We're Not Robots (July 2004)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:17
July 2004 We’re Not Robots Dorothy Rowe Ever since Dr Frankenstein created his monster we’ve been fascinated by robots, machines that can do everything that humans can do and more. Human-like robots feature in cartoons, in science fiction novels and television series, and in sober accounts of what life will be like in the future. However, while Frankenstein’s monster felt loneliness, pain and hatred, the robots of more modern fantasies are deemed to have no feelings. Operating with absolute logic and reason, and with an intelligence far superior to ours, these imaginary machines achieve feats of which we can only dream. Of course robot replicas of human beings are only a dream. There are now millions of robot machines which build and operate other machines but these robots don’t replicate people. Building a robot human being is an extremely difficult task, something which no one as yet achieved. The study of robotics has produced some limbs and hands which work quite well, and scientists working in Artificial Intelligence have created computer software which can mimic a good chess player or a particularly stupid therapist but no one has produced a computer which thinks as we do. In scientific and philosophical…

The Pleasures of Martyrdom (May 2004)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:16
May 2004 The Pleasures of Martyrdom Dorothy Rowe Martyrs have been very much in the news. We respond with horror when we learn that yet another suicide bomber has brought death and injury, and we feel great sorrow for the victims. We puzzle over why a young man or woman would willingly relinquish their life and all possibility of future happiness. How could a young woman give up the joy of being close to her children? Yet this was what Reem Riyashi, mother of two small children did. A clue to the reasons for such actions lay in her statement made in a video just before her death. She said that, as much as she loved her children, she loved Allah more. Such a statement reproves us all. People of superior virtue place greater value on higher things – love of God, love of country, love of their national or religious group – while we poor, misguided creatures place value on family and friends and the simple pleasures of the flesh. The lives of the Christian saints and martyrs record many instances when onlookers to a martyrdom were reproved for their lack of virtue. The fashion for Christian martyrs to…

What Children Learn

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:16
Saga May 2007 (not published) What Children Learn  Small children have to learn a great many very complicated things. They have to learn that some marks on a piece of paper are nothing more than that, while other marks stand for certain sounds, and that these sounds together can make a word. They have to learn the mysteries of counting and dividing things into groups. Then there are the rules being good – doing as you are told, being clean, not being aggressive, sharing, and taking your turn. It is often hard to understand why some things are good and others bad. Even harder can be learning about how to keep yourself safe. It is easy to see why running on to a busy road is dangerous but why is it important to wear a hat?  Past generations of parents did not spend much time thinking about how best to explain these matters to small children. Children were told what to do, and when they failed to do as they were told, they were punished, often with a slap. Nowadays parents are taught, quite correctly, that punishing a child for not doing what he should is the least efficient way…

What Syndrome Have You Got?

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:15
June 2007 (not published)  What Syndrome Have You Got?   Nobuo Kurokawa has discovered a medical syndrome which afflicts 60 percent of older Japanese women – Retired Husband Syndrome (RHS). The symptoms include depression, rashes, ulcers, asthma, and high blood pressure. Meanwhile in Australia some 27 percent of children were found to be doing paid work even during school term. A psychologist, who shall be nameless, thought that this was good because paid work was an excellent cure for children suffering from Slothful Child Syndrome. Every day, it seems, a psychiatrist or psychologist discovers some previously unknown syndrome which affects a surprising number of people.  These psychiatrists and psychologists take their diagnoses very seriously. They seem to be unaware of the number of jokes and witty remarks based on the notion of a syndrome which are in circulation. When the Australian cricketer Shane Warne retired from first class cricket there were many speculations about how well he would deal with retirement. One commentator said that he feared that Shane would soon be suffering from SDS – Spotlight Deprivation Syndrome. Devotees of magazines like Hello and fans who crowd the pavements in order to see their favourite film stars are said to suffer from…

