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3.30.2016

Diagnotism


You have, no doubt, overheard or been in a conversation with someone talking about "their" depression or anxiety, or someone else's OCD or ADHD (most likely their child) as if it were a possession. You've possibly seen cartoon depictions of illnesses as monsters in advertisements for medications. You may have even used your personality color as a scapegoat when trying to elude a responsibility in a group assignment, or your love language as an excuse for disinterest.  In each case, an idea or an abstract concept has been externalized, and, as if it were born out of the collective mind, given a body and identity, if only to give us a reason to buy more Zoloft®. In our never-ending pursuit of global conquest though intelligence, we humans have developed an insatiable urge to label everything whether it exists or not.

Granted, there's plenty of justification for naming things which don't exist physically, but merely as ideas. Idea itself, for example, or even the idea of naming ideas has a name: Nominalism. Communication of ideas such as commonalities, comparison, and numbers* are made possible (or at least expedited) by the labels we lend to their fabricated existence. In fact, all nominalizations owe their existence to the organizational efforts of the human mind.

But wait! What does this have to do with illnesses and disorders?! Abstract and physical disorders alike are real, but only as real as the way they affect us. We only call them a "disorder" because they aren't of the order of normality. If it were normal to behave as though one had ADHD, the disorder would be called Attention Durability Hypoactivity Disorder for people who act calmer than average. Or imagine, if you will, a world in which the majority of people (which you are not part of) suddenly developed the ability to fly; would this diminish your quality of life in any way? Would it be fair to label you as a flightless person, and connect your identity to a deficit? Why would your lack of extra ability have anything to do with your identity? And yet, to be treated as if you could fly would be equally inappropriate. Much of the stigma and misfortune of disability only exist within a paradigm of comparison.

But the disparity from normalcy can be poignantly distressing in contexts where comparison is inevitable, and mental illness is horribly real for those who suffer from it. So what is the point of apparently downplaying the objective reality of abnormality? Why call into question diagnosis and labeling? Well, reader, because the way we think about our disabilities can influence their severity.

In an attempt to humanize those affected by physical and mental aberrations, the accepted method of labeling, known as "people-first language," takes the form of person with disability descriptor (e.g.: a child with ASD; click here for more examples). Though a step in the right direction by separating deficit and identity, the externalizing language figuratively (by now do you understand why it's not "literally") puts the disorder out of reach. Psychologically speaking, it promotes an external locus of control; in other words, the belief that what happens to you determines the quality of your life. Expressing an external locus of control is nearly ubiquitous among people experiencing depression.

There are few things more depressing than to be told you "have" depression. Similarly, worrying about having anxiety can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As Forest Gump's mother taught him, "Stupid is as stupid does," so it is for most labels. For example: anxiety is as anxiety does; therefore, if you don't feel anxious, then in that moment you don't have anxiety. We all have moments of introspection each day where we must choose how to respond to external influences. One could blame a wave of distress on an external force which would only add helplessness to the situation, or one could respond to the distress by looking for a remedy instead of fixating on a cause. While holding a needle, have you ever been horrified by your own thought to plunge it into your eye? That is what's called an intrusive thought. Assuming OCD exists externally, as does a communicable disease, one might begin to obsess over that intrusive thought—"have I been stricken with the OCD?!" Obsessing over that Compulsion could become a Disorder (see what we did there?). Knowing that intrusive thoughts are strangely common (like that one you had to jump off the balcony for a brief, dizzying moment, or the more benign "did I lock the door/turn off the oven?") keeps them from becoming a problem. They only become a problem once you start believing they are. By understanding that diagnosis (barring disease) is merely a label, it has less power over you than your own perception of it.
Of course, there are many disorders which will not be alleviated by a mere change of perspective; in some cases the right medication is helpful or even needed, but these cases are rare. Whether it be an abstract label, a deficit compared to the majority of the population, or a disease, understanding the meaning of the diagnosis is an essential step on the path toward acceptance. Distancing by externalization rather than acceptance of disability does as much for disability as "color blindness" and white guilt do for racism—lock it up tight enough to preserve it. Also, seeing the person "behind" the disability is as curative as feeling better about obesity by imagining one's "true self" is skinny. These more inconspicuous forms of denial seem helpful, but delay the process of acceptance, and the delusion is hard to keep up in moments of distress. Acceptance and self-worth are what's needed to feel at peace with reality.

So, for those of us dealing with difference, whether it has a label or not, try to see yourself the way MrRogers does. And for those of us observing the differences in others, in the rare case that it's even our business, please at least use people-first language.

