Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rocco, Sam, Ivy and Kayleigh Response


I really enjoyed reading this the VICE article. Although it is written to address an issue for men in the UK, there is clear if not exact parallels to the American experience as well. This is what hetero white men should be writing about!! I found it really interesting that the author touched of the parallel between PTSD and masculinity. "Born six years after D-Day, my dad grew up like so many baby-boomers, with a father whose deep emotional repression left him unable to love, let alone talk about any of his feelings. It's a hereditary condition-men raised by men unable to communicate emotionally, the symptoms of what we now know as PTSD becoming synonymous with masculinity. This is wildly fucked up when you stop to consider it." The group described in the Atlantic article on teaching positive masculinity was a great addition to this idea that we need to do something about the current state of masculinity. This piece addresses "seven norms of the Western masculinity ideology: Avoidance of Femininity, Fear and Hatred of Homosexuals, Self-Reliance, Aggression, Achievement/Status, Non-Relational Attitudes Toward Sex, and Restrictive Emotionality." This type of taking agency for masculinity and the violence it perpetuates is exactly what men need to be doing to fight sexism. It always baffles me how we encourage females to take self defense classes, travel in groups, ect. instead of confronting the root of the problem: the way masculinity objectifies women. 


I found the idea of 'literary medicine' absolutely fascinating, and I found the idea of writing as healing from medical trauma, especially brain injury, to be even more interesting. This kind of trauma, which intersects the emotional and the physical, isn't something we've talked much about in class. One of my best friends and roommates' brother went into a coma after a car accident that put him in rehabilitation for five years. He had to learn how to do basically everything all over again. One of his biggest complaints after the fact was not having enough support from all the doctors and medical attention he got regrading his mental health and emotional state after the accident. He suffered a very particular trauma, in which he was the supposed passenger in the car accident and was abandoned by the driver at the scene. However because, despite scarring for a passenger-side seatbelt, he was found unconscious in the driver's seat with alcohol in his system, he was also charged with DUI and put through the court system. I wonder how someone in this situation way emotionally neglected by medical professionals, which speaks to the empathy (or lack of) in doctors discussed in the New York Times article. After many year at trying to get his life back, my friend's brother has been able to secure himself a job for the first time at the age of 33.

The opening paragraph of the Moran article made me think instantly about the things we obsess over as writers. I've talked about this a lot in Jaime's classes, this idea that if there is something we feel the need or desire to write about, we will, and probably come back to it, possibly time and time again. I love the line "If I could frame the experience, I could somehow control it." I think about how so many of us seem so uncomfortable with a lack or loss of control in our lives. Writing is such an important tool to have and teach in this way, as many alternatives to coping with loss of control are often detrimental, such as drug use and eating disorders. 
The article on death was another example of why it's never a good idea to suppress or deny emotion, as well as how our society values doing just that. I had never thought about it in terms of death, but it made a lot of sense. Part of me has this feeling that if we were to become involved in death, face our mortality, we would become even more aware of how precious and fragile life is and more unsatisfied with the capitalist obsession with production that is placed upon us (see example about returning to work 3 days after spouse dies). I feel as if there have also got to be some major long-term physical effects on suppressing such intense emotional response to an occurrence such as death. 

Right now I am participating in the Occupy PRW event, and we had a teach-in tonight during which I thought a lot about the unconscious. One female POC was speaking on the idea of why an occupy movement comes across as so foreign and perhaps bizarre to us, especially in every day conversation. She asked the group to use their time at the event to occupy our minds with what it is that makes us uncomfortable in claiming this space and what learned beliefs/values hold us back from more radical movement and protest. I thought about all the things I have unconsciously internalized in my 21 years, how much unlearning I have had to do to be in the position I am in now. I thought about the parents that raised me, the religion I was brought up to believe, ect. Once again, I would suggest the movie Waking Life if you haven't seen it already, as it goes into the relationship between the unconscious and the dream state.
As far as this all relating to Writing and Healing, I was curious as to whether or not you had even considered exploring the idea of a dream journal and dream analyzation as a means of healing. I saw a therapist in Ithaca for some time who offered dream analysis for patients with reoccurring dreams and that sort of thing. I think researching more on how writing, healing and the unconscious might all be connected would be well worth your time. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Aimee and Tess Response


I found both articles shared to be extremely pertinent to our class discussions and textbook. Especially the article on memoir and writing for therapy read a lot like a chapter we would have read for class, touching on reoccurring issues in Writing and Healing such as content vs form, professor vs therapist anonymity. The idea of how to approach editing "therapeutic" writing is something I found really interesting that I feel we haven't talked about much in our class. I think this is a really important aspect to attend to when exploring how writing for healing can play out in real life. After all, while all traumatized individuals are welcome to participate, we must also consider our more serious writers (much like myself and my classmates) who may want to publish their writing rather than simply keep a journal. This year I have been struggling to write a memoir that contains some literary narrative surrounding a dramatic content, something this article also touches upon. Another interesting experience I've had with my memoir/healing writing is dealing with new emotional reactions to the trauma that I didn't necessarily feel until specific writing about it. There is something to be said about what you focus on/put your energy towards, and it can be very draining to revisit an emotionally traumatizing place with writing.