The British Library, Jun 10

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:05
I started thinking about writing a book about lying in those months when we were being told about the certain existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. But, of course, in the years I was working as a clinical psychologist in the NHS I was dealing with lies all the time. There were the lies we tell when we want to defend a much-loved theory, such as, ‘Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance.’ And there were the lies my clients had been telling themselves since they were small children. The most common lie was, ‘I am, in essence, bad and have to work hard to be good.’ If you want to get depressed, this is the lie you need to tell yourself. Why we lie to others and why we lie to ourselves, and the consequences of these lies form the subject matter of this book. I defined truth and lies in terms of what is known about how our brain operates. I was not writing in terms of truth being a virtue and lying a vice, but in terms of how to live wisely by always telling ourselves the truth, and lying to others very sparingly, and then with…

London Metropolitan University Nov 09

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:05
A Brief History of the Ideas and Practices in Psychiatry in the UK I am an Australian clinical psychologist who came to England in 1968. I took my first degree in psychology at Sydney University and my PhD from Sheffield University. I have written a number of books, the latest of which is called Why We Lie. It will be published by HarperCollins in May 2010. We lie in many different ways. One very popular form of lying in public life and in the professions of psychiatry and psychology is to call something by a name that doesn’t actually reflect the truth. When in 1957 there was a very bad accident at the nuclear reactor called Windscale, the methods of working at Windscale didn’t change a great deal but the government changed the name of the place to Sellafield and hoped that people would forget what actually happened at Windscale. I was working at St John’s Psychiatric Hospital in Lincoln when in 1984 the managers decided to change the name of this unpleasant, unhappy place to ‘The Mental Health Trust’. The hospital didn’t change, just the name. When in the 1980s passengers and patients were being renamed – they were now ‘customers’ -…
When George Bush and Tony Blair departed the political stage, we hoped that the eight years of political lies and hypocrisy had come to an end. No more Weapons of Mass Destruction, no more God speaking directly to the president and telling him to go to war, no more Blair excusing himself by saying, ‘I believed that what I was doing was right.’ Believing that you are right does not make what you do right. Hitler believed that what he did was right. Blair’s successor Gordon Brown might not have Tony Blair’s charm, but he did seem to tell the truth, while Obama, we hope, will save the world. People welcomed the new pope, Benedict XVI, while overlooking the fact that he had been in the Hitler Youth. They assumed that, like many young Germans, while he outwardly conformed, he knew that what the Nazis taught was wrong. However, when he reinstated Bishop Richard Williamson who had claimed that only about 200,000 t0 300,000 Jews had died in the Holocaust, many people had to reconsider their assumption.[i] As ever, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose – the more things change the more they remain the same. In politics…

Kirribilli Books, Jan 09

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:05
Why theatre is essential in our life Not long ago I was at the Ensemble Theatre to see a play Tuesdays with Morrie. Perhaps you have seen this play, or read the book by Mitch Albom that formed the basis of the play. The play itself is no more than two people talking, an old man, Morrie, who is dying of motor neurone disease, and Mitch, a man in his thirties who had been been Morrie’s student. At its simplest and most obvious level, the story that emerges is that Mitch, having been hurt by the death of his uncle, the only person who really cared for him and whom Mitch loved, resolved never to love anyone again. Through their conversations Morrie shows Mitch that this is a very foolish decision because it will inevitably lead to a lonely, unhappy life. At this level, the play is sentimental, even trite. Yet all plays, in terms of their basic plot, are trite. Take, for instance, the play where two teenagers from feuding families, fall in love and, after a series of mistakes and misunderstandings, kill themselves. Their parents are distressed and end their feud. Yet most plays aren’t trite. Most plays…

