Black and white thinking is a suicidal risk:

Today I just learned a friend’s teenage son committed suicide. He had graduated HS and was starting college next month. Her brother committed suicide when he was that same age.  Was it a genetic time bomb, inevitable?  I don’t believe so. When I was in HS I did a report looking up the data that 50-60% of all HS students think of suicide at some point but the overwhelming majority don’t actually do it. Often suicidal thought (not ideation as in a fixation) isn’t related to depression either. It can be fear, frustration, being overwhelmed or just the grief that accompanies any change good or bad. It is just one of the myriad of options the brain presents amongst all options available. Those that actually do it I believe are concrete in their perceptions, all or nothing, black white thinkers.

I saw two teenagers today with chronic suicidal ideation both had the same belief,  they were done. There wasn’t anything going to be new under the sun for them. They both believed that the way things were was the way that things would always be.  They thought for sure they knew!

They also thought concretely, things were either all good or all bad. No in-betweens. Neither teen had any skills in ambiguity. As reality is always ambiguous they were wrong!  Interestingly one of the two wasn’t depressed. He only described anxiety. The other one also had anxiety as his main thing but he was also  depressed.

I believe it is this black and white , all or nothing thinking that is both inheritable and the largest suicidal completion risk.   It is also related to a hyper focus. Focusing on a detail and missing the big picture. It can make one argumentative as “I am right”  “I already know that”   Tweens are all like this but by late teens the brain should be playing more with ambiguity. Things can be more than one way at the same time as in two people can be saying the opposite things and both be right.  I can be both right and wrong at the same time depending. Everything is relative and everything is imperfect. Nothing is always 100% anything. 

The Romeo and Juliet syndrome is about this. You’re my everything means when the 1 thing goes wrong and one can no longer be with the other they feel like there is nothing left. You were my  everything now I have nothing.  This is always bullshit but concrete people are more in danger of acting on it.  Romeo and Juliet were actually tweens.  Tween exclusive dating is a bad idea and risky business because they are concrete naturally in the developmental cycle. Late Teens should be over this but many are not as just because the brain has the capacity to deal in ambiguity and relativity by late teenager hood it is a learned skill and our culture is a black and white concrete culture so many never do learn it. 

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Anxiety is just the tip of a very large iceberg:

Anxiety is probably the number one reason that brings people to my office. People just want it to go away.  Many people have already found multiple ways to numb their emotions thus their anxiety. Drugs, alcohol, marijuana, xanax, gambling, cutting, sex, fighting.. I have seen endless ways people use to avoid anxiety thus all feeling.   IT doesn’t in the long term work.  Nothing can, No method can last forever.

The human body is built to feel anxiety. It’s like pain as a method the body uses to avoid danger. IF something makes you anxious your body is telling you that you shouldn’t do it, agree with it, or be there. It is information you direly need!

Sometimes it isn’t the moment at all but a more general theme or style creating ones anxiety, for example, a person that doesn’t ever say no, people pleasers. They get in over their heads all the time and are always overwhelmed by the commitments they make to people. These people often express general anxiety or panic whenever they are around crowds. People to them are overwhelming and represent helplessness.

Although it might feel that way, anxiety isn’t usually random, sudden, and chronic. It is often tied to a behavior one is doing that they don’t realize puts them out of sync with their goal or intent. A behavior that is contrary to the solution they might wish to have.

Anxiety is often a default feeling that happens when one is trying to avoid another emotion that is more directly tied to circumstance.

Some examples:

A young man complaining about panic attacks upon examination pinned the anxiety to thoughts he was having about men. He was noticing men in the locker room and panicked “I am not gay” . upon exploration he didn’t realize this is normal and what he was experiencing was really ENVY. He was comparing himself to the other men in the way of what they had or didn’t have. Again we discussed this as normal as men couldn’t be marketed to if all men didn’t feel these same emotions. Why does a 14 year old want Jordan Sneakers, because they recognize he is cute wearing them and that will get them notice or women or success yada yada.  So the anxiety for this man was really ENVY. Treating the panic would have suppressed normal developmental issues resulting as more  immaturity in his adult years.

