are two-faced. Those who’ve experienced good role modeling and have made an investment in themselves can be genuinely nice. The quality of your life is dependent on the character, and skill set, of those you surround yourself with. Therefore you have to learn how to gauge good qualities in others. Watch for a mismatch between what people say and what they do. Look for not only how they treat you but how they treat those they aren’t expecting to get something from. People learn through role modeling, so what kind of parents did a prospective mate learn from? Is there love and respect in their relationship?

Don’t give up but also don’t allow anyone to treat you disrespectfully,

Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: I’d like to know how old Daddy’s Girl is. An unfortunate fact of life is that teenaged girls are, for the most part, unbelievable idiots when it comes to men. Most of them are extremely self-involved and want to believe that they are special in some way. All a man has to do is lay on the compliments and apply some well-paced foreplay. The teen girl turns into silly putty. As far as I can tell, the only girls who manage to escape this “idiot” phase are the ones who are so engrossed in study of some sort- be it music, gymnastics or science fairs- that they are oblivious to the social whirl around them. Oh, and teen girls who are locked up in cages. They can avoid men altogether. But that only lasts as long as the cage is locked.

If I were to give any girl advice this would be it: men are liars. They don’t necessarily mean to be, and don’t necessarily see what they are doing as lying. But they KNOW that women want to be special and they know they, the man, are only after sex…and they play the game anyway. This doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them dangerous for idiots to listen to. So the next time a man opens his mouth, don’t just swallow every line whole and ask for more. Act skeptical. Pull out your device and ask him to wait a minute while you Google his dating history. Tell him you have a concrete rule: no fooling around until he’s met your mother and you’ve taken him to your volunteer nursing home job to see if the old ladies like him. If he has a sense of humor and is genuinely interested, this will be an amusing challenge. If he’s an asshole, he’ll make some disparaging remark about your character, and women in general, and stomp off in a snit. Either way, it’s a lot more fun for you than getting duped by another asshole.

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Hero’s narcissism:


Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

My niece Lara  is 15 and I’m concerned. My sister, Lara’s mom, is proud of her and just shakes her head when Lara gets upset because she got an A- on her report card instead of an A. But I can’t help but notice that Lara, at 15, has the same expectations of herself that most kids have when they are in their last year of high school. She worries about getting into the best college, having the best grades, doing volunteer work to pad her resume…her mom sees it as all wonderful, but I think Lara’s so concentrated on her own achievements that she has no awareness of or compassion for other people at all. She also doesn’t seem to have any close ties to friends her own age. Her mom says it’s because Lara is so far ahead of others in her class, but to me, this doesn’t seem healthy. What do you think?



Dear Patience,

You’ve described Lara as a narcissist but another way of looking at her is to see her as the archetypical hero type. Heroes don’t fraternize with normal people. Heroes don’t get to live normal lives. Heroes don’t get to have relationships. Heroes achieve, sacrifice, then die. Many people like Lara, when they ultimately fail, kill themselves. They feel they redeem themselves and make the world a better place world through their sacrifice. It is what they have been taught.

Heroes lead lonely lives no matter how good or generous they are. Lara needs to learn skills to counter her black-and-white, win-or-fail, thinking. She needs to learn that people and life are imperfect. She needs to get comfortable with ambiguity and not knowing. She needs to cut herself and everyone else a break. She needs to learn that the meaning of life is balance. Maybe she and her mom should join a t’ai chi class together. It might help them to slow down and breathe.

Adolescence is a phase also called Narcissism vs Shame. This means is that it is the time for adolescents to learn how to balance self and others. Many people see others as extensions of themselves, or themselves as an extension of others. Either way of thinking is untrue and unbalanced. There is no one final answer, the best we can do is to find balance. It takes questioning. It requires role models and mentors. And it takes time.