The Meaning We Give to Time

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:03
British Psychological Society - Psychotherapy Section Conference to Celebrate the Life and Work of Phil Salmon28th June 2003 Dorothy Rowe The Meaning We Give to Time It’s a great pleasure to be here today to help Phil celebrate her seventieth birthday. I first met Phil in 1968 not long after I had arrived in England when I went to a summer conference at York University organised by Don Bannister to introduce many of us to a new theory of behaviour, namely George Kelly’s personal construct theory. There I met the Gang of Four, Don Bannister, Fay Fransella, Miller Mair, and Phil, four people who were going to have a great influence on my life. Phil and I went on meeting at PCP conferences, but one time that I remember well was at the International Conference on PCP that was held in Holland. On our afternoon off Phil and I went to visit friends of mine who lived in a village some miles away. Phil and I were very proud of the way we managed to find our way there using public transport. It was such fun I entertained the idea that Phil and I might do some further travel together,…
The Sydney Institute - Lecture February 26, 2001 PEOPLE AND NATIONS –THEIR NEED TO LOVE AND HATE Dorothy Rowe Everything that exists is an ever changing, seamless whole. Everything is connected to everything else. Yet this is not the way human beings see themselves and their world. We divide this seamless whole into chunks in order to create a picture of ourselves and the world. Sometimes these divisions bear some similarity to what actually exists, and sometimes the divisions are contrary to our actual experience. This is the case when we divide ourselves into mind and body, or our experience of being alive into cognition and emotion, These divisions are false. Each of us operates as one whole unit. Our mind and body are one, and it is impossible to separate our thoughts from our emotions. Even that unit which we call ‘myself’, ‘I’, ‘me’ is not a clear, distinct being, separate from the rest of our world. We think of our skin as encasing our body and marking its boundary, but, were we able to see more clearly, our skin would appear as permeable and our body as a clump of nuclear particles which is in constant intercourse with…

Dealing with Physical and Mental Illness

Saturday, 02 April 2011 02:00
Dealing with Mental and Physical Illness Any similarity between mental and physical illness resides solely in the language used to discuss them. It is the language of medicine, of physical causes, symptoms, syndromes, cures, and where the illness cannot be cured, management. We may talk about mental illness in terms of physical causes and cures and list the symptoms of mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, mania, obsessions and compulsions, and phobias, but such language actually prevents us from understanding what is happening to the person concerned. If we want to understand a particular physical illness all we have to do is refer to the results of the scientific research into the functioning of the body. We no longer have to rely on fantasies such as bodily humours or demonic spells to explain why we become ill. The causes and effects of physical illness can be readily demonstrated by various tests carried out on the body. The medical profession is extremely reluctant to decide that a set of phenomena is a disease if a physical cause cannot be demonstrated. It took some time to establish that Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD) was a physical illness while whether chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) is…

How We Learn to Value and Accept Ourselves

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:59
Royal Society of Arts Lecture, November 11, 2004   How We Learn to Value and Accept Ourselves   A few months ago I went to stay with a friend who lives some distance from me. One afternoon we visited Louis who is the most wonderful child the world has ever seen. I know this because my friend, Louis’ grandmother, told me. I had met Louis a year before when he was only a few weeks old. Wonderful though he is, it was unlikely that he would remember me. I was concerned that I shouldn’t upset him in any way. The received wisdom amongst child rearing experts is that from about eight months onwards children recognise the difference between the people they know and strangers, and they become anxious when they meet a stranger. Moreover, Louis would be tired because he would have been at nursery that day. So I resolved to smile at him from afar and not invade his space.   Things didn’t turn out like that. I sat myself at the table at the far end of the kitchen while Louis’ mother and grandmother made tea and talked over the events of the day. Louis checked the kitchen…
Lecture for Counselling Children and Young People Conference, London, November 24, 2007 My Mother Still Thinks I’m a Child (Published as Not ill but lazy, June 2008) Long before we are able to define who we are as a person, our parents impose upon us their ideas about who we are. We are given a role in the family, and we are seen as possessing certain simple but unchangeable characteristics. As teenagers we might try to force our parents to relinquish their ideas about who we are, and to see us as we know ourselves to be, but rarely are we successful. When our parents hold fast to their ideas, they are doing so not merely out of mental laziness. They have personal reasons for keeping us in the role to which they have assigned us. When I was a child my mother saw my one over-riding, defining characteristic as being lazy. Certainly I was not always enthusiastic about the household tasks my mother imposed on her daughters from the day they were big enough to hold a duster, but I was always enthusiastic about learning and doing new things. However, my lungs were succumbing to a disease, bronchiectasis, which…
The Meaning of Resilience. Psychologists who want to make a name for themselves have found that they can achieve this by taking some word and claiming that it stands for an aspect of human behaviour that has not been recognised until then. For instance, about ten years ago, some American psychologists discovered self-esteem. We were told that it was a new idea and that it was very important. But we soon discovered that self-esteem was just another name for self-confidence. More recently the same process has been applied to the word ‘resilience’. Just as some people don’t have much self-esteem and others have lots, so resilience is something that some people have and some people don’t. For Mental Health Week I’ve been asked to talk about how people can acquire resilience. When I looked up the word ‘resilience’ in my dictionary I found that it was defined as ‘the quality of being resilient’. ‘Resilient’ comes from the Latin ‘re, meaning back’ and ‘salire meaning to jump’. So the first definition of ‘resilient’ is ‘springing back into shape or position after being stretched, bent or compressed’. The second meaning the dictionary gives is ‘recovering strength, spirits, etc quickly’. In this second…

