Courage requires a thick skin

If you want everyone to like you, then you shouldn’t be a writer Steven King noted in his masterpiece on writing, On Writing.

Sensitivity often goes hand in hand with having a “thin skin,” keenly sensing others’ emotions. This election year has driven home to me that courageous individuals willing to fight for what they believe in are somehow able to withstand intense criticism, bullying, and sometimes even sabotage and hatred.

Today’s Los Angeles Times article, Soldier for the climate change cause, about scientist Ben Santer who is willing to get way out of his comfort zone, articulate the extreme significance of climate change, and subject himself to decades of intense criticism made my day.

There have been so many others. Michael Moore’s 5 Point Plan for 2017 is hilarious and practical.

 

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Purple pain: President Elect Donald Trump

I am not through mourning witnessing the free-flow expression of contempt for fellow human beings, the disengagement, and the effect of disinformation that became apparent the morning of November 9.

Trump changed everything. Now everything counts, an article by Barbara Kingsolver in The Guardian lists the potential loss of human rights and dignity, “Losses are coming at us in these areas: freedom of speech and the press; women’s reproductive rights; affordable healthcare; security for immigrants and Muslims; racial and LGBTQ civil rights; environmental protection; scientific research and education; international cooperation on limiting climate change; international cooperation on anything; any restraints on who may possess firearms; restraint on the upper-class wealth accumulation that’s gutting our middle class; limits on corporate influence over our laws.”

I am so sick of hearing “the media.” As if celebrity gossip outlets, every variation of television news, newspapers that strive for objective reporting, National Public Radio (NPR), and every blogger and Internet site are equivalent. And fake news…

Without objective reporting, I would feel hopeless. I found this LA Times news feature helpful, A primer on executive power: Trump can’t end same-sex marriages, but he could speed up deportations.

This election made me realize how incredibly hard life had become for a lot of Americans. Through NPR, newspapers, magazines, and legitimate Internet sites, I also see a lot of Americans willing to stand up for human rights and dignity, and for this I am very grateful.

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Bernie Sanders ain’t a socialist

Bernie Sanders is not a socialist. Why was his campaign calling him one? Were they allergic to marketing?

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines socialism as a society in which there is no private property — the government owns the means of production and distribution of goods. That was not even close to his platform.

Social democrat
Mark Thoma of The Fiscal Times terms Sanders a social democrat, a capitalist who believes in social insurance. Thoma explains the part about capitalism that rocks, and the part that doesn’t, “…production under capitalism is subject to booms and busts” — hence the need for social insurance such as unemployment insurance and social security.

Media snubbing cost votes
Having witnessed so much integrity, compassion, and pragmatism rolled into this once-in-a-lifetime candidate, it hurts a lot that he did not have a fair chance to become our president.

I don’t have the stomach to go into his own party’s machinations that kept him from the nomination for president, but this column in Democracy Now, How the Media Iced Out Bernie Sanders cites the Tyndall Report, which analyzed 1,000 minutes of national candidate coverage during primary season.

Donald Trump received 322 minutes of coverage to Bernie Sanders’ 22 minutes. That’s 1,500 percent more coverage! Estimates of Trump’s free airtime range from $1 billion to $3 billion dollars.

Out of sight is out of mind and out of vote. As much as I hate to admit it, Donald Trump can be entertaining, has natural comedic timing, and was able to appeal to citizens who felt despair at the “sharing economy,” which has some sharing their cars, living spaces, jackets, and outhouses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday

Coach Al

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Will effective treatment for addiction ever become the norm?

Addiction is complex, yet simple. Addiction enables you to avoid uncomfortable feelings by escaping, not accepting, one’s reality. Addiction lives in the subconscious and mask’s one’s soul. It is fueled by denial.

The Atlantic’s The Irrationality of AA” reveals seldom talked about treatment options for addiction, but it’s title is curious.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and all the 12-step programs are spiritual programs. Spirituality, faith, is the opposite of rationality. Faith is based on believing in that which cannot be proven or seen, whereas rationality is based on facts, the tangible.

The article quotes AA as having a success rate of seven to eight percent. Good luck applying conventional statistics to 12-step programs. Anyone who has spent any amount of time hanging around addicts knows that someone trying to get clean or sober or cease any type of compulsive behavior, such as overeating or gambling, can try and fail 365 times in one year alone. If each time counts as a failure, then the statistics would be royally skewed.

Rip-off rehab
The Atlantic article tells the story of an attorney, J. G., who started drinking at 15:

He spent a month at a center where the treatment consisted of little more than attending AA meetings. J. G.’s rehab was a rip-off. The documentary The Business of Recovery documents the abundance of flawed rehab facilities throughout the U.S.

Offering only a spiritual remedy to a complex, insidious, and potentially terminal affliction would be akin to firing every medical doctor in every hospital and replacing them with shamans, ministers, and priests.

Addiction is complex, because it often masks many other issues such as mental illness, learning disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder, poverty, toxic family and/or marital dynamics, consequences from a lack of nurturing or effective education during childhood, and disastrous career choices.

