Dr. Reef Karim
Dr. Reef Karim - Forbes
November 15, 2012
Lessons From The Petraeus Affair: 3 Reasons Why High-Powered People Cheat And Get Caught
I’m not one to get into political scandals, so I’ll leave that discussion to the experts. But what’s interesting about the recent developments in the Petraeus case is that it’s just one of many sagas of high-visibility people whose poor personal-life decisions are made public – and, of course, result in speedy and humiliating falls from grace. You have to wonder what’s going on in the minds of the highly-visible and highly-accomplished that makes them engage in the risky business of cheating, sexual email exchanges, sexting, and cyberstalking. We can’t get into their heads to find out, but here are some pretty good guesses.
The Insecurity Element
Very powerful or accomplished people may have a touch of insecurity in them. Actually, they may have a lot of underlying insecurity, says Dr. Reef Karim, who heads the Control Center in LA, and treats celebrities, political figures, and royalty for everything from addiction to dealing with reality of their achievements. The internal insecurity of the power players is common, since it can actually be a driving force to accomplish great things in the first place. “The ‘insecurity element’ in risqué behavior is more common with women than it is with men,” says Karim. “It’s the woman who dresses way too sexy to the party, or the guy who acts like an idiot to get noticed. It’s all based in desiring attention and validation.” This theory is an interesting one and may play some role in the behavior of the bold and the beautiful, but it doesn’t explain it all.
Another explanation, which may be even more relevant, is the self-defeating tendencies that some high-power people may have. “A lot of the power figures fall into this category,” says Karim. “When you’re on top, the only place you can go is down. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve treated who can’t handle the pressure. It’s almost like they have to tempt fate.” The issue is that once people achieve an initial big success, the game changes. It’s one thing to get to the top, but staying at the top brings on a whole other level of stress. “It’s a human quality to want to do well… but then when you do well, now what? Maintaining that level of high success is very trying on someone’s brain. For a lot of people playing at this level, you don’t see a nervous breakdown, you see self-destructive activities in other realms of life.”
The Gratification Element
And then there’s the pleasure factor. There’s something about sending nude pictures of yourself that just gives a person a little brain rush. In fact, a study earlier this year at Harvard found that people were so eager to reveal information about themselves that they often declined money in order to do so. In other words, there’s something innately rewarding about self-revelations, and this was actually seen in the “reward centers” of the participants’ brains. Karim explains that some people’s brains have naturally low “dopamine tone” – dopamine being the brain chemical associated with our feelings of pleasure and reward. “These folks have either decreased levels of dopamine or fewer dopamine receptors. It’s like the person who tries cocaine and says, “doc, for the first time in my life I felt normal. Some people just get the rush from sending out risqué pictures of themselves.”
Power Plays Tricks on the Mind
In the end, there’s no definitive explanation as to why presidents, generals, congressmen, or CEOs cheat and get caught. They may not do it any more than the general population, but their fall is harder and a lot more public. Karim suggests that in the end, their sometimes-outrageous (or at least mindless) behavior can be a combination of factors, and there may be a feeling of invincibility that accompanies high power. It doesn’t hurt that high-power people often have slightly sociopathic tendencies, and rise to the top not in spite of, but because of, these traits. “Theoretically, when you get power, you feel like not all the rules apply. Power can make you careless. But I also tend to think that having that mildly sociopathic side – I gotta watch my back, and be careful to dot my i’s and cross my t’s – is common among some of the power figures. These traits can be healthy in regards to running a big organization, but when it comes to personal life, it can be a destructive mess.”
Today Reuters reported that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for a review of the military’s current ethics training. That might not be a bad idea. Will people in other areas follow suit?
Dr. Reef Karim - Huffington Post
Tattoo Psychology: Art or Self Destruction? Modern-Day Social Branding
by Reef Karim, D.O.
Body art, body bling, self-graffiti, walking billboards, fashionable ink accessories... Each of these expressions depict the physical nature of the tattoo. What's often NOT discussed, however, is the emotional side of tattoos.
I vividly remember the first time I saw a "tramp stamp." A woman was reaching for something in the front row of a large auditorium and a few rows of men and women witnessed her walking artistry. Everyone had a reaction. And once she left the room, we all talked about it. It was like group therapy.
The responses ranged from "She's definitely a party girl, probably drinks a lot, has a lot of sex and a rough childhood," to "She's probably really creative, edgy, a leader and an independent thinker." Some liked her more, some liked her less and many guys were more interested in her because of the tattoo. Whatever the response, we were all intrigued, and each of us conjured up our own personal version of her story -- all from the sight of a well-placed tattoo.
