What Rainn Wilson Learned Searching for Joy Around the World – The New York Times

By Jancee DunnMay 19, 2023You’re reading the Well newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  Essential news and guidance to live your healthiest life. Get it in your inbox.The actor Rainn Wilson, who is best known for playing Dwight Schrute on “The Office,” has been candid about his history with anxiety and depression. In 2008, he founded Soul Pancake, a digital media company that explores “life’s big questions” as part of his search for clarity. His struggle to find happiness has also led him to churn through therapists and self-help books.When we spoke by phone, Wilson told me about crippling panic attacks he had in his 20s that would leave him on the floor, shaking and sweating. At first, he self-medicated — “I used a lot of drugs and alcohol,” he said. Since then, he has turned to Gestalt therapy and hypnosis, but anxiety is still something he deals with every day, he said.

Margaret Renkl | Graduates, My Generation Wrecked So Much That’s Precious. How Can I Offer You Advice? – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“SEWANEE, Tenn. — Thirty-nine years ago, my college commencement was held in an un-air-conditioned gymnasium on the hottest day Alabama could serve up. I tried to talk my family into letting me skip the ceremony, but my grandmother, a retired schoolteacher, put her foot down. “We’re going,” she said. So we went. All I remember of the whole day is trying not to perish in the hallucinogenic heat.

My grandmother began her career in a two-room country schoolhouse. She was still teaching 40 years later when Alabama public schools were finally integrated. What my grandmother knew, and I did not, is that it’s right to celebrate a hard-won achievement. It’s right to drink in the pride of family and friends. It’s always right to give yourself over to joy every single time joy is on offer.

It is also right in this liminal moment, this time of looking both before and beyond, to ponder what it all means. What did the years of study and camaraderie really add up to? What new challenges will you be obliged to face in the years to come?

I can’t tell you what it all meant, but I think I understand some of the difficulties that lie ahead.”

Maia Szalavitz | This Is What Neuroscientists and Philosophers Understand About Addiction – The New York Times

Ms. Szalavitz is a contributing Opinion writer who covers addiction and public policy.

“When I was arrested and charged with possession with intent to sell cocaine in 1986, I was addicted to both coke and heroin. Although I was facing a 15 years-to-life sentence, the first thing I did after my parents bailed me out and held a family meeting was to find and secretly inject some prescription opioids that I knew the police hadn’t confiscated.

I knew that doing this further jeopardized my life prospects and my relationships with everyone I cared about. I knew it made no sense. But I didn’t believe that I could cope in any other way. Until I finally recognized that I needed treatment and began recovery in 1988 — with the prospect of that lengthy sentence under New York’s draconian Rockefeller laws still occluding my future — I didn’t think I had any real choice.

Was my brain hijacked by drugs — or was I willfully choosing to risk it all for a few hours of selfish pleasure? What makes people continue taking drugs like street fentanyl, which put them at daily risk of death?

These questions are at the heart of drug policy and the way we view and treat addiction. But simplistic answers have stymied efforts to ameliorate drug use disorders and reduce stigma.”

Daniel T. Willingham | There Are Better Ways to Study That Will Last You a Lifetime – The New York Times

Mr. Willingham is a psychologist at the University of Virginia and the author, most recently, of “Outsmart Your Brain: Why Learning Is Hard and How You Can Make It Easy.”

“Picture your preschooler’s teacher pulling you aside at pickup time to say that your child was “not taking responsibility” for learning the alphabet. You’d be puzzled and probably angry. It’s not up to a 4-year-old to make sure he learns the alphabet. That’s the teacher’s job.

But as your child gets older, he’ll increasingly be expected to teach himself. High school seniors must read difficult books independently, commit information to memory, schedule their work, cope with test anxiety and much more.

These demands build slowly across the grades, essentially forming a second, unnoticed curriculum: learning how to learn independently.

For most American students, that curriculum goes untaught. In a 2007 survey, just 20 percent of college students agreed that they study as they do “because a teacher (or teachers) taught you to study that way.” “

Helped, Heard or Hugged? What to Ask When Someone You Love Is Upset – The New York Times

You’re reading the Well newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  Essential news and guidance to live your healthiest life. Get it in your inbox.

“Last September, I got a phone call from my sister Heather, a special-education teacher at an elementary school in upstate New York.

Heather — known as Mrs. Stella to her students — had experienced a challenging week. Her pupils were settling into a new school year, but some of them had become agitated in class.

“What do you do when a kid is emotionally overwhelmed?” I asked. Many teachers at her school, she told me, ask students a simple question: Do you want to be helped, heard or hugged?

The choice gives children a sense of control, which is important when they’re following school rules all day, Heather said. “And all kids handle their emotions differently,” she explained. “Some need a box of tissues, or they want to talk about a problem on the bus, and I’ll just listen.” “

Opinion | Marrying an Identical Twin Helped Me Change My Relationship Mind-Set – The New York Times

Ms. Leibowitz is an editorial assistant in Opinion.

“When I was growing up, my family never had much patience for “we liked it” people, those couples who use the royal “we” as though their relationship were its own fief. For instance, the husband who, when asked, “What did you think of the show?” responds, “Oh, we liked it.” The rule was that when one of these couples came to dinner, we had to contain ourselves until they were on the front walk — then my siblings and I would start in.

