Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Back Talk: Nursing Injuries as a Symptom of Constraining Gender Views

Dianne Heath

Image Courtesy of OnCall Team, Flickr

     When I first read NPR's investigative report about nursing injuries, I was shocked that this injustice had been festering so profusely but yet these deep wounds remained invisible to the public. How could this be??? Especially, since nurses are such a beloved fixture in American culture. They are often visible figures of professional femininity within popular culture and they grace the screens of both movies and television shows. In That 70's Show, the lovable Kitty was a devoted nurse and even in the Notebook, the fiery love interest, Allie, briefly nursed injured soldiers in the Red Cross. Perhaps this is why nurses were used by NPR as figureheads for this issue although the more marginalized nursing assistants and orderlies are injured “more injured than any other occupation”. But then I realized, that was the issue! These dominant and one dimensional images of nursing feed society with cultural narratives about “feminine” professions, thus inducing a blind spot to the full realities of nursing and stifling society's ability to respond to the suffering of nursing employees. Society is not able to hold key institutions accountable. It's difficult for reality to compete with and push against the flood of box office illusions. 

    I decided to google images for nurses and was inundated with a collection of smiling faces engaged in "safe" tasks like holding a stethoscope, calmly writing on a pad, holding the hand of a frail yet healthy elderly woman, holding a clean baby and taking temperature of "safe" patients. When I used the keyword nursing, the smile was still superimposed on faces while taking heartbeat of a seemingly healthy girl holding a cuddly teddy bear, giving bed site comfort and holding a needle. The smile dominated and was a static feature despite who was posing as a nurse while the back was hidden. Only one type of expression was showcased, indicating that nurses only deal with one type of scenario. Nursing is multifaceted, therefore the one dimensional dominant images of nursing crowds out and subverts the reality. Consequently, spines are crushed in silence beneath a smile. 

     This one dimensional conception of nurses and nursing have gender implications. Ninety percent of nursing employees are women while almost 70 percent of physicians are men according to the Department of Labor Statistics. Historically based structures, attitudes and the logistical challenges of motherhood reproduce these gender divisions. Therefore nursing is overlay with themes about womanhood and nurturing. Since nursing is represented as a feminine profession, it is intertwined with harsh dichotomies between masculine and feminine. There is a division between nursing, safety, and femininity versus power, danger and masculinity. However nursing requires a delicate balance of feminine and masculine qualities. Yes, there is smiling but the heavy lifting shouldn't be a mere footnote on society's narrative of this profession. There needs to be acknowledgement of both stories and the realization that nursing and nurturing are also dangerous. Since these gendered views of nurses are implanted within cultural narratives, their workplace, the hospital, is not structured to support the full realities of nursing. The policies within most hospitals do not demand recognition or support of these heavy realities, which contrasts to how the auto factory workplaces that James Collins researched "were prohibited from lifting over 35 pounds through the course of their work." 

     Proper body mechanics which was developed to "safely" move patients has been taught for more than 100 years ago under the context of these anarchic and one dimensional gender views. A time when women in the workplace were undermined. In 1898, the textbook, Nursing: Its Principles and Practices made light of the fact that women “occasionally” complained about injuring their backs. The fact that hospitals refuse to invest in equipment, indicates they could be as equally far behind in their view of nurses. Thus nursing employees suffer back and musculoskeletal injuries three times more than construction laborers. The machines that could assist with moving patients, who could weight up to 400 pounds, are viewed as an expensive luxury and not a necessity.

 Myth: Nursing and Nurturing are wholly safe and feminine endeavors 

     Nurturing is often dangerous during emergencies because you are on the front lines to face sickness and in the chaos your wellness can be dangerously neglected. Oftentimes the situation can overwhelm the resources that are available since emergencies are so unexpected. In fact according to NPR "most patients staying in hospitals today are sicker than the patients of 20 years ago". Tove Schuster had to race to lift a patient who weighed more than 300 pounds and that's when she felt something pop. Leesa Evans, a registered nurse, had to rush and lift a 300 pound patient who was dying of congestive heart failure and couldn't move to relieve himself. Her nurturing spirit intensified the rush and days later she couldn't walk. 

     Nurturing can be a major burden that slowly crushes you and weighs you down. Professions deemed masculine are more prone to the one time catastrophic injury and thus are perceived as more dangerous. For example, Michaels sends agency inspectors mainly to factories and construction sites where workers suffer amputations and can get killed. However the wear and tear over time, which is described by as the build up of microscopic tears that block nutrients to discs and eventually cause the disks to collapse, is just as catastrophic and deadly. Nurturing can be dangerous because just like the horrific one time deaths of factory and construction workers, lives are lost. But unlike the construction or factory workers, they lost their lives through sacrifice compelled by nurturing,  which is supposed to be feminine and safe. 

