Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Parental Love and Bossypants Book Review

(Warning:  This post contains graphic language.   It is not intended to be offensive and the profanity has not been used gratuitously. I enjoy curse words when talking about injustice and not people, but I understand that some people are sensitive about them.)

This is not so much a book review but a prescription.  If you haven't read it, read it.  If your daughter hasn't read it, read it to her at bedtime.  My daughter has the audio-book on her iPod and she has heard it half a dozen times.

I recently had lunch with one of my mentors.  She told me she had a party for her son when she sent him off to college.  She asked her mentor to say a few words at the party.
Her mentor said, "Son, you know that I am a social worker.  And mental health professionals will never go out of business because everyone wonders whether their mother loved them.  Son, I know you know that your mother loved you."
Tina Fey, Bossypants writer, also knows that her parents loved her.  She mentions this in her book and it's implications.  At Saturday Night Live (SNL), a male coworker once called her a cunt.
Her response: “NO! You don’t get to call me that. My parents love me and I am not the child of alcoholics who take that shit.”
Tina Fey is a funny feminist.  She is my daughters role model.  My daughter dreams of auditioning for SNL, moving to New York, working with Loren Michael, and doing improv because of Tina Fey.

I could not be a prouder momma.

When a guy in a car yells "nice tits" at 13-year-old Tina, she responds: "Suck my dick."

Normally, I would deem this content inappropriate for my daughter.  But she gets the irony of the whole situation. The underlying message of that story is: don't take $hit from anybody just because you are a woman (or from any other oppressed group) and stand up for yourself using your Voice (and humor if possible).

The fact that Tina Fey knew this at 13 is pure awesomeness.  If my daughter can learn this now from someone she thinks is funny and has a cool job (not like her "boring" momma - her words, not mine), then a chunk of my job is done.

The choices that Tina Fey has made in her life and career - and the courage, honesty and wit that she is able to draw from to write about them - is a testament to her knowing that her parents love her.  Her core belief is, "I am loved."  This informs her whole life - her choices, paths, responses, reactions and relationships.

Tina Fey writes nuggets of empowerment with spoonfuls of laughter.  It makes you want to find your strengths and be who you are. As I read her collection of stories, I think she might as well be an elder teaching women of all ages about navigating life.

Reading Bossypants reminded me of a Taylor Swift song, Fifteen, that goes like this: 
'cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
When you're fifteen and your first kiss Makes your head spin round 

but In your life you'll do things greater than dating the boy of the football team
But I didn't know it at fifteen
When all you wanted was to be wanted
Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now
Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday
But I realized some bigger dreams of mine
And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy
Who changed his mind and we both cried
'cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
And when you're fifteen, don't forget to look before you fall
When I first heard that song, I ran to my daughter to tell her that when she is 15, boys or men might try to tell her that they love her to get what they want.

I told her not to be so easily impressed and to tell them, "I know I am love-able.  My parents love me."

She made a grossed out face and rolled her big, brown, beautiful eyeballs at me, "Oh mom! You are so embarrassing! I'm not going to say that!"

"Okay, you're right.  That sounds dorky and you don't have to say it.  But I want you to think it in your head!"

Every night I tell my girl how much I love her and how lucky I am to be her momma.  I am grateful when she says I love you right back.

Maybe my love for her will predict the size of her future royalty checks? Not because she will think that love must be earned through achievement or money but because she will feel empowered to do exactly what she came here to do and that will bring her success. I will let you know how this all turns out in 20 years when I may be found writing to you from the South of France.

(Full disclosure:  That last line is not meant to imply that I am a proponent of elitism, materialism or our consumerist culture.  I am not trapped in that oppressive system.  I choose to drive an 11-year old Toyota Echo in Los Angeles, for goodness sake. I value freedom and relationships over money.  However, I was not being sarcastic about winding up in the South of France.) 

Friday, August 26, 2011

(Miscellaneous) Mantras

There are mantras that have carried me through many different stages and experiences in my life.  Some were  inner voice revelations and others were given to me by mentors.

Water seeks it's own level.

It's okay to be who I am.

Whenever possible, say no.

Do what's in front of you.

Humility is not believing that you are nothing, it is knowing your worth in God's eyes and not being a show-off.

I know who I am, I have nothing to prove.

There is no competition with others, only to be your personal best.

I am not at my best when I am stressed.  I am at my best when I feel full and calm inside.

