Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dora the Explorer, Advice Columnist

"Who do we ask for help, when we don't know which way to go?"

"A Map"

"Where do we go first?"

"The Garden. The flower garden."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Annie Lennox - Dark Road

Episodes and Coping Strategies for Bipolar Depression: Moodswinging through Life, An Abnormal Monologue for an Abnormal Psychology

Imagine for a moment that you suffer from bipolar disorder. How would you deal emotionally with the periodic episodes and the fallout from those episodes?

It's a difficult thing to imagine. While I have read the chapter, the only thing that really makes it possible for me to imagine what it's like to live with bipolar disorder is that I have a friend who has struggled with the disorder throughout her lifetime. I am not close enough to this friend to know the day-in-day-out reality, but she is very open to talking about how it affects her life. From what I have observed through my interactions with her, the manic periods definitely stand out from her usual dysphoric state. I have only witnessed one manic period that I was aware of, during our friendship. The depression, for her, is chronic but is interrupted by the manic episodes. The depressive episodes, which debilitate her and are much worse (far more intense) than the chronic state of depression, are noticeable and distinct. Her functioning during the depressive episodes is severely impaired - she can hardly leave the house, she disengages from all activities, she cries a lot, she struggles with persistent thoughts of suicide, she loses her will to get up every day and survive.

During the periods between the episodes, she still struggles with milder depression but the depression is not so overwhelming that she cannot force herself to engage with life (taking her dog for walks, going to church, meeting friends out to socialize, going to jazz clubs to listen to music, going to see her therapist, etc.). The one manic episode that I got a glimpse of was distinct to me because she was unusually outgoing, careless about taking care of her house and animals, a little unaware of her surroundings, less self-conscious and more reckless. The night that we were staying at her house during her manic episode, she was quite scatterbrained and desiring social interaction. I told her multiple times that I am allergic to cats and I don't like to sleep in a bedroom with cats because I don't like an animals jumping unexpectedly on me in the middle of the night while I am asleep. I told her several times, but she did not seem to process what I was saying. She continued to put the cats (she has many of them) INTO the room I was going to be sleeping in. At first I thought she was mad at me for not wanting the cats in the room and was trying to punish me by bringing them in and setting them on the bed I would be sleeping on. I tried to make myself clear, but I was not getting through. I soon realized that it was a matter of absentmindedness. It did not seem that she had any ill intention, she just seemed to be forgetting or unable to listen and process what I was telling her.

Later that night, while I was sleeping -or, trying to sleep- in a room with a bunch of cats, she went out to a jazz club. We heard a commotion in the middle of the night (close to morning), but did not check into it because we were just glad to hear that she had come back home. In the morning we found out that she was pulled over for a DUI and then was subsequently arrested for being ornery with the police officers. They asked her to walk in a straight line and she refused. Then she argued with the officer - that is what she told us when we talked to her in the morning. She wasn't as upset about it as I would imagine her to be. And she wasn't as upset about it as I would have been. During her depressive episodes, which I am more familiar with because she occasionally has reached out to me during her lowest times, she is extremely sad and emotional. She does not talk about the bad things in her life or blame any specific thing for her sadness, she just cries and talks about how sad she is and how she doesn't want to live. She's such a loving and kind soul; it's so hard to see her struggle to make it through the days of her dysphoria. She has not worked in years, because the disorder has affected her life so profoundly. She sees a psychologist and psychiatrist regularly. She had been on and off many different combinations of medications. A couple of years ago, she voluntarily tried ECT; and after not finding it particularly helpful in the longterm, she received vagus nerve stimulation (http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/brain-stimulation-therapies/brain-stimulation-therapies.shtml). I haven't been in touch with her in a while, but last time I talked to her she seemed to be stable and handling her moderate chronic depression pretty well.

Since reading about bipolar in our chapter doesn't quite translate into being able to imagine the experience - I rely on my observation of my friend's experience. I think, like my friend, I would do my best to function as normally as possible. My decision with regard to medication would depend on the severity of the depressive episodes. I would want to avoid medication if it were at all possible to do so and still function. As long as the manic episodes weren't causing me to put myself or others in danger (and as long as they were not interfering with my daily functioning), then I imagine I would try to channel the manic episodes into serving as a vehicle for creative productivity and expression...since I am, at times and in general, highly energetic and prolific in my creative expression. I have felt moments of great sadness during relationship struggles and family deaths, but I tend to move in and out of grief, anxiety and struggle pretty adequately on the whole. I can feel terribly, even dramatically sad, and yet not reach the point of hopelessness. I can feel immensely strong emotions and then carry on with other daily activities. It is hard to imagine not being able to do so, but I think it would feel terrible to not feel like I had any control over myself or to be a prisoner to dysphoria. I must see hope in the world, hope for enjoyment, laughter and pleasure, because even in my darkest times I have never felt completely separated from those things (from hope). I guess I can only imagine at a very superficial level, because I am basing it on my own experiences with dysphoria that have never been debilitating. I can only imagine from my limited perception. I would rather listen to and learn from others who struggle with the experience of bipolar than suppose based on my limited understanding. Even though I have some experience with some of the elements (mild dysphoria, hypomania, etc.), I'll always be on the outside from the experience in its entirety.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Final Scene (The Hours)

Famous Cases of Suicide: Art is for the Free and the Free are for Art: An Abnormal Psychology

(What precautions or actions should the media and the arts take in their presentations of famous cases of suicide?)

I don't think the media and artists need to take precautions, necessarily. What those in the industry should do, first and foremost, is to make sure that they gear their work toward the correct audience. In other words, they should make distinctions and classifications that make it easier for viewers to navigate the terrain of the material and, even more importantly, its implications. The goal, or basic concept, of the portrayal should be conveyed in accompaniment with the depiction. It would be great for the media and arts communities to create a dialogue surrounding the issues and implications raised in their presentations of famous cases of suicide. I always appreciate when a film is followed by some sort of discussion - it puts the art/footage into context and it allows observers to share any feelings that the work evoked or any questions they might have regarding the material.

Having an open place to ask questions (and maybe receive some answers, or at least acknowledgement) is ideal. If the media and arts communities create such depictions for a higher purpose - for the purpose of higher learning and not just to "sell" or to cause a stir for the sake of causing a stir, then I think the problems associated with presentations of famous cases of suicide would be negated. Whether or not there is an underlying goal in or purpose of the depiction, the depiction itself will have profound effects. It's best if there is an underlying goal or message attached, but having one overtly or indirectly present does not ensure a specific interpretation of the depiction itself. I can't argue for or against a realistic portrayal of the suicide - some artists might claim that they have chosen to depict suicide in a certain way for artistic or political or majestic or "you name it" purposes. With suicide, I imagine a creative director might decide to romanticize the suicide of a famous artist or writer. The art of suicide is still an art.

Might someone see it and decide to commit suicide because of it? Probably not. If someone is so profoundly moved by a suicide art-piece that she kills herself because of it, then that person is probably already predisposed to dramatizing and romanticizing death and would have looked for another source of inspiration somewhere else. Art is art. Art is a place where all of the things that are too scary for us to face directly are free to be expressed. And I would argue, actually, that artistic depictions of suicide might inspire those who are suicidal in real life to rely on some kind of art form to cope with their own suicidal ideation. It can go either way. Art might push someone over the edge or it might save her from stepping over the edge. It depends on a combination of factors - especially the disposition of the observer and the specific portrayal of the suicide.

I cannot help but think of Stephen Daldry's "The Hours," in which the character of Virginia Woolf commits suicide by drowning herself. I can say that the film achieved its goal in rendering beautiful and romantic the death of Woolf. In fact, I love watching the suicide scene. It's like porn for me. I love watching the whole movie, but the suicide is inextricably tied into the mental chaos -and the hours- of every other story within a story that is present in the film. The suicide scene is short and simple, actually. It's a provincial suicide. Woolf dresses to leave the house, her movements are determined and impulsive and hurried. The director set the linear and brisk energy of the action against the labored and complex, distraught bewildered and dark last-letter Woolf wrote to her husband. It's a stream of consciousness film and I'm a stream of consciousness woman. We go together like a stream of consciousness, and we long to attach ourselves to rocks in order to dive into "the stream" of consciousness within ourselves (or into the psyche of world, the core of consciousness). The film is full of movement and inner chaos. Time moves, like psychological matter or matter in the universe of unknowns. It never stops moving.

Some characters are trapped by what they have built around themselves. Others cannot stop moving in any direction. Both the ones who are stuck in immobility and the ones who are moving in chaos are part of the internal movement, the internal rapid momentum in Virginia Woolf''s consciousness. The rocks in Woolf's pocket are reminiscent of the weight of her emotional and psychological existence. Philip Glass' soundtrack is perfectly suited for the film, with its endless momentum that cycles and repeats and only breaks into silence for the briefest of moments. The whole of the ART piece is as beautiful and tragic as are the lines in Michael Cunningham's novel and as are the brilliant and astounding lines of Virginia Woolf herself (of her characters, of her places, of her depth, of her perspective, of her mind - and in the momentum and serendipitous chaos of all of those things).

The desperation, intensity and darkness enshrouding Virginia Woolf comes across powerfully in the film. I feel that the art of the film, as a whole, evokes the mental and emotional inner life of Virginia Woolf oh-so-well. Or, oh-so-unwell. Oh so streamingly. Does it make me want to commit suicide? Nah. Does it make me want to walk into a river and feel myself as part of the river? Yah, yah, yah. Does it make me want to feel more of what Virginia Woolf felt? No, because I already feel enough, on my own, of what Virginia Woolf felt to know which parts I am willing to include in my life and which parts are incompatible with...living. I very much relate to Virginia Woolf and I feel a sense of my own otherness profoundly, although I have no aching desire to leave this world in order to become one with it. I want to LIVE as she (the "she" in the film) died, not to DIE as she died. I want to enter "the stream" and to survive it.

