Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Belated Merry Christmas!

A Belated Merry Christmas!

"The best Christmas light display". Sent to me by my life-long buddy Vic Palenske— it is really neat!

Nat King Cole and his daughter Natalie! What a great idea, made possible through modern technology.

Dr. Tom

Let's Stop Making Our Own Misery

Let's Stop Making Our Own Misery

Albert Ellis has written about how we make ourselves anxious and depressed by embracing certain irrational ideas or beliefs. He is correct! You and I both know from experience that it is not so much what happened to a person that makes them is how they choose to think about what happened to them.

I once sat with a friend who was dying of cancer. I dreaded visiting him simply because I feel more skilled at talking about coping with life and less so about coping with death. My dear wife who is a nurse is so much better at that than I am. It was comforting that she was with me that day.

To our surprise, our bed-side visit with our friend was another valuable lesson in life. Our friend welcomed us with a great smile and, after our initial greetings, said: "Let me put this in perspective"!

He then cheerfully summarized the many wonderful things that he had the good fortune to enjoy in his life: His marriage, his children (now grown), his grandchildren, his good friends, pleasant hobbies, his pleasures and good fortunes in work, and his faith in God.

All of this from a man who we knew had suffered some significant defeats, hardships, losses and embarrassments in his life. In short, he had many of the problems in his life that a lot of people would describe as failures and great disappointments.

But not my friend. He chose to focus on the good things. The good things were as real and they were much more enduring than the bad things. By focusing upon the good things he became an inspiration to everyone who knew him. He beamed a glorious comfort for all of us to aspire to imitate.

He was thinking rationally about his own death. It was not a horrible or terrible thing! He could choose to be miserable in his last days or he could strive to find some happiness and do some good for others. His thinking was positive in nature and he focused upon his own intended goals. It was as follows:

Everyone dies. I am going earlier than I wished, but 68 years is a long time. There is much that I have accomplished. I will celebrate the good things. I will not dwell upon the bad things that I cannot change. My last gift to everyone I love (including myself) will be my love of them and my cheerful encouragement of them to carry on, make good contributions, be happy and enjoy their lives!

If my dying friend could do this through the power of rational thinking, it is certain that we can do better with our common problems in life that we must manage and overcome.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last Vestiges of Self-Restraint: Sunday Carry-Out Alcohol Restrictions.

Last Vestiges of Self-Restraint: Sunday Carry-Out Alcohol Restrictions.

It is interesting to watch government control over more and more of our behavior progress in leaps and bounds. Yet, our sexual and drug consumption activities are increasingly deregulated under the guise of personal freedom.

In my view the explanation for this seemingly incongruous set of events is significantly comprised of a complex mix of our government animal’s “food deprivation” (cash) and its primal motivation to propagate (physical growth, and increasing control of its populace).

With regard to our government’s weakening the moral values and traditions of America and providing greater access to addicting substances and activities, all of this validates the need for greater governmental growth and control of the resulting troubled population behavior. In a diabolical circle of destructive forces, the legalized and expanded access to alcohol (soon other drugs), pornography, prostitution (perhaps sooner than you think), gambling, and violence in media, etc., when taxed, becomes food for the further growth and maintenance of a voracious government-animal.

Furthermore, with the decline of religiously based restraints upon immoral or unethical behavior (“concepts of Sin”, Vice” and “Blue-Laws”), free market pressures in our capitalistic economy naturally join in confluence with the government-animal as they prey upon us all for cash.

When laws against carry-out alcohol sales in Indiana are repealed, it will probably not lead to very many more alcohol problems within our population. Alcoholics can easily plan ahead to feed their addictions and adolescents have always been able to raid liquor cabinets, even on Sundays.

The problem is much larger than the loss of one of the few little examples of morally based self-control practices left in America. The loss of carry-out alcohol restrictions on Sunday will represent a mere spit-in-an-ocean of trouble caused by a historical torrent of such losses.

Dr. Tom,  12/2/2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rediscovering God in America”

The title to this blog is in quotes because it is the title to a New York Times BESTSELLER by Newt Gingrich. The subtitle is: “Reflections On The Role of Faith in Our Nation” (2006, by Integrity Publishers: Nashville, TN).

I strongly recommend that you read this small book that undeniably documents the role of Christianity and God in the construction and success of this great nation.

The bed-rock values involved in every fiber of this massive creation were religiously based. The removal of the affirmation of these values from all public places, except the hallowed halls and monuments in Washington D.C., has been a self-destructive and propagandistic act of epoch proportions. “Separation of State” was never meant to be taken to this radical extreme.

This act, among many others, is a significant part of our decline and impending downfall.

Joe Grunert sent me the following Email which comports with the documentation in the book I just referenced, so I am posting it for you to see. Unfortunately, the pictures visually documenting the described religious artifacts in Washington D.C. did not transfer to my post.
Perhaps you will read the book I referenced to see many of them, or better yet go to Washington D. C. (take your children for an education?) to see them for yourself.

Dr. Tom, 9/9/10

As you walk up the steps to the building which houses the U..S Supreme Court you can see near the top of the building a row of the world’s law givers and each one is facing one in the middle who is facing forward with a full frontal view … It is Moses and he is holding the Ten Commandments!

As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each door.

As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see the wall, right above where the Supreme Court Judges sit, a display of the Ten Commandments!


There are Bible verses etched in stone all over the Federal Buildings and Monuments in Washington , D.C.


James Madison, the fourth president, known as ‘The Father of Our Constitution’ made the
Following statement:

‘We have staked the whole of all our political Institutions upon the capacity of mankind for Self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to The Ten Commandments of God.’

Every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a paid preacher, whose salary has been paid by the taxpayer since 1777.


Fifty-two of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members of the established Orthodox churches in the colonies..


Thomas Jefferson worried that the Courts would overstep their authority and instead of Interpreting the law would begin making law an oligarchy the rule of few over many.

How then, have we gotten to the point that everything we have done for 220 years in this Country is now suddenly wrong and Unconstitutional?

Lets put it around the world and let the world see and remember what this great country was Built on The Holy Bible and belief in GOD!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Don’t Even Look Like Your Doing Something Wrong!

A lot of relationships and marriages get into trouble because of opposite sex friendships. The one with the “friend”often calls, text messages, meets for lunch or dinner, or otherwise shares time with their friend of the opposite sex. They normally claim that it is “just a friendship”, but very often it is much more.

When their mate becomes worried and suspicious about the friendship, they often ask that it be ended. All too often an argument ensues. After all, it is just a friendship and the friendly mate asserts: “There is nothing going on other than we are good friends.”

All of this is very bad for marriages and other committed relationships.

Sometimes the friendly mate will relent and agree to break the outside friendship off. But the worried partner is left with suspicions and they often resort to checking the phone, text, or email messages. When they find that the “friendship” is still going on, the problem reaches crisis proportions. Then the extended families of the participants begin to weigh-in on the issues and the whole matter “goes viral”, so to speak. What a mess!

I have found that in most of these situations, the problem is not a friendship, it is an affair. Many marriages and committed relationships will not survive this problem and that is a tragedy when children are involved. To compound the problem, such “friendships tend not to last (for obvious reasons) when the devious “friends” marry or enter their own committed relationship. There are very few reasons to expect otherwise.

In the minority of cases, such problem friendships may only be friendships. If such a relationship creates problems for you and your spouse or committed partner, it is time for you to think straight. It will not work and someone has got to go. As the saying goes: “You will not be able have your cake and eat it too”.

My Dad once told me, “If you want to stay out of trouble: Don’t even look like you are doing something wrong!”

Dad was right.

Dr. Tom 8/27/10

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ivar Lovass and The Treatment Of Autism

Ivar Lovass and The Treatment Of Autism

I received the following today. For families with autistic children, Ivar Lovass was a God-Send. He was a young and well-know researcher in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis when I began my training. It is very sad to know that he has passed away. Please read this short memorial.

Dear Tom:

"At 6 PM on August the 2nd, 2010, Professor Emeritus O. Ivar Løvaas, Ph.D., passed away quietly after a long battle with illness. He was surrounded by his closest family. There will be an official memorial service at the University of California, Los Angeles later this month." Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Executive Director, Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.

Unfortunately, Løvaas had had Alzheimer's for the last few years. He was recovering from surgery for a broken hip and got an infection that caused his death.

Few have had Løvaas' impact on the field of behavior analysis, demonstrating the power of behavior analysis to so significantly improve the quality of life of so many people. Little in behavior analysis, or in psychology, has had the real impact of the behavioral interventions he started and that have been replicated and expanded upon by so many other behavior analysts. He showed that if you're willing to do what it takes, up to 40 hours per week of intensive training for at least a couple years, you can help young children with autism greatly improve their lives. And this has almost as powerful an effect on the lives of the children's families. And also on the lives of the tutors and behavior analysts who have the privilege of using behavior analysis to help those children and their families. The field of behavior analysis and the Association for Behavior Analysis International owe a great debt to Ivar Løvaas, his students, and the many researchers and practitioners who have followed his path and who have branched off on related paths of their own.

