Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shit Dr. Phil says...

I really shouldn't watch Dr. Phil.  Yesterday, as I was viewing a re-run of his long running talk show, I found myself accurately predicting what he was going to say next...

Here's my list of top Dr. Phil-isms... little things he says to so many of his hapless guests.  Watch his show long enough and you'll be able to predict what he'll say when.

15. "You can't change what you don't acknowledge."

Translation: If you don't admit something's wrong or you have a problem, things won't get better

You need to admit to what Dr. Phil thinks is wrong with you; otherwise, you're doomed.

14. "Kids have a special talent for making everything that goes wrong their fault."

Translation: Your kids, no matter who they are or what their age is, have an overdeveloped sense of shame.

I don't think this is always true.  I think it's often true, but kids, like anyone else, are highly individual.  There are plenty of adults who think everything is their fault, too.  It probably has more to do with individual personality and maturity than actual age.  There are some kids who have no shame at all, while others internalize everything and get ulcers from worry and strife.

13.  "You HAVE to take care of your son's [or daughter's] mother."

Translation: You can't help your child be their best if you don't take care of your needs.

This comment sort of bugs me because it presupposes that the only important parent to a child is the mother.  It takes two people to make another person.  I know Dr. Phil panders to women because women are his largest audience.  And he busts on men a lot and acts like they're selfish and uninvolved in their kids' lives.  He has said that fathers are important, but he doesn't seem to recognize their importance on his show.  Instead, he spends a lot of time ignoring them... until it's time to bring them to task for whatever reason.  It's true that mothers are often the ones who take care of kids, but that's not always the case, and ideally it shouldn't necessarily be the case.  If a child has two parents, both parents should be equally important and given equal billing... and both should be taking care of themselves so they can be taking care of their offspring (and this goes for gay couples as well).

12. "We're going to get you some help with this!"

Translation: Here I come to save the day!

If you're a kid, this means you'll be going to one of the Aspen Educational Centers/ brat camps Dr. Phil promotes.

11. "Based on results... results don't lie..."

Translation: It's obvious what happened "based on results".

This particular Dr. Phil-ism annoys me because it's condescending.  I'm against bullshit as much as the next person is, but no one has the ability to know everything.  When Dr. Phil says this, he comes off as an all-knower, which is irritating.

10. "Never put your hands on a woman in anger!"

Translation: Men are brutes.  Women are weak and need protection.

Okay, so I know that in many cases, women are physically smaller and weaker than men are.  However, as people evolve and get bigger, taller, and fatter, it's not as true as it once was.  I'm bigger than my husband is, for instance.  He's not a large man and I'm a woman of some size.  I'm physically pretty strong, too.  And if I have a weapon and he doesn't, all bets are off.

This isn't to say that I think men should be beating on women.  It's to say that instead of telling men not to put their hands on women in anger, Dr. Phil should be advocating that no one put their hands on anyone in anger.  He should be opposed to violence against people, not just violence against women.  True gender equality means that no one is in a protected class.

9. "Oh, come on!"

Translation: You're being ridiculous.

No explanation needed.

8. "You have to put the kid(s)' needs ahead of your own."

Translation: The kids' well-being must come before everything else.

On the surface, I agree with this statement.  However, sometimes it's not possible to put the kids' needs first.  Sometimes, it's impractical, not feasible, or impossible.  Putting the kids' needs first requires cooperation from both parents.  My husband would have been a brilliant father to his kids had he been given the chance.  But he and his ex wife, like so many other parents, split up.  My husband is in the military and moves constantly.  He was left financially devastated by his divorce and his ex wife had custody of the kids and refused to cooperate.  No court of law could have forced her to be fair as long as she had contact with the kids.  She is an immature bitch and incapable of acting like an adult, except when it comes to breeding.  So yeah, in a perfect world, all of the adults in his situation would have put the kids' needs first.  Unfortunately, in the real world, not everyone is that mature and Dr. Phil telling them to grow up isn't going to change that.