To censor or try to shape the depiction of her suicide in that film, in ANY way, in order to protect suicidal individuals from committing suicide would be, to me, an abomination. So I suppose, while my earlier points might be valid in some instances, I will contradict a few of my early statements to say that I think art is art and should be as FREE as possible. Free to be true, free to be untrue, free to be preposterous, free to be terribly disturbing. Art is for the free - for the ideal of freedom. It is for the realists and the idealists and the surrealists alike. As for the NEWS media, they should be held to different standards - and accuracy and fairness (as well as a dash of sensitivity) should be the name of the journalistic game. If the news media addresses famous cases of suicide on the ethics of accuracy and fairness (or at least with the intention of those ethics), then they don't have to worry about taking special precautions or actions.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Clinical Psychology Graduate School Application : A Personal Statement

FYI, Folkies: "All Rights Reserved" (...whatever the hell that means)

Jessica Mason McFadden
Graduate Program in Clinical Psychology WIU
Personal Statement

It’s a very interesting idea – that there is something we are supposed to do or someone we are supposed to be. That each of us has a destiny. How do you imagine yourself as a baby? Maybe you were a baby in a Police uniform, directing traffic and blowing your whistle from a polka dot blanket on the grass? Maybe you were sitting on a swivel chair behind your grandfather’s desk, wearing a black robe, wielding a mallet and yelling, with drool running down your chin, “Order in the court, order in the court!” I was sitting across from my parents at a kitchen table the color of canned peas, asking them to please stop interrupting each other so that each of them could listen to what the other had to say. I was in the metal highchair, jotting words like “fixated” and “anal-retentive” onto a legal pad with one pudgy little hand and holding up an inkblot in the other. If I was a Baby of Predestination, that would have been me. Stereotypes and destinations aside, sometimes it seems that some of us are well suited from a very young age to do certain types of work in the world. Whether or not there is such a thing as pre-destination, sometimes it seems, to me, that I have been heading down the path of Clinical Psychology my whole life. An interest in Psychology has been a central part of my life for a long as I can remember. Often, I think I came into the world determined to uncover “truth,” discover knowledge, analyze behavior and articulate every element of those processes. I’ve been relentless in my pursuit, even when what I’ve uncovered and discovered has altered my course.
As a young child, I was determined to control and solve my parents’ interpersonal problems. Though I did not have a framework in which I could contextualize my inclinations and behaviors, I was aware of my inquisitive nature. During fights between my parents, I would search their underwear drawers for letters written between them, letters that provided me with more knowledge about the situation as well as an illusion of control over the drama that was playing itself out irrespective of the emotional and psychological effects it was having on me. I played the roles of both case manager and unwanted intruder in the lives of my parents. I did not believe that they were capable of managing their own behavior without outside assistance; and since outside assistance was not utilized, I took on the responsibility of providing it myself. Of course I was a child without information and resources, and so it was an impossible task. But, over time, it wasn’t such an impossible task. Over time, I was able to find some of the answers I so desperately sought. Ironically, it was the process of finding answers that led me away from my original plan to control my parents.
My parents’ marital discord was what inspired me to gather as much information as possible in order to try to present an argument against their behaviors using all of the information that I had gathered. When they fought, I went into high-awareness mode. I took out the notebook in my mind and began writing into it everything I perceived in their words and actions. If my mother called my father a name or my father made a sarcastic remark in response to my mother’s insecure emotionality, I could sense immediately that the way in which they were interacting was misguided and antithetical to the things that each of them purportedly wanted (to engage in mutual love and respect). I knew instinctively the futility of name-calling as well as the punishing and insensitive nature of sarcasm. Unfortunately, I was too young to put it into an intellectual or practical context. Without having any educational background or support, what I was able to do was to try to dismantle the system in which I was living and educate my parents and myself based on what I was able to discover and figure out on my own. My parents were not, ultimately, receptive to my messages of help and informal counseling. Over the years, they have become more receptive – but, as an adult, I do not go into a counseling interaction with them with any expectation or urgent desire for them to transform their lives. If anything, I accept them as they are now more than ever. I recognize that as I child I did not have the resources necessary to offer help. I also recognize that they may not be capable of looking to me for guidance and knowledge because of their preconceived notions about traditional parent and child roles.
It was not until I had access to outside information that I was able to take the inner knowledge and drive that I possessed as a result of my own experience and apply them to another context. It was through the avenue of education and the study of interpersonal relationships through literature that I was able to take the processes that had already begun in childhood and advance them into productive manifestations. I cannot express how empowering it felt to be able to put what I had learned from my experience and self-awareness into a communicative, interactive and intellectual context. Turning my search for knowledge away from my parents’ relationship was a process fundamental to my educational journey. Doing so opened my eyes to an outward world of various search paths and opportunities for growth. As an undergraduate, I grew intellectually and emotionally through the process of writing. In turn, my writing skills improved as a result of the process of interdisciplinary critical thinking. In other words, my thinking informed my ability to write and my writing informed my ability to think.  One of my best qualities as a student is my willingness to consider nuance and multiple perspectives. When I consider an idea or situation, I am able to identify simultaneously major issues and perspectives as well as less-obvious implications. Based on this, I often write about common topics in an offbeat, or unusual, way. When critically analyzing plots and characters, I often explore the intricate details of each in order to paint a dynamic verbal portrait of the given theme of my critical analysis. I am unable to see things through a narrow scope. In the context of my parents’ fighting, I was able to see and attempt to convey the strengths and weaknesses of each parent’s behavior as well as to consider and attempt to convey the root from which each parent’s behavior stemmed.
In the context of my formal education, I used those qualities to study language, literature, and behavior. While I only completed two Psychology courses during my undergraduate education, Psychology was always informally informing my work in other disciplines. In Musical Theatre, it was informing my understanding of character and plot development; in Women’s Studies, it was informing my understanding of feminist theory (the personal nature of feminist activism and the political nature of narrative); in English, it was informing my ability to understand the interactive relationships between language, literature, history, context, and narrative (especially in regard to outsider and ethnic narrative genres). Likewise, my interest in and knowledge of Theatre, Women’s Studies and English will undoubtedly inform my future graduate education in Psychology. For so long, I have been drawing upon my informal understanding of Psychology. It’s been part of my every day life, present in my adult relationship with my parents, in the themes and style of my poetry, in the personal and political reflections of my creative essays, in my critical analyses of the events of my daily life. I have been practicing the work of human services in varying forms since I was very young. In elementary school, I helped and offered emotional and care-oriented support to my family members and to members of my community circles. In middle school, I participated in service groups and informally helped my loved ones. In high school, I offered constructive support to my minority and bullied classmates while I was experiencing my own personal crisis after having come out of the closet as a lesbian to my ill-prepared family. I supported those who were struggling in informal and formal settings (at home, in the community, at school, in organizations, at church) by listening and offering compassion as a way of helping myself deal with my own struggle to find acceptance at home. In college, I did much of the same; offering compassion and listening as well as acting as a leader and contributing ideas of intellectual merit in and out of the classroom.
Toward the end of my undergraduate career, I joined and assumed a leadership position in Western Illinois University’s campus group, Unity, by leading events such as National Coming Out Day and Awareness Week, as well as by participating in panel discussions on important issues. After graduating and while I was pregnant, I completed eighty hours of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence volunteer training, served as an on-call crisis line volunteer for Western Illinois Regional Council’s Victim Services Program, worked with a group of seniors with dementia at The Elms nursing home, and served as a volunteer for WIU’s Women’s Center, facilitating and planning programs for the University and regional communities. After I gave birth to my first daughter, I began another chapter of my human service experience. I have spent the past four years in the domestic sphere of human service as a stay-at-home mother of two daughters. While doing the difficult work of parenting full-time, I have come to realize a lot about myself. I have, for example, become aware of the many ways that Psychology influences how I think about and articulate my experiences as a stay-at-home mother. It also influences the way in which I articulate and communicate my identity and experience as a young stay-at-home lesbian mother, scholar, creative writer, feminist activist and humanitarian.
The field, or nature, of Psychology has informed my evolving outlook on life; and I believe that obtaining a degree in Clinical Psychology will allow me to, in some way, come full circle into myself and help me along into the next fulfilling segment of my life-journey. I hope for the experience of graduate school to open my mind and further develop my perspective on the past as well as to affect my actions in the present and future. There already exists a pattern in my life of humanism, and a degree in Clinical Psychology is an extension of this pattern. Although I cannot say exactly where the process will lead, I do have some goals in mind for it. I aspire to one-day work with adult women and adult members of the LGBTQIA community in an innovative counseling-based setting. My humanistic outlook will surely guide the types of projects I will complete and work environments in which I will operate. I am open to possibilities, and do not wish to project an end result; however, I do envision myself as someday incorporating my love of literature and writing into my clinical work. For instance, I might work as a counselor in a women’s organization and lead a therapeutic and educational readers’ or writers’ group as one of the ways I contribute to the organization. Or, I might work with women in the custodial system in a similar capacity, using writing and literature as tools to help women help themselves. I am largely of the Liberal Arts and Humanities persuasion, yet I believe it is that very persuasion that lends itself well and can be, if incorporated wisely, an advantage in the study of the Sciences. The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences is one school for a reason – arts and sciences are not adversaries, they compliment one another.
Though I do not know definitively how I want to combine the interests and skills I now possess and will develop during the course of my graduate career, I do know one thing: I know that I will use my work in Clinical Psychology for my overriding goals of promoting humanism and empowering women and other minorities. What I took away from my counseling attempts with my parents was not so much what they gained as how it allowed me to cope, grow and evolve. Whenever I am in a situation with one of them in which I find myself counseling, I carry with me an awareness that I could not have had as a child that the act of counseling itself is not entirely future-oriented. Part of the transformative power of counseling lies in the act itself, in what is discovered and considered in the moment. While I never hope to become a caricature of my childhood self, I do plan to honor who I have been while also embracing the changes throughout my journey of becoming. I don’t believe we ever reach a destination, but I believe embracing who we are at each stage of the journey is a kind of destination unto itself. I believe I am now at a stage in my journey in which I am ready to take my lifelong inclinations and turn them into something different than they have ever been in the past. Studying, being trained in, and becoming proficient in the field of Clinical Psychology seems very much to me like the most natural next step. I do not plan to leave behind the baby in the high chair with the legal pad and inkblots; I am ready to take her with me into the unknown territory of Graduate School, where I hope we will both be welcome.

