Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Discrimination is bad for your heart

Discrimination (as a social stressor) sets into motion a process of physiological responses:
elevated blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol secretions.

These heightened physiological responses over time can have downstream effects on health.

There is substantial evidence for the harmful health effects of discrimination, including:
  • Depression 
  • Psychological distress 
  • Anxiety 
  • Well-being 
It is also linked to:
  • Hypertension 
  • Self-reported poor health 
  • Breast cancer 
  • Risk factors for disease such as obesity, high blood pressure and substance abuse
One way to understand the experience of discrimination is that it is a stressor that can broadly impact health.

Although most stressful experiences do not increase vulnerability to illness, certain kinds of stressors—those that are uncontrollable and unpredictable— are particularly harmful to health, and these characteristics are common to discrimination experiences.

Perceived discrimination and health: a meta-analytic review. 
EA Pascoe, L Smart Richman 
Psychological Bulletin, 2009

Monday, January 14, 2013

Adult Children

Some of us were not expected to or given the opportunity to grow up.

As an adult, we now have a choice to grow up.  Growing up can be hard work and responding in child-like ways may seem easier.

The results of doing the hard work of growing up are more freedoms, opportunities and self-respect.

The results of remaining child-like in our thinking or behavior may result in less freedom, less opportunities and less self-respect.

I have an elder mentor who has struggled with PTSD, depression and anxiety for most of his life.  He has depended on his partner, financially and emotionally, for over 30 years.  He tells me that before he dies, he wants to live like an adult.

Another mentor, Reevah Simon, says that some of us refuse to be born - it is much easier to stay in a fetus-like state.  That is, one in which we get our needs met without doing much - freedoms without responsibility.

Adult children tend to...
  • be immature and emotionally vulnerable
  • prefer to have a parent figure look after them
  • be physically an adult but mentally/emotionally a child
  • whine, complain, and think everything is unfair
  • be unable to have healthy relationships with romantic partners due to immature behavior, but are in desperate need of someone
  • complain about the rules and/or show too much emotion (crying) at work
  • need constant reassurance
  • need to be supported financially and emotionally
We have a right to live as an adult before we die.  The rewards are worth the very scary effort.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dissertation Proposal

"Researchers employ theory, method, evidence, and reasoning to produce findings they claim are important and relevant to the questions of interest.  The reasoning producing the findings and relating them to the problem constitutes an argument that is the heart of the dissertation proposal.  This argument justifies conducting the study and supports the meaning and utility of the results found.  The primary function of the dissertation proposal, then, is to provide this justification for the inquiry."
How to prepare a dissertation proposal:  Suggestions for students in education & the social and behavioral sciences
David R. Krathwohl & Nick L. Smith

It feels that I have been left to my own devices - by and large - to figure out how to do this thing. You gotta be a bit self-reliant and resourceful (asking for a lot of help from kind strangers) to get this far. Some tips I recommend to other intrepids on the same road...
  • Books on how to draft a dissertation proposal, prepare a literature review, etc.  My mom used to say my real mother was my books.  I gotta admit, there has always been a book on any question or problem I've encountered.  I've bought nearly a dozen how-to books for my dissertation and the one I've referenced above is particularly useful.
  • I shamelessly ask professors and doctoral students for copies of their dissertations and/or proposals as samples.  I download others that are relevant to my topic.  I follow their flow, section headings and order, paragraph structure, and so on to give me an idea of how to put mine together.
  • UCLA has a "dissertation proposal boot camp" that is Thee Bomb.  I highly recommend the abbreviated weeknight version or the 6-week summer series.  I did both.  Sometime you gotta hear things more than once to really get it.
  • When I did a search of journal articles that covered the intersection between urban youth, family communication and posttraumatic resilience, I came across studies that seemed to be designed in the same way that I hope to conduct mine.  Because the methods section is pretty recipe-like and straightforward, there is a lot of opportunity to use a good study as a template - replacing their variables for your own.  If you're gonna come up with your own banana bread recipe, you can use a standard recipe for the major stuff - like 3 cups of flour to 1 cup of sugar, for example, but then make it your own by adding blueberries and strawberries or cutting the sugar with apple sauce.  You don't gotta invent everything from scratch - somethings are pretty standard.
  • I started with the research questions and hypotheses.  Then I wrote the methods section.  Now I'm writing the theory section.  I have drafted a million versions of the problem statement and lit review in the last two years.  This should be the last thing you write but I didn't know this until after the Dissertation Proposal Boot Camp (which is one of the many reasons I really recommend it).  So now I just gotta assemble it.  Most of the content has been written.  Thanks to this blog, I read, think and write regularly.
  • The theory section is important - research should be theory-driven.  The thing is, phenomena can be viewed through so many different lenses within and outside of your field.  If you can see it and make an interesting case for it, then you might have something.  There are so many theories I could use to guide my research study, but for simplicity's sake, I chose two.  I may throw in a third.  The theory has got to explain why you think you'll see what you predict to find.  This is the fun part of research.  This is where you use your IMAGINATION.  Data don't tell you about the phenomena being studied - your imagination comes up with a story about what you think might be going on and you test it.  That is why scientists are like artists - we gotta see things that no one else has seen and tell the story about what's going on in a meaningful way, that is, in a way that other people will get it and buy into it - so it's gotta be interesting, new or unexpected, and coherent.  Knowledge development is creative!  Ah, I love my life because I found my fit.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Daring to Be