A woman complaining of paralyzing anxiety and panic upon examination is in a shitty almost physically abusive relationship. She sets no boundaries until she is so overwhelmed and angry that she imagines killing her husband. Her anxiety is really hate then fear then guilt then manifesting as anxiety. Treating her paralyzing anxiety only facilitates her shitty relationship skills, unrealistic expectations of humans,  and poor boundaries. It would enable her not to change anything and inevitably things would get worse.

Another woman complaining, “why am I so anxious?”, insisted on playing the game of life via a 6 year old rule set. She needed others to play life the way “I want them to play” and “life isn’t a game.”  This forcing of others to play life as she would prevents her from being adaptable and to be able to learn how to play life more efficiently.  Her anxiety was really frustration and disappointment.  Her life albeit in the best of intents became that of denial, enabling, codependency, being abandoned, being invisible and taken for granted, essentially she was another giving tree.



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Medicating grief:

Medicating grief, being numb, is a mistake. It is a necessary part of life’s developmental processes. It is part of the readjustment in ones brain for the new state of things, the redefinition of roles, routines, structure ect.
Those people who are generally caretakers for everyone else often feel they need to stay strong in times of grief and they often seek numbing medication. Again this is a mistake as it puts their eventual grief as it cannot be suppressed forever, out of sync with the rest of their friends and families. Once everyone else has adjusted and is ok, they tend to fall apart and start their grieving process.  Again it is part of the normal way our brains adjust so it cannot be bypassed forever.  Only now that is the last thing on earth anyone else wants to deal with as they have just started picking up the pieces of their lives again and now you are just annoying to them. The caretaker often feels resentful and “I helped them when they needed it why isn’t there anyone there for me!”  Numbness in any form , (Xanax, alcohol, marijuana, sexual diversion, shoplifting, gambling, over shopping)  is always a mistake.

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Chemistry a self-indulgent delusion:

Over the last few weeks I have kept hearing the same thing from different people of all sorts of different backgrounds. “He/She was a real nice person and not like those I usually date whom are always disasters but I just can’t do it, there was no Chemistry! And I can’t be with someone who just doesn’t do it for me.”

The problem is after many repeated disastrous relationships people have from neglect to abuse to betrayal to having a codependent infant as the other, one would hope you learn that your instant i.e. “chemistry” is broken and no one you are attracted to will be anything other than a looser or dick, ever!

Chemistry does exist but it isn’t what you think. It isn’t a romantic soul connection. It is not fate. It is not destiny. It is a simple reflex that studies show can be as simple as sustained direct eye contact. The reflex is then perpetuated and reinforced by a story narrative you carry in your head based on upbringing and past exposure. In other words, you have a right brain emotion based on some environmental stimuli; he/she met your eye, you brushed against him/her then your left brain adds a rationalization.  Your inner story that you impart on the event most often is complete horse shit.

The story your left brain convinces you is true but is based on role modeled relationships in your life, your religious upbringing, your culture, media and Disney i.e. all the bullshit you were told to be true that just is not. The chemistry feeling is more about you than the person you are having it for. It reflects what you think you deserve, what you desire to be true, the image you have of yourself and what you believe of love, sex and attractiveness.

In other cultures, you meet your spouse at the moment of marriage and you just work it out from there. No chemistry story. Studies show relationship happiness is no more or less in these cultures than that in our soulmate and chemistry interpretation of reality culture. Every culture has entirely different interpretations of reality and as such different sets of expectations and interpretations that they gage happiness and fulfillment on. None are any more right or wrong than the others just different.

