Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty
by Keith Ablow
GLENN: From Radio City in Midtown Manhattan, third most listened to show in all of America. We have Oleg on the phone. We're going to go to her in just a second, or him. I'm not really -- anyway, he's from the former Soviet Union and he says, Americans, you don't know how great communist policies are. You are right, I missed all of that in the history books. So we're going to go to him in just a second because it sounds fantastic. But we also have Dr. Keith Ablo on the phone, and I want to talk to Keith for just a second about, he is a psychiatrist and, Keith, you still have your practice?
ABLO: Yes, I do.
GLENN: And, you know, you're one of the big cheeses and have been on television for a long time, had your own show, Today Show, et cetera, et cetera. You kind of just watched psychiatric trends really and help people kind of, you know, weather the storms that everybody may be going through. I talked to you a little bit last night about the storms that I think are coming our way are going to be very similar to what people were feeling right after 9/11 where they kind of lost a sense of security. They lost a sense of self. They didn't know what was real anymore and they could depend on. Would you agree with that, that that's why people are starting to move again?
ABLO: I think that's absolutely right, and I think you have your finger on the pulse of that trend, Glenn, because not only is it a question about when will the economy repair itself, when can I look forward to being less financially stressed and having my self-esteem restored, now I think there's an additional variable which is what is my country likely to be like, what is this part of myself that I consider to be an American is changing in a way that I feel I have little control of.
GLENN: Do you have any --
ABLO: I think people don't know exactly where we're headed.
GLENN: Okay. So how does that -- play this out for me. I mean, to be an American is a very important thing to many Americans. I mean, there's a lot of people who are like, "Hey, we're not any, you know, better or worse than anybody else." But Americans, the founding of this country for a profound number of Americans, what we have always stood for for freedom and small government, et cetera, et cetera. To have that change and -- you know, Stu and I were talking about it earlier today. You know, the difference between the socialism in Sweden or anywhere in Europe and here is over there they voted for it and it changed slowly. This is just the imposing of real socialist machinery on the country, and we didn't really have a say in it. We had one election and then, boom, all of this has happened. How is this going to play out in people's heads, Keith?
ABLO: I think it remains to be seen, but I'm concerned. I think that, yes, people do care this is part of their self-concept. The notion of being American, that you can fix your own problems, that if liberty is at risk, whether here or abroad, that there's a court of last resort called the United States. People internalize this. It empowers them. And not just entrepreneurs. It empowers working people who feel competent, who feel like they are part of a force in the world. I think now that is a kind of -- the rudder of that ship is adrift and I think that people not only question where will I be economically but what will I be in terms of my national identity. And what if it doesn't match all of these things that I've internalized since I was being a powerful and independent person committed to liberty.
GLENN: Dr. Keith Ablo is with us. Let me share this with you. I had a police officer who's an Insider post something and he said -- the Insider is our premium membership website thing. And he posted something and I read it the other day and in it he said, "Look, I've been a cop in Tennessee for a very long time, and I would have never, ever seen this stuff coming. I wouldn't have believed it a year ago." And he said he can't tell me how many people he runs into that are currently quoting the Declaration of Independence. And he said, "I'm very concerned about, you know, how people are viewing the future and their role, et cetera, et cetera" because it is unstable. How, Keith, how do we empower people in their own lives to make sure that they know they are in control of their own destiny but we don't create a situation to where people want to pick up arms and go get the people in Washington. You know what I mean? How do you -- this is a very delicate balance because people feel like their government has betrayed them.
ABLO: I think that it is very delicate, Glenn, and I think that you do that by reminding people that they're individuals with choices and that no one, despite the way a system can change, can deprive them of the daily choices they make about how they conduct themselves, nor are they yet or in the foreseeable future hopefully deprived of their votes and so I think that the way to empower them is to say, look, you still have a pen in your hand. You are going to participate in writing the next chapter of our collective histories together and be acutely aware. Listen. Learn. Really think about the direction that we're headed because you know what? You're still empowered to impact that direction. Don't put your pen down. Don't put your mind aside and hope that the momentum of what we've known to be our nation is going to continue in the same direction because it doesn't feel that way. And that's causing people an awful lot of anxiety. You've got to tell them, listen, you really still can chart the course of this country. You've got to get more information, you've got to look at things realistically about what's really happening. You know, people carry this deep in their souls. They may have been told "I love you" by a parent who was hurting them and they get confused. I see in my patients for the first time in 16 years that their doubt about whether they are being told the truth about who we are and who we're becoming as a people is weighing on them in terms of their mood and anxiety level on a daily basis.
GLENN: That's significant, Keith. In your profession what you're seeing come into your office as this, how significant is it?
ABLO: I think it's a sea change. I think this is tremendously significant. Listen, I've had -- you know, I've talked with people who have been violent. I've talked with people who have suffered through major depression. I've counseled families when the spouses are considering divorce or have divorced or God forbid have lost a child. I have not had, in a decade and a half of experience at the front lines of psychiatry, I have not had one after another individual, regardless of his or had your stature socioeconomically coming in saying, "Well, I just don't know what to believe anymore. I don't know if I believe in my company and I don't know if I believe any of these politicians and I don't know if I believe in myself because last time I checked, the decisions that I thought I made that were good and decent about where I lived or how much money I was saving or where I was investing, you know, I believed all these things. I thought I was, you know, at least smart enough to manage my feelings. So I'm not sure I can believe in myself anymore."
