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Loss

The Symbolism of Hair

Bald_woman_free  At an event I recently attended, I met an actress who in her speech related how hard it was to pursue her dreams.  Although she had extraordinary talent and great looks, there were so many obstacles in her way, including auditions with inevitable rejections and more auditions with rejections, that it all became too taxing.  Exhausted and disheartened, she was going to abandon her extraordinary gift, her calling.  She found herself fantasizing about leaving it all, becoming a waitress and shaving her head, though she doesn't know what the shaving of her head was all about.

So what does fantasizing about shaving one's head mean?  Hair, after all, symbolizes power, potency and sexuality.  When in the Bible Samson's hair was cut, he lost his power.  When a newly ordained nun shaves her head, she is giving away her power as a woman in order to submit her life and her will to serving God.  In some Hassidic sects the young bride shaves her head on her wedding night, giving away her allure and personal power in order to submit to the marital union.

 Although the actress's fantasy provided needed relief from daily hardship and uncertain results, it was not without sorrow.  Shaving her head symbolized giving away her most extraordinary and powerful asset, her very special gift, in exchange for a seemingly easy and simple life.

Fortunately for her and for us, she persevered.  Today she is at the zenith of her professional life, enjoying her success fully with no regrets for living an exceptional life.

I'm Dr. Blokar.  For more information, click on the following resources:

Hair:Surviving the Fall

The Sabian Symbols & Astrological Analyses:The Original Symbols Fully Revealed  

The Roots of Desire:The Myth,Meaning,and Sexual Power of Red Hair 

Hair:Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures  


Alzheimer's:Blessing in Disguise?

Dr. E (Ph.D.) Speaks Out:Guest Blogger

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While watching Sargent Shriver, who has Alzheimer's Disease, wave goodbye at his wife's (Eunice Kennedy Shriver) funeral several weeks ago, and having recently placed a relative with age-related memory loss in a long term care facility,  I had some thoughts. 

Of course, every Baby Boomer in America wants there to be a prevention and cure ASAP for Alzheimer's and other age-related dementias and memory loss conditions, and that would be great, no doubt about it!  But if not, could it be that these conditions are Nature's way of helping us face old age and death?   Might Alzheimer's be a blessing in disguise?

For elderly people with Alzheimer's, they may not know what or who they don't remember, so maybe their condition is not upsetting to them.  Perhaps Sargent Shriver was told he was there to say goodbye to his wife, but since he may not remember her or their long life together, he did what a child does when told to say goodbye.  He smiled and waved, like a child at a parade as people march by, rather than feel the unbearable pain of his terrible loss. 

And since elderly people with Alzheimer's may not remember they are old or perhaps even know any longer what death is, how can they be depressed about it or fear it?   Ignorance is bliss, in a way, isn't it?

It is hard on family and friends who miss the person who used to be, for sure, and who fear ever being like the person with memory loss.  But maybe the fear is not necessary.

Now, mind you, I am talking about these dementias in only elderly people, not early onset memory loss, which is a real tragedy with no upside at all.  But otherwise, let's work towards prevention and a cure, but not worry too much if that doesn't happen.  And if there is a prevention and cure, we will have to find another way besides Alzheimer's to cope with old age and death.

I'm Dr. E., Guest Blogger.

For more on the subject, check out the following:

Alzheimer's From the Inside Out

The Myth of Alzheimer's:What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis 

Alzheimer's:A Caretaker's Journal

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias:A Practical Guide  


Are We Taking Too Many Medications for Mental Problems?

Tcruise  There are some psychiatrists who have made a career out of lecturing and writing books on the uselessness and harmfulness of psychotropic medications, that is medications used to treat mental and emotional illness, and  some studies even argue that antidepressant medications are ineffective. Then there was Tom Cruise, who as a scientologist first berated and then apologized to Brooke Shields after she talked about taking medication to help her through postpartum depression.

So when are psychotropic medications necesssary?  Most psychotic illnesses, such as Schizophrenia, and most severe mood disorders, such as Bipolar Disorder, require medications to control the worst symptoms.  And I believe that people with certain forms of Depression, like Brooke Shields,  and those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be helped by medication as well. 

