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June 2021 – The Concept of Armoring in a Period of Mistrust – As the Rules Change Who Can We Trust?

concept of armoringThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines stating fully vaccinated Americans can stop wearing masks, in most situations. What about the multitude who are not vaccinated? Trust is in short supply these days in the midst of continuing Covid-19 cases, as the pandemic has caused severe mistrust, anxiety, isolation, and vaccination resistance. There is a flood of new information on variants, along with worldwide vaccine shortages that stoke the flames of continued threats. Add in the catastrophic dynamics of the have’s and have-not’s, racial differences in vaccination rates—and, of course, the politicization that creates severe polarization between parties; all these factors have undermined people’s ability to trust which would enable a greater capacity to work together in a time of crisis and tragedy.

We have endured so much this past year. The idea of “opening up”, relaxing mask-wearing, going out-and-about to restaurants, theaters, museums, seeing friends, hugging, and more, is both heartwarming yet anxiety-provoking. How far can we go? What is safe? For over a year we have watched others die; friends and family we know and loved succumbed to Covid-19. We have been in a constant state of terror: what did we touch, how did we contaminate? The best advice for over a year was to lock down. Now, the doors are suddenly wide-open and many feel overwhelmed. We have been through too much to feel safe.

A bakery once asked everyone to please wear a mask; it is now without guidance and left out in the cold. “We used to have a sign on our door that said you can’t come in unless you’re masked, and now I don’t know what my sign should say: ‘If you are not vaccinated, please wear a mask?’” (Bosman, Mervosh, 2021)

“Fewer than half of Americans over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated.” (Bosman, Mervosh, 2021) The Honor Code mentality demands trust in government, which is severely eroded. Conspiracy theories abound in sectors of the population. The reality of the virus is questioned, and skepticism, cynicism, and paranoia have become normal mindsets.

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May 2021 – A View from Santa Fe – The Glory of Spring Buds

glory of springAs we admire and appreciate the glory of spring blossoms bursting with color and the magical fruit trees flaunting their display – we are enamored, cherishing the present moment. The calming effect of nature has a salutary effect on our mood.

Lately, I have been discussing with professionals and patients the importance of discovering inner peace. The pandemic has cast a dark shadow. We listen to the catastrophic news of India and the horror of deaths; Brazil, and countries in Europe returning to lock-down. We try to outfox the variants as they run just ahead of us – “you can’t catch me.” Yet, we are one world and if another country is struggling, we struggle with them.

Many of us have been vaccinated and feel a sense of muted safety. We will need booster shots, or yearly shots before the pandemic runs its course. This is the dark shadow across our bow.

Cultivate Mindful Communication

We can cherish the moment and find peace of mind; a place to heal and regenerate. I was ordained in the tradition of Thich Nat Hanh, breathing in, breathing out. The space of inner peace, walking meditation, treasuring each step as we gently embrace the earth. We take in the sky and revel in the clouds. Opening ourselves to all feelings, we neither expunge dark nor light emotions. We cultivate mindful communication, deep listening, and compassion for each other. These are excellent practices I offer you.

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December 2020: Chapter 1 Teaser from Dr. Frisch’s Upcoming Book

new book

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book in 2021 The Psychotherapy Solution in Troubled Times: Create a Better Life Now, written by me, Dr. Patricia Frisch.

The preface of my new book speaks to the critical importance of psychotherapy. The pandemic has certainly magnified the need for professional help as rising numbers of cases of Covid-19 emerge with no clear end in sight. In the US alone, as of November 15th, 2020 – 245,000 died, 1000 dying daily up by 50% more than any other country; 181,000 new cases assault us daily. (NY Times, November 2020)

Statistics can be dry and have a numbing effect even though we witness the horror on a daily basis. The pain sears through us as each of us now knows someone who has been touched: deaths of babies, adolescents, young and old, brothers and sisters and their families feel the unbearable pain of loss that resides in  their hearts forever.

The potential of vaccines looks promising but the hurdles of the supply chain are daunting and obstacles abound to disperse them to a sufficient population next year. We can’t count on relief from the vaccines as yet.

We are touched by the loneliness demanded by the pandemic, loss of friends whom we don’t see up-close, isolation, longing for contact, hugs, and closeness with loved ones that alludes us.

