Richard G. Petty, MD

Albert Ellis, R.I.P.

I just heard that Albert Ellis has passed away at the age of 93.

I think that most people who have ever done a psychology course will have heard of him. He was always controversial and upset a lot of people, particularly in regard to some of his early comments about religion and human sexuality, but he also made some important contributions to psychologyadn , was not afraid of changing is position if he thought tht he was wrong.

In 1955 he developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and he was considered by many to be the grandfather of cognitive-behavioral therapies.

In 1982 a professional survey of U.S. and Canadian
psychologists, declared that he was one of the most influential psychotherapists in history (Carl Rogers placed first in the survey; Sigmund Freud placed third). Ellis founded and was the president and president emeritus of the New York City-based Albert Ellis Institute. His 90th birthday party was attended by Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama.

Here are a few of his quotations that I found in my library and database.

“Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they’re alive and human.”

“As a result of my philosophy, I wasn’t even upset about Hitler. I was willing to go to war to knock him off, but I didn’t hate him. I hated what he was doing.”

“By not caring too much about what people think, I’m able to think for myself and propagate ideas which are very often unpopular. And I succeed.”

“Cognitive behavior therapy and rational emotive behavior therapy are much more popular with the public than they ever were.”

“For that again, is what all manner of religion essentially is: childish dependency.”

“Freud had a gene for inefficiency, and I think I have a gene for efficiency.”

“From the start, I always included philosophic techniques as well as experiential, emotional and behavioral techniques.”

“I eventually gave up being an analyst. You had to be too passive and not speak up.”

“I get people to truly accept themselves unconditionally, whether or not their therapist or anyone loves them.”

“I had a great many sex and love cases where people were absolutely devastated when somebody with whom they were compulsively in love didn’t love them back. They were killing themselves with anxiety and depression. “

“I had used eclectic therapy and behavior therapy on myself at the age of 19 to get over my fear of public speaking and of approaching young women in public.”

“I hope to die in the saddle seat.”

“I just had a client this week who came to me after 10 years of Freudian therapy. He’s in love with his analyst, and she is sort of in love with him.”

“I regret that I’ve been so busy with clinical work that I haven’t been able to spend much time on experiments and outcome studies.”

“I started to call myself a rational therapist in 1955; later I used the term rational emotive. Now I call myself a rational emotive behavior therapist.”

“I think it’s unfair, but they have the right as fallible, screwed-up humans to be unfair; that’s the human condition.”

“I think the future of psychotherapy and psychology is in the school system. We need to teach every child how to rarely seriously disturb himself or herself and how to overcome disturbance when it occurs.”

“I thought foolishly that Freudian psychoanalysis was deeper and more intensive than other, more directive forms of therapy, so I was trained in it and practiced it.”

“I would have liked having children to some degree, but frankly I haven’t got the time to take the kids to the goddamn ballgame.”

“I wrote several articles criticizing psychoanalysis, but the analysts weren’t listening to my objections. So I finally quit after practicing it for six years.”

“I’ll be 87 tomorrow. When I’m in New York, I see as many 70 or more clients per week.”

“I’m very happy. I like my work and the various aspects of it-going around the world, teaching the gospel according to St. Albert.”

“I’ve lived in sin with the executive director of our institute for 35 years. I was married twice briefly before that.”

“If I had been a member of the academic establishment, I could have done other experiments.”

“If something is irrational, that means it won’t work. It’s usually unrealistic.”

“In the old days we used to get more referrals, because people had insurance that paid for therapy. Now they belong to HMOs, and we can only be affiliated with a few HMOs.”

“Let’s suppose somebody abused you sexually. You still had a choice, though not a good one, about what to tell yourself about the abuse.”

“Many psychoanalysts refused to let me speak at their meetings. They were exceptionally vigorous because I had previously been an analyst and they were very angry at my flying the coop.”

“Most people would have given up when faced with all the criticism I’ve received over the years.”

“People could rationally decide that prolonged relationships take up too much time and effort and that they’d much rather do other kinds of things. But most people are afraid of rejection.”

“People don’t just get upset. They contribute to their upsetness.”

“People got insights into what was bothering them, but they hardly did a damn thing to change.”

“People have motives and thoughts of which they are unaware.”

“Rational beliefs bring us closer to getting good results in the real world.”

“Self-esteem is the greatest sickness known to man or woman because it’s conditional.”

“The art of love is largely the art of persistence.”

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

“The psychotics, naturally, don’t think straight. Severe personality disorders take much longer to treat than people who are neurotic.”

“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”

“There’s no evidence whatsoever that men are more rational than women. Both sexes seem to be equally irrational.”

“We teach people that they upset themselves. We can’t change the past, so we change how people are thinking, feeling and behaving today.”

“We teach people to be flexible, scientific and logical in their thinking and therefore to be less prone to brainwashing by the therapist.”

“We’re a nonprofit organization, and it usually costs $100 an hour for individual therapy. Participating in a group costs $120 a month.”

“You largely constructed your depression. It wasn’t given to you. Therefore, you can deconstruct it.”

“I just got fed up. I was ready to blow up. This country is about enforcing our laws and if we don’t, we’ll have chaos worse than we already do.”

“The more sinful and guilty a person tends to feel, the less chance there is that he will be a happy, healthy, or law-abiding citizen. He will become a compulsive wrong-doer.”

“Tolerance is anathema to devout divinity-centered religionists."

“Anyway, devout religionists are frequently attracted to and bound to their piety largely because it presumably offers them holier-than-thouness and one-up-man-ship over non-religionists."