Relative Grief

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:55
Foreword to Clare Jenkins and Judy Merry Relative Grief Jessica Kingsley 2005.  Death is the elephant in the living room – the huge thing that everyone knows is there but no one mentions. Fear keeps us silent. We fear the physical aspect of death, the body becoming still, silent, cold, and then decaying, but even more we fear the annihilation of the person, what we call ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘myself’, which is what makes us unique. We fear not just the annihilation of the person we love but our own annihilation. Talking of his brother’s death, Rony Robinson said, ‘You lose a bit of yourself in the process of somebody dying.’  There’s no way of knowing beforehand which bit of yourself will disappear when someone close to you dies. My friend Jean Flanagan had emphysema and I knew she was dying, but when the news of her death reached me I found myself utterly distraught with grief because I suddenly realised that Jean had known about my erstwhile marriage in a way that no one else did. Both of us had married fascinating, entertaining, exciting men who often behaved like wilful, selfish, naughty schoolboys. Jean and I could discuss our husbands in…

Losing a Child

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:55
Foreword to Linda Hurcombe Losing a Child Sheldon Press 2004  How do parents survive the death of a child?   Some don’t. Heartbreak can kill when it takes away the will to live. Guilt can kill when it carries the message that the person has no right to exist. Fortunately, most parents go on living.  Some parents go on living because, despite the pain, their bodies go on working. Some parents go on living because they have other children to care for. Some parents go on living because while they live their lost child is remembered. Some parents go on living because the nature of their child’s death gives them a task which they must perform with all their might.  With the death of her daughter Caitlin Linda Hurcombe found herself with two tasks to perform. The first was to question whether Prozac was the safe and effective drug which the medical profession and the pharmaceutical companies said it was. The second task was to tell the truth about what follows for parents when their child dies.  In the attempt to make a difficult life more bearable we all lie to ourselves. Another person’s grief distresses us, and so we often encourage that person…

Beyond Prozac

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:54
Foreword to Terry Lynch Beyond Prozac PCCS Books 2004  Terry Lynch is a brave man. The medical profession does not forgive renegades, and a renegade is any doctor who criticises the sacred dogma of the profession. A doctor who dares to do this is likely to see his career and his reputation suffer. Nevertheless, Terry Lynch believes that he must tell the truth about his experience as a doctor, even if this experience contradicts one very important part of medical dogma.  This concerns mental illness, or, as it is now called, mental disorder. The profession of psychiatry is based on the belief that there are such things as mental illnesses, and that these illnesses have a physical cause and a physical cure – drugs and electroconvulsive therapy. Nowadays psychiatrists talk of ‘social factors’ and ‘psychological factors’ in mental disorder, and a few psychiatrists see such factors as the prime cause of mental disorder, but for the majority of psychiatrists social and psychological factors merely exacerbate what is for them essentially a physical illness. Such psychiatrists expect general practitioners like Terry Lynch to conform to this belief.   The only way to maintain the belief that mental disorder has a physical cause is…