With Regret,
Association for Behavior Analysis International

Monday, August 9, 2010

No Friends Like Old Friends

No Friends Like Old Friends

So there they were….about one hundred of them. Many no longer resembled those friends and acquaintances that I had known as a teenager, but they were there…and what a glorious bunch they were! They were my classmates from my 1960 high school graduation class.

Some of them still resembled the emotional and behavioral beings that I had known 50 years ago, but something was marvelously different. Each, in their own unique way had been transformed by a lifetime of events largely unknown to me.

Our times together were at an informal gathering the evening before our dinner at a bar and bowling alley which was popular in our home town of St. Joseph, Michigan in the 1960′s. The next day we enjoyed a luncheon at our high school and a tour through halls that we had not seen for 50 years. We were proud to be the first class to graduate from our then brand new high school. The city of St. Joseph had done a great job of expanding and maintaining this impressive facility. As we toured our school many visions long forgotten were instantaneously familiar. This was an object lesson in the psychology of human memory. Finally, there was the dinner with an evening program full of wonderful reminiscences. All arranged by a small corps of loyal and caring classmates who had dutifully planned and executed similar reunions, nearly every five years since our graduation.

But this was our 50th reunion and it eclipsed all of the others. It was a magical time and it was exclusively comprised of well seasoned and aged human beings who had become some of the best specimens that humanity can achieve. A few formerly clicky and aloof teen girls were now kind and thoughtful women who went out of their way to reach out to former Geeks and wallflowers. The lofty athletic heros, from one-half a century ago, warmly welcomed and conversed with the guys who had never gained high status and popularity in high school. Some of the men and women who were formerly shy, quiet and retiring were smiling, laughing, and talking with classmates they may never have spoken to in high school. Everyone treated everyone with remarkable kindness and everyone appeared to give and to receive an uncommon measure of love and respect.

These people were the survivors of our class. Sadly, 27 of our former classmates were known to have died during the intervening years. We were haunted by their memories as each of their names were read aloud, with caring and respect.

I believe that we were each aware that everyone there had somehow managed to overcome life’s disappointments, sorrows, and personal tragedies. More importantly, they had found their way back through time, to the birth-place of their former insecurities and the beginning of their adult adventures, trials and tribulations. And there they were: Each with a grace, dignity, and kindness which all-to-often comes only with the passage and survival of countless events in time.

These are my lasting memories of my 50th high school class reunion.

But there was one more. It was the deafening roar, stronger than ever before, of the proud and ferocious athletic chant of the St. Joseph High School Fighting Bears. It was a roar that had built within this group of survivors for five decades and it rattled the walls and windows and sent spirits soaring as never before! It was a perfect way to end a surreal and precious evening with loved ones from a distant past.

I hope you will consider attending your next reunion. It may be one of the most heartwarming events of your life.

Tom Mawhinney, 8/7/10
St. Joseph High School Class of 1960

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Verbal Abuse: Don't Take It!

Verbal Abuse: Don't Take It!

I will guarantee you that a steady diet of verbal abuse from a spouse, parent, or anyone is a major problem.

Over time verbal abuse has the ability to reduce people to depressed, fearful, and anxious individuals who have little respect for themselves or their value as human beings. I too often see individuals so stressed by years of verbal abuse (profane, ridiculing, or enraged statements about how useless, stupid, incompetent, ugly, fat or crazy they are) that they also develop physical symptoms of sickness that are very hard to treat because the symptoms are both psychological and physiological in origin.

Without question chronic verbal abuse can destroy both mental and physical health. It can even kill or maim when it leads to self destructive acts like drug or alcohol abuse or dependency, or even suicide.

If you are being verbally (or it should go without saying, Physically)abused, get professional help immediately and with help, stop the abusive treatment of yourself and/or your children in one way or another.

With help, it is common for those who have escaped abuse to report that for the first time, in a very long time, they are happy and feel good about themselves and their future.

Abuse: Don't Take It! Get Free and discover the strong and competent person that you are!

Dr. Tom

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Symptom Is the Solution?

The Symptom Is the Solution

When you look at a child's unwanted behavior, bear in mind that the symptom is often the solution to the child's problem. For examples:

1. Frequent sickness on school mornings can signal that there are problems at school that your child wants to avoid. Or it can signal attachment issues between you and your child; meaning that time with you is in too short supply, it could signal an anxiety disorder, and more. Whatever you do, schedule a visit with your child's physician before searching for psychological explanations.

2. Tempertantrums often work: The child gets what he or she wants, or, they get out of doing what they don't want to do.

3. Your child's dawdling and not finishing what you have asked your he or she to do frequently gets them out of having to follow the full request. Sometimes it discourages parents from asking them to do responsible things. I often hear the ol' refrain: "For crying out loud, its easier for me to do it myself than to try and get my child to do it!"
Yes it is...and that's not by accident.

4. Sometimes a child or adolescent is especially argumentative with one parent any time things don't go their way. The result is that the other parent comes to thier defense, a large argument ensues between the parents and they remain further devided in their parental limits. Parents lose the power of unity and the child or adolescent is more in control.

5. Sometimes one parent is emotionally distant from the family and uninvolved. A child or adolescent will ingage in some outragious behavior that the distant and uninvolved parent cannot possibly ignore. This back into the family structure. Unfortunately, this normally happens in ways that produce futher conflict and lead to increased rates of misbehavior on the part of the child or adolescent and increases general conflict in the family.

The trick is to find more effective solutions to these and similar problems.

Sometimes professional help is needed to correct such bad symptom solutions and their bad outcomes.

God Bless,

Dr. Tom 6/24/10

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dumb-Assed Progressive Liberals and Their Medical Marijuana

Dumb-Assed Progressive Liberals and Their Medical Marijuana

I have been waiting several weeks to write this. I have let the anger subside so I might write more clearly and with less profanity.

Yes, I know high English and am better than most at it. But I was also in the Navy and I have mastered some rather pointed alternative ways of expressing myself. I will spare you that, minus my use of my best Navy descriptor for proponents of medical marijuana as it now exists in at least three states, including Michigan: You Dumb-Assed Progressive Liberals.

You may know that I am a retired professor of psychology and I am in private practice three days per week. I see 20 to 30 “people with problems” each week. I have done this for well over thirty years and about the time that I think I have seen it all, reality gives me a swift kick in the pants with a new and painful lesson.

The mother brought me her 14 year-old-boy because he and friends had beaten-up another kid and taken his book bag. He had been identified and turned over to the juvenile authorities and was put on probation. He was required to undergo counseling.

The boy was very friendly, bright, and articulate. I judged that he was above average intelligence–though his grades were failing in school and his attendance was poor. It was my first session with the boy and so I worked to build rapport with him and I thought that things had gone very well. The ground-work for future therapeutic gains had been laid.

About two weeks later the mother brought him back to me. She reported that the boy had “dropped dirty for marijuana” in his urine test at the probation office.

The boy, so friendly and reasonable the session before, sat in my office with a cocky smirk on his face. I asked “what were you thinking, are you looking to do jail time ?” Now sullen, with a give-a-crap attitude (oops, gosh, didn’t mean to say that), he said, “I don’t care–that’s not up to me.”

The 14-yr-old boy went on to lecture me that marijuana was legal. He explained that it is legal in three states because it was good for your joints, muscles and good for bronchitis.

I sat amazed, as I asked him where he heard all of that. He laughed at me and said, “The streets talk to Me”.

I told him that there was no reason for us to talk anymore and that I would leave it to others to help him understand how “the courts will now talk to him”. I did not have a client in the room, he did not admit to a problem and he did not wish to improve a problem. I could have taken Medicaid money for months. But like the old fogey I am, I asked him to leave and not come back. He asked me to sign a document for his probation officer saying he attended counseling. I reluctantly did so. There was no area for comments on my part.

I talked to his caring mother, who agreed that it was time for a higher level of intervention for him.

Later, I wrote his probation officer and explained that the 14-year-old boy would need legal sanctions taken against him, that counseling would be of no benefit until he acquired a “felt need” to change his thinking and actions (just between you and me, this probably will not work either).

Thanks! You dumb-assed progressive liberals who have used the current iteration of “legalized medical marijuana” in order to take another step in the direction of totally legalized marijuana (and other drugs), so you can stay high.

You have helped to destroy the life of another Mother’s child in America so that you can cop a buzz. You self-centered, hedonistic, bunch of sociopaths.

Dr. Tom 6/8/10

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Check Your Children’s Textbooks!

Check Your Children’s Textbooks!

Be sure to check your children’s school books to be sure that the intentions of our Founding Fathers are explained there. Also be certain that the profound sacrifices of our patriots and fighting forces are noted, as well as the stunning artistic, technological, military educational, civil, and humanitarian accomplishments of our great democratic society: the United States of America.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

This quote is forwarded from the Patriotpost:

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” –John Adams, Defense of Constitutions, 1787

To subscribe to Founder’s Quote Daily and The Patriot Post, link to

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Public Bush-hack!

The Public Bush-Whack!

I frequently find that clients in marriage therapy ridicule, criticise, or put each other down in social settings. Later, when the offended partner brings the matter up in private a heated argument often ensues.

