Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

I like myself. I like compliments, too.
January 15, 2015

The Huffington Post had a very bizarre “social experiment” on their site today, regarding how a woman received compliments, and the reactions men had to what that woman said. The woman was given compliments by random men she chose to speak to. She responded to these compliments with “I know”, occasionally a “thank you”, but mostly comments which would be seen as conceited or even unappreciative. This was a failed social experiment because the language used, is a severe hot button in any conversation, whether or not it is flirtatious. There are no alternative scenarios, in which a man responds to compliments from women, including male to male and female to female conversations. We could even go as far as to include conversations among friends, and gauge those reactions too. I have a strong suspicion that the majority of the people giving compliments, male and female, would be put off by a response like “I know”.

My primary issue with this experiment, in addition to its sloppy execution. is the deep seeded undertone that if I am a woman, I am somehow too perfect or special to take a compliment. I think it is the epitome of arrogance, when a woman constantly believes that every time a man, or anyone, compliments them, it is because that person is trying to validate them. Because the general public has nothing better to do with their lives, than worry about making sure that you feel absolutely perfect all the time.

Compliments within themselves have multiple purposes. Some are, unfortunately, used to insult other people. For example, when a 40 year old women encounters a 20 year old woman, and “compliments” the younger woman’s thin waist. Sometimes compliments are fake, just to pretend there is a good relationship there, or because you are co-workers and you have no choice but to “get along”. Compliments are also used as a flirtatious behavior, just because that is one of many ways that humans court each other. But I generally believe that the majority of compliments are given as a sign of respect to the person they are given to. When I compliment someone, it is because I like that person, and I want them to know that I like them, because they are human and they deserve to be liked.

There are also phrases or terms people use in the guise of a compliment, which are really inappropriate. Telling anyone that they are hot and sexy, or constantly telling anyone that they are pretty or handsome, is a severely sexist and appearance oriented thought process (saying these things rarely, in a different context, is not what I am talking about). It has nothing to do with the personality or interests of the person being spoken to. In 2011, 2NE1 came out with a single titled “Ugly”, which targeted the over-complimenting that Korea’s society does to women, as well as the societal obsession with plastic surgery. This over-complimenting is often the use of the word “pretty”, the users of that word often desire to look exactly like the person they are referring to. This is an inappropriate validation, and 2NE1 decided that the term “ugly” needed to be redefined. Simply put, you think prettiness is based on an unrealistic, plastic body. Therefore pretty does not exist, and since you cannot perceive a non-existent thing, you do not have permission to use it to describe me. Ugly is the opposite of pretty, therefore it is real.

However, this experiment that Huffington Post reported on, did not send the same message as 2NE1 did. Instead, this article told us that if a man says something nice to a woman, and she never says thank you and simply agrees, that he should just put up with that. Well no, he shouldn’t, for two reasons: He gave you that compliment because he respects you, and has taken the time to pay attention to who you are, and if you throw it away, that is ungrateful. The other reason is that you just told women they do not need to be complimented because they do not need a man’s approval, but that agreeing with what a man says is a way for a woman to use what he says to be validated. So you are putting yourself in a situation where ultimately, you are being “demeaned” by a man, and putting this man in a situation where he is “oppressing” you. Or I could rephrase that as you believe that women need to agree with what men say about them, because they do not need to be validated by men. You are oppressing women with this logic, and you are doing it in the guise of the word “feminism”. How dare you.

This should not be a debate about whether or not I deserve to be validated by what anyone says. I don’t feel that way, because I like the person that I am. I am also glad when people care to tell me that they enjoy something about me, because meaning something to that person is a good thing. So in essence the debate should be about whether or not I deserve to be respected, and my answer is yes. Even so, when I am given respect, it is my responsibility to return that respect, either with thank you, or another polite term. Even saying something tactful such as “There are times when I feel the same way about myself”, is fine, because it is an expression of humility. When someone sees you for who you are, truly sees you, not themselves, and shows you that, that is their expression of humility as well. If you throw that back into that person’s face, as though it means nothing to you, then your right to be respected by that person has been lost. No man or woman has to ever take that from you, and your gender does not give you special permission to treat someone in a disrespectful way.

Dogs Don’t Make ‘Good’ Pets
January 14, 2015

I’m sure there are many dog lovers who are going to jump up and down in disagreement about this blog post. I’m sure many cat lovers will also being jumping up and down in triumph. But I firmly believe that certain animals do not make ‘good’ pets, and aside from still enjoying the company of my cat, I’ve come to learn that non-mammalian pets work better for people.

Dogs are not violent, dangerous animals. Some breeds work better for certain living situations than others. Some dogs are great with kids or small animals, and others aren’t. It’s called research, and given how 98% of the U.S. population has access to the internet, there’s no excuse not to do that research. At the very least, there’s probably a public library nearby that you can go to.

