Psychology

Distressed Denim

“OCD-estroyed”, $122

“ADD boyfriend distressed”, $72

Bored of your wardrobe, ladies? Well, you’re in luck. DSM Denim just released a sneak peek of their fall line, now available for pre-order. Pick the pair that bests suits your personality… or, heck, splurge on all four.

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As children, most of us our taught not to label one another, to avoid stereotypes and to not judge a book by its cover. Yet, modern psychiatry has developed an entire bible of labels used for diagnosis known as the Diagnostic Statistical Manual.  Yesterday’s idiosyncrasies have become today’s disorders. Personality disorders are an interesting phenomenon. The list of disorders in the diagnostic statistical manual grows bigger every year. Instead of viewing a bout of depression or anxiety as a transitional phase, the DSM terms it a mental disorder.

  Little beings who haven’t even fully come into their own personalities are being diagnosed with personality disorders, conduct disorders, ADHD, or autism. The latter wasn’t even a concept that existed thirty years ago. Perhaps a child’s hyperactivity is playful curiosity, or a result of the sugary granola bar snack and juice box they consumed at recess.

As children enter adolescence and high school, hormones are thrown for a loop. Troubling feelings may arise over not fitting in, being teased, the onset of acne or many  other milestones on the journey to self-discovery. It used to be called growing pains. Now it’s a condition. Lest us not forget homosexuality was coined a disorder in the DSM up until 1973. As we become more aware of the complexity and underlying humanity in our unique differences, we should see the danger in diagnosing.

In my first abnormal psychology class in college, I was forewarned by my professor not to be seduced into self-diagnosing. He said it happens all the time when new students begin reading symptoms of a disorder, they can identify with certain experiences and may begin to question their “normalcy”. The truth is, it’s all normal.  There is no cookie cutter for health. There is no cookie cutter for disease. Perhaps there is a bizarre comfort in conforming to an archetype, even if it has negative connotations. Maybe it is a quick fix to just deem ourselves defective and shop for prescriptions.

I think embracing health means honoring our differences, instead of casting them aside as deficiencies. There is something incredibly empowering about refusing to let an emotion or behavior define you. We can learn from all of these experiences… then move on.

“Schizo Splattered”, $98

“Bi-polar Skinny”, $88

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Psychology

Time is Money

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A doctor’s waiting room is the kind of place you find yourself flipping through the pages of a golf magazine. Credit cards and watches were the content of every other ad and practically every other page. Even as a non-golfer I was offended with the lack of putt  content.

Credit cards and watches..

The watch always struck me as the kind of thing that was pure status symbol, especially in  days where you can easily replace its functionality with another device. Who needs a watch? I  had a drawn out conversation with my brother once who  explained their symbolism as man’s relationship with technology. I found it to be an applaudable and romanticized justification for his fashion accessory hang-up.

I did some research into the history of the watch and to my surprise, they were once predominant among military men in order to synchronize maneuvers. While they may be a status symbol to some now, a part of their origin coincides with a cultural association of masculinity.

Flipping through the pages, I was annoyed by the blatant luxury propaganda but, it was strategic marketing. The arnold-palmer-sipping, leathered man whose idea of  travel is a golf weekend in Palm Springs might be swayed by the 24 karat, white gold Rolex he’s once seen on his favorite player. He can fantasize about it on himself. He can purchase a credit card to finance it. Then, when it’s quarter to six one lonesome night at the office, he can patiently watch it tick.

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Psychology

Subvertising

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So many implicit, normative cues dominate our culture via advertising. It’s easy to take these for granted. Less than a score ago, an entrepreneur developed an African-american flesh tone band-aid. However, for major brands like Johnson&Johnson, “flesh tone” is still synonymous with Caucasian. Why haven’t they accounted for the abundance of minority populations? When will it pay to be politically correct?

The spoof ad I created above is my foray into subvertising; a playful way to “culture jam” and subvert the messages of mainstream media.

Kindly stay posted for more works to come.

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Complaining, Humor, Psychology, Rants, Vent

One of THOSE days. Why do we love complaining?

I woke up this morning at 7am, well-rested, happy to get in to work early. A snooze button free rousing is usually the sign of a great morning. It means I will be able to ease into daily preparations, leisurely bike to work, and be rewarded for my early bird behavior with an early bird departure from my job. The tone was set for an excellent day…until I stepped outside.