   Many injured nursing employees become  physically from their lives permanently. Cawthorn couldn't even celebrate her own birthday, even though she helped in the birth of another patient. She was transformed from having a healthy life to one filled with grief and loss. Abigail Velez told NRP, "the pain got so intense and her motion was so restricted that she couldn't pick up a glass of water. 'I could not lift my arm. I couldn't even raise it up to brush my hair'". Leeza Evans' relationship with her husband has been affected since they can no longer garden, ski and hike together. David Michaels, Chief of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, explained to NPR, "They go home and have real disabilities. They have trouble lifting up their kids. They have trouble doing a lot of the daily tasks of life because of back injuries, arm injuries, shoulder injuries."

    Since these gendered views of women and femininity in the media and within dominant culture overwhelmingly appear celebrated, the women overestimate how much they will be rewarded and genuinely appreciated for their efforts. Many don't even understand the oppressive implications of this "celebration" until it is too late. In fact in another twist of cruel irony, so many girls and young women who have internalized these glamorized and one dimensional gender expectations, that nurses and nursing employees are undeservingly treated as expendable or as Suzanne Gordon explained to NPR a "disposable labor force". Even if according to a supervisor as an individual like Cawthorn, the injured nurse, is "one of my most reliable employees". This devaluation is supported because every year there will be a guaranteed supply of eager young women because society continues to reproduce these aspirations. This produces a harsh combination of institutional betrayal and, in a broader sense, cultural betrayal.

     When Cawthorne was ruthlessly terminated, she was "so emotionally destroyed." According to her, " Nursing was not just a job, it's who you are." The institutional and cultural betrayal creates a betrayal of one's identity. Tragically the same culture and structures helped to create that identity. What is the first step that society can take to rectify this issue? I believe that Ashely Moore, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit, sums up the situation the best, "it helps to know that they [nursing employees] do more than measure patients' blood, hook them up to IV and assess how patients are faring. Their work is also physically grueling, and the surging rate of obesity is making it worse."

Sourced from NPR:
Despite High Rates of Nursing Injuries, Government Regulators Take Little Action
Even 'Proper' Technique Exposes Nurses' Spines to Dangerous Forces
Hospitals Fail to Protect Nursing Staff From Becoming Patients
Hospital to Nurses: Your Injuries Are Not Our Problem

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fast Food Banned out of Sight but not out of Minds in Los Angeles

Image via We Heart It

        The 2008 ordinance in South Los Angeles, to ban free standing fast food restaurants, was a heartfelt attempt to weaken unhealthy behavior by reducing the tempting physical presence of fast food restaurants. The authors of this zoning regulation hoped that depriving fast food restaurants of visibility would translate into them losing power over individuals. Do you know who else was feeling heartfelt...the residents for fast food. According Roland Sturm's study, fast food consumption actually increased from 2007 to 2012. LA Times subtly reveals the crux of the issue by profiling Otis Wright, a minister at the West Los Angeles Church of God in Christ and probably a cornerstone figure in the community. He commented, while snacking on chicken nuggets at a Burger King in Baldwin Hills, that "they are wholesome and fill a spot." According to Wright, fast food restaurants such as the Burger King he frequents, can fulfill the need to have a clean environment for leisurely conversation. This is especially important in neglected or under-resourced communities. This Burger King is obviously lodged into Wright's social experience and lifestyle. 

      Although it may just be a fast food restaurant to outsiders, for the residents these restaurants serve an unique cultural purpose and thus fast food establishments will almost effortlessly maintain their soft power as cultural institutions. In addition, the fast food ordinance only targeted new restaurants, even though it is the old restaurants that are fully integrated into the residents’ daily lives and embedded in their deeper personal histories. The Great Recession also was in full bloom between 2007 and 2012; I imagine that it would be difficult to redirect comfortable behavior and change social norms during such a crucial time. Familiarity is soothing in difficult times.

        But why did the city hone in on reducing the external visibility of the fast food restaurants when it is clear that it is the more powerful invisible forces sustaining fast food as the fuel of South Los Angeles? Well the city's agency is compromised by their limited their funds, especially in comparison to the fast food industry. According to Roland Sturm’s study, low income communities are situated within South Los Angeles. Therefore the city probably lacked the funds to implement more comprehensive plans and programs that could strategically complement the ordinance. Officials just hoped that this ordinance would carve out ample space for market solutions. However even this plan is proving futile. The fast food industry has probably dominated the space for such a long time that now the city’s structure maintains its success. Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who co-wrote the zoning restriction, explained to LA Times that, 'the ordinance was meant to be a part of a larger strategy that includes bringing grocery stores and farmers markets to replace fast-food restaurants, but that part has been more difficult to accomplish." It definitely would be difficult for less powerful market forces, like farmer markets, to boldly take on the cultural and structural monopoly held by the fast food industry. So a main component of this plan, to cement the physical transformation of South LA's environment, has been hampered by invisible economic and social forces. 

