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Precious memories

Memories

 

As those of us from the “Baby boomer” generation continue to get older, there’s an increasing discussion about memory; the loss of it from age or disease as well as ways to increase and restore memory.

As a psychologist I have always been aware of hypnotherapy, regression therapy, the power of suggestion and a variety of short term memory induced medications which have the ability to expand the far reaches of our mind.

The hippie movement and psychedelic drug use of hallucinogenic medications such as LSD along with the research of Dr. Timothy Leary as well as Angel Dust and others brought new meaning to the terms of “getting high” and “mind expansion”. Ironically, these illegal medications were in wide use by the military in an attempt to seek out how much the human mind could be expanded for use in memory and neurological research.

Reportedly, the results were quite incredible.
Many test subjects claimed they could remember all the way back to their birth and some claimed they were even able to recall some of the womb experience.

The interesting reports were from the test subjects claiming to remember past life and even “other worldly” life experiences.

I have often utilized the power of suggestion as a therapy tool to help patients cope with grief or a traumatic experience; even to the point of helping them to forget. I also worked with a Psychiatrist friend who was also a certified hypnotherapist and he would often utilize this tool in taking some of my patients back to a point in their life they needed to remember in order to forget.

All of this said, I thought very little of mind expansion drugs or medication; I considered it all “bunk” and nonsense, that is until I was fully and officially diagnosed as an epileptic.

Although I am a genetic epileptic, I wasn’t officially diagnosed until 2005 when after a full blown Grand Mal seizure (in which I was pronounced dead) I was put on anti-seizure medication. Until 2005, I could not remember nearly anything from my childhood before age nine or ten and even much of that through age fifteen was often strained at best.

Once I began taking the anti-seizure meds, I almost immediately had clarity of memory going back to when I was six years old. It’s actually quite amazing; I now remember things I had totally forgotten.

Even more amazing, is that after my most recent two grand mal seizure this past December my neurologist added a second daily dosage of an additional new anti-seizure med and now I can remember many things all the way back to when I was two years old.

Talk about precious memories, I was recently holding my nearly one year old grandson and watching him smile as I let him hold the TV remote control. Suddenly, my mind flashed backed to when I was about a year older sitting in my granddaddy’s lap and he gave me an old style striped peanut butter candy. He used to save them after the barber gave them out at the barbershop. Anyway, my granddaddy saw me trying to eat thru the cellophane wrapper so he tore it open and let me lick it. It was great.

After he saw how much I liked it and nearly licking the candy to death, he took his pocket knife out of his pocket (every man and boy use to carry one back in the day) and he began to scrape the candy into his hand and then fed it to me. This is such a wonderful memory.

Memories are indeed wonderful and should be cherished.

The Apostle Paul said “Let the mind of Christ Jesus be also in you” (Philippians 2:5); in other words think like Jesus and live like Jesus and the result will be good living and good memories… just like Jesus.

Paul went on to say, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Paul is basically telling us that good and Godly thinking produces good and Godly memories. Good in and good out.

I am always amazed at people which have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that have lost most of their memories yet still have vast memories of church, scripture, old hymns, Sunday School and Baptism. It’s as though the Godly memories rise to the surface of their life.

Let’s exercise our memories and think on the things of God.

God bless us all as we think on HIM.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

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Ageless wonders

My late father used to say, “Just wait till you get to be my age boy”.

Of course, like many of our parents that was one of many of my Dad’s favorite sayings to me throughout his long life of 83 years; from the time I can remember till just before he died.

The older we get, the more we tend to reflect on our age and the past. If it’s not the result of a deep lingering memory, it’s that old sports injury or new diagnosed illness which creeps up behind us, taps us on the shoulder and says, “you’re old”; you want to just turn around and slap it but then you realize you can’t turn around like that anymore.

None of us want to believe we’re getting older. I know a writer I met a few years back in her nineties told me she couldn’t believe she was as old as she was because she just didn’t feel like it.

One of my university “Geriatric psychology” professors used to say, “You can try to run from it, ignore it or simply change the subject but the fact is, if you’re lucky age will catch up to you.” Think about his remarks,”…if you’re lucky…”. He would also add, “If you’re not lucky enough, it won’t really matter and you and God can discuss what happened up close and personal”.     Most of the class didn’t appreciate his dry humor at the time but it was his way of saying “don’t take life too serious”.

In other words if we’re fortunate enough to experience all that accompanies a long life, we will have aches, pains, difficulties and the emotional stress of moving forward in time and “getting old”.

