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The Role of Adult Mentors: If You See Something, Say Something

I recently had the opportunity to spend five days with seven amazing teen women doing community service at the Howling Acres Wolf Sanctuary in Oregon. My eldest daughter has arranged this annual camping trip since she was in middle school and I tag along to drive, cook, provide first aid, reminders about bug spray and sunscreen, and do a lot of dishes.

This year I also gave some feedback to a couple of new teens that was not well-received and the experience set me to thinking about the role of adult mentors in the lives of teens. I think as adults, it is easier to just watch teens, make our own judgments about their behavior, but unless they are our own, refrain from helping them reflect on those behaviors.

Sadly, I think this lack of feedback from adults does not benefit youth. I am of the mind that teachers, doctors, counselors, and actually all adults spending time with teens are ethically responsible for giving them feedback about their behavior – to provide an opportunity for them to reflect on a person’s perception of their behavior and his or her response to it.

The flip side of this is hearing the feedback given back, so yes, I heard when I was “snippy” and did have to apologize several times for losing patience – but it is all good and we are never too old to “engage” in relationships.

Teens really are blessed if they spend time with adult who will talk with them honestly and give them feedback, but the teen has to make the decision to hear the feedback and not just feel criticized and withdraw – which is the hard part of honest relationships. This group of girls was a new group, with four new members, and a wide age range – 12 to 17 – so there were several mini-lectures about judgment and being self-centered, which of course were translated into “she does not like me.”

I have to say it is hard to have conversations with teens who do not want to hear, but if they can hear that the feedback is about being perceived as the type of person they want to be, then there is hope. For example, if a teen says something negative about a person we pass or interact with in the community, I am likely to say, “whoa, that is really judgmental – are you sure you want to judge her without knowing more about her?” Or, maybe, “I hope you do not judge me solely on my appearance,” and if focused, I might add that people tend to shy away from people who are negative or judgmental, which is usually not what we want, which is to attract people.

Reactions range from silent sullen and angry to a brief nod and maybe “I am sorry,” but I think the process is the important part. Teens are going to be adults soon, and then feedback gets really rare except from friends, family, and bosses (which have consequences attached), so it is important to give the feedback and help teens hear it.

This post, The Role of Adult Mentors: If You See Something, Say Something, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

Divorce Doesn’t Change Parenting Behavior

Research reported in Family Relations by Lisa Strohschien (University of Alberta) challenges the notion that parenting practices diminish after divorce. In a large longitudinal study Dr. Strohschien found that divorce did not change parenting behavior for most parents.

The study used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NSLCY) to compare the 208 families that divorced between data collection points to the 4,796 households that remained intact. The study compared nurturing, consistent and punitive parenting between the households.

The findings suggested that most parents maintained very stable parenting practices, and it was only a few parents who were overwhelmed, unable to cope, and became less nurturing, inconsistent, and punitive.

These results are extremely important because for years family courts have poured money into mandatory parenting classes for divorcing parents (called things like “putting children first”), when in fact, most parents do not need the classes. The parents that may be unable to parent consistently are the parents who need the support, but these results suggest they are the minority.

I would suggest that a post-divorce interview with the children would help identify the parents who need the support, as children are very capable of reporting what they need after divorce, and are conscious of when a parent is punitive and no longer invested in their well-being.

This post, Divorce Doesn’t Change Parenting Behavior, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

Social Media Ruins The Rorschach Test

The Rorschach test is used for examining the personality characteristics and emotional functioning of patients as their perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed.


New York Times had a report about Dr. James Heilman who posted all 10 pictures on the site, along with research about the most popular responses to each. Of course, it led to a heated debate whether this information should be accessed on Wikipedia or not.

The article is protected from editing until 6, August but there are serious debates on the talk page. One example:

All of the pictures of the Inkblot Cards need to be removed. Posting them contaminates this tool, The Rorschach Test. Posting the popular responses further contaminates this test. It is a simple case of scuppering a professional clinical tool and needs to be stopped.  – Comment of Edith Meyers who has PhD in Neuroscience and Clinical Psychology.

It has recently been suggested to use the hide template that would hide the word associations, so only those who want to read them would be motivated to click “show”.

As a medical student and Wikipedia administrator, I believe such things happen. It’s impossible to hide that kind of  information, but revealing these possible answers can really ruin the test itself. Solution? A hide template with a clear warning for possible patients might be one of them. What do you think?

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*

Job Loss And Its Connection To Illness

Two very interesting articles were published recently on the health effects of job loss and on-the-job rejection.

The first article looks at the health of people who have been fired. They limited their study to previously healthy adults who got sick after they lost their jobs. It didn’t seem to matter why they were let go or how quickly they found a new job. Kate Stully, an assistant professor in sociology at the State University of New York at Albany and author of “Job Loss Can Make You Sick” found that losing a job is linked to a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, diabetes or depression. I would also add an increased risk of suicide to this list.

The second article looks at what happens when you’ve been left out (or just think you’ve been left out) of the loop at work. Purdue University’s professor of psychological sciences, Kipling D. Williams, reported that hurt feelings for a perceived slight can affect morale, hurt job performance and productivity, and can even hurt the company financially in his article, “Avoid the Dark About Effects of Leaving Others Out of the Loop”.