In those days, tattoos were still controversial. Now, they're more accepted than ever. You could even call them "trendy." In the nightlife scene, tattoo artists are rapidly becoming a popular career choice. Sooner or later, we're going to see a leather-clad, tattoo-sleeved, multi-pierced guy named Rocko at our kid's career fair standing next to the "Be a DJ" booth. Although tattoos have been around for more than 5,000 years (Egyptians used tattoos to differentiate peasants from slaves and social branding has been around a long time), ink art has really exploded in the last 25 years. 
Is it social branding?
Tattoos are a conversation starter. Either there's a story attached or a "skin"-showing session or an emotional response derived from the sight of ink art. And the emotional response from the sight of tattoos leads to a modern-day version of social branding.
"He must be tough."
"She's probably easy."
"He'll never get a corporate job."
"She just wants to drink vodka tonics and dance on a speaker."
Of course there are variables. In my opinion, the older you are, the less chance you'll be forgiving of tattoos. Neck and face tattoos are usually not as well-received as other locations no matter what your age (sorry, Big Mike). Where you put the tattoo, how may tattoos you have, what the tattoos is and the size of the tattoos all help shape the emotional response of the viewer. And that observer could be anyone from a potential boss, a family member or a date.
You're incredibly naïve or in total denial if you think your tattoos aren't going to have a significant positive or negative influence on people who don't know you well.
Why Get Tattoos?
People get tattoos for many reasons: for attention, self-expression, artistic freedom, rebellion, a visual display of a personal narrative, reminders of spiritual/cultural traditions, sexual motivation, addiction, identification with a group or even drunken impulsiveness (which is why many tattoo parlors are open late).
And now, according to some research studies, 15-38 percent of Americans have some type of long-term body art. What was once considered self-mutilatory behavior and a psychiatric problem has now become almost normative behavior.
What Does Your Tattoo Mean?
Some people mark themselves for life to remind them of past family members or ancient sayings or religious scriptures or names of their current family/love interest. Other people use tattoos to enhance their sexual prowess or feed their exhibitionist side, and many people use tattoos to visually promote their identity and/or group affiliation. "I stand for..."
Johnny Depp said, "My body is my journal and my tattoos are my story." Tattoos can visually reveal more about you or distract people from getting to know the real you. Some people hide behind their tattoos.
Research on tattoos reveals some interesting findings:
And I've personally seen tattoo markings used as an endorphin release and substitute for addictive behavior. An individual addicted to pills was able to stop popping pills but then subsequently became addicted to getting body ink.
So what does this mean?
Our current society craves individuality and self expression. And now many people wear their artistic expression. We are having more trouble communicating with each other than ever before, as electronic communication will never replace face-to-face human contact. So, it's not surprising that there's a growing trend toward communication via body ink. We don't have to talk, we just have to look.
Our bodies have become the refrigerator magnets of quotes, sayings and reminders.
Whether you like it or not, tattoos are growing in popularity. The long-term fear of being "marked for life" is being tempered by tattoo removal technology and people getting used to seeing tattoos.
Personally, I chose not to have a tattoo (henna tattoos don't count) because the beauty of life is that it's unexpected and we change with our experiences. What we stand for and believe in at 18 is very different than 35 or 60. If we stood for one thing in life and it never changed, then we could all have "life script" tattoos (and face boredom on a regular basis).
But we do grow and change. I appreciate the artistry of tattoos but also enjoy the mystery of learning about someone without being "visually influenced" to have a response. We all judge, and first impressions probably carry more weight than they should. Whatever your feelings are about tattoos, one thing is for sure: There's definitely more than meets the eye.
Dr. Reef Karin- Celebzter
October 29, 2012
Relationships & Politics: Your step-by-step guide on how not to let the upcoming election ruin your romance
There’s no doubt that the 2012 race for The White House is one of the most highly-contested in recent political history. Tensions are boiling over and tempers are fraught, but what impact does this have on your own interpersonal relationships?
For some, political tendencies can strengthen a relationship, for others it will signal the end.
We spoke to Dr. Reef Karim, Psychiatrist, Relationship Therapist and Director at The Control Center, who shares his advice on how your relationship can survive this tense political time.
“Never talk about politics or religion, right? Well, if you’re dating or in a relationship with someone, guess what? This time of year can elicit intense discussions and a lot of conflict,” Karim says. ” It’s election time and our relationships often get stronger OR more problematic.
“The election is about a lot of things: health care, immigration, foreign policy and a host of potentially controversial issues. So when two people have different political party affiliations or disagree on many of the issues, their ability to resolve conflict and love each other in spite of their differences will absolutely be tested.”
And he kindly offers up these tips on how to overcome political friction in a relationship…
1). Find issues you agree upon and focus on that before anything else.
2). Have a romantic date night where the topic of politics is not allowed anywhere in the discussion.
3) Remember why you fell in love with that person in the first place.
Lastly, he adds: ”We all have opinions in life and we’re not always going to agree. So learning how to disagree and still respect and love the other person is a very important skill. Especially during election time.”
And there you have it….