A Christian Psychologist colleague of mine (who is no spring chicken) says repeatedly that the older we get the more important it is to have a daily personal reaffirmation which involves positive affirmation about our present life situation; regardless of our current circumstances.

Everyone should formulate their own daily plan. My simple fifteen to thirty minute daily “re-affirmation”  (reaffirming the life God has given me) usually goes something like this: I pray thanking God for today, my life, my family, church and our nation. As an epileptic I also ask for a “seizure free day”. I sing one of my favorite praise choruses, “Let’s forget about ourselves and magnify the Lord and worship him”, I read scripture (currently reading through Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), I read a portion of a favorite book or two and finally I formulate a plan for the day.

We must never dwell on the past because we’ll never get it back. The past poisons and penetrates our mind and very ounce of our being; to quote a popular cliché’ of our day, “Just let it go”.

The bottom line is that each of us are “Ageless wonders”. Leave the past behind, don’t worry about the future and pursue the present.

Jesus said it best, And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:25:26)

God bless your day.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

The Importance of Sam’s Law

Hopefully, as I prepare to publish this article, “Sam’s Law”, House Bill 684, was being heard in front of the Senate Education Committee (Tuesday, April 30) and will be placed on the agenda for a vote prior to the ending of the current Texas State Legislature.

The reason this law is of vital importance is that it will require all schools to become epilepsy educated and aware. Epileptic seizures (of all kinds) are often misidentified and epilepsy itself is so misunderstood that many people don’t recognize a seizure when they see one. Some seizures such as absence, simple or complex partial seizures are simply unrecognized.

Even when a seizure is recognized, people often don’t know what to do. This is especially true in our schools. Children and teens with epilepsy can experience a seizure and depending on the type of seizure, teachers, coaches, principals, counselors and even some school nurses are unaware of how to proceed.

This is also true of School police officers and security. In fact certain seizures such as grand mal and petite grand mal seizures are all too often perceived by police and security as simply disobedience and a behavioral or drug related problem sending these epilepsy effected students needlessly and incorrectly to the local jail, juvenile detention facility or a behavioral hospital leading to misdemeanor or even felony charges against a sick person needing immediate medical attention and wasting valuable time.

Please remember, Epilepsy kills.

Sam’s law,  (HB 684), introduced by Rep. Travis Clardy, would require that ALL Texas public school personnel — meaning anyone who has contact with a child with epilepsy — will be trained in seizure recognition and seizure first aid. People who interact with children with epilepsy on a daily basis should be trained to care for them if they have a seizure.

Sam’s Law would ensure seizure education and first aid training for employees in Texas public schools who have contact with children. It would require teachers to take an online course effective Dec. 1, 2019. The bill proposes free seizure recognition and seizure response training for teachers and staff at Texas public schools.

The bill is named in honor of Samantha (Sam) Watkins, a Kilgore ISD student who passed away in December 2016 after complications from a seizure just three months after she had been diagnosed with epilepsy.

Again, not to be morbid (but as an epileptic myself) Epilepsy kills and both time and the proper response can be the difference between life and death.

Much of the foot work in getting this bill introduced into the Texas legislature was due to the efforts of former teacher, Shari Dudo who is also an epileptic. After suffering a seizure at the school where she taught, she founded the Purple Warriors of Texas. Samantha (Sam) Watkins’ mother, Barbara Watkins, also a teacher has worked with Shari to get this bill introduced into the Texas State legislature and bring it to its current point in the state senate.

At the same time, there are many others throughout the nation attempting to get similar legislation introduced into their own states.

Still others such as the RGV’s own April Flowers and her daughter Lili are spending time in Washington D.C. meeting with Congressional staff and Senators in an attempt to raise attention to the need for Sam’s law nationwide.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

Depression can be a dangerous thing

In follow up to my previous article, “Depression is everybody’s problem”, this article will point out the danger of depression when gone unchecked.

The 2015 crash of the Germanwings  Airbus A320 flight 4U9525 on March 24, 2015 which killed all one hundred fifty persons on board is a stark reminder of the need for closer scrutiny of those who are put in charge of the lives of others.

In the crash of the Germanwings  Airbus A320 flight 4U9525, the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had apparently been struggling with mental  illness and depression for some time. He even received a letter declaring him unfit for work (at some point)which somehow officials are only finding out about now as a result of Lubitz hiding the letter.

Like many depressed and psychologically distressed people, Lubitz apparently was able to hide his illness all too well; many who knew him, found him, normal, capable and even fun.  