"In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King"

In a world full of codependents (that is, those that are raised to neglect their own needs), then the independent person is dangerous.  S/he calls into question the rules that everyone seems to be following:  don't think, don't feel, don't say no, don't challenge, don't confront, and so on.

Be dangerous, be very dangerous.

Happy Adulthood

My Clinical Supervisor, Reevah Simon, always taught me that in relationships, things always equal 100%.  

If one partner is overly responsible - a big Parent part (80%) and small Child part (20%), then they are attracted to/are a magnet for a partner that is not very responsible - a small Parent part (20%) and a big Child part (80%).

80% + 20% = 100%.
20% + 80% = 100%

In the drawing below, a person with "unbalanced circles" is drawn to a person with complementary "unbalanced circles."  

We tend to be in relationships with people that match our neuroses somehow.

This is true for any relationship - parent-child, friends, partners, helping professional-client, and so on.

The aim is not to change our partner (impossible!) but to change, or balance, ourselves.  The goal is integration - that is, a balance between our parent, adult and child parts.  Once we have these parts in balance - we attract similarly balanced others into our lives (because it has to equal 100%).

The Parent part contains the rules, norms, values, principles, guidelines, etc.

The Child part contains the sexual and aggressive drives, the fun and pleasure-seeking part, the part that wants-what-it-wants-when-it-wants-it.  The part that feels the pain of envy, jealousy and abandonment.  The part that wants "all for me and none for you."

The Adult part is the Executive-in-Charge and chooses based on what the Child wants and what the Parent expects.  The Adult part decides what to do & takes action.

In a healthy adult, the Child gets some of what it demands and the Parent gets some of what it demands, but neither takes over, feels neglected or left out.  That's harmony, integration, wholeness and balance.

Have a happy adulthood :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Love, Care, Trust & Respect

"I'm not that woman that makes it easy for you.  Even if I have been before, I'm not now . . . Never make it easy for someone not to have to come up with the basics of love, care, trust and respect in a relationship."             
--from Baggage Reclaim blog by Natalie Lue

If the best thing a father can do for his children is to love and respect their mother, then the best thing that a mother can do for her children is to love and respect herself - and in this way expect others to do so as well.

Instead of walking around asking: why is s/he doing that to me? 

We can ask ourselves:  why am I putting up with it?

If we were raised to believe that our needs don't matter or that other people's needs are more important, then we will believe that we are being needy for having basic needs or just any needs.  This core belief could be underlying codependency.  The antidote is self-love, self-respect, self-worth, self-care and knowing our own value.  If this is not something we learned in childhood and therefore take for granted, it is not so easy to learn but it is never too late.

Wake up every morning and ask: What do I want to do today for me?  What would be loving, caring, trusting and respectful to me?

Now it is within our power to value ourselves.

Wishing everyone love, care, trust and respect for self and others in the New Year - one baby step at a time.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Love, Pride, Honesty & Loyalty

Some days are packed with growth spurts.

