Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Henry Rollins - On Being Cynical

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In this short video clip (from Provoked) Henry Rollins rants and preaches on the "intellectual cowardice" of cynicism. He's been there and done that, and he can't do it anymore - which does not mean he does not have righteous anger. He admits that for him life sucks and he would rather not be here - most days he is miserable and he has "contempt for life."

BUT, what keeps him here is that he knows life would be thinking, "Ha ha, you wimped out, you couldn't handle me." So he wants to kick life's ass - he wants to "make life run for its life." He wants to "be a pain in life's ass." He refuses to let life kick his ass with its unfairness and annoying happy people.

Compared to Rollins, I feel mellow and easy going (and those who know me know how far that is from the truth). More below the video.

Thanks to Michael at Archive Fire for posting this video clip.


I feel his anger and frustration - I have my own experiences that made me a cynical, bitter, angry, misanthropic young man. Maybe we all do - at least those of us who have embraced cynicism as a lifestyle choice.

But sometime around 30 or so, it began to shift. My perspective widened, or opened, or something. I don't want or need to kick life's ass - I want to swim with the current and not fight against it anymore - to align with whatever purpose seems to be unfolding in my life.

Unlike Rollins, I do not have contempt for life. The more I look at and heal the old wounds that made me cynical in the first place, the less miserable I feel. These days, I actually enjoy my life - but I am not one of the happy, shiny people, nor am I some kind of "floating Buddha," to use Rollins' term.

Some days seriously suck - some days the politicians and corporations and government and the guy leaves his dog outside to bark all night and the people who text while they drive and the men who hit women and the women who hate all men and the parents who neglect their kids and the assholes who hurt children or animals and the insurance companies who deny claims and and and and . . . . Some days it makes me want to check out.

And then Mogli licks my hand or Jami laughs at one of my stupid jokes or a child in a store smiles at me or a gray-haired woman holds a door for me or I see a father rocking his baby to sleep or the sun creates purple and orange art in the clouds at sunset or a Facebook friend makes me laugh or or or or . . . . And I remember that beauty is in the details, in the small moments, in how I hold the world in my heart.

And then the question is . . . How to reconcile both experiences - to feel the laughter through the tears. I can't ignore the ugliness, it fuels my desire to help people as a personal trainer, as a coach, and soon as a mental health counselor. And I can't allow it to crush my spirit the way it once did.

So I try to remain mindful of my feelings, of my anger, of my joy - I try not to let all the ugliness become cynicism and despair again. And I try to limit my exposure to the culture of fear and suspicion that permeates our media - I try to focus on the next thing, and the next, and the next . . . and one day I will have lived a meaningful life.


Therese J. Borchard - 10 Things You Should Know About Male Depression

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I'm pretty sure I've posted a similar article on male depression before, but it never hurts to remind people that male depression often looks different than female depression, and therefore gets missed or misdiagnosed.

For example, men tend to turn pain into anger rather than experience the pain; men tend to experience depression as a physical illness more than women; when men get depressed and attempt suicide, they are much more likely to succeed than are women.

This comes from the always excellent Psych Central blog.

10 Things You Should Know About Male Depression

By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor

10 Things You Should Know About Male Depression

What looks and feels like depression to a woman may not to a man, which is why so many men in America are misdiagnosed or missed altogether.

However, considering that the rates of completed suicide of men are three to four times that of women, we need to educate ourselves about male depression and its unique symptoms. The following are 10 things you should know about male depression, compiled from Johns Hopkins Depression and Anxiety Bulletin and other sources.

1. Depression affects about 6 million American men and 12 million American women each year. But these numbers don’t tell the story of men, and older men, in particular.

2. Suicide in men peaks in the 20s and again in the 60s and 70s.

3. Many men experience “depression without sadness,” which makes it more challenging for primary care physicians to make the diagnosis of depression. Some of the symptoms of this kind of depression include severe anxiety, physical discomfort, sleep disorders, and diminished energy and self-confidence as some of its primary symptoms.

4. Men—more commonly than women—are likely to feel angry, irritable, and frustrated rather than sad when depressed.

5. Men tend to cope with depression differently than women. Instead of withdrawing from the world, men may act recklessly or develop a compulsive interest in work or a new hobby. Instead of crying, men may engage in violent behavior.

6. Men are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol when in the midst of a depression, perhaps to find relief from the pain of depressive feelings. This can make it difficult to determine whether a problem is specifically alcohol-or-drug-related or whether it is primarily depression.

7. Men often report physical symptoms more often than women, such as headaches, joint pain, backaches, dizziness, chest pain, and digestive problems. However, they are often unaware that these symptom are linked to depression.

8. There may be genetic differences between depression in men and women. Five years ago, researchers from the University of Pittsburg identified 19 chromosomal regions linked to one form of major depression, but only three of them were significantly linked in both men and women. The other 16 were only linked in one sex.

9. A worrying recent trend is the increasing rate of suicide among younger men, a trend not seen among young women. The majority of these men have no asked for help before their deaths.

10. The higher suicide rate among men is a worldwide phenomenon. A few exceptions to the general rule exist, for example, among elderly women in Hungary and in some Asian countries. The reasons why men are more likely to kill themselves are complex, but risk factors include unemployment, social isolation, chronic illness, and certain occupations that have access to the means of suicide.