Over the centuries, oceans of ink have been spilled on the topic of pride and it has puzzled and perplexed philosophers, theologians and psychologists for centuries. It has been of particular interest to me since I moved to the United States: the English and American attitudes toward pride are very different animals. In England if someone congratulates you on a job well done, the expected response is to say, “Oh, it was nothing.” In the United States the person being congratulated will usually explain how much work went into the task and how pleased he or she is to be recognized. England expects modesty; America has since its founding encouraged and applauded self-reliance and personal excellence. On the other hand too much pride can breed narcissism and vanity, and nobody likes that.

Pride is clearly a complex emotion, unlike primary emotions like anger or fear.

Two psychologists – Jessica Tracy from the University of British Columbia and Richard Robins from the University of California at Davis, have been exploring the origins and purpose of pride.

They reviewed several recent studies on the nature and function of pride in the June issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Pride appears to be universal: in research using photographs of models with different facial expressions and body language, children as young as four, and people in many different cultures, including members of an isolated, preliterate tribe in Burkina Faso, West Africa, were all able to identify pride. What we do not know is how people at different ages and in different cultures respond to pride. It is clearly less acceptable in England than it is in the United States.

If it is universal, then what is its purpose? Tracy and Robins have tried a number of strategies to try and answer that question. They first asked people to come up with words that they associated with pride. People either link pride to such achievement-oriented ideas as accomplishment and confidence, which they term “authentic pride” or alternatively people connect pride to self-aggrandizement, arrogance and conceit, which they call “hubristic pride.”

People who tend to feel authentic pride were more likely to score high on extraversion, agreeableness, genuine self-esteem and conscientiousness. On the other hand, people who tend to feel hubristic pride were more likely to be narcissistic and, perhaps surprisingly, prone to shame. They also found that people who felt positive, achievement-oriented feelings of pride viewed hard work as the key to success in life, whereas hubristic people tended to view success as predetermined, due in part to their superior abilities.

Tracy and Robins argue that the primitive precursors of pride probably motivated our ancestors to act in altruistically for the good of the tribe. The physical display of pride would have both reinforced such behavior and signaled to the group that this person was worthy of respect. So individual authentic pride contributed in important ways to the survival of the community.

They speculate that hubris might have been a social “short cut:” a way of tricking others into paying respect when it was not warranted. Those who could not earn respect the old-fashioned way found tricks and techniques on how to look and act accomplished in order to gain status. Social cheaters developed a persona to compensate for their lack of abilities to achieve material success.

Chances are that any respect that they got would have been fleeting.

There is one other important point: in the United States with its healthy attitude toward pride, it does not have to be negative: pride can be a powerful motivator. Pride in performance, pride in working with gifted professionals and the pride of a heartfelt genuine acknowledgment can be worth more than rubies.

I do not mean the kind of Monday morning messages from the head of sales who tells everyone that they are “awesome.” That just pushes the cynicism button. But if the same sales manager send out occasional personal notes of congratulation that get copied in to everyone, the effects can be amazing.

Have you considered whether pride might be the missing motivator for you and your co-workers?
“Pride is as loud a beggar as want and a great deal more saucy.”
–Benjamin Franklin (American Author, Inventor and Diplomat, 1706-1790)

“Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig.”
–Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Russian Writer and, in 1970, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1918-)

“I hope there is no pride in me. I feel I recognize fully my weakness. But my faith in God and His strength and love is unshakable. I am like clay in the Potter’s hands. I shall continue to confess blunders each time the people commit them. The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me. And even though I have to face the prospect of a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority. I believe in the supreme power of God. I believe in Truth and, therefore, I have no doubt in the future of this country or the future of humanity.”
–Mahatma Gandhi (Indian Nationalist and World Teacher, 1869-1948)

“The proud man hath no God; the envious man hath no neighbor; the angry man hath not himself.”
–Bishop Joseph Hall (English Theologian, Philosopher and Poet, 1574-1656)

“What good is social class and status? Truthfulness is measured within. Pride in one’s status is like poison – holding it in your hand and eating it, you shall die.”
–Sri Guru Granth Sahib (a.k.a. Adi Granth, Sacred Text of Sikhism, completed in 1604)

“Pride is ignorance. A little possession of wealth, beauty, strength or intelligence intoxicates a man.”
— Sri Swami Sivananda (Indian Physician and Spiritual Teacher, 1887-1963)

Evaluating Sense of Coherence

Yesterday we began to look at Aaron Antonovsky’s concept of Sense of Coherence.

Here is one of the most widely used sets of questions to determine an individual’s Sense of Coherence, derived from Antonovsky’s The Sense of Coherence Quest.

The questions concern a number of aspects of our lives.

Each question has seven possible answers. The person doing the evaluation marks one number from 1 to 7 for whichever one most closely corresponds to their beliefs or feelings.

1. When you talk to people, do you have the feeling that they don’t understand you?
Never 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Always have this feeling

2 In the past, when you had to do something that depended upon cooperation with others, did you have the feeling that it:
Surely wouldn’t get done 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Surely would get done

3. Think of the people with whom you come into contact daily, aside from the ones to whom you feel closest. How well do you know most of them?
You feel that they’re strangers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 You know them very well

4. Do have the feeling that you don’t really care about what goes on around you?
Very seldom or never 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very often

5. Have you in the past ever been surprised by the behavior of people whom you thought you knew well?
Never happened 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Always happened

6. Have you ever had people that you counted on, ended up disappointing you?
Never happened 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Always happened

7. Life is:
Full of interest 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Completely routine

8. Until now your life has had:
No clear goals or purpose at all 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very clear goals and purpose

9. Do you have the feeling that you’re being treated unfairly?
Very often 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very seldom or never

10. In the past ten years your life has been:
Full of changes without your knowing what will happen next 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Completely consistent and clear