But the absence of that research, and the absence of common sense, are why I believe dogs don’t make ‘good’ pets. Dogs require attention, and cannot self-regulate like a cat, or a bird, or another type of reptile. Dogs have to be cared for like a human infant. If you ignore your dog, they won’t just make a mess in your home, they’ll destroy it. If you don’t train your dog well because you’ve ignored it, they bad things happen. A good example is that dog that stalked that little boy in his driveway and attacked him last year – if his mother and house-cat hadn’t been around to chase away that dog, he’d be seriously injured or dead.

I am one of those firm believers that any breed of dog can be taught to attack people. But all animals, mammal or not, start out in life being wary of humans. Kittens and puppies are not born automatically loving humans. All pets have to be taught straight after birth that humans are safe to be around, otherwise they will show aggression. All animals are wild until they are taught to live with humans.

I’ve seen cats do some pretty nasty damage to people, and other animals. Cat scratch fever is not a myth, it is a real illness caused when exposed to the bacteria that cats sometimes have underneath their claws (kind of like the dirt under your fingernails). And cat scratch fever is not brought on by a tiny scratch or two, it’s brought on by being mauled by a cat. Despite the level of injury a cat can inflict on a person, we don’t live in fear of cats. We don’t worry about cats lurking around the corner and snatching our tiny chihuahua or child and mauling them. Maybe it’s because even though humans can do some dumb things in regard to taking care of their cats, even the most unruly cat can still be reasoned with. Dogs have to be repeatedly reminded who the boss is, and if they aren’t, they can snap. And that snap is the end of the road.

I don’t understand why, even with smaller dog breeds, anyone is comfortable with having a dog. It’s not that I don’t like dogs, I just have accepted the fact that I would not be able to devote the time necessary to the dog, to ensure that the dog is safe for myself and others to be around.

The Alternative Treatment is No Alternative
January 9, 2015

If you are a Connecticut resident, you’ve probably heard about 17 year old Cassandra, who is being forced by the CT Supreme Court to undergo chemotherapy to treat Hogkin’s Lymphoma. The decision was reached after a trial to determine whether or not Cassandra was a competent minor who could refuse chemotherapy. The result of that trial, is that despite being almost 18, Cassandra is not able to make this decision on her own. You can read NBC Connecticut’s report here: State Supreme Court Rules Teen Can’t Refuse Chemo.

There are many arguments against the Supreme Court’s ruling, most of which focus on bodily rights and the right to choose. Many say Cassandra is a mature 17 year old, and has been against chemotherapy since before she was diagnosed. Her mother, who knows that the chemotherapy will save her daughter’s life, supports Cassandra’s refusal of it. Her mother is also adamant about using alternative treatments instead.

Statistically, when Hogkin’s Lymphoma is treated with chemo, the survival rate is 85%. There doesn’t appear to be a clear statistical analysis of success rates with alternative treatments. This could be for many reasons, such as these treatments are used experimentally and by smaller groups of people. Alternative treatments are rarely offered by doctors. For cancer in general, most alternatives are used to treat symptoms and keep patients comfortable. Alternatives are also offered by independent organizations or practices, which means they could be fraudulent, or do more harm than good. Trying to find an actual instance where someone was cured of Hogkin’s Lymphoma without chemotherapy and instead alternative treatment, yielded no results. However, Hogkin’s Lymphoma has been treated with stem cells, which can cure the illness, but this procedure is far more dangerous than chemo, and hardly ever used.

Since the primary argument against the court is Cassandra’s maturity, it is important to note that no matter how mature she is, she is biologically 17 years old. Maturity and myelination of the brain are two entirely different things. Maturity comes from environmental experiences, most of which are social. Myelination is the growth and development of the brain. There are certain things a 17 year old brain cannot do as well as a 27 year old brain (27 is the average age when the human brain fully myelinates), like make important, life saving medical decisions. Cassandra is very good at focusing on what chemotherapy will do to her body right now, but what the cancer will do to her body, does not appear to be at the forefront of her mind. In addition, her reaction to the treatment was to run away from home for a week. Before that, she and her mother had missed several treatments. This is why teens are minors, and why we must protect them, not just from their parents/families, but from themselves.

That leads me to my next point, about why alternative treatments are no alternative. It’s more than statistics, it’s the fact that these “natural cures” don’t actually cure diseases. It’s the fact that this belief that if you refuse vaccines and eat healthy food you’ll never get sick, and alternatively you get very sick, very often. It’s about the fact that these folks are trading health for making a statement, and forgetting that deadly diseases like smallpox were eliminated because of vaccines. It’s the fact that this teenager will die very young without chemotherapy, and the state is being more humane than you are giving them credit for.

This is mainly a question of what is ethical, and what is not. We live in an age where assisted suicides are becoming more common, and abortions are being heavily debated. These are serious topics for discussion, because they examine when, and how, it is okay to die.