The first article looks at how we define ourselves and our place in society by our jobs. The second looks at how damaging a perceived slight can be to productivity. Now these two articles on the surface seem to be talking about two different things. But if we take a closer look, aren’t both of these articles talking about the effects of rejection?

No matter how much we would like to say we don’t care what other people think, we really do care much more so than we might think. And it hurts when we feel left out or feel unwanted. According to the first article, it can even make us physically sick. It matters that we feel needed and accepted by those who play a large part in our lives. And let’s face it; we spend a lot of time with our coworkers so it would naturally follow that these people would have some influence over how we feel about ourselves.

The second article explains how just a small amount of the cold shoulder can have a significant impact on how we feel about ourselves and how we perceive others feel about us.

So how do we cope with feelings of rejection in the workplace? Most of us spend more time with coworkers than we do our families, so they often become our second family. In some cases, our work family may be the only one we’ve got. And family rejection is often the most devastating to our self-worth.

The first step in dealing with any rejection is a critical look at the rejecter as well as the rejected. Is she really rejecting me by talking with another coworker? Sure, we were a team in the meeting, but after the meeting she talked to someone else in the hall. Does this mean rejection, or does this mean she had a follow-up comment to something that person said in the meeting? Is my being fired from my job a reflection on my job performance or downsizing of the company? If it is my performance, was the job really a good fit to begin with? How could I have changed the outcome to better serve me? Could I have stepped up my performance, or changed jobs to one that I liked better? How will I deal with this in the future? Do I really want to be a part of this group in the first place? Is my desire for alliance with this group solely based on popularity? Does this group fit with my own morals and ideals? We all want to fit in, but not at the expense of losing ourselves in the process.

The second step is to realize that in order to feel rejection we must first give someone else the power to do so. Am I setting myself up for rejection? According to psychiatrist, Karen Horney, we tend to move toward, away from, or against others. Am I open and meeting others half way? Am I waiting for others to come to me or making others work harder to approach me? Or am I mistakenly pushing others away from me by rubbing them the wrong way or coming on too strong when all I really want to do is connect? Am I trying to alienate others before they get the chance to alienate or reject me?

The third step is to understand that rejection is a negative experience just like any other and that the hurt lessens when shared with others. Sometimes we can “feel” rejection when we are not being rejected at all. If I was cheated on by a loved one, or a family member raked me over the coals for showing up late for dinner, I would find a sympathetic ear to talk it out with. By discussing rejection, we find that we are not alone. We may even find that our story is not so bad when others share their horror stories of rejection. And don’t worry about fearing that we’ve blown the situation out of proportion. Maybe we have not been rejected at all. Our true friends will be the first to tell us when we are full of hot air. Our fake friends will be the last to tell us when we are wearing our underwear on our heads!

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes on fitting in:

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member” Groucho Marx

“I want my individuality, so why can’t I get a tattoo? Everyone else is.” My neighbor’s teenager

The floor is now open for your comments. Please join in.

*This blog post was originally published at eDocAmerica*

James Randi And The Psychology Of Magical Thinking

skepticsjamesrandiJames Randi, perhaps better known as “The Amazing Randi” has spent most of his life performing magic shows. In 1996 he created the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) designed to expose the fraudulent claims made by psychics, faith healers, and snake oil salesmen. The ultimate goal of the JREF is to create a new generation of critical thinkers – people who will not be hoodwinked by the aforementioned hucksters.

I had the good fortune of interviewing Mr. Randi briefly at the recent conference known as “The Amazing Meeting.” I was eager to pick his brain about human behavior and magical thinking. This is what I learned…

Randi identified certain groups of people who seem to be more susceptible to magical thinking and/or belief in the paranormal. According to him, the top two are:

1. News reporters. Although at first I wasn’t sure if Randi meant that reporters like a good story versus they believe a good story – he told me that in his experience, they were some of the most gullible people on earth. In fact, they were more interested in implausible stories than true ones – and Randi said that the more fantastical his explanation for phenomena, the more likely they were to believe it and write about it.

2. Academics. This surprised me since I assumed that this group would actually be less susceptible. Randi suggested that they are more likely to be taken in because they are single-minded about phenomena. They are over confident in their ability to understand how things work, and when something cannot be explained in their framework, they’re willing to attribute it to the paranormal.

Who are the least susceptible? Children. Why? Because they are simple thinkers, and harder to distract. The art of magic is in distraction of the sophisticated mind. Children tend to be very concrete, so they don’t expect things to happen with hand-waving and flourishes. They keep their eye on the coin (or other item being transferred from hand to hand), and are more likely to know where it is at all times.

To wrap up our short interview, I asked Randi if he could explain why people believe in magic, fantasy, and the paranormal? He responded simply:

Ultimately it’s not about intelligence or lack thereof. It’s about people not wanting to accept that life is random, suffering is inevitable, and there is no good reason for bad things happening.

What do you make of Randi’s observations?

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