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Psychology Research...Unraveled

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10 Years of Torture, What's Next?

Posted on May 8, 2013 at 9:50 PM Comments comments ()
For the last 48 hours the country has been fascinated by the story of three women and one child who were held captive as sex slaves for over 10 years in Cleveland, Ohio. The story broke on Monday night (May 6, 2013) after Amanda Berry, 27, had the courage and tenacity to escape and get help.  Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, also escaped shortly after Berry.

According to one of  the women, they were kidnapped and raped for over a decade by three  brothers, Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro. Aside from a number of miscarriages and extremely rare access to the outside world, the women were subjected to psychological abuse, according to City Councilman Brian Cummins. 

It is unclear right now exactly what type of psychological abuse the women suffered; however, it would be surprising to hear that the abuse was anything less than severe and intense. Keep in mind that when these women were kidnapped, two of them were minors. Being in captivity for 10 years puts Berry and DeJesus at 17 and 13 years old, respectively. Even though Knight was 22 at the time of her kidnapping, she was still relatively young.

For all intents and purposes, these women were impressionable babies when they were first kidnapped. It is traumatizing enough to be taken from your family, but to be raped repeated FOR 10 YEARS is extreme trauma. Additionally, for some of these women, this terrible ordeal may have been their first sexual experience. 

Just think back...while you were carelessly going to the grocery store or laughing with your children on a playground, three women were being held against their wills wondering if they would ever see their families again. Think of all of birthdays (theirs and family members'), holidays and special days that they missed. Did Amanda Berry even know that her mother passed away a year after she was kidnapped from heart failure?

They have a lot of psychological work ahead of them. Berry, DeJesus and Knight had been roommates, friends and each others' protectors for a decade. It is highly probable that these women bonded over their experience and had a hard time leaving each other, even if it meant freedom. Psychologically speaking, being protective of each other was probably one of the factors that contributed to them not being able to escape sooner. If one escaped, what would happen to the other two when the kidnappers found out? What if the escapee couldn't get back in time?

Now, the women are going to have to create a new normal. They are going to have to learn how the world works and where they fit in. They are going to have to learn how to relate to others and trust again, which may prove to be incredibly difficult.

The only thing that won't be difficult in this entire situation is a jury figuring out what to do with those three brothers.

Psychology Is Everywhere!

The Psychology of Addiction: Jump, Jump to the Other Side

Posted on May 4, 2013 at 11:48 AM Comments comments ()
On Wednesday of this week it was reported that teenage rapper, Chris Kelly, died of an alleged drug overdose at the age of 34. Kelly, whose talent was discovered in an Atlanta, GA mall, was reportedly found in his home unresponsive by a friend. That same friend told police that the Kris Kross rapper from the early 90's, had taken a mixture of cocaine and heroin, or a speedball, the night before.

Addiction specialists and substance abusers know that speedballing is a deadly practice. The allure of speedballing stems from the effects that each of the drugs has on the brain and body. 

Heroin, which can be smoked, snorted or injected, is a depressant. It literally depresses, or slows down the brain and its functions. It also has pain relief effects, which is why some chronic pain patients often get addicted to morphine, a prescription medication which is essentially a smaller, legalized dose of heroin. 

Cocaine, on the other hand, is a stimulant. This means that it has essentially the exact opposite effects as heroin. It speeds up brain functions and gives you a feeling of euphoria. The majority of your bodily functions get instructions from your brain (with the exception of reflexes). In other words, there is a part of your brain that tells your heart to beat. When high on cocaine, the drug sends messages to the brain, which sends messages to the body to increase functions like heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. 

Obviously, taking drugs that have such extreme and opposite effects on the brain, which controls the body, can send both into shock. This shock can ultimately cause the brain, body or both to shutdown.

Even though there is controversy on this topic, addiction is considered a medical and psychological disorder. Some professionals have argued that categorizing addiction as a medical disorder as we would a heart murmur or arthritis, is a miscategorization because, unlike the latter disorders, addiction is a choice.

While addicts may choose their disease, most of them certainly don't choose for it to get out of control. Once they start abusing the drug, they need more and more of it to get the same effects. This is called building up a tolerance to the drug. In other words, even though you may have started snorting 1mg of cocaine, three years later you will need a lot more of it to get the euphoric effects that you got during the first use. 

Additionally, the more you use, the more worried you get about the effects of stopping. A lot of addicts are concerned that their withdrawal process will be unbearable. 