*I hope to be considered for an assistantship, as I feel it would benefit the goals I have described in this statement. I am very much committed to working hard to fulfill all assistantship requirements. Since being an undergraduate student, I have been a full time stay-at-home parent and have not had a source of income to draw upon for my graduate education. While I am married and supported financially by my partner, I very much hope to initiate an era of independence in my life. Seeking out financial autonomy – through an assistantship and through the career that I expect will follow my graduate education, is a key first step toward that goal.

Mean and Nasty Elementary Teachers : I Found THIS (Old Paper). I had to post it up. Crazy Humanity!

*If you get bored reading this, just skim until you get to the interesting parts - because there are some VERY interesting parts. Mrs. Craig was the scariest teacher I have ever encountered, with the exception of my seventh grade science teacher, Mrs. Kaplan. Please look for "Little Miss. Butterball" and "She tryin' to take my man"...and there are some others. My observation day was un-f-ingbelievable.

Jessica Mason McFadden
EIS 201 Dr. Yuki Hasebe
Field Experience Paper
October 31 2006
Peoria Field Experience: A Structured Analysis of Classroom Observations
Topic 1: Description and Overview of the Learning Environment
            The Peoria Field Experience is an activity created for future educators and aimed at providing students with a direct encounter with diversity in the school system.  Professors and facilitators involved in planning the diversity experience hope that the program will increase students’ awareness and understanding of urban environments, as well as inform students so that they will be able to consider the proverbial strings that are attached to different educational environments.  Being aware of the intricacies of diversity is often a fundamental contributor to the success of educators.  Location informs educators about students’ potential needs, as well as provides educators with opportunities to meet those needs in a supportive environment (where fellow educators and institutions serve as resources).
            Although I am not a student in the Education Department, I recognize, on an instinctual level, the importance of the Peoria Field Experience and others like it.  As an English major, I know that it is likely that I will eventually become be faced with the prospect of becoming a teacher.  So, I am grateful for the opportunity to be introduced to the learning environment, even at what I consider an early stage in the process.  As a group of eight students, we drove to Peoria to observe classes at Irving Primary School.  In the past, Irving has welcomed students from Kindergarten to fourth grade, but just this year, Irving began serving fifth grade students, as well.  I’m sure adding a grade has been chaotic and difficult at times, but staff members seem to be adequately managing the changes.  After speaking with the Principal at Irving, I was escorted across the street into smaller building, where the youngest students reside.  I was placed in a classroom of first graders with an instructor, Mrs. C, who obtained her degree in education from Western Illinois University.
            Aside from introducing herself, the first thing that Mrs. C said to me was that she was not going to allow the students to hug me.  She warned me that they might try to hug me, but that she would stop them because she feared it would get out of hand.  I was disappointed that the students would not be allowed to hug me, and I did not find her reason for not allowing hugs to be convincing.  In retrospect, I think students, and people in general, need to be shown affection, and I do not think fear of chaos is any reason to restrict hugging all together (there is a time for learning and a time for hugging, I suppose, but can we learn anything from hugging?).  Needless to say, I did not have a positive first impression of Mrs. C, but I was certainly willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and her students a fair chance.
            After the debriefing she gave me on hugging, she brought me into the hall where I first encountered her students.  They were lined up, facing forward with their legs crossed against the walls, waiting to use the bathroom—boys on one side, girls on the other.  There were twenty students, ten of whom were identified by their teacher (and by society) as boys and ten of which were girls.  As soon as every student used the bathroom, we returned to the classroom where I was able to observe their primary learning environment.  The classroom, aesthetically speaking, was pleasant.  Mrs. C had a candle burning throughout the day, so the room smelled like apples.  In general, there seemed to be adequate resources in the learning environment.  There were two computers in the room that looked to be about ten years old.  In the center of the room, there were four rectangular tables.  At each table, four students had permanent spots.  There were four math books piled at the center of each table, four name tags glued to each table, and four plastic containers filled with crayons and pencils at each table.  There were colorful bulletin boards, two large dry-erase boards, an overhead projector, four large wooden doors that opened into a closet where students hang their personal belongings, fans, plants, posters with giant letters and numbers, a Velcro calendar, little plastic lawn chairs, storage shelving filled with books, and plenty of antibacterial liquid soap.
            While some of the expensive items seemed old, the paper and plastic items appeared to be new.  I was happy that there were large windows on one side of the room that let in a lot of light, but I was surprised to notice that there wasn’t a reading area.  I imagined a little area of the room might be set aside for activities that allowed students to be out of their seats (for instance, having a reading area with a rug for students to sit on or having a rug to designate a place where students can sing and jump around a little).  The environment seemed restrictive in so far as its lack of space for movement.  I find it somewhat troubling, considering how much young children require breaks and enjoy moving around.  The environment supported student learning for the most part because it was stimulating and colorful, yet at the same time I feel that it did not allow as much room for interpersonal bonding and self-expression.
Topic 2: Description of Physical Development
            As I said earlier, there appeared to be ten boys and ten girls.  They were equally as interested and attentive to me, smiling and, at times, waving to me during the day.  The students appeared to be between six and eight years old (only one or two may have been eight years old, most were in the six-seven range).  They had well-developed motor skills and were physically engaged.  During class, they were eager to use their bodies, often paying more attention in activities in which they were able to use their hands.  During lunch and recess, it was obvious to me that they had gross motor skills.  They were dancing, running, pushing, and hopscotching all over the schoolyard.  In the classroom, they worked on their fine motor skills.  Mrs. C incorporated hand and finger movements into her lessons.  They sang songs about the days of the week and months of the year, during which they had hand signals to represent the words in the songs.  They enjoyed any opportunity that they had to use their fine motor skills during the day, and it seemed to me that they had many opportunities to do so during their lessons.  They had one written assignment in which they were asked to write words that the teacher spoke aloud (a dictation), so I was able to see their development of handedness.  There was only one student in the class who was clearly obese.  Most students had a lot of energy, especially during lunch and recess.  Depending on the time of day, students either seemed bored and tired or bored and restless.  Most of the time, they appeared to be restless and easily distracted, tapping their toes, swinging their legs, and looking around the room for distractions.
Topic 3: Description of Cognitive Development
            There were a variety of subjects covered throughout the day, although it seemed that a lot of time was spent preparing for activities (i.e. giving directions, going to and from the bathroom, getting organized, getting dressed, packing up, and cleaning up).  Some of the topics covered in class were spelling, phonetics (word sounds, pronunciation), vocalization, word/object identification or matching, creativity (having to come up with ideas as a group), decision-making (having to decide what they like and articulate their preferences), counting (days of the month and objects), and categorization (counting how many students have black hair, for instance).  Many of the activities that Mrs. C implemented involved vocal, visual, and physical elements.  She was careful to use multiple activities to approach each subject.
            When teaching spelling and grammar, she changed her position in the classroom and the equipment in order to refresh students’ interest in the subject.  First, she worked with the dry-erase board at the front of the room, writing a sentence and having students fill in missing letters and correct mistakes.  For this activity, students had to write their answers in a notebook before they reviewed the answers as a class.  After a bathroom break, they returned to the same subject, but this time Mrs. C moved away from the board and renewed their interest my holding a puppet.  She said part of a word, the lion puppet says the first letter of the word, and then the students jump in and put the two pieces together, saying the whole word three times.  The repetition helped students stay involved and the puppet maintained their interest.  Other activities included counting syllables by clapping, listening to a tape and repeating sentences from the recording out loud, listening to Mrs. C say a word and, in response, identifying sounds in the word, and making shapes of letters with their hands as they look at pictures of objects in order to be able to identify consonants and vowels. 
            Students also participated in an artistic activity taught by another teacher, Mrs. Fleming. In the art class, they learned about fire safety and shapes and colors, while also expressing themselves creatively.  Art class required that they exercise physical skills (particularly fine motor skills because they were coloring) and cognitive skills (because they were answering questions about fire safety and reproducing the shapes that the art teacher was drawing on their own pieces of paper).  Drawing a house with fire safety equipment in it required that they make connections between the home environment and school.  It also required that they be able to connect an image in their head with a projected image on the paper (in other words, drawing what they are seeing or imagining).  They were given the opportunity to draw their home as it was and had the freedom to add any additional items to their drawing.
            Throughout the day, I noticed that students had extremely short attention spans.  It’s not that they did not want to learn or had consciously chosen to feel bitter and bored, it is simply that they had difficulty concentrating and were easily distracted.  Their short attention spans require that teachers remain attentive and enthusiastic throughout the day, and, not surprisingly, this is very hard on teachers, often causing stress and creating a hostile environment in schools.  I also noticed some of Piaget’s concepts in my observation.  It was clear to me that the students in Mrs. C’s first grade class were either in Piaget’s Preoperational Stage or between the Preoperational and Concrete stages of development.  During a counting activity, Mrs. C tested her students’ abilities to reason.  She said, “If it is the 28th today and there are 30 days in the month of September, how many days are there until we get to 30?”  Students called out a variety of answers.  A couple of students claimed that the number of days was two, but when she handed each of the students a pointer and asked them to come up to the board in order to explain their answer, the students grew confused and were unable to explain their reasoning.  One student held the pointer up to the number two on the board as her explanation.  Another student pointed to the number 28 but could not go any further in his explanation.  Mrs. C seemed frustrated that the students were having difficulty explaining their answers, but according to Piaget’s theory, children do not have the ability to reason at this young age.
            Even when students attempted to provide reasons for their answers, it was obvious that they were only capable of using transductive reasoning.  Not only was their difficulty with reasoning apparent to me, but I was also aware of an egocentric quality in their behavior.  Some students showed evidence of departing from egocentrism when they expressed concern for others’ feelings and needs, but most were preoccupied with their own perspectives.  They wanted to share things about themselves with me, and they were not able to consider how I would react.  An example of this egocentrism is that students were eager to grab onto my hand and hug me.  They did not consider my feelings beforehand, they simply acted upon their impulsive desire to hold my hand and hug me.  According to Piaget and in my own opinion, the egocentrism and difficulty reasoning that they displayed is typical of this age.  Many are in a period of transitioning from preoperational to concrete reasoning.
Topic 4: Description of Social and Moral Development
            The primary interactions that I observed were teacher-student oriented.  Mrs. C often addressed the students collectively, but she also called on individual students for answers and confronted individual students to address behavioral issues.  I did not feel that Mrs. C successfully connected with her students.  I was not under the impression that she was interested in helping them grow or engaging with them as individuals.  I will say it plainly: In my opinion, Mrs. C simply had a bad attitude and terrible temper, and I feel sorry for any child who enters her classroom.  The first interaction between Mrs. C and her students that I witnessed occurred in the hallway, as they were lined up, waiting to go to the bathroom— silent, legs crossed, faced forward, “gentlemen” on the left and “ladies” on the right.  Although I did not see what caused the altercation between Mrs. C and one of her students, I saw the manner in which she handled the situation.  The tone that she took with the child conveyed annoyance, hostility, disgust, sarcasm, and rage.  It would break any person’s spirit—child or adult, and this is the tone that she used in interactions with students throughout most of the day.  What made it even worse was that Mrs. C targeted the student throughout the rest of the day rather than giving her some space.  I realize that Mrs. C may find this student’s behavior to be problematic on a regular basis (when I am not there), but frustration is no excuse for being emotionally abusive.  I observed Mrs. C nag and intimidate the student multiple times.  Even in the case that the student was out of control, she should implement discipline in a manner that is mature, collected, and instructive rather than explosive and mean-spirited.
            Mrs. C expressed hostility and irritability throughout most of the day.  She seemed extremely unhappy with the all of her students (which sends her students the message that something is wrong with them), but abusively targeted students who were distracted or disruptive.  At times, she encouraged and thanked students for their participation, but spoke in a tone of voice that conveyed annoyance.  Mrs. C did not encourage informal or unstructured play and friendly social interaction, yet she encouraged formal social interactions in the form of team work.  She encouraged students to work together in groups to brainstorm ideas for a future in-class activity and made efforts to compliment them as they announced their ideas to the class.  Students, for the most part, wanted to be liked by Mrs. C (despite her harsh personality).  Most students were very enthusiastic about class activities, frequently raising their hands and volunteering answers.  Although she might be a bit of a bully herself, Mrs. C did not tolerate bullying in her classroom.  She set clear boundaries for students, especially boundaries related to respect.  She did not allow one student to interrupt another, and at one point, addressed a disruptive student by saying, “When we’re talking, we’re talking as a team.”  I think she set a good example and positively influenced her students when she said this because she included the student she was responded to rather than singling her out.
            I observed two types of student-student interactions, the first of which occurred in the classroom under the supervision of the instructor and the second of which occurred outside of the classroom with distant adult supervision.  The supervised student-student interactions that I observed were peaceful and pleasant.  The students were not allowed to talk to one another throughout most of the class.  When they were lined up to use the bathroom, they were expected to be silent, but I observed a lot of nonverbal communication between students.  They frequently made eye contact with and smiled at one another, but the girls tended to interact with the girls and the boys tended to interact with the boys.  This did not surprise me, considering they were separated into groups based on gender so often.  The students were curious about each other, but the most common way they expressed this was through staring.
            When they were allowed to work together in small groups, the students were primarily interested in their own ideas.  One student showed social support for one of his peers when he noticed that she had her head down and was frowning.  As soon as the groups were permitted to work on their own, he directly said to her, “What’s wrong, Sole? Don’t be sad.”  I was touched and impressed by this gesture.  He was clearly showing empathy by reaching out to his classmate, and his empathy is evidence that he is moving from Piaget’s Preoperational Stage to the Concrete Operational Stage.  The student was departing from egocentrism by communicating with his friend out of concern for her well-being.  At least for a moment, he was not preoccupied with his own thoughts and feelings.
