Posts tagged ‘psychology’

Ignore the Bullies, and Keep Being Awesome

The Bullies Don’t Actually Know You: A Vital Reminder in How Crowd-Sourced Jerks Work

Over the years, I’ve seen various people with eloquent and well thought out opinions and positive contributions retreat from online spaces because they couldn’t take the bullying and the obnoxious comments. Some people just make their blogs comment-free. Others retreat completely. This is all an individual choice, but the problem just gets worse whenever we do this- we cede more territory to the nasty people. Remember, they are a relative minority- the loudest, most obnoxious, often unemployed for a reason (nothing against unemployed people- I’m one of them after all!) They are not a true reflection of the entire community or subculture that they participate in online.

Now, building face to face, in person community is important, and I try to use the Internet as a tool for doing that- I sometimes hear from people in a particular community who poo-poo it all and think that they are better because they managed to find each other in (insert decade here) the old-fashioned way. Well, that’s nice, but not everyone happens to be in the right place to just stumble across other people of a particular religious, sexual minority, disability, hobby group or what have you. Sometimes you are dealing with people that are more in the closet about various things, and you have to find a way to lure them out- at least into a space they feel safe. For some folks, that space will continue to be primarily online. Some people are geographically isolated. They may not be able to afford to go to Pagan festivals, science fiction conventions, or bisexual conferences. They may have complex health needs, businesses to run or young children or elderly parents to take care of. They may even be homeless or living in a group home or mental institution, but Tumblr or Twitter are places they can reach the outside world on their smart phone and get support and information. For some people, this can be a life or death connection. So let’s not tell them that they are just “slacktivists” and lazy homebodies when we don’t know their situation.

These are the folks I’m thinking of who keep me writing online. I try to get past all the drama, just transcend, and remember why I’m here and what I’m doing. Moderate your comments- delete the abusive ones, the derailing ones, the ones that just don’t add to conversations. Write a FAQ or a “How to Be an Ally to Group X” (or link to either) so you don’t have to keep answering the same questions, but at the same time, don’t bite people’s heads off for asking them. Just say “Good question- please read the FAQ/101 Masterpost, and let me know if you want to know more”. When people tell you “your interpretation of feminism/queer theory/Norse mythology/Star Wars canon is WRONG!!! Tell them, OK then why don’t you make your own post/essay/ritual/interpretative dance/fan fiction/workshop and do it your way. Some people just want attention, any attention even if it’s negative. Sometimes we can re-direct them in a more positive direction. Sometimes they will just sit in the corner and pout and try to cause trouble another day. Sometimes they’ll surprise you, because you’re the first person to consider their pet theory/idea/project (even if you think it’s totally out there/impractical/silly) But if they are willing to create their thing and follow their groove while playing well with others, I’ll give them a shout-out, even if it’s not my cut of tea.

But I love the internet, because it’s a giant marketplace of ideas. Many of them are bad. Some of them are harmful. Some of them are good- and even really cool. So keep coming up with new ideas and developing them and sharing them with like-minded people. Keep Being Awesome.

Your Fandom’s OK, my Fandom’s OK

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August 27, 2015 at 12:30 am 1 comment

Therapy

Note: This is sarcasm/satire

In one of my UU discussion groups, a couple of times I and others with mental health issues have discussed the support (or lack thereof) in our congregations. Fortunately in mine I feel pretty well supported and I encounter other folks who admit to having similar issues. It probably helps to have a community that tends to be into that…science thing instead of “oh you need to be magically healed/prayed over/exorcised etc.” One suggestion I made to others was networking with UU’s who work in helping or social service professions to get help. Another UU who is a (now retired therapist) kept chiming in and complaining that other congregants and clergy were always asking her for free therapy, and she comes to church to get a break from all that stuff. OK, I get that people should not be continually asked for free professional services- perhaps it should not be treated any differently than asking an accountant you go to church with to do your taxes for free. But still, I was kinda like, umm shouldn’t that be another thread? The No More Free Therapy Sessions Dammit! thread, rather than the I’m Mentally Ill and Some People in my Congregation Don’t Get it thread. Just seemed like there was some un-examined privilege going on there. Also, as a Millennial, I must admit that I didn’t understand the “retired” part. I guess I do have this vague recollection that some people actually stayed employed long enough at a place to gain this legendary thing called…retirement benefits? I’d ask my Baby Boomers parents to explain, but I know they too are pretty baffled by it. I mean, maybe if you work for the federal government for a long time. Damn union-card carrying socialists!