ABLO: This is a very dangerous time because you know, as I do, that at times like this people can look for a charismatic voice that takes them in any direction because they feel directionless, and you don't want to go in the wrong direction. People are vulnerable to that.
GLENN: Keith, I'm concerned about our children. I remember the first time I saw my father cry and it was a big deal because my dad didn't cry. Unlike my kids who, you know, they walk into a room and I'm, you know, reading -- you know, I'm reading the back of a cereal box and I'm crying and they're like, oh, jeez, Dad's crying again. But for the first time in my children's lives besides September 11th, they have seen me cry and it will be because I get off the phone with a friend who is losing their house or I watch something in the news and I see and I know what it means and I've noticed that they don't -- you know, usually they make fun of me when I cry. They don't now. They'll stand there and they'll look down and then they will just slowly look back up at me. And I'll say it's okay. I think this is happening in a lot of homes where the adults either know that they are going to lose their house or they are fearful for their country or they don't know what's going on and there will be whispered conversations perhaps with the adults or they will see -- kids aren't stupid. They see the emotion and they don't -- what does it mean to them and what is the best way to handle this with our children?
ABLO: Well, I think what it means to them is a kind of, you know, sphere of anxiety that's around them that they can't quite define, right, because unless you are a teenager and, you know, more aware of things and sampling the news and hearing this from your, you know, teachers in school, if you are 6 or 10 years old, what you have is sort of vague sense that things are not right. This is the breeding place, right, for later depression and anxiety and sleeplessness and questions about your self-worth. You know, my kids notice that 7 and 10 years old the dads are at the bus stop, more dads than before. Why? Why is our neighbor at the bus stop now? Well, he lost his job. Now, what does that -- will they be able to stay our neighbors, right, and what does that mean to them? Can we keep our house? I think what you have to say, you have to be able to tell your kids the truth about the circumstances but also bring them to this reality which is that the thing that can't be taken from us is that we're a family and if you're lucky enough that your house isn't threatened, you say, no, we're not leaving here. But listen, God forbid we had to, guess what, we'd be going together and here's what, we can change. You know, we're still going to sit down to dinner every night. We would even do that if we were living in a house a third this size. And we could, you know. You know, because I have a particular perch, Glenn, as you do. You have a pulpit. You listen to people. In my office in 16 years, I haven't had a single person ever come in and say, "You know, I'm upset with my dad or mom." These are adults coming in. "Because when I was growing up they didn't have a lot of money."
ABLO: Never. It's always a question of what was the quality of their love.
GLENN: Keith, how do you explain to people who are losing -- because it seems to me like empty rhetoric, but I know it to be true because I've lost everything before, and I said to a good friend of mine who was losing everything, I said, you're not defined by what you have, and when you can come to grips with losing it and know that you're not losing who you are and your family is going to be fine and it will be a good time for your family because you will lean on each other. You'll struggle but you'll come through it. You'll be better for it. It seems like it's empty to most people. They will kind of -- I can feel it. They will roll their eyes. I've lived it. How do you explain that? What should you say to your friends?
ABLO: Yeah, and one thing that you explain -- here's the way that I explain it I'd say this. That to deny your pain would be to impoverish yourself.
GLENN: What does that mean?
ABLO: Of course it's painful to contemplate not having material possessions that you once did. But to be able to say that in the midst of that you are tapping a core strength heretofore potentially unknown to you, your ability to survive and to render assistance to others I think can be a way out of feeling helpless where you say, listen, this is a calamity of sorts and now to extract the best from it, you are going to have to reach deep down and show who you are as a person, what your family's like as a family, what kind of neighbor can you be and what are you going to do in the face of this, what resources can you bring to bear. It's one thing to feel so ashamed that you've lost your job that you can't pick up the phone. It's another to call 20 friends and say, "Hey, listen, I'm in a tough spot here. I'm calling you because there aren't -- you know, there are a dozen and a half people in the whole world, I could use some help. Can you think with me about what my next move should be." There is help out there and guidance and there's that certain knowledge that you're connected to other people and you're never powerless. They can't take that away from you unless you give it away.
GLENN: Okay. Keith, I'd love to have you on again next week and I want to talk to you a little bit about, I think that there is a coming addiction problem in this country of prescriptions.
ABLO: Well, there is.
ABLO: Nobody wants to feel pain. Where do they go? Alcohol and drugs.
GLENN: Yeah, okay. So we'll talk. I'll talk to you again next week. Dr. Keith Ablo. Thanks, man. All right, bye-bye.
Just, we've just got to watch each other. We really have to watch each other. And if your spouse is thinking about going to a doctor and Xanax and everything else, please, as somebody who has experience in the family on this, please, please be careful.