9.19.2012

Worst Impressions


They say you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. You really only get one chance to make second impressions, too. As far as third impressions go, the jury's still out.
But this begs the question that first impressions are important. The first time I met one of my closest friends, he was a total jerk to me! (I'll let you speculate as to which of my friends it is... it's probably you... unless you're a girl. I gave that part away) Luckily, the majority of subsequent impressions have been quite pleasant.
I do remember it, though. If it's memory you're worried about, by all means, worry about first impressions. Psychologically, first, last, and deviant impressions will stick in your mind the longest, but it's the consistent impressions that matter.

In my experience, the first impressions are the worst impressions, especially when an impression is trying to be made. If the impression I was trying to make were an accurate representation of myself, then I guess I wouldn't have to try too hard. Right?! This calls into question the validity and efficacy of job interviews and blind dates (or the opposite extreme: a date based solely on sight). It baffles me that often the presumed remedy to not knowing anyone you'd like to take on dates is to ask someone out that you don't know. I'm truly baffled.
One of the worst ways to get to know someone: take them on a date. That is, of course, unless you plan on swapping shoes and going on a walk for at least a mile. Why??? For the dudes: girls show their true colors when they're wearing uncomfortable shoes. and for the girls: you can tell a lot about a guy by the socks he wears (if you've done this right, his feet won't fit in your shoes) What does this say about the women's no-shows I often wear?: I'm in touch with my feminine side. What side is that? No more questions! This is getting too personal. But I'm definitely not an ambidexter.

Brief and initial impressions like dates and interviews usually give us time to hide the negative parts about ourselves. The more time we spend with people, the higher the likelihood of seeing them off their guard, so to speak. The less on guard, the truer the impression. This is what C. S. Lewis says about that:
"...surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is. Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth. If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light."
So, we've all got rats. Hiding them may make a better impression, but it'll also keep 'em around. Rat's love dark, dank, and dishonest corners.

Real impressions take time. I put a lot of time into the bum impression on the driver's seat in my car. I'm proud of the body shaped impression on my bed; I've devoted nearly a third of my life to that nook. And, I'm pretty sure I'm responsible for at least one of the impressions on the stairs in the BYU library.

So don't worry so much about immediate and superficial impressions! Quit rehearsing answers; Don't wear so much makeup; Stop working out so much. If the consistent impression you leave while your guard is down isn't that impressive, looks like you've got other things to worry about. Becoming impressive requires practice, not pretense.

"When our concern is not for ourselves, we have no need for managing others' impressions of us"
-James L. Ferrell

9.01.2011

Strange


About a year ago, I thought I had put a couple very big parts of my life away for good. I was entering into a new phase of my life, turning over another leaf, changing the baby's diaper, letting bygones be bygones, etc. However, since about a year ago, about a year has gone by, and I don't have much to show for it. I'm still at BYU, I still have the same job, I still did the same thing this summer as I've done for years, and alas, no babies' diapers to change. Strange, this change, or lack thereof. Smooth is stranger than friction, it seems.

So, what the heck can I learn from this?: Sad is the journey validated only by milestones. The journey of 1,000 miles not only has a 1st step, but also a 749,531st step. Is that step going to suck? I'm not exactly sure how many steps it would take to walk 1,000 miles, but I'm pretty sure it would take more than that... assuming a 3-foot stride, of course. I'm sure one could do the math, but I'm not going to. Anyway, Life is not only about reaching goals, it's also about reaching; it's not only about winning races, it's about racing; it's not only about changing diapers, but filling them as well. From the right perspective, some pains can be pleasures. i.e. work becomes working out, etc. You don't have to look to the future to find meaning when real Meaning can be found in simple, seemingly mundane, everyday activities. Life, the way it is right now, is worth living.

4.14.2011

Here goes something

I haven't had any specific lessons, axioms, maxims, come to mind that I want to write about lately, so I'm just going to write and see where it gets me. I feel less adequate to teach people how to live these days, but I'd like to think that there's still value to my experiences.
One thing that has been on my mind is how hard it is to honestly share how I feel about what's going on around us. Emotional reservation is good sometimes; a lot of what I feel in any given moment has little meaning and value. But I also get the feeling as if we're all just being emotional spies, pulling the wool over each other's eyes to keep our true emotional identities hidden. like I said: not always bad. I'm careful about before whom I cast my pearls... please disregard that I'm blogging my feelings for the wide, wide world right now. Then again, maybe you shouldn't. look at me, emotionally opening up...
Alright, here's the deal: I'm going to try to be more honest with how I feel. Not just here, but in the real, real world of people too. Maybe not so much what I "feel" about things, which is usually just an excuse for people to be critical and brutal, but how things make me feel. I'd like people to know where I stand emotionally.
Wouldn't it be nice if you knew what that one person was feeling?! Well, you can be that one person! Finally all your wildest dreams of being a one person can come true, and the power is in your hands... or tears? I don't know if that's exactly the type of emotion I mean, but you get the point.

