Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


Evolving, Thread By Thread

There comes a time in the life of many or us realize that we must evolve in order to survive and thrive in the days, months, and years ahead. The skills and coping mechanisms that propelled  us to our present crossroads will not suffice for the rigors of the road ahead. Ideally, we realize this before someone beats us upside the head with our deficiencies, and advises us to evolve, now, or else. With the benefit of time, we enjoy the luxury of introspection and self-direction.

For some of us, this realization comes in childhood when we begin to understand that the world for which our parents prepared us is a much nicer and simpler place than the world we actually inhabit. My parents, for example, felt that most challenges in life could be overcome by intellect and critical thinking, grounded in a solid appreciation of music, literature, and art.

All that’s of very little use, however, when the schoolyard bully extorts your milk money, day after day, or when the high-school bully demands that you orient your exam paper so that they can cheat off it. It’s also of little use when the demons of depression take hold of your youthful spirit and fill you with suicidal thoughts.

When we’re old enough to see where our life is headed, we’re also old enough to begin our own preparations. Under the critical eye of a strict and controlling parent, however, we learn to be circumspect in our evolution. One by one, we pull the threads from the tapestry woven by our parents and teachers, replacing it with more utilitarian or decorative that better suits our character and our destiny.

Over time, the entire tapestry evolves to something vastly different. On any given day, though, there’s little evidence of any change at all. Our machinations go undiscovered. Yet we’ve slipped our collars, shaken the dust out of our fur, and left that back yard far behind. We’re off on our own now, and ready for the scary world out there.

In my case, the evolution was from book smarts to street smarts, from sadness and fear to wit and grit, from follower to leader. It has taken  quite a long time, half a century so far. admittedly not long in geologic time, but certainly a slow transition in human time. I’m still a work in progress…  I hope. I’m still learning how to be a grandparent, a business owner, a southerner, and a retiree.

I’m grateful to whatever people and forces sparked my desire to make the changes that have brought me this far inspired me to continue the journey of self actualization. If a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, surely we owe some credit to anyone who helped us to take that step.


Spotlight Mental Health: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

We have all heard poignant stories about the many people across the country and around the world suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. It can be a crippling condition, which can lead to a plethora of other problems, from generalized anxiety to depression to suicide. PTSD is a disorder affecting many Americans, and rates of PTSD have increased over the past several years due to US involvement in wars overseas. Many of our soldiers return home presenting with symptoms of this extraordinarily complicated and frequently debilitating disorder.

Turning Anxiety Off?

We all experience anxiety from time to time. In “normal” amounts, it is a healthy feeling which warns us of potential dangers or motivates us to get things done. A moderate level of anxiety may in fact improve performance in many areas. In the average individual, occasional anxiety is simply part of the human condition. For many people around the world, however, anxiety is a plague. Excessive anxiety can be debilitating in the workplace, school environment, social network, and home. It can affect job and academic performance, and negatively impact our interpersonal relationships. In extreme cases, it can even make leaving the home a terrifying experience. We probably all know someone who lives and suffers with clinically significant levels of anxiety every day.

Spotlight Mental Health: Pediatric Bipolar Disorder

This diary is basically a republishing of a paper I wrote awhile back. The original paper — written when I was 20 taking a graduate class in my undergraduate program — was over twice the length of what you’ll find below the fold. I trimmed it down and reused it for a paper at my current university, and that’s what you see here.

I am sharing this diary about pediatric bipolar disorder (which is not listed separately from BD in the DSM) because I think most educated people have at least a rudimentary idea of what bipolar disorder is. Pediatric bipolar disorder is less talked about because it is less accepted and therefore more controversial. This makes sense for plenty of reasons. For one thing, the criteria being used to diagnose it are often different or fewer than those formally listed in the DSM. Many people believe that bipolar disorder never fully manifests until late adolescence or early adulthood, and will not accept a “pediatric” form of the disorder as being valid. Further, it is very controversial because of the generally accepted notion that bipolar disorder requires pharmacological intervention, and the medications used to treat it can cause a plethora of adverse cognitive and physiological side effects. The idea of giving these medications to children in their formative years is disturbing to many (including myself, due to intimate personal understanding of how dangerous these medications can be even for adults). Then, of course, there is the argument that bipolar disorder may be over-diagnosed, and that to label a child with such a debilitating, chronic illness is inappropriate.

I have my misgivings about the way bipolar disorder is diagnosed in children, but after years of off-and-on study of the topic, I have come to the conclusion that the early manifestation of the disorder is, though rare, a reality. I also have doubts about the degree of “rapid cycling” described by some authors in the field. Still, it makes for intriguing reading. If you have a few free minutes, follow me below the fold for a review of the current literature.

Spotlight Mental Health: Intermittent Explosive Disorder

This is a series I’ve been thinking about starting for months. I thought it might be interesting to try and promote regular discussions about mental health. I know I’m biased toward the topic, but it strikes me as something we could all benefit from learning more about. Additionally, the more mental health issues are publicly discussed and explored in a rational manner, the less likely people will be to stigmatize and demean those with mental health concerns. I don’t think any of our regular moose have issues with prejudice against the mentally ill, but it can’t hurt to bring the topic up here. Each installment (written very sporadically I’m sure) will spotlight a different mental health condition. DSM criteria will be provided, and I will give a brief review of current literature. I thought it would be good to start with a lesser-known disorder, so maybe this diary can provide you with some information about a condition with which you are not completely familiar: Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Please hit me with any thoughts you have, and feel free as always to wander off topic. 😉

The Amoral Psychopath

Some of the discussion about universal standards of morality in the Haiti thread and Cheryl’s diary got my mind wandering down a familiar but, of late, not oft visited path. It occurs to me that it has largely fallen out of my consciousness because I have no one with whom to discuss such ideas. Maybe moose can provide me with some insight.  

As a child, before I knew terms like cultural relativism and anti-realism, I was already of the opinion that morality was largely subjective and certainly not absolute. I don’t know that I ever thought there were universal standards of right and wrong. It seemed apparent to me at an early age that everyone’s “morality” differed, even if only in subtle ways, and as I learned about history and other cultures, I only became increasingly entrenched in that viewpoint. I still believe that people are neither inherently good nor bad — that possibly, in fact, our natural condition is largely amoral — and that what we call morality stems primarily from two sources: Fear and societal norms. Actually, that can be simplified even further. I could just as easily say that morality is spawned from fear alone, since I believe fear to be the impetus behind the establishment of many social norms and cultural standards of morality.