Romanian Curse is still around


Someone has got to know the answer. Why is it that certain pests — like cockroaches and mice, for example — when they ingest a poison, crawl onto the middle of the carpet or floor and turn over on their backs to die?

Someone has got to know the answer. Why is it that certain pests — like cockroaches and mice, for example — when they ingest a poison, crawl onto the middle of the carpet or floor and turn over on their backs to die?

Are they looking for a doctor? Are they trying to be a martyr? Or is it a sign of submission?

Even Osama bin Laden apparently dyed his hair for his final day.

Have you ever felt like an outsider in a world of insider trading as you search for the answers? If you’re not a Wall Street financier or a mortgage-loan prestidigitator, then that’s the case. For the moment, though, let’s imagine you became privy to some close-to-the-chest information that no one else had — and, even if you told them, no one would believe you.

Not just about cockroaches and mice, but like: the Dallas Cowboys will win the Super Bowl next year! Even if it were true, no one would believe you.

Or, you’d learn for sure that that dumb PC of yours won’t crash for the next 12 months! Oh, sure, you say, and Uncle Ted is really Santa Claus in disguise, and he flies in on his sleigh every night from the North Pole just to say hello.

So you have information that you know is true, but you can’t reveal it because no one would believe you. That’s the Romanian Curse. But even before the Romanians coined the phrase, there was Cassandra of Greek mythology who spent a night in Apollo’s temple, where the temple snakes licked her ears so clean she could hear the future.

But when she failed to return Apollo’s love, he placed a curse on her so that no one would ever believe her predictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen is a pioneer in functional brain imaging — you may have seen him on KNME — but his work brought him mostly scorn from his peers. He says that long ago someone told him, “I curse you that you know something that is true, that no one else believes.”

That was Dr. Amen, the day he went Romanian.

Chances are that you’ve never had snakes lick your ears so you could predict the future, but it may seem like you have the curse anyway. I used to think that I did.

There are treatments in mental health that work, but no one ever wants to hear about them. So like Cassandra in the temple, I thought the snakes were having their day — and Apollo, too.

That’s a dangerous place to be. Inside one’s head, it could be just a delusion, or a fantasy masquerading as those special snakes in the temple of Apollo. So now I talk about those special treatments — and take the heat — and have found there are many others who agree that they work.

Others, of course, have religious beliefs they would stake their lives upon, but out of fear of others’ derision, they never tell anyone. At some point, they see how cowardly that can be, and so they share the news — and the curse becomes a blessing.

Most of us have biases, of course, that aren’t the curse, and that certainly aren’t religious beliefs. They’re just ingrained but unfounded convictions we’ve allowed to capture our fancy, and so we won’t let go and won’t go after the facts.

They’re not from Cassandra’s temple snakes — they’re more like cockroaches that have crawled out onto the middle of the rug but won’t die.

Politics of late seems to be rife with these last ones. “You people are dummies; why can’t you see things my way!”

There must be a way to sort out the difference — inner convictions of solid truth or on the other hand, those pesky biases that just won’t die.

“Bin Laden isn’t dead; it was someone else they killed.” “Barack Obama is no American; he’s a Muslim born abroad, and he invented his birth certificate.” “Global warming is a fake; all those scientists just made it up.” “We can save the economy by shutting it down.” And “those brown-skinned illegals from south of the border are taking our jobs and threaten our safety.”

No Romanian curse in all of that, and no snakes in the ear that whisper what is. At least Dr. Amen seems to know the brain like few others do. Some others have crawled out to the middle of the rug and rolled onto their backs.

Who knows what that’s all about?

Kozeny works for Socorro Mental Health Inc. His views are not necessarily those of his employer. He can be reached by email to