Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Trauma vs. Resiliency (Resiliency > Trauma, Pt 2 of 2)

Part II - Resiliency > Trauma
In my previous rant, I mean blog, I put forth my views on the focus on microaggressions as sources of trauma. The below entry can be read as a stand alone piece, though If you missed it you can read the previous topic here.

“Innate resiliency trumps the day-to-day microaggressions that we encounter.”
It has been well-documented that those with higher resiliency score (as per the generally accepted Connor-Davidson Resiliency Scale) are better equipped to handle the stresses of life (http://www.connordavidson-resiliencescale.com/about.php ). As more research is done, empirical data shows that the more resilient a person; the stronger their interpersonal relationships. The more likely they are to have a solid sense of self, and they are also more apt to understand when to seek the help of others. Resiliency has even been purported to impact an individual’s sense of humor (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/prin/ed/2017/00000138/00000001/art00003 ).

The potential exists that if within the helping professions, we over-emphasize the detrimental effects of trauma, as being greater human resiliency we are creating a negative feedback loop of sorts. Meaning, by exerting our expertise as professionals and insisting we highlight only the harming effects of trauma we are short changing the healing attributes of resiliency and the very innate strengths of our clients.

By focusing on the negative aspects of trauma we begin to erode the positive skills that we are supposed to be fostering in our patients. Not only that, we add to the victimhood culture that has recently begun to permeate modern society (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/the-rise-of-victimhood-culture/404794/  ).

The more as professionals that we feed into the thought of trauma, the more we undermine the resilience of those we serve. Further, this process of focusing on microaggressions as the source of toxic trauma becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As such, rather than being a “Social Justice Warrior”, one who rides the bandwagon and focuses on the negative, I will instead choose to promote the strengths of those that I come into contact with.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trauma vs. Resiliency (Macro vs. Microaggressions, Pt 1 of 2)

Part I - Macro vs. Microaggressions

“I am a Social Worker. I am not a Social Justice Warrior.”

That statement may make some social workers squirm, and that is intended. The lot of us have become to distracted by lines of language to see the full environment. We can’t see the forest for the trees. Or in other words, we can’t pinpoint the aggression for the microaggression.

I believe that we have become too focused within our profession on the idea that microaggressions are overly responsible for the erosion of an individual’s self-esteem or sense of self-worth ( http://www.socialwork.career/2011/07/what-are-microaggressions.html ).

When this term was first introduced, it was used to describe interactions between people that purposefully (or otherwise) demeaned a “minority”, typically verbal exchanges. More recently, the term has taken on a more generic meaning and has been applied to everyday insults and superficial comments made from anyone in a majority group to outside of that group, about anything disparaging (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/microaggressions-in-everyday-life/201011/microaggressions-more-just-race ).

These “everyday slights,” as they are often referred, are then stated to be the chisel that gradually chips away at our mental health, causing depression, anxiety and other issues.

As someone with a life-long disability I have endured many of these microaggressions. While my opinion of these is admittedly anecdotal, rather than empirical, my opinion still stands: they are overblown, overemphasized by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other medical professionals, and gobbled up by social workers as the bullets that penetrate the self-worth and determination of our disenfranchised populations. This medicalization and “clinicalization” of trauma tends to focus more on the potential damage done to a person, rather than their ability to overcome the trauma. Specifically, this approach to “science” is socially constructed based on societal values (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15622970500483110?journalCode=iwbp20 ).

At any rate, personally, these glib comments have barely held me back a moment, let alone a lifetime. Truth be told, they’ve done nothing but strengthen me. They’ve been the fire that’s burned within me to prove people wrong, to rise above.

Meanwhile, there are millions of people in this world that deal with legitimate toxic trauma every day. Sexual assault, physical assault, drug abuse and addiction, any and all manner of victimization and many others...these are the areas where time and energy and healing need to be focused.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

When the Going Gets Tough

...the tough throw their hands up in the air and scream “FUCK!!!”

But then they roll up their sleeves and get to work fixing whatever shit they need to in order to right the wrongs of life.
Its no secret that life can be hard sometimes, maybe even for some of us, it’s even hard a lot of the time.
But here’s a little secret you probably aren’t reminded of enough:

There is something to be said for your resiliency, your innate strength that helps you overcome obstacles, deal with problems and get through the tough times.
You are battle tested and have proven that you have the power to overcome whatever is thrown your way.   Even if you do not feel equipped to deal with the problem that you are facing, that mountain that is in your way is there because God knows you can handle it and someone else can’t. Some people might chalk this up to some sort of cosmic “test” (and maybe it is, what the hell do I know?) - I however, would categorize it as an experience that is both designed and destined to make you stronger.