11. Most of the things you do in the future will probably be:
Completely fascinating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Deadly boring

12. Do you have the feeling that you are in an unfamiliar situation and don’t know what to do?
Very often 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very seldom or never

13. What best describes how you see life:
One can always find a solution to painful things in life 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 There is no solution to painful things in life

14. When you think about your life, you very often:
Feel how good it is to be alive 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ask yourself why you exist at all

15. When you face a difficult problem, the choice of a solution is:
Always confusing and hard to find 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Always completely clear

16. Doing the things you do every day is:
A source of deep pleasure and satisfaction 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 A source of pain and boredom

17. Your life in the future will probably be:
Full of changes without your knowing what will happen next 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Completely consistent and clear

18. When something unpleasant happened in the past your tendency was:
“To beat yourself up” about it 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 to say, “Ok that’s that, I have to live with it ” and go on

19. Do you have very mixed-up feelings and ideas?
Very often 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very seldom or never

20. When you do something that gives you a good feeling:
It’s certain that you’ll go on feeling good 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 It’s certain that something will happen to spoil the feeling

21. Does you have feelings inside you would rather not feel?
Very often 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very seldom or never

22. You anticipate that your personal life in the future will be:
Totally without meaning or purpose 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Full of meaning and purpose

23. Do you think that there will always be people whom you’ll be able to count on in the future?
You’re certain there will be 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 You doubt there will be

24. Does it happen that you have the feeling that you don’t know exactly what’s about to happen?
Very often 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very seldom or never

25. Many people – even those with a strong character – sometimes feel like sad sacks (losers) in certain situations. How often have you felt this way in the past?
Never 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very often

26. When something happened, have you generally found that:
You overestimated or underestimated its importance 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 You saw things in the right proportion

27. When you think of the difficulties you are likely to face in important aspects of your life, do you have the feeling that:
You will always succeed in overcoming the difficulties 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 You won’t succeed in overcoming the difficulties

28. How often do you have the feeling that there’s little meaning in the things you do in your daily life?
Very often 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very seldom or never

29. How often do you have feelings that you’re not sure you can keep under control?
Very often 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Very seldom or never

There are no right or wrong answers, but the overall pattern of your scores will give you some useful insights. There is a large research literature in which scores on this scale have been related to everything from career choices to the risk of getting PTSD.

A Sense of Coherence

One of the central concepts of Integrated Health and Integrated Medicine is the idea of coherence. This is not a new idea, but was developed in new ways and formalized by the American/Israeli sociologist Aaron Antonovsky. It is such an important concept that I have mentioned something about it before

Antonovsky developed his theory of health and illness, which he termed Salutogenesis. This model was described in his 1979 book “Health, Stress and Coping”, followed by “Unraveling the Mystery of Health
in 1987. I remember its publication, and the strong feeling amongst many of us interested in Integrated Health that it was a most important
contribution to understanding the relationship between health and
illness. A key concept in Antonovsky’s salutogenic theory concerns the way in which
specific personal dispositions serve to make us more resilient
to the stressors that we encounter in daily life.

Antonovsky identified
these characteristics, which he said helped a person better cope and remain healthy by providing “a sense of coherence” (SOC) about
life and the challenges we all face. Measures of Sense of Coherence have
been developed and tested in more than 30 countries.

The SOC is defined as: “The extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic, feeling of confidence that one’s environment is predictable and that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected.”

So it tries to capture our sense of optimism and control.

SOC has three components:

  • Comprehensibility
  • Manageability
  • Meaningfulness

Comprehensibility is the extent to which events are perceived as making logical sense, that they are ordered, consistent, and structured. Manageability is the extent to which a person feels they can cope. Meaningfulness is how much one feels that life makes sense, and challenges are worthy of commitment.

Professor Antonovsky believed that a person with a strong SOC is more likely to feel less stress and tension, and to have confidence that he or she can meet the demand placed upon them. The SOC was developed to apply across cultures, and versions of the questionnaire have been used in over 30 countries.

The SOC is not the only factor in a predicting outcomes in a person’s life: it interacts with a person’s natural coping style, upbringing, financial assets, mood and social support. The strength and availability of each is a major determinant in the development of a strong or weak SOC.

Research in the growing field of psychoneuroimmunology
has supported many of the basic assertions of the relationship between
emotions and health contained in Antonovsky’s theory of Salutogenesis.

I saw some research (NR691) at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego, California last month that was based on a sample of 976 working people in Denmark, found that people with a high sense of coherence perceive less stress and experience less psychological disturbance in the work place.

This all makes very good sense, and it also gives us yet another line of approach for helping people deal with the stresses of life and gain personal mastery.

I shall talk about using this information in the future.

Solar Cycles and Human Disease

We have all heard about the supposed association between full moon and mental illness, though most of the research has failed to find an association between phases of the moon and mood disorders or psychosis.

But something that we have not heard so much about is the possible association between solar activity and human problems.

Investigators from Chile presented some interesting data (NR308) at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego last month.

They used a measure of solar activity called the Wolf number that is based on the number of sunspots. The sunspot cycles are usually between 9.5 and 11 years. They examined the clinical records of 1862 individuals who had been seen at a psychiatric clinic in Santiago over a sixteen-year period, which corresponded to one and a half solar cycles. They found that there was a big rise in admission for severe depression during years with low solar activity and a slight increase in the number of admission for mania during years of high solar activity.

This is not the first time that a connection has been found between the sun and human affairs.

The same authors published a paper in Spanish two years ago in which they also found that depression is more common when there is less solar activity and mania increases when there is more activity. They cannot say whether it is just light that is causing this or some other form of radiation.