But y’know I thought more about it. I guess I should try having a little more compassion. After all, there is so much stigma in being a psychotherapist. They face discrimination in hiring, housing and all sorts of social services. They are rejected by their families after they discover their true nature as a psychologist. They lose friends after they try to psychoanalyze and diagnose them. They have tons of student loans to pay off. It’s a highly, deeply misunderstood calling that is sometimes criminalized and blamed for mass shootings. Sometimes therapists have their children taken away- just because of their job title! Even if they are undergoing treatment- err I mean continuing education, they may be told that they are not qualified to keep their children unless some expert from the state comes and evaluates them. They may not be allowed to buy guns, due to their past history as psychologists!  And if they don’t subscribe to the accepted popular academic opinions about trendy labels like childhood bipolar disorder and such, they can be labeled “Noncompliant” and refused continued treatment, I mean err continuing education. Then no one will take any of their past work seriously! The worst part is, they get all this heaped upon them, but none of it was their choice! They were born that way! Their brains were just wired or chemically balanced in such a way that they had to becomes psychologists and therapists.

(In all seriousness, I am grateful for the good therapists out there- the ones who listen and make good allies and even the occasional psychiatrist that realizes that he/she/zie is a mere mortal. It is really hard work that they do! And they *do* have tons of student loan debt to pay off!)

March 21, 2015 at 2:15 am 4 comments

How/What Did You Learn About Race?

A while back I wrote a “racial autobiography” about my experiences growing up and how l learned about racial and ethnic identity issues. I would like to challenge other pale-skinned folks- white, Caucasian, European-American/Canadian, or heck even European to write their own such autobiographies. Because when I talk with you about these issues, I know where I’m coming from, and what I’ve learned, but I’m not sure about you. Many of our friends/relatives/neighbors of other ethnic backgrounds have had to confront their skin color and ancestry on an almost daily basis, but we have the luxury of ignoring it. In fact, we’re often taught to deliberately ignore it. This makes it really hard to understand their experiences, and we probably never will on the same level that they do, but even just examining our own history and the messages we have picked up on. Remember the focus is on you and your history, your family, neighborhood etc. It seems in all these racial discussions that you want to talk about how Poor Whitey’s perspective is being ignored. OK, well here’s your chance.

If you don’t want to share your specific age, give us an idea of the time period in which you were growing up

When did you first learn about race?

What was the cultural/ethnic/racial makeup of the town/city/neighborhood(s) you grew up in?

Were there other divisions, such as class, occupation, religion, etc. that were significant? How did those affect you?

Were any of these divisions present in your family?

What were you taught about your family’s history- how recently did immigration happen? What countries did your family originate from?

Were some parts of your heritage more emphasized, or proud of than others? Were there parts you were taught (implicitly or explicitly) to be ashamed of?

Did the things you learned about race in school (history, culture etc) differ from what you learned at home?

Overall, how were people from the group you identify with portrayed in history books?

Were you taught to ignore racial slurs and comments, to confront them or to simply change the subject when it was brought up?

Did you have any personal, familial or cultural expectations factor in to who it was appropriate for you to make friends with, date, marry, adopt, do business with, where to buy/rent a house, etc.? What clothes to wear, how to style your hair, gender roles, type of music you listened to, food you ate/cooked, what occupations and forms of education were considered appropriate for some people in your community and not others? How have these expectations differed in different places you have lived?

Did you only find out about some of these “unwritten rules” after you “broke” them? Did you face any consequences for breaking these social rules?

Did reading and/or answering any of these questions cause strong feelings? Describe your feelings.