Professionals who support the idea that addiction is a medical disease argue that, like other diseases, it changes bodily functions; therefore, it should be considered a medical problem. Of course, chronic drug abuse effects the body in a number of ways, the ultimate of which is death. 

Psychologists weigh in for two reasons. First, chronic drug abuse not only changes bodily functioning, but it also changes brain chemistry. Secondly, chronic drug abuse is considered a psychological disorder because of how addiction gets started. Sometimes people use drugs recreationally because they were pressured into it or because they were bored; however, no one starts abusing drugs on a regular basis because their lives are going well. 

Addicts are master avoiders. They abuse drugs to avoid pain and feeling, and the job of a psychologist who works in addictions is to help former addicts figure out what they are trying not to feel and slowly begin the feeling process. 

If psychological treatment goes well, psychologists help the addict come to the realization that, while feeling negative emotions hurts at times, when you are high you can't feel anything...the good or the bad. Some addicts come to this realization, get sober and start anew. Others never get it.

If the report is true, Chris Kelly may have never gotten the chance to Jump, Jump to the other side. 

Psychology IEverywhere!

Why Catherine Zeta Jones Shouldn't Be In the Headlines

Posted on May 1, 2013 at 11:01 PM Comments comments ()
Every day millions of Americans deal with Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder. Earlier this week, Catherine Zeta Jones was admitted to a mental hospital after another flare up of Bipolar II Disorder, which is marked by an inability to maintain a stable mood. 

Most times, the human brain naturally produces the chemicals that it needs to keep your mood relatively stable. This doesn't mean that you don't have ups and downs to your mood; everyone does. However, people who have enough of the right chemicals, or neurotransmitters, understand what has affected their moods and why. Additionally, when you have an adequate amount of neurotransmitters, your mood doesn't fluctuate with minute problems. For example, not making it to the post office in time doesn't send you into a tailspin. You may be disappointed, but the feeling passes momentarily.

People who have been diagnosed with Bipolar I or II don't have the right amount of neurotransmitters in their brains; therefore, their mood often lives at two extremes (hence the term bi-meaning two and polar-meaning ends). They have trouble predicting what is going to send them into the a state of depression. Additionally, they don't know when that state of depression will be over. As if depression isn't enough, they also experience extreme highs.

Bipolar I Disorder is a disease that includes depression and mania. Mania is a state of exhilaration and excitement that lasts for about one week. Bipolar II includes the same depressive symptoms; however, it also presents hypomanic symptoms. Hypomanic episodes are different from manic episodes in their duration. That is, hypomanic episodes don't last as long.

Mental health concerns affect the entire family system, and they can be scary. As important as it is to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness, it is just as important to respect someone's privacy. Hence my question:  why is Catherine Zeta Jones going to a mental hospital news?

Obviously, she has fans and they are concerned about her. However, this "headline" seems to be invasive. Jones made it very clear on Good Morning America that this is not the platform that she wanted. Just like there is a coming out process to homosexuality and other social minorities, there is a coming out process for people with mental illness. Not everyone wants to shout to the world that they are living with Male Erectile Dysfunction, which can be a psychological disorder. Not everyone wants to talk to others who are suffering with social anxiety.

We need to send positive energy Catherine's way so that she feels better and finds a treatment regimen that keeps her as stable as possible for as long as possible. We also need to keep in mind that she is not bipolar; she has bipolar. People aren't disorders; they have disorders.

Catherine Zeta Jones is a lot of things...wife, mother, accomplished actress, daughter...

Bipolar is no where on that list, and shouldn't be. 

Psychology IEverywhere!

What Celebrity Is More Desperate For Attention Than Kim K?

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 5:14 PM Comments comments ()
Upfront Confession:  I have watched my fair share of the Kardashian clan on television. Between Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney and Kim Take Miami and Khloe and Lamar, I’ve wasted countless hours watching junk TV.     

I actually don’t mind the Kardashians; however, I understand how the vast majority of people can be over-saturated with all things Kardashian. Anybody who watches Kim Kardashian on any of her shows knows that she can come off as superficial, self-absorbed, shallow and desperate. I can’t say that she has any of those qualities because she has yet to sit on my therapy couch, but it’s hard not to acknowledge that she can send those vibes at times.     

Her ex-boyfriend, Ray J, has just taken desperation to a whole ‘nother level with his new, yet sad and ridiculous song, I Hit It First. In this video, Brandy’s little brother sings about how he was the first to have sex with the middle Kardashian sister.     