Two researchers used the Maine Medicaid database to look at the relationship between solar cycles and human disease, and found that that radiation peaks in solar cycles and particularly in chaotic solar cycles (CSCs) are associated with a higher incidence of mental disorders. The same researchers had previously used the same database to suggest that CSCs produce more ultraviolet radiation and it is this that limits human longevity by causing chromosomal damage.

Interestingly, in 1993 two researchers also suggested a relationship between solar activity and longevity. They looked at the mean longevity of birth cohorts from 1740 to 1900 for United States of America (U.S.) Congressional Representatives exhibited oscillations that coincided with the 9- to 12-year sunspot cycle. They found that the mean longevities of these cohorts were 2-3 years longer during times of low sunspot activity than at peak activity. This phenomenon was confirmed in data from members of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Parliament and from University of Cambridge alumni.

Researchers in Slovakia have suggested that there may be an association between solar radiation and cerebral strokes, though their data is a little difficult to interpret.

It is clear that the Heavens have more of an impact upon us than many scientists realized, and need to be factored into studies of human mood and behavior.

Successful Aging

One of the most promising changes in psychology is the ever-greater emphasis on what makes us healthy, rather than constantly looking at the things that make us sick. There is an important approach called Behavioral Activation (BA) Theory, which emphasizes environmental and behavioral factors as determinants of our overall well-being. According to the theory, reduced engagement in pleasurable activities may be an important precursor of reduced well-being. This makes good sense: it is estimated that as much as 90% of our higher cortical functions are designed for social interactions.

This is something that I wrote in Healing, Meaning and Purpose:

“Nothing in the Universe exists in isolation: We live in a Universe of relationships. It is inconceivable that anything can exist except in relationship to something else. The entire Universe is made up of integrated systems that function, develop and evolve together. A failure to construct and maintain healthy relationships can be a cause of much distress.

Several years ago I reported some interesting observations. At the time, I was doing a lot of research on diseases of blood vessels. I had developed a laboratory method for taking some of the cells that line blood vessels from volunteers and then growing them in a cell culture dish. We discovered that if we did not have enough cells in the dish, they would all die of “loneliness.” The exception is cancer cells, which in culture will grow on their own, like weeds.”

As an example in a paper published in February in the Archives of General Psychiatry it was shown that lonely individuals may be twice as likely to develop the type of dementia linked to Alzheimer’s disease in late life as those who are not lonely. The theory has been shown to predict psychiatric well-being in a number of populations, including the caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease, people with chronic pain, cancer patients and community-dwelling older people.

It is also known that psychiatric well-being, particularly emotional well-being, may play an important role in cardiovascular health. This may be due to an increase in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system that increases not only blood pressure, but also the levels of inflammatory mediators and coagulant factors in the blood.

In research from the University of California at La Jolla that was presented on Monday at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego, California, twenty two people with a mean age of 70 were studied, to see if there was a link between their behavioral activation, i.e. how satisfied they were with their leisure activities, their affective well-being and their blood pressure.

The findings were as expected: the less satisfied and engaged people were, the higher was their blood pressure.

This is only preliminary data, but it confirms something that we have said before: as we get older it is as important to stay socially engaged as it is to do mental exercise.

And if you known someone who is older and isolated, you might want to go and see them.

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”
–Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Albanian-born Indian Nun, Humanitarian and, in 1979, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1910-1997)

“What makes loneliness an anguish is not that I have no one to share my burden, but this: I have only my own burden to bear.”
–Dag Hammarskjöld (Swedish Statesman, Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1953-1961, and, in 1961, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1905-1961)

Genius Genes

I have talked before about the fascinating topic of child prodigies, and the continuing debate about the contributions and interactions of nature and nurture.

There is an important new study published in the journal Behavioral Genetics that should be of interest to anyone interested in thinking, intelligence and optimizing the potential of children.

A team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has gathered the most extensive evidence to date that a gene that activates signaling pathways in the brain influences at least one kind of intelligence. They have confirmed a link between the gene, CHRM2 and performance IQ, that involves a person’s ability to organize thoughts or events logically.

The team found that several variations within the CHRM2 gene could be correlated with slight differences in performance IQ scores, which measure a person’s visual-motor coordination, logical and sequential reasoning, spatial perception and abstract problem solving skills. When people had more than one positive variation in the gene, the improvements in performance IQ were cumulative.

Typical IQ tests also measure verbal skills and typically include many subtests. For this study, subjects took five verbal subtests and four performance subtests, but the genetic variations influenced only performance IQ scores.

The researchers studied DNA gathered as part of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). In this multi-center study, people who have been treated for
alcohol dependence and members of their families provide DNA samples and investigators have isolated DNA regions related to alcohol abuse and
dependence as well as a variety of other outcomes.

Some of the participants in the study also took the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised, a traditional IQ test. Members of 200 families, including more than 2,150 individuals, took the Wechsler test, and those results were matched to differences in individuals’ DNA.

By comparing individual differences embedded in DNA, the team focused on CHRM2, a muscarinic receptor gene on
chromosome 7. The CHRM2 gene activates a multitude of signaling
pathways in the brain involved in learning, memory and other higher
brain functions. The research team does not yet understand how the gene
exerts its effects on intelligence.

Intelligence was one of the first pscyhological factors that attracted the attention of people interested in the interplay of genes and environmental influences. Early studies of adopted children showed that when children grow up away from their biological parents, their IQs are more closely correlated to biological parents, with whom they share genes, than adoptive parents, with whom they share an environment.

But in spite of the association between genes and intelligence, it has been difficult to find specific variations that influence intelligence. The genes identified in the past were those that had profoundly negative effects on intelligence – genes that cause mental retardation, for example. Those that contribute to less dramatic differences have been much harder to isolate.