Soothe, and do not ignore or indulge, the baby inside.

God loves you and everyone else.

When the envious friend tries to take you down, pray that she finds love and acknowledges her strengths. When she feels whole, she won't feel the urge to take you down.

Remember it is not about what a person says, it is about what they do. So pay attention to a person's behavior, behavior says it all.

I have a right to choose my friends and who I spend time with.

People will see your light and want what you have.  They will want to be you.  Don't become jaded or cynical, become wiser.

Mental health professionals will always be in business because we all wonder whether or not our parent(s) loved us.  Make sure your child knows that you love her.

We all need a parent.

We feel ambivalent about our parents.  We feel ambivalent about everything.

The self-fulfilling prophecy - if you say it, it will be.  Tell your child, "You are a good person."

You have a right to your thoughts and feelings.

You have a right to make your own decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions.

We have to learn how to grieve because nothing lasts forever.

If God is for us, then who can be against us?

The Universe will conspire to bring about your heart's desire and help you to fulfill your personal legend.

There is a purpose and mission for our lives. Do what you came here to do.


You are not a victim, you are the author of your life.

It is possible.


Everything is negotiable.


We don't have what we want, we have what we believe.


Don't make decisions out of fear or guilt, no good can come from that.


If people talk $#it about me, I'll ask myself, "Am I in there?" because if I am I will change. But if I am not, then it is not my problem what people say about me.


We all matter.


There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. There is nothing you can do to make God love you less.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Attachment Security, Emotion Regulation and Mental Health

Abstract

Despite the consistent documentation of an association between compromised attachment and clinical disorders, there are few empirical studies exploring factors that may mediate this relationship.

This study evaluated the potential roles of emotion regulation and social support expectations in linking adult attachment classification and psychiatric impairment in 109 women with a history of childhood abuse and a variety of diagnosed psychiatric disorders.

Path analysis confirmed that insecure attachment was associated with psychiatric impairment through the pathways of poor emotion regulation capacities and diminished expectations of support.

Results suggest the relevance of attachment theory in understanding the myriad psychiatric outcomes associated with childhood maltreatment and in particular, the focal roles that emotion regulation and interpersonal expectations may play.


Attachment organization, emotion regulation, and expectations of support in a clinical sample of women with childhood abuse histories, Marylene Cloitre, Chase Stovall-McClough, Patty Zorbas, Anthony Charuvastra, Journal of Traumatic Stress, Volume 21, Issue 3, pages 282–289, June 2008.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Families Matter in Children's Mental Health Treatment

Prince (2005) found family involvement to be an essential component in both the assessment and the planning of treatment, as well as a strong predictor of later family satisfaction with treatment outcomes.
Furthermore, the participation of the family in the treatment process following a traumatic event or stressor is considered key to recovery.

A Family Systems Perspective to Recovery From Posttraumatic Stress in Children, Stephanie Bernardon and Francesca Pernice-Duca (2010), The Family Journal, 18, 349-357

Memory-Structuring Intervention (MSI) for PTSD

A study was done in Israel with people who experienced motor vehicle accidents to test if a memory-structuring intervention (MSI) could prevent the development or severity of PTSD symptoms.

MSI was based on theories and empirical findings summarized in the previous post.  The components of the intervention are summarized below:

Time sections
A therapist approaches the trauma survivor with a set of predetermined time sections in mind:
  • the hours before the accident
  • the first minutes of driving
  • the accident
  • the arrival of medical assistance
  • arrival at the hospital
Listening to and clarifying patient’s details
The therapist actively listens to and writes down details of the patient’s story, while clarifying factual, sensory, and affective details.  For example:
Patient: I shouted after falling
Therapist: Did you shout because of pain at that moment?
Patient:   I shouted because my back hurt me
Details are noted by the therapist in their corresponding time sections, together with precise labels for thoughts and feelings, to enhance structure and cognitive processing of sensory/affective reactions.

Memory structuring
The therapist repeats the trauma narrative in an organized, labeled, and logical manner, adding initial implications for the patient’s life (insight).

Patient’s structured description
The patient describes the traumatic event in the same structured, labeled, and logical manner as the therapist did. At this point, patients usually add further details, describe the event in a more objective “journalistic” manner, and appear less aroused.

Practice structured description
Until the subsequent session, the patient is asked to practice telling friends or family members the structured version of the traumatic event, to enhance the attempted memory shift.