I love writing letters! This is such a great topic for research within writing and healing. Letter writing or transactional writing is a technique that I have used and recommended for years now, especially regarding trauma experienced because of or with another. I have written letters to myself, my ex-lovers, my parents, my eating disorder and even my car that I totaled this summer. Some I have sent, others I never had any intention of sending. Either way, it has proven to be a great exercise in getting how I feel down on paper and coming to terms with what I've been through.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Charlotte and Karen Repsonse


"Empathy and emotional intelligence: What is it really about" by Ioannidou F.

This article gives us a concrete definition of emotional intelligence: someone’s ability: (a) to understand his feelings, (b) to listen to others and to feel them, and (c) to express his emotions in a productive manner. It goes on to say that consciously recognizing an emotion as it forms is the "corner stone" to emotional intelligence. This article is written in a very "matter-of-fact" fashion, which can be refreshing on such topics that people tend to write off for being too complex or individualized, such as emotions. I agree with most of what is said here, but I am worried by the colloquial use of the word depression in the bullet titled "Controlling our emotions." While it is true that we have the ability to control our emotions, depression is a disease that affects one's ability to do this. By framing this as a mere "choice" rather than a mental disability that inhibits certain people's ability to control their feelings undermines the validity of depression as an illness, something we already struggle with in today's mainstream society.

"Why We Hide Emotional Pain" by Leon F. Seltzer

Interestingly enough, this article highlights a lack of control over feeling emotional pain. It follows that the various forms of emotional pain "refer to feeling or being made to feel." Emphasis on the word "made" implies a certain lack of control as a response to emotional pain rather than an absent skill set. In exploring why people tend to hide their emotional pain, the article makes direct references to masculinity and the expectations it creates for dealing with, or rather not dealing with, emotional vulnerability. This reminded me of the Chapter we read last class for Allie's research. It's interesting to see how sex and gender inform so many of our experiences. What I find most interesting in this article is the paradox of concealing our emotions:

"Perhaps the final irony in all this is that, culturally, it's considered stoical to hold in our more tender emotions. Not to show vulnerability is typically viewed as a strength, a "demonstration" of character. But in reality the major motives in hiding our emotions are (as I've already indicated) fear-based. We're just afraid to look weak or susceptible to others. Paradoxically, though, unashamedly disclosing our vulnerability can actually be a deliberate personal statement of both sensitivity and--yes--courage."

This idea also relates to the fragility of masculinity and how much of our culture is built around this masculine-feminine binary.

"Forget Business School: Why An Emotional Education is Indispensable" by Avid Larizadeh

This piece immediately draws attention to the lack of emphasis on emotional literacy and well-being in our education system. As an academic with Harvard and Stamford on here resume, the author states, "...when faced with life’s personal and professional challenges, I do not find myself relying on the teachings from those institutions as much as I find myself having to draw from my emotional understanding of my environment and of myself." She then goes on to outline the four fundamental attributes of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and relationship management. However, when it comes to accessing exactly how one goes about growing and improving these emotional intelligence skills, she falls short, and namely blames it on impossibility. Aside from being raised by emotionally intelligent parents, the author claims, "Until someone opens the University of Emotional Intelligence or creates a curriculum for it, we’re stuck learning exclusively through the School of Life." This, to me, is a bit of a cop out and deserves more thought on the matter.


"How cultures around the world make decisions" by Amy S. Choi

I found this to be an extremely interesting piece of writing. I think I often forget how likely it is that I am reading within the American framework, which this piece attempts to unhinge and inspect. I thought a lot about the idea of choice and freedom of choice when I studied abroad. I found that I enjoyed activities based around decision making much more when I had fewer options, such as food shopping and ordering coffee. However, I can't imagine necessarily having fewer options when it came to choices about how to dress, speak and act. This idea of following the norm and prioritizing belonging that the author describes as part of other cultures such as Japanese and Amish is alarming to me but not because I think individual choice is intrinsic to my sense of self, but because if I practiced the traditional values of my family and where I came from I would be supporting Donald Trump's presidential campaign. For cultures that value things my culture does not, I see the appeal. But American tradition, to me, is a whole lot of racism, xenophobia and nationalism. Fitting into the crowd would be to support corporate business, eat unhealthily, remain complacent on white heteronormativity and uneducated on issues that do not immediately affect me. At the same time, I can see how prioritizing individual choice over harmony with those around you can lead to some issues. Radical individualism will always run the risk of leading to anarchist chaos where our differences tear us apart.