Take abortion for example – it is a huge debate about whether or not abortion is murder. Whether or not the fetus’s survival is more important than the mother’s. Regardless of how you feel about it, you cannot argue with scientific fact: The fetus is not alive. In order to be alive, you need to be able to do three things, breathe, eat, and grow. Fetuses have plugs in their noses while in the womb, so they do not breathe. The nutrients they receive are via umbilical cord, and come from the mother. The mother starves herself, the fetus does not eat. Growth is also dependent on these nutrients. Therefore, it is okay to have an abortion because you cannot murder a fetus that is not alive, and is not human. It is not okay for a mother to die because of a fetus’s imaginary life being considered more important. That is unethical.

Assisted suicide is another serious debate. People who choose assisted suicide do so because they have incurable diseases that are painful, not just physically, but psychologically and emotionally. People choose assisted suicide because the quality of life is so poor, that it cannot be improved, thus making life not worth living. Assisted suicide is best reserved for people with circumstances beyond their control, like an incurable disease. It is not for people who want to die because they are unhappy with life choices, or other aspects of their lives which can be improved or worked toward. Assisted suicide is not a cop out, it is an alternative to imprisonment because of a disease, and because quality of life is not defined by a beating heart.

You may have heard about Brittany Maynard, 29, who chose to die on November 1st last year. She was suffering from a malignant brain tumor, and was terminally ill. Radiation treatment would have kept her body alive, but as she put it, her mind was going to be eaten. Being a competent individual, she made this decision, and many people argued against it. Many people disregarded quality of life, in favor of quantity of life. You can read more about her story here: Cancer sufferer: Why I’m choosing to die on Nov 1 aged 29.

What makes the previously described instances, so relevant to Cassandra’s story? Perhaps it is because the woman’s right to choose what goes in and out of her body is serious. You cannot force a woman to do something she doesn’t want to do. It sounds hypocritical, to say that a 17 year old can have an abortion without parental consent, but not choose whether or not to have chemotherapy. However, it’s not hypocritical, because it is not okay to force a teenager to live with a child she does not want, and it is not okay to force a teenager to die of cancer. Argue otherwise all you want, but it is very unlikely that Cassandra’s choice to refuse chemo was really her choice, and not her mother’s. It is quite convenient that Cassandra happened to have these views about chemo, then was diagnosed with cancer. Parents can often times be the bane of a teenager’s existence.

Now why have I chosen to bring up assisted suicide? Notice my description of it, and how it is about incurable diseases. Hogkin’s Lymphoma is a curable illness, with a survival rate of 85%. This martyrdom, of refusing chemo and choosing to die instead of accepting life saving treatment is a severe cop out. Furthermore, the vast difference between Brittany Maynard and Cassandra, is twelve years. Brittany was an adult, not just legally, but physically too. She was well beyond the expected age of myelination, and thus fully capable of making that decision. This is not something which should ever be left up to a teenager, or any child at any age. Imagine if the maturity argument was allowed to be used for a five year old, and what horror that would bring.

I am going to leave you with a description of what Hogkin’s Lymphoma does to the human body. First the lymph nodes swell. This is followed by itchy skin, night sweats, and then unexplained weight loss. The liver and spleen enlarge. Sufferers also experience cyclical fevers.

If left untreated, or treated with alternative medicine, then the cancer’s attack on the lymphatic system weakens the body’s ability to fight disease. This is not that different from having HIV, because now a cold can be dangerous, especially if it turns into pneumonia. People with this disease will not just be suffering from it, but from all of the other illnesses that they will get on top of it. They will be sick constantly, uncomfortable, and certainly unable to live life well. If the alternative treatment prolongs death and causes more suffering, then it is not an alternative.

10 Things You Should Know About Body Language
November 26, 2014

Despite all of our advances in technology and civilization, we have never given up our basic instincts to communicate through body language. The unspoken word is one of the best ways to communicate how we feel about another person, family, friend, or partner. Here are several things you should know about body language and other behaviors that might help your relationships with others (Note, I’m not a psychologist, I’m just way more observant than the average person):

1. Crossed arms/legs: Confrontational and/or close-minded. Sometimes, we cross our legs or arms while standing or sitting just because that posture is more comfortable, and it has nothing to do with the person we’re talking to. However, during a conversation about a strong topic, like religion or politics, crossing legs or arms means someone is not open to what you are saying, and can even be waiting for you to finish your sentence so they can get in their two cents. The quicker a person’s response to you while crossing legs or arms means this conversation will go south fast. If this person is a date, it’s probably a good idea to find somebody else.

2. Head tilt: A strong expression of interest, usually related to the conversation. It’s generally believed that people do this when they want to hear clearer, but also when thinking deeply about what you are saying. The more someone tilts their head to one side, the more interested they are. Usually they will tilt their head in the direction of their dominant hand, or their political views. (I always tilt my head to the left, since I am left-handed). The less a person talks, and the more they head tilt, the more interested they are. This is an example of a friend or partner who genuinely respects what you have to say.

