Gender Role Socialization – A Historical Perspective

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • How is our understanding of gender shaped by history?
  • How might gender roles shift if more women were represented in history?

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Representation of Women in History

I’ll start this post with a disclaimer: history is not my forte. I slept through most of my 10th grade U.S. history class, and I failed the A.P. History exam at the end of the following year. Big shocker. I’m still going to attempt to talk about it in this post, and will gladly eat humble pie if I get anything egregiously wrong.

In contrast to me, Cielle is very knowledgeable about history. She’s currently working on a history podcast, History that Doesn’t Suck. Cielle does a lot of the research and writing for the podcast, which focuses on stories from American history. She’s very thorough and meticulous in her research, and she’s been kind not to laugh too much when I ask a question that’s reflective of my knowledge in this area. Continue reading “Gender Role Socialization – A Historical Perspective”

Privilege and Belief

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • How does privilege affect a person’s ability to choose what they believe?
  • How do our beliefs maintain or disrupt the systems that preserve privilege?

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This week, the eyes of the nation have scrutinized Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. This hearing seeks to determine whether allegations of sexual assault levelled against Kavanaugh are credible. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a former schoolmate of Kavanaugh’s, is one of three women accusing him. If the Senate Judiciary Committee determines that these accusations are true, Kavanaugh would undoubtedly lose his appointment to the Supreme Court.

These allegations come at a time when public awareness of power dynamics contributing to sexual assault is on the rise. The ‘#MeToo’ movement, popularized on social media in 2017 and 2018, has increased awareness that many victims of sexual assault, particularly women, may not report these crimes. This is often due to fears of not being believed or of reprisal from the perpetrators, who are frequently in positions of authority over their victims. Continue reading “Privilege and Belief”

The Masks We Wear

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • How can hiding our perceived flaws make them even bigger problems?
  • What are some ways to be more vulnerable, even in casual relationships?

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Socializing as a Missionary

When I was 19 years old, I decided to serve a religious mission for my church. In the LDS faith, when you serve a mission, you agree to go essentially anywhere missionaries go. Whether you’re called to go to Osaka or Omaha, you’ll spend the next 18-24 months immersed in the language and culture of the people you serve. I ended up going to southern Chile, at the bottom of South America.

For many young people who serve missions, it’s a transformative experience. They can be simultaneously fun and challenging; discouraging and meaningful, novel and rote. Perhaps only parenting young children rivals my mission in how appropriately I can apply the first line of A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Continue reading “The Masks We Wear”

Enabling Problems

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What does ‘enabling’ mean?
  • How can efforts we make to cause change maintain the status quo?

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Enabling Dissention

A few days ago, the New York Times published an anonymous opinion piece, written by an unnamed “senior official” in U.S. president Donald Trump’s administration. The title of the piece is, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” The author describes a growing contingent of dissatisfied officials within Trump’s own administration, who are ostensibly working from the inside to thwart elements of the president’s agenda. The identity of the author has been kept secret, though theories abound about who the most likely culprits.

The opinion article describes these administrators who are seeking to undermine President Trump’s influence as “unsung heroes.” The author seems to count themselves among these heroes, whose moderating influence on the president’s decisions has purportedly spared the nation from some of his more ill-conceived ideas. Continue reading “Enabling Problems”

Five Tips for College Student Success

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What are some ways I can help my student/myself be more successful in college?

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This coming week, tens of thousands of students will descend upon the campus I work at, laying waste to the relative tranquility that tenuously came over the summer months. I’ve gotten used to the transition by now, but it still feels like getting ready for something big – like the eerie, green skies I’d see as a kid in Texas before a tornado formed.

At my work, the “tornado” comes in the form of a whirlwind of students who come pouring in to the counseling center, seeking help for their personal problems. While I’m a big advocate of therapy and seeking help for personal problems, I sometimes wish that I could implant a few ideas in each student’s mind, to help shield them from undue stress. After all, prevention is almost always better than intervention, and putting a few, basic actions into practice can have a tremendous impact on a student’s functioning. Continue reading “Five Tips for College Student Success”

Developing Self-Compassion

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What is self-compassion?
  • How does practicing self-compassion reduce guilt?

