College Life

The Ones Who Walk Away

*This post was written and inspired by one of my Composition II assignments. You can read The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin by clicking on the link. 

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The seemingly happy city of Omelas depends on one horrible thing: the suffering of an individual. As the city gathers together to celebrate their annual Summer Festival, below the city is a child that is locked away. At one point or another, citizens learn about the truth of the miserable child. When they do, they can decide how they respond but most continue to go on with their day. This ugly flaw of Omelas is that the citizen’s happiness lies on the hidden truth (a tragic secret). To live in a peaceful and seemingly perfect town just to discover that a child is held hostage in a basement closet, living in poor conditions, shatters the ideal image of the town. The society’s principles of happiness are founded on the suffering of another human being. The short story allows you to morph your perspective in order to dive into a deep thought: can happiness exist without the extreme opposite? How do the two emotions relate? Since the child has once experienced happiness of his or her own at one point, the child can reference the difference between happiness and suffering. You can compare and contrast the city above celebrating merrily, to the child below that is alone in misery. Those celebrating the festival are all aware of what their foundation is build on. The citizens can turn a blind eye and accept the cruel reality or the can reject Omelas and walk away.

It is revealed that the citizens of Omelas learn about the truth of the child being locked away. No one does anything to help the child despite learning the truth. I think it is important that people are aware of the child’s imprisonment and misery because the story is written to make the reader question their own society. Wherever we look, there are always flaws or injustice in society, or life in general. When you think about politics, even religion, and any form of organization you will find cracks in the foundation. There is always an imbalance. In the 2001 movie Vanilla Sky, a quote forever stuck with me: “Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour.” What that means is that you cannot appreciate one extreme without knowing the other. Sweet isn’t sweet unless you have had sour. Though this does not ever justify the horrible treatment of the child, I believe the narrator is asking the reader to relate to this symbol. The society as a whole collectively neglects the child by doing nothing because they know they are powerless when it comes to changing the foundation of Omelas. If the citizens didn’t know the truth, the story would have a different meaning. In this 1973 short story, the child exists symbolically.

The child represents the elephant in the room, in many situations. For example, our healthcare system is one flaw in our society. Many people enjoy their privilege to have healthcare while others don’t have the luxury of healthcare. Does half of the nation truly not care about the suffering of so many individuals that cannot afford to seek medical care? Do people truly feel nothing knowing that others cannot afford his or her marked up prescriptions that keep them alive? Not affording insulin, for example, can cause a patient to ration their medication and risk death. I don’t believe that these people are truly evil, but I believe that they don’t want their happiness to be affected in order to save others from the misery that is reality. In a way, those with health insurance justify and turn a blind eye just like the citizens of Omelas. If we were to have healthcare for all, the fairness and even grounds would perhaps not be as comfortable to some, thus leaving them to prefer that others live uncomfortably. Those who are chronically ill, not poor enough or rich enough, or have preexisting health conditions are like the child locked in the basement.

I do believe those who walk away from the good life in Omelas are brave. Those who walk away are making a stand and rejecting their society. Those who walk away give the child a fighting chance. If only everyone were to walk away from the norm, a change could ensue. Though people feel powerless and limited when it comes to using their voice, they are not. As we approach the upcoming election, I am reminded that so many people believe their one single vote doesn’t matter. It does. Even in the past few elections, votes were so close in numbers that they were required to be recounted. What if those who thought their vote didn’t matter actually did vote? In 2016, only 6 in 10 eligible voters voted (NPR). Just think about how drastically the results could have changed if everyone voted. I feel as though changes rarely happen because people are complacent and don’t believe they can create change. Change comes from those who make a stand. Think about Rosa Parks. Had she surrendered her seat to a white man, that pivotal moment in society may not have started an important movement.

