A few weeks ago I stumbled upon several shocking trends that, in conjunction with some trends I was already aware of, really disturbed me. Now, this is no small task but somehow the internet manages to do this to me on a regular basis.
Based on what I read there is a trend out of China and other Asian countries where women are attempting to get their waist to be smaller or equal to the width of an 8.5"/11" piece of paper (your standard print and writing paper). Essentially it is a challenge that some women started that infected North America.
In accordance with an evolutionary perspective of the region it is not unheard of to be able to be healthy while still having a forward profile of 8.5 inches. Asian women are, on average, shorter than Caucasian women and because of differences in dietary consumption Caucasian women tend to have larger waists in order to better fit their larger bone structure and frame.
But because social media ultimately dictates what people do (the pass-out challenge being one of the first) Caucasian females have started to starve themselves and choose exercises regimens in a desperate attempt to fit this unhealthy mould. The A4 ("technical term for 8.5"/11" copy paper) Challenge puts new shaming on those who do not fit the sheet, including those who are already at risk physically and mentally.
That's just Problem 1 of this scenario. The response has become equally shameful.
When I work with youth and parents I try to help develop "proportionate response" basically meaning that the punishment, in the case of a parent-child event, has to be consistent with the severity of the action. When you catch your child drawing on the wall you have them clean up the mess and maybe have no dessert for a few days.
There is a middle-ground, proportionate response campaign labelled #NotPaperThin which is awesome and gets the point across however there are some who are going the extra mile and skinny- or thin-shaming. Those whose waists are wider than an A4 sheet of paper are essentially starting to bully their skinny counterparts instead of opening factual and healthy conversation. Shaming in either direction stigmatizes - adds a negative trait to - the intended target(s) for the purpose of putting that person down. Psychologically this is similar in some regards to positive punishment but it misses a key element.
In operant conditioning, where terms like positive and negative punishment and positive and negative reinforcement come from, there is an intention to what is being done. Back in the day spanking was a form of "positive punishment" where in an unfavorable punishment was presented (hence positive) for an undesirable behaviour. [Many parents and caregivers took this option too far and spanking has since become a form of abuse.] The point of spanking was to get the child to stop doing the thing the parent didn't want them doing. Less extreme forms of positive punishment are being scolded by a professor for not putting your phone on silent before class and getting a speeding ticket.
Each of these punishments has an intention, whether it be to reinforce good behaviour, social contracts, or safety.
Shaming has no intentionality. The point of it is to bring the person being shamed to a low point. In a sense, one intention may be to have that person idealize the values of the shamers however this is not what happens. Shaming adds to depression and anxiety, and in many ways reinforces negative behaviours.
Take, for example, Wentworth Miller (Prison Break, The Flash). Following massive success as the star of Prison Break in 2009 Miller sunk into a deep depression. Common symptoms include overeating/undereating and corresponding weight gain/loss, sadness, anger, sleep changes, fatigue, and so on and in 2010 a picture was taken by paparazzi of Miller, who was out for a stroll with a friend, that showed he had gained quite a bit of weight, compared to the physique we were used to seeing in the television show. A shameful meme sprung forth rather quickly that he recently responded to. The point of the meme was to make others feel better while getting a good laugh at a celebrity who, remarkably enough, are humans, too.
Long story short, there is no point to shaming people. Odds are, they are already quite ashamed of themselves. Respect, generosity, and time are what these folks need in order to make the changes they need to make to improve their function and health.
There is no doubt that our day can easily be consumed by our electronics. Video games, social networking, blogging, emails... even making calls to friends and family... takes a significant amount of time out our lives if we're not careful. Further, it can affect children and their development - in every aspect - in just as negative a way as to adults.
Technology is a great tool and should be treated as nothing more. The Internet was first developed as a new way for the military to pass information between squads and between allies and became the hub for, theoretically, all of the world's information. You watch a movie like Transcendence and see just how much information could be out there but we spend most of our time focusing on 140 characters or less.
I find the biggest issue with technology today is its ease of use. Cell phones, tablets, computers, and alike boot up quickly, run on powerful batteries, and can connect to every form of radio wave we use for communication. With that ease of use comes ease of access - said with some irony attached - which can lead to addiction to various forms of gaming and pornography.
What we do with that access to pixels is put up (fire)walls around ourselves against the people around us. Individuals within couples will complain about the other not spending enough devoted time - time away from the object of addiction; often just asking for a half hour without the tech in hand or in view. What is concerning is I am now hearing this from children.
And it comes down to this simple act: Put the tech away for increasing increments every day. Regardless of the profession it is possible to put the tech away for an extra hour per day literally starting at just 1 minute. I propose two challenges:
A) Day 1: 1 minute. Day 2: 1 minute. Day 3: 2 minutes. Day 4: 3 minutes. Day 5: 5 minutes. Day 6: 8 minutes... and so on. (I call it the Fibonacci challenge)
B) Day 1: 1 minute. Day 2: 2 minutes. Day 3: 4 minutes. Day 4: 8 minutes. Day 5: 16 minutes.... so on
C) One minute added per day.
In each case, this must be consecutive time as opposed to random minutes away from the tech. As you build up the minutes, use the time you have earned to do something with friends, spouses, children, and family to make up the gap.
In his article published February 28, 2016, Tyler Hamilton of the Toronto Star wrote up a brief report about how climate change rhetoric and mental illness are correlated. I have been saying this for the last several years but it's nice to see that others are on board.
My thesis focuses more on the notion of "How could it not?" whereas Hamilton's article focuses on the emotional impact of future thinking - the apprehensive expectations (worry) that we tend to associate with anxiety. The "How could it not?" approach has to do with how much air time climate change has received over the last decade-plus and the violent, apocalyptic rhetoric it receives. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth is a great example of this rhetoric. He divides the many faces of climate change to focus on the impact of global warming and the climate refugees that become victims of the battle we have with our environment. Any time there is any even remotely significant weather event - high temperatures, stronger hurricanes - news agencies like CNN cannot wait to point to global warming/climate change. The Ottawa Sun, more than ten years ago, created an image of Santa swimming in the Rideau Canal on December 25 sometime in the not-so-distant future because the average temperature in the winter is over 15 degrees.
I have the link already provided for Hamilton's article and I don't want to dive to far into this as I plan on making this a discussion topic for future presentations but the point is this: The weather messes with our heads in a variety of ways. The DSM-IV-TR had a disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder wherein depression-like symptoms would appear in certain times of the year - stereotypically in winter but it depends on the person. With the DSM-5 this disorder has been declassified and is now part of the diagnosis for Major Depressive Disorder as it occurs in seasonal patterns.
My point for posting this quick note is this: Find out if you are, in fact, so concerned for the future of our environment that it is causing anxiety. I am in the process of finding quick self-assessments but you will know if that worry exists just by how your body reacts to reading this article, Hamilton's article in the Toronto Star, or to other stories that come through various media.
If caught early anxiety can be dealt with much easier.
Just a way to get a few thoughts across outside of the office. In this blog you may even find entries that assist in your healing without needing a session