4.13.2011

If you write it...

Quite a few people have been asking me to blog again... I'm not sure if they mean it, or if it's just a nice way for them to let me know that they know I even have a blog. Well, either way, I'm flattered. Thank you. I'd like to say that I'm going to-- I do have plenty of time-- but I'm not sure if I have the patience with my own thoughts these days. by that, I mean that I used to think that what I thought was a big deal. I have since been walking the long road to the realization that few people care what I think about things. For, if I cannot inseminate the world's minds with my mind, what's the point?! The road to intrinsically motivated writing awaits.
Sometimes i wonder if the real reason I've stopped is that I've gotten all the thoughts out of my head, and there are no more to write. I don't know if anyone who talks with me often would agree. I do think a lot, but lately my thoughts have been about specific situations and people, which makes me hesitant to publish them on the wide, wide world of webs.
Another possible reason: I don't own a computer. ... yeah, that's probably the reason.
Anyway, I'm out of the habit of blogging and writing in general. I don't think I was ever that good, but I feel rusty nonetheless.
I started with a point... here it is: I'll try. But, here's another point: Words can be weapons, and in the recent past I have ruined (at least to some extent) friendships and relationships with words. The justification: "I was right". Stupid. being right is stupid sometimes. and what the heck does that mean, anyway? Being right doesn't keep you warm at night.
So, with a little more reservation, I'll try to get back in on this deal.
I'm still trying to figure out what people even would be interested in reading. let me know if you have any ideas.

3.26.2009

Eat a crocodile? I'll do 't.

I found another poem I wrote quite a while ago. When I was a sophomore in high school, my friend, Tyler Panian, needed a poem to critique for his English class, so I made this one up on the spot. so really, he wrote it; I merely dictated.

Watery Grave

by: Alexander Johnston Hale

A crocodile lives in my pool.
Some people think he's really cool.
But don't be fooled,
'Cause he's not nice;
He will bite your face off...
Twice!


These are some Valentine's Day Haiku's I wrote this year for a Family Home Evening activity, and they are called The Happy Valentine's D's:

Delusion
So full of passion,
But I have no one to love,
So, what do you say?

Dejection
I think of your eyes:
They are blue like the river
rushing right past me.

Disquiet
My heart beats for you
Like an army of drummers
Just as annoying.

3.25.2009

Didn't even knoet

I typed my full name (Alexander Johnston Hale) into Google to see if anything would come up, and to my great amazement and amusement, a link to poetry.com showed up with a poem that I had written more than 10 years ago!

While on an LDS mission in Nebraska, my brother, Ryan, told me about how obsessed everyone there was about Cornhusker football. I guess it was so silly to my 12- or 13-year-old mind that I wrote a poem about it.

without further ado, my poem:

Football in Nebraska

by: Alexander Johnston Hale

Once, while sitting on my bed,
A clock fell down and struck my head
As consciousness left me I fell to the ground
And laid there, no motion, not even a sound.

When I awoke I looked at the clock
It must have been broken, no more tick, no more tock.
Without any knowledge of how long I'd been out,
I left my room to go walk about.

I went to the window. something was wrong;
Not a child at play, and no birds singing songs
The sky looked so gloomy, the streets looked so bare,
I ventured to think that no one was there.

Was I the last person? was I the last soul?
Was it just in my neighborhood? or the world as a whole?
What would I do? how would I survive
If I was the last person, the last thing still alive?

Then it struck me, like lightning, like the clock to the head
I realized how long I had been in bed
I ran back to my room. how could I be so retarded?!
The Cornhuskers were playing and the game already started!

I have no idea how it got onto poetry.com, but I gave it a 10.

1.11.2009

My own wake

While trying to make the most moral decision, selfish farsightedness led to probably the biggest mistake I've ever made with a relationship. I lost what was more than a chance. Now in the emotional scramble of a second attempt, nearly hopeless for what could have been, a spiritual insight has made all my moral efforts free of regret: The victory is not in winning love, but in loving. I loved, and will continue to love.