      The residents, which are predominately made up of the working poor and working class, could probably identify with this lack of agency which contributes to the city's collective compromised agency. For example, the working poor and working class generally have less agency over their schedules and therefore it's understandable how fast food restaurants could be used as an accessible antidote to this issue. Wright explained how, "It’s convenient way to eat when you are moving around." Especially under the context of the Great Recession, job insecurity added pressure on this particular lack of agency.

     The study and news articles repeatedly commented on how restricted and limited the ordinance was, suggesting that the ordinance was almost guaranteed to fail. Even Barry Popkin, a professor of global nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, declared to NPR, "That little ban was just too trivial.” Despite how weak this ordinance appeared, according to LA Times, this law, "marked the first time a big city had succeeded in taking on fast food restaurants in an attempt to improve its residents' health." If such a weak ordinance is considered such a huge deal, then cultural, economic and political forces and the clout of the fast food industry had already preemptively reduced the efficacy of the zoning regulation. If the fast food industry has this much concentrated power to suppress cities, imagine how much power they have over individual lives. Fast food's strong hold over the city resembles their stronghold over hearts, minds and lifestyles. It's easy to ignore how the industry has literally changed the culture and make up of America. If South Los Angeles could of had a stronger ordinance, then all new fast food restaurants could have been blocked, not just the free standing restaurants which according to NPR "were rare to start with." If the older fast food restaurants, could have been eliminated this would had given the ordinance its intended effect by removing the institutions who are facilitating the deep entrenched habits and social norms. But obviously the chances of that policy being enacted is impossible, such an expansive policy would be  considered inconceivable. 

        The city’s lack of agency and power gives clues to why the citizens appear to have such a lack of agency to eat healthier. It’s just that the residents' lack of agency against the fast food industry is affecting them in a different manner from the city. The city is consolidating their limited resources but are severely restrained by a myriad of invisible forces. The residents are also restrained by a myriad of invisible forces. The city doesn’t have the power the make grander gestures but instead they are forced to wait for slow change in the midst of a public health crisis and "just give it more time," as Gwendolyn Flynn, policy director for nutrition services at Community Health Council advised. Similarly, the residents like Otis Wright understand, even if only from a shallow standpoint, that fast food "may not be the most nutritional" but their lack of agency firmly plants the fast food in their hearts, minds and thus behavior.

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Friday, March 13, 2015

The Covert College Bubble, Why the Burst Will be "Invisible"

By: Dianne Heath

 Have you ever wondered about when you should take cover before the bursting of a bubble? 
 Well impending doom is sly peeking over the horizon when debt for a specific industry (especially a new industry or an old industry being used under a new context) is normalized. You should especially prepare for rainy destruction when this debt is declared a guaranteed investment and when people cease solemnly perceiving this debt as a risk. Before the Great Depression, burying oneself in debt to acquire stocks was the obvious choice since the economy was obviously expanding. Before the Great Recession, mortgage culture caused so many individuals to grow comfortable with loans they many causally promenaded into fraud's clenches while predators savagely feasted on the credit frenzy. It is when individuals blindly walk into debt that can't be discharged at bankruptcy and then are mired in confusion when life happens and now their interest rate payments are "unexpectedly" higher than the principle. It is when people can peddle grand claims about debt being the obvious choice that is guaranteed to eventually work out over a lifetime, then present outdated information to support their grand claims and they don't raise eyebrows. It is when 70 percent of college students are burdening their nascent adult lives with overpowering debt and number 1 trillion is not raising comparable panic. Then one can safely surmise that an industry is probably a bubble. But wait... there's a twist. There is a new type of bubble. It doesn't float and bounce around ominously as the public helplessly watches in anticipation. It's the covert bubble popping inconspicuously and spreading its wet disaster while victims and bystanders remain unaware.

The Covert Bubble Pops Solidarity Before Solidarity Can Pop It

     The college bubble offers the illusion of social solidarity. Students cheer at the same games, they share the same venomous and irrational rivalries, they share the experiences of oscillating between passion and sleepiness in classes, and they collectively cringe at memories of pulling the infamous all-nighter; but with the exception of the broke college student meme, financial solidarity is quite shallow. College costs appear to be rising for all students and families, but it will be hard to generate a mass movement because there is a high degree of invisible stratification in financial experiences. In fact many students don't even pay ticket price. Other students at elite colleges may not even know their colleges’ ticket price due to their families’ economic advantages. These differentiated financial college experiences constrain the idea of financial solidarity, especially since social solidarity is deemed more exciting and less contentious. The varied financial experiences bluff patterns, so families remain too paralyzed to act.

