Monday, December 31, 2012

Revenge But Not Anger Mediates Gender Differences in Physical Aggression

Some new research presented at The Jury Room, a blog from Keene Trial Consulting, demonstrates that while men and women both have equal experiences of anger, men tend more toward a desire for revenge. This would most easily be explained by different hormone levels in men and women, with men having more testosterone.

On the other hand, these were all undergraduate men and women - would 30, 40, or 50 year old men act/react the same way? I don't think so. In my college years, I would be much more likely to seek revenge in the given scenarios, but now I would have to be pushed pretty far to act that way.

Full Citation:
Wilkowski, B., Hartung, C., Crowe, S., & Chai, C. (2012). Men don’t just get mad; they get even: Revenge but not anger mediates gender differences in physical aggression. Journal of Research in Personality, 46 (5), 546-555 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2012.06.001

Friday, December 28, 2012
posted by Douglas Keene

We've all seen the research showing that men are more physically aggressive than women. But it’s been tough for researchers to explain just why that difference exists. They’ve proposed it’s due to social learning or evolutionary pressures but there’s been no real consensus since men are not measurably more angry than women (according to what’s been measured in research). The authors of this blog each have one daughter and one son, and we can join those who are mystified by the pattern of aggressiveness. To our observation, the difference was seen in toddlerhood.

So researchers chose to explore the idea of revenge and to look at whether the revenge motive differs between men and women. Surprise! It does! Here’s what they did over three different studies.

In Study 1, 89 undergraduate students (64 women and 25 men, average age 20.1 years) at the University of Wyoming completed questionnaires on physical aggression and trait anger and revenge motivation.
Men reported more physical aggression than did women. There were no differences in reports of anger between men and women (everyone gets mad– this is consistent with past research) but men reported more motivation to seek revenge than women reported.
In Study 2, 69 undergraduate students (50 women and 19 men with an average age of 19.6 years) from the University of Wyoming completed the same questionnaires used in Study 1.
Again, men reported more physical aggression than women, anger reports for men were slightly higher than they were for women, and men were more likely to have higher levels of revenge motivation.
For Study 3, 95 undergraduate students (55 men and 40 women with an average age of 19.6 years) from North Dakota State University were seated in separated cubicles equipped with desktop computers and headphones for the delivery of noise blasts. They were told they were competing against another research participant. Their task was to press the space bar as soon as they heard a brief beep. Whomever won the competition was able to choose a loud noise blast to administer to their opponent “to encourage them to respond faster”. They were allowed to choose how loud the noise blast would be and also allowed to choose a “no-noise, non-aggressive option”.

There was no real opponent. The computer randomly chose the “winner” as well as the intensity/volume of the noise blast received by the loser. There were 20 rounds of the “game” and each participant (there really was only one) won about half of the rounds (so each participant received 10 separate noise blasts). Following the competition, they filled out questionnaires on their emotional state (having just been repeatedly blasted by their invisible competitor) and then on how much revenge motivation they experienced during the competition.
Men were more aggressive in their noise blast suggestions than women. Men were more revenge motivated than women but not more angry than women nor more generally negatively oriented. The level of revenge motivation expressed was predictive of aggression: that is, men were more aggressive and their revenge motivation was also higher than that of women.
The researchers are quick to say that revenge is not the only reason men are more aggressive than women, but it certainly appears to be one of the reasons. One theory would be that men are more territorially competitive, and want to reassert their dominance. Thus a desire for revenge or retribution would drive aggressive behavior.

What is of interest from a litigation standpoint is whether people find it acceptable, and what circumstances mitigate public dismay at aggressive behavior by men. The studies and stories of aggression by women being judged far more harshly than the same behavior by men are commonplace. But what makes aggression/retaliation seem okay? What constitutes justification, and what is seen as aggressive? And what characteristics correspond to those who are tolerant of retaliation, versus those who are most likely to punish it?

While not from different planets and certainly not different species, men and women are different. They negotiate differently and theydeliberate differently. Our task is to find out when gender is a bright line divider in how jurors think about specific cases. It doesn’t happen often–but when it does, it is critical to know.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen and the Incantation of "Hallelujah"

Author Alan Light offers a deep and reverential history of Leonard Cohen's most-loved song, "Hallelujah," a song with so many cover versions that some fans do not even know he wrote. Light's book is The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of 'Hallelujah'.

Here are three different looks at the book and the song it chronicles. We begin with Rolling Stone and an excerpt from the book, then an NPR segment, and finally a CNN Radio segment.