What is racism- how do *you* define it? (I keep seeing people say X isn’t racist- but Y totally is!) So what’s racism? Are there different kinds of racism? Is racism always intentional?

December 12, 2014 at 2:29 am Leave a comment

Smoking as a Class Issue

Among the conversations I got into with my family while on vacation was some of my relatives expressing befuddlement as they traveled across Montana and Wyoming that OMG, There are Still All These People who smoke? How strange, I mean, *I don’t know anyone who smokes* What decade is this anyway? sorta comments. At some point I pointed out that these days, smoking is something of a class difference. It used to be that smoking was pretty evenly common among every class of people. The smoking rate has gone way down with rising awareness of health risks, social pressure and anti-smoking laws. But it tends to still be higher among working-class and poor people, at least in the U.S. This may seem counter-intuitive considering how expensive smokes can be, but consider this: nicotine is a stimulant- many of these folks are on their feet all day, and smoking gives them a little extra energy. Smoking can relieve stress, and many of them are very over-stressed. Yes middle class people are also often very stressed, but have more options for stress-relieving techniques. They also are more likely to be able to access smoke-quitting programs, alternatives like e-cigs (which have a high upfront cost) therapy etc. Many people who are recovering from alcoholism, addiction or mental illness smoke as a stress reliever. Once again low income= less access to recovery programs/therapy etc. A smoke, a drink or a favorite food that might be seen as comparatively bad uses of money and unhealthy choices are simple pleasures low-income people can access after a hard day (or night). I suspect that if my one uncle who lives on an Indian reservation was present, he probably would’ve backed up some of my reasons. Some of them seem to be acknowledged, but mostly my view was overpowered by White Middle-Class Liberals Know Best self-righteousness.

Now I’m not saying smoking is this great habit that we should all take up. I’m saying that think before you swoop down and condemn “Those People” for being foolish, short-sighted, selfish or whatever for smoking. I was reminded of all this while reading Nornoriel’s post in which he points out that as a coping/stress release technique smoking a couple times a week is not as bad as many people claim. “Vice” taxes on tobacco and liquor don’t really work, and essentially function as regressive taxes that have more of an impact on poor people. Which I suspect, is exactly what they’re intended to do. I wonder what would happen if someone were to propose a special tax on coffee. Everyone would pitch a fit. That’s the “acceptable” vice that people of all classes partake in. Both sleep-deprived office workers and truck drivers alike are dependent on caffeine. It’s a drug that makes you a good productive capitalist worker. Unlike say, marijuana…

 

August 28, 2014 at 2:50 am 2 comments

Depression/Mental Health Pagan Links

When searching for articles, posts and books on Paganism and depression/mental illness, I found so much stuff that I decided to make another post to include these resources, in addition to the general Pagan/Disability resources post. I will make another post about distinguishing mental illness from shamanism/visionary/magical experiences etc.

Pagans, Mental Health & Abuse– extra kudos for discussion of related social justice issues involving shame, access to care etc.

Pagans in Recovery by Isaac Bonewits- Old essay- numbers of people with “issues” may be exaggerated…for one I will say as an Aspie, I have detected a noticeable number of Pagans who may be unlabeled Aspies, but I don’t think *most* Pagans have Asperger’s/autism.

Pagan Therapy & Counseling– blog last updated in 2013, but still has good info

Dealing with DepressionExhaustion, Bees and Depression by Nimue Brown This is advice for people who have depressed friends/family members in their lives- very helpful and not specific to Paganism, the second is social commentary. I also thought she wrote a book about depression, but I can’t seem to find mention of it!

Finding Motivation– (and other posts) by Nornoriel Lokason on the Staff of Asclepius blog (Depression & PTSD)

The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Level of Skepticism by Sarah Anne Lawless

“Almost everyone in the Pagan community has suffered from a mental illness at some point in their life because 20% of the general population (in Canada) has had mental health problems during their lifetime.” Err, not sure about that statement. It’s a lot though.