Good luck with your journey.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: when you describe Lara, I see a girl who is different from those around her and is in for a tough time of it if she can’t get comfortable in her own skin. Right now, she is very uncomfortable. She has a fire in her gut and she’s racing to get there, which is a very good thing in one respect. It means that she is an achiever and your sister doesn’t have to worry that ten years from now Lara will be camped out in the basement, smoking pot all day and still without a job. But every personality type has it’s own set of problems and if Lara doesn’t gain a little perspective she’s going to self destruct before she gets where she’s trying to go.

That old adage “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” is very true. Except in this case, rather than simply making her dull, all that work could make Lara a basket case who develops ulcers and nervous tics and never develops a social support system of her own. Whether she is different or not, it just isn’t healthy to be isolated. Statistically speaking, it’s dangerous for your physical well-being…loneliness has twice the impact on early death as obesity does. And as far as mental health goes, people who are isolated suffer a much higher rate of depression and anxiety related disorders, which could be one of the reasons that Lara is so edgy about her grades.

I think that the best thing you can do for Lara is to try to connect her with people that she has more in common with so that she can develop friends. I understand why she can’t relate to the boy crazy, giggling girls in her current classes, but she’s not the only intelligent, driven girl in the world. There’s a lot of them, especially in better schools. Public schools tend to be geared to the average student who is far less focused on success and more interested in mindless fun and exploring sex.

A note about t’ai chi- I think any form of meditation or martial arts is great and could help Lara’s nerves, but it is probably not a solution to her problem of isolation. T’ai Chi classes are not going to socialize her. People are there to concentrate on their own performance, not to have fun. It could, unfortunately, become just another self-centered activity she is trying to perfect as the lonely archetype hero.

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I can make you not suffer:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

I know that anxiety is considered a psychiatric condition these days, but I just have something to say about that. I remember a time in my life when I had no anxiety at all- I was married to someone who paid the bills, I had health insurance, I had it made. I could have done just about anything I wanted to. I had little motivation to do anything. While I was busy being relaxed, my life was falling apart behind my back. When I ended up divorced, I was anxious all the time. I had to figure out how to solve all sorts of problems I’d never dealt with. Suddenly, I found myself motivated and capable of just about anything. I was also not the slightest bit depressed, which I often was when I was married. The sense of anxiety hasn’t ever left me, I just use it as an impetus to get my ass in gear and take care of business. What if I’d gone on anti-anxiety meds when I got divorced? I shudder to think. What is your opinion on this whole “emotions are a disorder” phenomena that seems to be sweeping the country?

Anxious Abby


Dear Abby,

There are two different issues here. I will start with the smaller one. What you are describing is the normal anxiety that anyone would feel in a dire situation. This isn’t a psychiatric issue and shouldn’t be medicated. It is called being human and alive.  However, a constant sense of dread and despondency that has no visible source or that is out of proportion to the environmental stimulus is another story. This can be a condition that benefits from medication. Unfortunately, in our culture most people seek medications for what are really just normal human emotions.

Anxiety, as you described it, is a necessary part of the feedback mechanism of the brain that tells you to say no, get out of there, or stop doing whatever you are doing that is making you ill. It is also part of common sense.

The bigger issue I see is the false advertising and unrealistic expectations that dominate the field of psychiatry today. It is the reason that everyone you know on some kind of psychiatric medication. The commercials on TV promise that pills will make problems go away. It’s a promise that can’t be delivered.

Psychiatric medications do not, in reasonable use, make you “happy” and can’t permanently erase your anxiety. Marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, and alcohol, are far more efficient than any psychiatric medication to either numb your emotions or cause temporary elation.

The purpose of psychiatry is not to remove your suffering or uncomfortable emotions, but to help you to transform those experiences into something meaningful and useful. Psychiatry is supposed to help you to provide context for your suffering, to help you see it as part of human existence and intimately involved with the meaning of one’s life.  It is only in our modern thinking that we have come to expect a life with no suffering at all.  But that is like asking to cease being human.

Be careful what you ask for- your modern psychiatrist will, at your request, keep medicating you to the point of oblivion. If that doesn’t work they will plug you into a wall socket and eradicate your memory.   It is our current paradigm and the promise of an end to suffering!