It is not only the pandemic that is a problem as there are many other issues that call us to psychotherapy. Whether it is our difficulties in relationship, work related problems, the political polarization and alienation that has caused friends with differing views to become alienated, unemployment, domestic violence, and our life-long trauma that causes us to habitually overreact to name a few. We need help from a professional.

We are given ample advice, handy- hints online and we are overwhelmed by varying views from every corner. What we need is consistent presence from a licensed qualified professional that knows our strengths and weaknesses and can provide consistent support and confrontation when needed.

In Chapter 1 of my book, I describe opportunities for transformation. Here is a teaser of Chapter 1:

The Call: Opportunities for Transformation

Transformative experiences make an enormous difference to the trajectory of your life. There are limited opportunities for significant personal transformation presented in a lifetime, although smaller growth moments may present more often. Smaller growth moments may be harbingers of larger changes but are incremental. These opportunities may come to you benignly — because you are receptive to subtle clues and have accomplished a healthy wholeness of self-identity and creative flow — or you are catapulted into a physical and/or psychological crisis that provokes you to make drastic changes. At times, no matter how you are living your life, how healthy and responsible you are psychologically and physically, you can be tossed out of your comfort zone and thrown into the mysteries of the unknown, shocked and upset and needing to learn new rules of the game.

How do you recognize the significant opportunities when the potential appears? Sometimes, if you are lucky (raised with good-enough parents and/or healthy enough circumstances), or by tremendous grit, you have created circumstances that line you up on a path to receive blessings – you are able to recognize a good thing when it comes your way or sense when lightning strikes within, with an idea. You are receptive and available to be touched by inspiration. You have developed your sensitivity and honed your intuitive skill (as you have developed early on without inhibiting shackles). You are able to see precise clarity of direction; you know with or without a doubt, your next steps. You experience courage even if you are terrified. You are able to mobilize and take a risk. You know you can take life’s next step; you accept the challenge. The invitation to transformation may come through a pivotal event, an influential person, a chance encounter – you are dramatically influenced. You are given an opportunity for transformation, you sense it, know it and grasp it.

Signs and Symptoms

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November 2020: Darkness and Light

surviving covidThe fall leaves portray the darkness and light of these treacherous times. We are surviving Covid – barely — as fall and winter surges are upon us now.

We are struggling with profound feelings of isolation, as we are reticent to see family and friends beyond one’s bubble as the “holidays” approach. It is challenging to have a holiday feeling under the current conditions. There are mixed feelings: anxiety, depression, then spurts of activation and projects to accomplish —such an up and down ride. Realize that it is a rocky ride for all and depression can set in when you least expect it.

That said our fall image portrays the beautiful depth of purple and red of transformation. We can find both our strengths and our weaknesses, down feelings punctuated by creativity.

We are taking on the times — even the ominous foreboding that lurks as we move forward day-by-day.

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October 2020: The Critical Importance of Psychotherapy

importance of psychotherapyThe critical importance of psychotherapy has become especially clear during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the US alone at least 209,600 have died, according to a New York Times database on October 5th, 2020. Those can be dry statistics that create numbness as we spin the daily news. Yet these seemingly empty numbers reflect the deaths of babies, adolescents, young and old and their families who feel the unbearable pain of loss in their hearts. There are the many thousands of people who became ill and had to isolate without loved ones either at home or in the hospital while they suffered through pneumonia and worse.

Our President and his wife were confirmed positive for Covid-19 on Oct 2, 2020. Due to his falsifications regarding risks, disseminating misinformation about the disease, his refusal to implement safe practices, which include wearing a mask, and social distancing, rather he promoted activities that encouraged others to congregate in close proximity defying all established safe practices. He thumbed his cocky nose at scientific evidence resulting in disastrous consequences.

Lives are not statistics as each person has a story: regardless of age or circumstance; their lives are held hostage by a disease with, for some, lifetime effects. Or death. Now the President, flaunting his stupidity, has been bitten by the venomous snake of his own making.  There will again be a coverup, lies and deceit as to progression of events leading to his Covid-19 diagnosis. All his corrupt practices we have endure but in the face of the pandemic, his lies have costs us everything.

Psychological Pain of the Pandemic

There has been extreme stress throughout his presidency that have added to the effects of the pandemic: the extreme isolation that endures month after month; the fallout of loss of jobs, loss of institutions we counted on; the feeling of chaos has heightened. Research cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic have referred to “broken-heart syndrome as “stress cardiomyopathy” and have found significant increase during the pandemic: from 1.7 percent pre-pandemic to 7.8 percent between March and April 30., 2020. The symptoms of stress cardiomyopathy are chest pain, and shortness of breath that can mimic a heart attack. (AARP Bulletin, September 2020) Please consider psychotherapy to help you weather the extreme stress of our situation.