~ Therese J. Borchard is Associate Editor at Psych Central, where she regularly contributes to World of Psychology. She also writes the daily blog, Beyond Blue, on Beliefnet.com. Therese is the author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes and The Pocket Therapist. Subscribe to her RSS feed on Psych Central or Beliefnet. Visit her website or follow her on Twitter @thereseborchard.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Authors@Google: Dan Savage and Terry Miller - It Gets Better, the Book

Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller founded the It Gets Better Project, and it has been wildly successful in bringing in big name celebrity support (from average folks to President Obama) to help convince young men and women that the bullying stops, life changes, and it does get better.

I have heard from therapists, however, that many teens cannot connect with the older adults who wish to support them - the day-to-day hell is still weighing on them like a ton of bricks.

Even so, I think the project is important, and I am glad to hear they have published a book - It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living - which Dan and Terry talk about in the Authors@Google segment.
It Gets Better, the Book

Dan Savage and Terry Miller spoke to Googlers in Mountain View in May, 2011 about their book It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living and http://www.itgetsbetter.org/.

Dan Savage is the well-known columnist for Seattle's The Stranger, and the founder of the It Gets Better project, which uses videos on YouTube to send positive messages to at-risk LGBT youth.


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NPR - A Last Gift: Father Finishes Book After Son's Death

This is a moving story for this Memorial Day - a reminder that we are still a nation engaged in wars (unethical and unnecessary though they may be) in which our young people are giving their lives. The book is called Last Journey, A Father and Son in Wartime.

Darrell Griffin Sr. visits his son grave twice a month. The ritual is always the same: He lights two sticks of his son's favorite incense and adds a fresh bouquet of sunflowers.
Gloria Hillard

Darrell Griffin Sr. visits his son grave twice a month. The ritual is always the same: He lights two sticks of his son's favorite incense and adds a fresh bouquet of sunflowers.

It's been more than four years since Army Staff Sgt. Darrell Griffin Jr. was killed while serving in Iraq. When he died, he had been collaborating with his father on a book about the war.

Standing next to his son's grave, Darrell Griffin Sr. translates the abbreviated carvings of the headstone. Etched in the white marble, they remind you of an ancient language. First are the letters B-S-M-V.

"What that stands for is bronze star medal with valor," he says. "And PH is Purple Heart, KIA is killed in action."

He used to visit every Sunday. Now he comes here at least twice a month. The ritual is always the same: He lights two sticks of his son's favorite incense. The small chimes he brought here years ago dance in the breeze above a new bouquet of sunflowers.

"He always loved sunflowers," Griffin says. "I mean, remember, he was a big tough guy but he loved sunflowers."

Military grave markers only allow a few words — most begin with the word "Beloved." This one reads: "Husband, son and brother." But the father realized he had more to say.

Back home, the walls of Griffin's office are lined with books. But the one he is holding in his hands is his most cherished. He flips through the pages.

They are underlined, highlighted with bright colors and bookmarked with post-it notes. On the cover it lists two authors: Darrell Griffin Sr. and Darrell Griffin Jr.

Army Staff Sgt. Darrell Griffin Jr. was killed in March 2007 in Iraq by a sniper.
Courtesy of Darrell Griffin Sr.

Army Staff Sgt. Darrell Griffin Jr. was killed in March 2007 in Iraq by a sniper.

"Once when he was real little, he said, 'Dad, did I have to take your name because we couldn't afford another one?' And I always remember that," Griffin says.

The book is titled Last Journey, A Father and Son in Wartime. It is a compilation of hundreds of emails, letters — and his son's journal.

"This is where he started his journal: 'I am attempting to create an account of two tours of combat in Iraq as an infantryman. I'm trying to make sense of a world that I'd never known until the first time I had to kill a man.'"

Griffin says he knew when his son was frightened because he would sign his emails with Skip or Skipper, his childhood nickname. "Dear Mom and Dad, I'm convoying within hours and just ask that you pray for me and believe for me because I can't right now ... I will email you as soon as I get there, Skipper."

Their last conversation was on his son's 36th birthday.

"He said, 'Dad I'm just tired. I just want to come home.' And he never talked like that to us before," Griffin says.

A week later, a sniper's bullet killed Darrell Griffin Jr. Overcome with grief, his father knew he had to complete the book they had started together — inspired by their conversations; musings and questions about God — and shaped by war. But first, there was something else he had to do.

After his son died, Griffin traveled to Baghdad and then by Black Hawk helicopter to Camp  Striker where his son's unit was located.
Courtesy of Darrell Griffin Sr.

After his son died, Griffin traveled to Baghdad and then by Black Hawk helicopter to Camp Striker where his son's unit was located.

"Nobody believed I could go to Iraq because they don't allow parents to go the war zone," Griffin says.

With the help of his congressman and Gen. David Petraeus, Griffin traveled to Baghdad, then by Black Hawk helicopter to Camp Striker, where his son's unit was located.

One night, he couldn't sleep so he decided to take a walk and then he heard another set of boots on the ground.

"And it was my son," he says. "And it was absolutely unequivocally my son, not an image, not a dream. I was walking and there was my son. And in his normal vernacular, he said, 'Dad, what the F are you doing here?' He said, 'This is dangerous.' And before I could answer, he said, 'Don't worry about me, I'm in a good place.' And then he was gone."