"Classroom Culture" by Teaching Tolerance

This is one of the most extensive guides to creating a truly inclusive, diverse learning environment. While I was already familiar with many of the concepts introduced (active listening and addressing conflict), there were some I had never heard of before that I found particularly interesting, such as zero indifference vs zero tolerance. I think it's really important that students who actively disrupt the safe learning space come to understand how they have done so. So often, when someone is made to feel uncomfortable, the perpetrator fails to take responsibility because their intention was not to cause such emotional discomfort,  and then refuses to reframe the situation to come to a better understanding, likely due to guilt and their own emotional pain. Zero tolerance policy's only deny the student further opportunity to come to a different understanding of their actions by being removed from the situation via suspension, expulsion, ect.  

Kirsten and Allie Response


I found this article to be very interesting and a great addition to the discussions we've been having in this class. I actually found myself intrigued to research emotional literacy programs further after this reading. One of the most interesting ideas to me was how emotional literacy affects our communication and relationships with others. My father is one of the most emotionally illiterate people in my life...I've never once heard him utter a statement pertaining to his emotional interior. When he gets angry, he lashes out and says things I know he doesn't mean and eventually regrets.

The idea of teaching emotional literacy at a young age is a preventative health care measure as opposed to waiting for the problem to happen. I wonder how I may have dealt with situations differently when it came to bullying and/or being bullied if I had this type of training in my classroom.


I am a huge supporter of destroying the gender binary. I found the chapter on gender and sex to be very interesting, particularly regarding how intertwined sex and gender truly are, even though we tend to categorize sex biologically and gender socially. What really speaks to the heart of the issue with the gender binary (aside from the fact that it's not even biologically correct) is the idea of femininity and masculinity and how they inform the way that we take care of ourselves by fulfilling (or not fulfilling) what we feel is expected of us based on our sex and gender. I found it so interesting how masculinity is not tied to certain persons or bodies like femininity is, but rather as a range of practices and characteristics that anyone can take up.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


           I think that my competition with others has been a largely gender-based phenomenon. I can't help but think about Beyonce's song "***Flawless," in which she samples Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi's idea that girls are raised "to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or accomplishments which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men." When I read Emily Gordon's article on why women compete with other women, I was thrown backwards into my high school experience of being the guy's girl. I had a large group of friends, male and female, but when it came to the guys, I was there go to girl. Where Gordon found solace in her height and size hanging with the guys, my insecurities about my noisiness and less-than-womanly habits (ie. belching, swearing, even the way I walked) were put to rest when I hung out with dudes. Guys had so much less to live up to! My guy friends may have been competitive in sports or even over girls every so often, it wasn't the same as the competitiveness that ran rampant within my group of girl friends. When we got dressed together to go to parties, it was endless comments and backhanded compliments about breasts, hips, hair, asses and acne. The ways in which we had all learned to pick ourselves (and therefore each other) apart was astounding. 
          It took me a long time to realize that my hanging out with the guys was still an act of competition. I think I almost took a subconscious pride in being a "bro," even if that meant I got less attention than some of the other girls in mixed settings. I was considered "cool" by the male population, and that was better than being considered sexually desirable but "crazy" or "bitchy" or "uptight" like my other female friends. I didn't understand that I was taking part in gender-based stereotyping and discrimination by claiming my gender to be absent from all the part of me that made me a desirable "bro."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Chapter 7- From Trauma to Writing

I must say, there was something cool about seeing a published work in my text book by an Ithaca College professor. Marian M. MacCurdy wrote her this chapter, titled "From Trauma to Writing: A Theoretical Model for Practical Use," as a response to the idea of writing as healing fitting into the category of personal writing, and finding its place in what she outlines as the debate between academic and autobiographical writing in the classroom. She opens up the chapter explaining to the reader that "a debate continues in the profession between writing professors who believe students are better served by writing courses that require strictly academic prose and those who argue that students, especially beginning writers, are more likely to find their own voices when asked to pursue autobiographical prose."  Defenders of autobiographical writing claim it's honest and gives students a very important opportunity to "find themselves" after years of living with internalized parental views of the world. However, MacCurdy reminds us, "self exposure is not honesty." After a bit of this back and forth, the chapter moves to explaining what it is we're actually doing when we write autobiographically, specifically about cases of trauma.