Depressions that occur as a result of traumatic events or great losses may or may not require use of medications.  If the situation becomes extremely painful and interferes with one's ability to function, however, medications should be prescribed.  Although the depression is caused by external events, there are still chemical changes in the brain like the chemical changes in the brains of people with innate chronic mental illness, and medication can correct the imbalance in the brain's neurotransmitters.  As a result, despite life's difficulites and/or losses, one's mood improves, one's outlook brightens, and problem-solving possibilities open.

People with OCD can be greatly helped by medication.  Although seemingly reasonable and normal, people with OCD are plagued by constant, involuntary, intrusive thoughts that interfere with paying attention to anything else.  They often have the urge to perform a ritual, such as hand washing, in order to alleviate tension.  Behavioral Therapy may help patients with OCD, resulting in the need for less or even no medication.

None of us should forget that the availability of psychtropic medications has reduced the need for long-term institutionalization of patients who were often restrained under terrible conditions in places closed long ago.   Now when patients are hospitalized, it is under much more humane conditions and, thanks to medications, for much shorter periods of time. 

I'm Dr. Blokar. For more information, click on the following resources:

Clinical Handbook of Psychotropic Drugs

Clinical Psychopharmacology Made Ridiculously Simple 

Psychotropic Drugs:Fast Facts Fourth Edition 

Medicines for Mental Health:The Ultimate Guide to Psychiatric Medication 

Psychotropic Drugs  


Caster Semenya and Klinefelter Syndrome

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It has been revealed that Caster Semenya, an incredible South African runner competing as a woman, may not be female after all.  She may not be able to compete any longer; she has to rethink her sexual identity; and she is reported to be on a suicide watch.  Preliminary reports indicate that Semenya may have Klinefelter Syndrome.

This syndrome was first described in 1942 by Dr. Klinefelter, an endrocrinologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Normally, we have two sex chromosomes, XX in females, XY in males.  In Klinefelter Syndrome, most often the patient has one extra female chromosome.

The phenomenon occurs in one out of every 500 live male births, and most show no symptoms at all.  Their extra X chromosome is silent.  One in 1,000 males, however, show symptoms of the syndrome in varying degrees such as obesity, small testicles, large breasts, infertility, and low testosterone. Nowadays many patients can be helped with testosterone therapy, and some may even become fertile thanks to new pioneering procedures.

In more extreme cases, when the male chromosome is overpowered by the additional female chromosome, the patient may be born with female genitals.  The penis is so miniscule that it is not much larger than its female counterpart, a clitoris.  Many of these "females" grow into fairly attractive women.   They seek medical help usually only when menstruation never occurs, and a gynecological exam reveals that they lack a cervix, a uterus, ovaries and a normal vagina. 

Caster Semenya was born with female genitals, but testicles are hidden in her abdomen and her testosterone level is very high, giving her the advantage of strong and bulk muscle.  With her short hair ahd sharp features, she indeed looks like a man, and if it is confirmed that she has Klinefelter Syndrome, she will be considered a man.

Semenya's case is very unfortunate.  She cannot be taught to be a different sex at this point.  Sexual identification is completed much earlier in life.  If she has Klinefelter Syndrome, she goes from being considered a woman to being considered a man, and she will no longer be able to compete as a woman in a running career in which she has been so successful. 

 Sadly, she loses both her sexual identitiy and her profession. 

I'm Dr. Blokar.  To learn more about sex chromosome disorders, click on the following:

Sex Chromosomes:Genetics,Abnormalities,and Disorders


The Future for Jaycee Dugard and Her Daughters

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People are wondering what the future holds for Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped by a stranger and held captive for 18 years, and her two children (fathered by her captor).  We have very few examples from which we have learned enough to make a fully informed prediction.

What we do know is that sexually abused children are damaged, and they usually show it.  They are withdrawn, preoccupied, depressed, perform poorly in school and have few friends.  First hand reports from people who knew Jaycee and her children, and from an aunt with whom she has recently been reunited, however, did not and do not now see these symptoms in Jaycee or her children.  Perhaps, having been raised until she was 11 by a loving mother and stepfather, Jaycee already had developed a solid core when she was kidnapped.  At 11, she was still a pliable child but she was able to distinguish real from unreal.  And, the perpetrator does not seem to have severely beaten her or her children over the years. 

