Default image

Dr. Jason B. Fischer

The True Nature of Loneliness

Many clients have been talking to me recently about their feelings of loneliness. Of course, this isn't particularly uncommon. The desire for interpersonal connection, intimacy, and companionship are an intrinsic part of what it means to be human. Indeed, no one enjoys feeling lonely. Consequently, the question of how to transform feelings of loneliness is certainly an important one, which is why I decided to give this topic some extra attention lately.

Buddha and a Box of Donuts

I was residing at Wat Pah Nanachat (the "International Monastery" originally founded by the beloved Thai monk Ajahn Chah) outside Ubon Ratchathani, a medium-sized town in Thailand not far from the border of Cambodia. Although I wasn't a monk at the time, my lifestyle was similarly austere. I slept on a bamboo cot placed in the middle of the jungle with nothing but a mosquito net above me, no ceiling, no walls, no electricity, just a thin blanket and a small backpack's worth of belongings--a change of clothes, toothbrush, miniature flashlight, journal and a few pens for writing.

Stay or Go: How to Evaluate a Relationship

Many people come to counseling for help making a decision about the fate of a particular relationship--usually involving one's romantic partner or current employment. Inevitably, they have doubts about staying, for sure, along with similar doubts about leaving. They’re at an impasse, stuck, grappling with the vital question, “Should I stay or should I go?” Because no one wants to make a decision they will later regret, it makes perfect sense to thoroughly evaluate a relationship before making a determination to scram. But what’s the most effective way to evaluate a relationship, so that you can know for certain you're making a wise decision? I can answer this in a single word.

Suicide Is a Bright Idea

Sound insane? Trust me, I'm not off my rocker, nor do I endorse suicide. I value life and consider the act of someone taking his or her own life to be among the greatest of all possible tragedies. Nonetheless, I fully understand how suicide is, despite outward appearances, a tremendously bright idea. Here's why.

Hidden Wisdom from the TV Show Chopped

Life lessons can be found in the most unexpected places sometimes. This particular one comes from a cooking show on The Food Network called Chopped. In each episode, four chefs compete with one another to impress a panel of judges. At the start of each of the three timed rounds that will ultimately determine a winner (appetizer, entrée, dessert), the chefs are given a basket containing four “mystery ingredients”. Once the clock starts, the chefs open their baskets to see, for the first time, which—usually quite peculiar—ingredients they must somehow include in their dishes. Thus the culinary improvisation begins, as time steadily dwindles.

Yo Gabba Gabba, Literally! (The McGurk Effect)

My two-year-old son, like your average American child, rarely goes a day without viewing television, and often quite a bit of it. He watches a show or two when he wakes up in the morning, maybe a full-length animated film in the afternoon, and another program sometime in the evening. With a one-year-old to manage simultaneously, it's not uncommon for my wife and I to occasionally entrust one of our many animated allies with briefly babysitting our toddler. Of course, neither Nemo, Lightning McQueen, nor Buzz Lightyear can change a diaper worth a damn, but they certainly are adept at keeping kids from sticking forks in electrical outlets, which is a plus. My wife and I understand that our sons will be constantly learning from everything they're observing and hearing, so we don't choose our cartoon caretakers lightly. We carefully select only those that will not only entertain and amuse, but will also promote our values of kindness, cooperation, and non-violence. Minimal pushing, shoving, hitting, fighting, shooting, killing, that sort of thing. We aim for sweet, gentle, innocent, nurturing. Too bad we didn't, until just recently, know about The McGurk Effect.

Fear, Loathing and TED Talks

Oh, I remember the incident far too clearly. I was about ten years old. My family was taking a road trip to Ocean City, Maryland when we stopped at a fast food restaurant for a quick bite. We got our food, took it to one of the tables outside, sat down, then realized we had no ketchup. When my parents asked me to return, alone, to ask the cashier for some, I refused. They asked again and again I refused, this time more adamantly. Perplexed as to why I’d be making such a fuss about this, their request grew into a demand. I burst into tears, at which point my sister, two years my junior, cheerfully proclaimed, “I’ll go!” and scurried away. (She’s now a public speaking coach.) This is my earliest recollection of being fearful of the spotlight, fearful of occupying center stage, alone with all eyes upon me, my first memory of being terrified—like so many others—of public speaking.

Why Lying Is Okay

So many relationships suffer with trust issues. In fact, only the very most extraordinary relationships—relationships founded upon true harmony and intimacy—are exempt from patterns of dishonesty and mistrust. Sometimes it may be only small things that partners lie to one another about. For instance, you might casually ask your partner, “What are you doing?”, to which she replies, “Nothing” or “Responding to work emails”, when the truth is that she’s on Facebook, for the twentieth time today. Why the lie? Because she knows how you feel about her infatuation with social networking. Or perhaps your partner lies about something bigger. “Did you smoke today?” meets with, “Of course not. It didn’t even cross my mind!”, when actually he’s hiding a newly-opened pack of cigarettes in his glove compartment, right beside the travel-sized bottle of mouthwash he purchased along with it. Why the lies? Well, I’ll tell you.

What a Perfect Moment Can Teach Us About Anger

One of my fondest memories is from one night in Thailand. I was at a café on the banks of the Mekhong River, looking across into Laos on the other side. The weather was perfectly clear where I sat but, over in Laos, a storm was moving slowly along the edge of the river. Peacefully, I watched the storm safely from afar, the moon overhead, and marveled at the storm’s many lightning strikes as it crept, like a mythical goliath, across the far off shore. It was a truly beautiful hour of my life.

Guessing Kills Relationships

This is an intentionally brutal statement, although it just so happens to be true. Guessing seems benign enough, so how can something so seemingly timid as guessing actually kill a relationship? Well, when we guess, specifically when we guess the meaning behind what another person is thinking, feeling, saying or doing (or has done in the past), we choose “thinking we know” over actually knowing. Then, once we assume we know something, we invariably halt our efforts to discover the truth. Instead of seeking to learn more, we may find ourselves reacting to something that may not even be reality. Why? Because we guessed. Guessing blindfolds us. We interpret the behavior of someone and guess what it means. Maybe we’re right in our assessment, but maybe we are not. If we do not inquire, if all we do is guess, we will not know for certain. We may simply react to what we think is true, assuming that we know, assuming that we could not possibly be wrong. That’s not only arrogant, but dangerous. We never want to be so sure of ourselves that we are not open to the possibility that we could be wrong. Yep, we can always be wrong. Wisdom readily and willingly admits this.