The dynamics of the public bush-whack are interesting.

1. When the public bush-whack occurs, it may be taken as a form of sarcastic teasing by witnesses and may not harm the social relationships. Or if there is harm it may be hard for the offending individual or couple to detect. Therefore, there may be no consequences to the self-defeating practice of publicly bush-whacking a mate and it may continue unabated.

2. When the mate complains to their partner about the incident, the offender can play it off as, "you're just over sensitive and making mountains out of mole hills". This allows a double insult: one in public and another in private ("you just have a problem with sensitivity").

3. The bush-whack works well for the offender who is basically passive-aggressive. Such an individual does not like a direct fight or argument. They prefer to "get-even" for their quietly accumulated grievances against their partner in more subtle ways. For them the public bush-whack is just the ticket! Of course, it is a very bad practice because it solves nothing, creates more problems, and increases hostility in the relationship.

4. Sometimes the offender actually likes to fight! It may be hard for you to believe, but some folks want and prefer to have great fights in their relationships. With this dynamic, the offender may be paired with a partner who also likes to fight...and so, they are "off to the races"! Sometimes, however, the bushwhacker is paired with a passive partner who avoids conflict whenever he or she can. In this case the offender has found a great tool for suckering their peaceful partner into a fight. Even peaceful people can become righteously indignant when they have been publicly humiliated by the bush-whack. When the victim protests later in private, the bush-whacker can then work the confrontation into a full-blown fight. Mission accomplished!

In relationships, the public bush-whack is both a self-destructive communication style and a devious way to initiate a fight.

If there is a lot of bush-whacking in your relationship, you had better seek professional help before it is too late.

God Bless, Dr. Tom

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Look-Out For The "Blind-Side" Divorce

Look-out For The Blind-Side Divorce

My client is depressed and discheveled: He or she is in a lot of shock and pain. I have seen this situation over and over again for 30 years.

The person tells me that they "never saw it coming" and now, suddenly, their mate's "mind is made-up" and they are leaving. All too often there is little to be done except help the blind-sided individual cope as effectively as they can.

There are many reasons for the blind-side break-up or divorce.

One frequent reason is that the departing loved one has found someone else to love. Sometimes the blindsided one did the same thing. Occasionally this is because someone has issues with loyalty. More often the dying relationship had an affair because it had been dying for years, it had grown increasingly empty and one (or both) did nothing to save it.

Often, what has happened is that one or both members of a couple (married or not)have stopped making the other person a priority in their lives, they stopped telling and showing, in countless ways, how special the other person is and how much they love them. They have stopped being friends and taking time to plan fun things and play together. These things can happen to a once good relatinship for many reasons.

Finally, there is mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse/addiction, and physical or emotional abuse.

The fact is that loving and caring feelings and emotions in a relationship can wither and die-out if not fed and nurtured. This degenerative process can progress beyond the point where many people are unwilling to work to repair their relationship.

Fail to deal effectively with any of these problems and growing resentment, anger and disgust, along with the belief that nothing will ever change, can destroy your relationship. This process is often slow and insidious and it can take years to develop.

Look for signs of trouble and talk them over. Listen to feedback from trusted friends and loved-ones. Act earlier rather than later, acting earlier is symbolic of your love, acting too late is frequently symbolic of fear and dependency. Seek the assistance of a Ph.D. level psychologist experienced in relationship counseling. Personality testing is often very helpful to this process.

Look-out for the blind-side divorce and the great damage it can do to families and their children.

God Bless, Dr. Tom

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our Operant Behavior

Our Operant Behavior

In some ways operant behaviors are the most important of all of our behaviors. We will therefore discuss operant behavior first. A good general way to identify which of our many behaviors is operant is to identify its physiological roots. Operant behavior is influenced by our central nervous system (our brain and spinal chord) and it is executed by thinking and/or by moving. This may sound simple, but of course, it is not. We use movement to talk, write, send email, to make and rear children, and to make war, etc. Movements require the use our skeletal (striped) muscles, which involves so much of our operant behavior.

The Simple Contingency

A simple contingency (con-tin-gin-see) only specifies that one thing must happen (a specific behavior) before another thing happens (a consequence). It includes only a behavior and a consequence.

So, for example, if you want the door to open, you must turn the knob and pull or push. If you want a home loan you must select a mortgage company and make-out an application. The door is likely to open and the loan likely to be granted, contingent upon your doing the appropriate behavior. Similarly, a child may learn to make a polite request because that gets him what he wants. Or, a child may learn to throw a temper tantrum because that gets him what he wants.

A more complicated contingency involves three separate things. This is called the three-term-contingency and it involves 1. the situation or events that happen before a behavior, 2. the behavior, and 2. the consequence. Operant behavior takes place in the real world in countless fluid ways. But all operant behavior can easily be seen in this before, behavior, and after context. From birth to death we are immersed in a universe of three-term-contingencies. Again, the three parts to the world of our operant thoughts and actions are.

1. The stimuli or cues from our environment that precede our actions.

2. Our specific behaviors or actions in the presence of those stimuli or cues.

3. The consequences of our actions that may strengthen or weaken the probability that we will do those actions again in the future.

Human operant behavior changes as its physical and social environment changes and as the consequences of behavior change. We should not miss the fact that normally the most skilled sailors live by the sea, the best trackers and hunters live in the forest, and the best mountain climbers live in the mountains. When people in these environments behave effectively they are rewarded: they eat well and prosper. If they fail to do so, they may perish.

It took a detailed scientific analysis, based upon E. L. Thorndike’s (1987) Law of Effect, to understand and appreciate how the environment shapes our behavior into complex bundles of actions that are both common among most everyone and also those that are unique to each of us. The law of effect relates to operant behavior and, as you may recall, it simply states that consequences control operant behavior.

Dr. Tom 4/21/10

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Two Basic Kinds of Behavior

Two Basic Kinds of Behavior

There are only two kinds of behavior in humans and other animals. One kind of behavior is called Operant Behavior because it “operates”, or acts, on the environment. Most important, operant behavior is controlled by its consequences. Consequences are said to “control” our behavior because they increase (strengthen) or decrease (weaken) the future frequency of the behaviors they follow. Consequences influence our operant behavior probabilistically, not absolutely. For example, a child who is praised for helping with a chore, is more likely to help others in the future. A child who is allowed to push another child down and take their toy, is more likely to be aggressive to others in the future.

The only other kind of behavior is Respondent Behavior. The word respondent means that these behaviors are reflexive responses to specific stimuli. Common examples of our respondent behavior are being startled by a loud noise, snapping our had away from a hot flame, or salivating when we put food in our mouths.

As you will see, these two apparently simple kinds of behavior, and they ways they can be learned, are of huge importance to the lives of fellow citizens and to our socioculture.

Dr. Tom 4/20/10

Monday, April 19, 2010

Our Own High Risk

Our Own High Risk

Whenever we overlook the roll of the natural principles of psychology in shaping the behavior of our citizens and our culture, we do so at our own high risk.

Stand-by for the principles!

Dr. Tom 4/19/10

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Top-Down Influences on Culture

Top-Down Influences on Culture

Of course, bottom-up influences are only part of the picture. There are also very powerful top-down influences on our population’s behavior as various levels of our government adopt laws and rules that can strongly affect, even regulate, how people behave to each other. Some examples of top-down influences are the profound growth of government control, increasing taxes and the legalization of pornography, gambling, marijuana (under the pretext of medical applications) and a media that increasingly attacks traditional family and religious values and showcases antisocial behavior through its many venues.

What happens in our culture when top-down influences evolve that are in strong conflict with traditional bottom up influences; or, when subcultures bring their own dramatically different top-down and bottom-up forces into our existing socioculture? What happens to families and the future citizens that they produce when science and technology alter the physical, social and moral environment dramatic ways? How do these environmental changes impact the principles of psychology that shape the ways in which we and our children see, feel and behave toward each other?

These are only some of the “big picture” concerns that need our closest attention. It is good to mention these major issues now, because these are the ones we must attempt to answer in the end. With some of these larger issues in mind, we can be on the look-out for the smaller (seemingly insignificant) factors that may be powerfully related to big and very important cultural outcomes.

We will return to these big picture concerns in due time. But, in order to understand the larger dynamics of cultural change, we must first understand a few key principles of psychology and how they powerfully influence the behavior of individuals within a population.

Dr. Tom 4/18/10


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bottom-up Influences on Culture

Bottom-Up Influences on Culture

Psychology has traditionally studied countless environmental influences on the behavior of individuals. In recent decades some psychologists have started to analyze ways in which principles of individual and group behavior can lead to cultural changes. For example, how hundreds of thousands of people raise their children will have a far-reaching impact upon the future collective behavior of our population.

Changes in the ways that these children grow to behave amongst other people will influence their perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behavior for better or worse. The summation of these influences which constantly swirl through our population is a big part of the cultural changes that we all experience.

