Post-Pandemic Impact (and The Return of the Blog!)

photo by Martin Sanchez on Upsplash

This blog was not written by AI.

This blog is about the pandemic, death, grief, trauma, diagnoses, and struggle.

It is June 2024 and it has been more than 4 years since my last blog entry. Frankly, it boggles my mind that it has been that long, because the time has flown by. Back then, we were a couple of months into a pandemic that was to become much worse than anyone imagined (except maybe for the scientists that were figuring out what was going on – I bet they were able to imagine). I’m a little embarrassed that through all that time, since my last blog entry in April of 2020, that I haven’t written anything. I’m not embarrassed because I have a large following of “fans” expecting me to hear from me. It’s more that this blog has always been a promise I made to my professional self. And yet despite the free time I suddenly found myself with, and the myriad thoughts I had in my head throughout the pandemic, I neglected to write. Yes, there was a total upheaval of my practice: the loss of some patients, the shift to online tele-therapy, the isolation and mask wearing, the emptiness of my physical practice location, the learning to work from home, et cetera. But I adapted pretty well to this newness, I think. I adjusted to these changes and learned to work pretty well in these novel contexts. And yet, I didn’t write.

I had a lot of thoughts as I watched how the world responded to this global pandemic. As I became hypervigilant to every cough and sneeze. As I jammed multiple swabs up my nose. As I experienced 2 bouts of COVID-19 myself, and watched the death tolls rise and heard friends and family report the loss of loved ones. I guess this is what this blog post will be about: the impact the pandemic has had, and the psychological ripple effects that I have observed in myself and in the psyche of our society. In my previous post, four years ago, as we were careening into the pandemic, I listed some of the impact that was already apparent. Fear. Sadness. Rage. Despair. Loss. But I also encouraged a look inward. Not in that toxic-positivity way of, “take this opportunity to better yourself!” More of a “this is a chance to learn the contours of your strengths, weaknesses, resources, and insecurities” kind of way.

You’ll notice that’s a recurring theme of my blog – the “let me see what this teaches me about me” theme. I am a psychologist, after all.

Let me share a little about what I learned about myself. Adjusting to the pandemic significantly exacerbated my procrastination. I mean, severely! (Case in point, I wrote this blog 2 years ago – only getting around to finishing it and publishing it now). Somehow I am even further behind on some responsibilities than I could have even imagined. Despite being generally gregarious, extroverted, and socially stimulated, I found myself preferring isolation. Even as we all gradually ventured out to restart social gatherings, and it really felt good being back out again, I found I was stuck in a pattern of isolation. I kept walking away from social encounters like “ahh, that felt amazing! I didn’t realize how much I needed that! I’ve really missed getting together with people.” And yet, I consistently defaulted to choosing isolation.

Irritation, exasperation, and even anger became companions as I watched the sociopolitical climate. The pandemic turned our world (not just our country – but things here were definitely prominent in my mind) upside down! We saw massive criticism and upheavals of our law enforcement agencies, as well as the exposure of other system racisms. I awoke to the heretofore ignored realities of systemic racism and began to explore and confront the white supremacist, eurocentric concepts that exist in the foundation of modern psychology/psychiatry. We saw the demagoguery of our political leaders reach new lows wherein they ceased being leaders and became instead instigators. We saw a celebrated surge of anti-science ideology, including an addiction of sorts to conspiracy theories. I witnessed the first time an elected official tried to dismantle the long tradition of the US voting system. I witnessed my first insurrection! I witnessed the death of the Roe legal precedent. I probably said “I can’t believe this is happening” more times in the last 4 years than any of my 46 preceding ones.

I did not learn the guitar. I did not learn to bake sourdough. I did not paint or draw more art. I found that it took all my energy/motivation to just get by. I was lucky in that I still knew joy at the hands of my partner and my kids. I know that many did not. I grieved the loss of family members to COVID, sharing in that grief with many friends and patients of mine. Fear, stress, isolation, frustration, shock, exhaustion, anxiety, and sadness were regular parts of my day-to-day.

And that leads me to the main point of this blog: How the Pandemic Affected Our World: The Psychology Edition.

There were countless stories about how the pandemic affected all the systems and domains of life. All of them! Globally! Societal structures, economy, political structures, medical practices, housing, and on and on. One effect that I read several times that was relevant to my vocation and one that became the major source of my ire was the notion that the pandemic caused a “huge surge in mental illness.”

The reason this headline, because that’s where I saw it the most, as a headline on innumerable news programs and journalism websites, drew so much anger from me is that it is total bullshit.

Total and absolute bullshit.

There was no rise in mental illness during the pandemic. I realize that this may be a controversial thing to say, but it remains true. There was NO rise in mental illness during the pandemic.

It is true that we did see in increase in sadness, anxiety, despair, stress, overwhelm, delusional thinking, as well as an increase in harmful coping skills like substance use. We saw an increase in trauma and an increase in suicide. We saw an increase in judgment, criticism, family conflict, and social strife. And yet, still I declare: we did not see an increase in “mental illness.”

I make this declaration because none of the above mentioned psychological and behavioral responses are illnesses. None of them are disorders. They are, in fact, completely normal emotional and behavioral responses to the circumstances that were at hand.

Let’s take a look at those circumstances..

