Why Journaling as Therapy may not Work for Everyone

Writing a journal as a form of “self-help” is a common homework assignment given by therapists.  I am not in therapy, though I utilize self-help techniques to become a better person~a blissful person as this blog reminds me… However, writing as self-help has never been something I could do in any medium, although I have never tried with a typewriter and maybe that is the trick, who knows? When I type on a computer, I always search for a “theme” for my feelings which then translates into a thesis, which then leads to references to cite why I am having X emotions at Y time and why.  It becomes academic. It’s inevitable.

Worse is what transpires when I put pen to paper- or pencil or colored pencil or even crayon and yes, I have thought different writing instruments might supply different results. I end up analyzing the doodled mandalas I create attempting to find the secret meaning of that duck or anvil or what is that? Then I give up, move on to crayon or something else and some horrible haiku ensues that makes me question the artistic importance of haiku in the first place.  How can something so “choppy” be art? So I give up things like meter and rhyme or syllable count and just write with my marker or whatever new utensil I have found.

The rest was just a warm-up, I tell myself.  I then end up writing like a person with hypergraphia causing me to wonder if, indeed, I should be seeking mental health attention.  Then to my chagrin, I end up with some horrible Greek Tragedy of a past relationship that turns to a existential crisis with some major Freudian undertones that would make Freud himself blush.  This is rock bottom at this point, since life is apparently hopeless and tragic.  There is nothing left to do but grab a highlighter and some post-its and write self-affirmations like “it could be worse” “at least you don’t have cats” “whatever” “don’t put this on your mirror” “never do psychology on yourself again” “write only self-deprecating humor and/or academic pieces”…and so on.  Not quite self-affirmations, but it’s why writing as therapy doesn’t work for me.  But maybe I am just doing it wrong, where’s the typewriter….?


Tips for Trauma Fatigue

Being an informed citizen is important, knowing what is going on around us is essential to how we conduct our day to day activities.  From knowing whether to grab the umbrella or understanding the genesis of tragedies that happen in our communities and others, knowing what is happening can be helpful.  It can also be exhausting.  It was a week when passive media consumers and active first responders were all collectively begging that no more tragedies would happen; enough was enough.  While many of us were relieved to discover that the Boston bombing suspects had been taken dead and alive (respectively) either because we were obsessively following the story or we happened to come across it later on, tweets of an earthquake and of bird flu just kept rolling in. It’s enough to give a person “mean world syndrome” or even mild to severe symptoms of PTSD from constantly watching or reading about the events this past week and beyond.

1. Understand that a controversial label ; “media PTSD” has been suggested and children that watched footage of the 9/11 were found to have symptoms of the disorder.  Children should be kept away from images, but not a healthy and age-appropriate dialogue of what is going on around them.

2. It is quite common for people to feel a sense of helplessness when so many things around us seem to be going wrong. We can’t control what others do, but we can control how much media we consume and know when enough is enough.  We can also get our own family, work, and community affairs “in order” so that we don’t feel a domino effect of constant negatives.

3.  We can be helpful to other people in small to large ways, depending on our skill set.  Community Service is a win/win situation.  However, jumping on an internet platform to criticize or stir up controversy just confuses people.  Yes, Free Speech is a fundamental right, but who does that speech help?  If it is just a way of “venting”- find another way; like journaling or talking to a trusted friend.

4. Don’t lose sleep.  It is easier said than done if we believe a storm is going to hit in the middle of the night or if a story if developing and we are afraid we will miss something.  Occasionally there are times when we need to take the family to the basement if a storm is impending, but if you find yourself awake late most nights you may be overly vigilant and that isn’t good.  Talk to someone.

5. There is a difference between hypervigilance and having situational awareness.  Situational awareness is what we employ when we are “defensive driving”; knowing where the cars around us are, the speed limit, road conditions, etc… It is helpful and it keeps us safe.  Hypervigilance is irrational and keeps us on the “edge” when no real threat exists to us.

6. Take your own advice.  If you are a parent or have a career that dictates you care for and/or lead others, it is second nature to give advice and be helpful.  Sometimes those in the “helping professions” can feel better when they are leading and managing others, but we can’t lose sight of our own needs in the process.  Setting a good, strong example is a positive, but we have to take care of our own needs and acknowledge when we are not doing just that.

Now go turn off the computer and relax!

The Boston Blasts and ‘Terrorism’: A Historian’s Take on What It Means

Sociologically this is very relevant as terrorism is so objective- yet we are very quick to move into the subjective…definitions are important!-


In the aftermath of the deadly explosions in Boston, one word quickly became attached to the tragedy: terrorism. The major media honed in on the presence of the term in President Barack Obama’s speeches, and as the investigation continues into the motives of its unknown culprit or culprits, so too will speculation into the terrorist pathologies underlying it all. In post–9/11 America, terrorism is the frame through which we now instinctively make sense of seemingly senseless violence.

