Category : Psychology

From 2015 but still relevant–Everett Piper, President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University: This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!

This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love. In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.

I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic. Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims. Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”

I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad. It is supposed to make you feel guilty. The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology, Young Adults

Articles that make You want to Bang your head against a Wall Dept–(Entrepeneur) Why You Should Stop Saying Sorry, According to Science

After you hurt someone’s feelings or do something wrong, it turns out that saying sorry might not be the best solution. In fact, an apology might just add fuel to the fire, a recent study by researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Texas has found.

To assess the impact of apologies after social rejections, researchers approached thousands of people and asked them questions and had them participate in experiments. When asked to write “a good way of saying no,” 39 percent of participants included an apology in their notes with the belief that they’d lighten the situation. However, when they were put on the receiving end of these apologetic notes, they reported feeling more hurt.

Apologies can actually anger people and trigger them to seek revenge, the researchers found. In another experiment, they conducted face-to-face rejections in order to understand how rejectees actually felt after an incident.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(CT) Matthew Loftus–The Beginning of Dementia Isn’t the End of Grace

In the era of modern medicine, a great many human afflictions can be treated, if not cured outright. Medicines easily defeat diseases that once would have killed us, while prosthetics and pain-relief drugs help us adapt to disabling symptoms and incurable illnesses. Dementia, unfortunately, remains neither curable nor especially treatable—and it is only getting more common as our population ages.

Dementia is especially fearsome in a culture like ours, one that treats autonomy as essential to human flourishing. Losing the ability to think and make rational decisions is always a profound loss, but it is especially terrifying for people who value independence so highly. Thankfully, Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia by physician John Dunlop is an excellent companion in thinking through the questions that dementia raises.

The first half of the book covers some basic theological precepts about sin, illness, and the body, as well as medical and scientific details about dementia. Dunlop then describes the daily experience of those who suffer from dementia and the people who care for them. Plenty of books and resources contain this sort of information, but this book remains immensely useful for anyone—pastors, family members, or even people in the early stages of dementia themselves—seeking basic facts about the disease and subjects like in-home care or nursing homes. Having spent many years caring for demented people at every possible stage, Dunlop helps readers step into the non-slip socks of a person with dementia and understand his or her frustrations and sorrows.

For the rest of the book, Dunlop asks whether we can find any grace in dementia. To do this, he first confronts the assumption that makes people queasy when they interact with someone who has dementia (or consider the possibility of developing it themselves): that human beings who have lost their intellectual capacity are aren’t quite fully human anymore. People might say, “He’s not there anymore” or “His soul is gone, but his body is still hanging on.”

Dunlop regards such sentiments as unbiblical.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Theology

(WSJ) iGen, the first generation of young Americans to spend their entire adolescence with smartphones, versus Free Speech

Nor are they just concerned about physical safety. The iGen teens I have interviewed also speak of their need for “emotional safety”—which, they say, can be more difficult to protect. “I believe nobody can guarantee emotional safety,” one 19-year-old told me. “You can always take precautions for someone hurting you physically, but you cannot really help but listen when someone is talking to you.” This is a distinctively iGen idea: that the world is an inherently dangerous place because every social interaction carries the risk of being hurt. You never know what someone is going to say, and there’s no way to protect yourself from it.

The result is a generation whose members are often afraid to talk to one another, especially about anything that might be upsetting or offensive. If everyone must be emotionally safe at all times, a free discussion of ideas is inherently dangerous. Opposing viewpoints can’t just be argued against; they have to be shut down, because merely hearing them can cause harm.

This frame of mind lies behind recent student agitation to keep controversial speakers off campus. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit watchdog group, campus disinvitations have risen steadily, reaching an all-time high of 42 in 2016, up from just six in 2000. In the American Freshman survey of more than 140,000 college students conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute in 2015, 43% agreed that campuses should be able to ban extreme speakers, up from just 20% in 1984.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Young Adults

(CT) Dorcas Cheng-Tozun–Can Robots Be Sexist?

In response to such questions, Rob High, chief technology officer of IBM Watson, names transparency as one of the most important characteristics of ethical AI. Humans need to know when they are interacting with an algorithm, and what its purpose and expectations are. Others are calling for more high-tech professionals with a humanities education who can “grasp the whys and hows of human behavior.” Just last month, a leading Silicon Valley engineer wished she had “absorbed lessons about how to identify and interrogate privilege, power structures, structural inequality, and injustice. That I’d had opportunities to debate my peers and develop informed opinions on philosophy and morality.”