Last Journey will always be the last gift to his son. Griffin picks up his copy.

"And I can see him smiling, knowing this is what he left me as his last gift," he says.

The gift of not only the worn book in his hands, but the courage to realize his long-held dream of being a writer. The 58-year-old former CPA is now working on his second book.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sexy = Brooding Men, Smiling Women

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So if you are a happy, friendly, well-adjusted male, you better pretend to be otherwise ("Men who smile were considered fairly unattractive by women"), 'cause happy is only sexy in women, not men, it seems. I guess I had it right in my 20s, when I could brood with the best of them. And I always liked the brooding girls, too - the arty, philosophical, smart chicks.

This study seems to reinforce the idea that women are attracted to "bad boys," not to nice guys. That sucks - but it probably has some evolutionary advantage in that the brooding bad boys probably have higher testosterone levels, making them better genetic material in terms gene survival, but not necessarily so good at helping feed and clothe the kid.

Since the article mentions Edward, the anorexic vampire from the Twilight series, I had to include the image above, which has nothing to do with anything except that one of my coworkers was training a client who was wearing a shirt that said, "And then Buffy staked Edward. The end." So I found this image.

Brooding Men, Smiling Women Seen As Sexy, Study Shows

First Posted: 05/25/11

Guys, want to look sexy and get the girl? Don't smile too much. Look brooding or show a bit of shame instead. Women, ignore that advice.

Women find happy men less sexually attractive than those with expressions that show pride or hint that they have done wrong and know it, according to Canadian researchers.

The study published online Tuesday in the American Psychological Association journal Emotion showed pictures of the opposite sex to both men and women. Participants were then asked for their initial reactions on sexual attractiveness based the expressions they saw.

"Men who smile were considered fairly unattractive by women," said Jessica Tracy, a University of British Columbia psychology professor who directed the study.

"So to the extent that men think that smiling is a good thing to do if they want to be found sexually attractive our findings suggest that's not the case," Tracy said.

The men's reaction was just the opposite.

"Women who smile are absolutely very attractive. That was by far the most attractive expression women showed," Tracy said in an interview.

The researchers admit they are not sure why men and women reacted differently to smiles. In a man, a big smile may make him appear too feminine or more desperate for sex.

The study also adds fuel to the notion that women are attracted to bad boys.

"Women are attracted to guys like James Dean, Edward the vampire. The guys who are flawed, but who know it and are tortured by it," Tracy said.

A slightly downcast expression of shame is an appeasement gesture that hints at a need for sympathy.

Men also found sexual attractiveness in women whose expressions and body language hinted at shame.

The researchers stressed they looked only at initial reactions of sexual attractiveness, and were not recommending men adopt a no-smile policy for a long-term relationship.

"When people want a long-term relationship they take much more into account than sexual attractiveness. How nice a person is, is a big thing," Tracy said.

"So we're not saying, don't be a nice guy," she said.

SOURCE: Emotion, online May 24, 2011.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dr. Roger Walsh - Physical and Psychological Benefits of Physical Activity, Diet, Relationships, Fun, and Spirituality

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Would you like to live longer? Healthier? Happier? With more vigor, enthusiasm, sex drive, curiosity, and joy? You can - the choice is yours.

Roger Walsh released a research study conducted at UC Irvine that offers a comprehensive, integral approach to mental and physical health - a lot of what he offers is nearly identical to the material that has come out of resilience research.

Walsh is one of the founding members of the Integral Institute - and he is Ken Wilber's personal physician. This press release from UC Irvine details some of the findings from his recent study (to be published in American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association) on the benefits of an integral approach to health.

This came to my attention through a promotion from Integral Life and Boulder Integral (which I posted at Integral Options Cafe: Jeff Salzman and Dr. Roger Walsh - Integral Health and Healing). The video at Integral Life is very good, but it is subscription only. Fortunately, the link in the article gives us a pre-print PDF of the whole article - very cool.

Below this, I want to include a documentary on stress featuring Dr. Robert Sapolsky.

Therapeutic lifestyle changes as useful as drugs in improving mental health

UCI study details benefits of physical activity, diet, relationships, fun and spirituality

— Irvine, Calif., February 22, 2011 —

Getting more exercise, spending time outdoors and helping others are among the activities that can be as effective as drugs or counseling in treating an array of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, according to a UC Irvine study.

In determining this, Dr. Roger Walsh, professor of psychiatry & human behavior, philosophy and anthropology, as well as adjunct professor of religious studies, reviewed research on the effects of what he calls “therapeutic lifestyle changes.” Other TLCs might relate to nutrition, relationships, recreation, relaxation, and religious or spiritual involvement.

“I found that lifestyle changes can offer significant advantages for patients, therapists and societies, yet they’re insufficiently appreciated, taught or utilized,” Walsh said. “TLCs can be effective, inexpensive and enjoyable, with fewer side effects and complications than medications. In the 21st century, therapeutic lifestyles may need to be a central focus of mental, medical and public health.”