This song is beyond the realm of stupidity for a number of reasons. First, the last time I checked, Kim K was married before she got with Ray J. If you assume that she consummated her marriage with her first husband, Damon Thomas, anytime between 2000 and 2004, then technically speaking, Ray J didn’t hit it first. This isn’t rocket science or psychological theory; it’s math.       

A deeper concern begs to be posed…why is Ray J still talking about this? It is clear that Kim has moved on with her life. Not only has she been linked to several high profile men, but she has been married and divorced to Kris Humphries, an NBA star, and gotten pregnant with Kanye West’s baby.     

If you listen to the lyrics, it almost seems like Ray J wants her back. At the bridge of the song he begs, “If you were to come back to me girl I know just how you’d do me; And if you were to come back to me girl I know just why you’d choose me…and if you were to come back to me girl we’ll make another movie.” I think that this part of the song was intended to taunt her and her current partner, but it sends a different message to my ears...regret.     

The really sad part of this whole song is that Ray J is celebrating the infamous Ray J and Kim Kardashian sex tape as he wasn’t in the video. Only hypocritical, short-sighted, sexist people looked at that video and walked away thinking that Kim K disgraced herself. Honest people, particularly women who have sons, would have felt just has disgusted by their sons being in the video as their daughters. In other words, Ray J, you aren’t the man for making a sex tape with Kim Kardashian. Furthermore, your family can’t be proud of this song. This isn’t art; it’s trash.     

While you could have been feeding the homeless in a soup kitchen or reading books to children at the local library, you chose to spend your time making a video with a look alike Kim and then thought we were all dumb enough to believe that the video isn’t about Kim. Face it dude, you still love/want Kim. That’s the only message that this video sends.     

Psychologically, it must have been difficult for Kim K to deal with her intimate moments being publically displayed (obviously Ray J is OK with it). However, she seems to have bounced back rather well. She may not have all the credibility in the world, but she is doing a good job ignoring Ray J and his attempts to grab onto the coattails of her success.     

By the way, what woman wants to marry a man who made a song about having sex with another woman? Get a life Ray J.

Psychology Is Everywhere!


The Best Football Move Made Off the Field

Posted on April 23, 2013 at 10:59 PM Comments comments ()
Would you give up a pro football career to go back to school after you already obtained a bachelors degree? I don't know many people who would--until now.

Mryon Rolle, former Florida State University safety, has made the decision to leave the National Football League to go back to school and pursue a medical degree. Rolle, who is retiring from the league--yes, retiring from the league--at the age of 26, has expressed an interest in becoming a neurosurgeon.

This doesn't come as too much of a surprise, though. After receiving the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship during his senior year in college, Rolle took a year off of football to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. This move was an indication that he was more interested in what his mind could do than what his body could.

He might not have been an uber-star on the football field during his time with the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers, but he gets mega psychological kudos for making this move. Very few people know how difficult it is to drop what you know and do something totally new because they don't do it. As people, we tend to stick to what we know, even if it isn't working for us or even if we aren't happy, to avoid failure, rejection and negative feelings like fear and anxiety. Remember that this man has a paycheck rolling in every two weeks, and he has decided that getting paid isn't as important as fulfilling his calling.

It's clear that Rolle probably won't be the typical broke student. Hopefully, he has saved a considerable amount of his football income, and he will probably receive a full scholarship to hmmm any medical school in America (my vote is for Temple University Medical School). However, this is still a risky, ballsy move.

It's a breath of fresh air to see someone who recognizes his own potential and refuses to sell himself short. Most people wouldn't consider playing in the NFL "selling oneself short." However, if you have the intelligence of a neurosurgeon and the skills to match, you should be a neurosurgeon, not a safety in the NFL.

Wonder how fulfilled we would all be if, like Rolle, we gave up the safety position and started tackling our true calling?


Psychology IEverywhere!

Could Porsha Stewart Suffer from PTSD?

Posted on April 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM Comments comments ()
It looks like even the most attractive people of the world have at least one thing in common with the not-so-attractive people of the world...rejection. Unfortunately, it's Porsha Stewart's turn. Stewart, 31, disclosed during Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen that her husband, former football pro, Kordell Stewart, has filed for divorce

What's worse than having your spouse file for divorce? Your spouse not letting you know his/her intentions. What's worse than your spouse filing for divorce and not making you privy to that decision? Finding out on Twitter. And, what's worse than having your spouse file for divorce without telling you and then learning about it via Twitter? Still sharing a house with him/her one month after the filing.

