The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Friday, July 28, 2017

What the 5 Monkey story can teach you about INSIGHT!

What is Insight?  Insight is "the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or a thing."   This can mean having Insight into yourself or others.  

Today as the first day, I want you to gain insight into thinking about behaviors. 

Here's a psychology experiment that you must know about: 

The 5 Monkeys ~~

What this story teaches us is how we are sometimes a product of our environment and have no idea why we do what we do.  With insight we can make conscious changes not only in ourselves but also in the world.

Some of you may question if this was a true experiment and it wasn't but it is based on a true experiment (see below).  If we have insight we can see this happening in our daily lives.  I often hear in school meetings that something was done or going to be done because "it has always been done this way."  Geez that's really scary now if you think about it, right?  

"Stephenson (1967) trained adult male and female rhesus monkeys to avoid manipulating an object and then placed individual naïve animals in a cage with a trained individual of the same age and sex and the object in question. In one case, a trained male actually pulled his naïve partner away from the previously punished manipulandum during their period of interaction, whereas the other two trained males exhibited what were described as "threat facial expressions while in a fear posture" when a naïve animal approached the manipulandum. When placed alone in the cage with the novel object, naïve males that had been paired with trained males showed greatly reduced manipulation of the training object in comparison with controls. Unfortunately, training and testing were not carried out using a discrimination procedure so the nature of the transmitted information cannot be determined, but the data are of considerable interest."

Sources: Stephenson, G. R. (1967). Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys. In: Starek, D., Schneider, R., and Kuhn, H. J. (eds.), Progress in Primatology, Stuttgart: Fischer, pp. 279-288.
Mentioned in: Galef, B. G., Jr. (1976). Social Transmission of Acquired Behavior: A Discussion of Tradition and Social Learning in Vertebrates. In: Rosenblatt, J.S., Hinde, R.A., Shaw, E. and Beer, C. (eds.), Advances in the study of behavior, Vol. 6, New York: Academic Press, pp. 87-88.

Friday, July 21, 2017

What you need to know about depression and suicide!

RIP Chester Bennington!  So sad to have lost you!

Everyone had difficulties and challenges that need to be faced.  People should not have to face these alone but often some have no choice.  Yes, people will say "talk to me," "what's wrong," or "I'm here for you, all you have to do is ask."  Well, some of us can't ask.  Some of us know that others do not want to really hear how bad things are because there is nothing that can be done.   We have to put on a smile and make the world a better place for others and we can't share the cold hard reality of what is happening.

Sometimes we do ask and no one takes the time to listen.  We can even cry and share our pain only to have the other person minimize what we are feeling or try to sugar coat things.  Well this only makes the person feel worse, not better.

So how do you convince someone that life is worth living?  You can't!  You can tell someone that you care and show them by listening to them unconditionally but that is only if they are willing to talk and chances are, the person may not be willing to share what exactly is going on.  Chances are no one can make things better.  Only the person who is dealing with the difficulties and challenges can actually make changes and make things better.  Often they just want to have someone listen to them, really listen with no judgment.  This is not an easy task for people to do- listen without judgment.

When a person commits suicide you often hear how shocked everyone was because the person who ended their life was always so happy and had everything going for them.  Why does this happen? This happens because no one really wants to face the reality that a person can be depressed, so depressed that they feel that life is no longer worth living.

Yes, the person thinking of suicide takes the feelings of others into consideration but what they know is that the relationship will still be there.  There will still be some good memories and the person contemplating suicide believes that they are saving their loved ones from more pain if they end their life because obviously they are such a burden to begin with or the loved ones would listen with empathy.  People often see the "signs" of depression and suicidal ideations after the fact but these signs were there long before they just didn't care enough to notice.  Maybe that sounds cruel, to blame the ones left behind but I believe that it is the society we live in that needs to carry the blame. We live in a society where it is not okay to talk about depression and suicide.  We live in a society that shames people for being different.

If you have a friend who is depressed and shared some dark thoughts then be there for them, push them to open up and discuss their feelings and thoughts without judgment.  Help them!  Stop ignoring them and pretending that everything is okay.  If you suspect that something is wrong and ask the person how they are and they say "fine" with a smile on their face-- push harder because chances are your instincts are correct.  If you think that a person would not commit suicide because they have everything going for them, then think again, many people put on a mask everyday and hide their pain. Don't accept an "I'm fine" from someone you suspect is NOT fine.  Seek them out and be there for them.  I promise you it will make a difference.  Sometime all a person needs is to know that their life does matter.

So, here's my final word on this - there will be some people that no matter what you say or do will make the choice to no longer live in pain.  You must forgive yourself if you know that you did all you could to make a difference in their life and prevent them from ending their own life - you did all you could do.  If you did not do all you could do.  If you were distant or avoided their dark side- all I can say is this is guilt you have to live with because people who are that depressed need support and you made the choice to not provide that support.

Take 11 minutes to listen to Kevin Breel talk about what it is like to be a person with depression and suicidal.  He could be someone you know!!!

