Friday, November 18, 2011

Unhate now, Dr. Ablow

Celebrity psychiatrist and Fox News commentator Keith Ablow apparently has a problem with spreading a pro-compassion message. He has himself all stirred up by a recent ad campaign from Benetton.

Through their UnHate Foundation, Benetton is asking us all to "stop hating, if you [are] hating. Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think. Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don't hate. Unhate."

Let's look at the campaign.

In what seems to be a bit of a gay panic, Ablow writes "the only psychological interpretation of such ads that makes sense to me as a psychiatrist is that the corporate leaders at Benetton literally believe that homosexual sex between world leaders--or at least homosexuality as an orientation--would lead to world peace."

You watched the video, right? There were some same sex kisses going on--the one that tickled me most were the two women lovers, dressed in a way suggesting they were Muslim, stealing an intimate moment to kiss. Beautiful. Transformative. A message that inspires me to be more than I am.

Where do you suppose Ablow is coming from in his critique? Let's read more.

"They have tipped their collective hands as a company and indicted marital fidelity, faith and heterosexuality, labeling them the real sources of hatred and suffering around the globe. In the collective mind of Benetton, if religious leaders and political figures would just have sex with one another all would be well.

Ablow has really gone off the reservation here. There is a lot in his argument that is just poppycock. Men kissing, in and of itself, is not homoerotic. Men kiss all the time. Women do, too. I'll be returning home for the holidays soon: I'll be giving my father a kiss. There isn't a speck of homoerotic interest there. When I am reunited with close friends--male or female--I'll give them a kiss. I won't be disrobing and bedding them on the spot. A kiss isn't always about sex. A kiss, often times, is about love. It is about compassion. It is about caring for a friend so much that you wish to enter their space and touch lips to  lips (or lips to cheek) and share an intimate moment of the beauty that is human connection.

I'm not exactly sure where Ablow is getting into the motif that marital fidelity, heterosexuality, and faith are the sources of hate. Do you see this in the video? The images of world leaders kissing are shocking, yes, but do you see these images the same away as the celebrity psychiatrist does?

I don't. I see Ablow offering up a hateful spectacle he puts out in the world veiled under the guise of psychiatry. I see Ablow pandering his unexamined viewpoints to the world. I also see Ablow engaging in an awful lot of cognitive distortions. Check out this list and see if you can name the distorted styles of thought employed in the Fox opinion piece.

In his gay panic, Ablow is busy seeing homoerotic imagery hiding in every dark corner, leaping out at him from every closet door, and destroying the universe. I'm no sure he really bothered to investigate the campaign, explore his own reactions to the imagery used, and reflect upon how his responses reflect pieces of his world view and pieces of his own internalized system of homonegativty and heteronormativity.

I have this to say: Get a grip, Ablow. Get a grip. This spectacle of small minded hate is an embarrassment to your profession. You are on the wrong side of what humanity is about. You are peddling fear, hate, and small mindedness. You encourage us to be less than what we can be.

You forget, Dr. Ablow, that connection, love, and compassion, transforms that which what we are into a thing of beauty and peace.

Ablow closes his Fox news celebrity psychiatry opinion with this: "If you are heterosexual, if you are a leader who believes your position demands decorum, if you are a person of substance who believes you should be valued for your mind, not just your sexuality, if you think that countries and religion deserve respect, not ridicule, you were attacked today by Benetton. You felt it. And you shouldn't be talked out of your outrage."

Ablow has a larger message. It is rooted in his world view. He uses his platform as a celebrity psychiatrist to push his personal agenda--an agenda that is apart from his profession of psychiatry--and apart from the larger group of healing professionals around this country.

It seems that this celebrity psychiatrist is saying here that gay and lesbian people do not deserve respect or decorum. Do you hear that in his words? Do you hear how in his words he robs people--all people--of the transformative power of compassion? Do you hear how in Ablow's words he creates a world of us versus them? Do you see how he treats those he considers "other"?

I hear it in his words. Those words don't belong in the field of psychiatry. They don't belong in the field of psychology, either. How must it feel to sit in the office with Ablow, expose your inner world--your fears of being different or unloved--and have him respond with a system that further turns you into the category of the other.

Shame on him.

I'm reminded tonight of the words of a psychologist who deeply influenced my work. In a letter to her patients shortly before her death, Irene Stiver wrote:

"It has become even clearer to me that love is what it's all about. Not only at this time, but throughout our relationship, I have felt your love and deep caring for me. In turn, I hope that you feel my love for you. My hope is that you will hold onto this love and build on it in your life. Thank you for the privilege of being part of your life." 

Do you see outrage here, or do you see love? 

Choose love.


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote that Ablow is pandering his unexamined viewpoints to the world. It's the height of irresponsibility to shoot from the hip the way he does in such a hateful way, while attaching his degree to it as a form of authority. Awful.

    p.s. Irene Stiver sounds like a beautiful person.

    1. I wish I got to study directly with Irene. She had died some years before I did my training (and later worked) at the Stone Center.