Yes, according to Mrs. Stewart, who married Kordell Stewart in May of 2011, she is still living with her husband (but not cooking). 

This one has got to sting. It would sting even more if you were blind-sided by this news like Mrs. Stewart says she was.

Our psychological impact on others can't be explained too deeply. In fact, in some respects it's hard to articulate in words how deeply we impact others. Words are one of the most powerful tools that we have. They have the ability to destroy and lift up instantaneously. 

Additionally, your actions can impact how someone relates to everyone else that saunters into his/her life. In this case, if Porsha's version of the story is accurate, Kordell needs some serious empathy training. He obviously doesn't understand how to put himself in someone else's place and imagine how s/he would feel. Empathy, by the way, is a skill that we start learning when we are around 4 years old. So, Kordell, who is 40, really needs to catch up to how mature adults behave. When you dedicate your life to someone and then decide that you no longer want to be on your marital journey, you should be respectful and mature enough to acknowledge your change of heart. 

Most people consider trauma to be something as devastating as going to war and having to kill innocent people or being raped, but being emotionally abandoned with no warning can be traumatic as well. In Mrs. Stewart's case, it is highly unlikely that she will meet all of the criteria associated with a Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis from a situation like this. However, she can experience trauma symptoms like feelings of intense stress and physical reactions (i.e., heart palpitations, shortness of breath, trembling) associated with being rejected. She may start to detach from close family and friends and feel hopeless about her future, specifically as it relates to romantic relationships. 

Of course, these trauma symptoms are less likely to occur with ample family and social support. Additionally, research has shown that some people are just more resilient after a trauma than others. Therefore, if Stewart's personality just happens to be more resilient, it is likely that she won't experience this event as a significant trauma in her life.  

Oh Konfused Kordell, there are so many ways that you could have done this in a classier, more respectful manner. Here's to hoping that Mrs. Stewart bounces back. Living well is the best revenge.


Psychology IEverywhere!

Does Kobe Bryant Have a Personality Disorder?

Posted on April 22, 2013 at 10:56 PM Comments comments ()
If you are a pro basketball fan, then you know that the NBA Playoffs started on Saturday, April 20th. If you followed the Los Angeles Lakers this season, then you know that Kobe Bryant is out with a tear of his Achilles tendon.

In an effort to continue to support or harass (depending on how you look at it) his teammates, Bryant took to Twitter yesterday during Game 1 of the Lakers series with the San Antonio Spurs.

Bryant's tweets included the following pieces of "insight:"




































It looks like his coach, Mike D'Antoni, wasn't impressed with Bryant's newly developed electronic coaching system. During the after game press conference, D'Antoni attempted to explain the Lakers 91-79 loss only to be met with questions about Bryant's tweets. His response (with eyes a'rollin):  "It's great to have that commentary. He's a fan right now. You guys put a little bit more importance on that kind of fan. But he's a fan. He wants to be part of it, so that's good."

Even though D'Antoni said, "it's great," it's clearly not. From the sarcastic tone and body language to his facial expression and eye roll, everything about the situation indicated that this was just another instance of Bryant's inability to stay in his lane.

When a psychologist looks at Bryant's pattern of behavior and considers what other coaches and teammates have said about working with him, it is hard not to label him as a Type A personality.

Type A personality is not considered a personality disorder or any other mental disorder. Rather, it is a unique set of personality characteristics that has been found in a lot of people, particularly very successful people. 