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August 2020 Reich’s Phallic Character: The Compulsive – The Case of Brewster

compulsive character type Compulsive Character Type

Brewster is the epitome of the compulsive character type in that he rigidly controls all of his personal habits and attempts to control all the basic actions of his family members, particularly his wife Sara. The function of his behavior is an unconscious attempt to manage the deluge of anxiety through over-managing every detail of his life in an exacting manner. He chronically fends off the fear of chaos as if his life is guarding against a pending tsunami, as he furiously sets-up bulwarks. Terrified feelings underwrite this character but are out of view due to the compulsive behaviors that mask them. For example, if all surfaces are immaculate, he is relieved; if there is extreme order, he feels “better”.

Brewster, 50 years old, is an intelligent, responsible and dedicated accountant whose methodicalness is appreciated by his clientele. He is the breadwinner of the family and supports an ample lifestyle.

His wife, Sara is not a devotee of tidiness and cleanliness, so finds his preoccupations stifling. She has outbursts of rage in response to his constant requirements and demands. Yet his other attributes keep her somewhat content in the marriage. Brewster’s daughter Chelsey is 12. Sara protects her daughter from his over-controlling behaviors and fortunately limits his infringement. Chelsey has a both a playroom and a bedroom which are officially off limits to Brewster. This containment is important as it will help her grow up without developing her father’s compulsive habits.

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July 2020 Reich’s Phallic Character: The Paranoid- The Case of Sandra

manic depressive

Sandra, 42, was a highly intelligent wiz with numbers who has excelled in mathematics since she was a youngster. She was accepted into an Ivy League university and ended-up with a lucrative position in a top-tier brokerage firm in Manhattan.  Sandra’s relationship with math had always been straight-forward and involved no interpretation; it was a pure and simple proposition. As long as her mind focused on numbers she managed well.

The problems arose in other areas of her life and there she did not cope effectively. Sandra was known among her work associates to be difficult, and, at times, stridently combative. She misread cues, created “stories” in her head about other people’s trespasses; and was convinced they were calculating ways to undermine her. Frequently, she would provoke others in a misguided attempt to prove that her suspicions were correct. She couldn’t resist setting up others and relishing the sense of vindication.

Paranoid Symptomology

She often squinted her eyes, peering out through tiny slits – a sign of ocular holding or eye armoring. ( ). Particularly, at those times her perceptions were compromised as she could not accurately assess reality through her eyes. With an ocular block, one’s vision can be blurred, resulting in less visual acuity and the mobility of the eye is diminished. Sandra’s eyes looked frozen, wide-eyed with alarm and terror. Her eyes also expressed anger as she peered into her alienated landscape.

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June 2020 Reich’s Phallic Character: The Manic Depressive – The Case of Delia

manic depressive

Delia, 40, has been called “high-strung” for most of her life; one might say she is “wired”. She expresses predominantly the manic side of this character type although she can fall into depressive episodes. She is known to over-talk, over-eat, over-shop, as she flits from topic to topic during conversations, and is chronically over scheduled. She moves from event to event, project to project — on good days. Delia thrives on impulsive ideas and manifests them quickly without sufficient contemplation, manifesting a textbook manic depressive personality.

Delia has a disorganized quality that permeates her life although she is perceived as functioning well at her job as a sales manager in a start-up.

She is excitable, eccentric and mimics a hot-air balloon that stays up indefinitely until she performs a crash-land. She experiences panic when her instability moves to a breaking point and she feels like she is spinning in circles. She has difficulty maintaining any type of schedule, tends to be undisciplined and “unregulated”, and is not likely to calm down unless she drops from sheer exhaustion. Over time this up-and-down process is wearing her thin as she unravels more with each bout.

She has been married for fifteen years and although he is patient with her ups-and-downs, she causes problems; her hyper-quality creates havoc as she moves about the house at record speed with a mile-long to-do list. She lapses into irritability; she is easily frustrated and impatient, and at times becomes caught in obsessive thinking that traps her in spirals as her thoughts take over and she becomes immobilized and confused.

Delia’s style is volatile. The chaotic elements spin her into a depression where life feels meaningless and empty, and her body becomes laden with exhaustion and pain from the extreme tension. Then she might stay in bed, tossing and turning, throughout her day, in a restless stupor.

