Archives for August, 2012
C.R. writes: There is an art, or rather a knack, to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. —Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy The Douglas Adams quote is one of my favorites. I'm still doing my SOAR course and it is still working. You can read my first two posts (here and here). I'm slowing up a bit because my schedule recently got slammed and not in the way I intended (two fractured teeth, among other exciting adventures in discomfort.) Still, I know that overcoming this flying-fear is a serious goal and I am determined to focus on that goal. For me, the fist step is prayer, asking God for help in overcoming my fear. Then I get down to the taking the steps I need to take to get there. Several things Captain Tom Bunn (the pilot and social worker who created SOAR) has said that have helped me. Here are two of them:
Depression and anxiety and even hopelessness are not uncommon in people with chronic, life-altering, even terminal illnesses. Certainly, it would be reasonable to believe that depression in response to a neurological illness like MS (multiple sclerosis) or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig's Disease) would be a typical response. Yet, a friend of ours who had been diagnosed with MS and had then sunk into a debilitating depression, called us a while back to share good news—she was no longer depressed. "A cure of some type?"we wondered. Not really. She had just read an article about a man who'd been living with ALS for several years, and despite his profound health issues, he has touched the lives of not only our friend, but thousands of people around the world. His name is Dr. Rachamim Melamed-Cohen (he holds a PhD in special education) and he lives with the debilitating symptoms of ALS.
C.R. writes: Last fall the Netherlands' Tilburg University made headlines (and a Therapy Soup blog post) when it was found that one of their highly-esteemed researchers was essentially a con artist. Diederik Stapel, PhD, world-renowned social psychologist and researcher (much admired here in the U.S.), admitted to massive research fraud. At last count, dozens of Stapel's studies were shown to be falsified and over 100 of his papers are still being investigated. Social psychologists and others are even today heatedly discussing the problem, and they are also examining the field of social psychology itself. So much of what we've come to believe about the psychology of individuals as they interact with society is based on his findings! The place where this all went down, Tilburg University of the Netherlands, is in the news again.
The notion of newness and change for the sake of newness and change is a chimera—an empty concept that offers only momentary confetti-type excitement with unknown final outcomes. And no, the ends do not justify the means, especially if people get hurt along the way. Surprisingly (perhaps) often, when change is applied in efforts to improve existing systems or concepts, the change-makers (because they are perceived as outside the system or concept they are trying to improve or else are viewed as a non-representative part of that system) make changes that are seen as "off." They just don't meet the mark and grumbling ensues. (Hey, it's a tough job they've got). This is why systems (economies, nations, societies, cultures—even cities and towns) have often evolved naturally, over time. In order for imposed changes to work, the change-makers must take into consideration generations of knowledge and wisdom that are so internalized they are reflexive. Even in non-communal systems, such as a science or art, deep cultural wisdom (perhaps not recognized or acknowledged) is intricately woven into the fabric of the discipline. To respect that there is wisdom in what the "ordinary Joe or Josephine" knows, those whose families, sub-cultures, people, etc. have survived for centuries, is something that we need to learn to do more of. It's not blanket, but we still have to cultivate a respect for wisdom of what some view as the non-elite. Respect for tribal wisdom, if you will.
I'm still working on the SOAR program I blogged about last week. I hope I'll be ready to fly without fear long before hypersonic flight becomes a reality on passenger planes! Yesterday I spoke with Captain Tom Bunn, LCSW of SOAR, who told me a bit about the genesis of some of the effective exercises in his flying-phobia treatment protocol. For one technique, his inspiration came from anxiety expert Jerilyn Ross. Ross's "rubber-band" technique has been used by countless anxiety patients in one form or another. The concept is pretty simple: When you find yourself thinking about the fear, change your "what if" thinking. Focus on and carry out a simple and manageable task such as counting backward from from 100 by 3's or snapping a rubber band on your wrist.
C.R. writes: I'm going to disclose something I have been ashamed of for many years: I am a fearful flyer. Yes, I've flown around the world but if it's at all possible, I'd drive for hours (even days) to avoid flying. I'd probably even walk. In the past few years, I've learned that a surprising number of my (female) friends are afraid of flying. I have one friend who took her kids on a cross-country trip by car, spent two days at their destination, and came home. I have another who took a cruise to and from a Caribbean island (usually people fly one way.) I have a friend who flies frequently on business and who doses herself with anything her doctor'll prescribe even though in "real-life" she won't take so much as an aspirin. (Nothing really works, she tells me). I have another who missed her honeymoon.
C.R.'s thinking. Another American heartbreak. It's really impossible to make sense of tragedies piled upon tragedies and the loss of life. I have questions, though. 1. I read about concern from some pundits about the fact this racist killer (we are trying to avoid naming him) was in the military at some point. Some are also mentioning the June 2012 murder at Fort Bragg and the horrific mass-murder at Fort Hood in 2009 as if there is a link. Is there? Some believe military culture or service should be examined as contributing to mass murder. Is this a good idea? 2. I read about concern from army psychiatrists and a Sikh in the U.S. military about falsely blaming military culture or military service for the recent Sikh Temple shooting. A military commentator pointed out that the shooter was never deployed and had been less-than-honorably discharged. He also had been demoted. Clearly, he wasn't wanted by the military. All in all, I'm really comfortable blaming killers, personally and directly.
How're you sleeping? If you can't sleep, or if you can but you wake up every so often choking or gasping for breath, or if you snore loudly and often, you probably have a sleep disorder. You also might be at risk of developing anxiety or depression or might already be struggling with one or both of these mental health issues. Amir Sharafkhaneh, MD, PhD and Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, recently discussed the correlation between one sleep disorder, called sleep-disordered breathing (SBD) and anxiety disorders and depression in Psychiatric Times. Any observant therapist (those who do thorough evaluations) will tell you that many, if not most of their patients, actually have some kind of sleep disorder, possibly including sleep-disordered breathing. Whether the sleep disorder precedes the mental illness or the mental illness precedes the sleep disorder appears to vary on your point of view as much as your psychosocial history. As for causality, well clinicians and researchers come down on both sides of the issue.