Study results appear online in American Psychologist, the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association. Among Walsh’s findings:

  • Exercise doesn’t just boost people’s sense of well-being. It can help children do better in school, improve cognitive performance in adults, reduce age-related memory loss in the elderly, and increase neuron formation in the brain.
  • Diets with plenty of fruits, vegetables and fish may enhance kids’ school performance, help maintain cognitive function in adults, and reduce symptoms in schizophrenic and affective disorders.
  • Spending time in nature can promote cognitive function and overall well-being.
  • Good relationships can reduce health risks ranging from the common cold to strokes, as well as multiple mental illnesses, and can dramatically improve psychological health.
  • Recreation and fun can lessen defensiveness and foster social skills.
  • Relaxation and stress management can treat a variety of anxiety, insomnia and panic disorders.
  • Meditation can enhance empathy and emotional stability; decrease stress and burnout; and boost cognitive function and even brain size.
  • Religious or spiritual involvement that focuses on love and forgiveness can promote well-being and reduce anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
  • Contribution and service, or altruism, can foster joy and generosity, benefit both physical and mental health, and perhaps even extend lifespan. A major exception, Walsh noted, is “caretaker burnout experienced by overwhelmed family members caring for a demented spouse or parent.”

Obstacles to TLCs, he said, are the sustained effort they require and “a passive expectation that healing comes from an outside authority or a pill.” Walsh also observed that people contend with a daily barrage of psychologically sophisticated advertisements that promote unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol and eating fast food.

“You can never get enough of what you don’t really need, but you can certainly ruin your life and health trying,” he added.

Everything that Dr. Walsh teaches in his article is essentially designed to prevent or combat stress - and we suspect that stress is the fundamental cause in 80% of all illnesses, including cancers. But we must take a proactive stance, and maybe this documentary will help motivate you to do so.

Stress: Portrait of a Killer

Stress, Portrait of a Killer

The stress response: in the beginning it saved our lives, making us run from predators and enabling us to take down prey. Today, human beings are turning on the same life-saving physical reaction to cope with 30-year mortgages, $4 a gallon gasoline, final exams, difficult bosses and even traffic jams — we can’t seem to turn it off. So, we’re constantly marinating in corrosive hormones triggered by the stress response.

Now, scientists are showing just how measurable — and dangerous — prolonged exposure to stress can be. Stanford University neurobiologist, MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, and renowned author Robert Sapolsky reveals new answers to why and how chronic stress is threatening our lives in Killer Stress, a National Geographic Special. The hour-long co-production of National Geographic Television and Stanford University was produced exclusively for public television.

In this revelatory film, discoveries occur in an extraordinary range of places, from baboon troops on the plains of East Africa to the office cubes of government bureaucrats in London to neuroscience labs at the nation’s leading research universities. Groundbreaking research reveals surprising facts about the impact of stress on our bodies: how it can shrink our brains, add fat to our bellies and even unravel our chromosomes. Understanding how stress works can help us figure out ways to combat it and mitigate negative impacts on our health.




Documentary - Children Full of Life

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This is a moving short film (45 mins or so, in five parts) about a fourth grade teacher in Japan whose class learns more about how to live a happy life than any student is ever taught in the U.S. What a beautiful thing to teach children.

I think it's wonderful that this happens to be a male teacher - and that he is free to show affection for the kids without (it appears) any fear of being charged with child abuse.

Thanks to Andreas Thies for the link.
Children Full of Life

"In the award-winning documentary Children Full of Life, a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learn lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori. He instructs each to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for their classmates."
Part One:


Part Two:


Part Three:


Part Four:


Part Five:



Friday, May 27, 2011

The Dalai Lama - Distinguishing Between Constructive and Destructive Emotions


DESTRUCTIVE EMOTIONS
How Can We Overcome Them?
A Scientific Dialogue
with the Dalai Lama

narrated by Daniel Goleman
foreword by the Dalai Lama

more...

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

Distinguishing between constructive and destructive emotions is right there to be observed in the moment when a destructive emotion arises--the calmness, the tranquility, the balance of the mind are immediately disrupted. Other emotions do not destroy equilibrium or the sense of well-being as soon as they arise, but in fact enhance it--so they would be called constructive.

Also there are emotions that are aroused by intelligence. For example, compassion can be aroused by pondering people who are suffering. When the compassion is actually experienced, it is true that the mind is somewhat disturbed, but that is more on the surface. Deep down there is a sense of confidence, and so on a deeper level there is no disturbance. A consequence of such compassion, aroused by intelligent reflection, is that the mind becomes calm.

The consequences of anger--especially its long-term effects--are that the mind is disturbed. Typically, when compassion moves from simply being a mental state to behavior, it tends to manifest in ways that are of service to others, whereas when anger goes to the point of enactment it generally, of course, becomes destructive. Even if it doesn't manifest as violence, if you have the capacity to help, you would refrain from helping. That too would be a kind of destructive emotion. (p.158)

--from Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama narrated by Daniel Goleman, foreword by the Dalai Lama

Destructive Emotions • Now at 2O% off
(Good until June 3rd).

This is good information for men - we can have a lot of trouble (either some of the time or most of the time) identifying exactly what emotion we are feeling if it's not anger. It takes practice to learn to identify our feelings, and it's helpful to know which are helpful and which are hurtful.

Which is not to say that we need to make the hurtful or harmful emotions go away (or "overcome" them as the piece above mentions) - exactly the opposite. We need to learn how to sit with them, befriend them, learn what they are trying to tell us when the come up. For example, while anger is sometimes appropriate and justified, there are many other times when we will feel angry rather than hurt or sad - because anger is more culturally acceptable for men, we sometimes (often?) use it to bury painful emotions.