“My bike seat looks lower than… no, no…  it’s just not there.”

Upon the realization that someone took advantage of my quick release seat, my expectations for a great day were immediately depleted. Then I remembered that I took cash out the night before (another rare preparedness). Relieved that I didn’t have to scavenge for the nearest ATM, I began to console myself on the speed walk to the subway station. “The seat is replaceable and at least I’m still sort of early for work.”

I fed my twenty dollar bill into the machine. No entry. I tried again. *Bzzzz* Frustration was building and the unmistakable noise of missed train faded out of my ears. “Why!?”

I flattening the bill on the groove of the machine, attempting to regain calamity. My bill ripped apart as if it was perforated. I flashed the two ripped pieces of paper to the Septa agent with a saddened look on my face. He simply shrugged his shoulders.

“We don’t have change”, he said.

“UGHHHH but you don’t GETTTTTTT IT, I’M LATE FOR WORK MY BIKE WAS STOLEN ANDITJUST RIPPEDDON’T YOU HAVE TAPE!? YOU DON’T HAVE TAPE JUST A PIECE OF TAPE??”

“Sorry Maa’mmm”, he shrugged again.

A tear rolled down my cheek and I panted in despair.

At that moment he waved me through. I felt like a gigantic baby, but suddenly everything felt okay again. I debated whether or not I should reiterate this frustrating morning as a ‘one-of-THOSE-days’ story to my boss. Partially as an excuse, but maybe partially as a conversation piece. Then, I realized how lame of a conversation that would be.

These narratives SUCK. Yet, they are pervasive. They are ever present in the peeved Facebook status, the angry yet humorous Yelp review, the water cooler talk, or the hour long therapy session. They are boring stories, but we tell them. Over and over and over again. Why? Because we are rewarded for it. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, as we need empathy (and in situations like this morning, a free Septa ride), but maybe we can consider how often we indulge in complaints. During the rest of my commute I realized I was actually grateful for some of what transpired.  I didn’t have to bike in the freezing cold. I didn’t have to use all of my cash on tokens. It’s kind of amazing what a few moments of pause can do for your attitude.

Scholarly Stuff: A book I am reading now has really aided me in becoming aware of when I am about to complain and assessing the necessity of the complaint and my reaction. It’s called, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. It’s not brain science to know that complaining is harmful, but learning the science behind our positive and negative thoughts is motivating knowledge.

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Consumer Culture, Psychiatry, Psychology

Efficacy Is In the Eyes of the Beholder

Feng shui, mood rings and marketing have long utilized emotive associations with color. One might avoid painting their bedroom red if they want a good night’s sleep, or try to eat off of a blue plate if they wish to eat less. One group of researchers (de Craen et. al.) wanted to see if these associations crossed over into the medicines we consume. In their literature review they found that in placebo trials sedative effects were repeatedly associated with blue colored pills, while red, yellow, and orange pills were associated with stimulant effects. There were even studies which demonstrated color effects the perceived strength of a particular capsule. White capsules are perceived as weaker, while black and red colored medicine is often associated with higher potency. There is still limited research in this area of study, but luckily placebo research is on the rise.

Preparation of a drug, interaction with the prescribing doctor and perceived competency of a doctor all contribute to the therapeutic outcome as well.  Placebo research is often used in critique of pharmaceutical formulations, but I believe it provides an optimistic and empowering awareness. After all,  if something as subtle as color influences one’s treatment, there is something to be said about the mind/body connection.

md29263  This vintage ad of Sinequan – a dual acting antidepressant and tranquilizer, plays up color associations. In blue it reads, “the antidepressant that is a tranquilizer” while in red it says, “the tranquilizer that is an antidepressant”

Scholarly Stuff: Harvard Psychologist, Irving Kirsch, researches placebo effect. In his studies, he has found that difference between anti-depressants and placebo is clinically insignificant, in fact… more people are helped through placebo. His book, The Emperor’s New Drugs provides many eye-opening theories for why this may be the case.