Rehearsal with therapist
In the second meeting, patients practiced for the last time disclosing the traumatic memory in its structured manner. Finally, the patient was taught about the importance of and asked about his/her social support (a predictor of delayed PTSD in motor vehicle accidents).

This may just sound like your average exposure therapy sessions, but it should be noted that these were done via telephone and over just two sessions. Furthermore, at follow-up, MSI patients (as compared to those that received supportive listening-type telephone counseling) reported significantly less frequent total PTSD symptoms, less frequent intrusion symptoms (reliving the event) and less frequent arousal symptoms.  No significant differences were found in relation to avoidance symptoms.

Once again, the magic is in telling the story, over and over, with structure, order, coherence, meaning, organization, details, noting thoughts and feelings.  Moving the memory from the right part of the brain (sensory and affective side) to the left part of the brain (logic and language side).

This seems to help whether we are talking about motor vehicle accidents, childhood attachment trauma or any other type of trauma.  It reminds me that High School English teachers tend to be our favorite.  I wonder if some of that might be due to the fact that the writing and storytelling about our life experiences we learned to do in their classes  - structured, coherent, with plenty of sensory details - helped heal our brain and retrieve our souls.

From: Translating Research Findings to PTSD Prevention: Results of a Randomized–Controlled Pilot Study by Yori Gidron, Reuven Gal, Sara Freedman, Irit Twiser, Ari Lauden, Yoram Snir, Jonathan Benjamin in Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol. 14, No. 4, 2001.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

From Fragmented Memory to Coherent Narrative

Scientific discovery is very much detective work.

There are bits of evidence that form a pattern, that are linked somehow.  Researchers try to test bits of reality and theorists try to put it together into a coherent whole.

Coherence and wholeness is an important theme.
"...previous interventions did not systematically address what may be one of the major etiological (causal) factors in PTSD: the manner in which traumatic events are processed in memory (Siegel, 1995).
Important clues from other clinical studies reveal some ways in which prognosis may be improved. Foa, Molnal, and Kashman (1995) showed that among PTSD victims of rape undergoing flooding therapy, an increasingly organized description of their trauma was associated with a better prognosis.
In studies using writing as a form of trauma disclosure, Pennebaker and Francis (1996) and Pennebaker (1996) found a positive correlation between number of words reflecting insight or causality and health improvements.
Another set of studies provides further clues concerning the nature in which trauma is encoded and processed. Specifically, van der Kolk and Fisler (1995) found that unlike nontraumatic but mildly stressful memories, traumatic memories were recalled as sensory, affective, and fragmented information.
Finally, a recent (not yet published) study found that the comprehensibility subscale of the sense of coherence (perceived order and predictability of events), explained a great proportion of the variance in PTSD symptoms (Luszczynska-Cieslak, personal communications, August 2000).
The congruence in the findings reviewed above supports theoretical contentions (Siegel, 1995; van der Kolk, 1994; van der Kolk & Fisler, 1995) that traumatic information is encoded mainly in a somatosensory, affective, nonlinguistic, and relatively uncontrolled fragmented memory.
Prevention or reduction of PTSD intensity may need to focus on shifting the processing of traumatic information from affective, somatosensory, and uncontrollable fragmented memory processes to linguistic, controllable, and more cognitive memory processes.
This processing shift may not be achieved by all interventions that include emotional ventilation or debriefing alone. This processing shift may be achieved by providing chronological organization and causality to patients’ memory, together with cognitive labeling of their somatic and affective reactions. Such techniques may enhance control over uncontrollable memory processes typical of PTSD."

What is oral history and traditions, but storytelling?  A way to transmit culture - to pass on the lessons learned by our parents and ancestors.  And yet, it may also be the way that cultural or family trauma is made sense of as stories are repeated - shaped so there is an order to them, with a beginning, middle and end - and showing cause and effect. 

As painful as it feels, as cruel as it may sound, we have to tell the stories, all the stories, and make sense of them.  In this way, we understand ourselves, our people, our experiences, and begin to heal.  And begin to sleep easier without old monsters chasing us into the night.

It may begin as baby steps.  

First, doing whatever makes us feel stronger - taking good care of ourselves through food that loves our body, movement that loves our body, relationships that love our mind-body-spirit.  

Then, finding healers that ground our spirit and energy - massage therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, energy healers, curanderas, sobadoras, ministers/priests/rabbis/shamans/religious leaders, and so many others out there with gifts to facilitate our healing.  Because we are meant to heal.  It is our birthright.  We are loved.