Even when he was originally hired by Lufthansa in 2008, the company said Lubitz was psychologically sound and completely fit to fly.

As of today however, after the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Bild (a German  Newspaper) citing unnamed sources claiming that Lubitz had suffered severe mental illness, Lufthansa has now admitted they learned in 2009 that Lubitz had suffered  a “previous episode of severe depression”.

Although Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, knew of Lubitz’s battle with depression, they allowed him to continue training and ultimately put him in the cockpit.

Lufthansa contends however, that because “Lubitz had a valid medical certificate, had passed all his examinations and “held all the licenses required”; there was no reason not to let him fly.

This is a staunch reminder of the need by every one of us to take a proverbial pinch of our mental capacity to see if we’re really ok. We all need to maintain good mental and emotional health but unfortunately not everyone is willing to check their mental and spiritual compass.

If you doubt your mental stability for even a minute, for goodness sakes talk to somebody professionally. Don’t be so proud that you endanger yourself or those around you.

On another level of mental health, too often like the recent German Air crash, someone with less than competent mental capacity gains control of people and either limits or ends their lives.

The potential for anyone with power over people to take such control to the extreme is just too fragile to allow incompetency to be put in control.

Having worn so many professional hats over the years as a pastor, theologian, psychologist and insurance adjuster, this writer has seen far too much incompetence among those in charge of others.

The old saying of “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is so true.

This writer has seen good men and women totally collapse under the obligation of power and control.

I’ve seen pastor’s attempt suicide after major catastrophes like hurricanes which wiped out their churches and homes, theologians who couldn’t handle a flaw in a theological truth they once held firm, attorneys who lost major cases, athletes who lost the big game, parents who lost children and on and on.

In short, everyone is vulnerable to mental illness and associated depression at some point in their life.

When life becomes more than we can handle on our own, that’s when we need to talk to someone professionally.

But what about the professionals who think they’re above talking to someone?

Does this not support the need for a required mental assessment of every major professional?

Certainly all pilots, bus drivers, train operators, ship captains and personnel, doctors and hospital staff, law enforcement, attorneys, prosecutors and certainly all politicians should be required to have an extensive mental health screening; not just a  criminal background check but an intensive mental health checkup.

Most of all both the Democratic and Republican Parties should include in their Presidential Candidate vetting process a mental health checkup made public to all.

Good mental health is very important and should never be taken for granted because the mind can indeed be a dangerous thing.

Please, if you are having strange or unusual thoughts, feeling depressed or lonely, call someone today at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.

Also call your political party requesting that a mental health checkup be required in all political candidate vetting processes; especially of those running for the office of president.

© 2019 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III

Unrecognized Seizure Signals


 
Epilepsy is certainly a disorder of mystery and unpredictability as any epileptic will tell you.

 After ten years being grand mal seizure free, just one day after this past Christmas I found myself waking up in an ambulance from a grand mal seizure in route to the hospital where I encountered a second seizure only three hours later. This has been the worst seizure ever and roughest recovery. After coming home from the hospital, I slept for nearly 3 days and remember almost nothing.

 Although unknown to me until I was fifty-seven years old, I was born an epileptic and had experienced seizures all my life; in fact my grandfather was an epileptic as was his grandfather and his grandfather before him and who knows how far back.

 For those of us older such as me, we grew up in a time when epilepsy had many labels and taboos even linked to mental disorders and demonic possession. As a result, your family or even family doctor might not pursue any detailed medical investigation. In my case, my parents and I were told it was just part of growing up; or so I had always been told. But shortly before my father died, he confided in me that our family doctor had suspected I might have epilepsy but to quote my father, he told “old Doc Holden, there was no way his son was crazy”.

 My father also, didn’t understand that what he witnessed so often in his father as what was called “fits” was actually epileptic seizures as well.

 Although I don’t blame my parents for my epilepsy, it’s very sad to think what just a little more knowledge and information might have done to help me today.

 Since having my first full blown grand mal seizure in 2001, I have made every effort to learn everything I could about epilepsy and how to recognize and avoid the proverbial “seizure triggers” and how to prevent them.

 As most epileptics know the two basics to control and prevention are, 1) take all your meds as prescribed and 2) get at least eight hours sleep every night. In most cases, if an epileptic follows this regiment of treatment the chances of having a seizure are greatly reduced.

 Unfortunately Epilepsy is a neurological disorder and not a disease resulting in the reality that at present there is no cure. The best that can be done at present is the prescribing of a variety of medication, electronic stimulators and surgery. As such the bad news every epileptic receives once diagnosed is “epilepsy is for life”; so your neurologist will instruct you in how to recognize the possibility or the signs of an upcoming seizure.