Trauma, she explains, is such a broad yet personalized term that an event that may not have phased one individual could be a life-long traumatic event for another. What we do know about traumatic events, however, is that they "produce a shift away from verbal encoding of information toward encoding via 'emotional, pictorial, auditory, and other sense-based memory systems' (158). This shift helps to explain why a simple verbal statement of a painful event fails to convey accurately the horror of a traumatic experience." I find much truth in this statement, having many traumatic events connected to specific pictures, feelings, ect. It's so interesting to think about what we are trying to and what we can accomplish then simply writing about trauma. This made me think about what it would be like to engage in muti-media healing. For example, theres a story that's gone viral recently of Instragam model Essena O'Neill who re-captioned all the photos on her Instragram account as part [of a healing process from the extremely measures of beauty she had measured herself up against with the way she was really feeling when the picture was taken. She admits things such as "NOT REAL LIFE," "Would have hardly eaten that day," and "Standing there and looking pretty is once what I aspired to do as a young girl." She uses pictures and writing to help guide her through past traumatic experiences and "re-live," an essential part of healing from trauma according to this chapter.  

Micro-essay on emotion

My mother would do anything for me. I feel as if I have been certain of that my entire life. I have no real memories with her involving feeling neglected of any sort of emotional response I wanted or needed until later in life. I cannot say the same of my father. When I was very young, 4 or so, I went to Disney World with my parents and my brothers, who were 15 and 17 at the time. My brothers, father and I went on a 4-D simulator ride of Honey! I Shrunk the Audience, and so the story goes that when the cat jumped into a lion through my 3D glasses, I lost it. My dad refused to take me out of the room, and my more sympathetic brother (was it Josh or Stephen?) went outside to calm me down.

I rarely got upset growing up. Given this is probably because I was a gifted, affluent student with loving parents and friends. My elementary school janitor nicknamed me Smiles. As far as I was concerned, I was the luckiest kids in the world. I rarely was denied the things I wanted, whether they were clothing, toys or dance lessons. I played several instruments. I was part of the Gifted and Talented Summit education program in my middle school. I very rarely cried, even at sad movies or when I fell off my bike and scraped myself along the pavement. My father taught me there was pride in being "tough" (this terrified my mother). Negative emotional response (meaning sadness, laziness, rage) were not really tolerated in my childhood. My mom made it her goal that I was never upset, and my dad that I was never unproductive. Therefore, being happy and busy were very important to me. When I fell short of those expectations is the only time I released those emotions. I have very vivid memories of yelling "I hate myself" over and over again when I did something wrong, like overslept for school. My mother would get so upset, pleading me to stop. I started to develop extreme anxiety over being late and less than prepared. This kind of extreme perfectionist-thinking only got worse when I became a competitive dancer at 14. I would have a panic attack if my bun wasn't centered or my costume didn't fit just right. 

When I was 17 I was hospitalized for an eating disorder, released to an outpatient program shortly after. When I arrive home from my initial hospitalization, my father asked to talk to me. I had just had the most difficult, exhausting, emotional week of my life...the weigh ins, the body checks, the meds and the meals. I was proud of myself by the end of it and,  for the first time since the onset of my disease, was fully invested in getting my life back. I don't know exactly what kind of response I needed from him emotionally at this point. He paid the hospital bill, and the way my father spends his money is how you can see what he cares about. This has been true all my life. What I didn't need nor want nor expect was the first thing out of his mouth that evening: "How are you going to make sure this doesn't happen again?" 

I have never expected much emotional response from men, being taught by my father at a young age that "all boys are dogs." But I had a very long relationship in high school with one of the most emotionally unavailable people I have ever met. He, much like my father, took much pride in his 'toughness.' He refused to be known to have a girlfriend, and refrained from being seen with me in public, however well aquatinted we were privately at the time. He would never speak to me about his family life (he was adopted) or any of his emotional interior. Looking back now, I really have no idea how I had any semblance of who he was as a person. 

I really have no idea what my father's emotional life is like. I've seen him cry three times: once watching A Beautiful Mind, a second time talking about his deceased father, and again at my brother's wedding. Ironically, at my brother's wedding, my father cried (and I mean CRIED) throughout his entire speech. He actually had to cut it short, because we couldn't understand what he was saying. I swear in that moment he let out tears he had been holding back for years.