Chapter 11: Communication, Propaganda, and the Need for Self-Awareness

Title

Chapter 11: Communication, Propaganda, and the Need for Self-Awareness

Files

Loading...

Media is loading
 

Description

The beginning of this interview is strongly influenced by the 2016 election season. Following up on a question about why individuals may not communicate well, Dr. Baile starts this chapter by quickly sketching the qualities that define emotional intelligence. He then notes that personal insecurities drive people to be judgmental. He then begins to discuss propaganda and how that can play out at a national level. He comments on how to encourage people to develop rapport and trust in communicative settings. He offers comments on presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

Identifier

BaileW_03_20160823_C11

Publication Date

10-25-2016

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Overview; Overview; MD Anderson Culture; Professional Practice; Collaborations; Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research; Faith, Values, Beliefs

Transcript

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

All right, we’re recording. And I just want to say for the record that it is about 9:32 on October 25th—yes, October 25th—2016, and I’m in the Mid Campus Building, or Mid Main Building, as it’s sometimes called, on the 17th floor, interviewing Walter Baile. This is our third session together. So, thank you.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

You’re welcome. My pleasure.   T. A. Rosolowski, PhD And we were chatting before the recorder went on, and you were just starting to talk about how you have to have a philosophy of collaboration in order for collaboration to happen, and I wanted you to just say a little bit more about that idea.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Well... (pause) There are a couple of things that also cut across medicine, that people... There is a model, which I think I talked about here, of emotional intelligence that sort of comprises four quadrants: one is self-awareness; the other is awareness of others; and a third is self-regulation; and the fourth is helping other people regulate themselves. And there are a couple of concepts, I think, tied together, and one is the insecurity that people have that drives judgmentalism, and how that—what implication that has for empathy for other people. The other is propaganda, and how propaganda influences people, just judgmentalism, when they believe something. Very interested in propaganda. That there was a Republican Congresswoman who got into a lot of trouble because she quoted Hitler—I think it was in Mein Kompf—when he said, “The masses are relatively unintelligent. Therefore, you need to bombard them with propaganda so that they adopt beliefs that will allow you to bring your ideas forward.” You know, and I think today, we see a lot of propaganda being spewed around in our political realm, but not only propaganda. I mean, it’s hateful propaganda, and the antithesis of listening to people and trying to understand them, because it’s based upon judgmentalism, and judging other people, but judging them badly, and judging them so if they’re not on your side they’re on the wrong side, not as you spoke initially, just another side, another dimension. And trying to reach out, sort of understand where people are coming from, is the antithesis of propaganda, which is really judging people as to where they’re coming from, not only—and rejecting it. And—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Does—do you—do you see that playing itself out in the institution, you know? And I guess one of the things I’ve been thinking about, because I’ve been working a lot with a story that Dr. Ahearn told in his interview about R. Lee Clark. Dr. Ahearn has this really strong memory of being here at the institution, you know, when it was just the one building, and R. Lee Clark would be at the institution, Dr. Ahearn would be leaving late, and he’d see R. Lee Clark coming down and putting blankets on patients in the lobby, and sometimes carrying them physically to a room that might be empty when he knew there was an empty room, because there were patients that were here all night, or their families were here all night. And it was—you know, that’s the stuff of legends. (laughter) You know, it really is. And I’ve been thinking, when you have one of these sort of foundational stories about an institution, or about a leader in an institution, to what degree—at what point does that cease to become reality? You know, when does it become a story that an institution is telling about itself, but it’s not living up to the promise of that? And I’m not saying that’s happening, but it’s, like, a question in my mind. You know, how do these stories serve? When do they become propaganda? And there isn’t actually a reality base for those stories. So I’m wondering if you find that, like, within an institution, as people talk about leadership, as talk about—people talk about caring. You’re smiling, so, (laughter) you know, I’m just curious.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

No, I mean, it’s—so, this week, in the Houston Chronicle, there was an insert about the best doctors in Houston, okay, and I happened to be one of the four doctors chosen in psychiatry.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Congratulations.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