To date, according to the World Health Organization, 7.1 million people have died from the COVID-19 virus worldwide. 1.2 million of those deaths happened here in the United States. Looking at just the U.S., let’s average that each person has 3.5 immediate family members (a family of two parents and 2.5 kids, as the old “American Dream” outlined). And let’s say each person has at least 4 extended family members. So for every person that died, 7.5 people are crushed with grief. 7.5 people feel a hole in their lives where that loved one used to be. Nationally, that is 9 million people directly experiencing the grief of a death in their family. All of the sadness, the hurt, the hole in the chest feeling, the empty households. Some of those 9 million people are people who will never see their parent again, or spouses who will never have their best friend again. This estimate I’m giving you doesn’t include friends, coworkers, teachers, or other key human connections. That significantly increases the number of people affected. Sadness, insecurity, fear, despair, and feeling lost are very normal ways of responding to this loss. If anyone were to say, “Don’t be sad, get over it. Get out of bed. Get back to work!” after the loss of a loved one, I’d call them calloused and inhuman.

And that’s just the emotional distress associated with death. Add to that the fact that people who were struggling, but able to manage their pain with social distractions, lost the ability to access those coping skills. Couples that were perhaps “dysfunctional” and managed their struggles with “time away” at work or in separate social gatherings, lost those escapes and were left spending more time together, often to their detriment. The incidence of intimate partner violence crimes increased during the pandemic. People who managed their stress with social events, or going to the gym, or some other gregarious activities had to isolate, distance, and disconnect. When you have built your coping and stress management around certain activities, it can be very hard to change course and adjust to new means of relief.

Now, take these personal struggles and add unemployment to the pile. Attempts to prevent the spread of this plague resulted in vast amounts of people losing their jobs – now struggling and worrying about paying their essential bills, keeping their homes or apartments, or being able to afford food. The psychological load was overwhelming.

When you place all these individualized experiences in the context of the social and political upheaval we witnessed, including violent protest, increased hate-crimes, etc., then you can add a growing but diffuse sense of insecurity and lack of safety to the stack. Political leaders and social influencers promoted suspicion, conflict, paranoia, and hate, rather than calm, mutual respect, assistance, and support. “Othering” became a social media pastime. I mean, to be frank, it has always been a pastime on social media but it was dangerously exacerbated during the pandemic.

So, when you look at the far-reaching ripple effects of the pandemic, how can anyone blame the individual for being depressed, anxious, untrusting, or emotional. Feeling depressed, insecure, anxious, angry, unsettled, and unsafe is the normal response to circumstances that are depressing, threatening, upsetting, and terrifying. The world literally got more dangerous on several levels.

It might seem like I’m arguing semantics. I’m saying there was no increase in “mental illness.” It was important to me to make this statement because the words we use to describe each other matters, and calling common human reactions “illnesses” or “diseases” disrespects our very humanity. And respecting our humanity is the only way we will be able to heal. Those of us left, punch drunk in the aftermath of this global killer, need to be tender with ourselves. Give ourselves permission to be miserable, unsure, and self-protective. Resist the messaging that says we should all be ok now. We’ve had our asses kicked, and it may take a moment to get back up again. And that’s ok.

And being kinder and more patient with each other can’t hurt either.

COVID-19 And The Bearable Heaviness Of Being

Hi everyone. I hope you’re managing well, and hope also that you’re taking the opportunity to find new ways to thrive. This blog is a long one, so get comfortable. Apparently I have had a lot of thoughts about our world today.

A global pandemic as a result of a coronavirus is now part of all of our personal stories. We are living in a world that is unfamiliar to nearly all of us. We in this country have never been so broadly impacted by a pandemic.

Rest assured, you are not alone in the discomfort that you feel these days. The fear, the confusion, the tension, the stress, and the sadness that you feel are shared by nearly everyone. At least by those that are paying attention. And this is all new to us too. This experience is changing our world, our perceptions, our awareness, and our relationships with others and ourselves.

It is not difficult to hear about the medical, social, and economic impacts of COVID19. What I don’t see discussed a whole lot are the psychological impacts of this pandemic and the societal precautions most of us are taking as we attempt to prevent rapid spread. Yet, our psychology, or mental/emotional state is a major character in our lives. We are steeped in it and cannot free ourselves from it. So for this reason, the psychological impact should be talked about.

Now, there are many people who have discovered that they have been able to adapt to the losses we have all experienced. Many have realized their primary partners are good, flexible, considerate people who believe in working as a team. Many have realized that being at home with their children has strengthened their relationships with them. While others are realizing that their jobs don’t have to define their identity. Now that the initial shock of our restrictions and distancing has worn off, individuals and families are realizing how creative and involved they can be. This is wonderful and should be cherished, and even serve to transform their lives going forward.