     Articles about rising college tuition are too generalized and thus are ineffectual to offer targeted insight into such varied (and possibly unbelievable) predicaments. This contributes to the paralysis. Since most articles are too generalized and nationalized, they don't probe into specific experiences so students fall into the trap of assessing their situation as uniquely shameful. Depleted of targeted information, most incoming students are restricted from developing the strategies and conjuring the confidence to make the rational choice about student loans. 

The Covert Bubble Settles into the Dark and Neglected Corners of Your Collective Wallets

     While debtors in these varied experiences subconsciously wait to recognized and saved by a cataclysmic, apocalyptic bursting ( perhaps because of the fear of judgment, perceptions of powerlessness and the structural constraints on being proactive), I'm going to predict (oh dear) that the college bubble won't be as visible as the housing bubble. I'm literally won't be visible. The housing bubble popped on our screens and then our consciousness with iconic images of lonely and depressed houses, eerie boarded up communities drained of residents and economic vitality and evicted weeping families as keepsakes were ruthlessly strung across a lawn with the media detailing (sensationalizing) the traumas of having to desert a place filled with intimate memories. The nation watched as urban municipalities deteriorated and gasped at the shocking stories of suburban poverty. The widespread visibility of these scenes fomented into the contentious Occupy Movement and then the backlash Tea Party Movement. Then there were prominent banks collapsing like dominoes, the stock market dramatically dropping as if relieved to let go of a heavy weight and blame being tossed around like a hot potato.

     I predict that the college bubble will be a more private and individualized experience. Firstly, the distribution of student loans is structured differently than mortgage loans. The bulk of the burden from student loans are placed out of prestigious colleges, and are externalized on the more powerless students; as opposed to how banks shared the shame of the foreclosure crisis. This mass externalization of the burden adds to the isolating experience. Secondly, the culture surrounding housing and mortgage loans is more public than college and student loans. Families avoid discussing too much in detail the nuances of their college costs and student loan debt to protect themselves from scathing judgment and even from jealousy.

    Thirdly, a geographical concentration of housing foreclosures is a dramatic, photography worthy, tangible and seemingly straightforward social issue. Its noticeably ruinous effect on the makeup and monetary value of whole communities is too visible to be denied. But with the college bubble, lives that haven’t bloomed will be covertly ruined. There is not a boarded up house to gawk at but a fallible human being whose story can be denied and refuted by more seemingly credible sources. There will be a hidden and struggling demographic whose marginalized and confused cries will go unheard of and even unarticulated. Initially, there will not be an explosive bubble but an unsettling and disconcerting stifling of lives and activity. It will be a type of covert financial oppression that dampens more than just economic activity.

The Covert Bubble Pounces Wildly on Valuation and Flounces Being Quantified

     The convert bubble maintains its stealth power through the inability to standardize the mechanisms to determine the value of college for an individual’s specific needs. The stifling of lives and popping of bubbles will vary in intensity according to individuals. Some students in 100,000 in debt will interact so successfully with an enriching college experience that it will be worth it long term while for other students just 15,000 is an overvaluation of their college experiences and their capacity to interact with intellectual enrichment. Since houses are a commodity (even with complex valuation mechanisms) they can be quantified, so Americans could confidently declare a bubble. Humans and intellectual enrichment provided by college are not commodities. This variation in value, which depends on the college and student ability, will hamper a collective bubble that could constructively mobilize the public. Due to this difficulty in quantifying the worth of an educational experience, there is much room for fraud, self-delusions and narratives to obstruct the debate, thus intensifying the student loan crisis. 

     Yes, technically for profit colleges are exploitative and liberal arts degrees are a huge risk but how can this be reasonably quantified. Especially since the valuation of college can be dependent on factors outside that individual’s college’s control. College tuition can’t suddenly be declared a bubble and collapse. The mechanisms for setting tuition sharply deviate from how housing prices are determined. So as I shuttle myself from class to class, with each step the student loan bubble will be bouncing happily and covertly among unaware students.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How Abusers Trap their Victims by Manipulating an Audience

By: Dianne Heath


     The abuser needs background pressure that influences the victimized individual's perceptions of his or her environment, belief of available options and then induces subsequent dis-empowered behavior. One form of background pressure is creating and manipulating an audience for the relationship. Abusers deploy what I call, public entrapment. Public entrapment derives its efficacy and power from tools used privately to entrap a victim which usually involves teaching the individual to dishonor him or herself. I will focus on public entrapment because Chris Brown and Karrueche Tran offer a timely case study. 

