Tag Archives: psychology

More Than a Figment

There was a time when I thought my anxiety wasn’t real, that it was a figment of my imagination, an emotional ghost conjured by my subconscious to cover up the other mental health issues I deal with on a daily basis. Having a psychology background I have a healthy respect for the way the human brain can deceive itself. My anxiety attacks were infrequent at best and typically over in five minutes or less. They didn’t interfere, so I shrugged them off.

Image by Mariana Zanatta under a Creative Commons license
Image by Mariana Zanatta under a Creative Commons license

Then in April the bottom fell out of my world, and I was hospitalized. Meds were changed. My depression became less severe, almost manageable. One layer of my psyche was pulled back, revealing another layer underneath that I didn’t even know existed. And it was pissed. Boy, was it ever.

Anxiety is new for me. I’ve always been prone to being easily stressed out. But I’ve never been this vulnerable to panic, at least not this way. I view my hospitalization as a pivotal moment in my life. Those four days are when everything changed. It’s like someone flipped a switch in my brain, toggling on a new kind of brain chemistry.

For a while I was still able to pass off my anxiety as circumstantial and irrelevant. I was adapting to sudden and jarring changes in my life situation. I was on new medications that my body needed to get used to. I’d lost my job and was freaking out about not being able to help provide for my kids. I was ‘out’ as an atheist and everyone close to me suddenly knew I’d lost my faith. These are the things I told myself to explain my anxiety and the frequent increases in heart rate and palpitations I felt.

The last couple of days have changed that for me. Life the last month or so has mostly stabilized. I’m getting better sleep now. I’m starting to look for work again. In short, my stress levels as a whole have dropped.

And yet, I step outside into the heat, and my anxiety skyrockets. I worked a baseball game last night for four hours. In a heat index approaching 100 degrees. Over a hot grill. And my heart rate was ridiculously high for most of that four hours. Prompted entirely by physical stress. That was the moment when I realized that my anxiety is a real condition, a real disorder, not just an addendum to a list of other issues I’m living with. There’s a reason why physical activity feels like a kind of living death, why I struggle so much some days to get my body going.

I’ve been afraid for so long that I’ve simply been deceiving myself somehow, that I’ve been subconsciously looking for ways to escape, that I had my brain convinced that it needed to lie for me and to me. I know now that’s not the case. I think this has simply been lying under the surface for a while and dealing, but it was covered up by the severity of my depression. With that better in hand now, it has simply revealed this additional health issue that I didn’t realize existed, let alone needed to be addressed.

It’s almost a relief, really, even in spite of the fact that it’s physically uncomfortable. I know I can push through it, and I do. Frequently. I know it’s not something I can control. It’s not my fault. I certainly didn’t ask for this. And if I could make it go away, instantly, I would. So it’s something to be managed. I’m already learning how to do that. I have good doctors who can help. I have good friends who support me and to whom I can talk when I need it.

Baby steps, people. My mantra. My philosophy for recovery.

Liars’ Eyes

Dear writers, authors, and other creative types,

You know that thing you’ve heard about liars’ eyes? How when you tell a lie, you look up and to the right because that’s what you do when you access the creative part of your brain? And how you look to the left when you’re being honest? Yeah, that’s a myth. I’ve seen it pop up a lot in various stories and TV shows, and it bugs the heck out of me every single time. How’s about we do a little research next time, hm? Stop perpetuating this and other body language myths, ‘cuz they’re flat-out wrong and carry with them potential real-world consequences.

Killer Instinct

There’s a “news story on Gizmodo today”:http://gizmodo.com/343186/teen-strangles-father-with-gamepad-cable about a teen gamer who tried to strangle his father with a cord from a gaming controller. Apparently, the father had repeatedly told the boy to turn off the console and finally ended up going into the boy’s room and pulling the power cord, causing the boy to lose all his progress. The kid was so outraged that he proceeded to try strangling his father. Craziness.

Now, I know that as a kid, I often felt angry whenever my parents told me I needed to get off my Nintendo and either A) do my chores, or B) go outside for awhile, ((It might have been a different story had the Nintendo offered a way to save games so that all your progress wasn’t lost every time you quit.)) but I never felt compelled to attempt murder. And even now it’s frustrating to lose game progress to a power outage, disc failure, and console hiccup – but ultimately it’s not the end of the world, and certainly not something worth resorting to violence over.

This story is not, of course, about video games being responsible for violence. It _is_, however, an example of the evolution of cultural norms that place such a high level of value on entertainment that they make foreign ideas like personal control, restraint, and responsibility. Y’know, video games are a luxury, not an essential. If they’re the catalyst for behavioral problems in kids, the wisest thing a parent can do is take the games away until the child (or teen) has learned enough responsibility and self-control to be able to handle them without flying off at the handle. I mean, you can’t tell me that, in this case, this incident was the first time the parents had ever seen a behavioral outburst like this.