            There was, however, also evidence of egocentrism in the student-student interactions.  I was particularly aware of this in the unsupervised student-student interactions.  For instance, when I sat with students in the cafeteria and began to eat pretzels, they immediately began asking for pretzels.  In fact, they all wanted pretzels.  Once one person asked for a pretzel, they all began asking for pretzels.  They were not thinking about me or the fact that I was losing out on my lunch, nor were they thinking about each other.  They simply wanted to have what I had and what their peers had.  I admit, though, that I did not know how to react to their pleas.  Instinctually, I wanted to give them all of my pretzels, but I knew that doing so would be frowned upon.  Once I gave one a pretzel, I realized that I had made a mistake because I would not be able to fairly put up a boundary.  If I could do it over, I would either eat what they had to eat, bring enough food for everyone, or eat at a later time.
            The unsupervised interactions between students were interesting and entertaining, as well.  During recess, the students gathered around me.  I was surprised and concerned to notice that there was only one adult in charge of more than forty children.  Two students injured themselves during recess, both running to me for help.  I felt needed, but I was primarily concerned because they did not have a trusted adult upon which they could rely.  Some of the students were clinging to me immediately when I entered the play yard.  It was as if they felt that the playground was their territory, so they felt comfortable approaching me and making demands of me.  Some of the girls held onto my hands.  They boys were more hesitant about approaching me, but one boy came up and hugged me.  None of the children thought to ask me if it was alright if they held my hand, they simply grabbed on or wrapped their arms around me.  This is evidence of their egocentrism—they wanted to hug me, so they hugged me.
            I was very surprised to notice a drastic difference in the behavior of one student as she transitioned from a supervised to an unsupervised environment.  In class, this student was polite, enthusiastic, helpful, and intelligent.  In the schoolyard, however, I noticed that she was impolite, forceful, and hostile.  She ran up to me and hid behind me, grabbing hold of my hand.  When I asked her what was upsetting her, she responded in a way that shocked me.  She said, “That’s my man. She tryin’ to take my man,” pointing at a classmate.  The classmate responded, “She always cussing,” which upset the student even more.  She immediately let go of my hand and pushed her classmate, yelling, “What you sayin’, girl?”  I had to break up a fight between two first graders over a jealousy issue related to possessing a “man.”
            Obviously, the angry student was mimicking a behavior that she had observed.  While the scenario was entertaining, I should also note that this student was bullying her classmate by attacking her physically when she felt threatened.  The student did not understand fully the message that she expressed to me; she learned it from another source and repeated it.  Her statement implied that she had sincere, possessive or romantic feelings toward a male student, but it was obvious that a romantic relationship did not exist between the two.  The peer relationships did strike me, at times, as unusual.  The same student who was trying to keep “her man,” later became defensive with another student.  When Mrs. C left the room for a moment, I overheard part of a conversation between this student and a male student.  The male student called to me, saying, “Can you tell her to be quiet?”  Before I could respond, the girl quickly responded in her own defense.  She said, “I have one mama, and you ain’t her.”  Her response struck me as comical and unusual, and again I assumed that it indicated that she was a clever impersonator and talented performer.  Frankly, I did not know what to make of it.  While a few students acted as though they were at an advanced level in their social and moral development (through mimicry), most students showed characteristics that are typical of their age.
Topic 5: Description of Personal and Emotional Development
            During the field experience, I observed a range of emotions expressed by students—some of the emotions I observed were boredom, sadness, neediness, excitement, fear, anger, disappointment, interest, and happiness.  I was impressed by the number of students who wanted my attention and yearned for my positive regard and compassion.  In general, students were proud of their work in class and in need of a lot of encouragement.  During art class, one student held up his picture, hoping that I would compliment his work.  As soon as I expressed my admiration for his drawing, he smiled with pride and went back to work with confidence.  He then began repeating the behavior, showing me his work and looking for my approval every few minutes.  When other students heard me complimenting his work, they began holding up their drawings in the hopes that I would praise them for their work.  Students were smiling at me all day long.  By smiling back at them, I was letting them know that I approve of and accept them.  One student who had been disciplined sat with her head down throughout the first half of the day.  She was showing signs of low adaptability because she resisted new activities and tended to be particularly resistant during transitions between activities.  I felt bad for the student because Mrs. C picked on her even though she knew that the student was upset.  When the student looked over at me, I smiled at her in an effort to convey encouragement, compassion, and acceptance.  She immediately cheered up, and continued looking over at me every so often to share smiles.  I was not trying to make Mrs. C out to be the witch (that she is), I simply wanted the student to feel a bit less alone and misunderstood.  I know that teachers can be insensitive (they’re human) because I was once a student.  Growing up can be very difficult, so kids (and adults) need as much love, acceptance, and support as possible.
            While offering a smile was helpful in some circumstances, other circumstances required specialized attention and care.  One student became disruptive during art class.  He was talking when the teacher, Mrs. Fleming, was speaking to the class.  She asked that he move seats so that he and the student he was sitting with would not be tempted to talk with one another.  He immediately became hostile over having to move.  He sat in a new seat, but growled and stomped.  After a few minutes of trying to work with the student, Mrs. Fleming moved him to the corner of the room, explaining to him that he was moved because he was disrupting the class and suggesting that he cool off so that he could join the other students.  He then became even more disruptive, growling, showing his teeth, and moving his chair around.  It was clear to me that he was seriously disturbed.  He was extremely hostile and demanded a great deal of attention in his outward expression of that hostility (he was not able to contain his anger).  He became so disruptive that he had to leave the classroom with an aide.  When he returned, he sat down at a table and began crying.  Mrs. Fleming comforted him by having him be her helper.  He walked around the room whimpering as he helped her with a special task.  His anger subsided and the hurt that was behind it surfaced.  It was obvious that the student was experiencing emotional problems, although the emotional issues were not clear to me.  The student showed high emotional intensity in his dramatic displays of anger.  I am not convinced that his behavior reflected his basic temperament because I was only with him for a short time.  He appeared to have some difficulty controlling his impulses, but he did not attack Mrs. Fleming or the students.  He stayed in his chair and growled.  By staying in his chair, he was at least showing some ability to control his impulses.
Topic 6: Description of Classroom Management, Motivation, and Self-Regulation
            There is no doubt in my mind that Mrs. C used an authoritarian style in her management of the classroom.  Her approach involved low acceptance and high control.  At times, she was extremely rigid and at other times she was indifferent and patronizing.  Mrs. C motivated her students through punishment, as well as verbal and nonverbal communication.  She led activities and expressed her disapproval mainly through inflection, volume (sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting), gestures, and repetition.  She constantly reminded them of the rules, but she did so in a harsh manner.  Each time the students entered the classroom (before they even had a chance to behave appropriately or act up), Mrs. C immediately began criticizing and speaking to them in a disapproving manner.  She was also overly controlling in her approach, impersonally trying to silence them by saying, “You are not talking because you are quietly thinking” and militantly declaring to the students phrases such as “You will be quiet.”
            After lunch and recess the students had to jump into reading time without a transitional activity to calm them down.  Mrs. C gave a very dramatic reading of the story, but her underlying bitterness soured the experience (at least for me).  She went into the activity with a grudge from the previous day.  As an adult, Mrs. C should have given them a fresh chance since it was a new day, but instead she started out by resentfully saying, “I don’t even remember what we were reading because I was interrupted so many times yesterday.”  She should have acted like a mature adult and let go of the grudge, but she didn’t.  During reading time, all of the students had to have their heads on the desks.  I thought this was unnecessary and cruel.  During a counting activity, she asked students to volunteer answers.  The students struggled with coming up with answers.  When one student volunteered an answer, Mrs. C asked how she came up with that answer.  The student did not know how to explain how she came up with the answer, so she informed Mrs. C that she had guessed.  Mrs. C responded by telling the student that “we do not guess in our classroom.”  She said, “I don’t want you to guess, I want you to know.”  I was truly shocked by this statement.  The student was making an effort to answer the question and Mrs. C should not have discouraged her from making an effort.  She should know that students at this age have a limited ability to logically reason.
            When dealing with individual students, Mrs. C could be particularly cruel.  She called on a student who was not paying attention.  He continued to ignore her when she told him to turn around and face forward.  Her response to his resistance was to say, “You’re going to be a very sad person.”  I was shocked by a comment Mrs. C made to a student during an activity which required each student to put a picture on the board.  After the student (who was overweight) put her picture on the board and began walking back to her seat, Mrs. C called her “Little Miss Butterball.”  I do not know if the comment phased the little girl, but I could not understand why Mrs. C would ever call her this.  It seemed very strange to me.  And if she was commenting on the student’s physical appearance (which I believe she was), then it was inappropriate and cruel.  Then, later during the same activity, another student was playing with his crayon box.  She stomped over to him and screamed, “You are getting on my nerves. Stop it,” and then she took the box from him and slammed it down on the desk in front of him.  This clearly was an ineffective, childish tantrum she was having in response to the student’s behavior.  I think all of the examples that I have described indicate that Mrs. C’s management style had a negative impact on her students.  I would be horrified to find out that my child was receiving an overwhelming amount of negative and abusive attention at school.  Mrs. C motivated her students through punishment.  She punished them relentlessly and gratuitously throughout the day.  She also distanced herself from her students—and even worse, lacked compassion and did not show any sincere interest in them.
            Toward the end of the day, students who had behaved appropriately throughout the week were allowed to watch a movie.  Those who had misbehaved had to stay in the room with their heads down on their desks for thirty minutes.  This practice seemed old-fashioned and extreme.  During the silent time, the unlucky students smiled at and whispered to each other.  A couple of the students fell asleep because they were so bored.  During this time, Mrs. C ate pizza and entered grades into her computer.  She screamed, “Put your head down and be quiet,” at any student who began to fidget or whisper.  Only moments after screaming at a student, she let out a huge, loud burp (caused by the soda she was drinking).  She paused as though she was not going to acknowledge the burp and then yelled, “Excuse me,” to my awkward dismay.
            There is one additional example of the authoritarian management style that I witnessed at Irving Primary School.  One of Mrs. C’s students was punished for coming into school late.  John came in a couple of hours late and I did not observe anyone taking issue with his tardiness until he acted up later in the day.  While waiting to use the bathroom, he did not sit up straight and face forward.  Mrs. C yelled at him and told him to come over to the table at which she was sitting.  When he came over, she began scolding him for misbehaving.  Another teacher, who noticed that John was being scolded, joined in.  She got in his face and said, “Who do you think you are? What’s wrong with you that you think you can come to class late?”  There were a few things that disturbed me about this interaction.  First of all, Mrs. C was overreacting by screaming at him.  On top of this, another teacher jumped in and began tearing apart his character without really knowing what was going on.  What I think is most disturbing about this interaction, though, is that the teacher was blaming John for his lateness.  He is not an adult, so he should not be held accountable for adult issues.  It should be obvious to his instructors that he is a child who does not drive himself to school.  He is not in control of whether or not he arrives at school on time.  It is his parents’ responsibility to get him to school on time, and so the instructors should be addressing the issue with his parents.  It is not fair for them to blame him; they should never have put the burden on him.
Topic 7: Reflection and Professional Growth
            My perceptions of children have not drastically changed because of this experience, however, my firsthand experience with first grade students has allowed me to consider the ways in which I interact with children, as well as to explore my feelings for children and adults.  I learned about the degree to which children are able to remain focused on a given task.  The experience reinforced some of my preexisting beliefs—that children are enthusiastic, that they respond well to positive reinforcement, that they need a balance between personal space and guidance, that there are limits to what they can comprehend, and that they ultimately want to be cared for and loved.  I have also, unfortunately, learned that the authoritarian style of management is more common than I had previously thought.  Problems in the classroom and in society continue, in part, because we do not ensure that teachers are prepared to effectively guide and support students.  Mrs. C may just be an angry person, but her anger is having a negative impact on her students.  It should not be this way.  If Mrs. C is going to be angry all the time, then she should not be a teacher.  Students will not benefit from her presence in their lives.  I don’t know enough about Mrs. C to fully understand her approach, but I have seen enough to know that I would not want to be a child in her classroom nor would I want her to have an impact on my child.  Sadly, her approach is all too common.  Even in my classes, I hear students support this authoritarian approach to parenting and teaching.  It is widely accepted, and I find this deeply disturbing.
            I have not decided whether or not I will pursue a teaching career.  It’s hard for me to determine how this experience might inform my future in teaching because I would never adopt an authoritarian approach to teaching regardless of whether or not I had witnessed Mrs. C’s approach.  I do feel, though, that this experience has strengthened my thoughts and feelings about parenting styles.  I will be very careful about who I allow to be in the presence of my children and I will continue to speak out about abusive behaviors like the ones that I witnessed at Irving Primary.  This experience was enlightening because I was able to witness a disturbing reality.  The discussions and lectures that we have had in EIS 201 helped me to write this paper by forcing me to articulate some of my experiences, but I feel that I would have been able to analyze my experience on my own and in my own way just as easily.  I feel that I would have been better able to make the most of this experience by not having to follow such a rigid set of guidelines in my analysis, by being able to create a unique account of the experience.  Given that I had to follow each of the guidelines, I was able to use concepts that we spoke about in class—particularly relating to parenting and management styles.  Aside from having to follow unreasonably detailed and inflexible guidelines, I gained a lot from this experience.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Talking about Sex: School Lawsuits and Taboos: The Manner of NOW: An Abnormal Psychology