A clear, though sad, example of such bottom-up cultural change is the child born in a ghetto to a single unemployed drug addicted mother. Such a child will likely suffer neglect, abuse, drug addiction, school failure, gang membership, and engage in violent crimes against others. This is a tragedy for the child and for all others who’s lives his behavior will influence (family, social workers, teachers, police, medical personnel, victims, and those who work in our court systems, penial employees, and victims). What we fail to see is that it is also a tragedy for the various institutions that employ these workers that are increasingly overwhelmed and we tax payers who are required to pay more of our hard-earned income to keep these institutions solvent.

A far more desirable bottom-up cultural influence would be a mother and father who are committed and loving mates and parents. These parents have children that they can afford to raise under healthy conditions. They identify and agree upon their childrearing goals, set appropriate limits for their child’s behavior and use humane and effective methods to teach their children the many skills and abilities needed to live well and do good things with their lives. These parents will provide teaching consequences to their children, but they will also understand that their children will watch them and imitate their actions. Therefore, they too will seek to live well and do good things with their lives and for their children in order to “show them the way”. They generally show kind, courteous, encouraging and loving behavior to their children, to each other and to others. All of this makes it likely that these children will grow to treat their own children and others in similar ways.

The parents in this positive example will also protect their children from the toxic effects of our entertainment media which showcase profanity, drugs, sex, violence and other irresponsible lifestyles. When children repeatedly witness these damaging behaviors, they are prone to imitate them with bad effects for both them and society.

From moment to moment, in any society, such individual “grass-roots” bottom-up human events are occurring by the billions. Without question, the behavior patterns learned by children who’s behavior is shaped by parents, families and their communities become a major influence in the evolution of our whole culture.

Dr. Tom 4/17/10

Friday, April 16, 2010



The powerful truth that B. F. Skinner has tried to tell us is that our most enduring and significant problems are a result of our own behavior. The solutions to these problems are in our understanding and wise use of well-known scientifically validated principles that determine our behavior. These historically ignored principles can be found in the science of psychology.

The following is a quote of B. F. Skinner from his book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity.

In trying to solve the terrifying problems that face us in the world today, we naturally turn to the things we do best. We play from strength, and our strength is science and technology. To contain a population explosion we look for better methods of birth control. Threatened by a nuclear holocaust, we build bigger deterrent forces and anti-ballistic-missile systems. We try to stave off world famine with new foods and better ways of growing them. Improved sanitation and medicine will, we hope, control disease, better housing and transportation will solve the problems of the ghettos, and new ways of reducing or disposing of waste will stop the pollution of the environment. We can point to remarkable achievements in all these fields, and it is not surprising that we should try to extend them. But things grow steadily worse, and it is disheartening to find that technology itself is increasingly at fault. Sanitation and medicine have made the problems of population more acute, war has acquired a new horror with the invention of nuclear weapons, and the affluent pursuit of happiness is largely responsible for pollution. As Darlington has said, ‘Every new source from which man has increased his power on the earth has been used to diminish the prospects of his successors.’ All his progress has been made at the expense of damage to his environment which he cannot repair and could not foresee.

Whether or not he could have foreseen the damage, man must repair it or all is lost. And he can do so if he will recognize the nature of the difficulty. The application of the physical and biological sciences alone will not solve our problems because the solutions lie in another field. Better contraceptives will control population only if people use them. New weapons may offset new defenses and vice versa, but a nuclear holocaust can be prevented only if the conditions under which nations make war can be changed. New methods of agriculture and medicine will not help if they are not practiced, and housing is a matter not only of buildings and cities but of how people live. Overcrowding can be corrected only by inducing people not to crowd, and the environment will continue to deteriorate until polluting practices are abandoned.

In short, we need to make vast changes in human behavior, and we cannot make them with the help of nothing more than physics or biology, no matter how hard we try.

End Skinner Quote.

Dr. Tom 4/16/10

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Behavioral Contagion: Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder

Some individuals show an extreme preoccupation with rules, order, organization, schedules, and doing things the correct way. In fact, they often become so wrapped up in the details of their perfectionism that they lose sight of the main goal or purpose and fail to complete their tasks. They may become excessively dedicated to their work, they often do not have time for friends and leisure. Other personality features include being overly conscientious and inflexible in their views of morality, ethics and values. Individuals with this disorder often rather formal and cool in their relationships with others and so they frequently are not comfortable in social situations. They also tend to be humorless and critical of other’s and they tend to think that no one else can do a job as well as they can. Therefore, they have trouble delegating work. When they take on a demanding task they frequently retreat into the details of the project to such a degree that they may be unable to make timely progress. Other personality characteristics include hoarding useless possessions, miserliness with money, and rigidity and stubbornness.

A representative example

A couple sought marriage counseling because the wife complained about her husband’s need to always be in control. The therapist found him to be a very serious and reserved individual who was uncomfortable talking about his feelings. The wife complained that even small changes in plans upset him, he was angered over the normal messiness and disarray caused by the play of their three young children. The wife praised him for the way he kept the lawn, bushes, patio, garage, cars, and all things that he was “in charge of”, but was frustrated and angered that he was constantly critical of her and “nagging” about the ways she managed her part of the partnership. He complained that the meals not always on time, the bathrooms were unsanitary, the kid’s hair was not right, there were spots on the dishes, there was dust, and much more. Friends and relatives also saw her husband as being way too critical and worried about details. It was clear that the wife was not a poor housekeeper or mother.

There was constant tension between she and her husband over such details and she correctly surmised that she could never please him no matter how she tried. She reported that they were growing less loving to each other and worried that the children were being affected by there deteriorating relationship.

In therapy, the husband launched one complaint after another and was irritated at the therapist whenever he attempted to portray his home life as being common to families deep into child rearing. He stubbornly refused to consider that any of his criticisms were unjustified.

The prognosis for any significant change in this troubled relationship was poor.

Possible Causes

It has long been thought that the excessive concerns for neatness and orderliness must have been caused by overly ridged and punishing methods of toilet training children, who then adopted these demanding standards for the rest of their lives. Frankly, many psychologists consider this to be a gross oversimplification of the problem. I share this view.

While exact causes of Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder are unknown, it seems most likely that they reside in an interaction of modeling and imitation, rewards (reinforcement) and punishment, and perhaps there are even biological determinants which will someday be identified.

I have often observed that Obsessive compulsive individuals have also come from homes in which there has been intense fear and anxiety related to abuse, nasty divorces, or other tragedies. From this perspective, the great control that these individuals attempt to impose upon their world would appear to be a defense against the anxiety produced by things beyond their control.

Neither the husband or the wife wanted a divorce. But, regrettably, with the passing years of continued conflict the likelihood of a divorce would increase for this family.

This example further illustrates that the mechanisms and effects of bad behavioral contagion can be subtle and far reaching.

Dr. Tom, 4/8/10

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Behavioral Contagion: Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Individuals diagnosed with Histrionic Disorder often act as though they were “on stage” performing for a large audience. They are theatrical in the ways that they exaggerate their emotions, use drama, and use exaggerated speech. The exaggerated emotions of this personality type were once named Hysterical Personality Disorder. These individuals may dress in ways that make their physical appearance the focus of everyone’s attention. They are uncomfortable when they lose the attention of other’s and they may react in sexually suggestive and provocative ways to remain “center stage”. Others around them may initially see these behaviors as attractive, exciting or charming. However, histrionic behavior patterns make it difficult to maintain close and enduring relationships. After a time, the over-exaggerated happy and excited or profoundly upset and sad emotions become intolerable to many others. They often come to see such emotional displays as shallow and manipulative. This leads to chronic relationship problems.

A Representative Example

She was very beautiful young woman who shined and sparkled in every way. She was a bleach blond, with heavy make-up, lots of jewelry, and she dressed in short dresses with plunging neck lines. She also had the ability to move into a social setting and “take over the spotlight”. She was witty, charming, entertaining, and she had and infectious laugh that enlivened happy social occasions. The lady had a special ability to make a man think that she was attracted to him and that she was “available” to him. She “never met a stranger”, and was never at a loss for words.

The lady in question was married to her third husband who was very jealous of her flirtatious ways with other men. He did his best to satisfy her extravagant wants and desires, but she always wanted more. He did his best to raise his step son, but the boy was oppositional and defiant to him, as he treated his mother the same way. This ladies husband found his family life to be in constant conflict and turmoil.

If the husband took exception to her dramatic or flirtatious behaviors, she was “deeply wounded” and her anger at him could last for days. She was as extreme in her upset as she was in her joy and happiness.

The marriage ended when her husband found out that she had been arranging to meet a lover (another married man)when she was away on business trips.

Possible Causes

Histrionic personality disorder is thought to be caused by emotionally cold and over-controlling parents who have caused their children to feel unloved and fearful of abandonment. These kinds of early experiences are thought, for many, to lead to extremely high needs for attention and nurturance from others in adult life. It is thought that by creating situations in which they play the role of a victim, in some form of crisis, these individuals are able to manipulate others into supporting and caring for them. Histrionic behavior patterns are thought to be a defense against a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. At other times they are extremely skilled at using different methods to remain the center of attention.

