Occupying Space

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What does it mean to occupy space in a social environment?
  • How does occupying space build confidence and promote emotional intimacy in relationships?

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I’m the second child in a family of five siblings. By most standards, particularly in the 21st century, my family of origin is a pretty big one. I remember walking into restaurants or other public places as a moody, self-conscious teenager and feeling like we needed special accommodations just to have a meal.

Perhaps the most memorable experience where I felt self-conscious was when my family was visiting New Orleans. My mom had heard that Bourbon Street was a sight not to be missed. I turns out that Bourbon Street is the heart of New Orleans revelry, lined with bars and adult clubs. Imagine our family of seven, five elementary to high school aged kids, wandering down this street to take in the sights. My mom’s pace seemed to quicken with every step we took down the block. Continue reading “Occupying Space”

Redefining Strength

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • Is having mental illness a weakness?
  • How can getting help for our problems be a sign of strength?

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I’ve talked in other posts about my relationship with anxiety. It’s a hard beast to tame. Just being aware of anxiety makes it grow. It affects the way I think about and interpret my life and experiences. Like many other personal issues, anxiety can become a cyclical problem that persists due to the symptoms it produces.

Anxiety can redefine reality. It can dictate the parameters of an ambiguous event in a way that seems very valid in an anxious moment, though it may not seem valid another time. Critical feedback, an argument with a friend or family member, or an unstructured social setting, can all feel like threats when viewed through the lens of anxiety. Continue reading “Redefining Strength”

Collective Trauma and Emotional Numbness

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • Why does public reaction to mass shootings appear to be diminishing?
  • What is collective trauma, and how does this relate to emotional numbing?

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Three days ago, on November 2, Americans woke up to the news of another mass shooting. This one occurred at a country music bar in California, and 12 people lost their lives in the attack, as well as the gunman. According to the Gun Violence Archive, this was the 307th mass shooting (defined as at least four people injured) in the United States in 2018. This means that there has been an average of about one of these events per day since the beginning of 2018.

What is perhaps most startling about the most recent event is not that it happened. Indeed, the status quo now expects these headlines to show up periodically in the United States. To not have a mass shooting over a long period of time would now seem like the exception. What is surprising, however, is the relative lack of outrage, calls for reform, and media coverage about the shooting, especially relative to mass shootings that occurred 20+ years ago. Continue reading “Collective Trauma and Emotional Numbness”

Raising Resilient Children

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • How does perfectionism contribute to rigidity and inhibit resilience in children?
  • What are some things parents can do to promote resilience in their children?

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When people learn that I’m a psychologist, they sometimes ask for advice about some personal issue. I’m almost always fine with this and am happy to help. Occasionally, though, they might ask for some “nugget of wisdom” that I’ve learned, which usually ends up as an incredibly broad, vague question. “What advice would you give about parenting kids?”

I find trying to answer these kinds of questions stressful. The best answers are all so obvious and commonly understood that it feels like a let down. Be supportive of your children, but also have boundaries. Duh. If I try to come up with something relatively unique, I run the risk of talking too “psychologically” to keep their interest. I try to find the sweet spot of sharing something insightful while avoiding having to go in too much depth. I think I do it well a good 10% of the time. Continue reading “Raising Resilient Children”

Race and Exploitation – Explaining Elizabeth Warren’s Error

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • Why was Elizabeth Warren’s recent claiming of Native American heritage a problem?
  • How do indigenous people continue to be vulnerable to exploitation by those in positions of authority?

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Race has always been a complex issue for me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I grew up as a half-White, half-Mexican boy in Texas. I’ve always been aware that I’m not completely white; my coarse black hair and difficulty growing a full beard remind me of that on a daily basis. People think that my last name sounds “cool;” a store clerk just commented on it yesterday. As one of the few “ethnic minorities” at my work, I’m asked to liaison with the office that supports multicultural students, and I assist in planning monthly diversity trainings for our staff.

I put the term “ethnic minority” from the last paragraph in quotations, because I’m still not sure how to navigate the intersection between my “whiteness” and my “Mexicanness.” I’ve certainly benefited from being white in that other people don’t microaggress against me; nor do they level racist remarks toward me. No one asks me about ‘the Latino perspective’ on any topic. I think that my appearance makes my ethnicity somewhat ambiguous, and that people tend to assume that I’m white. Continue reading “Race and Exploitation – Explaining Elizabeth Warren’s Error”

Showing Love to LGBT+ – An LDS Perspective

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • How are LGBT+ members of the LDS faith systematically marginalized?
  • What are some ways to create a more inclusive environment for LGBT+ people within the LDS Church?

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At the end of the summer of 2017, Cielle and I had the good fortune of attending the first LoveLoud festival. We, along with 17,000 other people, crammed onto a baseball diamond on Utah Valley University’s campus, to show support to LGBT+ members of the local communities. These communities are predominantly comprised of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS).

The festival was headlined by popular bands Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees, and featured a number of other incredible performers. Both the music and the personal stories shared throughout the festival were inspiring.

To be very honest, I felt strange, out-of-place, at times at LoveLoud. It was easy to feel like an imposter. Memories of making fun of a gay classmate or using the term ‘queer’ in a derogatory way when I was young still pass through my mind from time to time. Could I really call myself an ally of members of the LGBT+ community? This is still a question I don’t always know how to answer. I think I get closer to a consistent answer every day. Continue reading “Showing Love to LGBT+ – An LDS Perspective”

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”