Dr. Brilliant cliché


Granny says: wow, wouldn’t it be great if psychiatry really did help us to transform difficult feelings into something meaningful and useful? But as Dr. B pointed out, the current paradigm does not do that. Right now, psychiatry is symptom based and it seeks to erase those symptoms as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Absolutely everything in our economic system supports this idea, from the booming pharmaceutical companies, to the TV programs that need sponsors, to the sky rocketing fees for health care. It’s useful that the public is brain-washed by those commercials, because it sends them to their doctors to ask for a prescription. The doctor gets paid, the pharmaceutical companies make money, reality shows and police dramas continue and everybody’s happy. Another medication junkie enters the economic food chain.

I’m guessing that Dr. B did not intend to recommend street drugs and booze as an alternative to psychiatric medications. But sharing a glass of wine with friends after fighting the good fight all day is vastly different from being a boozer or pothead. I think that half the people who are on antidepressants or Xanax would do much better off if they could make do with the social imbibing that healthy normal people sometimes do. Unfortunately, many of those who are medicated can’t control any substance they use.

Quite honestly, I think that we are becoming depersonalized as a society and the over-use of psychiatric medications is part of a bigger problem. Too many people walk around staring down at some device, ignoring what’s going on around them, living through apps. But normal human emotions are not something we can process with an app or resolve through word symbols. I really think that most of us would prefer not to have emotions. They just get in the way of all this stuff we have to do whether we like it or not. I wish that I were joking. I fear that I am not.


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Jealousy isn’t a sign of love:

Dear Dr. brilliant Cliché,

I am not sure if this is a problem but it does worry me a lot. My boyfriend never gets jealous over me. Not even the tiniest bit. I have never cheated on him but I’ve purposely flirted with other men to get a rise out of him, and- nada. I finally asked him about it and he said he believes in free will. He said he would be sad if I left him or if I cheated but that it is my choice and I am free to go if that is what I want.  I don’t know why but this drives me a bit nuts. Maybe because it is so damn unromantic? How can he possibly love me if he feels this way?



Dear perplexed,

You aren’t asking for him to love you. You are asking for him to reassure you.

Isn’t someone who is stable enough to be content with themselves, and yet still chooses to be with you, exactly the kind of partner you would want? There is no agenda or ulterior motive here.  Why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t feel whole unless they are with you and professing undying love to you? Here, the agenda or ulterior motive isn’t a relationship but an antidepressant.

Robin Williams in Patch Adams said it the best. “If you truly love someone you have to be able to let them go” What you want is just about you. You want him to reflect back your insecurities. That is a recipe for a dysfunctional roller coaster of a relationship. If I gave anyone any advice it is that he should rethink his relationship with you, as you are not at the level of having an equal and healthy relationship.  You are going to cheat on him some day when someone starts telling you what you want to hear and you will mistakenly think that is real love.

I’ve heard people say you can’t choose love. It just hits you. There are many kinds of and many levels  to love.  This chemistry stuff is only level one and it is the most superficial and temporary form. Territorial and possessive love is also level one type, as these are all more about you than they are the other person.

Trust, endurance, communication, admiration, and respect are all parts of the longer lasting deeper kind of love. What differentiates them is that they are about the other person more than they are about yourself.

Perplexed you have a rocky road ahead of you. I hope this helps shorten your journey.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: Wow, do I have different take on this. I think that Perplexed has a rocky road ahead of her if she follows Dr. Brilliant’s advice. The negative assumptions he’s making about this poor girlfriend are waaaay off the charts. Me thinks there is some projection going on here.

I have had many boy friends over my lifetime and nearly all have been jealous, to varying degrees. It’s not a sign of neediness or dysfunction in most cases, it’s the same way they’d feel about anything that mattered to them- they know that men are predatory and their shackles go up if another male starts moving in on something they care about. Married men feel this way about their daughter’s suitors too.