The spread of psychological problems within a population resulting from Histrionic personality disorders can occur through the ways in which these individuals treat their children. In the example above, the son became frustrated, angry and oppositional towards not only his mother and step father, but also all other adults. The series of divorces that this woman experienced was not only harmful to her son and her extended family, but also to her husbands, their families, and any children that the husband may have brought to his new marriage. Also, in the example above, the woman had an afair with another married man which threatens to be a destructive force in that family.

Dr. Tom 4/7/10

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Behavioral Contagion of Psychological Problems

Behavioral Contagion of Psychological Problems

Brice Petgen wrote:

I have been studying quite a bit about personality disorders this semester. It is rather fortuitous that your blog entries have been what they have been recently. The more I learn the more I come to the realization that personality disorders are really disorders based on, and developed from, interpersonal relations. There is no pill that can alleviate these disorders. They only “fix” I see is a therapeutic approach with a strong relational basis. We, as therapists, must gain the trust of our client. We must create the environment in which the client can display these deficits in interpersonal relations. At that point we must address the deficits or distortions. CBT and behavioral techniques can be quite useful then to challenge the views and meanings that underlie the issue. Plus quite a bit of insight from the client is required. But that becomes the most difficult, due to the fact that the client generally does not see a problem. In essence we are attempting to help the client change who they are as a person. Now that is quite a bit of heavy lifting.

Dr. Tom wrote:

Yes, Brice, the concept of behavioral contagion is nicely illustrated using the personality disorders. You are correct that therapy with those who suffer from Personality Disorders is “heavy lifting” for both the therapist and the client. In fact, the message of behavioral contagion is that the only winning way to deal with the increasing spread of behavioral/emotional problems within a population is through prevention. Perhaps you recall the ol’ nursery rhyme, “All of the kings men and all of the kings horses couldn’t put poor Humpty Dumpty together again”. That is to say, all of the therapists that we could possibly field cannot stem the flow of Americans with psychological problems. The name of the game must be the prevention of psychological disorders…When it comes to “people raising”, doing it right the first time around is what must be done. That will require some major changes in our American socioculture. And that really is some “heavy lifting”!

Thanks for your thoughtful reply Brice.

Dr. Tom 4/6/10

Monday, April 5, 2010

Behavoral Contagion: Dependent Personality Disorder

Dependent Personality Disorder

We all depend upon others. Indeed, to be socially connected to others is to be interdependent with them. But individuals diagnosed with dependent personality disorder show a near total reliance upon others who make almost all of their major and minor decisions for them, to bolster their self-esteem, and to care for their child-like needs. These individuals strongly feel that they cannot manage their own lives (though they may be capable), they are unable to assert their personal needs in a relationship, and they are desperate to hang-on to those on whom they depend---no matter what. As a result, such individuals lack the ability to manage their own lives and behave as a fully functional adult. Such individuals dread separation from those who they let run their lives, they are often depressed, and can suffer from suicidal thinking. They will often do degrading things in order not to lose the ones they depend on.

All of these features can worsen if they feel they are going to be abandoned by their care-taker (parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, or spouse). As a result, these individuals often suffer emotional and physical abuse at the hands of others, and they may tolerate emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of their children by those upon whom they are pathologically dependent.

If separated from those who they depend upon, they are likely to quickly “latch-on” to another dependent relationship to avoid feelings of intense anxiety and fear.

Representative Examples

It is not hard to identify examples of dependent personality disorder. These problems are most prevalent in women, but they can and do occur in men.

I recall the shocking media pictures from several decades ago, of wife and mother who had been beaten for many years by her husband, a successful New York attorney. Her face was shockingly disfigured by the chronic beatings she had endured.

To compound this tragedy, the mother also allowed her husband to beat her young daughter. This couple was prosecuted when an autopsy of their dead child revealed broken bones dating back to her earliest years of life.

A woman with three children sought the help of a therapist to extricate her and her children from an abusive marriage. The man had beat her repeatedly in front of her children, had held them all at gun point threatening to kill them. The therapist worked diligently to get this woman to take action: providing the phone number of the local women's shelter, prompting to call and talk to the professionals there, and to make the necessary plans to leave her home in a safe manner to gain refuge at the woman's shelter. The woman withdrew from therapy and stayed with this man.

Possible Causes

Dependent personality disorder has traditionally been thought to result from a lack of loving care during the first year or so of life. This could lead to a desperate life-long search for care and nurturance. As with so many other personality disorders, parental separation, loss, or rejection have often been implicated. Some theorists suggest that opposite causes of parental over-protectiveness and over-involvement in their children's lives could yield the same excessive dependency needs in later life. Behavioral explanations suggest that parents may actually reward (reinforce) extreme dependence in their children and punish their efforts at independence by withdrawing their love and support. It is also possible that some parents show their own dependency problems and their children come to imitate their dependent behaviors.

Dr. Tom 4/5/10

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

When well-developed scientific evidence is in support of the world’s great religious teachings about desirable moral and ethical human conduct: That is a very important observation.

With regard to human behavior and its consequences for both individuals and their sociocultures, in the material world, the great religions and the principles of behavioral psychology appear to be in very close accord. What appears to drive successful evolution at all levels of existence is selection by consequences.

Science is a method for understanding our universe. If one happens to believe that God created us and our universe, they may also conclude that a true science of behavior is a God-Given aid in the quest to discover God's Truths about how to approximate Heaven on earth.

If you not happen to believe that God created us and our universe then you may still contemplate paragraph one and two of this writing and do the best you can alone, or with the help of others.

God’s Blessings to you on and your loved ones.

Dr. Tom, Easter 2010

Written 11/30/07, Edited 2006 and 4/4/10

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Behavioral Contagion: Avoidant Personality Disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder

Individuals with Avoidant Personality Disorder can become isolated from other people in a way that looks superficially similar to the schizoid personality type.

The big difference is that the schizoid really does not want, or feel, the need to have a relationship with anyone. They are content in their state of relative social isolation. The avoidant individual is actually lonely, unhappy, and desirous of close and loving relationships. But, after seeking and acheiving a relationship with someone, they thenbegin to withdraw from it. This process may repeat itself many times, and is likely to destroy marriages, romantic relationshops and friendships.

What appears to stand in their way of achieving lasting intimacy is their fear of criticism, fear of appearing inadequate, and fear of being rejected by those who with whom they wish to be close. These individuals withdraw from relationships because and they are uncomfortable with psychological intimacy and they fear shame, ridicule, and failure. They struggle to overcome feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, but they are inhibited and become isolated by these feelings.

If someone with these avoidant tendencies does find the courage to enter an intimate relationship with someone, they are apt to vacillate in and out of it until the relationship is destroyed. These anxieties about inadequacy are pervasive and they can inhibit other social, vocational, recreational and educational opportunities. Through it all, those with avoidant personality features feel lonely and unfulfilled.

A Representative Example

A handsome, bright, and articulate man in his thirties once sought counseling because of his distress in a relationship with his fiancee. His chief complaint was that she was the perfect woman for him, but “he could not help doing the things that damaged their relationship” and made it less likely that they would ever marry.

He would purposefully be late for their various dates and other events. He would not call for long periods of time and at other times would be quiet and cool in their relationship for reasons that he could not understand. At other times he would “pull himself together” and be especially attentive and caring to her, before he slipped into another cycle of avoidance of intimacy. The man was deeply distressed and perplexed by his inability to form a lasting intimate relationship a woman and he recounted many such failed attempts in the past with other girlfriends. Not only was he very unhappy, but so were the ones that he attempted to have relationships with.

Possible Causes

Therapists have found that individuals showing avoidant personality symptoms often were shamed and ridiculed by parents, who were highly critical and who did not showed much love and affection. It is thought that children so treated are in danger of “internalizing” (believing that such treatment reflects their true nature) and then continuing this treatment of themselves in their own thinking.

Many clinicians also think that this culture’s high rates of divorce can traumatize children into fearing such outcomes in their own lives if they attempt to have close and enduring relationships with others. In fact, this appeared to be the case with the man described above. The divorce of his parents was an exceedingly painful loss for him and (as typical of children) he had feared that he might have had something to do with it, hence his feelings of being flawed and inferior in some ways.

This is another example of bad behavioral contagion. There are conditions under which divorce is advisable such as abuse, chronic addiction, or chronic infidelity. However, I believe that divorce is very bad for the children involved and some of the effects are fairly subtle.

Often the tendency of young adults to remain single longer than in the past, and to divorce at alarmingly high rates, is attributed to various socio-economic factors,. The spread of relationship insecurities within our population, now called Avoidant Personality Disorder, contributes to this trend and it self-propagates through the mechanisms of behavioral contagion.

Dr. Tom 4/3/10

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pornography Is Bad For America

Pornography Is Bad For America

The following is a copy of a post that I did some time ago. I represent it here because I know that not many of those who view my current posts are likely to search back through my history of postings. I also represent it because a friend and former colleague has asked my opinion on a matter related to pornography and its effects upon culture.

My last, deep and comprehensive, analysis of the research literature on the effects of pornography was published 12 years ago. I spent two years on this project, almost exclusively and will not be able to match that effort again at this time. I am certain that there are new findings that will support and that will not support my conclusions. I am certain that, as in my previous analysis of the data available, philosophy and politics has biased many of the findings and opinions.