     A predominate tool in the toolbox is how the abuser manipulates their shared social environment so that the victimized individual ceases to generate sympathy from the public. This is why Chris Brown consciously or unconsciously prefers for his breakups with Karrueche Tran to be on the stage for public consumption, despite the ridicule of both parties that invariably ensues. Depleting the sympathy of the public whether it’s the victims’ family, mutual friends or in this case fans is used as a trap by abusers.

Karrueche Tran's Christmas gifts by Chris Brown
Depletion of Sympathy 
     The victim must appear to hold an enviable position. Perceptions by the public or the relationship's personal audience of the victim's enviable position creates an illusion of the terms of condition for their eyes. The victim must be in an outwardly enviable position that invites jealously and third party pressure for the victim to feel gratitude for their supposedly good fortune. Never mind that the despite the external rewards, the abuse is destroying the victimized individual inwardly ironically negating the benefits for the enviable position. Never mind also that the external rewards aren't for the victimized individual's long term benefit but a tool of control for the abuser. The abuser doesn't want to provide internal enrichment with genuine love (and may not even have the capacity to provide love) because a healthy mind that loves itself is less easy to trap. Self-love strengthens the capacity and resolve to exit ruin. The abuser wants the victimized individual to continue pursuing external rewards that the abusers use to control the individual and the perceptions of the relationship’s audience. These deceptive rewards obstruct the victimized individual from their healing. But the public doesn't perceive this and the abuser can manipulate this collective blindness to their advantage against the victim. The public can't see these motives but green eyes can gaze upon a luxury vehicle and diamond rings. Many times even the victim will outwardly compare themselves to others and believe this deceptive narrative his or herself, while overlooking the long term damage to their emotional and psychological health. 

     The abusers are benevolent dictators who have bestowed upon you a platform or designed the template for your only chance at success. Or they abused you for your own good because that was the only way you have achieved, (diminishing your innate drive and qualities). If a person was willing to deal with the abuse to achieve, wouldn't that imply that the individual's  intrinsic motivation would had compelled them to strive and thus do not need abuse? Your intangible value becomes invisible; even when a victimized individual is reduced to being a punching bag despite the fact that this resilience has intangible value to the abuser who has someone to absorb their hatred so that they wouldn't unleash the self-destruction on themselves. Without the victim to feel powerful, the abuser wouldn't have the motivation or energy to even build an illusion or the talent to exploit. Chris Brown needs the public to know that he sacrificed for her and without him she wouldn't have her status. Yes, the relationship is not perfect but you have 2 million Instagram followers, and the "haters" who are telling you to leave don't. In abusive households there can be the illusion of upstanding, successful with good parents to assuage the public image while there is private decay. Abusers with less resources are largely limited to providing transient emotional and psychological rewards. But these rewards are conditional and shallow. From the outside the victimized individual can appear loved but are truly despised. 

     The idea that someone else might be more fulfilling inwardly despite having less external rewards is not discussed. Other scenarios are not presented to the audience, only an image that serves the abuser. Perhaps the abuser noticed the victimized individual’s essence and targeted the individual for exploitation and then lied by pretending they created the individual’s essence. Perhaps the abuser created such an abusive environment they transformed what the individual loved into something painful thus covertly limiting the individual’s potential. Perhaps they stressed the individual which dampened their capacity to capitalize on opportunities the abuser has "showered" on them. Perhaps the abuser took over the individual’s life making it impossible for the individual to realize their full potential or discover their own profitable niche. Perhaps the abuser stunted the individual’s growth or overemphasized one profitable aspect of the while the others remain anemic. Or controlled the individual with bad advice masquerading as caring advice. Perhaps the abuser covertly sabotaged the individual while in front of an audience bragged about what they've done for the individual. Perhaps the individual succeeded in spite of the abuser and not because of their malevolent presence. 

     But these instances are not presented to the audience and are usually not in the consciousness of the victim who devalued his or her positive attributes while the abuser’s minor "contributions" are disproportionately attributed to their success. Privately the victimized individual has dishonored their capacity to make it as far without the abuser and have emphasized deceptive external rewards over a healthy heart and mind. This narrative diminishes the victimized's intangibles. Abusers will conveniently ignore the initial power and resource imbalance to create the image as a savior even though you actually put more effort in relation your power, time and available resources. The individual's subsequent behavior must honor be them as a savior. Abusers with less resources than Chris Brown will create an enviable situation like telling someone your past successes or achievements. Others may harp on your enviable physical traits or talents in front of others with poor body image and/or low self esteem. 