Type A personalities have three over-arching characteristics. They are highly competitive, impatient and hostile.

~~~

Highly Competitive
Like other basketball greats, Bryant wants to be the best and strives to live up to that expectation. Clearly he enjoys the challenge of competition, even when he is competing against himself. His perfectionistic tendencies drive him to "do it until it's right." From the standpoint of work ethic, he's any coach's dream.

Unfortunately, not everybody is driven the same way. Type A personalities tend to think that the only way that you can be successful is to have a perfectionistic attitude and get quite annoyed with others who don't respond to challenges in similar ways as they. This was evident in his relationship with Dwight Howard for the majority of the 2012-2013 basketball season. 

When you are a leader, you are expected to meet your followers where they are and help them get to higher plains. Some people respond well to being pushed to frustration. Others don't. A team leader should have enough interpersonal intelligence to know what techniques work with whom and use the appropriate techniques to bring out the best in others. Bryant only knows one way to be successful. 

Impatient
Type A personalities want what they want and now. They tend to get snappy with others when things are too long, even when those things are out of anyone's control. This may not always been helpful when leading a team.

Sure, you want your team to get it and get it now; after all, you have a goal in mind. However, being impatient doesn't move things long any faster. In fact, sometimes a Type A personality's  impatience facilitates an unconscious rebellion in others that makes them move slower.

Hostile
You don't often see Type A personalities lose control like you would if you were watching Latrell Sprewell or Rasheed Wallace; they have too much self control for that. However, they are just as hostile. They are typically passive aggressive. In other words, they make aggressive remarks and engage in aggressive behaviors in very passive ways.

If you want to see a Type A personality get passive aggressive, just make them fail at something. Anything. It doesn't take long for them to get irritated and anger follows very shortly after irritation. Psychologists would call this low frustration tolerance. Some people can actually tolerate ambiguity and frustration without getting irritated for extended periods of time, but not Type A personalities.

~~~

If you want a winning team, whether it's planning a fashion show or winning a basketball tournament, you want to Type A personality on your team because they will give 100% and won't stop until the job is done. However, if you are interested in team cohesion and a sense of oneness on your team, won't be able to achieve that with a Type A personality on the team. They typically don't play well in the sandbox with others and don't have many friends.

You have to admire Bryant's passion. But it's clear that Bryant, like other Type A personalities, can't sit back and let someone else do his job (like the coach) because they tend to think that they could do it better. It's obvious that D'Antoni was annoyed with the question and the behavior that precipitated the question. If this wasn't evident in his body language, it was certainly evident in his reference to Kobe Bryant, a paid employee of the Lakers since 1996, as "a fan." 

And, it true songbird fashion, Bryant responded, 











Despite his hard coaching work yesterday, Bryant seemed to get the hint that he may have distracted his team, not supported them and tweeted,













Psychology IEverywhere!

You're Such a Vagina!

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 11:02 PM Comments comments ()
Some call them 'ladies,' while others call them 'women.' You may hear an immature man refer to them as 'chicks' or 'babes.' There's a new term to add to the list. According to Peter Hansen, a state legislator from New Hampshire, women are 'vaginas.' Yup, 'vaginas.' 

What prompted the legislator to call women 'vaginas?' Mr. Hansen (and the 'Mr.' is applied very loosely here) was responding to another legislator's speech. In that speech, an unnamed legislator mentioned that he was able to remove himself from a dangerous situation without using deadly force. 

Mr. Hansen, a proponent of the right to use guns for self defense, responded to that speech in email saying, "There were two critical ingredients missing in the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat. Not that retreat may not be possible mind you. What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina's of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims."

Let's start with the superficial aspects of this situation. His argument is a simple one. It would be much easier for a man acting alone to get himself to safety as opposed to a man who may be protecting his family (hence the 'children and vaginas' comment). It's a shame that Mr. Hansen tries to use the English language in such a ridiculous way. It may be helpful for him to find ways of writing that are more relatable. In other words, Mr. Hansen, keep your words like your kisses...short and sweet.

Now to the deeper issue of his offensive and rude comment. According to the legislator, he was trying to get a rise out of people. Congratulations! You win! It's too bad that your parting gift is a fist full of shame and a call for resignation by NARAL-Pro Choice New Hampshire. Even the Republican Party Chairwoman from New Hampshire called him on his comment.

What Mr. Hansen fails to see is that this term diminishes all of the accomplishments that women have made and the qualities that they possess. Mr. Hansen, did you know what that women have brains and ideas? Women also come with compassion and empathy for others (although not for you at this moment). Women are persistent, motivated and industrious. Women create and run their own businesses every day. Yes, women are a lot of things, and his comment boils all women down to just one thing, their private parts.

His comments have demonstrated what psychologists call an implicit bias. In other words, although he didn't plainly express his sexist ideas (known as an explicit bias), he implied that women are nothing more than vaginas. One of the interesting things that we know about implicit biases is that they influence us just as much as the biases that we know about. 

You know how you say something and immediately realize that it was in poor taste? Too bad Mr. Hansen didn't have this experience. He actually defended his comments the next day pointing out that his words weren't offensive, and they were taken out of context. It wasn't until two days after his original comment that he conceded and apologized calling his comments ""blatantly offensive, insensitive, and frankly, stupid language." 