Neurobiology
Except behind the walls of most rehabs, it is no secret that neurobiology often plays a role in addiction ­— some of us are wired to respond dramatically to various drugs such as stimulants, opiates, and sugar. The Atlantic article points out that countries such as Finland routinely assess neurobiological factors in their addiction treatment facilities. The New York Times “The Sober Truth: Seeing Bad Science in Rehab” discusses the relationship between neurobiology and addiction.

Responsible rehab
Whatever brain genetics make someone more likely to be an addict, substances such as opiates further disrupt brain function and create overpowering cravings. Effective rehabs would offer addicts a systematic approach for rewiring their brains so that they don’t crave their fix and would teach how to develop positive habits to counteract occasional cravings. This could involve personality tests and interest surveys, goal setting, and work with addiction specialists, life coaches, and vocational counselors. You have to want something more than getting high, and you have to build support systems and take inventory of every individual in your life and every aspect of yourself.

Change is tough.

Working a program
Attending 12-step meetings can be inspirational, boring, annoying, or a waste of time. However, those motivated to “work a 12-step program” can learn effective life skills for free such as goal setting, practicing gratitude, introspection, accountability, and building a supportive network. For example, practicing gratitude, functions somewhat like cognitive behavioral therapy.

12-step programs are free
Although addiction is often the result of a tangled web of adversities/challenges, our mental health system is its own tangled web. Although 12-step programs are often not enough to address every aspect that led one to addiction, they are free and accessible.

Higher power
J.G. mastered the art of blame that is essential for every addict. He blamed AA for his relapses. J.G. says it was this message—that there were no small missteps, and one drink might as well be 100—that set him on a cycle of bingeing and abstinence.

The use of the word God also hung up J.G.— he must moonlight splitting hairs.

The concept of God baffles me too. However, I do understand the simple concept of higher power — there is something out there more important than myself. I do believe in the spiritual energy of the universe that is manifested in nature. The ocean. The sky.

Related links
Many others were taken aback by The Atlantic article. Here are a number of related links:

Psychology Today, Irrationality of AA? A critique of the article
Huffington Post, Spirituality vs. Science? A Rebuttal to The Atlantic Article, ‘The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous’
Addiction.com, The Irrationality of The Atlantic’s piece on AA (paste link
https://www.addiction.com/8449/the-irrationality-of-the-atlantics-piece-on-aa/)
New York, Why Alcoholics Anonymous Works
If You Work It, It Works!: The Science Behind 12-Step Recovery, a book by Joseph Nowinski, PhD

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College — The Myth

The Right College = The Right Life = Success. Attending the right college has become as much a part of the American Dream as owning your own home.

Attending the right college has been marketed as the ticket to status and the good life. For some, what has gotten lost along the way is that college is simply a path to independence, a place to learn skills that enable you to support yourself financially and otherwise.

The “enable you to support yourself” is the part left out of the slick brochures along with the joy of paying interest on your interest.

Nobody cares
Unless you want to partner in a ritzy law firm, nobody cares where you went to college or what grades you got.

Can you do the job? Can you get along with your co-workers? Can you solve problems? Can you show up on time?

The June 28, 2016 Consumer Reports cover story, Student Debt — Lives on Hold and articles, reference material, and graphic organizers are a must read for every would be college student and their parents. As state funding for colleges and universities has drastically declined, a generation of college graduates face a lifetime of chasing their college debt and forgoing home ownership and perhaps even parenthood.

One of the Consumer Reports articles explains how college loans are structured in such a way that it makes them harder to pay off than mortgages.

Real-life economics
Every high school student should have a unit on real-life economics.

  • Assets
  • Budgets
  • Careers
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Investments
  • Real Estate
  • Take home pay
  • Taxes
  • Tax loopholes

College is an investment
Whatever debt is to be assumed should be evaluated against prospective salaries and demand for prospective careers. Those statistics are more readily available than ever.

Creating your Career
The price of turbocharged academics is less time to learn critical soft skills such as collaboration and presentation. The amount of time needed to memorize reams of information, prep for SATs and ACTs, and push oneself to do college-level work as a high-school sophomore, not to mention turbo-charged sports and activities leaves little time for introspection.

Some teens and young adults learn from watching positive role models or intuitively understand the keys to developing a career and creating opportunities:

  • Figure out where your strengths meets your interests
  • Build your network
  • Learn how to learn from real life, from mistakes
  • Learn how to listen

Ignorance regarding academic intelligence
If your pipes burst, you don’t want someone who can write an essay on the merits of copper vs. PEX pipes, you want someone who can fix your pipes. There are all kinds of intelligence, yet we seem to glorify only academic intelligence, which is basically linguistic intelligence and mathematical reasoning.

Options
There are definitely advantages from graduating from a prestigious university, but it’s simply not feasible for everyone.

If one can let go of the quest for status, there are more options than most students realize. Some junior colleges not only offer pathways to state colleges for a fraction of the cost, but offer reasonably priced vocational certifications for in demand careers such as ultrasound technician, nursing, fire science, HVAC, and welding.