3. Touching the arms: Believe it or not, we are very conscious of the condition of our arms (Think about life without arms. These are an important part of our body needed to survive). People with autism especially, will react intensely to having their arms touched. But the average population receives a lot of information from having their upper arms touched, especially by a friend or potential partner. It’s an expression of comfort, to allow yourself to enter the personal space of another person and not be rejected. Touching the forearm, back of hand or wrist is an expression of mild comfort, but there is still an attachment that needs to be built. It’s also important to note that when a man clutches the upper arms of another person, they want that person close to them.

4. Sitting with knees spread: I know what you’re thinking, but this is not a sexual behavior. Usually friends, especially male friends, do this with each other when they feel comfortable, relaxed and safe. Men do this around women too, and it means the same thing, but they don’t do it as often.

5. Two-armed sideways hug: If someone hugs you with both arms but approaches you are your side rather than face first, then this is an affectionate friend.

6. Face to face two-armed hug: This means many, many things. But overall, whether you are friends, family, partners, there is some type of love involved, either romantic or unconditional.

7. One-armed hug: People who have known each other for a long time don’t do this, usually. If they do, they aren’t very close. If someone does this to you on a first date, they may not have much of an interest in building an attachment, or in some cases they may not be very attracted to you. 😦

8. Hand holding: Our palms and fingertips are one of, if not the most sensitive areas on our body. Holding hands is a very powerful expression of closeness, and even a desire to be closer if in a romantic relationship. But for friends this can mean a desire to build a stronger friendship and get to know that person more.

9. Kissing: Lips are nearly as sensitive as hands, and we kiss to release chemicals that build an attachment. The problem with kissing someone you just met, is that it creates a “false” attachment which is physical rather than emotional. Since the human species is naturally monogamous, it’s not a good idea to kiss on the first date. If you do kiss on the first date, even though you don’t want to date that person again, you’ll still be thinking about them for several days afterward. Our bodies can get a little confused about what we want…

10. Eye contact: The most important romantic gesture between two people is eye contact. Friends make eye contact too, and often develop unconditional love from it. But eye contact among couples is how we open ourselves to that person and make ourselves vulnerable. If someone does not willingly make eye contact with you, then they do not feel at ease with you yet. If your pupils dilate during eye contact, there is genuine love there.

Feminism is a Fancy Word for Sexism
November 16, 2014

Here’s the problem with American society: We spend so much time and effort on discussing and fixing the problems that women face. Doing so undermines the problems that men face daily, and makes it seem like women are the only victims on this planet. Throw feminists into the mix, who will bash women for wearing dresses and make-up, bully men but expect respect in return, and we have to wonder, who is the real bully here? The amount of times I’ve been bullied by a man, I can count on a couple of hands at best. The amount of times I’ve been bullied by a woman… I lost count a long time ago. Men tell women to be more feminine, and women tell women to be more masculine. My response to that is, I’ll do whatever and live however I damn well feel like living. Period.

I don’t think we understand just how demeaning it is to women as a whole, when we repeatedly tell the world that we are victims. That doesn’t mean that sexism, rape, pro-lifers don’t exist. But if you hear that men are out to get you every single day, all day long, that you have fewer opportunities, fewer rights, fewer pay, it doesn’t feel very good, does it? Awareness of a problem has never done anything to fix a problem. Perhaps the right women who support women stepping up to the plate as leaders, and being voted into office will be more effective.

The news doesn’t like to report on it, but men and women have similar problems. Men have to have big muscles and penises. Women have to have large breasts and butts. If a man is abused by a woman, then it’s his fault for not being man enough to stop it. If a woman is abused by a man, then it’s her fault because she did something to deserve it. Men have to bring home the bacon, pay the bills, have a nice car, have a high-paying job, and regularly prove that they are a man by doing “manly” things. Women have to raise the kids, clean the house, cook dinner, wear make-up, and dress up. There is equal pressure on both sides from both sexes to be a certain way, otherwise you are a failure to society as a whole. That’s a frightening and dangerous notion, that you fail at being a part of society. This is the concept which was used to institutionalize people with disabilities, and women during the Victorian period. This is how Jim Crow laws were made.

That being said, I believe in women who can be astronauts, presidents/world leaders, athletes in all sports, construction workers, firefighters, police officers, and being good people. I also believe in empowering men to do the same things, but most importantly, being good people. Respect is a two way street, and if you don’t give it, you won’t get it. Bottom line ladies, if you treat a man like shit, he does not owe you respect. Or as Whoopi Goldberg said in response to THIS video, “If you slap a man, don’t be surprised if you get slapped back.” What angers me most about this video, is that no one appeared to defend this man. So being a man who has to “act manly” automatically makes him less worthy of respect, space and safety? A woman who was being taunted and assaulted by three men probably would have been defended by at least one person on that subway car.