The Glass Wall

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:54
Foreword to Dorothy and Walter Swartz The Glass Wall Chipmunch Publishing 2005  Most of us don’t discover what helplessness really means until we become a parent. We think we know how to solve problems, how to get things done and be in control. Then we become responsible for a small scrap of humanity and we discover that there are problems we don’t know how to solve, things we don’t know how to do, and events for which we are responsible but over which we have no control. As the small scrap of humanity becomes a child, a teenager, a young adult, our sense of responsibility becomes greater as our ability to solve problems and be in control of events becomes less. Even if our child is strong and healthy and deals with education, work and relationships competently and happily we have some inkling that all of this could fall apart and we wouldn’t know how to put it right. Being a parent is an impossibly difficult task because what determines a child’s behaviour isn’t what parents do but how the child interprets what parents do. This is something over which parents have no control whatsoever. Nevertheless, as the years go…

Scottish Herald (Dec 10)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:53
Dramatic fall from grace for champion of the peopleby Alison CampsiePublished in the Scottish Herald: 24 Dec 2010 He advanced through a dark battlefield of sex, lies, power and truth, waging a war against the tabloid press and the stories it printed about his private life. But Tommy Sheridan ultimately became his own enemy, isolated by his attempt to rewrite history and erase a predilection for kinky trysts and lust for women other than his wife, Gail. Yesterday, Sheridan was found guilty of perjury after 12 grinding weeks at the High Court in Glasgow. It was here that his downfall was staged in the most devastating fashion: in the full glare of his wife, his mother, and a packed public gallery, with spectators queuing every day for one of the 100 or so available seats. Four years earlier, Sheridan had stood triumphant on the steps of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, punching the air alongside his wife, after convincing a jury that stories published in the News of the World about his private life were not proven to be true. Then, he praised the “ordinary people” of the jury for their ability to differentiate truth from muck. It is…

Sunday Sydney Telegraph (Jan 09)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:53
January 11, 2009 An Aussie expert’s guide to the eternal quest for a more benign God She’s rated among the UK’s smartest 100 people, but this Aussie-born woman has ideas to reshape the world, writes Paul Pottinger Consider this: without life’s one great certainty – death – there would be no need for religion. Without religion, Dorothy Rowe might not be in business. And if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t have spent the morning after her 78th birthday last month discussing her 22nd book with us. As a clinical psychologist of world standing, whose books are among the bestsellers in that increasing portion of major book store space give over to religion/self-help, Rowe has listened to reasoning a lot less coherent than that above. Likely this pixieish, but relentlessly logical, woman would merely see this as further evidence that “this is the way we’re constructed, the way our brains work. Every person sees in their individual way”. Which is why the unyielding nature of monotheism just doesn’t work: except, of course, in terms of supplying a stream of clients. It’s why her new book – What Should I Believe? – examines beliefs about the nature of death and the purpose of life dominate our lives. …

Sunday Life Magazine Australia (Jun 08)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:53
Misconceptions about Depression If you’ve been depressed and you consulted a GP or a psychiatrist very likely you were told that your depression was caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. If the doctor prescribed an antidepressant like Prozac or Zoloft he’d have told you that the drug would replace the missing serotonin in your brain, and this would cure your depression. Many doctors would still say the same thing, not because they’re right, but because they don’t read the research, they don’t consult the depression website beyondblue (www.beyondblue.org.au ), and they hate having to change their mind. However, if you become depressed and you consult a doctor who does keep up with the research, you’ll find that the doctor doesn’t mention “chemical imbalance”. Instead, they’ll ask you about the stressful events in your life and how you’ve interpreted these events. Do you see these events as challenges which you’ll master, or another defeat in a long line of defeats, or the punishment you deserve for being such a bad person. Psychiatrists have always known that there has never been any scientific evidence for the theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The imbalance is supposed…