My mentor/father-figure told me that he read how if you live near crime & violence, at first you are repelled by it, then you become desensitized until finally, you join in.  That is, if you are not a person of strong character.

Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres.

Roughly translated that means:  Tell me who you spend time with and I'll tell you who you are.

Who are you?  Who do you wanna be?

Who you give your time and energy to, what you listen to, what you read, what you watch, what you spend your time thinking about, what you believe...it all matters.  Eventually, it makes up who you become.  And who you draw to your life because water seeks it's own level.

We can choose a different direction at any time - a 180 degree turn, a 45 degree turn, a 10 degree shift...The point is to actively choose and accept the consequences of our choices.  I don't wanna passively allow people or information to seep in and have an influence on my life that I do not choose.  I am not a victim.

At a pipe ceremony I learned about praying to the four directions - North for Unconditional Love, East for Pride, South for Honesty, and West for Loyalty.  Men and women, young and old, came together to pray for our communities, families, and ourselves.  Sitting on the living room floor in the dark with the smell and wafting smoke of cleansing tobacco in the air, we all revealed our stories.  No one held back.  The courage of one inspired all to reveal more.  Disclosure, confrontation, confession, and storytelling is the way we understand, make sense of things, find meaning and ultimately find resolution.  It always has been how we heal, it always will be.  There were tears and pain.  That part is inevitable.  There was also laughter, lots of it. 

This year, I choose love, pride, honesty and loyalty - to God, the Creator, my ancestors, myself, my daughter, my family and inner circle of friends.

Some days are like that.  Thank you, Yesus.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Making Sense of Our Story

Writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way for as little as 15 minutes over the course of three days brings about improvements in mental and physical health.
This finding has been replicated across age, gender, culture, social class, and personality type.
Using a text-analysis computer program, it was discovered that those who benefit maximally from writing tend to use a high number of positive-emotion words, a moderate amount of negative-emotion words, and increase their use of cognitive words over the days of writing.
These findings suggest that the formation of a narrative is critical and is an indicator of good mental and physical health. Ongoing studies suggest that writing serves the function of organizing complex emotional experiences.

Forming a Story: The Health Benefits of Narrative
James W. Pennebaker and Janel D. Seagal The University of Texas at Austin
JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY, Vol. 55(10), 1243–1254 (1999)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Confront & Confide

...I have learned that confronting traumatic experiences can have meaningful physiological and psychological benefits.  Conversely, not confiding significant experiences is associated with increased disease rates, ruminations and other difficulties.
Confession, Inhibition and Disease
James W. Pennebaker (1989)
Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 22


. . . most people naturally discuss daily and significant experiences with others.  Even major traumas such as the death of a friend, a shared natural disaster, or a house fire are usually discussed in detail with close friends.  Less socially acceptable traumas, however, can be far more difficult to confide:  marital infidelity, embezzlement, being the perpetrator or victim of rape . . . talking about a trauma with others can strengthen social bonds, provide coping information and emotional support, and hasten understanding of the event, the inability to talk with others can be unhealthy for a number of reasons . . .
Confession, Inhibition and Disease
James W. Pennebaker (1989)
Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 22

Working Title for Dissertation Proposal

Families, Stories & Resilience:  Does open family communication about traumatic memories promote the development of posttraumatic resilience among Latino youth living in urban communities?

Evaluating Dissertation Quality

Adams & White (1994) proposed 6 indicators of dissertation quality:
  1. Research was on a researchable topic of some potential value to the field.
  2. Research was guided by some explicit theoretical or conceptual framework.
  3. Research was relevant to theory and could contribute to theory development.
  4. Research has practical relevance within the research setting.  It could have helped change or improve something in that setting.
  5. Research has practical relevance beyond the research setting.  Something could have been learned that might inform practice in another setting.
  6. There are no serious flaws in the research (e.g., sample too small to draw reasonable conclusions, generalization of findings from a single case study, use of an inappropriate statistic, blatant errors in logic, inappropriate research design given the research problem, serious misapplication of some theory to the research problem).
The Dissertation:  From Beginning to End
Peter Lyons & Howard J. Douek

Truth Opened

Freud presented a paper in April, 1896 to the Society for Psychiatry and Neurology in Vienna on the sexual abuse of his female patients by t...