Exclusive Book Excerpt: Leonard Cohen Writes 'Hallelujah' in 'The Holy or the Broken'

The story behind the folk legend's most famous song

Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen's career had reached a low point when he wrote "Hallelujah." It was 1984, and he had been out of the spotlight for quite a long time. His 1977 LP, Death of a Ladies' Man, a collaboration with Phil Spector, was a commercial and critical disappointment, and his next album Recent Songs fared no better. When Cohen submitted the songs for his subsequent LP, Various Positions, to Columbia, label execs didn't hear "Hallelujah," the opening song of Side Two, as anything special. They didn't even want to release the album, though it eventually came out in Europe in 1984 and America the following year.

Q&A: Leonard Cohen on His New Tour and 'Old Ideas'

It took a few years for "Hallelujah" to emerge as a classic. Bob Dylan was one of the first to recognize its brilliance, playing it at a couple of shows in 1988. The Velvet Underground's John Cale tackled it on the piano for a 1991 Cohen tribute disc, and three years later, Jeff Buckley took inspiration from that rendition and covered it on his 1994 album, Grace. It was that version that eventually created a huge cultaround the song, and it's since been covered by everybody from Bono to Bon Jovi. It's far and away Leonard Cohen's most famous composition, even though many people don't even realize that he wrote it.

Alan Light dove deep into the history of the song for his new book, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of 'Hallelujahby Alan Light, copyright 2012 by Alan Light, Published by Atria, an imprint of Simon and Schuste. Here is an excerpt.

* * * *

In June 1984, Cohen and Lissauer recorded the album that would become Various Positions in New York's Quadrasonic Sound studios. In the album's arrangements, for the first time on Cohen's recordings, synthesizers were prominent; they would come to define his sound more and more in the years to come. A group of musicians from Tulsa provided the backbone of the arrangements. Sid McGinnis – who joined the band at Late Night with David Letterman that same year and has remained with the show ever since, in addition to recording with the likes of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Dire Straits – provided additional guitar parts.

Jennifer Warnes, who had sung backup with Cohen on previous albums and tours, was brought further into the spotlight as a featured vocalist, a counterpoint to the limited parameters of Cohen's voice. Hawaiian-born Anjani Thomas was one of the backup singers on these sessions; she would go on to become Cohen's longtime companion, and he produced an album of her singing his songs, Blue Alert, in 2006.

Lissauer, a Yale graduate who has gone on to a successful career scoring films, beamed when he spoke of these sessions that took place almost thirty years earlier. Seated in the larger of the two studio rooms he operates from his thirty-five-acre farm about an hour north of Manhattan, he described working on Various Positions as pure pleasure. "I've never had a more rewarding experience," he said. "It was so much fun; we had a great time. Leonard and I got along so well it's almost scary. There were no roadblocks, no disasters; it was great start to finish – it was high art, it was just thrilling."

The songs included several of Cohen's most lasting compositions. The selections that ultimately opened and closed the album, "Dance Me to the End of Love" and "If It Be Your Will," stand among his best-loved work.

Midway through the sessions – Lissauer can't remember the precise sequence, but it wasn't near the beginning or the end – Cohen brought in "Hallelujah" to record. Whatever torment he'd been going through with the song's lyrics over the previous months and years, he showed no sign of confusion or indecision in the studio. "I think it was as it was," said the producer. "There was no 'Should we do this verse?' – I don't think there was even a question of the order of verses, any 'Which should come first?' And had he had a question about it, I think he would've resolved it himself.

 "He's not one to share his struggles," Lissauer continued. "If he wasn't up to recording, if he was still working on something, then we just wouldn't go in. But he'd never go in and act out the tormented, struggling artist."

Leanne Ungar, who engineered Various Positions and has remained part of Cohen's production team ever since, said that there was a pragmatic reason he would not have been experimenting with lyrics during the recording. "He wouldn't bring extra verses to the studio because of time pressure," she said. "The meter is running there." It seems that the breakthrough in Cohen's editing – the vision that allowed him to bring the eighty written verses down to the four that he ultimately recorded – was reaching a decision about how much to foreground the religious element of the song. "It had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from the beginning to the end," he once said. "Finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore. And I rewrote this song; this is the 'secular' 'Hallelujah.' "

"Hallelujah" as it exists on Various Positions is both opaque and direct. Each verse ends with the word that gives the song its title, which is then repeated four times, giving the song its signature prayer-like incantation. The word hallelujah has slightly different implications in the Old and New Testaments. In the Hebrew Bible, it is a compound word, from hallelu, meaning "to praise joyously," and yah, a shortened form of the unspoken name of God. So this "hallelujah" is an active imperative, an instruction to the listener or congregation to sing tribute to the Lord.