Vive Magazine Australia (Apr 08)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:52
Perspectives Emma is one of the brightest of her generation of lawyers. She can anticipate the different interpretations of the evidence likely to be made by an opposing lawyer in a case, and she is very shrewd in her assessment of what motivates her client to tell his story in a particular way. In short, as a lawyer she knows that different people interpret events or circumstances in their own individual way. She knows too that individuals can choose to change how they interpret an event or a circumstance. Yet she doesn’t apply this knowledge to her own life. She lives in fear of her mother’s criticism, just as she has ever done since she was a child. Her friends tell her to stand up to her mother, and not to feel guilty when her mother complains, but Emma insists that she’s been like this since she was a small child and that she can’t change. Emma learned about alternative interpretations as part of her legal training. She never studied human physiology, and so she has no idea where these alternative interpretations come from. She’s not alone in this. When I lecture to people who consider themselves to be very…

The Independent (March 2008)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:52
Another sibling argument! From the Independent.co.uk on Tuesday, 4 March 2008 'Keep me out of your novels': Hanif Kureishi's sister has had enough Hanif Kureishi has made a habit of attacking relatives in print – and his latest book is no exception. It's time to stop, says the novelist's outraged sister, Yasmin Kureishi So there is a new novel out by my brother called Something to Tell You. I was, of course, relieved to learn from a recent review that the central character's sister wasn't based on me, but appears to be another family member. There is quite a bevy of us now – my mother and father in The Buddha of Suburbia; Uncle Omar, portrayed as an alcoholic in a bedsit in My Beautiful Laundrette, then lauded in Hanif's memoir, My Ear at his Heart; an ex-girlfriend, Sally, who renamed his filmFor my birthday he used to give me novels by Jean Rhys, Balzac, Camus. He introduced me to RK Narayan, Thackeray, Rabindranath Tagore and Dickens... These are truly great gifts. And he never stopped encouraging me to write, though my resistance was often formidable. Sammy and Rosie Get Laid as "Hanif Gets Paid, Sally gets Exploited". A semi-autobiographical novel,…

Liverpool Daily Post (Nov 07)

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:52
It’s not the innocents who suffer, it’s their poor Parents Nov 26 2007 by Peter Elson, Liverpool Daily Post IT IS a question as old as time. Are we born with original sin as imperfect beings? This nagging anxiety has latterly translated itself into the nature versus nurture argument. Do we possess a sense of innate goodness, an in-built ability to distinguish between right and wrong? Yale University has concluded that babies as young as six months are able to tell the difference between good and bad behaviour. The kiddies, aged six to 10 months, were set a task to watch two colourful toy climbers struggling up a hill. In one scenario, the “goodie” toy helped the other, in the opposing set-up the “baddie” tried to stop him. The researchers claim that the children were able to make a reasoned response to this situation. In contrast, one can ask, will goodness prevail if a group of children were told to hold precious china for a long period?  Probably even if suffering regular exposure to the Antiques Roadshow, they would display a preference for breaking it and jumping up and down on the broken pieces. The whole of children’s comic book japery is predicated…
The End of Chemical Imbalance In his letter in the summer edition of A Single Step Tim Shanks referred to an article in Saga Magazine where I’d written about how the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the professional body which sets the standards for psychiatrists practising in the UK, had removed all mention of chemical imbalance as the cause of depression from its website. Tim seemed to have the impression that my article was no more than the statement of my opinion. I have been an Associate of the Royal College of Psychiatry since 1970. I read all its journals to inform myself of new research findings. I also read books written by leading psychiatrists like David Healey and Julian Leff. I try to pass what I have learnt on to those people who might find this information interesting and important. In the hope that facts will not be taken as merely my opinion, in this article I shall carefully label what is fact and what is my opinion. FACT There has never been any evidence that depression was caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The psychiatrist David Healy gives the history of the idea of chemical imbalance in…
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