I Got Me Some Booyakasha Learnin’s from Da Ali G Show

“Defense is the first act of war.”

This is a quote from Byron Katie which always makes me squirm because while at some level it feels true,  I don’t particularly want it to be accurate. It would mean I’ve got a ton of spiritual work to do before I achieve perfection, and we all know I was getting so close…

Nevertheless, as with many things I come to eventually believe, this one lodged like a splinter under my skin. I’ve since been looking for a real-life examples of the principle. Something that isn’t personal, so I don’t have any investment in the outcome. A way to externalize the idea and see if it works before asking more of myself in my interactions.

Then, a few days ago, when looking for some outrageous “fun,” I think I spotted it in Da Ali G Show.

Are you familiar with Sacha Baron Cohen’s work?  If not, here is the series’s premise from imdb:

An ignorant, wannabe-Jamaican British b-boy; an anti-Semitic, misogynistic but friendly Kazakhstani television reporter; and a homosexual Austrian fashonista–all played by Sacha Baron Cohen–conduct interviews on unsuspecting Americans, who include prominent pundits in the political system and celebrities, that reveal deeply hidden prejudices and challenge social mores within American society.

Here’s a clip of the Ali G character. To make it clear that human frailties cross international lines, I’ve chosen a now-deceased Canadian hothead in a less-than-fine hour:

This show is not easy to watch. Though there are plenty of comedic moments, Baron Cohen has a diabolic genius for honing in on people’s hot-button topics and pushing them with a gusto familiar to bullies.

His work reminds me of the famous Milgram psychology experiments where people were guided into giving supposedly fatal electric shocks to test subjects simply because they were asked to by an authority figure in a lab coat. Baron Cohen comes armed with a character’s bombastic personality and camera. That’s all it takes to expose troubling veins of elitism, racism, homophobia, misogyny, and anti-Semitism.

To bring this back to the defense-is-the-first-act-of-war premise, however, Baron Cohen’s “subjects” seem to follow four distinct trajectories:

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Want to Help Build My Upcoming Interview with Dr. Brené Brown?

A little background before I get to the juice behind the above title: Most of you know that I went through a dark time in medicine. At home on stress leave, I asked myself not only if I would I return to practice, but how.

Only weeks after I resumed practice, determined to model the health I tried to facilitate in others or leave, a minor miracle occurred. In a routine department meeting, I met Dr. Ronna Jevne, a Ph.D psychologist. She spoke about hope and it’s role in the doctor-patient relationship, of its impact on health outcomes.

Everything within me seemed to literally breathe a “yes!” I knew she provided the missing link to connect what I’d learned in my time in burnout with my work as a family doctor. It was a no-brainer to introduce myself and follow her into some of the most rewarding times in my medical career.

This summer I went through similar soul-searching about my writing. Again, once I was through the other side, I met someone.  

When I say “met” that’s metaphoric. More precisely, a fellow writer linked to the video below on Facebook. I watched it. I read the woman’s book. I could immediately see the applicability of her work to writing and how it would reinforce some of my own happy conclusions. (Isn’t it nice when science, heart and spiritual principles agree?)

Anyway, Dr. Brené Brown is a Ph.D research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She studies courage, shame, vulnerability, and authenticity. She speaks my language. That’s why I’m absolutely thrilled to tell you guys I’ll be interviewing  her for Writer Unboxed in March. The focus will be on the implications of her research for the writing or artistic path — in other words, how might one become or remain a wholehearted writer, given the demands of the modern world?

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Quitting the Label “Quitter”

I try to take great care in using labels to describe people, even in my own mind. Whether positive or negative, self or externally imposed, they constrain, bind and inhibit human behavior. If you doubt that statement, watch the Youtube video embedded below for a heartfelt indictment of “pretty.” 

Yet somehow, despite intellectual knowledge and a defiant post I wrote some time ago, the Imposter Syndrome has continued to whisper the word “quitter” in my ear.

It’s a toxic message when the words aren’t flowing, and it poisons what might otherwise be refreshing, necessary breaks from writing with self-doubt.  As you can imagine, in this context, “quitter” could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But this last week, in the spirit of sitting down with my beasticle, I took a real look at that label. Where did it come from? Did it even apply?

This is what I discovered:

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Befriending the Imposter Syndrome Beasticle – a Strategy for Writers Whose Internal Editor is a Special Brand of Nasty


Of all the voices of the Inner Critic, one of the most virulent is that of the Imposter Syndrome — my personal vulnerability. What is the IS? You might suffer from it if you:

  • *Carry a sense of fraudulence.
  • *Believe you’re one step away from being exposed as the big, fungating example of hype-without-substance you know yourself to be.
  • *Hear feedback in a selective manner. That is to say, when people say your work has flaws, their word become emblazoned in your mind as truthful; but let them find something to praise, and oh my goodness, find those people some antipsychotics stat! They need to be reintroduced to reality.

So, what should one do when faced with the beast? Most people will metaphorically lock him behind the cellar door, then go through the “Ping” sisters in sequence, trying to find the means to banish him.  Continue reading

A Bearable Being of Lightness

Balloon with basket filled with flowers

I should be slightly cuckoo by now, according to the psychological scales which tally up change-induced stress points. Thus far, however, I have nary a feather to show. Nor have I chirped.

I blame it all on Margie Lawson and the course I took from her in January on defeating self-defeating behaviors. I didn’t precisely finish the course, and I didn’t exactly excel in her classroom, but I obviously learned something applicable. How else do you explain that I’m more organized and productive than I have been in years, even when life-cycle issues should be shredding my composure?

The single most helpful tool? A List with a Twist.* In case there are one or two of you who might benefit, I’ll share the steps:

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Ring the Bells – It’s PAGL Day

After the rousing success that was Incoherent Friday, I think I’m going to institute another Tartitude tradition. (Because by now you all know how convention-bound I am.) Smilie by GreenSmilies.com

Welcome to Passive-Aggressive Wednesday, in which we take a proven clinical psychology tool and warp it to fit our needs. (Which in this case, consists of me trolling for blog topics.)

You’ve probably all heard of the gratitude list. Did you know that in double-blind crossover placebo-controlled studies, it actually works to reduce a bad mood? Cures bad breath? Gives me an opportunity to sound like I know what I’m talking about?

(Warning: when I talk in  med-speak, I’m probably trying to blind you with science. You’d be wise to distrust anything I have to say immediately following.  Also, am struggling with my parentheses addiction today.)

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