The child represents the relation of how the emotions intertwine: happiness and suffering. The narrator had a great vision to tell a story that made the reader think. I do believe the story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a great story worth reading because it relates to our own society. The reality is that many of us accept horrible and unjust situations because the rest of society does. Think about it: What are you personally doing about sex trafficking right now? What have you personally done to make a difference in child hunger, the opioid epidemic, child poverty, domestic violence, or the mental health crisis? Many of us sit back and go on with everyday life, looking away from the ugly truth. Enjoy your television shows, air conditioning and warm pizza while knowing that so many in the world are suffering. If you don’t want to be like a citizen of Omelas, eating your corndog at the fair, then stop going to the fair and find a way to help the child prisoners of the world. If each and every one of us took a position on an important matter, actively raised awareness, found supporters, and demanded a change, the world might be a little bit better.

 

NPR. (2020). Source from United States Election Project; ballot results from the Associated Press elections API. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2018/09/10/645223716/on-the-sidelines-of-democracy-exploring-why-so-many-americans-dont-vote

 

College Life, mental health

The 8 Stages Psychosocial Development

*This is an essay I wrote for my Human Adjustment class. 

Abstract

Erik Erikson is a German-American developmental psychologist who developed the theory of the eight stages of psychosocial development. His theories highlight the importance of social relationships rather than Freud’s theory of sexual influence. This paper focuses on the final stage, integrity vs. despair. When a person enters this stage, they will decide if their life has the sensation of satisfaction or failure. It will depend on how each psychosocial crisis from each stage has been resolved and whether or not the person feels they had a meaningful life.

 

Integrity vs. Despair: The Eighth Stage of Erikson’s Psychosocial Development

 

Erik Erikson, born in 1902, was a psychologist and psychoanalyst specializing in developmental psychology and personality development. Erikson is well known for his Psychosocial Development and for coming up with the phrase and meaning of identity crisis. He was born in Germany but later became an American citizen. Erikson died at the age of 91 in Massachusetts. Sigmund Freud and Ruth Benedict heavily influenced Erikson’s theories. Erikson trained under the supervision of Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud. He later won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for his book Gandhi’s Truth.

Erikson’s mother gave birth to him out of wedlock and fled; therefore, his biological father’s identity was never known. Though his stepfather raised him, it was kept a secret that Erik was not his biological son until late childhood. This gave him the feeling of being deceived and thus began the development of his quest to discover the meaning of and search for identity, the nucleus of his body of work. The last name Erikson is actually a last name Erik created and changed to, from his stepfather’s last name of Homburger. Erikson’s lifelong feeling of deceit and search for his own identity did not carry on to influence his own behavior with his children. His forth son, Neil, was institutionalized because he had Down syndrome; Erikson deceitfully told his children that he had died at birth (Nevid 48).

Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development is a theory of eight stages in which people pass through as they go through life. Each stage presents a challenge, leaving them with one of two outcomes, or a blend of both. Erikson believed that adolescence seek ego identity, unlike Freud’s theory, where the focus is more on sexuality rather than identity and who people see themselves as. Erikson also added stages beyond adolescence and into late adulthood.  If a person passes through each stage with a positive outcome, they will have healthy progression through life.

This paper will focus on Erikson’s final stage of psychosocial development, ego integrity vs. despair. Integrity vs. despair is the 8th stage of Erikson’s theory, which is experienced at the age of 65 and older. With each stage, a virtue is developed; for this final stage that virtue is wisdom. Wisdom is a sense of closure that helps with the acceptance of the inevitable end of life. Ego integrity develops when a person sees their life as accomplished and successful. Despair is developed when the person feels dissatisfied with their life, guilt, or unaccomplished. Despair leads to the feeling of hopelessness and depression (McLeod 2018).

Late adulthood begins at the age of 65. Life expectancy for women is the age of 81, and 76 for men, and continues to rise (2012). Physically, males’ testosterone levels lower as they age and for women, progesterone and estrogen decrease. Women have menopause and men have andropause. Decreased energy, lower bone density and muscle mass, cognitive impairment, low libido, and depression are common symptoms for men and women over the age of 60 (RUSH 2018). The endocrine system produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism, sexual function and mood. These levels decrease as we age. Life satisfactions tend to increase and then declines after the age of 65 (Nevid 468). According to WebMD, depression is common in late adulthood and can be harder to spot due to the way it presents itself. Depression is often overlooked in seniors because the symptoms are usually the same as general aging.

