The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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When Truth Becomes Lies

I first heard of Martin E. Seligman, the prominent American psychologist who invented learned helplessness theory, from online articles implying he was involved in aiding the military to torture suspected terrorists. After investigating, I discovered this was a fabrication. According to Jane Mayer, Seligman had given a lecture at the SERE school in San Diego in 2002, but it was intended to help soldiers resist torture, not the other way around. In many ways, liberal bloggers are as hysterical as their conservative counterparts.

Learned helplessness theory posits that our problems, fears, anxieties, and depressions are often learned (not the result of brain chemistry) and reinforced through our thoughts. A trained cognitive therapist can intervene to help the patient solve many longstanding psychological problems—even something as severe as agoraphobia—by simply relaxing him and helping him stay with his feelings of helplessness until they become less overpowering. Eventually, he learns to control them.

Seligman has written a number of self-help books to promote his theories. The one I’m reading is called What We Can Change and What We Can’t. The book delineates the most common psychological problems and whether they can be effectively treated by cognitive theory. I highly recommend it. Whether you agree with Seligman or not, the book is packed with insights into the human psyche and offers approaches to ameliorating common anxieties, anger, sexual dysfunction, and depression.

That Martin Seligman’s ideas may have been perverted (turned on their heads) by the miliary is only natural. Blaming the psychologist for it is ridiculous.

November 15, 2010   Comments Off on When Truth Becomes Lies

Paranoia Is a Wondrous Thing

“Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!”

This is a strange way to announce another man’s death, particularly one you’ve killed yourself. But at this point Hamlet has little regard for Polonius, or human life for that matter. From pretending to be mad, he has become mad indeed, and capable of killing without remorse. The ghost of his father drives him in frenzied lust for murder.

Such was the theme of the television series Rubicon, about spies spying on spies who use the very terrorists they pretend to hunt for personal profit. Everyone is paranoid, and the leaders of this renegade band will do anything to protect their secret, including using the agency to kill anyone who gets close. The deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians is considered collateral damage and never given a second thought. Sound familiar?

In any case, AMC has not renewed the program, and there will be no second season. Rubicon is now officially defunct.

I’m sure there were several reasons for cancelling the series, principal among them declining viewership. Although the acting and camera work were superb, the plot could be overly intellectual at times and some episodes moved like turgid streams. It was not everyone’s favorite program, as it was mine. Still, one wonders, whether the central theme did not hit a little too close to home for comfort. Funny how paranoia inspires paranoia. Once you fall into its seductive maw, there is no bottom to it.

November 15, 2010   Comments Off on Paranoia Is a Wondrous Thing