“Sometimes the (online and physical) Pagan Community is too accepting and accommodating of everyone’s own personal level of crazy. Because we are on the fringe, many think we have to accept anyone who identifies as one of us and take them as they come.  Sometimes we are too afraid to tell someone they are crazy (this is especially hard to do when the person in question is in a leadership role). After all, who is a Pagan (believing in many gods, spirits, and magic) to tell someone they’re nuts or are taking something too far? But when no one calls a stop or calls bullshit, then things do get taken too far and people with real mental illnesses end up being accepted as sane.”

My “primary” line with other people is when they want me involved in their “weird”. What’s my motivation? If people want to involve me in their personal weird/kink… they need to provide a reason for me to care.”- comment from Scylla

I feel that way too. I meet a lot of Pagans that are *so relieved to be accepted* that they feel the need to share everything (Hell, I’ll admit, I’ve probably been guilty of this at times too!) I’m pretty open-minded and accepting and non-threatening seeming so often I get Way TMI pseudo-therapy session info-dumps from people I just met. Umm, thanks for sharing. Some of these people just really need a friend. I understand that but *insta-friendship* share all your personal info at once is a good way to scare people off, not keep friends. It also leaves a person very vulnerable to manipulative people. Boundaries are a thing a lot of us need to work on.

Pagan & Crazy by Alexandra Chauran- “My Pagan path has led me to British Traditional Wicca, which can be a complicated route to follow when mentally ill.  Not only do I deal with the psychological issues inherent in any religious practice that involves the supernatural, but Traditional Wicca requires that I work with others who are historically cautious about the company they keep. In fact, Ed Fitch wrote a document titled “So You Want To Be A Gardnerian” that implies that the ideal prospective coven member is, “not currently in psychological therapy.” Coven of the Wild Rose does not accept people who take psychotropic medications or require therapy and writes as a footnote to the above document that, “if you cannot function as a fully responsible adult individual in the mundane reality then you cannot function effectively in the magical/mystical realities and should not even attempt to do so until you have all your oars in the water and they are working all in proper tandem.”- last part in bold seems reasonable to me.

I can understand if very disciplined, focused magical groups are more restrictive in their membership, personally I think people with mental health issues that are getting treatment and have been stable for a certain length of time should be included, a similar rule could be in place for former/recovering addicts & alcoholics. I think excluding anyone who takes SSRIs and such and/or sees a therapist now and then but otherwise lives a stable life is ridiculous.

August 8, 2014 at 9:58 pm Leave a comment

Thou Shalt Accept Every Identity as Valid

Minds Are Like Parachutes: They Only Function When Open

Don’t Open Your Mind So Wide That Your Brain Falls Out.

Look, I like to think of myself as a very open-minded person. Partly because I kind of need to be, or I’d be a giant hypocrite.  But there’s a certain point where in following those two personal mottoes listed above, I have to shut my mind before my brain falls out. I don’t follow the Sacred Internet Social Justice Community Commandment that Every Identity is Valid.

I’d heard about the phenomenon of “transabled” people who identify as having a disability that they don’t have. They’ve been around for years- known as “Wannabes”  but now have come out of the woodwork more by riding on the coattails of the transgender movement. I wasn’t too worried about it, because I thought that one thing the disparate disability communities were united on was against this nonsense.

Then I just saw an article about blindness being commented upon by a “transblind” person, posted on Lydia Brown’s autism blog. This disturbed me, because Lydia is a really awesome autistic writer and activist, and her voice is pretty prominent.

I commented – “I am confused by this- I’m severely near-sighted (as in I have to be very careful where I put my glasses or I’ll have to grope for them) I could be considered “legally blind” but with my glasses I am fully sighted. Is this the sort of reason someone might identify as “transblind”? In that case I could understand, though I wouldn’t call myself that. I don’t have the experiences that blind people have. From what I understand there are some non-disabled people mainly on Tumblr that identify as “transdisabled”. I’m surprised you’re promoting this viewpoint, Lydia. Would you think appropriate for a non-autistic person to call themselves “transautistic”? I am concerned about disrespect for both transgender and disabled communities.”