Many state colleges offer a smorgasbord of degree options and heavily discount in- state tuition. For those considering a military career, there are ROTC scholarships, and many corporations offer tuition reimbursement.

What color is your parachute?
The trick is figuring out what comes naturally to you that also captivates you (most of the time). There’s tedium at times in every job. Two good resources are What Color is Your Parachute for Teens and bigfuture.collegeboard.org.

Buyer Beware
The August 2016 Consumer Reports cover reported, “42 million people owe $1.3 million in student debt.” Here are some links that capture the stories of some of those hard-working young adults who unfortunately bought into the myth and became student debt slaves. Some end up working two low-paying jobs to pay interest compounded on interest and never making a dent in their balance.

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The stigma surrounding mental health costs us all

You think coming out of the closet is tough? Try coming out of the padded closet. Since an admission of having been treated for mental illness renders one virtually unemployable, it effectively silences most.

Women feel comfortable sharing every gory detail of their labor and delivery experience, yet you won’t hear them standing in line for the potluck chatting about visits to the psych ward, the merits of cognitive behavioral therapy, or springtime mania.

But there’s hope. The editor of Women’s Health disclosed her OCD diagnosis in their May 2016 issue. The issue profiles women who have been treated for mental illness, “Whether we have OCD or anxiety or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, all of us share one common challenge: stigma. It shrouds mental illness, leaving patients to suffer alone and in silence, fearful of repercussions.”

Coping successfully with schizophrenia
The subhead of this 2015 Women’s Health profile of Rachel Star Withers, a 30-year-old successfully coping with schizophrenia, reads, “I’m hallucinating to some degree 90 percent of the time.”

Withers’ journey to the independent life she lives today involved a lot of trial and error as well as plenty of courage. She developed enough confidence to make a career out of various part-time jobs such as working behind and in front of the camera for cable television shows and teaching acting. In the article, she admits, “I get really edgy if I have to sit at a desk for 40 hours a week.”

Society loses out
Not using an integrative approach for treating mental illness borders on malpractice, because there are so many individuals struggling with mental illness and on disability who could work. Work not only provides independence via self-sufficiency, but also is therapeutic as it engages the mind.

Flawed disability system
The all-or-nothing way disability is structured needs to change. There are many people on disability diagnosed with mental illness who cannot commute, work 40 to 60 hours every week, or work in high-stress environments, but they could work part-time or close to full-time. There should be a formula that lets them replace part or most of their disability with wages (beyond the current token amount), but still stay in the system, because those with chronic illness have times in which they cannot work, which can last for weeks, so that they can get back to equilibrium.

Exercise overlooked
Exercise is one simple accommodation that has been proven to be the most effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. It is given lip service, but not seriously prescribed or monitored. Exercise is biochemistry. Strength training benefits the brain in certain ways and aerobic exercise benefits it in other ways.

Co-occurring disorders
Addiction, including codependency, often accompanies depression and bipolar disorder, yet often it is not addressed or treated. PTSD, learning disabilities, nutritional deficiencies, and vocational challenges can all play a part too, yet pharmaceuticals are expected to fix everything.

Cultural Aspect
With mental illness, part of the problem is cultural. In addition to its stigma, which compromises treatment and career options, our culture celebrates sleep deprivation and endless work hours rather than productivity, and promotes obesity and daily habits that do not contribute to mental health. Try walking a block without encountering a Frappuccino, frozen yogurt, or French fries. There’s candy for sale at the checkout in the hardware store, clothing store, and even sporting good store.

Campaign to fight mental health stigma
Clinical psychologist Lisa Aguilar Slover has undertaken a publicity project, I Am the Face of Mental Illness, that aims to “greatly decrease the stigma attached to having a mental illness.” Quoting from her website:

I hope for a day that someone can say, “I’m sorry, I can’t come into work today, I just had a major panic attack and now I just need to sleep,” in the same way that someone can call and say, “I’m sorry, I’m having a severe migraine and cannot come into work today.”

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Every Song Tells a Story

Some songs are better at storytelling than entire novels or movies. The nuances of the music, the lyrics, the tone, and the emotion of the singer quickly take you through the main character’s journey. Two recent songs come to mind.

Every woman who has a habit of falling for “bad boys,” can relate to Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”. These two lines sum up the fix, the rush, that instant, intense romance provides.

You can tell me when its over
If the high was worth the pain

Novelists spend pages and pages establishing characters, but what better way to describe a spirited young woman with a self-destructive streak than these seven words:

I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream

Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” laments the aftermath of the endless party enabled by designer drugs and the fall from popularity of a pop singer.

But you don’t want to be high like me
Never really knowing why like me

On his blog, Mike Posner details the evolution of the song, and the elaborate and unusual mixing process he came up with to showcase the lyrics.

Ironically, the song didn’t become a monster hit until a couple of Norwegian music producers called Seeb produced a dance club version of it, which is a story unto its own.

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