Then, a little at a time, using whatever form feels safest and familiar - a dance that communicates the story, a song, figures in a sand tray, a poem, journal writing for 15 minutes a day over 4 days (as Pennebaker did with study participants), whatever your creative spirit can imagine. 

Then, we start to feel whole, integrated, acknowledging and accepting the good and the bad. Calm in knowing we are competent and loveable.  It's going to be okay.  We will figure it out.  We are not alone.  There are others with us - from the past and in the present.  The generous Universe poised to conspire in our favor.

Article excerpt from:  Translating Research Findings to PTSD Prevention: Results of a Randomized–Controlled Pilot Study by Yori Gidron, Reuven Gal, Sara Freedman, Irit Twiser, Ari Lauden, Yoram Snir, Jonathan Benjamin in Journal of Traumatic Stress, Vol. 14, No. 4, 2001.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mentors of All Kinds

I have mentors for all kinds of life issues.

I have Feelings mentors - people with relational expertise, insight and self-awareness about feelings.  My husband is one of these.  They teach me everyday to pay attention to my emotions, moods, reactions, tone and behavior - the niceties and significant aspects of life.  They teach me that the back and forth of energy in a relationship is important.  It's the glue and spark of our lives.  When I am having relationship difficulties and I don't know what to do - I call on an F mentor.

I have a painting and artistic mentor.  He is also my mentor in visualizing/manifesting and one of my favorite people on the planet.  He seems eternally positive and optimistic, despite the odds.  Of course he has his dark days and with good reason, but he is all the time working on healing.  He has come a long way and I love being around him.  He is a nurturing teacher and his friendship is even more calming than the painting I do in his class.

I have research mentors.  Recently, I submitted an application to conduct a study.   The committee did not approve my initial proposal.  I felt totally lost and bewildered about how to respond to their follow up questions.  After some moments of despair, I cried for help (calmly written emails with proposal attached).  Two of my brilliant mentors responded by morning.  A third brilliant mentor told me he was annoyed by the committees questions.  Feeling grateful for that.

Then there is my ultimate mentor, God.  Plain and simple (as Oprah ended her last show saying), "Glory be to God." Believing in God is not my weakness but my strength.  There is no conflict in being a scientist with faith.  I happily explore empirically the wonders of human and social behavior - especially when God sends me hints about what to look for and points out undiscovered patterns.

Who are your mentors and how do they help you along? Take a moment to thank them for all their hard volunteer work.  According to Martin Seligman, gratitude visits stave off depression.  I imagine it is good energy for both mentor and mentee - and a good turn.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Journey of a Thousand Miles

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
--Lao Tzu
So my thousand mile journey has me out of gas.  I am trying to break things down into their micro-movements so I can keep moving forward.

Learning in the Summer

From the UCLA Center for School Mental Health:

As a recent RAND report highlights:
 "Student's skills and knowledge often deteriorate during the summer months, with low-income students facing the largest losses."
(I read about this in Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, as well.  It's so sad.  Low-income, middle-income and upper-income students start off at about the same level in Kinder and then the gap widens each successive year, mostly due to access to summer enrichment and tutors.  With state budget cuts leaving summer school at its most bare bones or non-existent, this seems to be a set up for failure and disparity.)

Following-up on this concern, we sent a request to folks across the country for information about:
  • any examples of what communities are doing to counter summer set-backs and other problems experienced by youngster over the summer?

  • any ways communities and schools have come together to create an organized and cohesive initiative that is designed to attract and benefit youngsters who are of the greatest concern?
For communities and schools that have not done much, we also asked for thoughts about who (what organization/position) is in a position to stimulate interest in developing an organized and cohesive initiative.

For anyone working, volunteering or interested in schools over the summer - any ideas?  How would you respond? 

The Brain-Trauma-Attachment Relationship in Our Boys

Quote from chapter abstract: 
"We have also learned from the neurodevelopmental research that traumatic experiences, especially for those children with disrupted attachment relationships, can create significant difficulties in the boys' capacity to effectively interact with their environment. These boys experience problems in self-regulation, difficulties in accurately reading social cues, learning problems (notably in language processing and development), and difficulties in flexible and adaptive problem solving (Stien & Kendall, 2004)."