     Constant public breakups are opportunities for abusers. Each breakup most be more critical and believable than the next. Not only is this the reorientation process, but it depletes the sympathy of audience the individual desperately needs in support of in such a dangerous and vulnerable time. This works to create universal disappointment and an incredulous social environment that disrespects the individual. If the individual is in an enviable position that the abuser has created, the narrative of a woman desperate to maintain her luxurious lifestyle, despite abuse may float in people's minds. In reality since the audience’s participation is only public and passive yet not private and intimate, their comprehension of events would be impossible. 

     The public especially stops rooting for the victimized individual when the individual chastises the audience for celebrating the dissolution their demise and then defends the abuser. People hate feeling foolish. Now the public resents the individual and have a natural suspicion of the individual's intentions. Now the abuser has manipulated the individual's identity to the public as a complicit, masochistic and sick individual trying to exploit their sympathies even though the individual secretly knows they are not leaving. Heck maybe even the abuser and the victimized individual are colluding break ups for attention!  The individual will be perceived as ready and willing to be punished, who knows exactly what he or she is getting into and is undeserving of continued sympathy. Now when the individual is truly serious about escaping, the support needed is gone and background pressure intensifies. 

Entrapment by Dishonor 
     Now that the victimized individual is depleted of sympathy, the abuser moves to create a hostile environment by "exposing"  the individual while they simultaneously become the only person willing to redeem and work with this inherently soiled individual. Victims who are already in vulnerable circumstances, have unfamiliar characteristics or struggles (which can be conveniently defined by the abusers to fit their purpose) or marginalized are easier to control with background pressure because the public is already biased against them. They attach stigmatized behavior that imply the individual’s tainted nature and identity so that no decent individual can identify with them or want to support them. They need to misconstrue the individual’s behavior, failures, struggles and unique characteristics. The individual didn't fail because he or she was depressed and trying to recover from a traumatic event, the individual failed because he or she inherently doesn’t value opportunities and therefore doesn't deserve to be saved by someone loving. Now the abuser and victim are both equally flawed and perfectly suited for each other despite the discrepancy of harm inflicted. 

    By claiming by Karrueche had threesomes validates that she was willing to the reprehensible to stay in the relationship, so she really doesn't feel abused. Most importantly it implies that she is immoral and too dirty for a stable and loving relationship. Abusers enjoy exposing individual by divulging in the dirty details of what you were willing to for them; never mind that the individual was probably manipulated, didn't understand the implications what they were doing, had low self-worth, was threatened or the abusers has been steadily manipulating perceptions of individual of who they are. Now the victimized individual is punished for obeying, even though abusers demand obedience as love. With enough exposure and humiliation the victim sees her support dissolve and she feels that she has become worthless to her social environment. The fact that she was accused of cheating on him supposedly negates his behavior. Only questions of her loyalty is shared for public scrutiny. Now they are equally perverse. My question... why does he still want her if she so horrible enough to cheat, so soiled, so perverse and enjoys abuse?
Apology Art

Notes about the Victim 
     Does the victim have perfect intentions in the relationship? No. Was the victim taught these new priorities for the relationship? Yes. Is the abuser being exploited as they claim? Absolutely not. Usually a victim has low self-esteem and/or low self-worth. Their definitions of a loving relationship and their priorities in a relationship are malleable, which is perfect for the abuser. At the beginning the victimized individual is desperately looking for love. The victim might be suffering through a horrible situation and asks for emotional support. But the victim doesn't even know if they truly deserve emotional support or in extreme cases doesn't know what emotional support looks like. So what does the abuser do...well they don't want to give love, they just want power so they'll give the victim money instead of emotional support and tell her that is emotional support. They teach the victim what to accept as love. Eventually the victimized individual with low self-esteem will give up on genuine expressions of love and accept gifts or the controllable external rewards as love. But this works against the victim because this changes her priorities from something honorable to dishonorable. When the victim attempts to escape, the abuser can take on the position as the victim who was exploited. 

What the Victim Must Do 

     A victim’s decision to escape should not be manipulated by these questions. These questions of how much of their partner’s behavior is deliberate are important for planning the escape because they have implications but if the victim doesn't like their treatment, whether it is love does not reduce the damage. For example, financial abuse may not feel like abuse if the abuser can manipulate perceptions and declare it’s for the victims own good, but in the end the damage to credit, work history and personal control is very real. The abuser has already taught you that the core of your identity is being a victim (and/or a child!) and has rewarded you for being a victim (and/or child) by implicitly socializing the individual to the abuser's painful definitions of "love". But now it is time to pan out and evaluate the situation in its entirety. The stories about the uncontrollable yet loving abuser and you the victim can cloud judgment. Eschew these deceptive narratives or you'll remain entangled. Take away narratives about the abusers identity, their implicitly narratives about your identity and peek into reality. Then you can take on rational behaviors.