In medical school years ago, students were taught that the brain was fully developed by age 5.  Now we know that we develop the ability to think abstractly at around age 13, and that there is a surge of brain growth in adolescence.  At the same time, the areas of the brain that are crucial for the formation of successful interpersonal relationships and problem solving are also rapidly developing.  Severe and complex traumatic events, abuse, and severe neglect may result in an inability to regulate emotions, in errratic and unpredictable behaviors, in impaired cognition and even in an inability to form a solid identity.

Jaycee, and especially her children, who were never socialized, may suffer from these deficiencies.  We do no know how much can be repaired or at least patched up enough so that they do not spend the rest of their lives in the throes of ever present anxiety and despair.

I'm Dr. Blokar. 

To learn more about stages of child development, click  on the following:

Child Development and Education

Your Child's Growing Mind:Brain Development and Learning From Birth To Adolescence 

Observing and Understanding Child Development

Guiding Children's Social Development and Learning  


Jaycee Dugard and the Stockholm Syndrome

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In the news is another heart-breaking story.  A girl, now a woman, abducted 18 years ago when she was 11, was found alive with two children, ages 11 and 15, in the backyard of her captors' home.  One of the first questions in many people's minds is why didn't she try to escape from her hiding place which did not appear too difficult to run from.

One reason is that since she was only 11 when she was kidnapped, she was still a child unable to think in abstract terms, and the ability to think in abstract terms is important.  It is a uniquely human ability that enables us to see similarities and parrallels in otherwise unrelated objects and events.  It enables us to incorporate principles of common knowledge and to predict outcomes. 

Another possible factor might have been her relationship or lack of relationship with her biological father.  It appears that her stepfather cares for her deeply, but we have heard nothing about her biological father.  Her relationship with her biological father may have further complicated her confusion about her male captor, yet another man in her life.

One fact is certain: Jaycee definitely wanted to survive.  At 11 she was too afraid and too helpless to flee.  By the time she 13 she was pregnant, and by 14 she had a child.  By that time, the relationships in that household were too intimate and entrenched.  For her to survive initially, and then for her to protect her children, she had to succumb to her captors' will.  Her existence would have been unbearable if she were not able to embrace some aspsect of her life with her kidnappers.  That is known as the Stockholm Syndrome, and it is real.

I'm Dr. Blokar.

For more information about this topic, click on the following books:

Child Abduction:Prevention, Investigation and Recovery

Invisible Chains  


Civility in the Subway:Both Gratifying and Depressing

Dr. E (Ph.D.) Speaks Out: Guest Blogger

NYCSub_7_car_exterior The other day while my husband and I were seated on a bus going down Fifth Avenue in New York City, an elderly man and woman got on together.  Although we are seniors, the couple looked much older than us, so we offered them our seats.  While the husband seemed to want to sit very badly, his wife declined and continued to struggle holding on.  Since a gentleman from "the old days" would never sit while the woman he was with was standing, he suffered, longingly looking at any seat that became available.

The next day my husband and I were on a crowded subway on our way to Times Square in New York City.  We stood holding on to a pole along with many other riders.  In a matter of minutes, several people offered us seats.  And we graciously declined.

Suddenly, we understood the woman on the bus the day before.   While we were very gratified by everyone's generosity in offering us a seat, and happy to know that civility is alive and well in New York City, we also felt a little depressed.

As I said with a smile to one of the nice young women who offered a seat, "We must look very old today."  

"Not at all," she replied with a little laugh, probably thinking that maybe next time she should not offer a seat.

Better to offer the seat and let the "senior in denial" politely decline than not to offer the seat at all.

I'm Dr. E, Guest Blogger.

For more on the subject, check out the following:

Choosing Civility:The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct

Aging with Grace 

The Beauty of Aging:Growing Older With Grace,Gratitude and Grit  


"When a Brother or Sister Dies," how can one cope?

Dr. B, board certified psychiatrist, interviews Claire Berman about her new book, "When a Brother or Sister Dies," and they reveal one way that seems to help people cope with this significant loss.




Claire has just written a great book on the subject. Check out When a Brother or Sister Dies: Looking Back, Moving Forward here.

Other great books on the subject are:

Relative Grief , Recovering From a Loss of a Sibling, Letters to Sarah:The Agony of Sibling Loss, Surviving the Death of a Sibling, The Empty Room: Understanding Sibling Loss and Sibling Grief 

And if you are seeking other resources, please visit:

Healing the Grieving Heart

The Sibling Connection