Author Chuck Falcon has appeared on TV and radio shows across the country, including syndicated networks with hundreds of stations and millions of listeners.
Author Interview Below
Author and Psychologist Chuck Falcon graduated from the University of Florida in Counseling Psychology in 1985, has worked with psychiatric patients for over 30 years and incest abusers for 5 years.
His parents were both deaf, he has survived two kinds of cancer, and he often volunteers with severely abused people. He taught some courses in communications disorders for Delgado Community College in New Orleans and has taught sign language courses.
His first book, Happiness and Personal Problems, sold to 3 book clubs (Behavioral Science Book Service, Nurses’ Book Club, and Executive Program Book Club), sold Russian translation rights, and led to TV appearances and radio shows across the country.
He has worked doing program evaluation for deaf and deaf-blind people as the Office for Persons with Disabilities Service Coordinator at the Deaf Action Center in Lafayette, LA. He has also worked with psychiatric inpatients and outpatients, alcoholics, and veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Gainesville, FL.
Before that, he worked with deaf psychiatric inpatients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C., with teenage and child psychiatric patients at Sagamore Hills Children’s Psychiatric Hospital (now Western Reserve Psychiatric Hospital) in Northfield, OH, with mentally disabled and autistic children at Weaver School in Akron, OH, and with drug addicts at two different treatment centers: the Corner Drugstore in Gainesville, FL and Akron’s House Extending Aid on Drugs in Akron, OH.
How long did it take for you to write Rich & Peaceful?
“About 15 years. I used to be fascinated by compiling the most practical tidbits of counseling information in psychology. Then I became fascinated with our foreign policy and human rights. I’ve always been a peace activist, all the way back to the Vietnam war, but I became obsessed with the money our country wastes destructively and what it could do for us and the world.
I read news online and in magazines for a few hours every day to keep up with the latest. I’m constantly picking out new ideas, statistics, slants, or arguments to update my work. I really just pull together other people’s work, zero in on the most practical information, and summarize it.”
Do you have any reviews for your new book Rich & Peaceful?
“Not yet. I haven’t even started submitting it anywhere yet. First, I’ll be making videos of my petitions to submit for local public access cable TV stations across the country. Then I’ll be working on submitting my book for reviews. These things take time and I stay pretty busy working, so it will be a while.”
Why didn’t you do much promotion for your older book Family Desk Reference to Psychology?
“I did promote an older, previous version of the book with a TV and radio tour nationwide, but not that more recent book. At age 85, my dad had a stroke during back surgery and became paralyzed. The doctor shouldn’t have done the surgery because my dad had a previous history of minor strokes. After the surgery, the doctor was really nervous telling us what happened but we never sued. My mom also had Alzheimer’s disease. I took care of them both until they died at home, doing all the cooking, etc. Neither one of them ever went to a nursing home.”
Why did you write the psychology self-help book?
“I always felt that people should have access to the best counseling information without having to pay for expensive psychotherapy to get bits and pieces of it. There are too many people hurting out there and most people just need a little good advice to move in the right direction. Personal problems are often interrelated, so the traditional narrow focus of self-help books loses the larger picture. I wanted to give people the tools to cope successfully with life’s sorrows and trials, all in one book.”
At one time, the web site for your book said that a psychologist angrily yelled at you for giving this counseling information away. What’s the story?
“That happened before I wrote the book. During graduate school, I was doing individual and group therapy and I used to give our little handouts that explained how to work on different kinds of personal problems. The more motivated patients really appreciated having something to keep and follow to work on their problems, but the Director of Training at the facility, a psychiatrist, became really angry and yelled at me. He insisted psychologists should evaluate and diagnose people before they get any of this information.
Fortunately for me, a new Director of Training replaced him and the new Director really appreciated all the work he had seen me do and all the work he had heard about from other staff members. I ended up with a really great reference. The whole experience made me feel more determined that people had a right to basic counseling information and helped lead to my writing the book.”
Traditionally, self-help psychology books cover just one problem and give lots of real life examples of the feelings and actions of clients in therapy and their case histories. You don’t do that. Why?
“It’s rare for a person to have just one personal problem. Personal problems are often interrelated, so the traditional narrow focus of self-help books loses the larger picture. Negative thinking, communication problems, a lack of satisfying interests and activities, poor problem-solving skills, and poor social skills are common in many types of personal problems. People going to therapy for any one issue, say alcoholism or anxiety attacks, generally have many other related problems, perhaps marital problems, family problems, or difficulties expressing emotions. Also, my book is already 553 pages. For those who want very detailed examples, I list the best books for each specific personal problem.”
Can most people conquer personal problems without professional help?
“Most people don’t need counseling to change. Research suggests reading a therapy book on how to change works as well as group or individual therapy for depression or alcoholism. Telephone surveys show recovery from alcoholism most often occurs outside hospitals, psychotherapists’ offices, or self-help groups.
Self-help groups often help people improve as much as counseling from psychologists and psychiatrists with 30 or 40 years of experience. Another example–people with phobias can improve as much following self-help manuals on their own as they can working with a therapist.
On the other hand, my chapter on advice about counseling starts by describing the kinds of problems that require psychotherapy and perhaps medicines.”
People don’t realize the power of interests and activities, do they?
“Interests and activities can actually cure depression, grief, addiction, explosive anger, anxiety, excessive worrying, or guilt, especially if you do the activities whenever you feel the negative emotion. They improve mental health by giving satisfaction and keeping your mind off problems and negative thoughts and emotions. They’re also important social skills that give you things to talk about and share and make you a more pleasant friend, marital partner, or parent. Developing interests and activities adds to your self-esteem and happiness.”