The point is that when you learn reality is ambiguous and entirely up for interpretation you can learn to question your instant and chemistry. You needn’t base behaviors on a feeling that doesn’t reflect your real values and intent. Reality doesn’t care how or what you feel it cares solely on what you do. If you pick someone with mutual intent and the skill set to have the relationship that you are striving for the chances are good it will happen. If you instead pick someone with good Chemistry but lack of intent and skills there is no chance of success, NONE!

Relationship success isn’t lotto. If you hope dream, put your intention into the universe gambling on the law of attraction but pick some idiot without relationship skills or is 50 shades of fucked up, and there is no mutual intent, there is 0 chance of it working out!

Dr. BrilliantCliche

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You have an inalienable right to your suffering:

People come to therapists and psychiatrists for relief. They don’t go for a syndrome like depression but go for symptoms like fatigue, sadness, lack motivation or anxiousness. They have often tried many things on their own even before coming for help to cure or resolve their symptoms. Many people already self-treat trying to target no symptoms or NUMBness.   The problem is that in running from symptoms or in burying them within syndromes and diagnoses you miss the information they contain.   Symptoms are not there randomly but as the consequence of some internal or external environmental trigger. Humans like all other animals have been bred over the millennia to be able to live in feedback to their environment.  Symptoms aren’t random they are in response to some stimuli and are giving you information about those stimuli. But in our culture our expectations throw us out of sync with our environment. We think we have a right not to suffer therefor we ignore , deny, or suppress our normal reactions to our environment until they shout so loud at us that we can no longer ignore them but by then they aren’t often still tied to the cause of origin.

For instance I have to this day never seen a “panic attack” person that their anxiety wasn’t trying to tell them they were out of sync in their life. A T -shirt said it the best: Panic occurs when your body wants to punch someone in the face but your mind says you can’t do that.   Or as said in the first agreement of the book, The Four Agreements by  Ruiz, “don’t agree to that to which you don’t agree to.”  People in our culture always agree to that in which they do not agree thus create situations that are impossible and frustrating, out of sync with their intent and thus anxiety and panic inducing.

Depression as has been shown recently is often a function of over empathy. If you want everyone to be happy, feel compelled to jump in to help others sufferings, you not only inherit the other person’s problem but you also take on their wrath.  You violate their right as a human to suffer thus learn and find meaning from their suffering. Essentially you infantilize them.  This is a violation of their free will and no one appreciates it.

People will always frustrate and be oppositional to your good intentions.

Pain happens after an injury or trauma but any trauma can also coalesce all the shitty feelings from things that preexisted in one’s life and become a tangible explanation for why one is suffering and has always been suffering. Although not true the brain wants an explanation as it hates intangibles. Once this rationalization or explanation forms it is extremely hard to rid oneself of it and allow oneself to heal causing the pain to become chronic. It is now out of sync with the injury and the environment and can persist forever.

The human body is built to feel emotions especially with things like anxiety and pain. If you didn’t feel these things you would never remove yourself from bad and dangerous situations. For instance when a diabetic loses the sensation of pain from their feet due to neuropathies it often ends in the limbs being amputated.

You can’t forever and should never expect to suppress feeling to zero. In doing so studies has shown that after 6 years people are often worse off than before they ever took medications to treat their issues.   Without pain and anxiety there is no motivation to move or change a situation that really does need to be changed.

Humans also have a psychological immune system. Our psychological immune system builds tolerance to emotions over time thus normally allow us to be able to live with them.   But if we suppress feelings and suffering too much for too long we fuck up our psychological immune system so that we do not build tolerance to emotion and when things like fear, anxiety or pain return as inevitably they will, they return now perceived as worse than when they were originally there pretreatment.  Feelings are normal and necessary you can’t suppress them forever. Alcohol and marijuana are the most common forms of suppression, followed by Xanax and antidepressants. None are effective in suppressing feelings forever.