The guy in my past who really stands out is the one who had an attitude EXACTLY like Perplexed’s boyfriend. I thought that he was so bloody evolved. I really thought it was a sign of emotional maturity. Ha! This guy turned out to be more neurotic and messed up than all of the other men combined. He actually liked the idea that other guys were turned on by me and saw it as elevating his status. Of course, he didn’t let me know that. He developed his little “I want you to be free” rap so he could appear enlightened. Turns out he was a closet gay and wasn’t possessive because I had no value to him other than as a means of living out his suppressed gay life while keeping a cover.

Listen, any red blooded male worth his salt is not going to like men ogling the woman he loves, or coming on to her. It’s not because the man ” don’t feel whole unless they are with her.” It’s because they know exactly what cads other men are. Rampant, needy jealousy is a sign of psychosis. But some jealousy is a healthy sign that a man values his partner and wants to protect her.

Any man who pukes up the bland crap that Perplexed’s boyfriend is spewing at her isn’t enlightened or mature. He just doesn’t give a crap.

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Is masturbation good for your health?

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I caught my husband  masturbating the other night when I got up late to use the bathroom. He says he read online that it was good for his health and “keeps him young” if he does it daily.  I am not sure how I feel about it.  I certainly don’t want to have sex with him every day! Is it true that it is good for his health?



Dear Wife,

The supplement market makes billions of dollars a year with promises of eternal health and beauty with little evidence to support their claims. The best supplements I know of to bring about better mood, improve the immune system and decrease the likelihood of prostate problems are folk remedies that cost almost nothing. There is strong empirical evidence that an apple a day and an orgasm a day both support prostate health. Orgasm has also been shown to help alleviate anxiety and depression and improve overall immune functioning. And, of course, it is a well-known preventative for premature ejaculation.

There are prohibitions against masturbation in most cultures and religions. The dire predictions range from “going blind” to ruining your relationships, but scientific data shows just the opposite.   Few relationships include daily sex…and the orthodox view that “saving it makes for better sex” does little but increases the risk of early orgasm in men.  You could just as easily say practice makes perfect!

Woman don’t get the prostate benefit but they do get the anxiety, depression and immune support benefits from orgasms.

A caveat, of course, is that if a person is spending excessive time masturbating in lieu of sex with their partner, or doing it at inappropriate times, this might be cause for alarm.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: oh, come on. Do people really still believe that masturbation is for perverts and social psychopaths? Wife, you need to do some reading. Men are capable of having more orgasms than you can ever imagine. I’ve known guys who are at it three times a day. Easily. The rate at which teen boys can get it up is somewhat awe inspiring.

The list of benefits which orgasm can produce is pretty awe inspiring too. In addition to the stuff already mentioned, it improves circulation, increases fertility in women by stimulating the hypothalamus gland, aids in lymphatic cleansing, promotes healthy hormone levels, spikes DHEA levels to improve brain function and skin appearance, and can even help cure migraines. So back off, Wife! What are you trying to do, kill the guy?

Here’s an encouraging thought- if your husband is masturbating at home, he’s probably not having an affair. If you can’t imagine having sex more than once a week, I would not mess with your husband’s current methods.

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Just busted:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

My son is 19 and was recently caught smoking marijuana. He’s not a juvenile delinquent- his grades are good. The friends he smokes pot with are all otherwise good kids. My son has never previously been a discipline problem and has an amiable nature.

His mom went ballistic and gave him ultimatums like “if you see those friends again I’ll take the car away” I am not sure that will help anything since he is 19 and goes to school away from home. I know he sees them anyway. I also know that no matter what we say he will smoke pot at school with his friends.  I am at a loss as to what to do.

Concerned Dad


Dear Dad,

As this is an extremely common problem and ever growing, I asked nearly everyone I knew if they had any experience with this and I was surprised by how many did. Some of them just said, “so?” Most of them responded with, “when my son was that age, he did,” or “when I was that age you should hear what I did!” I would then get a long list of antisocial infarctions, sometimes from very respectable parents.

