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August 09, 2012

Random Musings

A few odds and ends from my browser tabs:

The flip side of postraumatic stress is postraumatic growth:

Traumatic events can rattle us to the core, leaving us in shambles both mentally and physically. But despite all the glaring negatives, psychologists are also finding that traumatic events can transform us into stronger, better individuals. The name given to this universal phenomenon is "posttraumatic growth."

...Psychologists have amassed a large amount of data on posttraumatic growth, but the problem is that most of it is self-reported, prompting skeptics to reasonably decry the data as invalid.

Fresh research conducted in 2008 sought to remedy a few of the structural problems that plagued previous studies. Scientists had visitors to a website complete an unsolicited survey with questions meant to reveal how certain character strengths like humor, love, perseverance, and hope apply to the respondent. Afterwards, subjects were asked if they experienced certain traumatic events such as a near-death experience, watching somebody be killed, or kidnapping. Subjects were not told what the survey was for.

Interestingly, respondents who reported falling victim to traumatic events were found to score higher on traits associated with posttraumatic growth, such as kindness, bravery, curiosity, and spirituality.

The Editorial staff can't help wondering how much this has to do with the contrast effect:

Contrast effects are ubiquitous throughout human and non-human animal perception, cognition, and resultant performance. A very heafted weight is perceived as heavier than normal when "contrasted" with a lighter weight. It is perceived as lighter than normal when contrasted with a heavier weight. An animal works harder than normal for a given amount of reward when that amount is contrasted with a lesser amount and works less energetically for that given amount when it is contrasted with a greater amount. A person appears more appealing than normal when contrasted with a person of less appeal and less appealing than normal when contrasted with one of greater appeal.

As a young Marine wife, I spent a lot of time listening to other military wives discuss their problems. That's part of being an officer's wife - whether you feel [or actually are] qualified or not, you become someone others turn to for help or advice. The natural temptation (at least for a woman) in such situations is to try to solve other people's problems for them.

But over time, I found that had the same effect as giving someone the proverbial fish - it might solve the immediate problem, but 10 new problems soon sprang up in its place. A more effective solution was to admit that I was often discouraged by various issues in my own life until I remembered that other people routinely overcome far more serious problems.

We need adversity - and reminders of just how common it is - to put our own troubles into perspective, but also to stimulate us into taking the appropriate action (whether that be trying harder, changing our own behavior, thinking more creatively, or better risk mitigation to prevent the same thing from happening again).

But what happens to the human spirit when government tries to eliminate adversity from our lives? What happens to a nation led by a President whose entire campaign platform is based on blurring the relationship between cause and effect, decisions and consequences? Resiliance is like a muscle: it grows stronger with frequent exercise and atrophies with disuse.

Our parents and grandparents knew this. "Adversity builds character." What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. Or this gem, from the Marines: "Pain is weakness, leaving the body".

My father likes to say, "Pain is a wonderful motivator." What does that imply about a life free from worry, fear, or adverse consequences?

Lawyers in space: the new frontier?

Olympic poetry competitions: an idea whose time came. And apparently, went:

O Sport, you are Fecundity! You strive directly and nobly towards perfection of the race, destroying unhealthy seed and correcting the flaws which threaten its essential purity. And you fill the athlete with a desire to see his sons grow up agile and strong around him to take his place in the arena and, in their turn, carry off the most glorious trophies.

Variations on the theme to enliven the presidential campaign: "O Politics, you are Mendacity!" Or it Hyperbole! a better fit? This could be fun.

Parenting as narcissism:

Summer can take a harrowing turn when family vacations and young romance intersect. Suddenly daddy's little girl who a year ago wanted to play tennis with you has now completely forgotten you exist. No, she's too busy texting, curling her lashes and scouring the beach for Todd the surfer dude.

"In a certain way dads really do feel jilted, bereft even," says neuropsychiatrist Dr. Louann Brizendine. "They almost feel like they've been left at the altar. Often they think, 'what did I do wrong? How do I get her back?'


The Editorial Staff like this because it confirms a theory we've always had:

People who tested positive for allergy-related antibodies had an almost 50 percent lower risk of developing a glioma 20 years later. For women, testing positive for the IgE associated with specific allergens that are common in Norway, such as dust, pollen, mold and pets, was also associated with a 50 percent lower risk of glioblastoma. In men, no such association was found, but those who tested positive both for these specific antibodies and for other, unknown antibodies did have a 20 percent lower risk of developing this same type of tumor. The earlier IgE was present in patients' blood samples, the greater the reduced risk of glioma.