Your pain, anxiety, fear, depression, are there for a reason. They can be telling you that your  intent and the style or skills you are using to live your life are currently out of sync.   Whether you are jumping in trying with good intent to make everyone else happy and reduce the suffering of the world, or whether you are avoiding situations, people, and the world completely the end is often the same. Neither works and things get worse as they are both out of sync with a realistic intent of balance and contentment.

Anxiety helps you with the fact that it is always easier not to go into a situation than to remove yourself once you are already in it. Anxiety is telling you not to agree in the first place or that you fucked up and agreed to something you don’t agree to. Suppressing the anxiety is not a good idea as these situations are doomed as soon as they start no matter how long they take to play themselves out. Treating the anxiety just allows things to plot along a lot longer before they crash but doesn’t prevent the inevitable.

The world is imperfect. Our brains are problem solving machines. Suffering comes from imperfection and problems but so does meaning. We are most happy when we are engaged and challenged. When we over medicate, over treat, indulge or enable, we stand in the way of another’s suffering thus block the ability for them to learn and find their own meaning to their lives.

All this of course has to be used with common sense and balance. Medications are often necessary to take emotion and pain down to a level where one can be engaged in their surrounding and their life. Over treatment or numbing isn’t useful in the spirit of doing too much causes others to do too little. Suffering is part of the normal course of our imperfect selves in our imperfect lives in our imperfect universe. Imperfection is what defines us as unique individuals and how we deal with our suffering defines the quality of our lives. It is our story.  When we numb ourselves to suffering we can cease to exist as individuals.

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People make poor dogs:

A lot of what I see in my office is a mismatch between peoples imagined intent and the strategy they are living their lives by that in no way can lead to this goal (their intent.) One big mistake in this mismatched life vs strategy dilemma has to do with unconditional positive regard. Our culture holds this expectation as a goal from for example: moms toward their kids, Women toward their husbands and husbands toward their wives, and what people want from their gods for themselves. But in reality unconditional positive regard exists in only one place in this universe, from your dog!

If you live with another human being in any capacity you need them to do certain things so as to not make it impossible to be able live with them. Their behaviors in other words affect your well being. This blows unconditional positive regard. If you live your life for another with unconditional positive regard for them your life will suck and most likely so will theirs. Humans make poor dogs.

Even your imagined god can’t have unconditional positive regard for you as there is no religion that does not have some rules and expectations for its participants. Thus all religions in order to be part of them have the, don’t follow the rules and expectations and there will be consequence from punishment to expulsion.

If you need and desire unconditional positive regard and all people do, dogs have been specifically bread over many many generations for this sole purpose. One day our computers might also have this capacity with Artificial Inelegance but it will be short lived and then they will probably just kill us. Humans are not interesting enough to keep an infinitely powerful intelligence from becoming bored and disillusioned with us. (see the movie Her for an exposé on this topic)

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The half Ass Rebel:

A lot of people come to me complaining “I am anxious, I have panic attacks..”   Most of the time contrary to DSM V  it isn’t because they are genetically broken but instead because they are trying to do the impossible.

A teenager upon going to college started developing panic attacks and chronic anxiety. She called home every night to question her every move with her mother. She was trying to satisfy her mother’s needs for closeness and having “my baby” while at the same time trying to satisfy her adult needs for individuality, privacy and learning to fail and deal with it.  But in her trying to make mom happy and not disappoint her while at the same time having to make decisions for herself that might or might not always be of moms approval she created an unsolvable conflict.  The result was chronic anxiety.  When she stopped asking mom about every decision the anxiety resolved on its own.

Another woman who was married, had a good job and raised a few healthy kids would fall apart into a panicky mess whenever she returned home to visit her childhood family. She felt guilty as she disagreed with the chaos she grew up with; the drama, secrets, denial and blaming style of her childhood family.  She created a life free of this but couldn’t tolerate making her mom unhappy so would be drawn right back in whenever home. She tried to stay true to her values and intent but it was incompatible with her family’s life approach thus she would get paralyzed trying to satisfy both realities.

