Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Psychology’

When the problem is that you have no problem.

November 22, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Psychology 5 Comments →


Thanks to Tina for the alert.

Shocked into resurrection

May 07, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Psychology, Science 1 Comment →

Sherwin Nuland, the brilliant surgeon and author of How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, died in March. (Read Remembering A Surgeon Who Healed With Words. The article has links to his articles at the New Republic.)

Dr. Nuland wouldn’t have written his great works if he hadn’t recovered from a crushing depression leading to his confinement in a mental hospital. When all the available treatments and medications had failed to bring him back from the black pit, a resident suggested electroshock therapy. Those of us who watch too many movies (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Frances) think of electroshock therapy as a form of torture that turns its victims into zombies, but as Nuland recounts in his moving TED talk from 2001, it was his resurrection.

Oddly enough, after watching this TED talk, we picked up Andrew Sean Greer’s The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, in which the heroine undergoes shock treatment for her depression…and travels through time. (First impression: The plot is very similar to that of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which came out in the same year.)

D.I.Y. Writing Workshop Tips

April 23, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Psychology, Workshops 10 Comments →


Find your Discomfort Zone: the subject that makes you uncomfortable and squeamish, that you don’t want to discuss because you’re afraid people will judge you.

Now pitch a tent there. It is the most fertile place for writing, plus it’s free psychotherapy.

If you thought we meant camping, literally, forget about writing. It requires many levels of meaning, and you perceive only one.

A feline star is born in the new Coen Brothers movie

December 06, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Movies, Music, Psychology, Science No Comments →

Inside Llewyn Davis stars a ginger tom cat named Ulysses, who is actually several cats because cats are divas and don’t like doing retakes. Cute cat, and his human co-star’s not bad, either. Ulysses has received plaudits for his performance, particularly for that scene in the subway where he watches the signs whooshing by (and he is apparently a running theme haha). We are wary of movies featuring animal performers because we were traumatized by Old Yeller, and we especially hate movies where the animal characters are killed off just so the audience will feel something. We don’t think the Coen Brothers will torment Ulysses, but they do enjoy torturing their human characters (wood chippers, bolt guns, etc) so we can’t be sure. Nothing bad better happen to that cat. (This being a Coens movie, we’re assuming Llewyn Davis doesn’t live happily ever after.)

Here are Saffy and Mat’s horror movie auditions.

Saffy on the door
The horror!

Read Do Cats Control My Mind? in The Atlantic.

Got a question about sex? Ask our guest psychiatrist, Dr. Agnes Bueno

October 23, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Podcast, Psychology, Sex 14 Comments →

Balthus: girl and cat photo 72Therese.jpg
Therese dreaming by Balthus, 1938

Everybody thinks about sex; the question is, how often? Is it possible to think about sex too much? (What is “too much”?) Is it possible to not think about sex at all?

Around the time we declared independence from our parents and moved into a place of our own, we turned on the TV late one night and discovered the woman who has the answers. With her high intelligence and erudition, her direct manner, her colored contact lenses and decolletage, and her absolute refusal to treat sexuality as a subject “not suitable for polite company”, she helped to liberate us from our silly, giggly notions about love and relationships.

On Tuesday we’re doing a podcast with the famed psychiatrist and human sexuality expert, Dr. Agnes Bueno. We’re tackling everything you’ve always wanted to know about sex but didn’t know whom to ask (or were afraid to ask for fear of being judged and condemned as a maniac). So post your questions for Dr. Bueno in Comments, and we’ll try to cram them all into the podcast next week. Don’t be embarrassed; she won’t be.

* * * * *

The 50 Shades of Grey books being devoid of literary value, does their use as masturbation helpers for the creatively-challenged justify their existence?

Could you recommend some good erotica?

Which fictional couples (from novels, movies and TV) would you say have healthy relationships?

Why do some people insist on staying in abusive relationships? Do they feel they deserve the abuse? Get their kicks from being abused?

Is Freud still relevant to the times?

Is monogamy natural and possible, or are people kidding ourselves?

Loneliness is lethal.

May 24, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Music, Psychology 3 Comments →

(Frieda Fromm-Reichmann’s) “On Loneliness” is considered a founding document in a fast-growing area of scientific research you might call loneliness studies. Over the past half-century, academic psychologists have largely abandoned psychoanalysis and made themselves over as biologists. And as they delve deeper into the workings of cells and nerves, they are confirming that loneliness is as monstrous as Fromm-Reichmann said it was. It has now been linked with a wide array of bodily ailments as well as the old mental ones.

In a way, these discoveries are as consequential as the germ theory of disease. Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking.

Read The Science of Loneliness: How Isolation Can Kill You in TNR.

Take this quiz to see where you are on the UCLA Loneliness Scale.

According to the quiz we are not lonely at all. Probably because we really enjoy being alone, plus we refer to ourself in the first person plural so we don’t even think we’re alone.

Reading works. And music.

Here’s Tom Waits singing Lonely. Which makes us happy.