The St. Louis team is not the first to notice a link between intelligence and the CHRM2 gene. In 2003, a group in Minnesota looked at a single marker in the gene and noted that the variation was related to an increase in IQ. A more recent Dutch study looked at three regions of DNA along the gene and also noticed influences on intelligence. In this new study, however, researchers tested multiple genetic markers.

The lead investigator in St. Louis, Danielle Dick, had this to say,

“This is not a gene FOR intelligence, it’s a gene that’s involved in some kinds of brain processing, and specific alterations in the gene appear to influence IQ. But this single gene isn’t going to be the difference between whether a person is a genius or has below-average intelligence.”

“One way to measure performance IQ may be to ask people to order pictures correctly to tell a story. A simple example might be pictures of a child holding a vase, the vase broken to bits on the floor and the child crying. The person taking the test would have to put those pictures into an order that tells the story of how the child dropped the vase and broke it and then cried.”

“If we look at a single marker, a DNA variation might influence IQ scores between two and four points, depending on which variant a person carries. We did that all up and down the gene and found that the variations had cumulative effects, so that if one person had all of the ‘good’ variations and another all of the ‘bad’ variations, the difference in IQ might be 15 to 20 points. Unfortunately, the numbers of people at those extremes were so small that the finding isn’t statistically significant, but the point is we saw fairly substantial differences in our sample when we combined information across multiple regions of the gene.”

Most experts believe that there are at least 100 genes that could influence intelligence, but it is unlikely that any one gene is going to be the ONE determinant of how smart someone is. After all, IQ itself has very poor predictive value for anything much in life apart from achievement in high school. The many genes involved probably have small, cumulative effects on increasing or decreasing IQ, and the key will be to understand the interaction between environmental influences and these genes. We already know that childhood nutrition, socio-economic status and emotional and cognitive environments have a profound influence on intelligence and achievement. Altogether too many children have all the mental machinery but do not even realize the possibilities open to them.

It is also clear that early influences will have a lot to do with the repertoire of intelligences that a person has. In the book and CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose I spend some time discussing Howard Gardner’s important concept of multiple intelligences. Many of us have skills in certain domains and it is a terrible mistake to assume that because a child is not very good at logical or verbal tasks, that they are not smart. After all, how many brilliant musicians, computer scientists and entrepreneurs never finished high school or college?

There is clearly more than a gene deciding our intelligence and success at certain activities. The genes may give us the machinery and the fuel, but there are clearly many other factors. I’ve always been a very keen chess player and I once had a friend who was a nationally ranked contract bridge Master. He would destroy most normal mortals at any card game: including me! Even when we played scratch games of contract bridge he would always try to avoid partnering me: he told me that I sucked too badly! 8-(

He also had a hobby: he built and designed all kinds of board games. He used to get upset that whatever the game, if it was played on a board, I almost always won. But here’s the interesting thing: our IQs were virtually identical. But he was murderously good at card games but not at anything involving a board: another refinement of intelligence. I probably did well with board games because I could plan and visualize in three dimensions. My friend had a phenomenal memory for cards that I simply don’t possess.

As the owners of some establishments in Las Vegas once discovered to their glee….

“Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.”
–Alfred North Whitehead (English Mathematician and Philosopher, 1861-1947)

“Intelligence is the ability to find and solve problems and create products of value in one’s own culture.”
–Howard Gardner (American Psychologist and Professor at Harvard, 1943-)

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald (American Writer, 1896-1940)

“To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the enlightened mind the whole world sparkles and burns.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet and Essayist, 1803-1882)

“It is the sign of a dull mind to dwell upon the cares of the body, to prolong exercise, eating and drinking and other bodily functions. These things are best done by the way; all your attention must be given to the mind.”

–Epictetus (Phrygian-born Greek Stoic Philosopher, c.A.D.55- c.A.D.135)

Psychological Problems, Stigma and Success

I do a lot of work to try and de-stigmatize mental illness, and to emphasize that all of my experience and all the scientific evidence makes it very clear that most psychological and psychiatric problems lie on a spectrum. We define something as an “illness” only if it is causing suffering or distress.

Because of my work I know about the physical and psychological problems of a great many people in the public eye, but I will obviously not talk about people unless they decide to say something themselves.

When I am speaking to politicians or the media I often show them a list of some of the people with psychological problems who have gone public.

I just found this long list of Deborah Serani’s blog. There were a number of names of people whom I did not know had revealed that they had suffered from problems. I am pleased that Deborah offered some references. I have also added a few names from my own research.

If there are any mistakes, please let me know and I shall correct them.

I would like to make three points:

  1. Psychological problems and psychiatric illnesses are common and usually treatable
  2. Having been diagnosed with one of these problems does not preclude you from outstanding success
  3. This list does not include people with substance abuse problems, though these problems are usually as physical as any other

I do hope that you will find it helpful to see just how many terrific people have had their downs as well as their ups!