It’s all—it’s all insane, because there are no criteria for that, and God only knows who knows whether I’m a good psychiatrist for that. Nobody, unless you sit in a room with me and watch how I interact with patients. So, this person, this—the agency who put this together was Castle Connolly. They made the recommendations. And Castle Connolly is a company that chooses best doctors, and then tries to get them to buy plaques, (laughter) knowing that doctors have big egos, so if you walk into a doctor’s office you see all this stuff, right?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

The vanity wall.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

You walk into my office, you see one thing, and that is I did my training at Johns Hopkins, which is the only thing that really counts. And so, you know, is that propaganda? Probably. It’s embarrassing to be chosen on the basis of really not knowing why. I mean, I have a lot of publications. I’m here at a prestigious institution. One of my colleagues, who—and I’ll say this—well, I probably shouldn’t say this. One of my colleagues was chosen also, and I have no idea about what his practice with his patients look like. So what makes a good psychiatrist? And, you know, having visited Nuremberg, and seen the Nazi propaganda, that—I mean, it’s all about emotion, and stirring up people’s emotion, because there’s no logic to it. I was listening on NPR this morning, and the Chinese government has all this kind of propaganda machine. I mean, they have actually a state agency for propaganda, and they publish stuff that extols the Communist Party viewpoint about government, and condemns the democracy, right? And people buy it. I mean, I heard a couple of people interviewed saying, “Well, the American election is a farce,” and blah, blah, and—but people vote. People don’t vote for the Central Committee of the Community Party. Okay, not only that, but anybody who expresses ideas or thoughts contrary to what the system extols is arrested or investigated, and so there’s this culture of intimidation that exists, within which people can make tons of money, but still, you know, there’s a lot of propaganda there. So, sorting out what the truth is from propaganda is a real challenge. So, you know, do people produce their own propaganda? Probably. I mean, one of my colleagues here—someone sent me a piece of their résumé. I mean, they sent all this relatively outrageous stuff about what their job description was and what they do, I mean, inflated it to the point where you think they were running a cancer center. Totally wrong. They’re a one-man show. So, I think it’s a very interesting thing, even—and it dovetails into psychiatry because, you know, people create their own propaganda, and their own delusions, and their own sort of beliefs about themselves, and what’s important, and, you know, a lot of it is cover for very secret fears and preoccupations and things that they don’t want other people to know, so—and that people feel embarrassed about, and they feel that they have to hide. And maybe, if you look at this wonderful book by Anna Freud, The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, it really talks about how, you know, the self protects itself from what it considers to be dangerous thoughts, or attitudes, or fears. And people create sort of stories about themselves. And, you know, Mr. Trump is one of those people. I’m sure he was humiliated by his father as a child, and, you know, and if you dig down deep inside must have just tremendous insecurities to have to constantly feed his ego like that.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I’m curious in going back to, you know, the four points in that model of self-awareness. I mean, each of—just the very fact that you need awareness means that you kind of have to address some of those fears or vulnerabilities in order to open yourself up to others and communicate effectively.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Well, you have to know they’re there. You don’t—addressing them turns out to be a bigger challenge than what people think, but what you mean by address—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I guess, maybe, you know, that was—that maybe goes into the arena of therapy, rather than just improving communication.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

That’s right.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Because I’m curious, you know, presenting this model of emotional intelligence, or having that inform your conversations and teaching, when you’re helping people understand how to communicate better, you know, there—it just seems like there’s a—there would—for people who feel vulnerable, for people who feel afraid, there are some real obstacles to opening up and embracing that, and I’m wondering how do you address this. How do you make it okay for people to reach into those places of awareness so they can be better communicators?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