When it comes to empowering both sexes, the idea of strength and what makes a man or woman strong, is severely skewed. Superheroes, for example, are often men like Thor or Hercules, who are your basic “jock” personalities. They have the physical strength to take down giant monsters, but as you’ve seen in many Marvel films, Thor hits things, and when that doesn’t work, he hits it again. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. That is the ultimate weakness, to be a slave to what society expects of you as a man. Physical strength is fine and dandy, but a man who doesn’t think for himself, doesn’t respect other people, doesn’t take steps to educate himself about his craft and the world, is a weak man.

The other skew is a female character who’s primary attribute is beating the living hell out of other characters. That is NOT a strong woman. I don’t have anything against women studying martial arts, especially given my background in studying self defense. My character is not all about how hard I can punch someone else. This is why I admire Wae Ming-na’s character on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., who is a strong martial artist, but also a profoundly emotional character. Women are usually stereotyped negatively for showing emotion (as are men), but Ming-na is able to portray anger, sadness, love, regret, humor, and many other emotions which make us human. That’s the point, after all, that we are all human beings no matter our gender.

Sadly, we probably will never get rid of sexism completely. But we can certainly stop attacking people for who they are. A prime example is attacking men who are gay, because they aren’t “man enough”. I say, if you are genetically born male, then you are a man. Nothing in this world, not your clothes, your personality, your race, anything, can change your genetics. Doing things that hurt other people will certainly garner disrespect, but that doesn’t make you less of a man or woman, that just means that you’ve hurt a lot of people and karma has had a field day with you. In short, if you want sexism to stop, stop being sexist.

Congratulations, you helped create a bully.
May 14, 2014

At some point in all of our lives, we have encountered a bully. Whether we were directly targeted, or saw someone else being targeted, it happened to us at least once. Think about how you’ve reacted to bullying in the past. Did you pretend like it was a game or humorous, did you get upset, or did you choose not to react at all? If you answered yes to at least one of those questions, then answer this one: Did your reaction to bullying make it stop, either temporarily or permanently?

I was expecting you to say no to that. You can’t stop bullying once it starts. Once someone has it in their mind that they hate you, that’s how it will be. Bullies feel justified in their judgments and hatred toward others because we have taught them how to do it. We give our children simple orders such as “behave yourself” with no indication of how or why. We tell our children to just ignore it. We tell our kids to suck it up, because it’s just how things are. We tell our children to shut up, compare them to other kids and hit them when they don’t do what we want them to. And above all, we tell our children to express themselves and their feelings without making it clear which feelings and expressions can hurt other people. We have created bullies.

I’m sure you are a great parent. Your kids have clothes, food, a shelter, apartment or home, and an education. I’m sure in your heart of hearts you feel like you are doing the right thing. But you don’t know everything there is to know about being a parent. No one does. The phrase “Don’t tell me how to raise my kids” won’t cut it anymore, because you always have room to learn new things. The diffusion of responsibility by saying “All parents make mistakes” is unfair to you because you are the parent, and your child does not know better than you. You don’t have room for mistakes, and you need to own up to your own behavior before you expect your child to own up to their’s. Making a stubborn mistake because you didn’t want to listen to the warning signs is exactly why your kid grew up to be mad at you. And please don’t tell me that “what was good for you is good for them”, because most of your parents’ fuck-ups are why you are socially awkward or anxious, think you are too fat, too bald or badly dressed, repeatedly compare yourself to other people your age, hate that you are getting old, regret nearly 90% of your actions or choices up to this point, and work ten hour days and come home feeling dead. It’s time to stop the legacy here.

In your head, the definition of “behave yourself” is likely long, empathetic and deeply involved in societal norms. How many six year old kids do you know of that actually think about their place in society and how they relate to other people? Children don’t develop common sense and a stronger sense of empathy until approximately age ten, but some will understand things earlier or later than that, and that’s okay. Kids don’t know the full meaning behind “behave yourself”, so when you say it to them, they either have their own definition or they are confused. A child might not ask you to clarify, rely on what they know or don’t know, and end up getting in trouble because they don’t know better. Or, they will ask you to clarify, and they get slapped in the face with “You know what I mean!” Aside from the fact that if your child knew what you meant they wouldn’t have to ask, they grow angry because you won’t be honest with them. Kids have a bad habit of turning inward, and they assume the worst: Maybe my mom/dad won’t tell me because I’m too young or too stupid to understand. You have successfully trained your child to think low of themselves. Now they can take that feeling of shame, and apply it to other kids. You’ll have to explain why, and how, your child can behave the right way several times before they understand it.

I have often felt that telling children to ignore bullying is a parent’s way of creating a simple solution, to a very big problem, so they don’t have to deal with it again. Telling a child to suck it up is even worse. While the intentions are good, making the point that a kid is picked on because they are different or an individual/unique, is blasphemous. Your child told you they were being bullied because they need your help. Saying they should ignore it means you are ignoring it too. Saying they should suck it up is like saying they, as human beings, don’t have the right to feel hurt when someone hurts them. But the most evil kind of justification of bullying, is by giving a logically sound reason for it. Your child is their own person, sure, but now they know that being themselves means they have a target on their back. Kids don’t understand things the same way as adults, so whatever you say to them has terrible implications.