Wonder if Mr. Hansen realizes how much of a $%@! he's being by calling women vaginas?

Psychology IEverywhere!

The Tragic End of a Beautiful Life...And There's More Pain To Come

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 5:02 PM Comments comments ()
When it rains, it pours, and I looks like Audrie Pott's parents may be pouring tears in the days and months to come. Their 15 year-old daughter went to a friend's party and was forever changed. 

She woke up in a friend's bedroom, after having drunk too much the night before, to find that she had been sexually assaulted. Not only had he violated her sexually, but he had taken the liberty of writing and drawing on her body parts. In the following days Potts learned that there wasn't one attacker, but three, and all of them attended her school. 

Unfortunately, her nightmare doesn't end there. At school she later found out that there were photos of her from that night when she was too drunk to coherently understand what was happening to her. Eight days later, she hung herself. What a tragic end to a beautiful life.

This family has obviously lost a lot. It would have been tough enough to help Pott through the emotional turmoil that comes with being raped. As a psychologist who has only researched rape throughout her career, I know this trauma is a very difficult one to overcome. Pott's situation was compounded by being gang raped, defaced and humiliated. And, before her parents could even attempt to clean this up (i.e., get her some psychological help), she was gone. 

Unfortunately, the family may be further victimized by California law. Even though the perpetrators were charged with sexual battery and possession and distribution of child pornography, California law is less strict when the victim is unconscious. The "rationale" behind the law is that, if a victim can't say "no," then there is a question of whether the intercourse was consensual. 

What a load of crap! Audrie may not have said, "no," but how can you assume that she said "yes?" Should we ask the three losers who behaved in such vile ways at the party? I am sure that they would have an honest answer. Doesn't consent require a yes? 

When you walk into any treatment provider's office, you have to sign a consent form. If you fill out the form and don't sign it, you will be asked to sign it. Furthermore, you wouldn't receive any treatment until you said, "yes." It's quite possible that Pott didn't refuse or consent, which means that there was no consent.

Even if Pott did consent, weren't these 16 year-old boys old enough to understand when someone is in a compromised position? OK, she shouldn't have been drunk; that goes without saying. Raise your hand if you have ever put yourself in an extremely unsafe situation because you were a stupid teenager (my proverbial hand is raised). 

This California law, and others like it, is the exact reason that more of our sexual assault survivors aren't reporting their attacks. They know that they will be scruntized for what they should or shouldn't have done, instead of the focus being on the individuals who broke the law. 

When will we, as a society, learn that rape occurs any time someone says anything but "yes?"

Psychology IEverywhere!

Student Harassed For Sitting Quietly In Class

Posted on April 13, 2013 at 10:28 AM Comments comments ()
Have you ever been harassed by a teacher and assistant principal? Enidris Siurano Rodriguez has. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has stepped on in Rodriguez's behalf to end this harassment and support her choice to remain seated and silent during the daily recitation of the American Pledge of Allegiance.

Rodriguez, a 10th grade student attending school in Montgomery County, Maryland, has been refraining from standing and reciting The Pledge for the last three years as an outward demonstration of her concerns about U.S. policies toward Puerto Rico. Notably, no teacher or administrator has seen this practice as a problem until this year.

We are doing our young people a huge disservice when we preach about being unique and not following the crowd and then punish them for doing so. Rodriguez has chosen to express her disappointment with national decisions in a respectful and peaceful way, which by the way is supported in our Constitution. 

According to Erik Erikson, a well-known psychologist who theorized about psychosocial development, Rodriguez is at the identity vs. role confusion stage. Erikson believed that 12-18 year olds start to develop a deep understanding of who they are at this stage. Having authority figures who support her growth is vitally important, and these authority figures extend past her parents. They extend to teachers, mentors, older siblings and community figures.

Not only have her teacher and administrator not supported her growth, but they have sent the message that you should take a stand for something you believe in...as long as it's what I believe in too.

Whether you agree with Rodriguez or not, you have to acknowledge that she isn't doing anything illegal and she is respecting others' desire to pledge allegiance to the American flag. Did her teacher, Deanna Jennings, and her assistant principal consider that she isn't allegiant to America? Why "pledge" allegiance literally and figuratively if you don't really mean it?

Malcolm X once said, "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything." It looks like Rodriguez has found her stand...sitting.

Psychology Is Everywhere!

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