John Quincy Adams (US President)
Alvin Ailey (Choreographer)
Lionel Aldridge (Football Star)
Buzz Aldrin (Astronaut)
Adam Ant A.K.A. Stuart Goddard (Singer)
Ann-Margaret (Actor)
Louie Anderson (Comedian Actor)
Gillian Anderson (Actress)
Fiona Apple (Musician)
Diane Arbus (Photographer)
Isaac Asimov (Author)
Drew Barrymore (Actor/Producer)
Daniel Boorstin (Former Us Presidential Adviser)
Zach Braff (Actor)
Art Buchwald (Columnist)
Oksana Baiul (Skating Star)
Kim Basinger (Actress)
Ned Beatty (Actor)
Syd Barrett (Musician)
Ludwig Van Beethoven (Composer)
Maurice Bernard (Actor)
Irving Berlin (Composer)
Danny Bonaduce (Actor/Radio DJ)
Halle Berry (Actor)
Kjell Magne Bondevik (Prime Minister of Norway)
Steve Blass (Baseball Star)
Charles “Buddy” Bolden (Musician)
Robert Borrstin (Political Advisor)
David Bowie (Singer)
Marlon Brando (Actor)
Jeremy Brett (Actor)
Charlotte Bronte (Author)
Robert Burns (Poet)
Willie Burton (Athlete)
Barbara Bush (Former First Lady – U.S.)
Delta Burke (Actor)
Carol Burnett (Actress/Comedian)
Lord Byron (Poet)
Cher (Singer/Actress)
Dick Clark (Producer/Music Magnate)
John Candy (Comedian)
Ray Charles (Musician)
Deanna Carter (Singer)
Helen Caldicott (Activist/Writer)
Dean Cain (Actor)
Drew Carey (Actor/ Comedian)
Earl Campbell (Football Star)
Eric Clapton (Musician)
Jim Carrey (Actor/Comedian)
Melanie Chisholm (Singer)
Naomi Campbell (Model)
Rosemary Clooney(Singer)
Jose Canseco (Baseball Star)
Shawn Colvin (Musician)
Mary Jo Codey (First Lady Of New Jersey)
Judy Collins (Musician)
Dick Cavett (TV Host/Writer)
Courtney Cox (Actor)
Margaret Cho (Actor/Comedian)
Natalie Cole (Singer)
Michael Crichton (Writer)
Francis Ford Coppola (Director)
Sheryl Crow (Musician)
Winston Churchill (English Prime Minister)
Nicolas Cage (Actor)
Sandra Cisneros (Writer)
Patricia Cornwell (Writer)
John Cleese (Comedian/Actor)
Leonard Cohen (Musician)
Paula Cole (Actor)
Shayne Corson (Hockey Star)
Judy Collins (Musician)
Shawn Colvin (Musician)
Jeff Conaway (Actor)
Ty Cobb (Baseball Star)
Pat Conroy (Writer)
Billy Corgan (Musician)
Calvin Coolidge (US President)
Bill Dana (Comedian)
John Daly (Golf Star)
Rodney Dangerfield (Comedian/ Actor)
Charles Darwin (Scientist)
Jefferson Davis (President Of The Confederate States Of America)
Jonathan Davis (Musician)
Sandra Dee (Actor)
Gaetano Donizetti (Opera Singer)
Mike Douglas (TV Host)
Walt Disney (Entrepreneur)
John Denver (Musician)
Dame Edna Everage a.k.a. Barry Humphries (Comedian)
Ellen Degeneres (Comedian/Actor)
Richard Dreyfuss (Actor)
Johnny Depp (Actor)
Paolo Dicanio (Soccer Star)
Eric Douglas (Actor)
Charles Dickens (Author)
Patty Duke (Actress)
Scott Donie (Olympic Star)
Kitty Dukakis (Former First Lady Of Massachusetts)
Michael English (Singer)
Jim Eisenreich (Baseball Star)
Thomas Edison (Inventor)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (Writer)
Robert Evans (Film Producer)
Jules Feiffer (Cartoonist)
James Farmer (Civil Rights Leader)
Edie Falco (Actress)
Betty Ford (Former US First Lady)
Carrie Fisher (Actress)
James Forrestal (Undersecretary Of US)
Eddie Fisher (Singer)
Aretha Franklin (Singer)
Harrison Ford (Actor)
Albert French (Writer)
Sally Field (Actress)
Connie Francis (Singer)
Sarah Ferguson (Duchess Of York)
Sigmund Freud (Psychoanalyst)
Stephen Fry (Actor)
Shecky Greene (Comedian)
Barbara Gordon (Filmmaker)
Phil Graham (Washington Post)
James Gandolfini (Actor)
James Garner (Actor)
Peter Gabriel (Musician)
Kendall Gill (Basketball Star)
Ruth Graham (Writer)
John Gibson (Pianist)
Danny Glover (Actor)
Dwight Gooden (Baseball Star)
Tipper Gore (Former US First Lady)
Galileo (Scientist)
Carey Grant (Actor)
Mariette Hartley (Actor/Activist)
Tim Howard (Soccer Star)
Juliana Hatfield (Musician)
Ernest Hemingway (Writer/ Nobel Laureate)
Margaux Hemingway (Actor)
Audrey Hepburn (Actor/Activist)
Olivia Hussey (Actress)
Pete Harnisch (Baseball Star)
Linda Hamilton (Actor)
Stephen Hawking (Physicist)
Sir Anthony Hopkins (Actor)
Marty Ingels (Comedian)
Janet Jackson (Musician)
Kay Redfield Jamison (Psychologist/Author)
Richard Jeni (Comedian)
Jim Jenson (Newscaster)
Billy Joel (Musician)
Beverly Johnson (Supermodel)