What goes around comes around, and in recent years that kind of teasing has often been directed at me. Or I guess, us, me and my husband, David, who in the course of our half-decade relationship have found ourselves, on occasion, speaking like the king and queen of Genovia.”

David Brooks | How Do You Serve a Friend in Despair? – The Newpsy York Times


Opinion Columnist


“My friendship with Peter Marks was created around play. Starting at age 11, we played basketball, softball, capture the flag, rugby. We teased each other, pulled pranks, made fun of each other’s dance moves and pretty much everything else. We could turn eating a burger into a form of play, with elaborate smacking of lips and operatic exclamations about the excellence of the cheese. We kept it up for five decades.

My wife has a phrase that got Pete just right — a rare combo of normal and extraordinary: masculine in the way you’re supposed to be masculine, with great strength and great gentleness. A father in the way you’re supposed to be a father, with great devotion, fun and pride. A husband the way you are supposed to be a husband, going home at night grateful because the person in the whole world you want to talk with the most is going to be sitting right there across the dinner table.

Over the years, Pete and I often spoke about the stresses he was enduring over the management of his medical practice, but I didn’t see the depths of what he was going through until we spent a weekend with him in the spring of 2019. My wife noticed a change immediately. A light had gone out; there was an uncharacteristic flatness in his voice and a stillness in his eyes. One bright June afternoon, he pulled us aside and told us he wasn’t himself. He was doing what he loved most — playing basketball, swimming in the lake — but he couldn’t enjoy anything. He was worried for his family and himself and asked for our continued friendship and support. It was the first time I had seen such pain in him — what turned out to be severe depression. I was confronted with a question for which I had no preparation: How do you serve a friend who is hit with this illness?

I tried the best I could, but Pete succumbed to suicide last April. This article flows from what I learned from those agonizing three years and that senseless tragedy. It reflects a hard education with no panaceas.”


Day 2: The Secret Power of the 8-Minute Phone Call – The New York Times

Jan. 2, 2023, 9:21 p.m. ET

“I just had an eight-minute call with my good friend Tina, whom I’ve known for over three decades. I could never seem to connect with her (she has a very demanding job) until I sent her a text last week proposing an eight-minute phone call.

That seems weird, she wrote back.

Come on, I wheedled. You can do itThe president of the United States could probably do eight minutes! I promise not to go long. Name a time.

At the appointed hour, I gave her a ring. In short order, we talked about our mothers’ health, made birthday plans, gossiped about a friend who abruptly quit his job and moved to a tiny Mexican town, traded book recommendations and explored the possibility of an afterlife (verdict: we’re not sure). Intently focused, we knocked out subject after subject, before Tina announced that our eight minutes were up — and besides, she had arrived at the dry cleaner’s.

I hung up, smiling and humming a little tune. I had missed her, and didn’t realize it until I heard her voice. I was also surprised by how much ground we covered without the call feeling rushed. Our connection was brief, but it was real.”

Rob Walker | Clutter Is Good for You – The New York Times

Mr. Walker writes frequently about design and memory.

“Several years before she died, my mother began sending me things — ostensibly significant objects. These included expected items like jewelry and photographs, but also puzzling ones. For example, one afternoon I opened a package containing a carefully wrapped eight-inch-tall ceramic leprechaun that I don’t recall ever having seen. (My family has no connection to Ireland.) Not long after, she announced that she wanted to send along her collection of bird figurines, in which I had never expressed any special interest.

Clearly this was no longer about handing down heirlooms. It was about getting rid of objects — basically, a form of decluttering. I had to put a stop to it, and not just because these objects didn’t actually mean anything to me. Much more important: They did mean something to her. In fact, what I most enjoyed about her accumulation of bird figures and ceramics and sand dollars from Texas beaches was her enjoyment of these things. Her un-self-conscious confidence about what she liked was one of her most admirable traits.

So I persuaded her not only to keep her figurines, but to let herself continue to appreciate their presence. Because ultimately my mother’s urge to purge struck me as illuminating something misguided about our general relationship to material culture. In short: What we often dismiss as “clutter” — all those nonessential, often oddball objects that a third-party observer might write off as needless junk — can actually be good for us.”

David Brooks | The Sad Tales of George Santos – The New York Times

“What would it be like to be so ashamed of your life that you felt compelled to invent a new one?

Most of us don’t feel compelled to do that. Most of us take the actual events of our lives, including the failures and frailties, and we gradually construct coherent narratives about who we are. Those autobiographical narratives are always being updated as time passes — and, of course, tend to be at least modestly self-flattering. But for most of us, the life narrative we tell both the world and ourselves gives us a stable sense of identity. It helps us name what we’ve learned from experience and what meaning our life holds. It helps us make our biggest decisions. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once observed, you can’t know what to do unless you know what story you are a part of.

A reasonably accurate and coherent autobiographical narrative is one of the most important things a person can have. If you don’t have a real story, you don’t have a real self.”

David Lindsay Jr.
NYT Comment:

Excellent and thoughtful, David Brooks. Thank you. How about a follow up and this crook. Is a recall possible, how would it come about, and what is needed if it is not available, for starters. It would also be interesting to hear you respond to to you many critics in the comments. You made impressive points about psychology, which is one of your beats that you cover.