But not everyone is discovering such positivity during this pandemic. Many are suffering and these are just some of the ways:

  • Perhaps the most obvious effect is fear of infection. The disease COVID19 is caused by a current variant of the coronavirus, a class of virus that is relatively common. This variant is much more deadly than the variants we are used to. Despite initial skepticism (some of which still goes on), we are seeing that this virus is very contagious and particularly dangerous for older adults and those with already ailing health. And we aren’t too clear on who that includes – as we hear more and more accounts of young adults getting gravely ill with COVID19. And so we are now carrying around concern regarding a new threat. Our minds scream “contaminated!” every time we touch a door knob, faucet handle, our mail, and the items we are having delivered. Since we have recently been directed to wear masks when out of our home, it’s easy to believe the very air we breathe has become a disease vector. Fear being one of the most primal emotions, it is very easy for us to spiral out into panic and anxiety because it feels like danger is all around us.
  • Loneliness. The best societal response we have to handle this pandemic, in light of the lack of sufficient testing and treatment capabilities, is social distancing, or isolation. Because we are all potential vectors of infection, especially since there is a contagious incubation period and that some people may be asymptomatic or manifest only mild symptoms, we can’t be sure if we are passing the coronavirus on to others. And so we separate from our fellow humans. We stand apart, stop hugging, stop shaking hands, stop getting together. And this act of social solidarity could easily break our hearts. Healthy relationships, opportunities to gather, finding “our people” are all hallmarks of good mental health. Community, especially one where we feel genuinely accepted gives us the much needed space and courage to be authentically ourselves. And now we must avoid this specific form of goodness. Many people are finding themselves feeling lost, feeling abjectly alone. We might get crushed under the weight of this solitude, losing track of time, of self-care practices, of withdrawing even further from even electronic means of interaction. Some might catch themselves believing that their friends must not have really cared, since no one has reached out. Doubt, shame, and insecurities can bloom into the space our friends once held.
  • Anger as a coping mechanism. Some people react to their fear with anger. When feeling vulnerable and powerless, we may seek someone to get angry at. Anger, while still an unpleasant emotion, tends to be a much better experience than fear because anger comes with the delusion of power. Thus we may seek comfort in our rage and strike out at people so as to avoid experiencing our own fear. Perhaps the most tragic example of this is the increase in racist violence again people of Asian descent; blaming them for the virus spread or believing they are infected because they are Asian. We also see this as a reaction to the close quarters of our quarantines. Families, friends, and roommates everywhere are finding themselves suddenly intolerant of their cohabitants – bothered by each other’s behaviors, snapping at each other, all out verbal fights, and sometimes abuse. There has been a growing concern for victims of domestic violence as they are made to “shelter in place” with their aggressor (keep in mind, while physical violence is still illegal and will be prosecuted, there are many forms of non-physical violence that the police will do nothing about). Volatility born out of fear can lead to very damaging, if not dangerous, outcomes.
  • Despair. More and more people are discovering that their average set of coping skills are poorly adept at handling the situation of our world today. All through our lives we are taught, and often figure out for ourselves, how to cope with stressors in life. This situation is so novel, the majority of our coping skills are failing us. Prior to the pandemic, we typically found soothing in gathering with friends, engaging in exercise or other physical activity, or seeking cultural experiences like museums, concerts, gallery showings, or festivals. Those external events have all been taken from us. As we have attempted to slow the spread of this coronavirus, we have restricted ourselves from many of the means we used to cope with stress. This leaves us feeling powerless, afraid, hopeless, overwhelmed, despondent, and desperate. For many, this situation exacerbates the psychological and emotional distress that they were already struggling with prior to the pandemic. We are being made painfully aware that most of our coping skills are not as robust and effective as we once thought.
  • Financial ruin. While this is technically an economic impact, money has worked its way deep into our collective psyche. Not only is money a necessary factor in the “goods and services” equation, but industrialization has made money itself a “need”. Poverty, broke-ness, and living paycheck-to-paycheck are already well documented toxins to psychological health. The economic impact of this pandemic is exacerbating the financial anxiety the overwhelming majority of us already live with. Small businesses, often labors of love, are collapsing. Financial concerns are directly tied to our sense of being able to acquire some our basic Masloweian needs (food, shelter, water (can you believe some people are having their water shut off?!)) as well as medication and necessary medical procedures. Thus, financial threats are life threats, especially now.
  • Et cetera. Seriously, et cetera. This list is not exhaustive.

Now, there are all sorts of concrete suggestions for managing these impacts. But that is not what this blog is about. The internet is full of rather good and helpful advice on how to get through these experiences in simple and practical ways. I could tell you to:

  • Trust the science. Stop listening to non-experts and opinion pieces. Follow published reports by the CDC and the WHO, because they are all we have and you have to trust someone. So, trust the science.
  • Ask for connection. Reach out to your friends for online connection or socially distanced gathering. Do a google search on how to make new connections in the midst of your social distancing. Or remind yourself every day that this will end and you can bear it.
  • Stop being afraid to admit you’re afraid. Stop being an asshole and recognize that your fear is turning into a toxic anger. Own that shit!
  • Remind yourself that this will pass. Do a google search on finding new distractions and coping skills during a pandemic. Research some mindfulness techniques.
  • Reach out for financial consultation. Call all your billing companies and defer your payments. Reorganize your budget and reprioritize your life.
  • Et Cetera…

I could further elaborate on each of these suggestions. I could guide you on how to approach each of these things from a problem solving way. But that isn’t what this blog is about. Google, the CDC, your bank or your financial advisor all have better suggestions than I could give you. So I respectfully direct you to them.

In this blog, I’m suggesting that this is a time to look at something deeper.