12.08.2008

Donating my boomerang to science

One day in my psychology of humor class I jokingly made a side comment to a fellow student that the incongruity theory of humor was like the flight of a boomerang. It kind of made sense, but there hadn’t been very much thought behind it beyond the impulse. When a creative project was assigned, I told my colleague (it becoming a running joke) that I was going to whittle a boomerang. I don’t know how serious I was with the idea, but I had to “stick to my boomerangs” every time the creative project was brought up. I have always wanted to whittle a boomerang, so that’s what I ended up doing. I haven’t whittled anything since Pinewood Derbies, and I’ve only ever thrown a boomerang once before (it was one of those triangular Aerobie boomerangs), so I decided that it would be creative enough, and probably take far longer than the required eight hours of work for the project (which it did). I had to make two of them. The first one worked so well that I threw it around until it broke... three days before I had to present it. I was so upset about it breaking that I not only fixed it, but I made another one. Two boomerangs! I was so focused on making the boomerangs that I forgot about having to explain how a boomerang relates to the psychology of humor.

Here’s the analytical rundown:

Incongruity theory explains that an important (and in the theory’s case, essential) aspect of humor is its incongruous deviation from expectation. A boomerang satisfies this criterion very well: When a boomerang is thrown, it is expected to move and act like any normal object of that size and mass—move straight for as far as the energy provided can propel it. However, a boomerang begins to fly differently from the norm shortly after it is released; it curves in an elliptical path until, if thrown correctly, it returns to the thrower. Now, the incongruity of any joke is merely confusing if there is no deeper explanation to the unexpected deviation; the intelligent, alternative explanation (wit) elicits a mirthful response (possibly laughter) indicating that the experience was humorous. This is satisfied by the understanding of Bernoulli’s Principle: As air on the top of each arm (or airfoil) moves a farther distance over a curved path in the same amount of time as the air moving in a straight path on the bottom, the increased airspeed on the top has lower pressure (the principle itself) than the unaltered airspeed on the bottom which creates lift in the direction of the low pressure. Therefore, a boomerang is pulled in the direction of the curved face of the airfoil. That sounds all smart n’ crap, and it completely explains the incongruous behavior of the boomerang! The result: humor. If you don’t believe that this whole process is funny, then why did everybody chuckle when I told ‘em I was whittling a boomerang?! (If you can think of anything, keep it to yourself, this isn’t about you)

Another aspect of humor is that it follows a basic, three-act pattern:
Act I: The Introduction of the plot—a boomerang is thrown. Off it goes, straight, just like everyone expected.
Act II: The Conflict or plot twist — to everyone’s shock and amazement, the boomerang curves (I bet you thought I was going to say it “twists”... or "conflicts")
Act III: The Resolution—the boomerang returns safely to its owner, unharmed, having learned a valuable lesson.
A Laugh is born!
Right now I'm thinking of a crying laugh... straight out of the womb... a paradox?

Sigmund Freud has an explanation for this just as he does for everything else. His Psychoanalytic Theory of humor states that the laughter and mirth resulting from this humorous experience are just the outlet for excess libidinal energy which built up in act II from all the suspense and tension (don’t deny it) when, to our relief, act III shows you that there’s really nothing to worry about anymore.

The Reversal Theory of humor explains that laughter and the feeling of mirth are a result of the psychological interchange between the telic (serious, goal-driven) and paratelic (playful, inconsequential) mindsets in even, moderate ratios… probably something to do with Pythagoras and the Golden Mean, I’m sure. And, because everyone knows that returning boomerangs are used for hunting birds (telic), the playful use of boomerangs in recreation (paratelic) is funny!

The final concept I want to use is known as “The Circle of Expectation”. If you will please revert your attention to the facet of Incongruity Theory about (and explanation for) the deviations from the norm. As incongruity needs to be moderated in quality by requiring a sound alternative explanation, the Circle of Expectation moderates the quantity of incongruity so that it is not just a random deviation devoid of any logical tether. If the boomerang were to disappear and reappear 100 miles away, that would just be baffling or confusing, not humorous. It is expected that a person of my stature would be able to throw an object of similar size and mass up to 100 yards. Thus, the physical area of expected possible flight of the boomerang is restricted to a 100 yard radius with the thrower as the focal point. The flight path of the boomerang stays within the confines of the Circle of Expectation and does not lose any humor to confusion.

So, I whittled a boomerang for my psychology class. That incongruity with expected course-relevant assignments has hopefully been resolved in an intelligent and creative way. Perhaps it pushed the limits of the Circle of Expectation, but at least Freud helped us all return to some sound, level ground just as a boomerang returns ever-so-faithfully to its master.

