Acting OutPsychologists spend many hours with...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 08, 1993

Acting Out

Psychologists spend many hours with psychotherapy clients helping them to understand the constructive difference between expressing strong emotions verbally and ''acting (them) out'' behaviorally. For example, if a man tells his wife that her demands are making him angry and they need to talk about it, that is very different from hitting her (acting out). Whether or not she is actually being demanding, his feelings are validated, his behavior remains socially acceptable, and there is room for communication and growth.

People who have reached a certain level of maturity understand the distinction. This maturity is not a question of mere chronological age; one must successfully pass, both cognitively and emotionally, through various developmental stages (either in ''good-enough'' early environment, or perhaps, in therapy or some other remedial process), in order to achieve it. Such people can be recognized by their temperance, wisdom and creative productivity.

My hunch is that Thomas Jefferson achieved this level of maturity, and chose to associate with others who had more or less done the same, whenever possible. My hunch is that Thomas Jefferson and friends would agree that stating that one does not believe in racial integration is ''free speech,'' calling someone a ''nigger'' is somewhere on the borderline, depending on context, but that burning a cross on someone else's lawn is definitely acting out.

Jefferson had the maturity to understand that the law of the land cannot be reduced to legalisms.

Lizbeth T. Binks, Ph.D.

Baltimore

9+

The writer is a licensed psychologist.

Guinea Pigs

The Sun contained an extensive article Aug. 23 on the legacy of the U.S. government-sponsored Tuskegee project and the impact that it has had on the suspicion that many blacks have of doctors.

The American medical profession, in response to government policies and procedures, still carries out experimental programs in which some of the participants are given new (untried) drugs.

This is a result of the concept that the "value" and "effectiveness" of the new drug or procedure can only be determined if it is subjected to "controlled tests" in which one group of participants receives the "experimental" treatment and another group -- the "control group" -- does not. In order for the process to be successful, it is necessary that a participant not know which group they are in.

This approach has no sinister intent, only the desire that patients not be subjected to treatments that may not be meaningful.

There is also no effort made to keep this policy secret. The lack of its use in testing is frequently set forth as the reason the government refuses to give permission for a new drug to be put on the market or a new procedure to be paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.

It is also the reason many insurance plans cite for not paying for such "experimental" treatments -- even though they have been successfully used in other countries for a number of years.

Perhaps the "blacks who are suspicious of doctors" just have a better understanding of our medical system than the rest of us.

William F. List

Linthicum

Ask Yourself About Racism

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, America needs to make the country a little better for everyone.

In the Sixties, leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and John F. Kennedy attempted to increase racial tolerance through laws, rallies and marches. After all these years, the struggle for racial tolerance and harmony continues.

The problem of racism is not as simple as black and white.

People of all races must learn to understand different cultures. In school we are taught white American history and white European history. The textbooks leave out the contributions of African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews.

The students of these and other cultures feel as though their heritage is not as important to the shaping of the world and are made to feel less than they truly are.

In the business world, lack of representation adds to racism because people believe that if a member of a certain race is not represented that "those" kinds of people are not able to work in a particular field. On the other hand, if persons of another race do get a certain job, everyone assumes they go it because they are not white.

What stems from this lack of knowledge and misrepresentation is stereotypes. We accept the "knowledge" that all black people have rhythm, all Jewish people are wealthy and all Latin people are strong tempered.

These are only a few sides of racism. But the sooner we recognize some of the problems of racism, the sooner we can begin to correct a serious wrong.

The first step is for everyone to examine themselves and see how prejudiced they really. Everyone has a prejudice against something. After that, ask yourself whether you are part of the problem or part of the solution.

Larry A. Woodland

LaPlata

Ways of Dealing with Myopia

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