Elton John (Musician)
Angelina Jolie (Actor/Activist)
Daniel Johns (Musician)
Ashley Judd (Actor)
Naomi Judd (Singer)
Al Kasha (Songwriter)
Danny Kaye (Actor)
Leila Kenzle (Actress)
John Keats (Poet)
Franz Kafka (Writer)
Gelsey Kirkland (Dancer)
Margot Kidder (Actress)
Nicole Kidman (Actress)
Joey Kramer (Musician)
Julie Krone (Star Athlete)
Pat Lafontaine (Hockey Star)
Jessica Lange (Actor)
Robert E. Lee (US General)
Jacob Lawrence (Artist)
Vivien Leigh (Actress)
Peter Nolan Lawrence (Writer)
Primo Levi (Writer)
John Lennon (Musician)
Meriwether Lewis (Explorer)
Courtney Love (Singer)
Allie Light (Director)
Abraham Lincoln (American President)
Rick London (Cartoonist)
Mary Todd Lincoln (Former US First Lady)
Salvador Luria (Scientist/Nobel Laureate)
John Madden (Football Star)
Meat Loaf (Musician/Actor)
Camryn Manheim (Actor)
Martha Manning (Psychologist)
Gustav Mahler (Composer)
Alanis Morisette (Singer)
Howie Mandel (Comic)
Bette Midler (Singer/Actress)
Dave Matthews (Musician)
Gary Mcdonald (Actor)
A.J. Mclean (Musician)
Burgess Meredith (Actor)
Sir Paul Mccartney (Musician)
Robert Mcfarlane (Security Advisor)
Sarah Mclachlan (Musician)
Rod Mckuen (Writer)
Gary Mcdonald (Actor)
Les Murray (Poet)
John Stuart Mill (Philosopher)
J.P. Morgan (Industrialist)
Edvard Munch (Artist)
John Mellencamp (Musician)
Paul Merton (Comedian)
Kate Millet (Writer/Feminist)
Carmen Miranda (Dancer)
Claude Monet (Artist)
Many Moore (Singer)
Michelangelo (Artist)
V.S. Naipaul (Writer/Nobel Laureate)
John Nash (Mathematician /Nobel Prize)
Ralph Nader (Consumer Rights Advocate)
Stevie Nicks (Musician)
Vaclav Nijinsky (Dancer)
Sir Isaac Newton (Scientist)
Deborah Norville (Journalist)
Marie Osmond (Entertainer)
Sir Laurence Olivier (Actor)
Rosie O’Donnell (Comedian/Actress)
Georgia O’Keefe (Artist)
Donny Osmond (Entertainer)
Lani O’Grady (Actress)
Eugene O’Neill (Playwright)
Dolly Parton (Musician)
Meera Popkin (Broadway Star)
Charley Pell (Football Coach)
George Patton (US General)
Jane Pauley (Journalist)
Teddy Pendergrass (Musician)
Edgar Allan Poe (Writer)
Elvis Presley (Entertainer)
Ezra Pound (Poet)
Jason Pollock (Artist)
Cole Porter (Composer)
Jimmy Piersall (Baseball Star)
Alma Powell (Wife Of General Colin Powell)
Susan Powter (Motivational Speaker)
Freddie Prinze Jr. (Actor)
Roseanne (Comedian/Actress)
Bonnie Raitt (Musician)
Burt Reynolds (Actor)
Lou Reed (Musician)
Norman Rockwell (Artist)
Theodore Roosevelt ( President Of The United States)
Joan Rivers (Comedian Actress)
Mac Rebennack A.K.A. Dr. John (Musician)
Alex Rodriguez (Baseball Star)
Alys Robi (Vocalist)
Axel Rose (Singer)
Winona Ryder (Actress)
Yves Saint Laurent (Fashion Designer)
Sam Shepard (Playwright)
Tom Snyder (TV Host)
Monica Seles (Tennis Star)
Linda Sexton (Writer)
Neil Simon (Playwright)
William T. Sherman (US General)
Marc Summers (TV Host)
Diana Spencer (Princess Of Wales)
John Steinbeck (Author)
Paul Simon (Musician)
Lauren Slater (Writer)
Willard Scott (Star Weatherman)
William Shakespeare (Writer)
Carly Simon (Singer)
Jose Solano (Actor)
Rick Springfield (Musician/Actor)
Brooke Shields (Model/Actress)
Rod Steiger (Actor)
George Stephanopoulos (Political Advisor)
Barbra Streisand (Singer/Actress)
William Styron (Writer)
Charles Schulz (Cartoonist)
Teresa Stratas (Opera Singer)
Sissy Spacek (Actress),
Dave Stewart (Singer)
Darryl Strawberry (Baseball Star)
Lori Schiller (Writer)
Francis Sherwood (Writer)
Scott Simmie (Journalist)
Earl Simmons A.K.A. DMX (Musician/Actor)
Alonzo Spellman (Football Star)
Nikola Tesla (Inventor)
Spencer Tracy (Actor)
Hunter Tylo (Actor)
Leo Tolstoy (Author)
Ted Turner (Entrepreneur)
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (Artist)
Mark Twain (Author)
Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky (Composer)
Anne Tyler (Author)
Tracy Ullman (Actor)
Dimitrius Underwood (Football Star)
Vivian Vance (Actor)
Kurt Vonnegut (Writer)
Tom Waits (Musician)
Mike Wallace (Journalist)
Michael Warren (Editor Canada Post)
George Washington (US President)
Evelyn Waugh (Novelist)
Damon Wayans (Comedian/Actor)
Tennessee Williams (Writer)
Dar Williams (Musician)
Robin Williams (Comedian/Actor)