But it's those painful emotions that have the power to act as our teachers - for example, I used to get angry with my girlfriend every time she told me to drive safely. When I looked into the anger, however, I realized it was about my mother.

She used to say the same thing (and 1,001 similar things) even after I was long moved-out and living on my own, and when she said it she was telling me (based on my history), "I don't trust you - I think you're going to get in trouble." It hurt me that she kept holding that expectation of me long after I had quit doing drugs, but I didn't allow myself to feel hurt back then, so I got angry. And then that same pattern picked right up in my current relationship, even though all Jami means is, "drive safe."

When we are unclear about our feelings, we tend to hurt other people who do not deserve it.


Victoria Costello - Men's Moods Demystified

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At that moment, Florida governor Charlie Crist experienced a surge in T-levels

Awakening Psyche: Integrating body, mind and spirit in our collective consciousness is a blog by Victoria Costello at Psychology Today. Her most recent post is an attempt to demystify men's moods because, you know, we don't have a menstrual cycle to blame when we get cranky.

There is some validity to looking at testosterone levels in men to explain their moods - but we don't have the predictable cycles of hormonally related moods fluctuations as do women. Still, it's useful to know that we are at our best hormonally first thing in the morning and not at sundown - and it's good for our female partners to know this as well.

One thing I question a little is the T-levels high in the mid-summer and lowest in the winter - this seems easily explainable by the amount of female skin showing in those respective seasons. A LOT of research has shown that male T-levels increase when see attractive, scantily-dressed women, so it's simple logic that after a month or two of that exposure in summer months, our T-levels have likely peaked for the year. And of course, in winter women are wearing WAY more clothing, and it's cold and dark, so T-levels go down. That's my explanation as an amatuer endocrinologist.

When it's a woman, we call it a period

Although a woman's periods and the roller coaster emotions that go with them are widely known and parodied, it turns out a men have a mood altering pattern of their own. Dare I call them periods? I do. If the definition is a certain day or time when his hormones fluctuate and change his behavior. It's about time we brought equality to this gender-based discussion. And help out a woman trying to decipher her man's many moods.

One reason the male cycle is so poorly understood is because a man's testosterone level, the driver behind his cycle, changes rapidly with his environment and moods, so measuring it can be challenging. But here's what we know:

1. The male cycle occurs once every 24 hours, with peaks 6 or 7 times a day and smaller fluctuations occurring every 15 to 20 minutes.

2. The range of levels of testosterone that can be present in a man's blood is very broad, depending on the man and his physical condition.

3. Testosterone levels change with the seasons; in the mid-summer his level is highest, and lowest in winter and early spring. So much for all that talk of love budding with the blooms of spring!

4. A man's high testosterone level in the morning makes him most virile upon waking. This explains why men often wake up with an erection. No news there. Comparatively, he's got less testosterone and desire at dusk, especially as he ages.

5. A man's testosterone level is increased through regular sexual activity, and high testosterone leads him to want and have more sex. In addition to increasing a man's sex drive, a higher level of testosterone is beneficial to a healthy heart and brain. It produces a buoyant effect on his mood and energy level.

And here's a thought provoking bit of research: Studies have shown that men with the highest overall testosterone levels (and those who are the most handsome) are more likely to cheat on their partners and be divorced. Could this be evidence of too much of a good thing? Researchers say the evidence points to exactly that conclusion.

Personally, I'll admit I've never been attracted to extremely handsome or "pretty" men. Could this have been the survival instinct at work? What about you? Do pretty men turn you on or off?

Read more in The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Chemistry of Love, coauthored with Maryanne Fisher, Ph.D.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Join Me at the Ultimate Men's Summit, a Free Virtual Global Telesummit, June 10-19

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I will be part of a discussion on Thursday, June 16 at 3:30 PDT - a one-hour Panel entitled, “Growing Up - From Boyhood to Manhood" with the prominent men's work expert, Owen Marcus, a man I was fortunate to meet last summer at Jayson Gaddis's Evolving Men's Conference in Boulder. Following the one-hour discussion, we will be available for an additional Q&A session. The event is being sponsored by The Shift Network, among other fine groups.

Free registration is available here.

Among the many excellent men (and women) involved are Neale Donald Walsch, Sam Keen, Robert Bly, Gary Zukav, Dan Millman, Hal Stone, Andrew Harvey, John Perkins, Claudio Naranjo and Gay Hendricks (plus a few great women such as Riane Eisler).

In addition, some integrally-known men are also involved, including Robert Augustus Masters, Stuart Davis, Saniel Bonder, Arjuna Ardagh, Terry Patten, Gary Stamper, Tripp Lanier, and Matthew Fox.

Among the men's studies professionals are Michael Gurian, Michael Kimmel, Jed Diamond, Michael Thompson, and Warren Farrell.

Please join us for this FREE event - it looks to be a wonderful week!

More information will be posted in the next couple of days. If you have any thoughts on men "growing up," or topics you'd like to hear, please drop me a note.


