Monday, September 2, 2013

Reflection. Explanation. Ode.

It's funny (in a not really that funny kind of way), since I was about six I kept a journal. For a long time my diary was affectionately called "D" and every entry was lovingly started with 'Dear D' as if "she" was a pen pal I was devoted to. She wanted to know what was going on with me, and she offered nothing but unconditional support and great advice on boys, my mother, depression, school, and anything else I wrote about. I had a Livejournal that I updated on occasion with thoughts, online quizzes and surveys, and other random happenings. I had a Diaryland that I updated obsessively, everyday with the most intimate details of my life. I had a Xanga that I reserved exclusively for song and movie quotes that described how I felt or what I believed at any given moment. Throughout all of this I continued to keep my hand written diary that at times reflected what was in my online journals and other times went into much further depth. All of these journals were a lifeline for me. With everything that goes on during adolescence into early adulthood, writing allowed me to reflect, philosophize, vent, and whatever else I needed to cope and learn from each of my daily experiences.

Then there was a time when there was nothing. Nothing online. Nothing hand written. The sporadic entries I made (one or two a year, if even) in by bedside journal claimed I was too busy or too happy and didn't need to write to examine my life anymore. I would write to catch up my diary, as if it were a long lost friend, on the last several months of my life. January I did this, February this happen, and so on. These entries were either glowing, making sure to mention every fabulous detail of my life, or were list-like to explain things as quickly as possible so that the pages weren't bored by the less than juicy tidbits I was feeding it. "D" no longer existed. She had long gotten sick of the drama of my teenage years and in her place had been taken over by temporary name-less friends who either didn't care or I used to reflect how wonderful and perfect everything was.

But the truth was that I needed "D." My mid-20s were filled with denial disguised as bliss. My friends all saw it, but didn't say anything until much later. Without a journal to force me to be honest to myself, I stopped being honest with these real people in my life who I should have trusted...which is extremely ironic. And maybe that's why I started this blog; because I sensed something was missing and I was trying to figure out what it was. I just didn't know it at the time. And maybe that's why the focus has always been all over the place as well. On some level I longed to get back to personal writing, but had reached a level of maturity that knew I could not be as transparent anymore for personal and professional reasons. At this point in my life I recognized that friends, family, and future employers all had access to something I once considered to be totally private (as long as I never sent my totally public link to my mother, grandmother, etc.). And so recipes, reviews, and outfit posts dotted the page. My superficial way of writing without getting to what I really needed to.

When I started my second round of graduate school this blog fell by the way side, although the occasional entries into my handwritten journal increased. I spent so much time reading and writing academic prose and living a life that was completely under the microscope that personal private writing became very important to me. It gave me the space and rare moments of free time to think about my day, my life, and what direction it was heading in. Without that prompt to sit down and write I would still be focused on questions like "what homework is due tomorrow, what should I wear to work, what am I going to do about this client" instead of "what am I doing with my life, why I am I friends with this person, what is important to me."

I've spent the last week doing some serious reading and organizing hundreds of academic articles as I get into the next stage of my dissertation process. I've decided to examine video narratives and personality characteristics of adolescents who have/have had cancer. As part of this, because there is not much research on videos, I've been reading a lot about illness blogs. Overwhelmingly, and not surprisingly, research points to blogs as a great source of emotional expression, support, and growth for those suffering from physical illness, mental illness, and overall life stress. I could quote these articles up and down about why this is the case but I guess what I'm trying to say, in a not so subtle way, is that I agree. From personal experience, my mind is much fuller when I'm able to express myself, explore myself, and not worry about being judged. I know what I'm trying to say and the abyss that is "D" or the internet or anyone in between gets that and silently waits for me to figure things out and move on my way. In turn, my life becomes fuller as I am able to take stock of what's important and discard what's not.

One of these days I'll get back to writing again; maybe even one day soon. But for right now I've got a 100+ page book to write that's a hidden manifesto to a medium that's meant the world to me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Getting ready for Spring 2013

The weather has been exceptionally nice in California over the past few days. It seems as if Spring may be upon us!

To honor the sunshine (and to pep me up for upcoming finals) I made a mix this weekend.