Most of us are uncomfortable talking openly about sex. We have been socialized that this is a private and personal issue. In fact, in some states, lawsuits toward schools are being filed regarding the sexual subject material being taught. What does this taboo approach do for the recognition of sexual disorders? How does this affect treatment?

First I should say that I am not one of the majority when it comes to talking about sex; I am not uncomfortable talking about sex openly (except, maybe, in the presence of my grandmother, whose discomfort would cause me discomfort). I love talking (and even more: writing) about topics that are taboo. I'm sometimes surprised that taboos still exist, but they do. Imagine what forms taboos will take on over the next one hundred years. Do you think taboos will still exist or do you think they will become extinct and that, instead, human behavior will become more fluid (or return to a more primitive form)? I think patterns occur again and again across time - issues resurface at different times and in different ways. Sometimes I think (!) that everything I think and say has been thought and said before. What makes it important and interesting is the fact that I am saying it now - it is occurring NOW and with the people of NOW and in the manner of NOW.

A friend of mine recently shared this quote by W.H. Auden: "Some writers (insert 'people') confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about." Really, there is nothing original in the subject of sex. The act of sex is very authentic and doesn't require originality. Sex is the cause of birth - it's what drives life. It's been here as long as humans have been here (wherever "here" is). How can the most natural and essential thing in/to human life be uncomfortable? It's the brain and language and knowledge that make it so. It is Sexual Discourse that creates, pathologizes, and sometimes demonizes sexuality. And, yes, oddly most people are uncomfortable talking about themselves (about sex: the root of their creation and their inner drive toward energy/life/and creation).

I tried to have a conversation about sex once with my parents. I was nineteen at the time. They seemed to be feeling "open" so I seized the moment, at the kitchen table, and began asking them lots and lots of questions about their sex lives. I ended up writing about it in a paper for my one of my Women's Studies classes (Sexuality and Orientation) at the University at Buffalo. In the paper, I wrote about the specifics of their struggles, joys and discomforts with their sexual lives and the expressions of their erotic beings. I won't write about that here, now; but the conversation that we had (which was exceptionally candid) really highlighted to me the issues that arise out of our psychological conceptions of and emotional relationships with sex. We were committing a social transgression just by virtue of having the conversation - a candid and graphic conversation between a daughter and her parents about sex (specifically about the sex lives of the parents) is not commonplace and certainly deviates from the prescribed norms for parent:offspring/daughter interactions in Western culture (as far as I know, at least).