I call this phenomenon that of the ½ ass rebel. Much of life conflicts with itself. Just opposed opposites can both be true at the same time. For instance you and you mother can have the exact opposite view on something and you can both be absolutely correct. This is called moral relativity.  From her point of view she is correct and from your point of view you are correct.  The problem is when you try to satisfy both realities at the same time to make everyone happy and avoid conflict. As this is impossible it will just make you have anxiety and panic. It’s like trying to keep two different doors open at the same time with you stretched out between them, it is just impossible. That’s the ½ ass rebel. Trying to be independent and true to you while at the same time trying to make everyone else happy, just not doable.

The solution is called neutrality. It is the only way to balance just opposed systems of reality.   You can acknowledge the others opinion but you neither agree nor disagree with it.  “We can agree to disagree. I see you see it that way.”  Neutrality is infinitely more efficient as once you agree to something you don’t actually agree to it cannot possibly work out and often enough it creates chaos. A lot of good hearted people with good intention make situations chaotic and worse by trying to be nice when they should have been neutral.

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Making Amends:

Dear Dr. Brilliant cliché,

A friend of mine (best friend at the time)  fell off the wagon. He got into heroin and would say and do awful things then not remember he did them. The last straw was when he asked his girlfriend for buss money to make her grandma’s funeral then spent the money on drugs and didn’t show for her. He never did anything bad to me directly but I saw this as despicable despite the fact that she eventually forgave him and took him back.  I just couldn’t stomach his treatment of her anymore nor her always rescuing him and taking him back.  Anyway a few years passed and I got a check from him. It was in the amount of the buss money. I figured her denial and his memory changed events  to where he screwed me out of the money, not that he screwed her, and that’s why I stopped talking to them.  I figured he was doing the make amends step.

So now I am at a dilemma. I did once love this guy. Should I assist with his step? Should I correct their memory that it was she he screwed over not me and that I stopped talking to them because the whole game was just awful not because of any money issue? Do I even want to get involved again as statistically he will relapse again anyway and it will just be more heart ache? She is codependent not me and it is a game that I do not ever want to play.

AA or not


Dear AA,

What I remember of the steps is to write the letters of amends but don’t actually send them. It is presumptuous to think anyone wants to go back down memory lane with you and do corrective interventions. One has to forgive oneself not be forgiven by others.  That’s just more codependent BS that works for the movies but real life is messy.   It is not your job to forgive him or forget anything. He isn’t about you.  But if you feel it will add to your life feel free to contact him. Know your intent in reconnecting with him.  He will not be the same person who you knew before his relapse.  You will have to establish a new relationship as if he is someone new you are meeting and you will have evaluate him on his current behaviors as to whether you wish to be friends.  Change doesn’t happen by focusing on the past. Forgiveness and forgetting is often a past focus.  Change happens by focusing on intent, the future, and what behaviors and skills are necessary to bring that future about. If all they want is your forgiveness, move on they don’t get the point of the whole exercise and they are still playing the same old game which only can have one ending.  Redemption unlike in the movies cannot come from another person. It is something internal.  Love isn’t redemptive it is more often enabling.

Today’s Cliché: “Life is the quality of the skill sets of the friends you choose to surround yourself with.”


Not good luck but Good Intent,


Dr. Brilliant Cliché


Granny Dr. adds:

What I would tell this guy is that he should send the check back, explaining why and stay away from the guy. Every person you spend time on in your life takes up time you could spend on something else. Fact: junkies never change, and if they do, they need to build a new life. You are part of the old one. Stay away.

AA owes nobody nothing. Ya don’t have to answer every knock at your door…unless you really want to hear about God from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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Higher power who?

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I recently admitted to being an alcoholic and I have reached out for help. But all I get is this “higher power” bullshit! I do not believe in god! Can’t anyone help me without forcing religion down my throat? Can’t I stay sober without god? Can’t I just take a pill?