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Internalized Guilt

I once had a Catholic friend tell me about something called “Catholic guilt.” It refers to a persistent feeling of guilt and remorse for having done something wrong. The perceived offense may real or imagined, easily identified or unidentifiable. “Catholic guilt” is a popular enough concept that it’s made its way into common vernacular, though research on the actual degree of guilt Catholics experience as compared to others has had mixed results.

I don’t know whether Catholic guilt is “real” or not; it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that stricter internalized moral codes could be associated with more feelings of guilt, since there would be more opportunities to violate some aspect of that code. As with many western, Christian religions, the belief in the relative inadequacy of humankind to God promotes the idea of needing to be “better.” The drive for self-improvement, self-control, and discipline are virtues that improve a person’s moral standing, and makes them “better” than they would otherwise be. Continue reading “Developing Self-Compassion”

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What does it mean to be mindful?
  • What are some benefits to practicing mindfulness?

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Buddhist Roots

My 10th and 11th grade teachers would probably describe me as an unenthusiastic learner, at best; some of them might think I was just plain disinterested in school. Truth be told, I was pretty comfortable in school, and I found ways to get by with a minimal amount of effort. My ambivalence about school was perhaps most apparent in my English class. I once got a ‘B’ on a test about the novel Ethan Frome after reading the back of the book in the minutes prior to class – I felt proud of that accomplishment back then, but maybe a little more conflicted today.

At one point in 10th grade, my English teacher assigned the the class to read the book, Siddartha. It was my first exposure to Buddhist philosophy of any significance, and I found it fascinating. The tenets of the philosophy were pretty different from the European Christian philosophy I was accustomed to – they offered a very distinct way of looking at spirituality. Wisdom through asceticism; the quest for Enlightenment; the existence of the dialectic – statements that are simultaneously opposite and true. I enjoyed thinking about these ideas that were unordinary to me. Continue reading “The Benefits of Mindfulness”

The Plight of the Black Athlete in America

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The past year has seen its share of racial tension in the United States. A year ago this month, a group of white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, in response to a city decision to remove a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee. This protest ultimately became violent and resulted in one death and numerous hospitalizations. The event was heavily-politicized, with US President Donald Trump weighing in by stating that there was “blame on both sides” of the rally. Months of protests and counter-protests ensued.

Then, in early 2018, the media focused its attention on the police shooting deaths of unarmed, young black men. The nation learned of Stephon Clark, Diante Yarber, and even 14-year-old Brennan Walker, who was shot at on his way to high school. People took notice, but eventually lost interest. Now, as we near the end of the summer, there’s hardly a mention of racial violence in the news. Continue reading “The Plight of the Black Athlete in America”

Medication and Mental Illness

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What role does medication have in treating mental illness?
  • Why does combining medication and therapy produce the best outcomes?

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Therapy vs. Medication

I’ve mentioned in one of my other posts that I’ve never taken psychotropic medication. I’ve considered it from time to time to help with my anxiety, but I’ve always ended up coming to the conclusion that my anxiety isn’t that bad – I probably don’t “need it.”

I count myself privileged to have never had to take these types of medications in order to function. I’ve worked with dozens, if not hundreds of people who have, and while most have had positive experiences, it’s been a journey to find the right medication and right dose in almost every case. Some people find that they experience debilitating side effects when they try medication; others don’t end up feeling less depressed or anxious at first. Finding a prescription that works well often takes patience, endurance, and trust in a sometimes too-long process.

Continue reading “Medication and Mental Illness”

The Gray Area – the Value of Nuance

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What does “splitting” mean?
  • What advantages are there to having a nuanced understanding of personal problems?

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Splitting

The DSM (the diagnostic tool for mental disorders) has 20 categories of disorders; therapists who identify as “generalists,” like myself, will work with clients whose mental illness falls into almost any of these categories. However, one category of disorders has gained a reputation among therapists as being a particularly difficult one to work with – personality disorders.

One characteristic shared among several personality disorders, which has contributed to many-a-therapist’s headache, is called splitting. “Splitting” is a tendency to see the world in “black and white,” or “all-or-nothing” terms. You’re either my best friend or my worst enemy. I’m either amazingly fantastic or a complete and utter failure. It’s conceptualized as a defense mechanism – something that reduces short-term distress at the expense of long-term disruptions in functioning.

Splitting is similar to a train track – There are only two directions to go, and you eventually end up at the end of the line in one direction.

Continue reading “The Gray Area – the Value of Nuance”