 Most epileptics are well aware of the most obvious sign of a possible seizure which is the dreaded “aura”. For most of us, we hate the aura worse than the seizure. The seizure strikes and is usually over in just a few minutes but the aura is totally debilitating and can last from a few minutes to several days. Like it or not, the aura is usually a sign of a potential seizure.

 The aura is difficult to describe; especially to non-epileptics.  The average aura time for most epileptics I know is about 15 minutes. My average aura last 24 hours but I have experienced a pre-seizure aura which lasted 2 days and a post-seizure aura which lasted almost a week.

Auras are terrible. They can be mild to migraine headaches, the proverbial “seeing stars”, visualizing “saintly” like glows or halos around people, visualization can take on a yellowish hue as well as the experience of strange sounds and odors.

But the worst aura experience of all for most epileptics is disassociation; the feeling of uncertainty of where you are or what many epileptics describe as the sensation of feeling like you’re in more than one place at a given moment. Some have described it as feeling like you’re here but also somewhere else. Some have likened the experience to a type of “déjàvu”.

The aura often causes an epileptic to lose momentary thought, focus and concentration.

Some research now suggests that due to their debilitating effect on the epileptic, these auras are actually partial seizures. Regardless of what these auras are, they can certainly slow a person down, delay or even force a change or cancellation to plans.

It is important to note that although some epileptics never experience an aura, those that do have different aura experiences. One such experience is “mood change”.

Mood change (which is usually a side effect of anti-seizure medication and not epilepsy) itself is often a signal or precursor to a major seizure. Of great importance is the “Unrecognizable Mood Change”. It might be subtle or it might be drastic. It might not be recognizable to the epileptic patient at all but very noticeable to everyone else. The mood change can begin weeks before the seizure.

As a lifelong epileptic and Christian psychologist I was well aware that mood changes could be a part of epilepsy but as a lifelong epileptic I had never seen myself as having mood changes.  Recently however, my reaction to what I interpreted as a bad smelling slice of ham was actually seen by family members as both irrational and mean spirited. The bottom line is others saw the mood change but I didn’t. In addition my family informed me that over the past forty years I had many similar experiences. 

The bottom line is if you haven’t experienced an epileptic aura, you simply can’t understand but you can try and be observant of the epileptic in your life.

If the epileptic in your life begins demonstrating unusual or a sudden change in behavior, be certain to make them aware of those changes in a very caring and constructive way. You might ask if they have taken all their meds on time or ask how they’re feeling.

If you’re an epileptic, listen to those around you, they might see things happening in you that you don’t see in yourself and if you listen carefully you might prevent a seizure or even save your life.

Let others help you recognize the unrecognizable signals in you.

© 2019 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

 

What’s wrong with people? Part 2

Part 2 of A Seven Part Series on Why People Do What They Do

Part 2

People tend to take the easy way out

 

People do tend to take the easy way out; often making both their life and the lives of others more difficult.

In the continuing look at the ““social-psychological” problem of “What’s wrong with people?” it’s not only evident that people don’t think things through but that they also tend to take the easy way out. If there is an easy way to accomplish something most people will take the easy road to their intended accomplishment.

This is not to say that the easy way is never the best way; sometimes it is. Even the problem-solving solution by the thirteenth-century English Franciscan friar, William of Ockham stated that “when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the answer that makes the fewest assumptions”. In other words, what has become commonly known among scholars as “Occam’s razor “suggest that the best solution or answer to a problem is often the simplest or most obvious conclusion that sometimes the simplest and easiest way to a solution is the best.
Occam’s razor does not seek to offer complete and absolute proof, but to find the simplest probable answer to a question of why an event happened.

Although the good Friar was a man of God and quite learned for his day in the fields of science, math, philosophy, and theology, the overall theme of the church was that every choice man made should be attributed to God or the church. As a result, everything people did that was bad for them was due to their disobedience to God.

Over time, people began to blame God or the Devil for everything that was good or bad in their lives. God and/or the devil were the obvious “easy answer” to all of life’s situations, difficulties, and problems. In essence, the most obvious answer to “What’s wrong with people?” was simply they weren’t obedient to God.

That trend continued over the centuries which followed and continues today; only now God becomes less and less the “easy way out” and other people, places, and things become the easy road or solution to humanity’s problems or accomplishments. After all, man has moved beyond God (or so most think).