Attachment is a verb: Experiential treatment for addressing self-regulation and relationship issues in boys with sexual behavior difficulties. 
Bergman, John; Creeden, Kevin
In: Engaging boys in treatment: Creative approaches to the therapy process. 
Haen, Craig (Ed.); New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2011.  pp. 241-264.

Harping on "Talking About It"

I get monthly updates about the latest in trauma research and this abstract has good info that can translate to practice, if you work with young people with PTSD.

"Prolonged exposure" is a therapeutic intervention that uses the repetition of story to habituate to a traumatic memory - in order to digest and archive the memory so it no longer chases you into the night and then day.

Long established as an effective treatment, it tends to be difficult for both clinician and client - at least initially.  What has been long avoided is greatly feared and what is greatly feared is long avoided.  After a few experiences with prolonged exposure and the resultant "sudden gains" observed in young clients - well, you can see how compelling it would be for a clinician.

Here's the abstract of the article for your learning pleasure...

Sudden gains in prolonged exposure for children and adolescents with posttraumatic stress disorder
Aderka, Idan M.; Appelbaum-Namdar, Edna; Shafran, Naama; Gilboa-Schechtman, Eva
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 79(4), Aug, 2011. pp. 441-446.

Abstract

Objective: Our objective was to examine sudden gains during developmentally adjusted prolonged exposure for posttraumaticstressdisorder (PTSD) among children and adolescents. We hypothesized that sudden gains would be detected and would be predictive of treatment outcome and follow-up.

Method: Sixty-three youngsters (ages 8–17) completed a developmentally adjusted protocol for the treatment of pediatric PTSD (Foa, Chrestman, & Gilboa-Schechtman, 2008). Participants' posttraumatic and depressive symptoms were assessed before each treatment session, as well as at approximately 3 and 12 months after treatment termination. We measured posttraumatic symptoms with the Child PTSD Symptom Scale (Foa, Johnson, Feeny, & Treadwell, 2001) and measured depressive symptoms with the Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961) and the Children's Depression Inventory (Kovacs, 1981, 1982).

Results: Sudden gains were found among 49.2% of participants and constituted 48.6% of the total reduction in posttraumatic symptoms.  Compared to individuals who did not experience sudden gains, individuals who experienced sudden gains reported lower levels of posttraumatic symptoms, F(1, 61) = 14.4, p < .001, and depressive symptoms, F(1, 61) = 7.9, p < .01, at treatment termination. Differences in posttraumatic symptoms were maintained during both follow-up periods.

Conclusions: Sudden gains are common in pediatric prolonged exposure for PTSD and are predictive of long-term outcome.  Treatment planning can benefit from consideration of the intra-individual course of improvement, and treatment development may be enriched by understanding the mechanisms responsible for sudden gains.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Components of Family Resilience

In her theoretical overview of family resilience, based on a clinical orientation to family functioning, Walsh (1998) outlined key family processes that operate as protective factors. While this framework is meant to reflect the “core” components of the concept of family resilience and the protective factors that contribute to it, it does not imply that to be deemed “resilient” families must demonstrate all of these characteristics at all times and in all situations.

These include:
  • Family belief systems
  • Family organisational processes
  • Family communication processes

Family belief systems are further organised into three areas:

(1) making meaning of adversity (e.g. normalising or contextualising adversity and distress, seeing crises as meaningful or comprehensible, achieving a sense of coherence)

(2) affirming strengths and possibilities (e.g. maintaining courage and hope, remaining optimistic)

(3) transcendence and spirituality (e.g. seeking purpose in faith, rituals, creativity).

Family organisational processes are organised into three sub-areas:

(1) Flexibility refers to families’ ability to rebound and reorganise in the face of challenge and to maintain continuity through disruption.

(2) Connectedness is demonstrated in family members’ commitment to each other, while maintaining a balance with respect for individual needs and differences. It might also be demonstrated in co-operation in caregiving and other types of family partnerships.

(3) Mobilisation of social and economic resources - Social and economic resources are made available through processes such as the mobilisation of kin and community support networks in times of need, provision of support to vulnerable family members through the creation of multigenerational or multifamily groups and building of financial strength while balancing work and family life.

Family communication processes involve the concepts of clarity, open emotional expression and collaborative problem solving. Effective family functioning is achieved when messages are clear, true and consistent, when family members share a wide range of feelings and tolerate differences, using
humour and avoiding blame, and when problems are identified creatively and decisions are shared responsibly, with a proactive focus on goals and building on success.

From Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, a New Zealand Report by Ariel Kalil

Balancing Risk & Protection

Werner’s (1989) longitudinal study of Hawaiian youth alluded to a “balancing act” between the dual presence of risk and protection.

Resilience, Werner argued, was reflected in an individual’s ability to cope with and manage the balance between:
  • risks
  • stressful life events
  • protective factors
From Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, a New Zealand Report by Ariel Kalil 

    Family Protective Factors

    Garmezy (1991) identified a set of categories of protective factors that have since been widely cited:

    (1) dispositional attributes of the child (including temperament and intelligence)
    (2) family cohesion and warmth; and
    (3) availability and use of external support systems by parents and children.

    From Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, a New Zealand Report by Ariel Kalil

    General Family Resilience Factors

    “General family resilience factors” serve families by playing multiple roles as protective and recovery factors. These include such things as:
    • family problem-solving strategies
    • effective communication processes
    • equality
    • spirituality
    • flexibility
    • truthfulness
    • hope
    • social support
    • physical and emotional health
    From Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, a New Zealand Report by Ariel Kalil 

      Family Protective and Recovery Factors

      McCubbin et al. (1991, 1997) did not specify a comprehensive set of parenting behaviours or modes of family interactions that they explicitly deem to be indicative of resilience.

      Rather, the factors they deemed important were culled from different investigations of families facing different crises. The most prominent family protective factors they identified include:
      • family celebrations
      • family time and routines
      • family traditions
      The most prominent recovery factors include:
      • family integration
      • family support and esteem building
      • family recreation orientation
      • family optimism

      From Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, a New Zealand Report by Ariel Kalil   

        Resilience & Risk

        Rutter (1987) argued that resilience results from a successful engagement with risk, rather than the evasion of risk.

        Many researchers have agreed that resilience occurs only with exposure to risk and adversity (e.g. Cicchetti and Toth 1998, Dekovic 1999, Luthar et al. 2000a, 2000b, Masten 1999).

        From Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, a New Zealand Report by Ariel Kalil  

        Family Resilience

        Families can respond to risk in ways that can be characterised as resilient and they can marshal protective factors to assist in successful engagement with a range of stressful circumstances.

        Families might be considered resilient when they cope successfully with significant adversity or stress or when they successfully re-orient their patterns of functioning to face future challenges (Mangham et al.1995).

        According to one recent definition, family resilience:
        “describes the path a family follows as it adapts and
        prospers in the face of stress, both in the present and
        over time. Resilient families respond positively to these
        conditions in unique ways, depending on the context,
        developmental level, the interactive combination of
        risk and protective factors, and the family’s shared
        outlook” (Hawley and DeHaan 1996, p. 293).
        From Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, a New Zealand Report by Ariel Kalil 

        The Concept of Resilience

        Resilience has numerous definitions that encompass biological, psychological and environmental processes (Rolf and Johnson 1999).

        Generally, resilience is characterised by the presence of good outcomes despite adversity, sustained competence under stress or recovery from trauma (Masten and Coatsworth 1998).

        Resilience is not a static trait, but a dynamic process that may change with time and circumstances (Cicchetti and Toth 1998).

        Initially, researchers used the terms “invulnerable” and “invincible” to describe at-risk children who adjusted well (Wyman et al. 1999). These terms connoted the idea of a special but static trait or characteristic found in exceptional children (Wyman et al. 1999).

        More recently, researchers have discussed individual resilience within the context of general developmental processes and have moved away from notions of invulnerability and invincibility to a more dynamic view of resilience (Luthar et al. 2000a, 2000b). Defining resilience as a process instead of a trait paints a fuller, multidimensional picture and helps us to understand that certain attributes might produce resilience in one social context, but not in another. It also helps in thinking about the design of effective interventions and leads to the idea that to be effective interventions may need to teach or support context-specific skills or attributes.

        From Family Resilience and Good Child Outcomes: A Review of the Literature, a New Zealand Report by Ariel Kalil

        Thursday, August 4, 2011

        Dissertation Proposal Progress

        Working on a venn diagram of the four concepts in my literature review and plotting my 50 articles in the diagram.

        Post-it notes and endless lists of things to do.  There is so much to do and so many micro-steps.  If I don't write it down somewhere and check it off as I go, then it lingers on my brain like low-grade anxiety.

        Post-it notes with  questions to ask myself as I write - tips from my reading.