In the Christian tradition, "hallelujah" is a word of praise rather than a direction to offer praise – which became the more common colloquial use of the word as an expression of joy or relief, a synonym for "Praise the Lord," rather than a prompting to action. The most dramatic use of "hallelujah" in the New Testament is as the keynote of the song sung by the great multitude in heaven in Revelation, celebrating God's triumph over the Whore of Babylon.

Cohen's song begins with an image of the Bible's musically identified King David, recounting the heroic harpist's "secret chord," with its special spiritual power ("And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him" – 1 Samuel 16:23). It was his musicianship that first earned David a spot in the royal court, the first step toward his rise to power and uniting the Jewish people.

"As a student of the sound, I understood the resonances of his incantation and invocation of David," said Bono, who added that he immediately responded to the "vaingloriousness and hubris" of the lyric. "I've thought a lot about David in my life. He was a harp player, and the first God heckler – as well as shouting praises to God, he was also shouting admonishment. 'Why hast thou forsaken me?' That's the beginning of the blues."

But this first verse almost instantly undercuts its own solemnity; after offering such an inspiring image in the opening lines, Cohen remembers whom he's speaking to, and reminds his listener that "you don't really care for music, do you?"

"One of the funny things about 'Hallelujah,' " said Bill Flanagan, "is that it's got this profound opening couplet about King David, and then immediately it has this Woody Allen–type line of, 'You don't really care for music, do you?' I remember it striking me the first time I heard the song as being really funny in a Philip Roth, exasperated kind of way – 'I built this beautiful thing, but the girl only cares about the guy with a nice car.' "

Cohen then describes, quite literally, the harmonic progression of the verse: "It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth / the minor fall, the major lift." This is an explanation of the song's structure (the basic chord progression of most pop and blues songs goes from the "one" chord, the root, up three steps to the "four," then up another to the "five," and then resolves back to the "one"), followed by a reference to the conventional contrast between a major (happy) key and a minor (sad) key. He ends the first verse with "the baffled king composing Hallelujah!" – a comment on the unknowable nature of artistic creation, or of romantic love, or both. In the song's earliest moments, he has placed us in a time of ancient legend, and peeled back the spiritual power of music and art to reveal the concrete components, reducing even literal musical royalty to the role of simple craftsman.

The second verse of "Hallelujah" shifts to the second person – "Your faith was strong but you needed proof." Apparently the narrator is now addressing the character who was described in the first verse, since the next lines invoke another incident in the David story, when the king discovers and is tempted by Bathsheba. ("And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon" – 2 Samuel 11:2.)

In a July 2011 service at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the reading of this story was accompanied by a performance of "Hallelujah." The Reverend Dr. R. M. A. "Sandy" Scott delivered a sermon with his explication of the David story and its usage in the song.

"The story of David and Bathsheba is about the abuse of power in the name of lust, which leads to murder, intrigue, and brokenness," said Reverend Scott. He recounted that until this point, David had been a brave and gifted leader, but that he now "began to believe his own propaganda – he did what critics predicted, he began to take what he wanted."

Reverend Scott calls the choice of the word baffled to describe this David "an obvious understatement on Cohen's part. David is God's chosen one, the righteous king who would rule Israel as God's servant. The great King David becomes no more than a baffled king when he starts to live for himself.

"But even after the drama, the grasping, conniving, sinful King David is still Israel's greatest poet, warrior and hope," Scott continued. "There is so much brokenness in David's life, only God can redeem and reconcile this complicated personality. That is why the baffled and wounded David lifts up to God a painful hallelujah."

Following the David and Bathsheba reference, the sexuality of the lyrics is drawn further forward and then reinforced in an image of torture and lust taken from the story of Samson and Delilah – "She tied you to a kitchen chair / she broke your throne, she cut your hair" – before resolving with a vision of sexual release: "and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah!" Both biblical heroes are brought down to earth, and risk surrendering their authority, because of the allure of forbidden love. Even for larger-than-life figures and leaders of nations, the greatest physical pleasure can lead to disaster.

"The power of David and the strength of Samson are cut away; the two are stripped of their facile certainties, and their promising lives topple into the dust," wrote Reverend Thomas G. Casey, S.J., a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, of these first two verses. "The man who composed songs of praise with such aplomb and the man whose strength was the envy of all now find themselves in a stark and barren place."