The Good Men Project - The Dan Savage Interview

Dan (on the right) with his husband Terry

I've been reading Dan Savage's Savage Love sex advice column since the mid-1990s (originally in Seattle's best weekly, The Stranger) - and I have to admit that I often found him annoying back in those days. So I'm not sure if he has changed or if I have changed - or both - but he is one of my favorite people now. My admiration for him has grown as his politicism and social engagement have grown - especially his founding of the It Gets Better Project. [OK, his creation of and support for the Santorum campaign didn't hurt, either.]

So with that background, I was pleased to see him interviewed by The Good Men Project.

The Dan Savage Interview

Sex-advice guru Dan Savage on being a gay dad, crying during sex, bad advice, Ashton Kutcher, why he dislikes Dr. Drew, the mistake he regrets the most, and whether he’s good in bed.

You’re married, with a kid. Should you really be doling out sex advice?

I’m gay married with a kid.

So being gay married with a kid is different?

Yes, in some ways, and I’m also me. And I only have one kid. And this kid isn’t quite the sex- and relationship-destroying atom bomb that three or four kids might be. The key to keeping sex alive, particularly when a kid is around, is giving a shit about sex and prioritizing it. And I do that.

Where do you turn when you need sex or marriage advice?

I used to go my mother, but she died in 2008. Thankfully I was with her long enough to get most of the advice I needed to not totally fuck up my life.

What’s the weirdest letter you’ve ever received?

I get letters from people who eat shit and get turned on by that. I get letters from people who have sex with dogs and want to start a kind of dog-fuckers pride movement similar to a gay pride movement—because those are, of course, totally the same thing.

There’s really no end to the crazy circumstances people get themselves into. I got a letter today from a woman who’s dating a guy who has five children from five different women, and this guy is encouraging her not to use birth control because he’s sure he wants to start a family with her.

He sounds like a winner.

Oh, and he’s pressuring her to have a threesome with him and one of his other baby mamas who happens to be living with him. And she wonders if getting involved with this guy is a good idea? Those are the kinds of letters that really make me bang my head on the desk, especially when the letter ends with, “I’ve been reading you for years.” Apparently, to no benefit.

If you could take back one piece of advice you’ve ever given a reader, what would it be?

I once told a woman who didn’t like her husband, or wouldn’t leave him, to encourage her husband to take up drinking and driving. You really don’t want to suggest that someone take up drinking and driving in print. It’s a sure way to get several million angry letters.

You started out as a sex-advice columnist, and now you’re one of the leading gay voices in America. Are you at all surprised by how your career turned out?

I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. I would say I’m appalled. There are gay organizations with multi-million-dollar budgets, and none of them can seem to scrounge up an executive director who can string a few persuasive lines together and win an argument on basic cable. Why is that every time someone from the Human Rights Campaign is on TV, you just know that we already lost the fight. Whatever the argument is, whatever the question is, it’s over. Some people will say to me, “Who made you spokesperson?” You know what? Nobody. I’m a spokesperson by default.

Read the rest of the interview to find out he no longer wants to get busy with Ashton Kutcher and why we should not take sex advice from Dr. Drew - oh, and whether or not he's good in bed.

I did want to quote one more passage because I think it's relevant in terms of how people define sexual identity.

A recent study found that about 3.5 percent of the population is LGBT. Discounting how people “identify” themselves, what percentage of the population do you think is actually LGBT?

The B is the wildcard. If you look at that study, there are more bisexually identified people than LGT combined. There are a lot of people out there who are hetero-flexible. But how do you define it with something as amorphous as being able to sexually respond to both genders? There’s a lot of people who are straight-identified, and are comfortable being perceived as straight, but when you pin them down …

So to speak …

Ha. Yes, when you pin them down, they’ll say, “I’m a little bit bi.” And what does that even mean when it comes to trying to come up with a number of people who are actually LGBT? The actual percentage is probably much higher. In the end, maybe the figure we should settle on is plenty. There are plenty of us running around this earth. There are more LGBT people in America than there are Jews and Miami Cubans. And the Jews and the Miami Cubans get everything they want from both political parties. We should, too. If there’s a Jewish Miami Cuban homo out there, then that person should rule the world.

Now go read the whole interview.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recipe: Apple and Walnut Chicken Meatloaf Muffins

Yeah, that's a mouthful, but it's a tasty mouthful. And it fits with my largely Paleo Diet.

This is adapted from another recipe I posted a few months ago - and I personally like this one better, since it contains many of my favorite things. These are great for a quick snack at work (in the few minutes I have between clients) or for a between meal snack. They are pretty filling.

Ingredients (adjust spices to taste):
2 lbs ground free-range organic chicken (or turkey)
3 free-range eggs (can be only whites, but a little water)
1 cup organic quick oats
1/2 cup organic walnuts finely chopped
2 small organic Fuji apples, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 heaping teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Optional: 2-3 tablespoons of Benefiber to increase fiber content

Mix it all up in a bowl and then spoon it into a greased muffin pan
Bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes (my oven is gas, and 35 minutes is good)
Makes 12 nutritious meatloaf muffins

Approximate Nutrition Profile:
1 muffin: 185 calories, 6 grams of fat, 21 grams of protein, 7 grams of carbs, 1.5 grams of fiber (w/o the Benefiber, 2.5-3 with it)

If you prefer a moister meatloaf, you can add a little water. If anyone has a suggestion to increase the moistness without increasing the calories, please leave a note in the comments.