There are certainly less candid and more sensitive ways of approaching human sexuality that do not involve or require the graphic self-disclosure that is inherent in the structure of the Mason Family/Commune. Schools have to contend with divergent cultural, religious and philosophical attitudes toward the subject of sex. The limits and strictures upheld in the post-secondary academic treatment of human sexuality are there to draw boundaries between the public and private sector (between what is learned in school and what is taught at home) as well as to establish barriers between adults/teachers and students. Most of all, the boundaries are a form of self-protective red tape: they are in place to protect the institution from the potential disapproval and subsequent retribution of the parent body if it feels threatened in some way by the agenda or content. The threat of a lawsuit is a powerful motivator - sometimes it benefits the academic program to have such a threat of consequence in place but it also often places needless and arbitrary constraints on the program itself as well as the course of the program.

Societal discomfort with human sexuality extends through the institutions and systems of academia - and, subsequently, through the field of psychology in its understanding and treatment of sexual disorders. If sexuality itself (in all its overt expressions as well as in its nuances) is taboo, then sexual disorders will be even more taboo - will assume a position far into the margins of attitudes of discomfort. Putting limits on our understanding and acceptance of sexuality only further limits our ability to understand, accept and sometimes treat sexual disorders. Treatment is hindered by an environment of censorship and denial. I think the focus, under societal pressures to deny sexuality and its range of normal and abnormal behaviors, will be taken off of the individual and placed on society. In other words, the focus of the treatment of sexual disorders won't be the treatment of the sexual disorders themselves; instead the focus will be on taking the discomfort away from the fearful and ignorant majority (a majority that may never be able to understand itself unless it faces its own fears).

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Get Tough on Crime" Departments of Corrections Treatment Programs: Disempowering the Dark : An Abnormal Psychology

As part of the “get tough on crime” trend, many state departments of corrections have abolished treatment programs for pedophiles. These treatment programs typically consisted of intensive behavioral modification. What do you think about the failure of prisons to provide treatment for these offenders? What are the ramifications for the offenders and for society upon their release?

I think it's clear, from the chapter and from our societal knowledge and experience, that pedophiles are one of the most stigmatized and maligned populations in the United States. Because of the criminalization of  pedophilia, pedophiles are conceived as criminals just as often as they are conceived as individuals suffering from a mental disorder. Because of the nature of the behavior, people who fall along the continuum of pedophilia are sometimes rendered monsters and aren't afforded the basic humane treatment afforded to people who are suffering from other psychological disorders. I tend to be very skeptical of my own as well as others' conceptions and intellectual treatments of pedophilia because it is so difficult to consider pedophilia with reason and objectivity. Pedophilia is far out on the edges of acceptable behavior in Western Society. While not so long ago cross-culturally it was acceptable for a man to take a "child" bride, today in the U.S. pedophilia is considered deplorable. People who experience pedophilic desires or commit pedophilic actions are considered deplorable and treated with minimal empathy.

It's easy to understand where this lack of empathy comes from - it is reciprocal. The pedophile lacks empathy for the world (i.e., the powerless) and the world lacks empathy for the pedophile. Pedophiles who act on their desires are choosing instant gratification over the wellbeing of a powerless child (Please note: I am focusing on children under age 16, because in my eyes that age is generally a good place to draw the line between childhood and adolescence - and it affects my definition of pedophilia, as well. I would not consider an adult who has a sexual relationship with a mature 16 year old to be committing a heinous crime nor would I consider such an adult to be a pedophile.) The behaviors exhibited by active pedophiles inherently involve a lack of empathy and impulse control. It's one of the ultimate examples of a perpetrator-victim, predator-prey dynamic. It's a huge abuse of power but is perhaps not so different than other abuses of power by the powerful over the powerless. There are always degrees of power, though we draw distinctions.

As a society, we shun and admonish pedophiles, yet we often fail to recognize that pedophiles are merely humans who fall into the extremes of the continuums of human behavior and human sexual desire. They fall into the extreme ends of the continuums of power abuse, sexual desire, and socially unsanctioned behavior. The best way for us to understand pedophilic behavior is to consider and attempt to understand our own behavior. If we consider our own sexual desires, drives and inclinations as well as our own response to power dynamics in relationships; we will be able to see pedophilia a bit more clearly. If you have ever lied to someone to protect yourself and get your way, then you know a bit about the lying and manipulation of the pedophilic individual. If you have ever held some degree of power over someone else, whether it be a child or an elderly person or a dog or same-age adult, then you know the heightened responsibility of being in that position and you also know that being in power makes it easier (not EASY: easier) to manipulate or use that power to maximize your experience and fulfill your needs.

We're all, to some degree, selfish and desiring of power. All of the qualities that make us self-serving and self-protective are embodied in extreme forms in pedophilic behavior. Pedophilic behavior rawly, blatantly and bluntly displays the human qualities in all of us that we would prefer stayed in the dark. But, when they are caught, pedophiles bring the darkness of human behavior into the light. Naturally, we want to hide that side of ourselves. Eliminating the pedophile seems like the easiest way. It's not, though. The less we aim to understand pedophilic behavior, the less we will learn and know about pedophiles and ourselves - and the less we will be able to face, redirect or dismantle the behaviors that result from pedophilia.

Treatment, as it exists now, is not greatly effective in ameliorating the problematic outcomes of pedophilic inclinations - whether the treatment be in or outside of the custodial system. First and foremost, the level of the threat to society (threat to the safety of children) needs to be evaluated in a systematic and standardized way. Because it is challenging and costly business to do so, narrowing down the target category to include only pedophilic activity that falls within certain ranges and criterion will help. The problem with standardization, though, is that is doesn't allow enough room for exceptions to the rules. I suppose the type of risk and the level of the risk is so great that it is better to err on the side of being overly inclusive rather than running the risk of leaving someone out or letting something slip under the radar (because the consequences are so very unacceptable and grave).

Given that we don't have a consummate and effective solution, starting with education is key. The education system is a platform through which children can be taught about the range and types of sexual desire as well as about the consequences for choices and behaviors related to those types of desire. Building a foundation in children by providing them with information, access to information and a safe and open place to discuss ideas as well as their feelings will strengthen their ability to make decisions and respond to a world of possibility as they enter into adulthood. By focusing on the idea that children are adults-in-process, and not some separate and distinct alien sect of humanity, will also help.

If we treat children and adolescents as forming-adults then our focus will be on empowering them with information, practical experience, critical thinking skills and decision-making skills; we will be much better off at the get go. Societal problems, such as pedophilia, will still exist; however they will exist on a smaller scale and within a grander, more educated world-context. A pedophile-in-the-making (or a pedophile-by-nature) will go into adulthood at least having had some training and information to refer to when making decisions so that he will, if he is capable at reasoning at such a level in the face of pure impulsivity, have been made aware of the consequences of his actions. If his impulse is so great that it overrides reason and empathy, then at least he can know what consequences to expect (for HIMSELF - someone he will surely care about) for such actions. He may not understand or care about the repercussions (the damage caused to the potential victim), but he will be able to understand that if he is caught he will face life-altering consequences. I hate to have to include the "if he is caught" element, but that's reality.

Until we start dealing with the realities of pedophilia (and with the multidimensionality spectrum of human sexual desire and behavior) then we will stay where we are at and we will not move forward. I find the behavioral modification techniques used to treat pedophilia (as described in the chapter) to be derived from a belief in the ability in the pedophile to be able to overcome his impulse rather than to manage it. The behavioral treatments -using aversion therapy, for instance- seem idealistic and ultimately unhelpful. There is too much reason and pressure to BE dishonest to trust in the words and intentions of a pedophile (or anyone for that matter). And to assume that the aversion therapy is going to translate to other environments and be long-lasting is foolish and naive.

Behavioral modification would have to be a constant fixture in a pedophile's life in order for it to be effective at ensuring the safety of potential victims. If it were a constant fixture, it wouldn't be an effective procedure- it would be akin to (or another form of) incarceration or monitoring. Prison is a form of punishment. It is the consequence of a behavior. I think other forms of therapy should come before behavioral modification - and I do think therapy should be incorporated into the prison system - as a way of attempting to create a safer world. Though the results of therapeutic treatment are not yet adequate; the promise of treatment is that in time the systems of punishment that are aimed at creating a safer community will incorporate programs whose goals are to create healthier individuals so as to make a healthier and safer community.

And also, to throw one more thing out there: I think it would be humane and reasonable to offer prisoners the OPTION of pairing psychotherapy with chemical castration (which, as I have been informed, can be reversed and is not painful) as an alternative to incarceration. Not an enforced procedure - an option. One that I think makes good sense. If offenders receive no information or help while incarcerated, then they only have the fear of re-incarceration to keep them from acting on their desire again. Fear is a powerful motivator, but, based on my own experience, I do not think it is powerful enough to deter someone from acting on urges so powerful that they overcame reason and empathy in the past (if reason and empathy were present in the individual to begin with...)

I think the best thing that can be done for the problem of pedophilic victimization is to get it out of the darkness and into the light. The monsters hiding in the dark need to be able to come out into the light and show their human faces - when they are safe and unafraid, they will come out and face the world. When the world faces pedophiles in the light of day and in the lightness of their own minds, the world will feel safer and not-so-afraid. The world, in the light (with pedophiles and non-pedophiles alike), will be safer and less scary.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

GRE Scores, for those who want to "rate" me and "rank" me

Quantitative Reasoning Percentile Rank 26% (That means 74% of people who took the GREs in the last three years are ahead of me in quantitative ability/scoring)

Qualitative Reasoning Percentile Rank 86% (That means 14% of people who took the GREs in the last three years are ahead of me in qualitative ability/scoring)

Analytical Writing Percentile Rank 96% (That means 4% of people who took the GREs in the last three years are ahead of me in analytical writing scoring)

The Graduate Record Examinations Revised General Test is no longer scored as it used to be scored, but my wife-partner figured out what my score would have been in the old format. According to her calculations, my combined score (including quantitative and qualitative but not analytical writing) would have been 1,120.