Owen My Own

Dear Own,

Quite frankly, in my opinion, NO! The god of AA is not some guy sitting in a chair judging your good deeds from your bad. That’s Santa Clause. The god of AA (higher power) is really a metaphor for intention and action- the intention being sobriety, and the action being the work to get there.

All that you know, and all that you are, is solidified as your EGO. So far, your ego has directed you to be an alcoholic.  Unless you turn your ego off, you will never gain control of your life. You will just be a puppet of your own faulty programming, and a puppet of alcohol.

Here’s a metaphor: let’s say that at some point in your life, someone hacked into your brain and introduced a virus. This virus has been feeding you false information ever since. You can’t discriminate between what’s real and what’s viral programming. The only way to ever regain control is completely wipe your brain clean, re-boot the system, and start from scratch.

For you, as an alcoholic, wrongful thinking is the virus that was planted, and your ego is the brain that needs to be wiped clean.

The first step is to admit that you have no control and your programming is faulty. You can’t tell what is real and what is not. The twelve steps is a re-programming manual but it can’t, on its own, override your ego. This is where the concept of higher power comes in handy.

Here’s a useful way of thinking which comes from a Buddhist meditation practice. The person you wish to become already exists in the future. Your future self wants your present self to be successful in growing and changing. The very life of your future self depends on the success of your present self. So, that is where your help and guidance will come from. You can converse with and trust in this future self and if you lie, cheat, or stray, you will only lie, cheat, and steal from reaching your own potential.

The importance of higher power lies in its concept of intent and action. It makes no difference which religion or path you choose, as long as you connect to a group that has intent and action. The dervishes cut off their ego through spinning; the Buddhists cut their ego through meditation; and AA does it through humility, admitting helplessness, and asking for help.

Good luck in your sobriety but remember that any rehabilitation, mental or physical, relies on the support and help of other people. You need to learn new habits and thinking, and it will take time and practice. Don’t try to go it alone; this problem is bigger than you are.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny concurs; she added her two cents when she edited Dr. Brilliant’s reply!

One additional comment- if you think that you can take a pill to achieve sobriety, you’re on your way to substituting drugs for alcohol. The fact that you are thinking this way is a further illustration that you don’t have the ability to deal with alcoholism on your own. You may not believe in a higher power… but I think it’s time to admit that YOU are not a higher power. Get some help.

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It is all a crap shoot:

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,

I am 25 and thinking about getting married but the statistics are grim. What is the secret?




Dear Hopeful,

Before today I would have told you about mutual intent, goodness of fit, communication skills and expectations. Things like: there is an I in team and balance of: family, self, vocation and play. Setting up a life is the same as setting up a nonprofit. You can’t sleep with anyone you are mothering. Even the ideas of stable ponying and the theory of transactional analysis.  But a friend said to me today “What are you wacked? The stats are at least 50 percent divorce amongst every economic group, every culture, every race, every religion, every vocation, mixed couples of every possible combination and at every educational level. And they maintain 50 percent or higher on second and third marriages.” Essentially she said “It’s all a crap shoot.”

I am not entirely convinced that there aren’t pockets as all my friends from high school’s marriages are intact and strong going on twenty years or more but there doesn’t appear to be any magic formula no matter what or whose book you read. And science based on every other mammalian species would predict humans for serial monogamy not monogamy. So maybe it is all a crap shoot but that doesn’t mean don’t do it.

Hopeful, I can tell you this “Deal with the tragedies as they occur for they will occur.” Hell we all die but that doesn’t mean don’t live your life to its fullest! Remember Everything is imperfect. Enjoy what you can while you can and make the best life for yourself you can. Pick someone to be with that you can see surviving those tragedies with you and being there for you.


Today’s Cliché: “ Skills are a better bet than fun.”


And stay Hopeful,


Dr. Brilliant Cliché

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