As a psychologist, my own assessment is not just based upon the research findings however. It was, and remains, based upon the principles/laws that underly Social Learning Theory, Operant Conditioning and Respondent Conditioning of humans and other animals. These principles, laws, and learning mechanisms predict that certain response tendencies will emerge from repeatedly pairing orgasms with a particular class of stimuli. Within this process new patterns of sexual arousal can be learned, new thoughts and images can become very frequent, new patterns of behavior can be fantasized, and new patterns of sexual behavior will become more likely. The conditionability of the consumer of pornography is especially heightened during puberty, but is present for many years.

The depictions in modern pornography include, children and young teens ( simulated or real), homosexuals, groups, aggression, torture, disfiguration, feces and urine, and animals, to name only a few categories.

Given what I have learned about human conditioning and learning over the past 47 years of study and observation (36 years as a professor and a concurrent 30 years as a psychotherapist), there is no way that flooding a population (children included) with the vivid pornographic depictions listed above will not produce an increased rate of human sexual actions that are harmful to a large number of individuals involved, in many different ways, and to their socioculture.

I have added an interesting post (following my own) from another source, to update my own post with more current observations of the many ways that problems produced by the porn industry can affect peoples lives. This posting will follow my own.

Yes, there is research and opinion to suggest no harm from the infusion of pornography into various cultures. I simply do not believe it.

My original posting follows:

It is so popular and comfortable to say that “whatever consenting adults choose to do is okay”. But there are consequences beyond what consenting adults choose to do, when they do “it” publicly. The same can also be said about some of the things that consenting adults do in private.

The hard reality is that many of our newly granted sexual freedoms (illegal less than one life-time ago) are severely damaging everyone, especially our young adults and children. These new sexual freedoms must therefore damaging our culture: How could it be otherwise?

As a psychologist, I have frequently witnessed the devastating effects of the scientifically flawed conclusions of President Johnson’s Committee on Pornography which recommended the legalization of pornography in 1970. In 1986 President Reagan’s Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography concluded that the earlier Commission’s findings of no relation between pornography and antisocial behavior was “starkly obsolete”. We now know much more about the effects of pornographic sexual stimulation upon humans than we did in 1970. What has been learned explains much of our sex-related human suffering and loss brought by a series of ignorant and irresponsible Court decisions mandating a nation-wide torrent of dramatically explicit pornography.

The following is a brief summary of scientific research findings about the effects of pornography viewing upon human thoughts, emotions, and behavior that I have previously published [Mawhinney, V.T. (1998). Behavior and Social Issues, 8, 2, 159-193].

1. Violent portrayals of sex can increase sexual aggression in the viewer. Graphic sexual violence is common in XXX and R-rated films rented by adults and teens from neighborhood video rental stores.
2. Much of pornography depicts women in grossly disrespected, exploited, and/ or sexually abused rolls. I am stunned by the absence of outrage among Women’s Liberation organizations.
3. The millions who masturbate while viewing the deviant sexual displays that flood the internet (teens and kids, urine and defecation, pain and torture, and sex with animals, etc.) are auto-erotically conditioning their own increased appetite for such portrayals. The same is true of any genre of pornography.
4. Both violent and nonviolent sexual portrayals can increase aggression in men when some other impulse-control impairing event is added such as drugs, alcohol, or frustration.
5. Commonly depicted rape scenes in which females finally acquiesce, and enjoy the sex, perpetuates the idea that female pleasure is a common outcome of forced sex.
6. Viewing rape depictions can reduce the estimated seriousness of such assaults for both men and woman and the severity of the punishment that they recommend for the rapist.
7. Viewing pornography can cause the viewer to overestimate the commonality of the sexual activities observed. It can also increase the viewers expectations that such behavior will occur in their own relationships with others and that others will probably be willing participants.
8. Viewing pornography “primes” the observer to think about sex more often and this increases the probability of sexual behavior.
9. Watching attractive male and female sexual models in pornography can reduce the viewer’s judgement of the attractiveness of their own mate, increasing dissatisfaction.
10. Pornography was a very small industry in the early 1960’s. By the mid-1990’s its revenues had grown to over 10 billion dollars per year. One recent estimate places this nation’s annual “mainstreamed” pornography earnings at about 56 billion dollars. The legalization of pornography has stimulated monumental new business growth and very substantial new revenues for our predatory government.

The longer-term consequences of our incompetent sexual experiment are unprecedented personal and financial costs for increased illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases, rapes, child molestations, sexual infidelity in relationships and increased divorce rates. The flood of pornography is a significant partial determinant of all of these painful events. I submit that this is not “new found freedom”, it is a deadly form of social chaos.

And what about our local strip clubs? The mixture of sexual stimulation, tension, alcohol, and frustration in a testosterone “saturated” local strip club frequently ends in physical brutality, violence, and death. Only the naive are surprised and shocked.

Do you really think a community gains more from these sex clubs than it loses? The costs to a city’s reputation are incalculable. The financial losses will be enormous. Consider the costs to law enforcement, emergency medical services, hospitals, and to our judicial and penal system. This “little object lesson” is an example of bad behavioral contagion. It is the spread of damaging behavior patterns within our lives, in large part, caused by the drug and sex practices that are encouraged by our own socioculture.

Of course one can make the First Amendment argument. But our founding fathers could never have dreamed that the meaning of “freedom of expression” would be so distorted to inflict an avalanche of pornography upon this nation. Many of us, born and raised in the 1940’s and 1950’s, felt very free indeed: We enjoyed freedom from the culture-wide pornography related human misery that now enslaves us all.

What do our children learn from all of this? And how many of us care anymore? It saddens me to say this, but each generation appears to be breeding a next generation that is increasingly more troubled than the one before. Our addiction to pornography is a large part of this problem. If you think that this culture’s sex, drugs, violence, and other impulse-control problems are bad now—just wait. There is much worse to come.

What can be done? The mark of emotionally healthy individuals and cultures is their ability to deny immediate gratification to achieve long-term rewards. All across this great nation, good citizens and their good governments must do all that they can to reverse our cultural sexual addiction contagion— and we must do it very soon. Eliminating the recreational sex industry within your own communities is a step in the right direction.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D. 11/08/09

This is a slight revision of an article that I published in the South Bend (Indiana) Tribune approximately 9 years ago.

Dr. Tom, 4/1/10

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The narcissistic behavior pattern is one of total intense self-love and adoration. Like in the Greek myth in which a boy named Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water, these individuals are totally self-absorbed. These individuals exaggerate their own worth, talents, and accomplishments and they expect recognition for their wonderful superiority. They have strong fantasies of their own high success, genius, beauty or ideal love and they require great admiration from others as well as special treatment. This overblown sense of self-importance leads to arrogant and superior attitudes, a deep lack of empathy for the needs and feelings of others, and the expectation of special treatment and association with only superior people and institutions. These individuals are often jealous and exploitive of others and see them as being inferior to themselves.

A Representative Example

A lady complained that her date for a first (and last) evening talked only of himself, and never once asked her anything about herself. For much of the evening she indulged his selfish one-sided conversation. When she finally told him that he was rude and self-centered and apparently had little interest in who she was, he reacted with laughter and a hint of righteous indignation stating: "of course I talked about myself, I am the most interesting person that I have ever met!"

Possible Causes

Narcissistic personality disorder has traditionally been thought to be a very strong hand hard to penetrate defense against a terrible fear of inferiority. Some researchers think that these behavior patterns are reaction to cold and rejecting parents. The idea is that narcissistic defenses of dramatic self-love and over-confidence in their perfection helps these individuals to cope with feelings of worthlessness caused by a history of abuse, death of a parent, Parental divorce, or adoption.

A more contemporary theory is that Narcissistic behaviors are learned when children are treated with too much adoration and favor. From this perspective, children learn to overestimate their own "wonderfulness". This mechanism seems to be involved because first borns and only children are known to be more Narcissistic than are later children from larger families.

It is also suspected that a present breakdown in our culture may lead to children who are, and remain, impulsive, self-centered, and highly materialistic. From this perspective, we are in an age of selfishness or generational narcissism.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Antisocial Personality Disorder

This destructive personality disorder tends to emerge from childhood patterns of a disregard for the feelings and rights of others and for family, institutional, or social conventions,rules and laws. Childhood diagnoses for such behavior patterns are Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder. These disorders are listed under Axis I in the DSM-IV. I have presented them here with Axis II disorders because I think it is important that you see the tendency of these childhood problems to evolve into similar but more fully developed adult behavior patterns. It does not always happen, but all too frequently these behavior patterns tend to develop through one or two other child and adolescent diagnoses into its fully mature manifestation known as Antisocial Personality Disorder. The developmental steps toward the fully mature personality disorder are as follows:

In Oppositional Defiant Disorder, children challenge adult rules and demands, argue with adults, have often have bad temper problems, lie and blame others for their troubles. These problems normally start before puberty at around eight years of age.

Conduct Disorder is a more severe pattern of problem behaviors in which the rights of others are frequently violated. These children often lie, cheat, damage property, and run away from school and/or home. They may often aggress against others and may even hurt animals for entertainment. Other illegal activities such a robbery, extortion, rape, and murder may also occur in extreme cases. Conduct disorder can start sometime before 10 years or in later adolescence.