As Christians, we believe that our bodies, our personalities, and other forms of human expression are outward manifestations of the soul that resides in each of us. For Pope John Paul II, this theology of the body was so central to faith that he dedicated 129 lectures to it. “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine,” he said. “It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”

Whether we are ready or not, we are all riding an unstoppable train toward a society in which AI will be almost as prevalent as other humans and these questions of body and soul will become all the more pressing. Despite the uncharted path before us, this is the moment for those with training, gifts, and interest in engineering and human behavior to step into the fray. The apostle Paul’s exhortation to offer our bodies as is just as relevant in this next technological revolution. With God’s wisdom and discernment, we can encourage AI that enhances our appreciation for the embodiment of the divine, rather than detracts from it.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Women

(Atlantic) Kurt Andersen–How America Lost Its Mind

When did america become untethered from reality?

I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart … Face it, folks, we are a divided nation … divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart … Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Entertainment, History, Movies & Television, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology

(CT) Mark Yarhouse–Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon

Let’s say Sara walks into your church. She looks like a man dressed as a woman. One question she will be asking is, “Am I welcome here?” In the spirit of a redemptive witness, I hope to communicate to her through my actions: “Yes, you are in the right place. We want you here.”

If I am drawn to a conversation or relationship with her, I hope to approach her not as a project, but as a person seeking real and sustained relationship, which is characterized by empathy as well as encouragement to walk faithfully with Christ. But I should not try to “fix” her, because unless I’m her professional therapist, I’m not privy to the best way to resolve her gender dysphoria. Rather, Christians are to foster the kinds of relationships that will help us know and love and obey Jesus better than we did yesterday. That is redemption.

If Sara shares her name with me, as a clinician and Christian, I use it. I do not use this moment to shout “Integrity!” by using her male name or pronoun, which clearly goes against that person’s wishes. It is an act of respect, even if we disagree, to let the person determine what they want to be called. If we can’t grant them that, it’s going to be next to impossible to establish any sort of relationship with them.

The exception is that, as a counselor, I defer to a parent’s preference for their teenager’s name and gender pronoun. Even here I talk with the parent about the benefits and drawbacks of what they want and what their teenager wants if the goal is to establish a sustained, meaningful relationship with their child.

Also, we can avoid gossip about Sara and her family. Gossip fuels the shame that drives people away from the church; gossip prevents whole families from receiving support.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

([London] Times) Nearly 2,000 children in the UK+Ireland referred for help with gender identity

The number of children in the UK and Ireland being referred for specialist help because they are confused about their gender has risen by more than 2,000 per cent in eight years. Almost 2,000 children were seen by doctors last year, some as young as three.

Specialists attributed the increase in part to an increased willingness in society to accept gender diversity, with prominent transgender celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner emboldening children to raise their concerns. They warned, however, of potential difficulties maintaining staff recruitment in line with rising demand.

According to data released by the Gender Identity Development Service, commissioned by NHS England, 1,986 people under 18 were referred and accepted for specialist treatment in the past year, compared with 94 in 2009-10. The youngest were aged just three, with seven children that age referred since 2009. The most common age at referral was 16, accounting for 24 per cent of all cases since 2009.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Sexuality

([London] Times) [Editor of the New Statesman] Helen Lewis: A man can’t just say he has turned into a woman

Transgender people face discrimination at work, casual abuse in the street and long waits for NHS care. None of those problems will be addressed by the government’s plan to change gender reassignment to a matter of simple declaration. It’s hard not to see Justine Greening’s proposal for “self-identification” of gender as a few rainbow sprinkles from a government that is struggling to pass any substantial legislation.

I’m not even sure that some of the politicians involved understand what they are proposing. The way I see it is this: everyone has a biological sex, and for most of us it’s unambiguously male or female. On top of that, we’ve built a whole cultural edifice that we call gender: girls like pink and can’t read maps; boys shouldn’t cry but at least they are good at parallel parking.

Many people find these roles restrictive and are trying to shake up our categories. A smaller group find that they are so unhappy in the role and body decreed at birth that they wish to transition to the other gender. The legal process currently requires a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and is signed off by a panel after two years living in your “acquired” gender.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) England’s unique national experiment–Free Talk Therapy to anyone who desires it

England is in the midst of a unique national experiment, the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses.

The rapidly growing initiative, which has gotten little publicity outside the country, offers virtually open-ended talk therapy free of charge at clinics throughout the country: in remote farming villages, industrial suburbs, isolated immigrant communities and high-end enclaves. The goal is to eventually create a system of primary care for mental health not just for England but for all of Britain.

At a time when many nations are debating large-scale reforms to mental health care, researchers and policy makers are looking hard at England’s experience, sizing up both its popularity and its limitations. Mental health care systems vary widely across the Western world, but none have gone nearly so far to provide open-ended access to talk therapies backed by hard evidence. Experts say the English program is the first broad real-world test of treatments that have been studied mostly in carefully controlled lab conditions.