There is nothing wrong with telling your child that they shouldn’t be bullied. Yes, you are accepting it’s a problem, and responsibility for helping to fix it. Yes, you are stressed out with your job, bills, groceries, housework, education for them and you, but you signed up to be a parent, and the only person who needs to suck up anything is you, the parent. There’s a reason why you have family, advice blogs/articles (like this one), child/parent advocacy groups and school administration. There are masses of people around the block lining up to help you raise your kids, and most of it is free, or required assistance by your state. There is nothing weak about asking for help. If anything you’re a hero because you’re a responsible parent. Bottom line, you can feed, shelter and clothe your kids for 18 years, and they can still grow up to be an asshole if they haven’t been taught how to treat other people.

I have had far too many arguments on the city bus with moms who yell at or hit their babies out of impatience or frustration. An example is a woman talking on her cell phone, who’s 1 year old son was babbling as babies do. She didn’t want to give up her unnecessary and vulgar phone conversation to talk to her son, so she kept telling him to shut up. If he turned and looked out the window, or moved in anyway for that matter, she would strike his leg with her hand. Lets just say my argument with her became very loud when I told her that she couldn’t do that to her son. When we don’t speak up, we let parents bully their children, which in turn trains their children to become bullies. Confronting a bully puts them on the spot, and shows them that what they are doing will not be tolerated. If you want to make someone feel bad for something they did, it should be bullying. If ten people witness bullying, and all ten people think “someone else will tell that bully to stop it”, then nothing happens. And don’t tell me it’s hard to speak up, because there is nothing difficult about caring about the state of another human being. You don’t have to model your actions off of other people; you think with your own brain and you stand up for people.

The biggest mistake we make, is comparing our kids to other kids. And we start when they are babies. If another parent’s baby starts walking before our’s, we start thinking “time to ask the doctor why my kid isn’t walking yet.” Did you know on average, girls start walking before boys? Did you know that even that is only an approximation, because no two kids develop the same way. Kids are their own people, physically and mentally. Yes, there are things to be concerned about regarding your child’s development. But, if your kid is talking (this includes ALL vocal sounds), making eye contact with you, listening to what you say, desiring appropriate affection, curious about their environment, trying to use tools, and assemble/disassemble toys (properly), then they’re doing all right. This comparison behavior is also present in television shows, like characters who want to be exactly like another character. Or on a magazine cover, with a photoshopped celebrity talking about weight loss. And my personal favorite is the 40+ year old women, who make it their personal mission to guilt me because I’m a healthy body weight. I understand that you are unhappy with your appearance, and I understand why, but attacking me won’t make you thinner, or make you feel better about yourself.

Emotions and self-expression are just as bad as they are good. Yoda may be a muppet but he was right, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Everyone becomes afraid of something, but when we don’t understand how someone else feels, that lack of empathy creates an unknown. The unknown is a scary place because we have nothing to work with when we’re there. That inability to understand the unknown becomes frustrating and then angry. That anger keeps building, so intensely that it leads to resentment and eventual hate for what we don’t understand. We take that hate, and we lash out with it to protect ourselves from the unknown, but all we really do is cause the suffering of another person. Another person who didn’t deserve it.

Unfortunately, an addict may stop taking drugs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still an addict. Addicts relapse quite often. Bullies are exactly the same. You can teach a bully how not to bully, but they’ve learned how to judge, how to express hate, and they’ll probably relapse. Even if they don’t say their judgments aloud, they will think them, or give people a “look” that that shows that hate. If they hate a certain race, they’ll avoid that race. In essence, retraining a bully doesn’t make a good person, it just makes a quieter bully.

What we can do, is stop bullying before it starts. How do we do it? We show empathy to our children, by treating them with the utmost respect and humanity, and expecting that same respect and humanity in return. If someone falls, you help them get up. If someone is crying, you offer to listen to why. You tell your children that you love them for who they are. You talk to your children about their day, their likes and dislikes, and you show a general interest in the things they do. You care about the human condition of your children, so they will enter the world and care about the human condition of other people. This isn’t just your job, this is everyone’s job. It takes a village to raise a child. We can’t stop the bullies that already exist, not completely anyway, but we can stop making new bullies, and bullying will eventually become extinct.

Guess What Autism Is, and Isn’t
March 24, 2014

Certain things infuriate me, and one of those things is talking to people like they aren’t all there, don’t get it, or don’t understand. There’s a lot of stigma and misinformation surrounding autism and I’d like to have a chat with you about it.

Autism spectrum disorder is not an intellectual delay. People who are diagnosed with an ASD aren’t “idiots”. They are quite the opposite. It’s not uncommon for someone who has a high functioning ASD to have an average or above average IQ score. Savants are not so uncommon either. For example, you could send me to work in a building with absolutely no visible clocks, watches or cell phones for a week, and I’d still be able to tell you what time it is, because I can count time in my head. I can also teach myself most foreign languages within approximately 2 to 4 weeks. Now these traits are because I have OCD, but it’s easier for me to describe myself than somebody else. Someone with ASD can have a below average IQ score, but that still doesn’t characterize ASD as a learning disorder. I’ll explain why later on.