I also realize that seeing any negative experience in this light, while you are going through it, can be near impossible. But hold it in your heart, tuck it in your pocket- whatever you want to do with it, keep that notion safe, because you will overcome.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Aim of Blame (plus things we can all do to bring ourselves back from the brink)

Several people are running around this week shouting that we need more robust gun laws in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting that took place.
It is my firm belief that those that those people are wrong.
You have others who claim this is certainly a tragedy, however this tragedy does not warrant any policy change to address these types of acts.
They are also wrong.
Changes to gun laws would not have prevented the incident in Las Vegas. If you don’t believe me here’s an expert’s opinion, that was formed by academics, rather than anecdotal experience.
Additionally, there’s a video that has recently found renewed popularity online regarding the technology that was relevant when the 2nd amendment was written. If you haven’t seen it you can find it HERE. Attention-grabbing, satirical, and perhaps a bit humorous, is it not? All possibly true, but it is also ignorant. What this video ignores is perhaps the more relevant item based on its historical context: The fact that the authors of the 2nd amendment were living in a time when government overreach was not the plot of a far-fetched suspense novel, but reality.

The truth is there is not one right answer to the question of “How could’ve the Las Vegas tragedy (or any mass shooting) been prevented?” Moreover, the answer to “What could’ve stopped Stephen Paddock from killing over 50 people?” is even more elusive.
The things that stand out to this author are as follows:
  1. Assess your Values
    1. Figure out what it is that drives you, what’s truly important
    2. Determine how you can factor in these values to your daily living
  2. Streamline your commitments
    1. There are a thousand things barking for our attention everyday. To be a modern person it is expected that you do things that, for lack of a better phrase; weren’t even a thing 10, 20, 30 years ago.
    2. Quite simply, remove the things that are without purpose, or simply aren’t worthwhile.
  3. Connectivity
    1. Even the most cynical among us (raises hand) realizes a complete lack of interpersonal connections is a recipe for disaster
    2. Connect with family, friends, acquaintances, even strangers!
  4. Self care
    1. Mental health is a lot like physical health, if you don’t do it for yourself, no one will do it for you.
    2. Make it a point to engage in some activity you enjoy that reduces your stress level

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Prayers You Didn't Know You Needed

It's been a rough week.  
First, Monday greeted me with some political-correct, snowflake, triggered horseshit at work. By Tuesday I found out that I was at least 1 course short of graduating with my Criminal Justice Minor. Finally, mid-week was capped off by some human splooge tossing a full Polar Pop 32oz beverage at me from his car window while I was running. 
Yes, it's true, I lead an exciting life. 
Luckily, in all these instances I have the certainty that I'll be okay. One of these scenarios I escaped completely unscathed as the Polar Pop cup missed me completely.   
While I am slightly worried about the issue with my Minor, I have confidence that it will be worked out one way or another.  
As far as the problem with work, miraculously I wasn’t a part of the issue referenced, so I appear to be "safe" from the administrative wrath. Of course, that being said, I plan to stand with my team in defiance of such ridiculousness.  
All this mess got me thinking: How many times have I been spared being the victim of some negative event?  
You might think this is overly deep thinking for a cynic such as myself. It may surprise you to know that I actually am fairly spiritual. I don't mean "spiritual" in the current vernacular of rubbing crystals, shopping at Whole Foods and refusing to wear deodorant (not that there's anything wrong with that).  
What I mean by spiritual is I pray to God, but I am far from religious. In fact, I think religion is the worst thing to happen to faith in the history of humankind.  
After that Circle K Polar Pop cup missed me, I prayed. I thanked God for that cup missing me as I thought about what might've been inside it, what the person that threw it might have been thinking.  
This then brought further self-reflection: How many times have I been spared being the victim of some negative event that I wasn’t even aware of?  
Was I almost the victim of a robbery but the would-be perpetrator lost their nerve? Was I nearly killed in a traffic accident but the driver that caused it returned home because they forget something?  
The possibilities are endless and they really make you think. They also make you pray a thankful prayer 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Philosophical Mumbo Jumbo