Lisle Dalton, an associate professor of religious studies at Hartwick College, noted the many levels on which Cohen's linking of David and Samson works. "Both are heroes that are undone by misbegotten relationships with women. Both are adulterers. Both are poets – Samson breaks into verse right after smiting the Philistines. Both repent and seek divine favor after their transgressions.

"I don't know a lot about Cohen's personal life," Dalton continued, "but he seems to be blending these two figures together with, we presume, some of his own experiences. There's no 'kitchen chair' in the Bible! There's a biblical irony that highlights the tendency of even the most heroic characters to suffer a reversal of fortunes, even destruction, because they cannot overcome their sinful natures. The related tendency, and the moral message, is for the character to seek some kind of atonement."

In the third verse of "Hallelujah," Cohen's deadpan wit returns, offering a rebuttal to the religious challenge presented in the previous lines. "You say I took the Name in vain," he sings. "I don't even know the name." He then builds to the song's central premise – the value, even the necessity of the song of praise in the face of confusion, doubt, or dread. "There's a blaze of light in every word; / it doesn't matter which you heard, / the holy, or the broken Hallelujah!"

"A blaze of light in every word." That's an amazing line. Every word, holy or broken – this is the fulcrum of the song as Cohen first wrote it. Like our forefathers, and the Bible heroes who formed the foundation of Western ethics and principles, we will be hurt, tested, and challenged. Love will break our hearts, music will offer solace that we may or may not hear, we will be faced with joy and with pain. But Cohen is telling us, without resorting to sentimentality, not to surrender to despair or nihilism. Critics may have fixated on the gloom and doom of his lyrics, but this is his offering of hope and perseverance in the face of a cruel world. Holy or broken, there is still hallelujah.

Finally, the remarkable fourth verse drives this point home, starting with an all-too-human shrug: "I did my best; it wasn't much." Cohen reinforces his fallibility, his limits, but also his good intentions, singing, "I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you."

And as he brings the song to a conclusion, Cohen shows that for a composition that has often come to be considered a signifier of sorrowful resistance, "Hallelujah" was in fact inspired by a more positive feeling. "It's a rather joyous song," Cohen said when Various Positions was released.  "I like very much the last verse – 'And even though it all went wrong, / I'll stand before the Lord of Song / with nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!' " (While the published lyrics read "nothing on my lips," Cohen has actually almost always sung "nothing on my tongue" in this line.) Though subsequent interpreters didn't always retain this verse, its significance to Cohen has never waned: Decades later, when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he recited this full last verse as the bulk of his acceptance speech.

"I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world," he once said. "The Hallelujah, the David's Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion."
Read the rest of the excerpt.

* * * * *

Here is the segment from NPR's Weekend Edition.

Dozens Of Covers Later, 'Hallelujah' Endures


Rufus Wainwright performs in London earlier this year. His cover of "Hallelujah" is among the best-known versions of the oft-interpreted Leonard Cohen song.

There are songs, and then there are anthems.

One of those anthems is the subject of music journalist Alan Light's new book, The Holy Or The Broken.

The anthem itself, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," is one you've probably heard before, but most likely it's been one of the many covers sung by the likes of Rufus Wainwright, Willie Nelson, Susan Boyle, k.d. lang and even Michael Bolton. You may have also heard one of its many appearances in film and television.

As Light tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin, the "bassy and kind of droning" song almost didn't see the light of day.

"Columbia Records, which was Leonard's label then and remains so today, listened to the record and rejected it," Light says.

The label thought the song was "out of step" with where music was at the time, but PVC Records, an independent label, eventually released the song in 1984 in the U.S. to little fanfare.

"Not only was this under the radar, it was completely absent from the radar," Light says. "It was as if this song had never happened."

In 1994, a cover by the late Jeff Buckley helped save "Hallelujah" from musical obscurity. Buckley's version turned one man's lament into another artist's ode to love. Light says the ambiguity of the song's lyrics makes it easy for musicians to make the tune their own.

"There are lyrics that are talking about sex. There are these allusions to stories from the Bible; the King David story and the Samson story," he says. "There's lots and lots of layers."

The song really hit the mainstream when a version by John Cale was in a scene from the hit animated film Shrek. Even since, Light says "Hallelujah" is a go-to emotional trigger in TV shows and movies.

"You know what you're supposed to feel when you hear that song," he says. "You can't even hear it anymore. You just know that's the song that's supposed to make me feel sad now."

Still, Light says at a time when the way we encounter music has become so fragmented, the endurance of this song and its dozens of covers — nearly 30 years after it was first released — is remarkable.

"This is a song that people [now] use at weddings, at funerals and at very deeply personal things ... it's really kind of humbling," he says. "A song like this, you witness just how important it can still be for huge swaths of people."
* * * * *
Finally, here is the segment from CNN, which they also reposted on their Belief Blog.

The rise of 'Hallelujah'
By Edgar Treiguts, CNN
December 25th, 2012

The rise of 'Hallelujah'
Leonard Cohen performs at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 2012.

Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) – It's a song that's been recorded by hundreds of artists. It's been a favorite in TV competition shows and been used as a healing anthem in times of tragedy. And just recently, after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, 'Hallelujah' emerged again.

The popularity of 'Hallelujah' was hardly foreshadowed when it was written and first recorded by Leonard Cohen in 1984. The song was on an album Cohen's record company decided not to release.

A decade would pass before it was embraced by another artist, and its true introduction began.

Author Alan Light writes about the song's journey from obscurity to what he calls now a "modern standard".
[1:20] "There are now countless ways that people first encounter this song and so there isn't one fixed version that everything gets compared to because people enter it through all of these many different uses and these many different versions. And it allows it to be a lot more flexible and a lot more malleable then a song where everybody starts from hearing the same version and everything gets compared to that."
Alan Light's new book is The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tami Simon Speaks with John Welwood: Healing the Core Wound of the Heart

The good folks at Sounds True made this Tami Simon discussion with John Welwood, from back in July, available for free at their site. Welwood is one of the clearest and most nurturing writers there are in the area of psychology and spirituality. His book, Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships: Healing the Wound of the Heart, is one of my all-time favorite books, and should be essential reading for relationships.

John Welwood: Healing the Core Wound of the Heart

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. John Welwood, a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and practicing student of Buddhism and Eastern contemplative psychology. Dr. Welwood is an author whose books include Journey of the Heart and Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, and with Sounds True he has created the audio learning program Conscious Relationships.

Dr. Welwood is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, teacher, and author. He trained in existential psychology and worked closely with Eugene Gendlin at the University of Chicago, where he received his PhD in clinical psychology in 1974. He has also been a practicing student of Buddhism and Eastern contemplative psychologies for forty years.

In the 1980s, he emerged as a major contributor to the leading-edge fields of transpersonal psychology and East/West psychology. The former Director of the East/West Psychology Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, he is currently an editor of the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. He trains psychotherapists in psychotherapy in a spiritual framework and leads trainings on psychospiritual work and embodied presence throughout the world.

In this episode, Tami speaks with Dr. Welwood about his understanding of the relationship between psychological work and the spiritual journey, as well as his view of the phenomenon of “spiritual bypassing.” He also spoke about committed relationships and the most common issue that couples present in couples therapy. (61 minutes)

More from John Welwood:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Janice Woods - Effects on Kids Linger Long After Father’s Death

I am living proof of this research finding, having lost my father to a heart attack when I was 13 years old. The researcher here, Mary Shenk, Ph.D., found that older children and adolescents (ages 11 and 15) showed the largest decrease in later success. Those who had the best outcomes were the boys who were younger than 5 and older than 20.

[By the way, I highly recommend the book pictured above, Fatherloss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads, by Neil Chethik.]

In my life, my first attempt at college was failure due to drugs and drinking - didn't even make it through the first quarter. In the following months I hit a serious bottom before getting clean and trying to rebuild my life. Still, I made poor choices that left me in low-paying jobs for much of my 20s. In my late 20s and early thirties things shifted for the better (with the help of therapy and Buddhism), but then I left Seattle to move to Tucson and was back to crappy pay in a town with few employment options.

Everything shifted again when I reached a point of near-emotional shutdown in a bad relationship and a terrible job (a job with way more responsibility than my pay would indicate and which in other cities would have paid quite well). I was in therapy again at that point, and it helped me clarify my life (thanks Maude!).

I decided that any work I do in the future must be of service to others.

I became a personal trainer, then last year I became a certified clinical counselor, as well as writing and editing for other people who also work in the health, psychology, or personal growth realms. I do all three of these jobs now, and although I will never get rich, I have never been happier.

So I am an example of what this research shows, AND I am also proof that these things are not destiny - they can be worked through and overcome.