When an individual reaches the age of 18 years and still shows the enough of the previously mentioned behavior patterns they will be diagnosed as antisocial personality disorder. Individuals showing these behavior patterns are also sometimes called "sociopaths" or "psychopaths"; the names may change--but the behaviors the same.

As adults, these people show a strong disregard for the rights of others and the rule of law. They appear to have failed to develop the ability to empathize with others and they do not suffer conscious pangs of consciousness if they hurt or kill others. They are impulsive, seek thrills, take risks, are unreliable, spend money foolishly, can be irritable and aggressive, and have trouble maintaining close relationships with anyone. The motto for this category of diagnosis may be "if I want it---I'll take it, if it feels good---I'll do it: lying, cheating, manipulating, and stealing is good fun."

A Representative Example

Not surprisingly, these individuals have problems with drug and alcohol addiction and are often sentenced to prison for criminal behavior. Charles Manson is often cited as someone who shows many of the features of antisocial personality disorder, as well as other psychological problems.

A thirty year old man sought help from a therapist because he claimed to be having problems with his wife and wished to leave her for his girlfriend, of over one year. He attended only several sessions and attempted to persuade the therapist that leaving his wife and four children for his girlfriend was the right thing for him to do.

He contended that his wife was unstable. When the therapist discussed his responsibilities to his wife and children, and his moral obligation to work on his problem (actually only his reported “problem”) he did not return. Predictably he did not pay the bill for his sessions.

It was apparent that he was seeking a psychologist to support him in an impending court battle with his wife. At the start of the first session, this individual, with unmistakable pride and pleasure, reeled off a report of the drugs he had taken (nearly all that we might think of), the fights, the high speed chases with the police, fires that he set, a car he blew up, a "knee capping" ("shoot the guy in the knee cap --it won't kill them but it will hurt like hell--and others won't mess with you anymore"), and a stint in prison. He seemed excited to tell the therapist what he called the "Sicilian Motto": "The sweetest form of forgiveness is revenge!" Yes, these and similar behavior patterns extended back into this man's childhood; and yes, the diagnosis was antisocial personality disorder.

As you may already surmised, his wife’s psychological problems were largely a result of living with him. She would eventually divorce him, but he would remain a very damaging factor in his children’s lives. If he would remain connected to him, which is doubtful, he would be a very bad model for them to imitate. If he deserted them, they would suffer feelings of abandonment for the rest of their lives. It is common for such divorcing personality disordered individuals to remain unreliably connected to their ex spouses and children to frustrate and torture their ex and to propagandize their children against her or him. They will frequently spend significant sums of money and time to hire lawyers to drain their meager funds with legal fees and make them miserable.

The above is a strong example of how behavioral contagion can damage others who are associated with someone who suffers from a serious personality disorder. Unfortunately, research strongly indicates that anti-social personality disorder has a significant heritability factor and so behavior patterns similar to those of the problem parent are more likely to show-up in the children as they mature.

Suspected Causes


Antisocial personality disorder is perhaps the best researched of all the personality disorders. There is strong evidence that tendencies to show antisocial personality disorder can be inherited. Many studies have demonstrated elevated correlations in antisocial behavior of within families.

While some of the similarities could be due to imitation factors, children adopted and raised by adoptive parents still show stronger correlations for antisocial behavior with their biological parents than with their adoptive parents.

There is evidence that individuals with antisocial tendencies have slower central nervous systems, lower levels of autonomic nervous system arousal and slower skin conductance than normal individuals. They crave excitement and are not much affected by punishing consequences for their inappropriate behavior. One of the earmarks such individuals is their failure to learn from their painful experiences.


Antisocial personality disordered individuals are very likely to have lived in families that experienced poverty, disorganization, discord, family violence, divorce, abuse and abandonment. Presumably as a result of this, antisocial individuals do not trust others and they lack the moral development and interpersonal empathy so important to normal social relationships.

It is also thought that antisocial parents may teach their children to behave in similar ways through their modeling these behavior patterns and children learning to imitate them. Furthermore, it is very possible that when children tantrum, argue, and become aggressive to parental instructions that parents may "give-in" and terminate their demands, thereby teaching the children to behave in these oppositional and coercive ways to authority figures.

It should also be noted that Children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder seem to at an increased risk of eventually being diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

It is likely that any, or all, of these factors could contribute to the development of antisocial personality disorder in any specific case.

If these behavior pattern emerge in your family, seek help early from an experienced psychologist. Protect yourselves from association with others who show antisocial tendencies and vote for representatives who will work to reduce the growth of these behavioral tendencies
within our population.

Dr. Tom, 3/27/10

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

Schizotypal symptoms are truly odd. These individuals do not quite meet the requirements for a diagnosis of schizophrenia (a more serious disorder), but they show many milder similarities ---minus the verbal incoherence and complete loss of touch with reality as seen in active schizophrenia. Schizotypal symptoms include ideas of reference (the words of a popular song “are instructions for me to do something”), strange superstitions, the feeling that they can “read minds”, or that they can see the world through a "sixth sense" (seeing ghosts). These individuals think and talk in odd ways that are elaborate but vague and complicated; their thinking is paranoid in nature; they show inappropriate or flattened emotions; lack close friends outside of their immediate family; and they show excessive social anxiety and suspicions fears. People with this disorder are at risk for suicide attempts and to be hospitalized with other mental psychological problems.

A Representative Example

The mother brought her child for treatment because he was overly-interested in weapons, combat games, and always wanted to dress in black. The mother showed distinct features of schizotypal personality disorder in that she believed that she could communicate with her dead relatives when she was in a certain mental state. The state she described was that of being tired enough to go to sleep, yet not quit being sleep: but she also had to be in a high state of need or desire to communicate which in order to achieve success. Her mood while elaborately describing this process was high, almost giddy. At times she would become extremely serious and lower her voice to a whisper. The lady also said that she could detect "life forms" in a room without ever seeing them. She proceeded to describe times when she could feel them and later discovered a family pet sleeping behind a piece of furniture. She swore that she had seen the ghost of a former pet (a black puppy wearing a red collar under a table) and asked her therapist not to show skepticism about this event to her son.

Suspected Causes

Schizotypal personality disorder is thought to be associated with odd and confusing family communication styles and may also have a genetic basis. This personality disorder may have biological similarities to schizophrenia Increased levels of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, and enlarged brain ventricles as well as attentional deficits occur in both disorders. There is correlational evidence that relatives of depressed individuals are more likely to show schizotypal disorder. The reverse is also true.

Dr. Tom, 3/15/10

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Schizoid Personality Disorder: Treat Your Children Well.

Schizoid Personality Disorder: Treat Your Children Well.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

People who show these behavior patterns are detached from social relationships with others, including their family. They do not want, and do not enjoy, the company of others. They prefer to be alone and normally choose hobbies and vocational activities accordingly. They lack close friends, tend to be unaffected by praise or criticism, and appear cold, aloof, detached, and without emotions.

A Fictitious Example

A family was referred to a psychologist for therapy and parent training by the regional Welfare Department. The children were dirty and showed many other signs of neglect and abuse. The mother was of borderline-normal intelligence and lacked the skills, motivation, and knowledge to care for her children. The father was a cross country truck driver who spent vast amounts of time alone while working. During time-off, while at home, he seldom interacted with the members of his family except to handle the routine matters of cohabitation: vehicle and house repairs, finances, transportation, etc. He had no close friends and refused to attend various social functions. The father encountered the psychologist, and obtained a diagnosis, because of an agency referral of his family. As is typical, was not a bad person and he did not hate people, he was not interested in changing his ways and preferred to be left alone.

Suspected Causes

Schizoid personality disordered individuals frequently have suffered various kinds of neglect and/or physical abuse as well as rejection and various forms of hostility from others. For example this man’s own father was deserted by his mother during his first year. He was raised by his maternal grandparents who were cold, rejecting and abusive to him. He recounted being forced to eat strong tasting fish until it gaged him and caused him to vomit onto his plate at the table. He was then force to eat his vomit. He was made to stand outside in the cold for long periods because he upset his grandmother. When he failed to let the dog out on schedule, the dogs excrement was picked up by his grandmother and thrown in his face.

Most folks would understand why he might not wish to be close with other human beings. The only problem is that to create emotionally healthy children, one needs the ability to feel warmth and love for them and to also spend quality time with them.

Treat your children well.

Dr. Tom, 3/21/10

Monday, March 15, 2010

Population Psychological Problems Reciprocally Related To Cultural Decline

Population Psychological Problems Reciprocally Related To Cultural Decline

It is not a simple relationship, but one that swirls back upon itself. Psychological disorders cause cultural decline and they are produced by cultural decline. This synergistic causal whirlwind is taking America down.