Here's a song I sing often - from one of my favorite movies & TV shows - MASH:

I have written a few other articles about suicide and depression - check them out: My story is not over!Henry Rollins gives-adviceDepression in school-aged children; and many others.

(Image: photo of a brown and tan dragonfly and quote from Chester Bennington (frontman for the rock band Linkin Park)- "You're constantly trying to prove yourself, even after you've made it.")

(Image: blue and black dragonfly surrounded by blades of grass that are tinted grey and a quote from Orson Scott Card's book 'Ender's Shadow'- "In my view, suicide is not really a wish for life to end.' 'What is it then?' 'It is the only way a powerless person can find to make everybody else look away from his shame. The wish is not to die, but to hide.")

Friday, July 14, 2017

Freaky Friday Fun

Have a wild and naked Friday!

(Image: cartoon of a group of cavemen the one wearing a 'loin cloth' is saying to the two who are naked - "Dang! I always forget about casual Friday.")

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Elie Wiesel - lessons learned and how to have a better world!

Spiritual Sunday~~ I continue to be heartbroken at the loss of Elie Wiesel!  In the 1980's I was in high school and learned about Mr. Wiesel and read his book "Night."  Reading his book was not an easy task because I'm dyslexic. I struggle at pronouncing unknown words and I'm an exceptionally slow reader but Mr. Wiesel's book kept me inspired to keep reading and motivated me to do a lot of self-reflection. How can I live in a world that allows such injustice?  How can I just stand by and let bad thing happen to others?  I knew I couldn't! I knew that I had to help others!  Although I was just a teenager I knew my purpose in life was to work on making the world a better place. 

Elie Wiesel's life lessons became a part of the fabric of my soul and I re-read his work often, especially on audio.  There is so much to learn about ourselves and the world around us.  I guess this is why I struggle to understand why people have hate and negativity?  I just don't get it!  How can someone intentionally harm someone else - physically, mentally, socially, emotionally...? It makes me sick to my stomach when I hear someone justify their actions - tell me that the other person had it coming, that they had to right to defend themselves, that it's the person's own fault for being poor....  How can you not see from another person's perspective?  

I work daily to live with integrity and yet see and experience so much hate and indifference.  I don't understand how some people don't comprehend that what we focus on we expand.  When we attempt to make the world a better place by fighting the "War on drugs" or the "War on guns" or "Anti-bullying" all we are doing is magnifying drugs, guns, bullying... We need to teach empathy, compassion, and HELP those addicted.  War begets war and eventually there is so much war, hatred, violence that people become immune and indifferent.  I learned from "Elie Wiesel "Indifference to me, is the epitome of all evil."  

People are so self-absorbed with material items, money, status, and number of "likes" and followers on social media that they have lost most of their humanity.  I have sat in school meetings where the staff fights hard against providing an education to a child. Often they blame the child or parents for the fact that the child is not learning instead of taking responsibility and teaching the child appropriately.  I could tell you some horrific stories about how those who are paid to educate our children attack them by blaming and shaming them.  Educators are not paid to crush the self-esteem of children yet is accepted and condoned all the time. Sports coaches often do the same things. But why is all this allowed - why do people in power think they have the right to break the spirit of another person.  

As a counselor I am helping many people overcome the traumas from their childhood.  It is heartbreaking to hear the stories about teachers, coaches, and even parents causing such damage to another human-being.    "Every single human-being is a unique human-being and therefore it is so criminal to do something to that human-being- he or she represents humanity."  


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Is Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes ADHD?

Today, July 5, is the birthday of William “Bill” Boyd Watterson II, American Artist and author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.  Mr. Watterson will be 59 years old today.   The comic strip Calvin and Hobbes ran from 1985 to 1995 and was in more than 2,400 newspapers worldwide. 

Calvin, the 6 year old main focus of his comic strip was and is loved my many.  There has also been intense discussions in the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder community as to whether or not Calvin has ADHD.  Mr. Watterson never came right out and reported that Calvin was ADHD but I guess Mr. Watterson didn’t go into creating the comic strip with the intention on having Calvin ADHD.  

No parent plans or wants their child to have ADHD.  Parents discover their child has ADHD as the child grows and develops.  I think there is agreement in this ADHD community that Calvin fits the criteria for ADHD: he has a difficult time staying focused, hyperactive, impulsive, creative, and enthusiastic!  The thing is--- it doesn’t matter if Mr. Watterson intended this to be ADHD or not.  Just because a diagnosis can be made does not take away from the great traits we love about Calvin and his imaginary tiger friend, Hobbes.  In fact, we actually love Calvin BECAUSE of his ADHD traits.  Calvin’s imagination, creativity, energy, lack of attention, and view of the world are the gifts that Mr. Watterson gave to this character.  Our kids with ADHD don't need to be shamed for their ADHD traits - adults need to appreciate these ADHD traits just like we appreciate and enjoy Calvin. 

So Happy Birthday, Mr. Watterson, thank you for giving us the gift of Calvin and Hobbes (as well as your other wonderful cartoons).  