It’s called trust. So, people have to trust me, okay, that I’m going to treat those areas with gentleness. And that’s what rapport is about, and that’s what trust is about. Now, not everybody who’s damaged in childhood can trust, because it makes you feel vulnerable, and there are some people who cannot tolerate feeling vulnerable. I mean, I’m sure on a mass level that all of these people who are Trumpians out there, and, you know, who were shouting Nazi slogans and other things of that sort, I believe must, underneath, be feeling very vulnerable, and they need kind of a crazy champion to sort of make them feel better. I mean, the Nazi—the German people were humiliated by the Versailles Treaty, and the governments were in a shambles. And I’m sure the anxiety in the population was such that it let somebody like Hitler come in and promise them the future, and restored pride. So what Donald Trump, in promising a better America, okay, is really speaking to the issue of people’s pride and security, right? But—and when you’re feeling emotional about something, it’s hard to see the truth. So, you know—and you’re so vulnerable to propaganda. So, the other thing—we’re—we are a country built on propaganda. Turn on the TV at night and look at ads. It’s all propaganda, people trying to get their hands in your pocket and pull out the last dollar that you have. So, you know, what is truth? What is honorable? You know, what is—what is the meaning of life, as you sort of had that conversation with your colleague about, you know, what are our values in life?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I mean, I think, you know, this election season really is, you know, forcing thinking people to look at a lot of those big issues, and for that—that’s sort of the silver lining of it in my mind.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Have you ever read the book Denial of Death by Becker?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I have not.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Okay, so he talks a lot about how we go through life denying the fact that someday we’re going to not be here, and people don’t question the purpose of their being here, and what’s the purpose of humanity. Is it to die? To procreate? Some people don’t have children. How do you find value, or meaning? You know, what is the essence of a good life? And does it mean anything to have a good life, if you’re going to be dead? You know, unless you’re a superhero, you’re usually forgotten anyway. How many people can name the names of their great-great-grandfathers or grandmothers? Very few. They’re gone. So how do you make sense out of being gone? I think Woody Allen has tried to address this a number of times, and, you know, it’s very interesting, because I think his first—his first shots at addressing it were through the use of humor. Did you ever see Sleeper?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, yeah.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Okay. One of the best movies ever made, right?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Absolutely.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Because he’s running around like a robot with this little thing in his mouth.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I like when he beats the guy senseless with a strawberry, giant strawberry. That’s my favorite part. (laughter)

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, but—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And the giant chocolate pudding is really good, too. (laughter)

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah! So, you know—but then he stopped doing that—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, he got real serious.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

And stopped getting serious, and started talking about relationships and meaning. And I remember that in one of his movies he has a dialogue with someone, and they said, “Well, why did you stop making funny movies?” “Because it’s a way of sort of, you know, really denying the problem. Not that it’s bad, because if we think about dying all the time, we’d be, you know, nervous wrecks.”

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Exactly. The universe is expanding, so go to bed and don’t get up. (laughter)

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Right. So—   T. A. Rosolowski, PhD All right, we’re recording. And I just want to say for the record that it is about 9:32 on October 25th—yes, October 25th—2016, and I’m in the Mid Campus Building, or Mid Main Building, as it’s sometimes called, on the 17th floor, interviewing Walter Baile. This is our third session together. So, thank you.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

You’re welcome. My pleasure.   T. A. Rosolowski, PhD And we were chatting before the recorder went on, and you were just starting to talk about how you have to have a philosophy of collaboration in order for collaboration to happen, and I wanted you to just say a little bit more about that idea.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Well... (pause) There are a couple of things that also cut across medicine, that people... There is a model, which I think I talked about here, of emotional intelligence that sort of comprises four quadrants: one is self-awareness; the other is awareness of others; and a third is self-regulation; and the fourth is helping other people regulate themselves. And there are a couple of concepts, I think, tied together, and one is the insecurity that people have that drives judgmentalism, and how that—what implication that has for empathy for other people. The other is propaganda, and how propaganda influences people, just judgmentalism, when they believe something. Very interested in propaganda. That there was a Republican Congresswoman who got into a lot of trouble because she quoted Hitler—I think it was in Mein Kompf—when he said, “The masses are relatively unintelligent. Therefore, you need to bombard them with propaganda so that they adopt beliefs that will allow you to bring your ideas forward.” You know, and I think today, we see a lot of propaganda being spewed around in our political realm, but not only propaganda. I mean, it’s hateful propaganda, and the antithesis of listening to people and trying to understand them, because it’s based upon judgmentalism, and judging other people, but judging them badly, and judging them so if they’re not on your side they’re on the wrong side, not as you spoke initially, just another side, another dimension. And trying to reach out, sort of understand where people are coming from, is the antithesis of propaganda, which is really judging people as to where they’re coming from, not only—and rejecting it. And—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Does—do you—do you see that playing itself out in the institution, you know? And I guess one of the things I’ve been thinking about, because I’ve been working a lot with a story that Dr. Ahearn told in his interview about R. Lee Clark. Dr. Ahearn has this really strong memory of being here at the institution, you know, when it was just the one building, and R. Lee Clark would be at the institution, Dr. Ahearn would be leaving late, and he’d see R. Lee Clark coming down and putting blankets on patients in the lobby, and sometimes carrying them physically to a room that might be empty when he knew there was an empty room, because there were patients that were here all night, or their families were here all night. And it was—you know, that’s the stuff of legends. (laughter) You know, it really is. And I’ve been thinking, when you have one of these sort of foundational stories about an institution, or about a leader in an institution, to what degree—at what point does that cease to become reality? You know, when does it become a story that an institution is telling about itself, but it’s not living up to the promise of that? And I’m not saying that’s happening, but it’s, like, a question in my mind. You know, how do these stories serve? When do they become propaganda? And there isn’t actually a reality base for those stories. So I’m wondering if you find that, like, within an institution, as people talk about leadership, as talk about—people talk about caring. You’re smiling, so, (laughter) you know, I’m just curious.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