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May 2020 Reich’s Phallic Character: The Chronic Depressive – The Case of Bob

chronic depressiveLife in Quarantine – the Global Pandemic

We are living and dying in the midst of an historic, once-in-a-century event — a global crisis, the proportions of WWII with stark reminders of the food lines and poverty of the Great Depression. Many of us are facing immediate financial ruin as businesses collapse, and jobs are lost; the anxiety of faltering resources pervade our consciousness.  We read the news and know we are tumbling into a free fall, over the cliff of uncertainty; the unknowable surrounds us, leading to chronic depressive tendencies.

We struggle through a multitude of feelings as they bounce off each other on our own psychic pool table. The early morning might elicit depression: “I will stay in bed, I feel too lethargic to move. I feel like I am sinking, I don’t want to face another day feeling low”; the next moment invites some energy with the thought of an inspired activity: “OK I am going to clean house today, or plant flowers in my garden, I will feel better if I do something, anything productive. I must stay in the moment”.

Mid-morning: “I need to sign in to my remote work as I am lucky to have a job”. Exhaustion sets in from Zooming. “I feel angry and irritable by late afternoon and my mate is getting on my nerves.” “You are too controlling, demanding – please stop and give me some space”. Tempers flare like sizzling fireworks only to fizzle leaving a kind of emptiness and feelings of abandonment. Later a realization emerges: “I could be alone going through this, that might be challenging too. Is it happy hour yet?“ “OK! I feel better, it is time to watch Netflix”. “I better turn off the TV that compels me to watch for hours.” “Time to sleep except I am up at 2:00 tossing and turning for what feels like hours – thoughts of everything crowd my mind. I am sick of staying home; I miss my extended family; I yearn to hug them. I feel a panic in the middle of the night, I have a cough –do I have the virus or is it my allergies?” Sleep deprived I start yet another day in quarantine. “I hope we continue to flatten the curve but the politics of all of this is making me crazy. I am furious at the government’s response – grrrh!” “One positive in all of this is I am perfecting my cooking, eating, cooking, eating, cooking, although it is exhausting – oh if only I could go to a restaurant and eat with others.” The beat of the quarantine goes on.


Many of us can be prone to chronic depression which may have existed all our lives. A few suffer from a biological, endogenous depression that therapy and medication can lift. Many have had significant trauma that has resulted in a lifelong battle with depression. Depression can manifest as lethargy, difficulty finding meaning and purpose, feeling waylaid through various significant periods in a life until the losses accrue, the missed opportunities pile up and strong depressive symptoms weigh us down; insomnia, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness to conquer rather than collapse in the battlefield. We may feel historic loss from early trauma that haunts us; a loneliness that is at the base of our existence.

This blog is about a character type called the Chronic Depressive which is a style that differentiates a situational depression as a character marker, from the tendency to exist in a semi-state of depression.

Bob has suffered depression all his life to varying degrees. He has been successful in his career as an engineer and advanced to managing ten people in a successful start-up.

He is married and has two children, 5 and 8, and enjoys family life, although at times he feels he doesn’t meet the expectations and lacks the energy to sustain all his commitments. He feels guilty with his wife and his kids. He simply can’t do enough and falters, feeling badly about himself. He is not measuring up.

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March –Reich’s Phallic Narcissistic Character: The Case of Mark

Mark, 48 moves aggressively in the world with a swagger. He wants what he wants when he wants it. He is an accomplished VP of sales in a successful start-up. Colleagues gravitate toward him, not for his intrinsic likeability but because he has a glow that they attempt to use to their advantage– he has charisma and is boastfully confident so they need to keep in his good graces. (Frequently some business cultures are based on using others for gain without the cultivation of more meaningful values.)

Mark is an opportunist who positions himself well and strives to maintain a top-dog position. He can charm a room with his blazing smile of perfectly aligned white teeth and trendy yet seemingly careless clothing.

Mark has a wife, two kids, a home in a posh neighborhood; he has all the trappings of ultimate success. He has succeeded because of his strong energy system, drive and discipline. He is heading for a fall, though, as his attitudes of grandiosity and inflation give him a false sense of untouchability, as if he can get away with anything, soaring above the clouds without consequences. However, he recently spread himself too thin by purchasing a vacation home while making poor investments, causing him anxiety, an unusual state for him to experience.

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