According to the GRE, I am above average in my qualitative skills. I'm in the top four percent in my analytical writing skills (Woo-hoo, I have actually almost managed to master one skill in my lifetime). And I am well below average in my quantitative skills (Hey, doesn't the A in Statistics count for anything?). But I can hear how my mom will describe my results to her friends: "Jessica is in the top 100th percentile!" And it makes me smile.

Jezebel's Rebellion: A Behavioral Assessment Interview with The Father of a High School Lesbian Coming Out of His Closet

For Discussion 4, you will role-play the role of a behavior analyst interviewing a parent whose child is demonstrating behavior problems.
Create 10 questions to include in your interview, and ask a classmate, friend, or family member to role-play the parent. Ask your role-playing partner to create a situation in their mind about their child displaying behavior problems (they get to be creative). Then, ask your 10 questions.

Question 1: I interviewed my father about my teenage self

Question 2: See interview below

Jess: Now that we've talked about some of Jezebel's behaviors, favorable and unfavorable, on the whole, I will just get down to business and begin the behavioral assessment to determine and address the target behavior.

Bill: Ooookaaaay.

Jess: What unfavorable or problematic behaviors is your daughter demonstrating?

Bill: Jezebel is extremely rebellious. You wouldn't believe what we have to put up with. The kid is out of control. She's sixteen and she wants to be thirty.

Jess: Mr. Bill, I ask that you try to focus on specific problematic behaviors that Jezebel is demonstrating rather than making global statements in assessment of her behavior.

Bill: No problem, Ms. Jess. She blasts angry rocker chick music at all hours of the night, jumps on her bed, opens her window and sings half-naked for all the neighbors to see, and worst of all - the other day she took apart her whole room and drew all over her walls with permanent marker. Oh, and she carved into the door once. Outrageous, weird stuff.

Jess: How did you respond to the incident involving the writing on the walls?

Bill: Oh, I don't know, I only went in to look once. She's in there all the time so I avoid going in. We're talking about my teenage daughter. It's a little awkward. For a father to go into his teenage daughter's bedroom.

Jess: But you did go in, at least once.

Bill: Yes, after her mother told me to go see what she had done. When I went in, I saw poetry all over the wall. That, and faces of women. Women wearing glasses and crying tears of blood. Something like that. She wrote words like, "Dyke" and "Queer" and "Lesbian" and "Homo" all over one wall and then the women on the other. She covered her entire face with red and black marker.

Jess: When did the incident occur?

Bill: I'm not sure exactly. Let's see. I'm pretty sure it happened after she had a fight with her mother.

Jess: What were they fighting about?

Bill: Probably her sexuality. Yeah, that's right. Jezebel recently came out as a lesbian and her mother isn't handling it well.

Jess: Do you remember anything specific about what events might have precipitated the event?

Bill: They started fighting downstairs about the fact that Jezebel didn't want to do a summer internship with a local theater. Somehow that turned into a nasty fight about her sexuality. Her mother got very angry, which she has been doing lately, and began calling her names, saying awful things to her and threatening to send Jezebel away to a religious summer camp. But I was in the other room and wasn't paying much attention. I just heard the general gist of what was happening. And then I heard my wife scream at Jezebel to get out of her sight. Jezebel ran upstairs crying, and then the music started blasting. That was the last I heard. I went to work and left her with her mother, and when I came home she was walking down the street with a book bag and stuff all over her face and legs and arms. She was creating a spectacle. When I walked in the house Sue, my wife, was crying and told me she made Jezebel leave the house. She told me to go look in her room, and that's when I saw what she had done. I mean, the room was trashed. There were words everywhere. Even along the baseboards. She ruined my windows with her love poetry!

Jess: Was anyone present when Jezebel drew all over her walls?

Bill: Her mother was home, but Jezebel was alone. I'm sure she was escaping. It was an act of rebellion.

Jess: Has she committed any similar acts of rebellion in the past?

Bill: Yes. Not this bad. Except for the carving in the door. Mostly she just wears weird clothes to school. I know it's just to get attention. She's an attention-seeker.

Jess: Sir, can you name any specific behaviors similar to the incident of drawing on the walls that have occurred in the past?

Bill: Once she had a piano teacher that she thought treated her unfairly. During her brother's piano lesson, she put on a tutu and pretended to row herself in a boat through the room. I think it was to make the piano teacher feel uncomfortable. She's always wanting to make people uncomfortable. I don't know. Maybe it was to make light of the situation. She was an uptight woman.

Jess: Anything else?

Bill: I guess it's hard to say. Sometimes it seems like it's just her art. Like when she wears costumes to school. She is theatrical. She performs in plays. But then, when things are bad with her mother at home, she seems to respond to the turmoil by doing some kind of theatrical stunt. Mostly just singing aloud in her room. In front of her windows. I can only imagine what our neighbors see. After she fights with her mother, she dances on the lawn. She sings and dances down our street. It's bizarre.

Jess: So you would say it's the fighting with your wife that triggers the singing and dancing, just like the fighting triggered the wall-incident?

Bill: Well, no. I don't know. She sings and dances regardless of whether or not there is a fight. She's been singing and dancing since she was four years old. I don't think there is a connection, actually.

Jess: Do you find the theatrical acts problematic?

Bill: No, only when she destroys my property!

Jess: Has she ever destroyed your property before?

Bill: Not like that.

Jess: Was there something about the fight she had with your wife on the day off the wall-writing that was unusual or distinct from other fights?

Bill: It was a pretty bad fight. Her mother was doing a lot of threatening. Threatening to take away this and that. Threatening to send her here or there.

Jess: What was Jezebel doing during the altercation?

Bill: Crying and screaming about how horrible her mother is. I wasn't paying enough attention, I was paying bills.

Jess: Any other events that might have led to it?

Bill: Well, Jezebel went on summer break just a couple of weeks earlier. I figure having them be home with one another all the time made things worse. Jezebel usually stays pretty busy when she is in school with clubs and plays and things. Her mother likes her to be busy. It's good for all of us when she's busy. When they are not alone together.

Jess: So she stopped being busy at the start of summer?

Bill: Yeah. They have been spending too much time in the same house. Jezebel doesn't see her friends too often. She spends a lot of time on the computer doing who-knows-what.

Jess: Do you recall if she was on the computer when the fight began?

Bill: Actually I think she was. That annoys her mother.

Jess: What else was she doing in the days that preceded the event?

Bill: Staying up really late, I mean 'til two or three am - on the computer and doing whatever she does in her room. Sleeping in until eleven or twelve. Working for us, packaging nuts and bolts. Sitting out on the porch, writing in her journals.

Jess: On the day of the event, what was your wife doing?

Bill: She was in an angry mood. She was just about to start her period. As a matter of fact, she tends to target Jezebel more around that time of the month.

Jess: What were you doing prior to the event?

Bill: Just working. Working a lot. A shipment had come in. Her mother and I had a fight the night before. About what to do with Jezebel.

Jess: Where were your other children?

Bill: They were all out with their friends.

Jess: Who was at home right before the event?

Bill: Just Jezebel and her mother, and me. But I wasn't involved, I was just an observer. Remember, I left right after they fought.

Jess: Do you know if Jezebel was taking any kind of illegal substance at the time of the event?

Bill: No, she doesn't drink or do drugs. She doesn't do any of that normal teenage stuff, she is just weird - stays home alone, dances, sings, performs little obsessive experimental acts.

Jess: Can you describe Jezebel's behavior after the event?

Bill: She seemed to be in another zone, when I saw her dancing down the street. She waved to me and made a funny face when I passed.

Jess: How did you react?

Bill: Well at the time, I laughed. It was funny. Until I saw what she had done to her room.

Jess: What did you do when you saw her room? Did you punish her? If so, how?

Bill: When she got home, I yelled at her. I screamed and told her how she destroyed MY walls, that she was a guest living in MY house and that she was going to have to fix it immediately. I was enraged at first.

Jess: How about your wife?

Bill: She came into the room and screamed at Jezebel, too. At that point, I walked out and went downstairs.

Jess: What did Jezebel do when you both screamed at her?

Bill: She started singing "I am living on an insane planet / Are you the alien or am I the alien / I do not care to live like an alien and I do not care to cohabitate with aliens on an insane planet" over our voices and plugging her ears.

Jess: What events followed all the screaming and singing?

Bill: We left her alone for a while. She listened to music, that's all I know because I could hear it all over the house whenever I was home. She came to me the next day and asked if I would take her to Home Depot to buy some paint. Oh, I forgot to mention that she had been asking me for weeks to paint her room before this happened. Actually, now that I think about it, we had had a fight a day or two prior to the event - she was insisting on painting her room. I said we would get to it, but she wanted to do it RIGHT then and I didn't have time. She wanted to paint her walls purple, but her mother would not let her. Sue thought Jezebel was trying to paint her room a gay color. She thought everything Jezebel was doing was all aimed at being a lesbian. Sue told Jezebel that she wasn't allowed to paint it purple - that she had to pick another color. Jezebel was very angry about it. Resentful. Probably plotting some way to dye her face or her hair purple or get some kind of purple tattoo.

Jess: What happened in the days that followed the event?

Bill: She slept through the days and stayed awake through the nights. Jezebel, I mean. A few days later, I took her to Home Depot and we picked out some paint for her room. She chose a berry-color, kind of a purplish shade of burgundy. I thought it was okay. I helped her paint the room, and she was very happy and pleased that it finally happened. Her mother hated the color at first, and freaked out a little bit, but then she got over it. Jezebel decorated the room with all of her theatrical stuff. It looked good for the most part. Her mother hated it, still, but mostly because Jezebel was hanging pictures of her English teachers and posters of the Indigo Girls on her walls. Sue hung up a few crosses and framed psalms around the room, and Jezebel let them stay so that eased things up between them. For the moment. But Jezebel still wrote on the window trim and put sticker stars on the window in the shape of a moon and did all sorts of crazy things with her room. Putting posters and pictures up all over her walls with tacks and tape. Ruining the walls. I am not happy about all the repair I am going to have to do someday, but I will be glad when she moves out so I can make that room inhabitable again.
Jess: Did she ever repeat the behavior of drawing on the walls again, after the main incident?