Cognitive change is part of aging and the brain can be affected in normal everyday tasks such as reasoning and memory. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is at an all time high (NIH). It is important for healthcare providers and loved ones to understand the cognitive changes as individuals age, and to differentiate between behaviors and impairments such as dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death; it is an irreversible brain disease resulting in the death of the brain cells, causing gradual deterioration in the mental processes (Nevid 464). Social changes in seniors may vary based on the outcome of their crises and their cognitive state.

The stage of ego integrity versus despair comes at a very tough time in life. Facing the approach of death or dealing with more and more health issues can be a challenge in itself. At this stage, one may question if their life had meaning. As a person moves through the stages of life, the previous stages and crises may influence how they choose their outcome. For example, the previous stage of generativity versus stagnation takes place during the ages of 40 to 65 years old. Generativity produces feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, such as volunteering, contributing to society or being involved in the community (McLeod 2018). In Generativitiy outcome leads to the sense of finding your life’s work and meaning. Failing to contribute produces the feeling of stagnation, or being stagnant in life with no motivation. The person may feel disconnected or uninvolved at this stage in life. As the person enters ego identity vs. despair, the conclusion of the prior stage can play a large role. If the person was feeling stagnation, it is likely they will feel despair in their final stage.

This final stage focuses on the person’s reflection of his or her own life. A person who lives in a state of despair will feel like they have failed themselves, did not accomplish their goals in life, and may feel as if their life was wasted. People in this stage will likely appear grumpy, miserable, bitter and angry, as they feel hopeless without any answers. In contrast, at the end of life, when a person accomplishes ego integrity, they will likely accept their death and feel proud and accomplished. The person will contemplate whether or not they had a successful and fulfilling life. Wisdom is accomplished when successfully balancing the two stages and ending with a sense of closure (McLeod, 2018).

The good news is that nothing is set in stone. Each person can continue to search for his or her ego identity, to find peace and closure from previous stages, by resolving the crises at a later time. If an individual is 65 or older and feels guilt and regret, making peace with their past and working through their feelings may help accomplish a positive outcome. Volunteering is an example of a healthy way to find a sense of satisfaction during this existential crisis. Erikson’s theory is meant to be a ‘tool to think with rather than a factual analysis,’ and provides a foundation to allow the consideration in which social stage of development a person is in throughout their lifespan.

 

References:

 

McLeod, Saul. Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Simply Psychology, 2018https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

Nevid, Jeffrey S., and Spencer A. Rathus. Psychology and the Challenges of Life: Adjustment and Growth. Wiley, 2016

 Hormones as You Age. RUSH, 2018.http://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/hormones-you-age

Harada, Caroline N., et al. Normal Cognative Aging. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 2014. http//:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015335/

 

Previous Blog Post: Drunk Dad also covers Erikson’s theory in a more personal way.

 

 

College Life, Health, mental health

Psych Midterm on Obesity

Abstract

Obesity rates rise more and more each year, impacting over one-third of the American population. Health issues are prevalent in patients with a high BMI, also linking to earlier death. Mental illness can contribute to obesity and obesity can contribute to mental health issues; the two go hand in hand. It is suggested that the body is looked at as a whole, rather than individual units, to see where the domino fell first. The rising dangerous trend in obesity needs careful attention and a solution. With a lack of education, resources, and funds, there is little hope for change. Communities need create resources and advocate for the needs that are not being met.

Obesity in America

Obesity is a condition involving excess body fat, increasing the risk of health complications. Obesity can be influenced from a genetic or behavioral aspect. It can lead to multiple health complications and additional health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and sleep apnea. Eating too much and exercising too little can increase your chances of becoming overweight.