These are the figures I used in class during my presentation

12.04.2008

I finally whittled a boomerang. I'm supposed to do a creative project for my Psychology of Humor class, so I decided to hit two birds with one boomerang: 1. Complete my creative assignment. 2. Fulfill my dreams.
video
It's kind of a lame video that I took with my phone, so I'll try to get a better one up soon.

8.24.2008

I choo choo choose you.

Sometimes, I guess you have to care about someone enough to let them take themselves out of your life. You can't force somebody to care about you, because that's their responsibility. True love is the love that Jesus Christ has for us. It is a Spiritual Gift that cannot be attained by the natural man, but only through the power of the atonement, as a gift from our Savior. We are incapable of truly loving others without first loving Him. Through loving God, we are filled with the Spirit, and become capable of loving other people. That's why He commands us to love Him--because otherwise, we wouldn't be able to truly love each other. Thus, any righteous, loving relationship is merely an extension of the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ loves us because he chooses to, not because we earn it. Our love can only be real and true if it is a choice as well, otherwise, it is just lust and infatuation; fickle, flighty, chemical, ephemeral. The difference between love and lust is agency. You don't have to choose to lust; that's natural. Love is harder than that, and because Christ has chosen to love everyone, there isn't anyone that doesn't deserve our love. If love is a choice that you are in control of, and everyone deserves your love, then I guess the selection of who you choose to be in relationships with (all levels of true friendship and relationship) depends on the trust you have that that person will be able to choose to love you. Maybe it takes some hard, rough, uncomfortable introspection to decide to be worthy of that trust. But if not, any love that was learned and chosen, even if not reciprocated, was worth your time. There is no better indication of the quality of our character than how much we choose to love those we can trust.


Without the ability to choose, water takes the path of least resistance, sometimes only to the ends of being dammed up in stagnant pools before ever reaching its goal. Our gift of agency allows us to choose things that are hard-- paths full of resistance-- so we can overcome our natural instincts and inclinations to take the easiest way. What it means to be an agent is to have the faith to choose what you know is right even and especially when you don't want to. It is good to make hard choices and risk our own comfort in order to reach our destinations. People are more than the way they make us feel. One of the hardest choices for me is to forget the way that people make me feel, and worry about the way I make them feel. That sounds a lot like love.
Oh, let the rain fall down and wash this world away. Oh, let the sky be gray. 'Cause, if it's ever gonna get any better, it's gotta get worse for a day.

2.15.2008

To whom it may concern:

As you all know, yesterday was Mr. Cupid Valentine's birthday. We regret to inform you that despite our efforts and elevated awareness, we have not had any success in locating him. We strongly advise you to continue dismembering rose bushes, cutting out paper hearts, and purchasing chalky candies to support the cause. We appreciate all previous donations of monies and gift cards, and gratefully accept any further contribution (we accept Visa and MasterCard). Thank you for your support.

Regards,
Commercialism

2.13.2008

All I know is that I don't not know nothing.

Politics is funny to me. It doesn't take a lot of effort to realize that what you thought yesterday isn't necessarily what you think now even when yesterday you thought that you would always think that way, so tomorrow you probably won't think the way you do today. Yet, everyone is so sure they know what's right for themselves and everyone else. I think that the biggest proof that someone isn't sure of what they claim to believe is stubbornness. How better can one try to convince oneself of correct conclusions than to ignore all other perspectives and react hostilely to new ideas.

Even in situations where there is an Ultimate Truth (not politics), few people are honest enough with themselves and/or focused enough on legitimate self mastery to want to find out what it is. Most people don't want to discover truth; they want to discover that they knew the truth all along. just like nobody wants you to be completely honest with them; they only want you to be completely honest about the good things you say about them. It's worth secretly being wrong today to avoid openly admitting you were wrong yesterday, especially if your stubbornness allows that secret to keep even you in the dark.

We're so afraid of being (or having been) wrong that instead of pursuing what's right, we'd rather convince ourselves that we were never wrong in the first place. We're so busy trying to persuade ourselves that we're right, that it seems the only defense we have against opposing opinions is to rile ourselves up in the polarized, irrational, mob mentality: that anyone who thinks differently is stupid or evil. If all of that is based on your initial thought that you've been working so hard to convince yourself is right (that was probably imposed on you by circumstance), then people just like you in different situations are probably thinking you are just as evil and stupid as you think they are. Think of school and sports rivalries. What are those based on if not thoughtless, random affiliation. What about Road Rage? How can getting angry at someone you don't even know improve your situation with them. When people get angry at you and think you're stupid, does that make you want to think they're right and justified in any act of aggression toward you? The more you hate, the more you become like those you hate so much. The more you think about it, the more you know. Do you want to?