Philosophy -
noun, phi·los·o·phy \fə-ˈlä-s(ə-)fē\
2 pursuit of wisdom :  a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means :  an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs (Merriam-Webster Inc, 2017)

Recently, I just finished a course that centered on Ethics and Morality and used a textbook penned by Lawrence Hinman; Contemporary Moral Issues: Diversity and Consensus. Initially, upon entering the class I thought, what a waste of time, as if either of these things are teachable concepts.
I assumed it would be one of those classes you shrug off, an “easy A” that would not take up much study time. Just answer the questions posed to you in the “expected” way and collect your credits. However, with each passing week I became more involved in the course discussions and found the subject matter more interesting. Stem cell harvesting and research, abortion, neoliberalism, the death penalty- all controversial issues that I thought I had understood, and further thought that I had thoroughly grounded beliefs within. Beliefs that lay firmly rooted on one side of these issues or the other. I quickly found out that my beliefs were not only superficial, but in some cases ethereal, having been incidentally gleaned from less-than reputable sources (skewed movies and books, acquaintances with agendas, slanted news reports etc.)
I found myself debating classmates and “winning” (as much as one can “win” in an online forum anyway). It became quite exhilarating, not to pick a side and defend it, but to really dig in and research the pros and cons and present an overarching view of a topic.
This spark led me to finally finish up a book i had been given months before on one of my favorite topics, Alan Moore’s Watchmen. I went back to reading Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test by Mark D. White. I suppose I thought I had just laid or reinforced the fundamentals of critical thinking with regard to personal worldviews, it might be time to explore that in a different context. That context, being one of my favorite films and graphic novels.
The book was great, particularly due to its analytical treatment of Watchmen’s characters and the issues they face from a philosophical lens. The author did a wonderful job of bringing to light issues in the story that I always noticed as being paramount, but could never properly articulate with any true direction. The essays throughout focus on the topics that are central (and some not-so central) to Watchmen’s mythos; good and evil, heroism, villainy, righteousness, politics, and neatly weaves these into philosophical concepts such as stoicism, free will and moral value, among others.  If you are a pop culture fan, or especially a Watchmen fan who is at all interested in philosophy, I highly urge you to track down a copy.  
After finishing both Watchmen and Philosophy as well as, Contemporary Moral Issues, I assumed I was ready for something with more gristle. I picked up a translated copy from one of the master’s of philosophy; Nietzsche. I was excited, one because I had heard his work quoted in several different formats and media over the years, and two; I was a bit full of myself at feeling I was ready to tackle such an esteemed body of literary work. The book I selected was The Birth of Tragedy, which was coupled with The Case of Wagner. The particular edition I purchased also contained a preface written by Nietzsche titled ‘Attempt at a Self-Criticism' related to The Birth of Tragedy- an analysis of his own work, some years after the fact. I thought this might prove useful, and insightful as Birth was his first published book.   

I was eager to begin soaking up the relevant knowledge, the life-altering wisdom that someone so revered would surely be able to pass on from across time.
It took me almost 3 hours just to read through the translator’s introduction!

But I wasn’t stymied yet. I kept thinking perhaps if I can get past the translator’s stuffy, academic language from the mid 1950’s, I could get to the insightful information that I really desired, so I pressed on.  Unfortunately, once that was completed I only arrived at Nietzsche’s words to discover that they themselves were made up of stuffy, academic language from the mid 1700’s. I was both astounded and disappointed that it was taking me so long to digest the book’s content.  
So Nietzsche and I, once strangers were quickly estranged. As such, his book rests on the bottom of my reading table, gathering dust as I hope I may gather the acumen to read his words without the help of a tutor, language coach, caffeine and a concordance.
My philosophical exploration remains on hold. Until, at least, I can find something more palatable. Perhaps in between “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Philosophy” and “The Complete Intellectual’s Guide to Philosophy”. I suppose the moral of the story is that my hypothetical philosophical remains on hold, in more than just the hypothetical sense.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you thought the above not representative of David’s typical writing (i.e. slow-paced, overly methodical, and painfully analytical, it is due to the fact that he was channeling Nietzsche himself.
Further, if you stumbled to this page expecting to see something representing light-hearted humor with more intermittent action scenes, stay tuned we will be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week (now that David has gotten this out of his system, we hope.)