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Humor, Positive Psychology, Psychology, Social commentary, Social Critique

Rap’s Bad Rap

Current hip hop is constantly being reprimanded for its lyrical obsession with hoes, money, drugs and generally un-lofty ideals.  Re-examining some of the lyrics to chart topping favorites has me wondering what influence rap might have on self-esteem. Perhaps radio edits and censored versions of these songs actually endorse a positive self worth, even if you do lack the Maserati and bootylicious body.

This thought occurred to me passing by someone’s blasting headphones on the street this week. A very audible chorus simply¹ stating, “I’m the *bleeping* greatest, yeaaa…” was repeating on loop. In that fleeting moment, I couldn’t help but notice my posture improve and a little swagger develop in my step. “I should probably be listening to more rap”, I thought to myself.

I took it upon myself to investigate the lyrics of a few of the most recently popular raps and get to the heart of the songs. Expletives aside, I noticed some empowering themes emerging, many of which are the cornerstones to developing high self-worth.

     Knowing Yourself

“Oh Lord, know yourself, know your worth, *bleep*

My actions been louder than my words, *bleep*”

– Drake, Zero to 100

     Positive Self-Talk

“Numba 1, b—- you can’t replace me (Can’t replace me)”

-Wiz Khalifa, We Dem Boyz

   Accepting Life’s Set Backs 

“Battle wounds on me, you watching me lick ’em clean
I know, I know, my pride, my goals, my highs
My lows, I know, I know, it’s mind control
I know, I could prosper, no imposter”

– Kendrick Lamar, It’s On Again

“They wanna know how I got M’s and I didn’t even finish college”

-Rich Gang, Lifestyle

“I done made a million and I didn’t go to college”

-Yo Gotti, I Know

Scraping the surface of money flaunting and sexual objectification, modern rap may be  the propagation of something beyond aesthetic desires. Put a new spin on it and rap is a tool of empowerment; a way to switch out the negative tape currently playing in your head.

Let me know, comment below :

What are your favorite empowering rap lyrics?

¹Unfortunately, the song’s simplicity was also it’s fault as my Google™ search later that night yielded no results.

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Nostalgia, Psychology

Sentimental Value

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As a kid, my father and I frequently tuned in to PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. Despite it’s seemingly geriatric following, the show had the universal appeal of great emotional suspense. Every episode had me on the edge of my seat. Someone could discover the painting they found in the garbage to be worth thousands, while another person’s smug smile shattered with the realization that their Auntie Sue’s turn of the century, Tiffany vase was in fact a popular dupe complete with a phony signature. I was also consistently impressed by the esoteric knowledge of the appraisers. Two or three tiny details meant the difference in two or three decimal places of an object’s estimated value.


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The most inquisitive aspect of the show for me was pondering what happened after a celebratory reaction took place. In some cases, the antique at hand was haphazardly acquired. This made decision of whether or not to cash in on it seemingly obvious to a non-collector like myself. In most cases, however, the antique had a story behind it. It may have been an exotic trinket brought home from a war, a staple toy from someone’s childhood, or a family heirloom passed down for generations. I often wondered if the awe-inspiring price tags revealed for these objects ever caused hesitation with the owners. “What if I told you this is worth…”, were the famous, instigating words posed by the appraisers. Regardless of whether or not that rhetorical question was answered, the part you never got to see was what happened next.

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Sentimental value is the notion that something possesses such strong ties to our identity (personal,collective or cultural) via a part of our past that it is considered priceless. It transcends any economic designation. It seems that we all have varying tendencies to assign object’s with this construct. For me personally, I’ve never been one to get attached to things. I’d classify myself as a purger over a hoarder. I tend to think experiences trump objects. However, I can see why in some cases one would feel obliged to uphold an object’s legacy if it evokes experiential memories. I have not yet been bequeathed a family artifact but when I do I will probably take photograph of it, laminate it,  and write on the back the address to the museum where I sent it.

Let me know, comment below:   Do you assign sentimental value to things?

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Consumerism, Psychology, Social Critique

YouTube Inception: A Consumer’s Dream

I’ve indulged in mindless YouTube perusal from time to time at my desk job. Amidst more informative TEDtalks or lectures, I occasionally find myself listening to the rant of a complete stranger or watching a DIY video for how to tie shoelaces. Shameless, I know. More often than not, I will find myself incepted in a commericial within a commercial.