Ann Wilson (Singer)
Bill Wilson (Founder Of Alcoholics Anonymous)
Brian Wilson (Musician)
Oprah Winfrey (TV Host)
Jonathan Winters (Comedian)
Ed Wood (Director)
Tom Wolfe (Writer)
Lewis Wolpert (Scientist)
Hugo Wolf (Composer)
Virginia Woolf (Novelist)
Luther Wright (Basketball Star)
W.B. Yeats (Poet)
Robert Young (Actor)
Bert Yancey (Golf Star)
William Zeckendorf (Industrialist)
Renee Zellweger (Actor)


Buchwald, A. (1999). Famous, important people who have suffered depression. Psychology Today.

Fonda, J. (2005). My life, so far. New York: Random House.

Jamison, K.R. (1993). Touched with fire. Manic depressive illness and artistic temperment. New York: Free Press.

Shepard, S. (1999). Mrs. gore breaks the ice on mental illness. Wahsington Bureau: The Palm Beach Post.

Shields, B. (2005). Down came the rain: My journey through post partum depression.
New York: Hyperion Books.

______(2005). Health: Celebrities who have admitted suffering from depression. England: Burmingham Post.

People with Mental Illness Enrich Our Lives

Celebrity with Anxiety Disorders

Famous People Who Have Battled Depression

Women and the “Over-Attractive” Male

Here’s another one of those pieces of research that leave you thinking, “Didn’t I already know that?”

Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire in England have found that men who are good-looking, single and earn a large income are not as attractive as good-looking men with an average job and income. It may be important that the research was done in England: social status is still far more heavily engrained in society than it is in the United States or Australia.

The research was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, and examined how 186 heterosexual female students weighed up the male physical attractiveness and socioeconomic status when considering a long-term relationship. The average age of the test subjects was 23, and they were asked to look at personal ads of a number of men and to rank them in terms of attractiveness as a long-term partner. Each advertisement showed a photograph and provided basic information about the man’s age, occupation and what he was seeking in a partner.

The images of the men had previously been measured on a subjective scale of attractiveness. The men were randomly allocated to eighteen different occupations that varied from an architect and company director to a waiter, postman and gardener.

The researchers found that men who were rated as physically highly attractive but had medium social status, scored better than highly attractive men of high status. The authors speculated that the highly attractive high status men might have been thought to be more likely to be unfaithful in relationships or to be “too good to be true.” I was reminded here of a piece that I wrote in November: many people probably make mistakes in evaluating the potential of relationships simple because they under-estimate themselves.

Not only would it be good to repeat this research outside England, but it would also be a good idea to do similar experiments with women and people with different sexual orientations. There is some research that men at that age tend to make more superficial evaluations about potential partners.

The take home message: don’t try to make yourself look better than you are, it may backfire; don’t under-estimate yourself and look below the surface when making any important decision.

And Fabio, eat your heart out!

“Men in general judge more by the sense of sight than by the sense of touch, because everyone can see, but only a few can test by feeling. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are, and those few do not dare take a stand against the general opinion.”
–Niccoló Machiavelli (Italian Writer and Philosopher, 1469-1527)

“Judgment and love are opposites. From one comes all the sorrows of the world. From the other comes the peace of God. Judgment will bind my eyes and make me blind.”
–A Course in Miracles (Book of Spiritual Principles Scribed by Dr. Helen Schucman between 1965 and 1975, and First Published in 1976)

Procrastination and Perfectionism

Regular readers will know that I am convinced that we are now in a fourth phase of the personal development movement, in which it is now incumbent on writers and speakers to support their propositions and suggestions with empirical data. And if there is no data, then they need to collect some.

There is an idea that has launched a thousand self-help books, websites and seminars: that perfectionism is the primary cause of procrastination. There was a time when I was the Prince of Procastinators. After my “recovery” I became an expert on helping others overcome the problem. So I’ve done a lot of research on procrastination. As I was preparing this posting I looked at over a dozen books and two dozen websites, and almost every one of them had “perfectionism” as a or the cause of procrastination.

But is it true?

The answer is “No.”

Professor Piers Steel from the University of Calgary Haskayne School of Business has published an important paper in the current issue of the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin.

The paper confirms some things that we have always suspected, for instance that most people’s New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure, but demolishes the idea perfectionism is the root of procrastination.

The evidence from this work – which is the fruit of ten years of research – is that procrastinators have less confidence in themselves and a lower expectancy that they can actually complete a task. By contrast, perfectionists procrastinate less, but they worry about it more.

These are the main predictors of procrastination:

  1. Low levels of self-confidence
  2. Low expectancy of being able to complete a task
  3. Being task averse
  4. Impulsivity
  5. Distractibility
  6. Motivation to complete the task

The paper also makes the point that not all delays are procrastination: the key factor is that a person must believe that it would be better to start working on given tasks immediately, but still not start work on it.

It is said that 95% of people procrastinate at some time in their lives and 15-20% are chronic procrastinators.

Amazingly, there is a mathematical formula that predicts procrastination. Steel calls this Temporal Motivational Theory, which takes into account the key factors such as the expectancy a person has of succeeding with a given task (E), the value of completing the task (V), the desirability of the task (Utility), its immediacy or availability (Ã) and the person’s sensitivity to delay (D).

This is the magic formula: Utility = E x V/ (Ã) D

I am impressed by this work, but it is also supremely practical, because it helps point us at appropriate targets to treat our own tendency to procrastinate.

There is also something else that is very important. Many of us believe from our own experience that perfectionism is indeed the root of our own procrastination. For a long time I thought so myself. But research like his helps us to re-analyze our understanding of ourselves. We all begin by using folk psychology to explain our behavior and the behaviors of other people. The trouble is that those explanations are often wrong. Research like this can be enormously helpful as we grow and develop as individuals.

It remains unclear why some people may be more prone to procrastination, but some evidence suggests it may be genetic. It may also be more common in people with anxiety disorders or attention deficit disorder.

You may also be interested to evaluate your own tendency to procrastinate. There is a terrific resource here.

“If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin.”

–Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (Russian Writer, 1818-1883)

“The wise does at once what the fool does at last.”

–Baltasar Gracián (Spanish Jesuit Philosopher and Writer, 1601-1658)

“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.”
–Victor Kiam (American Businessman and Former CEO of Remington, 1926-2001)

“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.”
— Rabindranath Tagore

(Indian Poet, Playwright, Essayist, Painter and, in 1913, Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1861-1941)

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