We all know communication is important in relationships, but sharing certain feelings helps more than sharing others. Tell us about that.
“Sharing the softer, more vulnerable feelings of hurt, fear, disappointment, doubts, and insecurity tend to promote closeness in relationships more often than do stronger feelings like anger, resentment, and words that assert your needs or insist on changes. When you feel angry, express the vulnerable feelings behind the anger, perhaps your doubt about their love or caring, or your fears about losing the relationship or their willingness to compromise. This can trigger a caring response and produce better results. You may need to become assertive if this doesn’t work, but starting with anger or assertiveness often provokes an unnecessary power struggle.”
How can you make friends or ask someone out on a date without facing outright rejection?
“First, spend some time talking before making an invitation. This allows both parties to gather some first impressions and allows you watch eye contact, voice, and posture for signs of warmth and interest or boredom and distance. If the signs seem promising, start with a vague invitation like: “We should get together sometime,” “You’ll have to come over sometime,” “Are you interested in art movies?” or “Do you enjoy going to parks?” If the other person responds enthusiastically, continue with a firm offer about a specific time or activity. If the person shows little interest or half-heartedly or politely agrees and leaves, the lack of enthusiasm implies a lack of interest.”
Can parents teach babies to cry less?
“Sure. One very simple way is to use one of those pouches with straps for carrying babies on your back or chest while you do chores, run errands, or visit people. One study found carrying babies only two more hours each day reduced crying and fussing by 43%. This also helps a new mother lose weight and the close contact means quicker diaper changes and less trouble with rashes. Another easy way is to check on your baby regularly and touch it, say a few words, play, change, or feed it. This teaches the baby that it doesn’t need to cry to get its needs met. My book describes many ways to reduce infant crying and also how to differentiate between normal crying and crying that suggests a serious physical problem.”
Nowadays, young children face great pressures to have sex early. How can parents help their children deal with this kind of peer pressure?
“The most effective way is practicing saying no with behavioral roleplays. Make up situations where dates are pressuring them (“If you really loved me, you would do it.”) and ask them to respond. Create a variety of pressuring statements–about how all the cool people have sex, ridicule about being afraid or a baby, arguments you’re uptight and sex will really relax you, promises to marry or provide for the baby, complaints about severe physical needs, and threats or hints about ending the relationship.
Make sure your child develops and practices many good responses about self-respect, unwanted pregnancy, sexual diseases, and life goals. Teach your child to be assertive, to keep repeating no, to complain about the pressure, to describe how the pressure makes them feel about the relationship, and to refuse to discuss it further. Point out that many girls who have sex to keep a boyfriend end up losing him anyway and feeling extremely hurt and used.”
People think of meditation and deep relaxation techniques such as using mantras and deep rhythmical breathing as ancient Oriental traditions, only recently imported to the Western world. That’s not really true, is it?
“For centuries, early Christians often said the name “Jesus” repeatedly as a prayer or meditation or mantra. They often used rhythmic breathing with this and with other prayers, like the Lord’s Prayer. Of course, Abraham and Jesus often went into the desert or mountains to meditate or pray alone.”
What scams exist in the field of psychology?
“Subliminal audiotapes sold to do such things as speed weight loss, improve memory or self-esteem, or bring peace of mind are a scam. They don’t work and many of them don’t even contain subliminal messages. Many counselors don’t keep up with the field. Many therapists think memory records things like a videotape; researchers rejected this notion over twenty years ago. Many incorrectly think certain common symptoms normally come from a history of abuse.
Many use faulty techniques that can create false memories, such as hypnosis, suggestion, leading questions, and guided visualizations. There is good evidence that therapists can cause multiple personality. My book discusses many signs of an incompetent counselor and how to choose a good one.”
How can psychologists get away with incompetence that can hurt their clients?
“Once you get your license in psychology, you can ignore the science of psychology and do foolish things. That’s why you have some licensed psychologists doing crazy things like specializing in exploring people’s past lives or helping people who have been abducted by aliens and hypnotized to forget it.”
What about biofeedback?
“Biofeedback works and psychologists all over the country charge plenty of money for it. What they don’t tell you is the research shows biofeedback is no better than simple deep muscle relaxation techniques you can do at home with no equipment. Either one can help with anxiety, depression, addiction, insomnia, irrational fears, muscle spasms, headaches, backaches, neck pains, high blood pressure, and chronic pain in a variety of medical conditions.”
Don’t many famous, very productive people qualify for psychiatric diagnoses?
“Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill were deeply depressed much of their lives. Albert Einstein had a nervous breakdown at age 16 and his teachers considered him mentally slow, unsociable, and lost in fantasies. Charles Darwin was a recluse, a hypochondriac, and probably agoraphobic. Florence Nightingale suffered from extreme anxiety and was bedridden much of her life. Many great writers and artists were alcoholics or mentally disturbed. Beethoven, Tolstoy, Michaelangelo, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway suffered from either manic depression or major depression.”
How long did it take you to write your old book Family Desk Reference to Psychology?
“I spent 20 years gathering advice from new scholarly books for psychologists on each life issue, studying recent reports in technical journals and periodicals, and reading hundreds of new counseling manuals, self-help books, and psychology textbooks. I love researching psychology.”
“I love to cook, love artwork, and I enjoy doing home renovations. I’m a nut for astronomy, archaeology, different cultures and lifestyles, and those wacky physics shows about multiverses and extra dimensions. It’s mind-boggling that gravity might be nothing but heat. It’s amazing that one tribe builds their houses hundreds of feet up in the air in trees with no walls and the dogs and babies just learn not to fall off the edge. I’m fascinated by anything about cavemen and the earliest Christians, too.”