ASD is a neurological and developmental delay. Sensory and motor function is effected, as well as social interaction. Someone with ASD can have a hard time relating to other people, approaching them and maintaining relationships. They may seem awkward or inappropriate, clingy or distant. ASD effects the ability to walk, communicate verbally, use hands to work with small objects (fine motor skills), and emotional expressions. People can become easily frightened by things like rearranging furniture, which would be “no big deal” to someone who isn’t autistic. Hypersensitivity to sound and touch can be both upsetting and painful. Sometimes hypersensitivity to touch is based on levels of trust, and other times it’s because being touched is uncomfortable or painful.

Asperger syndrome, contrary to popular belief, is no longer considered part of the autism spectrum by most doctors and psychologists. The reason for this is because Asperger syndrome effects social behavior and language, but not always physical development. People with AS tend to be very skilled with manipulating objects, in other words taking things apart and putting them back together. AS involves more obsessive-compulsive type traits, such as fascinations with vehicles, mathematics and physics.

Autism is associated with aggression and violence, but that doesn’t mean it causes those things. Aggression can be brought out by intense emotional experiences, like losing a close family member or friend. Children and adults connect with other people differently from the average population, so they either don’t think too much of someone’s presence in their life, or that person’s presence is the most important thing in their world. Interruption and change in activities and routines can be also be met with aggression because they don’t always have a way to say they upset or make a compromise or easily make rational decisions. Not to insult anyone, but sometimes the solution to a problem is if Luke Skywalker suddenly appeared and started swinging his light-saber all over the place. There isn’t always a clear definition of where reality ends and fantasy begins in the mind of someone with ASD. Autism is not insanity; everything is just the same.

There is a believed link between the increased size of the amygdala in the brain, and ASD. An enlarged amygdala takes up space which means a loss of gray matter, leading to a lower IQ. In addition, the amygdala is directly below the sensory cortex and motor cortex, which explains in part why neurological development is effected. The amygdala is also the main emotion hub of the brain, and when it’s bigger, it’s going to produce bigger emotions. This characteristic has been observed in various brain scans, and many, but not all doctors are willing to call it a direct cause of autism.

Quality of life for someone with autism has the same chance at being great or terrible as every other human being on this planet. People with autism are not destined for loneliness, or living without independence (to an extent, severe ASD can greatly restrict self-care). Patience and understanding may sound cheesy but if you respect people and the challenges they face, you won’t judge them. In truth, the more exposure people with ASD have to other people and the world, the better they do as they grow.

Hurry Up and Get Married!
December 21, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone about a man who I had been interested in, and he happens to be in his early 40’s. The person I was talking with drew the conclusion that the reason why he’s never been married is because he is either high maintenance or has some sort of commitment issue. At first, I agreed with this conclusion, until 15 minutes ago. If I don’t get married before my 40’s, that usually means I am a strong, independent woman who doesn’t take crap from men.

Why do we have this double standard? Besides bearing children, keeping up an acceptable appearance, housekeeping and being quiet, there’s very little that women have to do in our society. Men on the other hand, they must get married, bring home the bacon, be the boss, be dominant, be assertive, be a leader, be a rescue worker/superhero, have a lot of muscle, protect the family, be tall, dark and handsome, be smart and well educated, and if they don’t do these things then they are a freaking fairy. When was the last time you heard these expectations directed at a woman? Even feminists don’t put pressure on women to do these things, they just want women to have the choice available to them. But men don’t have a choice – well, they do, but they choose not to do what society expects then they are considered no good.

Looking at such a high pressure society for men, it’s no surprise to me that men like to immortalize themselves with mass shootings because in our society they have likely been overworked and/or shunned.

Furthermore, last night I was watching the 2011 film, Captain America: The First Avenger. I figured, why not, hadn’t seen it yet, might as well give it a go. I found the first few parts of the film very endearing, when Steve Rogers explained that he didn’t want to kill anyone, he would never run from a fight, didn’t like bullies and was this very tiny man. He’d get picked on constantly for it, and never tried to be someone he wasn’t. He was a good soul. Then they stick a fancy blue serum inside him, make him grow taller, gain muscle, and poof, suddenly everyone is looking at Steve Rogers like he is worth something. He always wanted to do great things, and the only time he was allowed to do that was when he looked the way they wanted him to look. Honestly, once he was transformed into Captain America, I lost all interest in him as a character.