The demand in the first several years has been so strong it has strained the program’s resources.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology

(NYT) She’s His Rock. His Parole Officer Won’t Let Him See Her.

During Erroll Brantley Jr.’s nearly two years in prison, his girlfriend, Katherine Eaton, visited him three times a week, the maximum allowed. She wrote him letters and spent hundreds of dollars on phone calls, during which the couple spoke of their longing to be back together in her three-bedroom house with the picture window. Amid the I love yous and I miss yous, she promised to help him stay off heroin and readjust to life outside.

But when Mr. Brantley was released on parole, he got some bad news: He would not be allowed to live with his beloved Katherine. Or see her. Or even call her.

Parolees may not live behind bars, but they are far from free. Their parole officers have enormous power to dictate whom they can see, where they can go, and whether they are allowed to do perfectly legal things like have a beer. Breaking those rules can land a parolee back in jail — the decision is up to the parole officer.

Read it all from yesterday’s front page.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Prison/Prison Ministry, Psychology

(Deseret News) What the loss of a father in the home does to a child’s health

Children who grow up without a father in the home have shorter telomeres, the protective chromosome caps that are believed to affect health and longevity, a new study says.

The findings are particularly troublesome for boys, whose telomeres were 40 percent more affected than girls’ by the loss of their father.

The effect of father loss was most pronounced in children whose fathers died or were incarcerated before they turned 5, according to the study, published Tuesday in the medical journal Pediatrics. Nine-year-olds whose fathers are dead had a 16 percent reduction in telomere length, compared to children whose fathers are alive and living with their children.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(Guardian) Mark Lukach–A moment that changed me: listening to, rather than trying to fix, my suicidal wife

“Doing something” meant reminding her of all the reasons it was worth staying alive – how good we had it, how much our families loved us, how much there was to look forward to. It almost became a script, a choreographed dance: she told me she felt suicidal; I tried to overwhelm her feelings with why she shouldn’t feel that way. It never convinced her of anything. But on that afternoon, exhaustion had beaten me down into shutting up. I sat quietly and held her hand.

She looked at me in surprise. Cautiously, she ventured with another thought. “I hate myself so much, and I want to die,” she said, and I said nothing.

“I wish I had never been born,” she said.

More silence.

She continued through her tortured feelings. I listened, and hated what I heard, but I knew that at this moment she was safe. We weren’t actually there on the bridge railing. We were at home, together, and there was no way she could act upon her pain. These were just words.

Read it all (used in the morning sermon by yours truly).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Mental Illness, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Suicide

(Aleteia) David Mills–Social media: The fellowship of hating for fun

They may be good people, but they speak like jerks, at cookouts or on Twitter and Facebook. I can, as I’ve written before, look back at my past writing and find articles in which I said something almost as stupid and cruel as “addicts deserve to die.” I put it more indirectly and kindly, because I know how things sound, but the sweeping unkindness has been the same.

I also know the feeling when a dull conversation takes flight because you and the other guy settle on a shared enemy to put down. Years ago, when I was an…[Episcopal Church] activist, an elderly minister noted at the beginning of a board meeting how excited everyone got when they went from “How was your flight?” to the latest liberal outrage. He had done this himself and it bothered him now, and he wanted us to stop it. I felt ashamed, as he clearly felt ashamed, but I took years to really see what he meant.

All our saintliness must feel tempted to this Two Minutes Hate, at least when we’re with others. The answer is party to set a guard upon our mouths and a watch over the door of our lips, as the psalmist says (141:3). Or rather to ask God to do this for us, as the psalmist did, because in almost nothing is our fallenness made so clear as in our speech.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology

(Time) Jade Weber–I Have an Open Marriage and My Relationship Is Better Than Ever

Before I met Nicholas, I’d been in several monogamous relationships but had never been able to remain faithful in any of them. With him, it was easy—not just because I was so sexually attracted to him, but because I loved him so much. Now and then, we’d have the typical “oh, a threesome would be fun someday” conversation, but we never really dug any deeper.

Everything changed in 2011, when someone in our family experienced a life-threatening accident.That kind of changed our perspective about life and the need to live every single day to its fullest.

Meanwhile, I’d started craving a little sexual excitement into our lives, and the idea of an open relationship intrigued me. But I had no idea how to even approach the idea with Nicholas, or how it would actually play out in reality. At that time, our social circle didn’t include anyone else who had an open marriage, so I wasn’t sure where to start. That’s when I sought counsel from some friends on the West Coast who were involved in such relationships.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Media, Psychology, Sexuality, Women