An Unconscious Surge

The negative psychological impacts of this pandemic extend beyond the five I mentioned above. We are all feeling the strain of this situation and we are all experiencing unique struggles in response to it. And the uniqueness of our response is defined by the uniqueness of our personality, our psychological makeup. And so now I think there is some value in discussing the psychological processes that are underlying the effects discussed above. When our coping skills fail and fear overwhelms our general ability to engage in the world, all sorts of psychological material surges forward from the unconscious; from the section of our personality that we are barely aware exists. Like our coping skills discussed above, our egos are normally bopping around holding back uncomfortable or disturbing elements of our unconscious selves. When the ego is exhausted (due to strain caused by something like, let’s say, a global pandemic) it’s ability to do this weakens and all the heretofore suppressed fears, insecurities, prejudices, and resentments spill forward. We then defensively channel these unconscious disturbances out onto others, the opposing political party, or the world. Or we attempt to numb them away with harmful distractions or drugs, recreational or prescription.

So, what is to be done?

Conveniently, there is a wealth of articles and advice online on how to approach this with external means. Suggestions on how to start hobbies, or do different things, or access your social distractions via webcam. All of these are fine ideas, and often effective at injecting a dose of positivity and connectedness into our isolation.

But there is another opportunity as well. All of the uncomfortable material that is coming forward serves as an invitation for us to get to know ourselves on a level that is more deep than we may be used to. We are forcibly encountering parts of ourselves and as uncomfortable as they may be, taking the time to look at them can strengthen our sense of ourselves and lead to a better relationship with our psyches.

What does this look like?

Well, at first, let’s collect some information. What are we possibly learning about ourselves?

Let’s look at your solitude. How are you handling the loneliness? If you don’t have roommates or are not in a partnered relationship, how are you experiencing your aloneness? Do you see it as an opportunity to read, craft, or relax? Does it feel like doors have opened up and pressure relieved? Or is it oppressive? Are you feeling the stark lack of connection and interaction like a thirst or a longing? Has waking up in your home or apartment filled you with dread because you are painfully aware that these walls will be most of what you see for the entire day? People today are more and more aware of their personality in terms of “introvert” and “extrovert.” Where do you fall within these classifications? I have seen memes in which introverts humorously exclaim “I have been preparing for this my entire life.” But professionally I am even hearing that introverts are feeling the pangs for human connection. This is a time to learn something new about yourself. Look at what solitude does to you and make note. Do more than simply judge it as “this is great!” or “this is torture!” This is a time to discover what relational connection means to you; what role does it play in your sense of self, how healthy is that role?

Think about your relationship, if you’re in one. If you notice that tension and frustration is building up between you and your significant other, what is that saying about the nature of your connection with them? About the degree to which you have previously relied on “nights out” with friends or other forms of getting “space” from your chosen partner? I challenge you not to minimize this experience as “we’re just getting cabin fever” or “we’re just not getting our own space right now.” Look at how you are communicating; at what you hold back or how open you may or may not be. What does that say about how much emotional trust you have in your partner? Or what is the status of your attachment to them? I know these aren’t comfortable things to look at, and a busy life affords us with ample opportunity to avoid looking at and addressing them. But we are now in a state where looking at these things as they rise to the surface may give you the opportunity to see what needs repairing in your relationship. What would it be like to work up the courage to sit down with each other and talk about emotional distance and frustrations. Put your pride aside and open yourself up to constructive criticism by asking your partner, “what things do I do that make you feel unheard, unimportant, unloved, or taken for granted” and maybe muster up the guts to say “I’m sorry.” Read the “love languages” book and talk about how you each experience and express love (note: while I don’t believe the “5 Love Languages” coined by Chapman are the end-all-be-all of relational theory, they do present a very nice, simple way to engage each other and talk about the relationship). This can be the beginning of you two making the choice to improve things so that your partnership is more whole and fulfilling.

Think about your daily routine and your connection to it. Has the practice of staying at home, or the generalized upheaval to your routine had a profound emotional impact on you? You may be discovering that you have an emotional reliance on routine and habit. Has your routine inadvertently become your set of coping skills? I saw a meme the other day that illustrated this point rather well. It said, “I never realized how much I relied on going to the grocery story for my sanity.” People everywhere are discovering that they had built a structure of emotional stability onto the mundane tasks of life, and that these tasks make for a poor foundation of stability. They believed that contentment was built on daily routine, rather than an internal connection to deeper, more meaningful aspects of their personality. I suppose we might say, “pandemics and the current state of the world aren’t going to be the norm (yet?) and so why not rely on external routine for emotional stability?” Well, simply put, because the way I’m talking about is better! Building our emotional stability on internal, psychological foundations is better because then we are building it on firm, level, stable, and reliable ground.

Having healthy external coping skills is a great thing. They are a very necessary tool to navigate life today. If you go to yoga classes, or have a running club, work it out at a cross fit gym, or go bike riding, or clubbing, or take classes, or find interesting MeetUps, then you are doing awesomely. Those are great ways to de-stress and find yourself again in the midst of the noise of life. My only challenge to you is: can you add some internal, self-sourced coping skills to that mix? When you are suddenly not allowed to do your chosen activities, and thus your chosen coping skill, do you find that your uncomfortable emotions, negative thinking patterns, and limited frustration tolerance all overwhelm you? This is why exploring your inner world and finding the way to grounding and strength from within is so important. Generally speaking, when we carry a sense of assurance based on psychological factors, we are more resilient, more adaptable, and ultimately more psychologically authentic. And it is important to note that` this doesn’t mean you don’t experience hardship. This doesn’t mean that you will no longer feel fear, frustration, helplessness, despondence, or pain. It means you will be better able to weather those experiences because of a solidly established sense of who you are. So if you are discovering the things I mentioned above about yourself, then consider seeking out some psychological assistance, particularly with someone who specializes in “depth psychology.” Accept that you may have built your sense of emotional stability on “shaky ground” and make the choice to delve deeper into your psyche, learn more about who you are, and build yourself up from there.


I am not going to write much about this, because this is something you can read a lot about elsewhere. But suffice it to say this quieting of our lives is without a doubt an opportunity to grow. Online educational programs everywhere are offering discounts or free courses. People are experimenting with new crafts and are engaging with their children in more relational ways than their previous routine would allow. And all of this is awesome. If this period of social distancing is giving you the impetus to learn something new, that is awesome and you should momentarily appreciate your ability to self-motivate and take advantage of this time and space for self enhancement.

But what if your discovery is that you are not good at self-motivating. What if your discovery is that outside of your routine and the structure of your pre-COVID life you genuinely struggle with what is called “self activation”? Then I would tell you that this is an aspect of your psychological make up that was previously obscured by the noise of living and is now revealed to you. You could certainly find some mediocre solace in telling yourself, “I can’t wait till things are back to normal” as a hope that these uncomfortable discoveries will return to obscurity. Or you can take note of these discoveries as future projects for self enhancement. Write them down or commit them to memory with all due curiosity, saying, “well, I didn’t know that about myself. That’s somewhat disappointing. I wonder what that is all about and how I might transform beyond those limitations.”

Now, it may seem to you that I spent most of this time, all of the time you spent reading this, talking about behaviors and patterns that are less than stellar. I may come off as being critical or unnecessarily negative. I hope you can see that highlighting the negative is often the way to enlightenment. We can only really tell where we can improve if we courageously and compassionately look at the things we don’t want to look at. Change can only happen after ownership, and ownership can’t happen if we ignore or avoid. To paraphrase a theme Jung often talked about, “the gold is in the shit.” This means that there is always something deeply psychologically valuable at the core of our suffering. And I’m telling you that the uniqueness of this pandemic is providing many of us the unique opportunity to root around in that “shit” and find some “gold” that can transform who we know ourselves to be.

My First Podcast Interview

Today I’m sharing some exciting news. I’m on a podcast!!!

I was invited to speak with Dr. Carly Hudson a Denver chiropractor who owns Healing Ground Chiropractic Care and who also hosts the podcast The Healing Ground Movement. In her podcast she interviews various professionals who help people find paths to healthier living or individuals who have gained some form of insight into living a more complete life.

I have discovered that my treatment philosophy has something in common with that of chiropractic: that treatment and healing have to go beyond symptom relief or management and address the underlying patterns or injuries that lead to chronic distress.

I would like to extend my thanks to Dr. Hudson for this opportunity and hope that you, my readers, find it interesting, educational, and at least a little entertaining. I also encourage you to subscribe to her podcast and listen to some of the other interviews. I found them to be quite informative and Dr. Hudson to be a very natural interviewer.

I’ve included a link below or you can find The Healing Ground Movement podcast on any of the main podcast hosting services (Or even watch me on YouTube).

If you have any questions about anything you hear in this podcast, please email me directly at

Dr. Pepe Santana: What If You Don’t Need Those Meds to Live Your Best Life?

A Year of Perfect Vision

Happy New Year!!!

Yes, I know it’s February. And I know some of you only recently took your Christmas decorations down, so I know you will be completely understanding when I talk about procrastination. Those of you who are on top of your tasks, keep your judgements to yourself, please…

Here we are (one month) into the new year and I wanted to write a little something about the beginning of the new year and what it might mean about starting things anew.

The idea that we all get to start anew gets a lot of often humorous and not un-deserved scrutiny. How many jokes have you heard about surging gym memberships and New Years resolutions that have probably already been broken? Membership deals and public cynicism notwithstanding, this is the beginning of a new unit of time for most of us. A whole new year.

As this year started I felt inspired to talk about vision. I’m almost 100% sure this is because this year is 2020. And 20/20 is the measurement used to signify “perfect vision” – a.k.a. Seeing things as they are. (One of these days I’ll write on what a delusional trap “perfection” is because I have a whole lot to say about that, but not today).

So let’s talk about vision.

I am not an expert on the eyes, rods and cones, the fovea, the occipital lobe, or any of the other anatomical and physiological aspects of vision. However, those organs and systems are not the sole players when it comes to how we see. Perception is the interpreter of everything our eye balls pick up. And perception is a finicky beast.

Why am I writing about this?

Well, basically I’m saying that no one has “perfect vision”. Because of the neurological and psychological elements that go into perception, we know, unequivocally, that we do not see things as they are. Don’t believe me? Watch any episode of Brain Games. Listen to the podcast “You Are Not So Smart”. Read some of Oliver Sacks. Our personality, our psychological history, and the individual differences within our physiology all create distortions of what we actually see. So here we are in the year of “perfect vision” and I’m saying it’s impossible.

But, that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to make our vision as perfect as possible. We can strive to look at ourselves, our lives, the world around us with as much accuracy as is possible. And we do that by leaning on each other, by asking the people around us for their perceptions. We need other people in order to see clearly. Another word for this is “interdependence”

Interdependence is a concept that applies to multiple areas of life, but at it’s most basic, it means “we need each other”. In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discusses how we hopefully evolve from “dependence” to “independence” to “interdependence” – ultimately achieving the realization that we need each other to be effective in all domains in life. As this relates to vision, we need other people to help the accuracy of our perceptions. In the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant, each man cannot tell that they are touching an elephant because they are each only touching a single part and making inferences about the whole animal based on the small area they touched. This illustrates the limits of our vision that I have been talking about. However, when you put other perceptions, experiences, and views together, you get a much more whole vision.

When it comes to seeing ourselves, our relationships, our careers, or even the world as a whole, we need others if we want “perfect vision.” And here we come to what I’m calling “step 1.” In the previous sentence, I wrote, “if we want ‘perfect vision’.” I wrote it that way because this process needs to be a choice. It is easy to chose to take our limited perception and define reality based on that. But you won’t really be looking at reality then. What I’m saying is that we have to decide if “accurate vision” is something that we even want. And be warned, it will often be difficult, disturbing, or uncomfortable in other ways. But it will be as close to Truth as we can get. And I think that’s awesome.

Once you’ve decided that you want access to truth, then comes step 2, which is admitting “my vision is flawed and distorted.” Recognition of the things I’ve been describing above, the limits of our ability to perceive the world accurately, opens you up to the possibility of new connections with others. It is this humility that softens our demeanor and makes us more receptive to listening to the people we share this world with. The popular term “my truth” touches on this idea, I think. We are beginning to recognize that, by claiming a personal truth, our perspective is important. The risk we run is in narcissistically forgetting that this also means that other people’s “truths” are equally important. When we recognize the importance of our perspective as a valuable piece of a puzzle who’s other pieces include other people’s perspectives, then we are truly approaching the ability to grasp the whole picture.

Which brings us to step 3: make connections. You now have decided you want to see accurately. You have admitted that you can’t do that on your own. And so now it is on you to make yourself open to the other people in the world. To exercise your listening muscles and ask “tell me why you think that” with the intention of broadening your own perspective. Do this while keeping in mind “this person may be able to see things that I can’t” and you will make yourself more receptive to reality, and ultimately less judgmental, less critical, and less isolated.

And so I encourage you to chose to expand your perceptions and “improve” your vision by leaning on your fellow humans, embracing interdependence, and entering the new year and beyond with nearly perfect vision. 20/20 in 2020.

On Gratitude

Gobble Gobble till you Wobble Wobble

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I had a few quick thoughts to share with you all on gratitude and giving thanks. As we all recover (in one way or another) from celebrating Thanksgiving, why not spend a moment thinking about gratitude and giving thanks?

This is, in a way, a reappropriation of the holiday. As we have become more “woke” we have spent some good effort confronting the darknesses within the American past – those moments in history when we as a country were less than humane, open, accepting, compassionate, etc (yes, this is a deeply sugarcoated way of describing the atrocities in our past). These are dark and shameful elements of our past, and they are uncomfortable stepping stones to where we are now and what we have achieved (for better or worse). Becoming more aware of these things, changing cultural concepts into Indigenous People’s Day and National Day of Mourning are valuable steps toward enlightenment. In Germany, current school children are taught about the Holocaust with humility and understanding. They recognize the value of facing the mistakes of the past to prevent the inflation of the future. We have begun to turn this stone as well.

But this post isn’t about the historical dark side of the Thanksgiving holiday. I want to look at things a little more literally. I believe this is what most people do if they have the opportunity to sit around a dinner table with loved ones. It’s about giving thanks.

Why is gratitude a psychologically relevant topic? Well, to put it simply, it is about acknowledging truths. So frequently, we deny negative (read: unpleasant) truths. It’s what most defense mechanisms hide from view. It’s obvious to most of us that most people want to avoid unpleasant, scary, or painful truths. But, coincidentally, we do this with some positive truths as well. It is very easy for us to become encased in stress, negativity, cynicism, and suspicion. We have increasingly bought into a notion that we need to be cautious and suspicious of each other. We are inundated with negative news (notice, whether it’s true or “fake” it’s almost always negative), combativeness of one kind or another, and gobs of anger. All recent social measures say that we are carrying around more medium-grade, chronic stress than ever before (except maybe the Great Depression, but that hasn’t been measured) and it’s wreaking havoc . Medically we know that chronic stress is profoundly unhealthy for us, with some theorizing that it could be an origin of most chronic illnesses. The same could be said for the increasing reports of anxiety across the population.

In the middle of all this negativity, it can be hard to recall that there are some good things in our life. And here is what I think is the most important point of all of this: feeling gratitude for what you have does not negate the worry, the pain, the concerns, or the wounds of your life. Having gratitude doesn’t mean you can’t be upset, sad, scared, or pissed about something else in your life. Gratitude and pain are not mutually exclusive, and gratitude isn’t a way of saying “don’t worry, be happy” (credit to Bobby McFerrin if he has a copyright on that phrase). It’s about acknowledging that, even though you might be in pain, some things have gone your way, in one way or another.

How do I do this, Dr. Santana? Well, there are lots of sources that discuss the psychological benefits of gratitude and give lots of differing advice on how to do it. And honestly, it doesn’t matter how you create what has been dubbed a “gratitude practice.” Just that you do it. So take the time. Start a gratitude journal. Go around your dinner table and talk about what you’re thankful for – every night! Not just in the end of November. Give yourself 5 minutes every morning, or every night before bed, to think about 1 thing you’re grateful for. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just do it (credit to Nike, incase they have a copyright on that phrase).

And so with that, I will say thank you and Happy Giving Thanks.

Recap of the 2019 ISEPP Conference “Do No Harm?”

Just over a month ago I attended the 2019 Conference “Do No Harm?: How The Ethics of Psychology and Psychiatry Have Become Unethical” put on by the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP). Baltimore, MD was a great host city (we host the conference in a different city every year) and it was so rewarding reconnecting with old friends and meeting new professionals, survivors, and activists. Full disclosure, I am on the Board of Directors of ISEPP and was on the Conference Planning Committee. I am really proud of the program we put together this year and couldn’t help but be really impressed with our presenters. Here is my recap of the weekend…

Dr. Gail Tasch

Friday night, at our kickoff reception, we heard from Dr. Gail Tasch, pediatric psychiatrist and new member of the ISEPP Board of Directors. In her talk “A Metamorphosis” she recounted her process of discovering how harmful psychiatry, particularly inpatient psychiatry, has been to the children she has worked with. After witnessing the profound physiological and emotional harm caused by psychotropic medications she began a new career goal of helping children come off of these medications while she struggled against a medical system and philosophy that ignores iatrogenic injury.

Dr. Paula Caplan

We started Saturday morning off by hearing from the amazing Dr. Paula Caplan on “Psychiatric Diagnosis is THE Fundamental Problem Plaguing the Mental Health System.” Dr. Caplan was on the DSM IV Task Force and resigned after 2 years because she witness the arbitrary and unscientific nature of formation of “mental illness” diagnoses. She outlined common myths about DSM diagnostic categories and reported on some of the unethical dealings that happen behind the scenes between authors of the DSMs and pharmaceutical companies.

Stephen Sheller, Esq

Our second presenter on Saturday was attorney Stephen Sheller who recently wrote “Big Pharma, Big Greed”. Mr. Sheller was on the legal committee that recently won $8 billion dollars from Johnson & Johnson for their illegal suppression of data regarding harmful effects (specifically gynecomastia) of their drug Risperdal. He recounted how he started getting calls from whistleblowers which began his work confronting pharmaceutical companies for “offlable” marketing and for pushing doctors to lower their criteria for prescription. These practices lead directly to countless cases of iatrogenic harm.

Dr. Patrick Hahn

Saturday afternoon was kicked off by Patrick Hahn, PhD, author of “Madness and Genetic Deterimism: Is mental illness in our genes?” He discussed the origin of psychiatric genetics research in 1917 Germany and how it became one of the founding rationalizations for mass sterilization and murder. He also dismantled the fundamental research studies that claim that psychological distress is genetic, including foundational twin and family studies, by highlighting poor scientific method and replication failure. Throughout he called professionals to pay more attention to environmental factors than biological ones.

Dr. Irving Kirsch

Then we heard from Dr. Irving Kirsch. He is the author of The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. Dr. Kirsch is the Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School (and has a litany of other credentials). He presented on his meta-analyses of antidepressant studies, consistently demonstrating that they work no better than placebo, while highlighting significant increases in risk of suicide and relapse with prescriptions. He challenged the ethics of recommending antidepressants given the data of their effectiveness and harm.

Tonier Cain-Muldrow

Our final presenter on Saturday was the powerful Tonier Cain-Muldrow, author of “Healing Neen,” and international speaker for Trauma Informed Care. Tonier is a dynamic, brutally honest woman who told her story of profound chronic trauma, polysubstance addiction, homelessness, and crime, subsequent retraumatization in the legal and “mental health” systems, and then her climb back up into recovery. She talked about who was able to help her and how. She challenged all of us by saying, “you don’t have the right to deem someone a ‘hopeless case.’” Her message was ultimately about a person’s ability to be resilient and recover when someone genuinely listens to their pain. Google her, she’ll blow you away.

[No picture because I wasn’t able to attend]

Saturday evening ISEPP held their annual awards dinner at which Art Levine, an investigative journalist, spoke on the “Ethical Epidemic: Everyday Malpractice in Behavioral Healthcare – and how to stop it”. I did not attend the dinner, so I can’t recap his presentation, but I’m sure you can find out more by checking out his book “Mental Health Inc.: How Corruption, Lax Oversight, and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens.”

Dr. Ben Rall

Sunday morning we heard from Ben Rall, DC, author of Cooperative Wellness: How to Achieve Wellness and Be Part of the Health Care Solution. His presentation, The Doctor Within – Understanding vitalism and holistic care and it’s role” discussed the body’s innate biological ability to regulate and heal itself and recover health when treated (fed, rested, and exercised) properly. He confronted several areas of iatrogenic harm, highlighted the value of healthy eating, and warned of the long term effects of stress on our physiological systems.

Dr. Chuck Ruby

Dr. Charles Ruby, our Executive Director, presented his research of the articles on the correlation of psychiatric drugs and violence. He explained that while we cannot say there is a direct causal relationship, there is a clear increased risk of violent behavior when several other factors are present. The factors he mentioned are:
History of a disregard for others
History of violence
Easy access to lethal weapons
Poor social support
Feeling persecuted or mistreated
Difficulty controlling thoughts
Drug or alcohol use
He also discussed research findings that of the top 31 drugs associated with violent behavior, 26 are psychotropic medications, the two most risky being antidepressants and benzodiazepines. His final thoughts highlighted the need for more research.

Dr. James Gordon

After lunch we heard from Dr. James Gordon, author of The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma. Dr. Gordon founded and is the executive director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. He talked about how he trains practitioners to transform trauma using self-awareness, self-care, meditation, and movement. He even lead the audience through a dance-movement exercise. He discussed the body’s systemic responses to trauma and how we should be treating chronic stress like a toxin.

Warfighter Panel with Dr. Mary Vieten

The last presentation I was able to attend before needing to catch my flight home was the Warfighter Advance Panel “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps: A Journey From Warfighter to Psychiatric Patient to Warfighter”. I can’t accurately describe how powerful this experience was. Six soldiers from each branch bravely opened themselves up to us, told their stories of trauma, then of how the military psychiatric system traumatized them further (e.g. most did not experience suicidality until after they were put on psychiatric medication) and then how they reconnected to themselves through the Warfighter Advance Program. Warfighter Advance is an amazing (and deeply needed) program founded and run by Dr. Mary Vieten (far right), psychologist and soldier, in order to help soldiers who have been wounded by war and psychiatry to reconnect with themselves and to heal in an authentic way. It was a powerful and moving honor to hear their stories. If you work with military personnel with PTS, I can’t recommend strong enough that you refer them to Warfighter Advance.

Finally, the 2019 ISEPP conference closed out by screening the film “Medicating Normal” by Lynn Cunningham and Wendy Ractliffe. I was not able to see the film but I look forward to checking out a screening or viewing it online when available. (Bummed too – I just missed a screening that was here in Denver a few weeks ago).

So there it is. It took a long time for me to get this post up, but finally it’s here. If you have any questions about ISEPP, please check out our website at

Greetings and Salutations! Welcome to my first blog entry

This is my first blog entry and therefore it will be more of an introduction of myself and of what you will find here in the Blog.

Without repeating too much of what you have come across in my “About Me” page, I am a Jungian oriented psychologist. This is not to be confused with a Jungian Analyst, who is a person who has completed the certification training at a Jungian Institute (we have one of those here in Denver) – perhaps I have future designs on completing the training and becoming an official Jungian Analyst but we’ll see – the idea of diving back into what is essentially another doctoral degree causes me some panic, erm, I mean pause.

Being a “Jungian oriented psychologist” means that I see us humans, and what we go through psychologically and emotionally in the way that Jung saw us. We are essentially these clumsy, wonderful, messy, hypocritical, creative, hurtful, bungling beings trying to figure out how to be ourselves. This also means that our suffering always, ALWAYS, has meaning. And this means that we have so much depth to us, that the resolution to our pain, the solution to our problems (if there is one) is already within us. Our growth, recovery, development, and progress all stem from the process of tapping into that stuff that is already within us.

That, in a nutshell, is where I am coming from psychologically.

I’m hoping to use this forum, the Blog, to discuss current news, discuss psychological issues, and share my musings about what it means to be human. If you permit me a bit of a soap box rant, we as a culture have significantly downplayed introspection and self awareness to our detriment. So, this is one little piece of my effort to help us all move past the cultural messaging and invite you all to look a little more inside, into areas you haven’t looked before.

I also intend to share things that I might call “educational.” There is so much misinformation in the world right now about psychology, mental health, and “mental illness.” Unfortunately, false conceptions about the human mind are rampant because they are evocative elements to include in news stories, political arguments, and the reinforcement of our perceived social standing. If I were dead, I’d be rolling over in my grave at 90% (maybe more?) of what I read in headlines or hear on the news about mental issues and human psychology. And don’t get me wrong, my own field is more often than not culpable in this. That’s a whole lot of grave rolling. So, because of all this, I will also share articles that I think are important to a correct understand of what’s going on “behind the curtain” of our minds.

Who do I think I am, telling you all what is correct?! How DARE I! Well, simply put, I’m an expert! And in true Socratic form, what this means is the more I learn, the less I know. There is an interesting barrier that comes up for us “mental health professionals.” Call it ego, or cognitive dissonance, or a ham sandwich, we “MHP’s” often get caught up in our own degrees and believe we KNOW what everyone needs or what is going on with everyone. I constantly have to talk myself down from that ledge – so that I can admit that, while I have studied theories, philosophies, research, and I have worked with hundreds of people, I can’t know what is going on with any one person because I am NOT that person. It requires a great deal of courage, apparently, to say “I don’t know.” Jung famously said to people starting out in mental health, “Learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul.” This brings me back to the point I made earlier. Everything you need to heal and grow is already inside you. My job is simply to do what I can to guide you back to that stuff.

A final note on contacting me. If you have any questions, comments, or corrections about anything I’ve written, please contact me at I have disabled the comments section of my blog posts because I do not want this place to be a discussion site. I am relaying information that I believe is important, and I welcome your feedback. If you wish to discuss with me further, we can do so via email. That is preferable to the “public forum” of a comments section. I have too often seen wars of verbal abuse occur in the comments sections of articles and will not allow that to happen here. I hope you understand, and all this being said, I do warmly welcome your communication with me directly about anything I post here.

Thanks for reading and even subscribing if that is something you’ve been so inclined to do. I hope not to bore you but to help you see yourself more wholly, see the world more deeply, teach you a thing or two, and to occasionally blow your mind.

Happy Humaning.