None of us want our kids to experiment with drugs. It puts them in potential danger. But in the big scheme of things I’ve rarely met anyone who hasn’t done this and most of them don’t go on to completely screw up their lives.  It seems to me that overall you have a good kid. At 19 there is not much you can do to control him, but it might be a good idea to have him get a job. I’d also encourage his successes, let him know you love him, and be a good role model yourself. Ultimately, his success or failure in life is up to him, not you.

I would avoid ultimatums because they just don’t work. I’d also make sure that you don’t miss his successes because of his few negatives.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: to be honest, I can’t believe that in this day and age your wife flipped out like that. She must have either lead a very sheltered existence or she wears a massive set of horse blinders.

Kids experiment. It is completely and utterly natural. I have watched many kids grow up over my lifetime and there’s something that seems ironically true- the ones who appear to be the best kids because they stick to the straight and narrow and listen to strict moms and dads are NEVER the ones who do anything exciting or interesting with their lives. Everyone who has an innovative streak was a headache for their parents. And I have also seen kids who seemed to be exemplary turn out to be suppressed as hell; they later exploded in dangerous ways.

The prime example that comes to mind is a kid named Chris Simril from my home town. He was an honor student, a winning athlete, went to church with his mom every week, all set for a good college at the end of high school with a National Merit Scholarship. Except Chris never made it to college. One fine summer night, he took his mom out in the fields behind their house, cut her into pieces with an axe, and put the body parts in a bag. He spent the next 20 years in an insane asylum.

I seriously think that making a big deal out of this problem will have a negative rather than positive effect. I wouldn’t show approval, because there are dangers, but don’t treat him like a freakin’ criminal.

Concerned Dad- tell  your wife to ease up on your kid, for god’s sake. If this is the biggest worry you ever have about him, consider yourself blessed.



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After Childhood sexual abuse:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

My 10 year old daughter was raped by her uncle. The police are after him but I am worried about my daughter. She has been withdrawn and acting out. She has a counselor coming to the house but her behavior is always worse afterward. They are making her talk about it.  Now they want to put her on medications.  She is only ten! I don’t want her to be screwed up for the rest of her life. What can I do?

Worried sick


Dear mom,

The main thing that has to be gotten across to your daughter is that she is not broken.  Sexual abuse does not mean she has to be messed up forever. I have worked with people from other cultures where it is the acceptable norm for men to sleep with their daughters as a sort of rite of passage. As crazy as this sounds no one became traumatized until they moved to America and DCYF took the dads away and put the children in PTSD groups. Suddenly all these kids developed post traumatic stress syndrome.  Before, it wasn’t a secret or shameful, just what everyone did.  The kids didn’t see themselves as different or broken until entering our culture.

Your ten year old doesn’t have the language or experience to be able to process this experience. It would help a great deal if she had some education based on anatomy, sex, development, and also some information on love and relationships. Delving into talking about abuse without this background information won’t help, but it could hurt- she just doesn’t have the tools to handle the experience.  I highly recommend that she read A Very Touching Book  by Jan Hindman. For older kids , The Courage to Heal, by Ellen Bass, is effective, and has a work book to bring the lessons home.

Kids also process experiences by how people around them react. If everyone else is freaking out, kids will freak out.  Some neutral person has to be able to work with her. Your behavior as a parent can’t be governed by guilt or you could reinforce very destructive behaviors in your child.

Physically, she is the same person she always was. Mentally, she is at risk for getting lost.   For many kids in her situation, successful healing comes from educating and helping others who have been bullied and or abused.  As she gets older she should get involved in volunteer organizations and public speaking about it. As Stephen King says, “Secrets eat you from the inside out.” Your daughter’s experience can’t be seen as a secret or a source of guilt or shame. It has to become a source of strength.

The danger of medication is that there is a risk it will suppress her feelings and make it unnecessary to develop the skills to process the experience. This would be a potential time bomb. Studies only show that medications are most helpful in the first three days after a traumatic experience occurs. Memories of the experience are not as cemented at that point. The higher the emotion the larger the imprinting of memory, so decreasing the initial emotions can decrease the imprint. Unfortunately, many doctors start medication, then leave the kids on it for the rest of their lives. They also sometimes start medications months out, which isn’t necessarily useful at all.

She is not broken,

Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny says: I taught self defense to women for many years. It used to be that the advice about rape was “don’t struggle, it’s not worth your life.” But years of research have thrown that old adage out the window. Women who have been raped will tell you- life, as they knew it, is over forever after the violation. It is better to fight as if your life is at stake, because, figuratively speaking, it is.

This doesn’t mean that someone who has been raped will never recover. What it means is that that something inside is changed forever by this experience. A woman who is treated badly after a rape, or made to feel as if it was her fault, or that she is “dirty” because of it, will be emotionally crippled for life. Support and reinforcement of self is the most important thing that you can give any rape victim.

If the counseling is making your daughter worse, I would find out why. Is the therapist experienced with kids her age, or do they ordinarily work with older women? It’s important that your daughter see someone who knows how to work with her age group. I would also suggest a female therapist rather than a male.

As to medication? If you want to see your ten year old daughter become dependent on drugs for life, this is a great way to do it. She is NEVER going to want to feel those emotions again. If she doesn’t deal with them now, it will just get harder as she gets older. Most likely, she will bury the emotions and have one broken relationship after another that falls apart because her subconscious fear will undermine the boundaries of normal sex and her reactions to men.

Granny’s recommendation is that whatever else your daughter does, she ought to study self defense. It is one of the few things that is going to make her feel safe again. I am not talking about some six week course that shows her how to knee men in the groin. I am talking about thorough training that gives her both self confidence and the discipline to have self-control. One of the dangers I see in quick self defense courses is that many women who seek them out have a personal vendetta and are just waiting for an excuse to hurt some man. I can’t think of a better way to end up in jail, or dead.

Your daughter needs to feel normal. Don’t treat her like a freak or force her into counseling that upsets her. But don’t ever be fooled- unless she finds a way to confront this head on, it is something that will always be following her from behind.

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50 shades of the beast

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

Every time I turn on the TV, I am seeing scenes from Fifty Shades of Gray.

I never thought I’d live to see the day that Hollywood was, essentially, promoting S&M. One thing I do find interesting is that the woman who is the “love object” here is not some beauty queen out of Glamour. She looks like she could be the girl next door. Since when is the girl next door into this stuff?

Curious Clara


Dear Clara,

The target audience for this movie is women, so I would assume it is good marking to use Plain Jane rather than Barbie. Fifty Shades of Gray is a poorly written Beauty and the Beast story. It’s one of the myths our culture is founded on: love will redeem the beast. In reality this type of female sacrifice just leads to dysfunctional codependent relationships. Unfortunately, that is the nation’s romantic norm- sacrifice for love and all will be OK. A man will be redeemed because a woman nurtures him back to grace. Fifty Shades dresses the Beast in leather and gives him a private jet but it is the same old story so I am not surprised to see it on the silver screen again.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: perhaps it is because he is not a woman, but I think Dr. B is missing the boat when it comes to why women are so intrigued by this book. They are not lured by the idea of taming the Beast. They are lured by the idea of being taken by the Beast. They don’t want to sacrifice themselves so they can redeem the Beast. They want to be in the hands of a strong man who is expert and aloof and fabulously rich, yet somehow so drawn to Plain Jane that she is whisked into his fairy tale existence.

Screw the cultural dysfunctional codependence. This is about sex, about being with someone who is masterful and whom you wouldn’t dream of saying no to. S&M has always been in the top 10 of sexual fantasies. Sex sells and this was a very attractive package, so of course it’s a hit. It will be replaced by another hit in a few years and as long as the public wants it and will pay for it, this stuff will keep coming out.

Granny has a word of warning though- Women! Do not be fooled by this movie. If there is ever a fabulously rich, masterful man who lures you into such a relationship, it will not be for long. Anyone this young, and this good at the Game, is going to want to keep playing. Beasts cannot be tamed. And they will never willingly walk into a cage.

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