Is It Possible to Raise a Genderless Child?

This is Jazz with his little sibling Storm.

A Canadian couple are going to try - and I have severe doubts about the wisdom of their choice. This was tried back in the 1970s by some feminist parents - what they found was that their boys were still in many ways boys, and ditto for the girls. Much of gender is culturally constructed, but their are many biological elements that are inborn and only alterable by a conscious adult.

A blog at Forbes takes a decidedly mixed view of their choice. Parent Central has a long article on the topic that I will post some of below this one.

Gender Bias? Raise A Genderless Child

May. 22 2011 - 12:25 pm | 2,161 views

Does it matter which is a boy and which a girl?

A Canadian couple is raising their 4-month old to be genderless. As Parent Central explains in a long article about baby Storm “while there’s nothing ambiguous about Storm’s genitalia, [the parents] aren’t telling anyone whether their third child is a boy or a girl.”

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” says [mom] Witterick, bouncing Storm, dressed in a red-fleece jumper, on her lap at the kitchen table. “If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says [dad] Stocker. Witterick and Stocker believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females. Some say their choice is alienating.

“Those People Should Be Charged with Child Abuse”

No, that’s not a comment about the Witterick-Stockers. It’s what my Jewish husband says when he sees Ultra-Orthodox parents and their children walking to one of the many Shuls in our neighborhood on Saturday morning. He says these things to rile me, but there’s a deeper truth under his provocations.

When parents decide that they are going to raise their children outside mainstream culture, most of us are horrified. “How will the children ever be able to fit in?” we ask. “Their parents are condemning them to a lifetime of confusion and a near future of harassment and bullying. Those children should be taken away from them. That’s more than irresponsible parenting.”

“That’s child abuse.”

Free to Be, You and Me

Unsurprisingly, the Witterick-Stockers were both raised in liberal homes. According to Parent Central, “Stocker grew up listening to Free to Be … You and Me, a 1972 record with a central message of gender neutrality.”

Far from radical.

It’s far more common for parents to restrict their children’s opportunities than it is for mothers and fathers to open up to their kids every possibility imaginable. Think Christian home schoolers, the Amish, and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. These are people who deliberately press upon their children their own strict ideologies expecting that they will spend an entire lifetime inside a culture that is counter to one they would otherwise inherit as their geographic destiny.

The Witterick-Stockers say they are not inculcating but unschooling their children. Unschooling is

an offshoot of home-schooling centered on the belief that learning should be driven by a child’s curiosity. There are no report cards, no textbooks and no tests. For unschoolers, learning is about exploring and asking questions . . [a] fringe movement [that] is growing. An unschooling conference in Toronto drew dozens of families last fall.

And Gender Bias?

Gender bias is what the Witterick-Stockers are all about – or, more accurately, all against. They are, they say, raising children for a utopian future in which no ForbesWoman would exist. Because it wouldn’t have to. We wouldn’t have anything to report on – no pitiful showing in the Fortune 500 or the AmLaw 200.

Exxon and General Motors and Pfizer would have as many women as men on their Boards and in the C-suite. Women’s jobs would pay as well as men’s. We wouldn’t have to talk about “comparable worth” or wage equity anymore. No one would judge a person by the color of their skin, their sexual preference or their gender.

But is this the way to go about it?

Here is some of the article from Parent Central - I recommend the whole piece. They are allowing the children they have to decide their own gender identities by allowing them choose their own clothes, talking with them about cultural gender norms, and so on.

Parents keep child's gender secret

May 21, 2011

Comments on this story Comments(403)

by Jayme Poisson

“So it’s a boy, right?” a neighbour calls out as Kathy Witterick walks by, her four month old baby, Storm, strapped to her chest in a carrier.

Each week the woman asks the same question about the baby with the squishy cheeks and feathery blond hair.

Witterick smiles, opens her arms wide, comments on the sunny spring day, and keeps walking.

She’s used to it. The neighbours know Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising a genderless baby. But they don’t pretend to understand it.

While there’s nothing ambiguous about Storm’s genitalia, they aren’t telling anyone whether their third child is a boy or a girl.

The only people who know are Storm’s brothers, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, a close family friend and the two midwives who helped deliver the baby in a birthing pool at their Toronto home on New Year’s Day.

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” says Witterick, bouncing Storm, dressed in a red-fleece jumper, on her lap at the kitchen table.

“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says Stocker.

When Storm was born, the couple sent an email to friends and family: “We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...).”

Their announcement was met with stony silence. Then the deluge of criticisms began. Not just about Storm, but about how they were parenting their other two children.

The grandparents were supportive, but resented explaining the gender-free baby to friends and co-workers. They worried the children would be ridiculed. Friends said they were imposing their political and ideological values on a newborn. Most of all, people said they were setting their kids up for a life of bullying in a world that can be cruel to outsiders.

Witterick and Stocker believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females. Some say their choice is alienating.

In an age where helicopter parents hover nervously over their kids micromanaging their lives, and tiger moms ferociously push their progeny to get into Harvard, Stocker, 39, and Witterick, 38, believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age.

“What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker.

Jazz and Kio have picked out their own clothes in the boys and girls shttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifections of stores since they were 18 months old. Just this week, Jazz unearthed a pink dress at Value Village, which he loves because it “really poofs out at the bottom. It feels so nice.” The boys decide whether to cut their hair or let it grow.