What makes a man? Well, I think that man I spoke of in the beginning of this blog post is a good example. We don’t talk to each other anymore, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a man. You see, when I first met him, I learned he had a terminal illness, and I’ve never known him without it. In the last year or so, he has lost almost all of his muscle mass, uses a wheelchair and is losing most of his mobility. He has a feeding tube and a colostomy. When I look at him, I see the greatest man in the world. When he looks at himself, he sees what his illness has done to him. I have often wondered why nothing ever happened between the two of us and my conclusion is this: because society likes to make men feel like they aren’t human, and shouldn’t love themselves.

A word to the wise… This man I speak of, I never have, and I never will meet anyone who is more of a man than him. Anyone who would look at him and think he is hideous, doesn’t know how to love him.

Diffusion of Responsibility
November 12, 2013

Ever hear that popular psychological tale of the person who falls down on the sidewalk, and none of the 50+ people around bend down to pick that person up? The reason no one acts is because they are all thinking at the same time, “There are plenty of people here, and someone will help that person.” But if all 50 people think that, then no one does anything. This is called diffusion of responsibility.

Let us discuss war, because collateral damage seems to be the best example of diffusion of responsibility. The United States government likes to say that innocent deaths in war are to be expected, can’t be prevented, and should be named collateral damage. Like, oops, we killed people! There is no such thing as oops when someone is killed because of war. War is mass murder. To prevent the entire United States army from being tried for murder, collateral damage was invented. In other words, thousands of soldiers, government officials, have diffused their responsibility for the murders they committed.

I recently watched a George Carlin special on Netflix called “Doing it Again.” In it, Carlin references post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Pre-Vietnam war, PTSD was called “shellshock”. As Carlin argues, shellshock is a straight forward term which describes the pain and suffering soldiers feel after going through war. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a soft, non-descriptive term which makes it seem like shellshock is not that big of a deal. Vietnam war veterans came home as drunks, wife beaters, and insane. They had watched children explode in front of them because the little ones had bombs hidden under their clothes. American soldiers brutally raped numerous Vietnamese women. Vietnamese soldiers would steal and decapitate war-dogs to prevent them from sniffing out mines. The sickest part is they would give the decapitated dogs back to the American soldiers. Our media, our government, they don’t openly talk about these things. They don’t show the pictures and videos of people after war. If they did, how many people would actually go into the army? If the knowledge of what happens during war is enough to shellshock someone, imagine what it is like after being in a war. Once again, by avoiding the term shellshock, they have diffused their responsibility.

When I went to Washington D.C. two years ago, I had to visit the Air and Space Museum. It was my favorite of all of the museums I toured. I have always adored planes, rockets, space shuttles, mainly for the way they are built. It fascinates me, because I understand how they work. Many people ask me why I haven’t gone into the Air Force. My answer is always that I don’t want to kill people. That is usually countered with “but you can just build missiles”. True, I could study physics and engineering, and build missiles. But my intelligence was not given to me by nature so I could murder people. If I make a weapon, I might as well learn to fly the plane which can fire it. To say that I made it, but didn’t fire it, is an insult to human life. I’m better than that.

Gender Identity Disorder?
August 31, 2013

During my Developmental Psychology course last semester, we actually visited this topic. Yes, it shocked me too. I can’t say that I agree or disagree with this label. I don’t like labeling people as disorders. I don’t like telling people what they can and cannot do with their body. Honestly, for me to be in favor of abortion but say someone cannot change their physical appearance would be hypocritical and putting my nose where it doesn’t belong.

I do find it concerning when someone feels so uncomfortable in their body that they believe they have to change it. Someone who is transsexual, will have the mindset of one gender, and the body of another. In other words, they think like a woman, but look like a man, or vice versa. To be transsexual means to make a full transition from one gender to another. This gender must look and act a certain way based on the majority of society’s perception of gender roles. This raises a serious question; is trans-sexuality a disorder, is it based on insecurity, or is it something else entirely?

Is someone allowed to identify as a man, but look like a woman? Does the body truly need to match the mind? Is it possible, that my own “masculine” attitude is just my personality, and that my body is fine as it is right now? Is trans-sexuality really trans-sexuality? Is it a mental illness? Is it based on how we treat each other? Could it be all of these things, or none of them?

There are plenty of theories by psychologists that explore the mindsets of men and women and how they differ. One theory suggests that the fetus sometimes develops with a male or female body, but later develops a brain which thinks as an opposite gender. Given how messy the human gene pool is, it wouldn’t surprise me if we managed to genetically scramble something again. I think it is safe to say that the human race successfully broke genetics. This theory is sometimes used as an “explanation” for homosexuality as well.

Speaking of homosexuality, no wonder it bothers people when someone has a mind and body that don’t match. People nowadays seem to have a big issue with a woman who acts “masculine” and a man who acts “feminine”. What are your definitions of masculinity and femininity? Do you think wearing pants is a manly thing to do? Do you believe having long hair is a girly thing to do? Do you believe boys play sports and girls play with dolls? Or are you less uptight about someone else’s lifestyle, and would rather let someone be as they are?

Answer me this in the comments section: Do you believe transsexuality is a gender identity disorder? Why or why not?