Church and Psychology

A “friend of mine”:http://jtf02.wordpress.com has started blogging. In his “first entry”:http://jtf02.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/church-and-psychology/, he shares his thoughts on the Church and psychology and the current tension between the two.

bq. For years the Church has tended to deny that psychological problems really exist. Some have openly stated that psychological problems do not exist, only sin exists and that what some would call psychological is actually sin. Others would claim that sin does exist but that psychological problems also exist apart from sin and at times with sin.

Go give a read, and better still, leave a comment and add to the discussion.

SchizoDID, SchizoDONT

Ok, this bugs the tar out of me, especially since I’ve seen a _lot_ of writers, both for books and for TV, who get this wrong. Schizophrenia is _NOT_ the same thing as multiple personalities. Schizophrenia involves delusions and hallucinations, among other things (see _A Beautiful Mind_ for a flick that actually gets it right). Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder before the DSM-IV revision) is what is _actually_ multiple, or split, personalities. It’s a common misconception that the two mental disorders are one and the same. Stephen King got it wrong in _The Dark Tower_ series (and should, in my opinion, have fixed it in Book 5, given the timespan between it and Book 4), and the writers of _Stargate SG-1_ got it wrong in a couple of episodes, just to name two examples. There have been plenty of others I’ve seen lately, too.

Get it right, people!

(Aren’t writers supposed to do research on these things?)

I’m a Hermit

I do these things very seldom, and I share the results even less frequently, and I don’t do Tarot cards at all, but the result from this little survey was dead-on for my personality. Occasionally, one of these things actually works out. Now, to do a statistical study to test reliability and validity. ((Yes, I’m just kidding.))

You are The Hermit

Prudence, Caution, Deliberation.

The Hermit points to all things hidden, such as knowledge and inspiration,hidden enemies. The illumination is from within, and retirement from participation in current events.

The Hermit is a card of introspection, analysis and, well, virginity. You do not desire to socialize; the card indicates, instead, a desire for peace and solitude. You prefer to take the time to think, organize, ruminate, take stock. There may be feelings of frustration and discontent but these feelings eventually lead to enlightenment, illumination, clarity.

The Hermit represents a wise, inspirational person, friend, teacher, therapist. This a person who can shine a light on things that were previously mysterious and confusing.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Robots Among Us

Amazing Robot Reality, or Techno Puppet Show? – Gizmodo

Technology really is coming a long way. I’ve recently started tuning in to Gizmodo in my Google Reader ((I had Engadget there for a while, as well, but the two tech news services cover pretty much exactly the same news and the redundancy was annoying me.)) and have, as such, been keeping abreast with a lot of the latest and greatest in the tech industry. This article highlights a very lifelike robot that has the ability to interact with real people and track them visually. It’s a stunning bit of technology that indicates that something along the lines of androids may not be as far into the distant future as we think. The video is pretty neat to watch. For something powered by batteries and software, Jules waxes quite the philosopher.

From a psychological and social standpoint, I kind of thought that the behaviors of the people interacting with him were a bit disturbing. It could be it was all scripted for the sake of the video, but they certainly sounded genuine enough. It was just kind of weird seeing real, live people interacting with a non-living object as though it were actually sentient. Strange. It certainly calls up some interesting questions should such robots ever actually be created.

I’d love to know more about the project and get an idea of the scope of the software that makes Jules work. The level of programming involved in making that thing look and act so authentically is staggering. I may have to find time later to go check out the website and read up a bit. I’d be curious to hear your comments on Jules.

Psychology of Observation

The human eye makes millions of individual observations a day. The vast majority of these are ignored by the conscious brain, but far more of these observations than we realize are recorded into long-term memory. The thing of it is, we don’t usually realize it. It’s not quite photographic memory – most of us simply can’t recall all these details on demand. But they reside in our minds, nevertheless, allowing us to notice, for instance, when something in a familiar landscape has changed, even if we can’t quite put our finger on what. This is the mind drawing on the stored details relevant to this setting and context and providing us with a comparison that our conscious minds must then endeavor to sort through to determine the differences in our environment. Sometimes, this process can mean life or death.

In my case this morning, it was nothing half so dramatic or critical. It was more a subtle niggling that something about my walk across campus on my way to my office was different. ((The lack of students – all of which are on Spring Break this week – was *not* what my mind was trying to draw my attention to.)) What took me so long was that the change was truly slight – it was the observation that all of the trees now have little buds growing on them, a further sign that spring’s arrival is imminent. It was a delightful observation to make, even if it _did_ take a while for my brain to catch up with my mind. ((And if *that* doesn’t make your head hurt, nothing will.))

Heavier Traffic

How do you greatly amplify your daily hit count? Create and release a WordPress theme and then tell Weblog Tools Collection about it. Already at this point in the day, my numbers are up four times higher than normal. It’s pretty cool.

And I have to admit that it was really weird to see the first blog sporting the Sacred Icon theme. At first I thought someone had hacked Penitent Tangential and was mucking about. Took me a second to remember I was looking at a different site. ((How’s _that_ for visual associations?))