 

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In the past few decades, obesity has rapidly risen in America, becoming the leading cause of preventable death. It is presumed that $150 billion dollars are allocated towards the obesity burden in healthcare costs per year (2010). Obesity is not just an epidemic in America, but it is a global concern. Studies show that chronic medical conditions and early death are linked to elevated BMI. Fast food and conveniently long shelf-life foods have contributed to the epidemic. High trans-fat foods and poor eating habits are not the only contributing factor. American culture has long ago established habits for large portions, processed foods, high sugar content, additives, dyes, preservatives, and diets rich in meat, carbs, and dairy.

Together, mental health and obesity can create a morbid combination that worsens the other.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The same question can often be asked when it comes to mental health and obesity. Stigmatization and bias are experienced in both mental illness and obesity. The risk for developing the other goes hand in hand. There is also an apparent link in the statistics for obesity and disability (Littleberry 2017). The statistic may be influenced by poor diet and little exercise due to low income from being unable to work.

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Viewing each patient as a whole is crucial in making an impact. Rather than focusing on just mental illness or just obesity, the entire picture needs to be examined. Emotional fat and physical fat are equally destructive (Littleberry 2017).  Serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter in the brain known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, is a contributor to the feeling of well-being and happiness. It is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract (Caltech 2015). The human body is fascinating in the way it functions, everything working together to create homeostasis. However, if there is something off or not working properly, there can be a dominos effect. The intestinal tract has its own biosphere with microbes that modulate metabolites, playing a huge role on health and disease. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and other digestive issues can cause issues with serotonin production.

The emerging field of biological sciences is continuously exploring the link to the digestive biome and serotonin. Though serotonin plays a big role on mental health, there are other nutritional factors that can contribute. Having low vitamin D, for example, can cause symptoms like depression. Vitamin B deficiencies can contribute to anxiety. According to the Mayo Clinic, obesity can increase many health issues, which include gastrointestinal issues.

The highest rates documented from American Medical Association are in 2018, approaching 40% of Americans being obese, with Mississippi and West Virginia being the highest rated. According to the American Diabetes Association, high-income countries are associated with higher obesity rates, whereas in America it is the opposite. In America, if a person has low income, chances are fresh and healthy food options are not affordable. Organic healthy food options are far more expensive than processed nutrient-dense food choices.

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Another factor to consider in obesity trends is nature vs. nurture in the sense of obesity in families. While genetics can play a role, so can intermediate family culture. Food choices, traditions, and styles are passed on from parents to their children, and so on. A meal can be considered comfort food because it is comforting; perhaps the meal is associated with a memory of being cared for by a loved one while sick. This begs the question: if a family who historically ate rich in carbs and fats were hypothetically raised to eat fresh healthier meals instead, would their weight have been affected had they been in a different culture, setting or environment? Do we pass on a particular gene or do we pass on the traditional family eating habits and food culture?

There are several ways to work on losing weight. Some are invasive, difficult, and hard work. Losing the extra pounds is well worth the result and will reduce health issues. Bariatric surgery is a procedure performed on patients with obesity by reducing the size of the stomach. This created the feeling of being full. Many high-risk patients are having bariatric surgery in order to lose weight. Mental health counseling is a great way to dive into what may be causing a person to over-eat or turn to food to cope. Some cases of obesity can be linked to trauma. Lifestyle change is an important part of reducing BMI, even if other methods are used to treat obesity. Lifestyle changes can keep the weight off and encourage healthier behavior long-term. Changing old habits that may have contributed to gaining weight is also important for the future generations, as habits can be learned and passed on.

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It is crucial that the numbers and rates of obesity do not continue to rise, but lower. If Americans take a grassroots approach to changing the rising obesity risk, there may be more hope. Communities can help by offering fresh, healthier foods at food pantries. Crowd sourcing and funding could benefit low-income families by creating local programs that offer discounted or free fresh foods. Local community gardens with fresh produce would be a great community service or volunteer program that also provides families fresh produce. The community could also offer free healthy cooking classes and education on diet and lifestyle modification. Free local exercise programs should be offered to people of all ages to keep the community active and fit. Many gyms and fitness programs are unaffordable, even to the middle-class families.

 

Link with references:

Obesity in America