Valerie -  Mark Ronson Feat. Amy Winehouse
Marry You - Bruno Mars
Give Your Heart a Break - Demi Lovato
Young Blood - The Naked and Famous
Anything Could Happen - Ellie Goulding
Cherry Cherry - Neil Diamond
Never Go Back - Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Anna Sun - Walk the Moon
Vagabond - Wolfmother
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire
Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
You're All I Need To Get By - Marvin Gaye feat. Tammi Terrell        
Hummingbird Heartbeat - Katy Perry
Suit & Tie - Justin Timberlake ft. JAY-Z
In The Stone - Earth Wind & Fire
Reunion - M83

Seems like whenever Spring time hits all I want to listen to is pop music and oldies. Not a bad mixture.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Help a sister out with some research?

--> Research is currently being conducted at Palo Alto University looking into the relationship between seeing images of oneself on the Internet and the degree of control associated with it. In addition, this study also looks at the potential connections between body image and self-disclosure of self-created media on the Internet. If you are over the age of 18 and have a person social networking page (such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.) please consider clicking the link provided and taking a 30-45 minute questionnaire.

Please note, as the survey is hosted by a third-party, data will only be kept confidential by the researcher. Confidentiality will be kept on the third-party website to the degree allowed by the technology used. No guarantee can be made regarding the tracking or interception of subjects’ responses by any other parties.

If you have any questions please feel free to direct them to Linglima at paloaltou dot edu.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Celebrate Summer Responsibly and Appropriately

Obviously the above title means that to celebrate summer a new music mix was made. Something Sean and I could listen to while the windows are down and we jet off to beach towns and wineries and wherever else our little hearts desire. Wind blowing, warm weather, and lots of singing at the tops of our lungs.

Only The Good Die Young - Billy Joel
Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
Gloria - U2
Forever And Ever Amen - The Drums
Watch That Man - David Bowie
Jumpin' Jack Flash - The Rolling Stones
Dancing In the Streets - Martha and the Vandellas
Nothing On You - B.o.B f. Bruno Mars
Valerie - Mark Ronson Feat. Amy Winehouse
Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand
Cold War - The Morning Benders
Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
Growing on Me - The Darkness
Open Your Heart - Madonna
Girls Of Prey - Pop Noir
Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before - The Smiths
Battery Kinzie - Fleet Foxes
Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Tears For Fears
Time to Pretend - MGMT
Limelight - Rush

What songs remind you of summer?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review: A History of Violence

So I've decided to change up how I do movie reviews on this blog, and I think over time I may make a shift to focusing more on them than other types of entries. Once I go through all the archived entries I have saved up I think I'm mainly going to focus on life, music, and movie reviews. I know that may be a little boring for most people, but after a long theoretical debate with my brother over the theories and psychology of LOST as a television series, I realized that I really miss writing about various forms of pop culture in a more scholarly way. God that makes me such a nerd, but I was an English minor in college, and I actually ENJOYED writing papers and reading and analyzing. This is also partially part of the reason why I love psychology so much. Even though we are trained to help people, part of helping people is analyzing them like they are a puzzle. In the last 6 months the posts I have most enjoyed putting up were the ones about movies in which I approached them from a psychological perspective. One of the last times I did that I even devoted half of the entry to waxing about this love of mine. So I think I'd rather just shut up about this and do it.

Most recently I watched A History of Violence staring Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello, a thriller about a man who once was a mob enforcer and fled that life in order to start a new one. Mortensen plays Tom, the man formerly known as Joey, who has managed to, despite previously being quite a sick bastard, find love, start a family, and live a quiet existence in rural America. By all accounts he is a good family man. Steadfast, loving, reliable. Early in the movie Edie, Tom's wife played by Bello, tells Tom that he is the best man she has ever known. The viewer is painted a picture of Tom as essentially perfect.

However, juxtaposed with these early scenes of blissful family life is the brief tale of two men with no scruples. Rather than pay their bill at a small highway-wise motel they kill everyone including a small child. No remorse at the sight of all the blood, just another day at the office.