Personality disorders are deeply ingrained inflexible and maladaptive “traits” or ways of behaving. My use of the word “behaving” includes ways of thinking (“I can’t take care of myself” or “I am such a looser”); and having emotions (often becoming frantically upset or unable to feel emotions); perceiving (“they are laughing at me” or “they are out to get me”). A few examples of the behaviors that may be shown by those who have personality disorders are habitual lying, breaking the law, acting superior to everyone else, being abusive to others. As you will soon see, there are many other examples of damaging and distressing ways in which people think, perceive, emote, and act.
Personality disorders usually start to show themselves in adolescence or young adulthood and they are highly resistant to change. Personality disorders normally persist a life-time.

When someone has a personality disorder these characteristic damaging personality patterns will show themselves across a wide variety of settings and social situations and they generally hurt the individuals ability to work, play, and have close relations with others. More importantly they hurt other people with whom the personality disordered individual interacts.

Naturally the examples of problem behavior patterns that I have provided (there are many more) are hurtful and crippling to the individual who shows them. But, everyone fails to appreciate the trauma experienced by others who’s lives are damaged and sometimes ruined by the actions of those with personality disorders. This tunnel vision which focuses only upon the self-defeating nature of the one with the personality disorder blinds us to costs to the socioculture of such individuals. The damage of personality disorders spreads from the troubled individual to others who come in contact with them (employers, friends, spouses, children, and other family members). In cases of criminal behavior, those damaged may be unsuspecting strangers who have not elected to associate with the disordered individual.

Do not forget that the damaging effects of a personality disorder are damaging to the many people who interact with the individual who has this psychological problem. The negative effects of these behaviors can be very contagious to others.

Dr. Tom 3/15/10

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Born Again American

“Born Again American“

You must open the following dedication to America. It is guaranteed to move and inspire you.

Thank you, dear brother Mark, for sending this my way. It is a profound and moving piece of work.

Dr. Tom

Friday, March 5, 2010

Repect For Mother

Respect For Mother

I can't count the times that I have heard mothers complain that their children do not respect them: that they sass them, call them names, refuse to follow their instructions and even assult them. The mothers then report that when their husband walks in,the children begin to behave like "angels".

Well what is going on in these households?

This all too common pattern of disrespect for mothers and respect for fathers could have numerous causes. The following is a list of some likely causes that easily come to mind:

1. The father has appropriately disciplined the children. He uses rewards for good behavior and moderate forms of punishment for persistent or dangerous bad behavior.

2. The father has over-used corporal punishment and the children are afraid of him.

3. The father has a violent temper and the children are afraid of him.

3. The mother is permissive and has not used methods identified in #1.

4. The mother does not think she is permissive because she yells, speaks harshly to her children often and frequently threatens them with dire consequences, but does not use the methods in #1. This means the mother is emotionally abusive and permissive at the same time.

4. The mother does not think she is permissive because she explains over and over why the children should not behave badly and why they should be good. This means the mother is indulgent and permissive at the same time.

5. The father is bigger, stronger, his voice is lower, he speaks more directly and he more often says what he means and means what he says. Also, he is less likely to back down from a confrontation with his children.

If you are a mother or a father, the best way to earn and keep the repect of your children is to earn it using cause # 1. Please note that mothers can also fit the bill with # 5.

Dr. Tom 3/13/10

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another Dead Girl

Another Dead Girl

I woke up again to the news: Another dead girl, killed by a homicidal sexual predator. Over and over again our beautiful children and young women are sexually savaged and brutally killed. Why?!

In 1967, President Johnson appointed a commission on Obscenity and Pornography. In 1970, that commission reported that there was no evidence that exposure to explicit material led to antisocial behavior.

In 1973, the supreme court (Miller v. California) produced a ruling that made censorship of sexually explicit materials almost impossible.

In 1985, The Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography reviewed updated research of improved design, and published conclusions that contradicted the 1970 no harm report. It stated that the 1970’s report was “starkly obsolete”.

The ”newly identified” harmful effects of pornography were attributed to violent and degrading pornography. The primary mode of damage was considered to be through modeling and imitation. Modeling and imitation is a highly researched and profoundly powerful mode of psychological influence. This is another example of science proving the obvious, because this was a historically cultural-wide forgone conclusion, as well as the reason for America’s laws against pornography in the first place.

But it was too late. We had opened another of Pandora’s Boxes. The infrastructure of Hollywood, the exploding internet, and the billions of dollars to be made through the production and marketing of pornography promised untold riches to the naked puppets and the producers of the gateway drug to sexual mayhem in America and throughout the world.

So many fools bought the legal/governmental assertion that the 1st Amendment should protect florid and vivid ”anal escapades”, “money shots”, “golden showers”, “torrid teens”, and Sado/masochistic depictions that so excited the masses of adults and their children. The children whose sexual appetites and mental scripts for their actions have increasingly been shaped by the sexual depictions of the pornography industry.

Through all of this, our increasingly sex addicted population never perceived its revenue addicted government lusting for the new tax revenues that the legalized pornography would bring them.

A mutual masturbatory relationship made in hell that has created hell on earth.

To those who will criticize my take on the legalization of pornography. I am aware that there are multiple determinants of sex crimes and damaging sexual activities in our population. Say what you will. Nothing mitigates the damaging effects of legalized Porn.

The following is something that I wrote a long time ago, after one of my many professional encounters with the horrors of the pornification of America.


His aunt brought him to me thinking I might be able to help. The nine-year-old’s mother had drugged him and performed a variety of sex acts with him while her boyfriend video-taped their actions. They abandoned the child and would try to market the videotape.

I tried everything but he would not talk. His face was empty, as though his life had been ripped from deep within him. The child complied with his aunt’s requests to sit and to look at me, but he never spoke. There were no tears or fear, only emptiness.

The aunt told me that she was caring for the boy. She said that she would be moving from the area within the week and thought that a session with a psychologist would help.

The session did not help, nor would dozens of sessions have helped.

What will become of this child and the countless others like him?

It is likely that they, like those who damaged them, will spread their dark and silent eyes among the children in their lives.

The most destructive force of all: psychopathogenic contagion.

V.T. Mawhinney


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reasoning With Young Children.

Reasoning With Young Children

Reason with your children whenever you can. Attempt to influence them by pointing out the good or bad effects that their behavior will have upon themselves and others.

You can do some reasoning even with very Young children. Explain to your two year old that she must not ride her tricycle into the street because a car might hit her. Tell her she must not play with knives because they are very sharp and will cut her; show her how easily a knife can cut something. Explain that throwing sand in the sandbox is bad because it may get into their eyes and hurt them.

Tell your child how her behavior will affect others. When you see that she is changing her ways, praise her for here good behaviors and being smart. Be certain to reason with your child while she is behaving appropriately. With this positive approach, you would reason with your child and praise her for riding her bike in the driveway or playing nicely in the sandbox.

Reasoning is very important, but combine it with praising good behavior for the best results.

Dr. Tom 3/2/2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mother's Guilt Can Cause Discipline Problems in Children

Mother's Guilt Can Cause Discipline Problems

When I grew up in the 1940's and 1950's all of the mom's that I knew stayed home and raise their children. I know some worked, but not many.

What I often encounter in this day, when so many mothers are in the work force, is their feelings of guilt about not being able to be with their children.

This guilt can easily cause behavior problems in children. If this is a problem for you, it is important that you resolve it.

There are two ways to handle this guilt. For those who can afford, and wish to do so, to quit work and spend more time with your children. You can go back to work when you are comfortable doing so.

For the great many who cannot afford to quite work. It is important to change the way you think about your situation. Learn to remind your self of the following positive aspects of your parenting, as often as it takes, to diminish your troubled feelings to managable levels:

+ You have no choice but to work.
+ You spend all of the time you can with your children.
+ You make a special effort to spend quality time with them.
+ You show your children in as many ways possible that love them.
+ You make time to both play and work with them.
+ You take them special places and do special things with them.

And of course you do many more things to reinforce the idea that they are the most important people in your life.

In the event that you do not have to work, but have a strong personal need to do so, you may also have to deal with the guilt factor. Perhaps some of these same ideas will also be helpful to you.

I have frequently had mothers of children who are oppositional and abusive to them admit to me that they are permissive and tollerate that treatment because they are "guilty about being away from them so much". They tell me that, in the little time they have with their children, they simply cannot bring themselves to set and enforce rules or punish them if they behave badly. The mothers also admit their fear that their children will not love them if they have to be strict with them. This problem can be made worse when there has been a divorce and the children must split their time between both parents, thereby further diminishing the time the mother has with her children.

Young children are naturally self-centered and, no matter what, they must have limits and consequences for disrespectful, abusive, and oppositional behavior.

As a working parent, you need to review the many reasons that you can complement yourself for being a loving and dutiful mother. It is important to do this often enough so you can consistently praise and reward good behavior and mildly or moderately punish bad behavior in your children...and do it without guilt.

My manual on humane and effective time-outs and using rewards to teach good behavior will help you "turn things around" if you and your children have already been caught in the "guilt trap".

Children need your love, they need your limits, and they need your willingness to provide appropriate teaching consequences when they behave badly.

Please try to let your love and your confidence as a parent show, not your guilt. If you cannot get ride of troubling guilt on your own, seek the assistance of and experienced Ph.D. level psychologist.

Dr. Tom 2/26/10