Like all mothers and fathers, Witterick and Stocker struggle with parenting decisions. The boys are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex.

“We thought that if we delayed sharing that information, in this case hopefully, we might knock off a couple million of those messages by the time that Storm decides Storm would like to share,” says Witterick.

Read the whole article.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Go to a Museum or a Play - You'll Be Happier . . . Seriously

http://www.theforecaster.net/files/imagecache/large/2009/10/05/pnms-outabout-100709.jpg

In my skeptical mind, I'm thinking, "Yeah, these guys are happier because they are going to museums and plays and the ballet and their wives/girlfriends are thrilled, so they are getting more sex." But I'm sure that's just my cynical self - I actually love good museums, plays, classical music, modern dance, etc.

Seriously, research has shown repeatedly that arts - both creating and watching - are good for the mind and for general happiness and meaningful life.

Cultured Men Are Happier And Healthier

Men who visit art galleries, museums, and the theatre regularly tend to enjoy better health and are more satisfied with life, reveals a study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The study found that both men and women who play musical instruments, paint or visit the theatre or museums felt in better health, enjoyed life more, and were less likely to be anxious or depressed then people who do not participate in cultural activities.

However, the effect was most pronounced in men who were interested in watching and looking at culture rather than doing creative or active cultural activities themselves.

The Norwegian researchers used questionnaires to determine how frequently 50,797 adults living in Nord-Tr√łndelag County participated in cultural activities and to assess their perceived state of health, satisfaction with life, and anxiety and depression levels.

All types of cultural activities were significantly associated with good health and satisfaction with life, and people who engaged in cultural activities had lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Moreover, the more culture was experienced, the greater were the benefits to health and well-being. The greatest benefits were seen in men who did "receptive" cultural activities, such as visiting theatres and museums.

"The results indicate that the use of cultural activities in health promotion and healthcare may be justified," comment the authors.

Source:
The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

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Evelyn Brister - What Does "Wuss" Mean?

http://warisacrime.org/sites/afterdowningstreet.org/files/images/Dont%20be%20such%20a%20wuss%2007062010.jpg

It's interesting to see a woman pondering the origin and meaning of a pejorative term used to belittle and shame men (particularly young men, in my experience, in that the term is more common in high school and college). Evelyn Brister heard the term "wuss" in a philosophy talk and became curious about the word. She blogged about it at her site, Knowledge and Experience.

Because this blogger is interested in feminist theory, she really doesn't "get" the way that this word - like all other terms that demean boys/men by implying they are feminine or homosexual - acts to both maintain a traditional and limiting form of masculinity and to define the feminine or the non-heterosexual as "less than." Words like these are powerful ways of maintaining traditional - and archaic - gender norms.

It seems to me, and one of the comments confirms this perspective, that many people do not even have any awareness of what the words mean or how they function. This lack of awareness is both the result of and the maintaining of those old gender norms in which most people are still embedded. We need to bring more awareness to this issue to end that lack of awareness.

What does 'Wuss' Mean?

I sometimes download and archive podcasts but find that I don't listen to them as often as I intend. But then something will strike my fancy. And that's how I came to listen recently to a Philosophy Talk podcast dated 12/5/10.

The topic is "Disagreement" and the interview is with Jennifer Lackey of Northwestern, a social epistemologist who examines testimony as a source of knowledge. The topic is a fascinating one, and the sort of thing that I would encourage my students to think about.

But I got caught on this piece of dialogue:
"What should I do in the face of disagreement? Should I change my opinion just because you disagree? If I change my opinion just because you disagree, that seems kind of wussy. On the other hand, if I don't at least reconsider, that seems kind of arrogant. So what should I do: be wussy or arrogant? chuckle"

Lackey: nervous laughter
Why the chuckle and the nervous laughter?

Could it be because 'wuss' is a not-quite-polite word to use here? What does 'wuss' mean, anyway, and what is its origin?

I've always thought of 'wuss' as one of those words that is like the phrases 'that sucks' and 'it really blows.' They've become part of the vernacular, but we are marginally aware of their sexual origin. You wouldn't say it to your mother-in-law. At best, isn't it like substituting 'witch' for 'bitch'? The meaning is the same, and the substitute doesn't eliminate the sexist nature of the insult, or does it?

I looked up the origins of 'wuss' and found much speculation but no authoritative origin. Suggestive, though. It means 'wimp' and comes from the expression 'pussy-wussy,' meaning 'sissy.' It became popularized in the US in the 1980's. Strangely, some seem to say that 'sissy' does not have a sexual reference, and that 'pussy' in this context refers not to women's anatomy but to men who act timid, subservient, weak, and ineffectual and in this way are like women.

Either way, the term is a way of insulting a man by calling him either gay or feminine, and it plays either directly or indirectly off the slang word 'pussy.' I wonder what Jennifer Lackey, philosopher of language, thought at the time of the interview. The word gets additional power, of course, by being directed at a woman by a man, and in the context of a male-dominated profession.

I checked my instincts by asking a few of my colleagues. Some guys said that it's just a slang word, not too polite, meant to be insulting, but basically harmless. Some guys said it was insulting to gays. But women said it was sexist: "Oh, that's a way of saying 'pussy' without saying 'pussy'."