Mr. Watterson is on my list of people I’d love to have lunch with.  Since he lives a couple hours north of me I could venture to hunt him down but I will refrain out of respect.  After Mr. Watterson ended his Calvin and Hobbes comic strip he became a “recluse.”  He has worked hard to stay out of the public eye, he declines interviews, appearances, and refuses to license his characters.  There is speculation that he has anxiety and social phobia.  It doesn’t matter if that’s true or not I believe he is a true Dragonfly and just like all Dragonflies they are best when viewed in their natural state instead of held captive.  

Monday, July 3, 2017

You ARE under the control of others- Don't think so? Then check this out!

I was recently thinking about the Stanley Milgram experiment and realized this is a good topic for people to understand.  This is an experiment done in 1961 and provided us evidence that people will follow the directions of an authority figure even if they feel they should not be doing what they are asked to do- in Milgram’s experiment 65% of participants continued to shock another person because a person in authority told them to even though the participant could hear the other person is in pain and asking to stop.  Here’s a quick clip of that:
People often say that in current times with all the sensitivity training, people will stand up to authority figures more and not do something just because a person an authority tells them to do it; but that is not the case.  Here are a couple more recent clips of this experiment:

Now watch this guy-   
When I teach about this in college psychology classes I always have students tell me that they would NOT follow a person in authority.   So I put them to the test.  I don’t have the Milgram machine but I would do something else.  Here’s what I did. 

About a week after the discussion of the Milgram experiment (and Stanford Prison experiment) I told the class I want them to know what it is like to be the teacher and each gets a turn up front of the classroom. I asked for volunteers for the teacher role and had this person step outside the room and wait on me to come out and tell him/her what he/she will talk about.  I told the rest of the class their job was to ignore the “student-teacher,” I told them to make the “student-teacher” annoyed and flustered.  If the “student-teacher” asked them a question they were to refuse to answer or give an inappropriate answer.  I then went out to the “student-teacher” and told him/her to engage the students – ask questions, make eye-contact, motive them, and get them interacting. 

What happened was exactly as expected.  The more the students treated the “student-teacher” poorly the more distraught the “student-teacher” became.  Some students were uncomfortable but continued anyway looking over at me to stop the exercise.  Every student participated.  I did not have one student not do what I asked them to do.  When I did stop the exercise I asked the students what they learned from the lesson and was told – “it’s hard being a teacher.”  When I pointed out that they just validated Milgram’s experiment – that people are obedient to an authority figure even if they do not agree with the activity or request.  Students were shocked and disappointed in themselves.  I did point out that each student may not have done what was told to them if they were alone because another thing we learn in Social Psychology is people will more easily engage in inappropriate behaviors if in a group. 

People comply with authority much more than you think – YOU do it almost daily, especially if you work.  When you are in a work environment you are told what to do and how to do it.  You are given assignments and comply.  Sometimes you are told to do something that may be wrong or unethical.  You may not even know it is wrong or unethical because you trust the person/people in authority.  What if you know or suspect it is wrong?  Do you say something or refuse to do it?  What if you did say something or choose not to do the requested activity, would you fear the loss of your job or retaliation?  These are some tough decisions and obviously must be weighed against what the person/people in authority is/are asking you to do. 

Now think about this, why do you think students who have learning disabilities do not receive an appropriate education, denied services, or denied an IEP/504?  Do you think it is one individual (teacher, administrator, school psychologist…) who wants to deny this child an opportunity to learn?  Most likely it is not a person but a school district itself.  Someone in authority has told staff that there can only be a limited number of students in special education, on IEP’s/504, and what services can and cannot be provided.  When it comes down to it, schools are businesses and sometimes people who are not on the front lines make decisions that are not conducive to the education of students with learning disabilities.  These people make policies and procedures and teachers and administrators follow these even if they are actually violating a student’s rights.  Many times teachers and administrators are just doing what they are told to do from the people in the central office.  When we really look at it we can see that the ones who are really running the schools are the people in the highest authority. As a parent of a child with a learning disability how many times have you been told by a teacher that know your child is struggling but they can’t say/do anything about it because of the people above them.  Many teachers have told parents things only to deny saying these things in meetings because they don’t want to get into trouble with their bosses.   

Stanley Milgram said it best with this quote: “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”

We need to teach our children that they are to be HEROES!   As a society we need to support people who are “whistleblowers” instead of condoning companies and even school districts to lead with a culture of “don’t question, just do – because those that question will lose their jobs.”  People should not be punished or condemned because they followed the directions of an authority figure especially if they have power and control of their paycheck until we live in a society that values independence and respects people who question the actions of authority figures. 

We must also teach our children know they have a voice and to ask those in authority “why” they are being asked to do something.  We need to help empower children say “no” if they do not feel something is right.  We need to make these changes so our world can be better! Watch the next video and see what it would be like if people felt empowered to stand up to authority! 

Finally, here’s one of my heroes, Phil Zimbardo discussing The Psychology of Evil in a 20 minute TED talk.  Watch this, learn from it, and put into practice the suggestions he has near the end of his talk.