Police Psychology | ROCKY AND IRMA
I spent the weekend in California with Rocky and Irma Kalish, and everyone should spend a weekend with Rocky and Irma. I met Rocky and Irma over 25 years ago and we hit it off immediately. They became my writing mentors, my heroes, my idols, and we even asked them (and they agreed) to be the adopted grandparents of our Russian-born baby. Rocky and Irma wrote or produced almost every show you remember as a child. “F-Troop,” “Facts of Life,” ‘Good Times,” “Gilligan Island,” “My Three Sons,” “Family Affairs,” the list goes on and on. Heck, they even gave Edith Bunker cancer on an “All in the Family” episode. Try writing about cancer and make people laugh at the same time if you don’t think they are skilled. Hollywood writers and a police psychologist, who’d figure? (If you were at my wedding or at the 2-day class I taught at Alliant University, they were there cheering me on.) To quote one of their characters, they are DY-NO-MITE!
Well, I learned a lot from Rocky and Irma over the years, and maybe even taught them a thing or two. “Always entertain,” they would say, “if they aren’t listening, you can’t teach them anything.” Or, when I was feeling I had little impact on life, Irma would tell the story of a friend of hers across the country who was dealing with a mastectomy and said she got strength from the honest talk of Edith dealing with cancer on “All in the Family,” not realizing Irma had literally put the words in Edith’s mouth. “You never know who you are going to effect,” she would tell me. But there was one thing Rocky and Irma would say that almost daily rings in my head – “NEXT!”
The Secret to Life is “NEXT”
Rocky would say “things are not always pretty in life, and there is no back button.” You have to look forward when in situations and see what is “next.” “Next” is not just a look to the future, it is a universal focus on how things will get better. Irma would kick in that in their business, where they were writing episodes, “next” was the most operative term there could be. Always have a “next” step and you won’t get caught without work. When you focus on “next” all the mistakes you made fade away. You learn from them and should definitely make them part of next,” but you can’t focus on them except as learning tools for “next.”
“Next” is resilience personified. There is no disappointment in “next,” only anticipation. Plus, you can obsess about it all you want – it’s called planning and frankly it makes you happy. “Next” is better if it is simple, in fact Rocky and Irma seemed to have adopted some of my Keeping it Simple material when they add “those devices made to save you a lot of time, sure seem to complicate your life a lot.” They were scriptwriters and Rocky said to me “the typewriter was a hell of lot smarter than the computer.” You type the script, copy it and hand it out on a typewriter. On a computer you have 5000 changes made at the last minute and you make the language sound unnatural. Maybe sometimes when you are out of the “next” mindset you make life unnatural too.
I used to apply ”next” without really even knowing it. When I would ask a girl out for a date (back when people used to date) occasionally I would get rejected or a girl would have an excuse not to go on a date. (I know that is hard to believe that someone would actually turn me down, but follow along in your disbelief). From the time I was a teenager, I had a habit that I would find another date or at least make a plan for that date night within seconds of hanging up the phone. I probably shouldn’t have asked out the first girl in the first place, but I always had a plan B, C, D to Z. Oddly enough, those replacement dates were some of the best times I had in my single life. I lived for “next” and disappointment never caught hold of me. It works.
A Lesson from F-Troop
So my friends told me a story about writing during the McCarthy era in Hollywood. They had to sign a waiver with each show they wrote that they were not communists. They hated that time and were upset every time they had to sign that waiver. So they wrote a show for F-Troop where one of the Indians had a toothache and wanted to see the Army dentist but couldn’t because he was an Indian. So a couple of the characters dressed him up as a soldier to see the Army dentist and introduced him around as the new soldier. He keeps getting lucky and keeps getting promoted. He only just wants to see the dentist. Finally, he is discovered and is about to go before a firing squad, so he runs back to his tribe. Before he goes he says “better a red man than a dead man.” (“Better dead than red” was a theme of the McCarthy era.) Rocky and Irma believed always stand up for yourself, but use your intelligence to do it. The censors never said anything to them, but they knew it was heard. That has become my “better to get your way then make your point,” the mantra I use for an emotional patient who has been getting nowhere fighting with his spouse or boss. If you do things intelligently, you can get much further toward what you want in life.
Rocky is 95 years old and in a long-term care facility for people in the business. Irma keeps plugging away and is faithfully by his side every day. They’ve been married 67 years. Both are very sharp mentally, just not for as long each day. Irma is writing her memoirs as one of the first female comedy writers in the business. Rocky’s are already written. Those are important, but not as important as the message they taught me, and through me, every one of my patients whether they are going through PTSD, or a divorce, or simple panic attacks. The secret to life, the secret to getting through the not so pretty things in life, focus on NEXT!
In tribute to Rocky and Irma Kalish
My family and I love you both.
Blog Administrator: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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