Posted by Cassandra at August 9, 2012 07:25 AM

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Despite all the book titles asking why God lets bad things happen, there's never been any mystery about it for me. Don't get me wrong -- I hate living through bad things -- but it's crystal clear that almost nothing else ever wakes me up to empathy for other people. It's also pretty clear that nothing but a shattering challenge makes me strive for excellence. Sometimes I wonder if, on Judgment day, the message I will hear is a sad question about why I didn't step up to become what I was created to be, and the answer will have to do with avoiding situations that might turn into trauma.

Posted by: Texan99 at August 9, 2012 10:19 AM

Just reading this article about parents trying to protect their kids from failure and how that has an adverse effect as they become adults and don't know how to cope with adversity... Kinda relates to you thing about the government trying to insulate people from negative consequences...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at August 9, 2012 11:51 AM

"Interestingly, respondents who reported falling victim to traumatic events were found to score higher on traits associated with posttraumatic growth, such as kindness, bravery, curiosity, and spirituality."

Not surprising if you've ever been in, or personally know someone who has been in such circumstances. And I'd bet a good portion of the villians are or know such people.

"Our parents and grandparents knew this. "Adversity builds character." What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger. Or this gem, from the Marines: "Pain is weakness, leaving the body"."

Some truths are timeless.

"My father likes to say, "Pain is a wonderful motivator." "

As a young man I watched an E6, Kbob may recall the man, Roger W., use that motivator along with anger to extract ever ounce of energy from the young men in his charge. At the time, Roger was not a very popular fellow, but he did teach that lesson well, through repetition.

Regarding the parenting topic, IMO, that jilted/get her back stuff, is a mighty strange and more than a little disturbing notion for a father to have...

Equally disturbing is this trend in parenting, or not parenting.

As a child listening to my parents and grandparents tell stories of the Great Depression, I could hardly believe it really happened. Time marches on...

checks calendar
88 days and a wakeup.

Posted by: bt_random_hun at August 9, 2012 12:35 PM

T99, I remember talking about this with my sister in law after her son (my nephew) died of leukemia just before his 16th birthday.

Sometimes it's hard to make sense of painful events, but I'm not sure they have to make sense. They just "are", and we take from them whatever we take from them.

I've never understood the idea that a loving God would never let anything bad happen to us. If that were literally true, we'd have no freedom (at least in any meaningful sense). One of the stories my sister in law told me was about one of my nephew's nurses. He contacted the family several months after my nephew's death to say that his (the nurse's) life had been changed by knowing him (my nephew).

I'm not sure that helps us to make sense of watching someone you love suffer and die before his time, but it does offer some measure of comfort. I'm also reminded of one of the most touching essays I've ever read.

It was written by George Will, about his son. You can read it here (or just click my name):


I loved this part, in particular:

Two things that have enhanced Jon’s life are the Washington subway system, which opened in 1976, and the Washington Nationals baseball team, which arrived in 2005. He navigates the subway expertly, riding it to the Nationals ballpark, where he enters the clubhouse a few hours before game time and does a chore or two. The players, who have climbed to the pinnacle of a steep athletic pyramid, know that although hard work got them there, they have extraordinary aptitudes because they are winners of life’s lottery. Major leaguers, all of whom understand what it is to be gifted, have been uniformly and extraordinarily welcoming to Jon, who is not.

Except he is, in a way. He has the gift of serenity, in this sense:

The eldest of four siblings, he has seen two brothers and a sister surpass him in size, and acquire cars and college educations. He, however, with an underdeveloped entitlement mentality, has been equable about life’s sometimes careless allocation of equity. Perhaps this is partly because, given the nature of Down syndrome, neither he nor his parents have any tormenting sense of what might have been. Down syndrome did not alter the trajectory of his life; Jon was Jon from conception on.

There is a lot of wisdom in that last sentence. How much time and energy do we waste comparing what is to what might have been, and thereby miss the piercing beauty of what we have in pointless longing for what we do not?

Posted by: Cassandra at August 9, 2012 02:56 PM

Oh, and "GO NATS"! :)

Posted by: Cassandra at August 9, 2012 02:57 PM

Shall they take the damn Wizards with them when they go?

Posted by: MikeD at August 9, 2012 04:00 PM

I am not a Wizards fan, Mike. I do like the Caps, though! Every now and then we drive in to watch them play.

I am *so* excited about the Nats this year - afraid to jinx them. My idea of heaven would be if the Redskins finally got their act together too.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 9, 2012 05:57 PM

Sorry, it's an old joke from the late 70's/early 80's down here.

The Atlanta Braves held a contest to determine a new motto for the team. One submission:
"Go Braves! And take those DAMN Falcons with you!"

Posted by: MikeD at August 10, 2012 08:41 AM