After that I noticed, that indeed at the bottom of Lydia’s blog was a long list of identities that she states support and inclusion for, and “transabled” was one of them. I respected her choice, even if I was disappointed by it, it had already been made, and it was her blog.

A little more on the broader phenomenon:

Why “Transabled” Is Bull

Responding to Attacks on Disabled from Transabled, Devotees, BIID

Pretending You’re Oppressed: the New Internet Fad

Dear Demi-Sexual, Trans Abled, Trans Ethnic, Trans Fat and Other Fakers

(I do take exception to the demisexual part- will discuss below)

“This is what happens when discussion of oppression gets divorced from discussion of the power structures and status quo preserving practices that generate the oppression. Once you eliminate discussion of which groups hold power, you can transform any incidence of feeling alienated into an identity. Therefore socially empowered groups are feel free to appropriate the struggles of the people they dominate by focusing on any and all passing similarities between them rather than on actual exchanges of power.”- Comment on Womanist Musings, Jamie Laplain

Western industrialized societies are very individualistic- this makes it very hard for us to think about oppression and domination in systemic ways. Hence all the emphasis on privilege checklists and people writing mini-biographies about how they experience privilege. Then it all focuses on guilt and blame, and avoiding guilt and blame, shifting it onto someone else, another oppressor, without truly critiquing the system and coming up with constructive ways of transforming it. Instead people accuse each of not being aware enough of their privileges and are lectured that their good intentions are never enough. To be a Real Activist, you have to be familiar with an ever-changing list of terminology, and the words included and how they are defined and who can use them seems to vary by individual opinion. So you’d better get it right the first time!

Granted, there is apparently a real (if rare) disorder called Body Integrity Identity Disorder that causes people to feel as if limbs or other parts of their bodies are not really part of their bodies. If untreated, some of them try to injure themselves. These people definitely need help, and I don’t want to stigmatize them if they have a real disorder. But we should not use this as a reason to accept the entire “transabled” identity category. We need to take our society’s distorted ideas about disability, the body and sexuality into account.  I will also say that we all deserve the right to have some healthy skepticism towards the psychiatric establishment. They have made many mistakes in the past and they will continue to do so, especially considering their relationship with Big Pharma.

I am concerned that on the one hand, we are aiding and abetting people with untreated mental disorders.  It also infuriates me to see people using wheelchairs when they don’t need them, while other people who need wheelchairs or other adaptive equipment can’t afford them.  We have fought long and hard to demonstrate that people with disabilities merit equal treatment and public accommodations, and we still have a long road ahead of us on that. But we constantly get questioned “Do you really need that accommodation, or that adaptive equipment?” You can do this or that if you just tried harder, we are told. We always seem to be too disabled, or not disabled enough to be “worth” helping.

I’m also concerned that the influence of academia, and the constant search for unique research topics may have conveniently given an open platform for transabled folks into the disability studies field. Postmodern theorists with a thing for “constructed” identities would just lap this up.

Maybe some of these transabled folks have a special empathy for us. Maybe they’re curious about us. Maybe they didn’t get to know us enough when we were kids, because we were separated from them and so they became fascinated. If that is the case, I would ask them to grateful for all things your body and mind can do. And I would invite them to embrace their non-disabled bodies and minds and realize that they are still beautiful and unique, I shouldn’t have to tell them that since society tells them that everyday, but hey extra affirmation, why not. And I would further invite them to join as allies in the fight for disability rights. Because most of us, will at some point in our lives become disabled- hence the term “Temporarily Able Bodied”.

Afterword

Now, I will take exception to the inclusion of demisexuals in this list of “faker” identities. A demi-sexual is a person who is only sexually attracted to people with whom they have a deep emotional connection, they are not (or rarely) sexually attracted to strangers and brief acquaintances. I know about this as I’ve been reading about asexuality, and demisexuality is considered part of the broader definition of the asexual spectrum. If this concept helps some people make sense of their sexuality and helps them great. The biggest problem demisexuals and asexuals face is simply invisibility. Society doesn’t realize they exist, and some of them grow up being confused when they don’t have the feelings that other people around them do. The main way these folks are being oppressed is when they are pressured into romantic/sexual behavior that they do not want to engage in. This is a problem for people of all sexualities and genders, and I really don’t think that the GLBTQ+++ communities need to worry about asexual folks “stealing their movement thunder” so to speak.