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In particular,  “beauty guru” channels, seem to be the most guilty of this trend. Beauty gurus on YouTube predominantly vlog about what they are wearing, review  products and conduct “hauls” which are essentially a tedious review of monthly or weekly purchases. Unboxing, for the layperson, is a term which means a product will allegedly for the first time be taken out of it’s packaging, on camera, and scrutinized in real time. Sound like a savvy consumer’s delight?  Though the target audience may in fact be tweens, as a discerning adult viewer my question is: Why should we listen to you?

Many of these “guru’s” actually land spokesperson deals and I’ve seen a number of them appear in actual commercials on YouTube. Apart from their already heavily sponsored How To videos. It’s great that health and beauty tutorials are available to young girls but the take-away messages of  most, if not all, of these videos seems to be: “buy this”.  Scroll down and you find an About section which merely rattles off hyperlinks of where to purchase mentioned products.

mmmmm      mimicry

Sadly, beauty in a bottle isn’t the only misguided ideal infiltrated by YouTube beauty gurus. Another pervasive trend is videos tagged “Get the look __insert celebrity name__”.  These videos hone in on one teen adored icon and provide a detailed, step-by-step instructional for how to apply make-up and put together an identical rendition of their outfit. Not only do these videos condone superfluous consumerism, they demonstrate to young girls that being yourself isn’t good enough.

 

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Consumerism, Psychiatry, Psychology

Comic Relief

There are few greater feelings than laughing so hard that you cry.

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Despite the seeming antithesis between the emotions of  joy and sorrow,  the two often produce the same bodily operation. Ancient Egyptian and Hippocratic physicians believed tears were a purging of  toxin accumulation in the body. We know today that emotional tears contain an endorphin called enkephalin; an opiod peptide. Crying can be brought about by pain, but it is also a natural pain killer.


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Consumer Culture, Consumerism, Decision-making, Humor, Psychology

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

 

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Each time I enter a store, even for the most simple purchases, it invariably leads to an inner struggle. I might just need some dish soap. That’s all. Yet, somehow time invested in the experience always exceeds the time I’d allotted once I’m in the aisle getting down to business. I attribute this, not just to a degree of neuroticism, but to option infiltration. When is the last time you saw only one, or two versions of a product in a store that wasn’t a gas station express mini-mart, or a hospital gift shop? And even those places seem to be getting fancy.

Like many people, I enjoy my options. They seem so empowering. I suppose it brings out the democratic, liberty lovin’, part of me. The issue is, much like other confections of democracy, it’s been frosted to excess. And I’m frozen in the aisle of a grocery store. I want to get on with my life.  Despite my awareness of option overload, putting haste into practice in the face of thirty dish soaps is easier said than done.

Instead, my thought process might go something like this:

The spendthrifty, overly-analytical side of me takes complete control of the situation- hijacking my mind and body. I find myself crouching and straining my neck in the strangest and most unthinkable positions, shocked by this new found flexibility. My eyes scan every label and price tag. I might even go out of my way to flag down an associate, only to verify the price of a lone ranger, non-designated bottle. “What if THAT’S the cheapest one?, I’ll tell myself. Price isn’t the only consideration, though. Cheapest one doesn’t mean shit if I’m going to be dousing my dishes with diluted toxins later on. Is there an organic option? It’s mine. Now I’m wondering what organic actually means in terms of safety. *Consults iPhone* Fighting a barrage of distracting characters, numbers and symbols on the screen; now my math brain comes alive. Suddenly I’m converting fluid ounces to ounces. I can do math? The clock on my screen makes its way into my periphery. I glance back at the aisle. Lemon is probably the least offensive scent. What does “Original” smell like? I know I enjoy feeling that way. Abruptly a Dawn oil spill commercial flashes into my mind and I’m sympathizing with their eco friendliness despite the .74 cent upcharge. Don’t you dare act in self interest. But, but.. “Softer feeling hands in 3 uses? …OLAY!” I decide to go with it. After all, it’s still made by Dawn. I proceed to the check out, contented by my utilitarianism. This way I’m killing two birds with one stone…

Oh, but that doesn’t sound good.

Scholarly Stuff : Psychologists are researching how choice can affect our well-being. Check out Barry Schwartz’s book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, to further probe this connection.

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