        Good light, quiet neighborhood, daughter playing through the house with a friend, husband playing bass upstairs, writing in a room of my own.  It's possible.

        Dissertation Proposal Boot Camp, Week One

        This is what I needed, baby.

        How to Write your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day, (not really 15 minutes exactly) suggests that you do a lot of freewriting everyday - at least 2 pages.

        Write about what's on your mind and write about your research interests.  This is called the zero draft.  It will be useful - both the process of writing regularly and some of the content - in writing the first draft.

        In class, a doctoral student mentioned that she wished she'd read this book two years ago!  I am glad I started writing this blog two years ago.  The research topics I care about and key articles are archived on this site.

        We have lots of homework before the next class because this is boot camp and the goal is to complete the 50-70 page proposal in less than 6 weeks.

        I asked the person who is leading the course, a seventh year Linguistics doctoral student, "How many students actually complete their proposal by the end of the course?" She said most do so I am feeling hopeful.

        So what does it take?  Here's my list of things to do by Week Two:
        • Write a 5-6 sentence abstract of my proposal including: 
          • Why do we care about the problem? What problem are you trying to solve? How did you go about solving or making progress on the problem?  What's the answer? What are the implications? 
        • Write an annotated bibliography of my top 50 articles which means a paragraph summarizing each study or article in my own words 
        • Plot a venn diagram showing the intersection of my three topics and catalog where each of my articles fits on the diagram
        • Write my research questions (that are answerable with the data that I am planning to collect) and hypotheses
        • Read Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process; Writing the successful thesis and dissertation: Entering the conversation
        • Write 5-10 pages of the Literature Review (the purpose of which is to set up the research questions by explaining what other scholars have done and where the gaps are)
        • Read multiple dissertation proposals in my field, especially ones that have been chaired by my adviser
        It is intense, baby, which is why you have to love it and be passionate about it.  You have to be compelled to do it, so that the thought of not doing it is much worse.

        There is a method to the madness.  It can be done. Si se puede.

        Tuesday, August 2, 2011

        On Writing

        Reading about writing is inspiring.

        Jewels from the required reading for my "dissertation proposal boot camp" course this week:

        • "...use writing to think, to explore, to blunder, to question yourself, to express frustration, to question further, to get to what feels like the truth of your subject.  And to celebrate."
        • "Peter Elbow...and B.F. Skinner...both believe in writing in order to think, rather than thinking in order to write."
        • "You will learn to write in a way that will allow you to be heard.  If you're to do all of this, you need to write every day." 
        • "First you make a mess, then you clean it up."  This is how I write.  Reading for inspiration and brainstorming to tap into the transcendental for ideas and insight.  Then I try to organize, put things in order and correct the grammar. 
        • "For some of us, writing gives us a place to be with ourselves in which we can listen to what's on our minds, collect our thoughts and feelings, settle and center ourselves.  For others of us it gives us a chance to express what would otherwise be overwhelming feelings, to find a safe and bounded place to put them."
        • "Writing offers the pleasure of a deep, ongoing engagement in an activity that is meaningful, one where you know more at its end that you knew at its beginning."
        • "Keep writing, no matter what." 
        • "But you will still sometimes want to follow your mind wherever it leads you, still use association, and still not worry if your thinking is divergent.  Divergent thinking is what will ultimately produce some of the most interesting ideas in your dissertation." 
        • "...use freewriting to establish the channel between your thoughts and your writing, in order, as B.F. Skinner has put it, 'to discover what you have to say.'"

        Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker

        How long is the Sabbath?

        Taking a break this summer feels sooo goood.

        It takes a while to recover from two years of running at break neck speed.

        I have been resisting all intentions to get to work. I worry I will not get back to fighting shape after a month and a half of lallygagging.

        How long is the day of rest supposed to be anyway? It seems to take at least one long, lazy summer Sabbath to counteract two years of accumulated stress.

        To ensure that I get back in the game, I signed up for a dissertation proposal boot camp.  A classmate is joining me which will make it more fun.  Yes! I said fun.  Don't judge me because I am a nerd (and proud).  We all have our proclivities.  Reading and writing are mine.  It's not illegal.

        The reading about the writing process is deep.  Writing encompasses it all - who you are, what you want to say, what you came here to do.

        I am looking forward to daily writing and daily meditating.  I have been working out regularly to work up my endurance.  I'll keep you posted about what comes up.