August 6, 2014 at 12:45 am 4 comments

Mental Health Self-Care Virtues: Beauty

Beauty
The pursuit of beauty and elegance in thought, form and speech. (Vanic Virtue)

quote-10060

Text of image: Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. MAKE GOOD ART

– Neil Gaiman

I think of this one more as a “value”- a concept that’s important, rather than a virtue, because to me that implies an ideal to live up to. I was reminded of this one while reading a post by a Christian friend- The Absence of Self-Care in the Church by Kati Hammar. She talked about how she felt selfish in her church in even taking simple pleasures like painting her nails, because she felt she was supposed to be thinking of others at all times. “One of the most hurtful things someone ever told me was, “You don’t have real problems. You aren’t precious. Children in Africa are precious and they have real problems.”

This is one of the reasons I don’t feel comfortable in churches anymore. For the most part, self-care and mental health are subjects that are stigmatized or even forbidden in some circles.”

Reading that made me feel really sad. Kati is such a sweet, thoughtful young woman, any church or community of any sort should be happy to have her. (Virtual hug!) Anyway, back to beauty. It sounds like a petty luxury at first- beauty. A luxury for wealthy, non-disabled, “sane” neurotypical people.

But take a step back from the great false idol that is the commercial beauty industry. One thing you notice about anthropology, is you study the world’s cultures and you find anywhere, in every society no matter how so-called “primitive” or focused on basic survival that culture is, they make art and music. They create beauty. Look at prisons and jails. Even prisoners of war and people on death row will create art with whatever materials they have available- even if they’re not allowed to, and the art they create is taken and destroyed. Why? Out of boredom, or to create trouble, prison guards might assume at first- but also to demonstrate their humanity. To express a voice that is silenced. Mentally ill people are also terribly dehumanized and silenced, and often end up in prisons and jails, sometimes because they have nowhere else to go.

Related Virtues: Creativity, Eloquence, Confidence, Dignity

Note: Beauty is also one of the 8 virtues mentioned in the Wiccan Charge of the Goddess.

Practices for Cultivating Beauty:

Follow Neil Gaiman’s advice- Make Art/Music/Write etc. I’m leaving out the “good” part, because who’s to judge what is good art or bad? Just make something, have fun with it, and don’t worry about how good it is. Stay away from people who discourage your creativity, and stifle your inner critic. Remember the prisoner artists- you don’t necessarily have to spend a bunch of money on art supplies. I would also count cooking and baking in ways you consider fun, rather than ordinary “oh, I have to cook dinner”, better yet invite over a friend!

Embrace Your Inner and Outer Beauty

Look in the mirror- think about what your good qualities are, and speak them aloud “I am kind, smart, beautiful, wise” etc.

Take a bath, add some bubbles or bath salts, enjoy yourself, put on some soft music, later put on lotion, makeup if you want, fun accessories and clothing that is comfortable and adds to your beauty. Feel free to step outside gender norms and experiment with different clothes/make-up if you feel comfortable doing so!

Resources:

Offbeat Bride– even if you’re not planning a wedding, this has a lot of fun ideas for fashion, (including many frugal ideas) entertaining for people who don’t fit the conventions of the wedding industry- GLBTQ folks, goths, geeks etc.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron (and sequels)

Ms. Cameron is a successful writer, who once believed that she “had” to drink in order to write, but came up with this self-help plan to help her learn to be creative without drinking. To follow this program, you make a contract with the “Great Creator” but this can be any deity you associate with creativity (I’m thinking Brighid!) , or perhaps an artsy ancestor like Frida Kahlo.

Play With Your Food– a book to help you create beauty and have fun

Pinterest board– with fun food visuals

July 26, 2014 at 12:49 am Leave a comment

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