I am skeptical about bumper stickers as an effective form of communication. Can any important social issue be reduced to a message that fits on a 5″ x 12″ sign with type large enough to be read from a distance at highway speeds? It seems as though it is a medium that begs for reductionist thinking and pandering to stereotypes. You can’t really even fit a haiku comfortably on a bumper sticker.
I have been in a major funk, feeling sorry for myself. I don’t imagine it’s pretty, but my friends have been supportive nonetheless. One particularly close friend was having problems of his own, having recently been ripped off by a huge, faceless corporation that refuses to even acknowledge his existence beyond threatening to make his life miserable if he doesn’t pay their spurious charges. The amount of money is more than trivial, but less than catastrophic. For him, though, the experience has been devastating, as he has been made to feel that he has no control over his financial affairs (I think any victim of identity theft or an IRS mistake can probably relate).
I simultaneously trained in both family medicine and psychiatry. That road has frequently landed me in a situation where I will be in a general medical clinic when someone comes in having a psychiatric crisis. I am often called upon to intervene. Invariably, when the intervention is successful, the first comment I hear is “I don’t know how you do that.” My usual flip answer is “Magic.” I wondered, myself, for a long time. I watched non-psychiatrically trained colleagues — who were smarter than I, more empathic than I, more experienced than I — struggle with these suffering patients. I could credit my specialized training, my appearance, good fortune, the aura of mystery surrounding psychiatry (a placebo effect?), or the tone of my voice. Doubtless, all play a role. The “magic,” though, ends up being a remarkably simple thing. I shall now reveal the secret: