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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is Your Personality Profile Being Used To Brainwash You and Undermine Democracy?

Thought for the Day: I have intentionally, with a heavy heart, been silent on this blog for some time now.  Followers of my blog know I usually have something to say about the psychological impact of significant events in the news. Throughout the contentious campaign and election, I avoided politics and wanted to be respectful of all political views. As a psychologist, I feel my political opinions do not belong in my practice as a therapist. However, current events make me feel it is my social responsibility as a psychologist to speak up. I feel it is imperative to warn people of the misuse of psychological research to usurp people’s privacy in an effort to influence their behavior in unethical and possibly illegal ways. I am also concerned about the impact of the political climate on the emotional health of my clients, America, and the entire world. I do not consider myself an alarmist, but am increasingly worried that the abuse of what should be protected psychological techniques and information is endangering the future of our democracy and the free world.

     I started writing this post in December, but found myself unable to finish it until now. Psychologists are not immune to traumatic events, misleading information or targeted advertisements. Like many people in our great country, the results of the election left me shocked, dumbfounded and frightened. For the first time in my life, I was reluctant to speak my mind publicly. Would I be black-listed like people in the McCarthy Era? Would trolls start posting on my blog, Facebook page or twitter feed? Would my professional credibility be questioned? Could my family be endangered?  

     Although I am still fearful that speaking my mind may lead to potential harm, I have come to realize that unprecedented times demand unprecedented actions. I saw a sign at a demonstration which said, "Nothing About This is NORMAL." As a psychologist who has lived through many transitions of power, I can attest that what is happening in our nation is not normal. As a child, I often wondered what I would have done if I had grown up during World War II. I hoped I would have been part of the resistance. As a Jew, growing up in Texas, although I was in a minority, I barely experienced anti-semitism but was well aware of the devastating impact of genocide of my ancestors who were unable to make it to the United States. My grandmother lost four siblings, her parents and most of her aunts, uncles and cousins in the Nazi death camps.

     I have always been proud to have the freedoms provided by being a citizen of the United States. I have supported and fought for civil rights of others and against injustice. My parents taught me to speak my mind, to cherish the right to vote and to accept the results of elections even when my candidate lost. Following the last election, I first took a wait and see approach. When I began to worry about the transition, I joined groups, made phone calls to congressmen, sent post cards to elected officials, demonstrated in NYC and at the Women's March in DC, and posted a few Facebook posts more privately. Even though I did these things, in many ways it felt like it could have been as anonymous as attending an AA meeting. I have been in a quandary as a clinical psychologist and author about daring to write and speak my mind more openly. These fears have been engendered by the current president and the Republican Party members bullying and challenging their opponents to simply "get over it." This is not due to being "sore losers." It is due to genuine fears of the tactics being used to undermine democratic safeguards and to destroy institutions designed to promote checks and balances in a democracy.

   Something changed for me since the Muslim Travel Ban was imposed. I spent the weekend with my husband, brother and two sisters-in-law in Vermont. The retreat had been planned since December and I was looking forward to a reprieve from post election stress. When the news broke about the Muslim Ban, I was shocked and upset to see the events unfold across the nation and around the world. We talked, commiserated, and tried to come up democratic solutions to resolve the state of affairs. We sang songs Saturday night hoping it would provide some therapeutic relief. However, even songs that had nothing to do with politics seemed to take on new meanings as we tried to cope with the madness unfolding across our great nation. 

     Perhaps having the support of family as we tried to cope with the constant barrage of the new president and the GOP’s plans to create chaos in our society helped me find the strength to speak up. In addition, an article I read online caught my attention also gave me courage. As a psychologist, I feel compelled to help the public understand how the invasion of privacy and misuse of personal psychological information by the Republican Party is endangering the democratic process. Read on to learn more…