No, I mean, it’s—so, this week, in the Houston Chronicle, there was an insert about the best doctors in Houston, okay, and I happened to be one of the four doctors chosen in psychiatry.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Congratulations.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

It’s all—it’s all insane, because there are no criteria for that, and God only knows who knows whether I’m a good psychiatrist for that. Nobody, unless you sit in a room with me and watch how I interact with patients. So, this person, this—the agency who put this together was Castle Connolly. They made the recommendations. And Castle Connolly is a company that chooses best doctors, and then tries to get them to buy plaques, (laughter) knowing that doctors have big egos, so if you walk into a doctor’s office you see all this stuff, right?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

The vanity wall.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

You walk into my office, you see one thing, and that is I did my training at Johns Hopkins, which is the only thing that really counts. And so, you know, is that propaganda? Probably. It’s embarrassing to be chosen on the basis of really not knowing why. I mean, I have a lot of publications. I’m here at a prestigious institution. One of my colleagues, who—and I’ll say this—well, I probably shouldn’t say this. One of my colleagues was chosen also, and I have no idea about what his practice with his patients look like. So what makes a good psychiatrist? And, you know, having visited Nuremberg, and seen the Nazi propaganda, that—I mean, it’s all about emotion, and stirring up people’s emotion, because there’s no logic to it. I was listening on NPR this morning, and the Chinese government has all this kind of propaganda machine. I mean, they have actually a state agency for propaganda, and they publish stuff that extols the Communist Party viewpoint about government, and condemns the democracy, right? And people buy it. I mean, I heard a couple of people interviewed saying, “Well, the American election is a farce,” and blah, blah, and—but people vote. People don’t vote for the Central Committee of the Community Party. Okay, not only that, but anybody who expresses ideas or thoughts contrary to what the system extols is arrested or investigated, and so there’s this culture of intimidation that exists, within which people can make tons of money, but still, you know, there’s a lot of propaganda there. So, sorting out what the truth is from propaganda is a real challenge. So, you know, do people produce their own propaganda? Probably. I mean, one of my colleagues here—someone sent me a piece of their résumé. I mean, they sent all this relatively outrageous stuff about what their job description was and what they do, I mean, inflated it to the point where you think they were running a cancer center. Totally wrong. They’re a one-man show. So, I think it’s a very interesting thing, even—and it dovetails into psychiatry because, you know, people create their own propaganda, and their own delusions, and their own sort of beliefs about themselves, and what’s important, and, you know, a lot of it is cover for very secret fears and preoccupations and things that they don’t want other people to know, so—and that people feel embarrassed about, and they feel that they have to hide. And maybe, if you look at this wonderful book by Anna Freud, The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, it really talks about how, you know, the self protects itself from what it considers to be dangerous thoughts, or attitudes, or fears. And people create sort of stories about themselves. And, you know, Mr. Trump is one of those people. I’m sure he was humiliated by his father as a child, and, you know, and if you dig down deep inside must have just tremendous insecurities to have to constantly feed his ego like that.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I’m curious in going back to, you know, the four points in that model of self-awareness. I mean, each of—just the very fact that you need awareness means that you kind of have to address some of those fears or vulnerabilities in order to open yourself up to others and communicate effectively.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Well, you have to know they’re there. You don’t—addressing them turns out to be a bigger challenge than what people think, but what you mean by address—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I guess, maybe, you know, that was—that maybe goes into the arena of therapy, rather than just improving communication.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