This post was inspired by the Chris Brown and Karrueche Tran debacle and by the book Stalking the Soul by Marie-France Hirigoyen.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

When a Break Up Really Isn't a Break Up

By: Dianne Heath

      There are millions of pages devoted to prying open the minds of abusers to reveal the venomous thinking patterns directing their behavior. Some are heart-wrenching stories that read like psychological thrillers while others attempt to scientifically probe into the madness using a clinical and detached approach. There is a compulsion to peer into the deceptively irrational to make it rational, intelligible and explainable. Just consider this another one of the millions struggling to decode the enigma that is the abuser (for part two click here).

     Abusers rule with confusion. I believe that an abuser's behavior is at the peak of confusion when the individual they are victimizing becomes aware of the toxic dance and starts to wriggle from its cruel grasp. During breakups, it is usually the victim's confusing and seemingly irrational behavior that is scrutinized under judgment’s glaring microscope, but I would like to investigate what victims are directly responding to.

Chris Brown "packing" Karrueche Tran's bags in 2012. Part Two: When Abusers Manipulate Family & Friends

Implicit Reorientation

     While for most relationships, breakups signify the messy severing of bonds, for abusers, breakups are the prime opportunity for a power grab in the form of reorientation. The abuser already assumes that the breakup is temporary. Reorientation is the abuser implicitly demanding to increase your threshold for emotional pain, the bulldozing of protective boundaries and the starving any forms of empowerment, all for the comfort of the abuser. The abuser is demanding for more abusive behaviors to be acceptable; for new norms, new lows, even if unpleasant, for the relationship. 

     Generally the abuser causes so much obvious damage that the individual being victimized is forced to breakup or at least re-evaluate the relationship. For example undeniable betrayal such as cheating that the victimized individual has previously considered as unacceptable and grounds for breakup are directly bluffed by the abuser. The individual may have opened up at the beginning of the relationship by recanting about how the brutal divorce of her parents caused by cheating caused a significant amount of pain that she would never want to go through this, the victim is unknowingly outlining a boundary for the relationship and creating a rule to be broken. The abuser sees this as a threat to his power and using cheating as a tool to obviously challenge this threat.

     Instead of being honest about their intentions, abusers takes on the role of the victim, begging for forgiveness and using guilt by implying they are willing to change if the heartless individual would just give them a chance. Little does the individual being victimized knows, is that the abuser secretly feels entitled to abuse the other. The victim dared to exercise a semblance of power and control over their environment; even though  in reality the individual is probably just too brokenhearted to continue with the relationship. Unfortunately instead of candidly explaining the victimized individual  "I feel entitled to cheat on you even though I expect you to be faithful to me" or "I believe that physical abuse if a great way for me to get what I want while neglecting your needs" the victim is depleted of explicit information and thus the confidence and power to make a rational decision. Just when the victim is putting the last pieces of the frightening puzzle together, the blood stained images and jagged shapes mutate into something soothing. Perhaps what the individual visualized didn't really exist in the first place? There's the confusion of abuse and then there’s abuser's remorse and desire for the relationship. 

      Now if the victimized individual was to reinitiate a relationship with the abuser, not only will the victim be reoriented into a new acceptable low, but this will slowly manipulate the perceptions of his or her identity. Reorientation implicitly manipulates you by showing you who are really are... a willing victim. Now the abuser doesn't have to risk telling you what they are entitled to, you subconsciously believe it. They are re-orientating you on what is love... them unleashing unbearable abuse and you accepting it, even after some resistance, and eventually moving on. You are now the resilient punching bag. This also increases your emotional investment and psychological ties to the relationship thus increasing their power. The imbalance of hurt and investment is creates a significant power imbalance. Few people would easily walk into these harsher terms of conditions, especially if the abuser started off charming. So the abuser takes out their entrapment toolbox that produces background social pressure even if not obvious to the victimized individual. Read part two of the series: how abusers manipulate the victim's social environment!

This post was inspired by the Chris Brown and Karrueche Tran debacle and by the book Stalking the Soul by Marie-France Hirigoyen. 