My colleague Michael Scherer has a good post on the semantic gymnastics terrorism has been put through by the Beltway’s political classes. But, for some scholars, the usage of the term deserves a far deeper historical reckoning. “In the decade that has past, the concept terrorism carries with it an assumption of understanding a danger even before we know what it is, as is the case in Boston,” says Martin…

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The Diversity of Dialects and Irritating Jargon

American Dialects : Dialect map of American English

The map above was brought to my attention in (of all academic places: Facebook) in the context of how we judge others based on their speech, more obviously the dialects shown in the map.  While there is no such thing as a grammatically deficient dialect, we do still judge people based on where they appear to be from.  This can be especially troubling for Southerners.  Being in a state that has three distinct dialects that I can attest to and the map does well to show, I do find this interesting and valid.  I have always remarked on what I short distance I had to drive to hear people speaking in a different way.

As interesting as dialects are, jargon has recently been an area that I have been attuned to.  Some people (military and public safety people) are very comfortable with speaking in acronyms, something I have never been quite comfortable with doing.  It is something similar to “text-speak” in that younger people seem to be also confident in by using letters instead of words to communicate.  Mentally I can translate and use text speak or whatever you want to call it, because the phrases are not that important in context.  To say LOL (laugh out loud) is not something I would probably say out loud anyway, I would say “that is funny” or “you are funny”…But the jargon used in Public Safety is the stuff that can save lives or the opposite. To me it is just to important to use shortcuts, so I have trouble with this.  This isn’t even touching the topic of the numbers that correspond with crimes in process that police dispatchers use.

Jargon then along with dialect in something to behold in academia.  I realized yesterday while listening to various panel experts at an academic institution that I was listening to not only what was being said, but how it was being said.  I looked for use of dialects or the opposite for common phrases (jargon) and I never really realized I was doing it until I looked at this map today.  Now I was not trying to judge people by their use of language here, I was trying to improve my own public speaking by positive example.  However I walked away feeling like a horrible academic and one that needed to start changing.  In essence, I was judging myself.

This may come as a surprise, but I do have a mentor in public speaking and one that has never been accused of being a good public speaker; George W. Bush.  Yes, I know.  Now what I always liked about the way he spoke was his use of dialect and the way he said “nucelar instead of nuclear”…did he do this on purpose?  I always thought so.  Even if he didn’t, the use of a humorous mispronunciation of words has always been something I employ.  I have always found academic jargon to be pretentious and unnecessary, so I may use “big words”, but when I do I say them incorrectly or make a face when doing so.  For example, rather than saying, “it is fine with me if you do X”, I may say “I may be amenable to this X”; pronounced A-Mean-Able.  I also refer to cohorts as co-hearts.  Am I doing this to seem more human?  Is it because it amuses me or that I would rather be accused of being someone who does not know how to speak than being accused of being pretentious? It’s hard to say, really. Maybe it is because I am a grammar Nazi and I cannot stand words being misspelled on paper or syntax and grammatical errors being repeated, so I have to give a little with the spoken word.

Ironically, the topic of panel discussions was generational differences, a topic that I spoke about a conference two years ago.  Being a Gen X-er, I found it hard or next to impossible to relate to others that claimed to be in my generation.  Not a one said “like”; not as a preface to a simile, but as in “like I don’t know dude, let’s ask the older man, because he was like THERE and stuff”… Slacker subculture speak here?- possibly.  But this is another topic entirely as is sarcasm and other devices that can be employed in rhetoric.  Funny though, when I write I seem to feel more confident than when I am forced to speak and seem intelligent; translation pretentious. Also I can go back and reread what I write, instead of speaking and then asking others “oh wow, did I just say that out loud? LOL!”

Adventures in Organic Gardening

I see seedlings!- Marigolds to be exact, which judging by the fact Kindergartners routinely grow these for Mother’s Day gifts, should not get me too exited just yet.  My lavender seeds have not sprouted yet and this is cause for concern, as they are to be started in a sunny window.  Is it too cold by the window yet?  Will my house not smell of this lovely fragrance this summer, as I imagined? What will the neighbors think when I begin my lettuce in milk jugs cut in half? This was something I saw on an Organic Gardening page and it seems like a sensible way to recycle and save money. Do I still have the green thumb I possessed as a youth?

Daunting questions. At least I was able to procure some fresh flowers from a conference I attended that was decorated with floral arrangements to the tune of a Kardashian wedding.  Though it proves I know nothing of Horticulture and Botany since I do not know what most of the flowers actually are other than that they “smell good” (what a lasting impression on Academia that statement makes)~~ aromatherapy is in order!

~ Good Luck and Happy Gardening!~Image