Also, it doesn't really serve the kids' best interest to put their needs first at all times.  At some point, they have to learn that the world doesn't revolve around them and sometimes their needs have to be sacrificed for someone else's needs.  They have to learn how to compromise.  If they don't learn this when they are young, they'll have a rude awakening when they are grown up.  And if they never do learn this lesson, God help anyone who gets involved with them romantically or in a work situation.  The last thing the world needs is more self-centered people who have never been taught to consider others.  I do think that when it comes to a child's health and safety, their needs should come first whenever possible.  But they do have to learn how to deal with adversity and conflict, and that means that sometimes the adult's (or someone else's) needs have to come first.

Finally, this sort of conflicts with #13, in which Dr. Phil advises mothers that they have to take care of their children's mothers.  Sometimes that means putting their own needs in front of their children's needs.

7. "I'm gonna put some verbs in my sentences."

Translation: I'm going to tell you what you need to do.  

Maybe it's different for psychologists, but when I was getting my training as a social worker, I was taught that people need to figure out how to solve their own problems.  Therapists are there to provide guidance, support, and most of all, objective insight.  Giving advice is not helpful.  What if it turns out to be bad advice for that particular situation?  How does it help the client learn how to help themselves?

6. "I can play that back for you..."

Translation: Don't try to deny that you said something.

Sometimes Dr. Phil's guests try to backpedal.  He usually calls them on it.

5. "If these kids could, they'd tell you to "Just shut up!" (said in a weary tone of voice)

Translation: Kids hate hearing their parents argue.

Somehow in Dr. Phil's world, kids are wiser than their parents are and "know" fighting is destructive.  Actually, fighting can be very constructive if it's done fairly.  Conflict can help people get to know each other and establish boundaries.  And I know Dr. Phil knows this, but somehow he always seems to belittle parents.  This disturbs me, since kids aren't supposed to be running the show.  They don't have the experience or the knowledge and actually, not everything should be about them.

4. "You just want to be alone with your disease."

Translation: You have some sort of addiction that you don't want help with.  I'm here to save the day by shining some light in your life and outing that nasty secret addiction.  

Dr. Phil says this all the time, usually when he has anorexics or bulimics as guests.  He has a point with this one.  People with eating disorders thrive on secrecy.

3. "I don't care how flat you make a pancake; it's got two sides."

Translation: Everyone's got a story.  Everyone has a point of view.

Dr. Phil is right here too... Actually, I'd go a step further and say that there are three sides to every story.  His side, her side, and the truth!  Every point of view is spun and skewed to favor the key stakeholders in any situation.  It takes an objective viewpoint to get to the bottom of most disputes.  And even then, the truth may never fully come out.

2.  "This relationship needs a hero!"

Translation: Someone needs to man up and be the bigger person.

Most of the people who are on Dr. Phil's show are immature.  That's what makes good TV.  When he's dealing with family disputes, he often pulls out the above chestnut to shame someone into growing up and taking one for the team.  Sometimes that's appropriate and sometimes it's not.  But Dr. Phil sure likes to say "This relationship needs a hero!"  Actually, he says "heeee-rooo".

1.  "How's that working out for you?"

Translation: You're stupid for not realizing that you're in a destructive pattern that is getting you nowhere.

I hate it when Dr. Phil says this to people.  I know people love this particular Dr. Phil-ism and it's caught on to the point at which regular folks have started saying it to each other.  I think it's often disrespectful and condescending, even if I understand that he's just pointing out that someone is caught up in an ineffective and destructive pattern.  People in trouble don't need to be belittled, even if there are a few guests who probably do need to hear something like this said to them.

You might be wondering why I watch a show that causes me so much angst.  The truth is, I know I should change the channel.  I have to admit, though, sometimes Dr. Phil is entertaining.  He does have a certain wit.  And what the hell would I blog about if I didn't watch his show?

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