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Dangers of Using History to Compare with Today's Issues

By: Dianne Heath
It's a typical news day with reports about the economic crises delivered under a veil of monotone composure. This time the reporter is droning on about the possible implications of TARP, a controversial corporate bailout. Ben usually avoids the news, but since his financial fate is intimately entangled in Great Recession he decided to tune in. There have been uneasy murmurings at his workplace about possible layoffs. Just as Ben begins to doubt his decision to get more informed via cable news and lethargically reaches for the remote, a fiery commentator is invited to present his scathing quips. The commentator is full of righteous indignation and begins to forcefully warn about "Fascism, corporate fascism!" Ben's head becomes flooded with images of merciless, bloodthirsty and brainwashed masses marching in unison as a ruthless dictator's arm guides them to the next kill, as the commentator rants in the background. Suddenly his shoulders are filled with tension and a rush of urgent emotions flow over him. He is no longer lethargic as his mind is actively reaching epiphanies about corporate fascism taking over government.
The Shortcut

     Associating and comparing historical events with problematic present issues, attempts to highlight, clarify, enlighten, familiarize, normalize, simplify and even romanticize or inspire. Associations utilize a store of available emotions, instead compelling the public to sap away potential emotional energy with intellectual pondering needed to grasp the intricacies of complex and perplexing events. By using direct comparisons, seemingly unprecedented issues with a blank slate with imprecise and shallow emotional and intellectual attachments, can take on greater meaning since deep emotional investment to historical events can be applied to new instances that you might not have cared as much about. These emotions make sure to highlight the significance of the new event, convey what is important and make sure that it is not ignored. This is especially important when a shocking crisis when urgency is almost demanded. But this also stifles other emotions and consequently actions that are more suited to the occasion. This dilutes the quality of citizen participation.

      But why do some historical events have the capacity to generate such a powerful emotional response? Well, horrific historical events are generally infested with emotional wounds such national regret. Events with a paradox of emotional pain and triumph, is ripe for generating a visceral emotion filled reaction, especially if the negative emotions are suppressed and unresolved. These historical wrongs must have widespread awareness that is infused with cultural meanings and shared understandings on what should have happened. Usually associations manipulate historical traumas when, before the triumph, mass scale efforts were futile, when the masses are perceived to have acted as sheep consenting in their own demise or simply remained as weak bystanders.

     Some historical events always with today’s issues more than others because some wounds are more valued than others. For example, events with pain that can remain overlooked since it’s overshadowed by the eventual triumph like in the Great Depression and the Holocaust are frequently evoked as opposed to the Stalin's forced famine that killed millions. Referring to the well-known emotional wounds of other nations that were saved by your nation can be safer and less painful. The goal is not to conjure helpless and paralyzing emotional pain but just enough to scare away the apathy.

Courtesy of  the Library of Congress;
Coming Soon! A mini case study about monopsonies being confused for monopolies.

Ben has now turned in a Googling maniac. He looks up corporate fascism, and then he looks up talking points about TARP. The resemblance is uncanny. The context and inner-workings of neoliberalism, the rise of 1980's deregulation in a backlash against the New Deal and financial dominance are rendered useless and fade in the dejected background. Its fascism, point blank and a sinister corporate takeover abounds. Ben is livid, nervous and stricken with horror that compels him to act. Now he has the confidence to oppose TARP. What exactly should he and can he do?

      Direct comparisons to history bestow the misleading illusion of thorough knowledge and education. The new challenge appears deceptively familiar because nuanced details that don't fit the figure's agenda are slyly escorted out the narrative or strategically misapplied. Thinking you know more than reality stifles genuine curiosity to learn more, demand more information and encourages you to uphold undeserving demagogues as experts. Then the brain is subconsciously constricted to a narrative that is under a historical context and events appear to neatly reflect on another.

    In addition, cultural narratives of history are often riddled with assumptions that tell you how to interpret the new event, thus constricting the meaning and implications of the new crisis. When historical narratives are recklessly applied to new issues, your reaction is framed and misdirected accordingly to the historical crisis. But the dynamics of today are new so updated reactions are required since modern life isn't stagnant.

      When a figure uses historical comparisons as a template for comprehension and not as a loosely based guide or reference point, the question should become what is the agenda? What emotions does this figure or entity want me to feel then what type of action based on these emotions to take. For example, if you directly relate the Great Recession to the Great Depression, you'll perceive absolute calamity and sure financial collapse. You might be more willing to accept government intervention in the form of TARP and relate it to the celebrated New Deal. If you truly believe that the Great Recession is directly comparable to the Great Depression, then you will possess perpetual imperfect information since your interpretations of current economic conditions will be faulty and you will be unable to make the rational decisions to survive in the maturing capitalist system.

      What's even more disconcerting is that popular understandings about historical events are not wholly accurate. Culture interpretations are often too shallow, biased and filled with imaginations that depart from reality for genuine understanding. For example, background events become nonexistent which creates a lopsided and one dimensional image of history. Overarching lessons about the stock market and greed contributing to the Great Depression erases a background contributor to the bubble, the discrepancy between the maturing manufacturing industries and speculation. As evidenced, focusing on a single factor within a false narrative will completely misconstrue the present.

How can this be combated? Fight it with contemplation and investigation. Broaden your knowledge of history from a variety of perspectives, learn about obscure events with less happy endings and don’t box yourself into any narratives about current events.

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