When the two stories meet, the real baddies make a move against a waitress at the diner where Tom works and he snaps into action, killing them and saving the day. Unfortunately for him his heroics garner him national media attention and the life he left behind catches up with him. It is only then that we learn that Tom is not as innocent and pure as he is made out to be. Once a maniac as heartless as the men from earlier in the movie, he took out a man's eye with barbed wire. It makes you wonder what kind of sicko would do that (can you imagine how close you'd have to be to the person's face to do that?). Surely our Tom is not that kind of a sicko, and his wife initially agrees. But when she sees Tom snap into action after their son's life is threatened she realizes that he truly is, Joey, the ruthless killer the mob claims he is.

It was about this point in the movie that the following exchange takes place:

Edie: What do you have multiple personalities or something?
Tom: I thought he was dead. I killed him in the desert years ago.

And I my mind immediately started churning up ideas. According to Edie, Tom is truly two different people; the one she loves, the best man she's ever met, and then a whack job that she is completely disgusted by. She has a hard time coming to terms with the fact that they are the same man and that this man can be both good and bad. Similarly to Masterson's views on pathological personality disorders, she expects her significant other to be completely perfect when she he is not she cannot cope with this idea. While I understand how betrayed she must feel, it is also amazing to me how she can change her mind so easily. Tom did nothing to her and has proven to be like a born again knight in shining armor. Thankfully, Edie is not pathological like Masterson's descriptons of personality disorders and instead does her best to come to terms with her husband's past life (although we are never sure if she is truly able to do that). In a poignant scene, when she is most disgusted with him, she is turned on at the same time and the two have pretty rough sex. Yet while this is happening shades of the real Tom comes through as he strokes his wife's face tenderly. Clearly, even though there is a dark side to him, it's not the only part.

Then we start to see shades of his violent behavior peek its head out in other places. Tom's son, who earlier in the movie proved to be excellent at talking his way out of precarious situation with a bully, decides that if his father can be tough and manly so can he. His switch is flipped, just like we see at the diner, and he becomes a violent kid, beating the crap out of his tormenters. It leads the viewer to wonder if what we're seeing is hereditary. Tom has spent the last several years cultivating his personality to be completely different than what he once was. He is calm, soft spoken, and tender. And despite this, his son, who seemed to be the same way, shows aspects of his violent side when pushed. Nature versus nurture comes to mind. And is it possible to nurture out the nature when you decide you don't like the cards you're dealt.

But I think the bigger question of this movie is more about the sides of ourselves that we show others. Don't we all have parts of ourselves that we are not proud of? That we try to hide from people we love? Regardless of how gruesome it actually is or not, we all expect others to act like Edie did when Tom finally admitted the truth (so disgusted that she immediately vomited in the nearest toilet).

Does that mean we all have some kind of multiple personalities? According to social theory yes. According to the DSM-IV-TR, no. To truly have a multiple personality disorder (or Dissociative Identity Disorder) the DSM states you must meet the following criteria:

A. The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self).
B. At least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person's behavior.
C. Inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.
D. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a Alcohol Intoxication or a general medical condition (e.g., complex partial seizures). Note: In children, the symptoms are not attributable to imaginary playmates or other fantasy play.

It's pretty clear Tom (and the majority of society) does not fit this description.

Meanwhile social theory states that we all have different faces that we put on to the world. It's pretty clear that who we are on a Saturday night at the club is not the same person at brunch the next day with Grandma. So which part is our true selves? In reality we are all of those personalities. And yes, some are innate while others are crafted and cultivated through life's experiences and our decision to change. At some point in life we all say "wow, I do not like the person I am right now. Time to change." And then we are faced with the fear of someone finding out just what kind of person we used to be.

Much like the song Young Folks by Peter Bjorn and John, we all hope for a happy ending.

If I told you things I did before, told you how I used to be
Would you go along with someone like me
If you knew my story word for word, had all of my history
Would you go along with someone like me

I did before and had my share, it didn't lead nowhere

I would go along with someone like you
It doesn't matter what you did, who you were hanging with
We could stick around and see this night through

Do Tom and Edie have a happy ending? That's left up to interpretation. At one point very early in the movie Tom says to Edie, "I can tell you still love me, I can see it in your eyes." But in the last scene we're left with the two silently staring across the dinner table. Tom is exhausted and traumatized at having to be his past self, while Edie is emotionally exhausted from wrestling with the choice ahead of her. What does the look they give each other mean? Love? Disgust? Fear? Hope? Perhaps all of the above.
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