That’s right.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Because I’m curious, you know, presenting this model of emotional intelligence, or having that inform your conversations and teaching, when you’re helping people understand how to communicate better, you know, there—it just seems like there’s a—there would—for people who feel vulnerable, for people who feel afraid, there are some real obstacles to opening up and embracing that, and I’m wondering how do you address this. How do you make it okay for people to reach into those places of awareness so they can be better communicators?

Walter F. Baile, MD:

It’s called trust. So, people have to trust me, okay, that I’m going to treat those areas with gentleness. And that’s what rapport is about, and that’s what trust is about. Now, not everybody who’s damaged in childhood can trust, because it makes you feel vulnerable, and there are some people who cannot tolerate feeling vulnerable. I mean, I’m sure on a mass level that all of these people who are Trumpians out there, and, you know, who were shouting Nazi slogans and other things of that sort, I believe must, underneath, be feeling very vulnerable, and they need kind of a crazy champion to sort of make them feel better. I mean, the Nazi—the German people were humiliated by the Versailles Treaty, and the governments were in a shambles. And I’m sure the anxiety in the population was such that it let somebody like Hitler come in and promise them the future, and restored pride. So what Donald Trump, in promising a better America, okay, is really speaking to the issue of people’s pride and security, right? But—and when you’re feeling emotional about something, it’s hard to see the truth. So, you know—and you’re so vulnerable to propaganda. So, the other thing—we’re—we are a country built on propaganda. Turn on the TV at night and look at ads. It’s all propaganda, people trying to get their hands in your pocket and pull out the last dollar that you have. So, you know, what is truth? What is honorable? You know, what is—what is the meaning of life, as you sort of had that conversation with your colleague about, you know, what are our values in life?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I mean, I think, you know, this election season really is, you know, forcing thinking people to look at a lot of those big issues, and for that—that’s sort of the silver lining of it in my mind.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Have you ever read the book Denial of Death by Becker?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I have not.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Okay, so he talks a lot about how we go through life denying the fact that someday we’re going to not be here, and people don’t question the purpose of their being here, and what’s the purpose of humanity. Is it to die? To procreate? Some people don’t have children. How do you find value, or meaning? You know, what is the essence of a good life? And does it mean anything to have a good life, if you’re going to be dead? You know, unless you’re a superhero, you’re usually forgotten anyway. How many people can name the names of their great-great-grandfathers or grandmothers? Very few. They’re gone. So how do you make sense out of being gone? I think Woody Allen has tried to address this a number of times, and, you know, it’s very interesting, because I think his first—his first shots at addressing it were through the use of humor. Did you ever see Sleeper?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, yeah.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Okay. One of the best movies ever made, right?

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Absolutely.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Because he’s running around like a robot with this little thing in his mouth.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I like when he beats the guy senseless with a strawberry, giant strawberry. That’s my favorite part. (laughter)

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah, but—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And the giant chocolate pudding is really good, too. (laughter)

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Yeah! So, you know—but then he stopped doing that—

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, he got real serious.

Walter F. Baile, MD:

And stopped getting serious, and started talking about relationships and meaning. And I remember that in one of his movies he has a dialogue with someone, and they said, “Well, why did you stop making funny movies?” “Because it’s a way of sort of, you know, really denying the problem. Not that it’s bad, because if we think about dying all the time, we’d be, you know, nervous wrecks.”

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Exactly. The universe is expanding, so go to bed and don’t get up. (laughter)

Walter F. Baile, MD:

Right. So—

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Chapter 11: Communication, Propaganda, and the Need for Self-Awareness

Share

COinS