Generally speaking, the easy way out for many people is the “blame game”; the idea that “it wasn’t me”. It was somebody else, it was a professor, a parent, a college, a pastor, a love relationship, the car they were driving or the road on which they were driving. For others, it was the job or the lack thereof, the foods they eat, the stress in their lives, sibling rivalry, bad genes, not enough money or too much money, alcohol, drugs or sex.

Unfortunately, Psychology, the very profession I’ve been a part of for over forty years has made the blame game the top “easy way out” for most people.

After all, it was the father of Psychiatry, Sigmund Freud who concluded that all of our problems can be traced back to our parents and our childhood; we could now blame our parents for our flaws, our frailties, and our failures.

Even though Carl Yung attempted to emphasize that personality traits and behavior were learned through social interaction and environment, the tendency within the Mental Health Community has continued to allow the blame game a significant area of emphasis.

Although blame is a simple and easy road on which to escape responsibility, it isn’t the only “easy way out”.

One of the easiest ways out of any situation in life for many people is the age-old art of lying. I use the term “art” here as opposed to sin because even though everyone does it in one form or another, some people have indeed made lying an art form due to their pathological infatuation with its use.

For far too many people today, the failure to keep the ninth commandment is not even considered a sin since everybody does it. Even many theologians argue that technically there is no “Thou shalt not lie” found anywhere in the Ten Commandments or anywhere else in the Law of Moses. These Theologians would argue that the ninth commandment is about “Not bearing false witness against one’s neighbor”; in other words claiming or saying your neighbor said or did something they had not done; most would even argue that the commandment was primary about land and property disputes. Of course, lying is still implied even though not stated specifically.

So choosing the simplest way of doing something, blaming someone or something else for our mistakes or failure and lying are all ways of taking the easy way out. The most common way of taking the easy way out, however, is simply never committing to a task or quitting after the task has begun.

As we continue our look at “What’s wrong with people?” it’s obvious that people all too often tend to take the easy way out leading to mistakes and difficulties which affect themselves and everyone around them.

If more people would slow down their lives and stop to think things through, they’d be less apt to take the easy way out making life better for everyone.

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD

What’s wrong with people? Part 1

Part 1 of A Seven Part Series on Why People Do What They Do


Part 1
People don’t think things through

“What is wrong with people?” is what many of us think, say, or shout in the wake of a seemingly senseless, sudden action or comment we encounter by another person or persons.

It might be someone cutting us off while driving, using profanity in front of children, making rash or unthoughtful comments, making a senseless financial decision or wrongful action to a friendship or relationship.

On the grander scale, it might be a political decision you don’t favor, a disagreement with a theological or ecclesiastical (church) decision or a troubling socially and politically correct trend.
For many of us, these kinds of things not only upset us but make our blood boil with anger.

This often stated frustration made by many appears to be on the increase; in reality however, this “social-psychological” problem is as old and as common as man himself.
The main cause or ingredient to this problem is a lack of common sense or critical thinking; in essence, people simply don’t think things through. They neither think things through thoroughly and completely nor weigh the consequences of the subsequent action.

Some would say such critical thinking and evaluation is near impossible “on the run” or in the “heat of the moment”. Therein lies one of the most serious of this social-psychological problem; most of us need to slow down.

It is impossible to think a thing through if you’re living life at the speed of light.

The computer era has made the term of “multi-tasking” the common cliché. In reality multi-tasking is all too often the attempt to do too much at one time and like the old adage says, “A jack of all trades is the master of none”.

This multi-tasking develops an environment of increased personal pressure forcing many to toss critical thinking or  “common sense” out the window; the result is another common cliché of our day, “It is what it is”.

The reality of this nonchalant attitude of “It is what it is” is simply a “don’t care” attitude; seldom is what something appears to be reality.

When the majority of people develop this “It is what it is” attitude there is no base for establishing common sense or critical thinking and no reason for people to think things through thoroughly.
The failure to think things through thoroughly ends in negative results from not considering all the possibilities, ramifications and consequences of a possible action.

As stated in the introduction to this seven part series, you will not only find a discussion of what’s wrong with people but also answers.
People can only begin to use common sense and critical thinking if they have a standard on which to base their actions and decisions.

As a Christian Psychologist and counselor, I find no better standard than the Bible.

There are three verses which emphasize what people can do to think things through thoroughly:

Think:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”. (James 1:5 NIV)
Decide:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Act without anger:
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (Ephesians 4:26)

Part 2 of “What’s wrong with people?” will discuss “Why people take the easy way out?”

© 2018 Lee W. Outlaw III, PhD