Bill: Well, she carved into the door. I don't know if that counts. But she never drew on her walls like that again.

Jess: Have you ever tried to stop this type of behavior in the past?

Bill: Not really. Usually it's not that unacceptable. Not so far-fetched. I also kind of expect the arts stuff from her. And I did feel a little conflicted about punishing her for the walls, because I figured her mom was putting her through a hard time. I mostly reacted that way because I was more mad about the walls and annoyed that I had to do something to fix them than I was about the act itself. I don't really care that much that she writes all over herself. Do whatever you want to your body, Jezebel, but leave my walls alone. And don't walk around the house in your bra. I tell her all the time, but that makes her walk around in her bra more it seems. I just don't get that girl. I worry about her mental state.
Jess: Okay, Mr. Bill, with that I conclude the functional assessment portion of our interaction. Thank you, I will review what I have collected and be in touch.

Bill: Ms. Jess, you enjoy this too much, don't you.

Question 3: See Follow-up Questions below

Jess: Just to verify, do the rebellious behaviors occur often?

Bill: Rebellious behaviors, I don't know. Odd behaviors occur perpetually. Rebellious behaviors occur rarely, once or twice a month during fights with her mother. The wall incident only occurred once.

Jess: Where do the behaviors occur typically?

Bill: In her room, mostly, I suppose. Hmm. No, The odd behaviors occur everywhere. She dances around at restaurants and talks in different accents. The theatrical stuff is constant, at school and at home. Anywhere, really. Doesn't matter where we are. The rebellious behaviors occur at home, in response to her mother and the fighting. The wall incident occurred at home, and as I said: she was alone in her room when she did that.
Jess: What does Jezebel enjoy doing?

Bill: Uhhh. Writing, singing, dancing, acting, reading, being with and thinking about English teachers. She loves music. Female rockers, right now.

Jess: English teachers, eh?

Bill: I know. I've never heard of anything like that. When I was her age, I was getting ready to drop out of school. I hated most of my teachers.
Jess: Mr. Bill, if I may ask, how do you involve yourself in her world, or her interests, if at all?

Bill: I like Melissa Etheridge. I don't mind listening to that. I like some of her music. I go to see her performances and plays at school. Now I don't know about the English teachers, that's not my territory.

Jess: How is Jezebel's general behavior in school?

Bill: She's very committed to school. She's not a straight A student. Ha, ha. Straight -A student. Get it? She's mostly a low A or high B student, but she works really hard and she always has. She spends a lot of time, more time than any of her siblings, on her homework. She's very responsible. She is involved in a lot of service activities at church and at school, and she is in a lot of clubs at school. As far as I know, there aren't any problems at school. Her English teachers love her. She loves them. That's all she thinks about - English teachers. A little odd, but I don't see any harm in it.

Jess: Since school ended, have you noticed any changes in Jezebel's behavior?

Bill: She seems a little more depressed and more defiant. Maybe she misses school. Or her English teachers...

Jess: Are there times when Jezebel behaves in ways that you find acceptable?

Bill: Ah, I don't know. I guess I accept most of her eccentricities. I just don't like it when she's fighting with her mother.

Jess: What do you not like about those moments?

Bill: Mostly I don't like how it affects my relationship with her mother. But Jezebel does rebel more during those times. She won't back down. She has to have her way. She is a fighter, and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. She can be a real monster when she's not getting what she wants.

Jess: What do you mean when you say 'when she's not getting what she wants'?

Bill: She thinks she knows better than we do. When we say no, she argues to no end.

Jess: How do you respond to her arguing?

Bill: We argue back with her.

Jess: And how does she respond?

Bill: She keeps arguing.

Jess: And how do you respond?

Bill: Either we tell her to go to her room or leave the house, or we leave the house. We just can't shut her up - either she has to go away or we have to go away.
Jess: Then what happens?

Bill: Sometimes she gets her way, sometimes she doesn't.

Jess: What happens if she gets her way?

Bill: She's happy.

Jess: What happens if she doesn't get her way?

Bill: She writes about us and stays in her room and sings angry songs and hangs out of her window.
Jess: Have you ever tried to talk to her about her feelings?

Bill: No, we don't need to. She never stops talking about her feelings.

Jess: When she talks about her feelings, how do you respond?

Bill: I argue. Usually I don't listen because I am sick of it. I tune it out.

Jess: When she talks about her feelings, how does your wife respond?

Bill: I don't think she listens either. She just wants Jezebel to stop being a lesbian. That's all she cares about right now. Sometimes she feels sorry for Jezebel though. She thinks Jezebel is a different person now.

Jess: What makes her think that Jezebel is a different person now?

Bill: The way she acts. Being a lesbian. Thinking about English teachers all day. Listening to Melissa Etheridge all night.

Jess: Well, Mrs. Bill. I mean, Mr. Bill. Do you think Jezebel is a different person now than she once was?

Bill: No, she's always been singing in her room. And, come to think of it, she's always been loving older women. I think she's changed very little. It's just a little too weird for me at this point. Angela Lansbury at age five was one thing. English teachers at sixteen is another.

Jess: I think that concludes the follow up questions that I have. Is there anything you would like to ask me, Mr. Bill?

Bill: No, I don't have any questions.

Jess: About Jezebel?

Bill: No, I've seen it all with Jezebel. I think I know enough.

Jess: Okay, Mr. Bill. Good day, then.

Bill: (Mutters:) My daughter's crazy...

Question 4:

Jezebel's response to a stressful fight with her mother (drawing on the walls) is problematic. The situation is very complicated because it is likely that Jezebel is responding to great extent to the aggressive behaviors of her mother and the disengaged behavior of her father. Many of Jezebel's behaviors are actually acceptable. The way in which she is responding to stress is not inherently bad - it's just misdirected. Jezebel seems to be  successfully, productively and healthily, dealing with the stresses in her life through creative art and expression. In the case of the wall-art, she took it too far and broke her parents rules as a form of (civil?) disobedience and rebellion against her parents. If Jezebel had access to more acceptable palates for her artistic and emotional rebellion, then both Jezebel and her parents might be able to all feel satisfied and in agreement.

That being said, there are several problematic behaviors in this situation: the mother's instigation and fighting behavior (with threats), the father's behavior of wavering between engagement and disengagement, the daughter's behaviors in response to stress (the destructive behaviors - such as carving into or drawing on walls), and the parents' response to the daughters response behaviors. For the sake of simplicity, I will define the problem behavior as: breaking the rules of the house by drawing on the walls and altering others' property in such a way that is unacceptable to the owners of the property.

Question 5:

Antecedent: Jezebel's mother is angry and hears loud rock music coming from Jezebel's room. Jezebel's mother cannot stand to listen to "lesbian music." She tells Jezebel that she will no longer be able to listen to Melissa Etheridge and hides all of Jezebel's albums.

Behavior: Jezebel refuses to leave her room until the CDs are returned, and stays in her room for days.

Consequence: Jezebel's mother returns the albums to Jezebel when she is no longer feeling angry, and Jezebel comes out of her room.

Hypothesis: If Jezebel and her mother can come to an agreement that Jezebel wear headphones when her mother is feeling angry and annoyed with the music, then Jezebel's mother will not have to listen to "lesbian music" when she is angry and Jezebel will not lose all of her music albums and will be able to listen to Melissa Etheridge at times when her mother is angry.


Antecedent: Jezebel and her mother are fighting in the kitchen while Jezebel's father reads the paper. Jezebel is being berated by her mother for being a lesbian. Jezebel's father leaves the house without becoming involved in the fight.

Behavior: Jezebel's mother becomes overwhelmed and orders Jezebel to leave the house immediately. Jezebel runs upstairs, packs a bag and leaves the house. She walks for miles and hitchhikes a ride to the house of a woman she chats with on the Internet but whom she has never before met.

Consequence: Jezebel's parents cannot find her. They call the police. Jezebel comes home later in the evening and has to be questioned by the police as to her whereabouts. She lies and says she slept in the park all afternoon. Jezebel's parents punish her by making her stay at home for a week. Jezebel has no problem staying home for a week.

Hypothesis: If Jezebel's father had taken an active role in the fight and made efforts to calm the situation instead of leaving the house to escape the situation, it is likely that the fight would not have escalated to the point in which Jezebel's mother would have ordered her to leave. If he had been present, he would have been aware that Jezebel left because she was told to get out - and he could have followed Jezebel out of the house and given her a ride to a safe place (avoiding Jezebel placing herself in a dangerous situation and avoiding having the police involved and avoiding the useless grounding punishment).


Antecedent: Jezebel walks out of the house in the morning wearing her father's boxer shorts and one of her brother's ties over one of her mother's nightshirts. Jezebel's mother begins screaming at the top of her lungs about the outfit. She rips the tie off of Jezebel's neck and tells Jezebel to stop trying to be a dyke.

Behavior: Jezebel runs upstairs, singing a Melissa Etheridge song, "Momma I'm Strange" at the top of her lungs. She smears lipstick all over her face, grabs five of her brother's ties and ties them around her neck and forehead and arms, and writes "Momma I'm Strange" in lipstick on each of her calves. Jezebel runs out of the house before her mother can get a hold of her and goes to school.

Consequence: Jezebel's mother calls the guidance counselor and social worker at school, and demands that Jezebel be publicly reprimanded in class and asked to remove her "obscene" outfit. She drops off a dress at school, and asks that it be delivered to Jezebel in the middle of English class. Jezebel receives the public reprimand and is delivered the dress. She hangs it up on her English teacher's chalkboard and draws the face of a lion coming from the neck of the dress. Jezebel's favorite English teacher smiles and laughs. Jezebel feels victorious, better than ever, ready to spear the dress and carry the flag dress-on-a-stick home to her mother!

Hypothesis: If Jezebel's mother had calmly talked about Jezebel's appearance or asked questions about it or had just let it be as it was, then the revolutionary circus that ensued would not have occurred. Perhaps in the future, Jezebel's mother could show appreciation for Jezebel's appearance or just ignore it altogether so as to avoid fanning the flame (if her wish is for it to stop...).