Effects on Kids Linger Long After Father’s Death

By JANICE WOOD Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 28, 2012

A father’s death can have long-term effects on a child’s later success in life and can be particularly harmful if the father passes away during a child’s late childhood or early adolescence, according to new research.

Recognizing the impact that a father’s death can have on adolescents could lead to improved counseling and assistance programs, especially for needy families in the developing world, said Mary Shenk, Ph.D., an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri.

“Certain negative effects of a father’s death can’t be compensated for by the mother or other relatives,” she said.

“The loss of a father can result in lower adult living standards for the bereaved children. Not only is a child emotionally affected, but the lack of a father’s earning power can cause children to get married younger or drop out of school in order to work.”

“Earlier studies have focused on how the absence or death of a father affects children in the United States and other wealthier parts of the world,” Shenk said. “Our study looked at the developing world where father death is much more common.”

For her study, Shenk interviewed 403 older men and women of Bangalore, India, about their families and examined the effects of death on their 1,112 children.

The death of the father before a child reached 25 years old correlated with lower educational achievement, younger ages at marriage and smaller income later in life, the researcher reports.

However, the effects were significantly smaller for children who lost their fathers when they were younger than 5 years old or older than 20.

Older children and adolescents between 11 and 15 years of age showed the largest decrease in later success.

“For young children who lose their fathers, other factors can take over to compensate,” Shenk said. “Infants and young children often don’t remember their lost fathers, and in many cases another family member may step in to care for them.

“Also, since young children are not yet in school, their educations don’t suffer as much.”

Source: University of Missouri

Boy and mother at a gravesite photo by shutterstock.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Judith Orloff, MD: The Ecstasy of Surrender

This is a nice TEDx talk from Dr. Judith Orloff on the incredible upside to being able to surrender. This is a tough sell for men - traditional masculinity views surrender as "giving up," or as weakness, fear, being beaten. Reframing the notion of surrender into an act of strength takes some time and effort, but the benefits of surrender, as Dr. Orloff outlines here, are worth the effort.

Judith Orloff, MD: The Ecstasy of Surrender - at TEDxAmericanRiviera 2012

Published on Dec 26, 2012

You can sabotage success by pushing too hard. Surrender is the antidote to stress in a world that relentlessly conspires to interrupt creative thought. Surrender boosts your brain's endorphins--euphoric, opiate-like pain killers--and serotonin, a natural antidepressant that allows you to relax, have more fun, and succeed more wildly than ever before. Life becomes easier and more blissful when you can let go.
Here are a few quotes on surrender (spiritual and psychological concept embodied by The Hanged Man Tarot card at the top):

The idea of surrender usually means to give in, to passively submit to the control of someone or something stronger. To surrender to the Dharma, however, requires the active and continuously renewed commitment of our energy. Surrendering to the teaching is the giving up of our self-images, fears, thoughts, and desires into the hands of deeper self-knowledge. It is submitting to the control of our true nature, which is healthier and stronger than our surface experience can ever be.
― Tarthang Tulku: Hidden Mind of Freedom 
* * * * * 
“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
 ― Eckhart Tolle 
* * * * * 
“Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. the world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.”
 ― Marianne Williamson 
* * * * * 
“Surrender your own poverty and acknowledge your nothingness to the Lord. Whether you understand it or not, God loves you, is present in you, lives in you, dwells in you, calls you, saves you and offers you an understanding and compassion which are like nothing you have ever found in a book or heard in a sermon.”
 ― Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground Of Love: The Letters Of Thomas Merton On Religious Experience And Social Concerns 
* * * * * 
“Those who are truly enlightened, those whose souls are illuminated by love, have been able to overcome all of the inhibitions and preconceptions of their era. They have been able to sing, to laugh, and to pray out loud; they have danced and shared what Saint Paul called 'the madness of saintliness'. They have been joyful - because those who love conquer the world and have no fear of loss. True love is an act of total surrender.”
 ― Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Documentary - Biology of Dads (BBC)

This is a cool documentary I found at Documentary Heaven on the necessity of dads, both biologically and psychologically, in the lives of their children, male and female. Nice to see a BBC piece on this topic - probably won't be any major networks doing this topic in the U.S any time soon.

Biology of Dads

‘Every child needs a father’ is a phrase heard often enough, but is there any evidence to support it? In this enlightening documentary, child psychologist Laverne Antrobus goes on a quest to discover why a dad’s relationship with his offspring is so important. She uncovers fascinating new research which is shedding light onto the science of fatherhood.

Laverne meets a new dad who is experiencing Couvade Syndrome, a condition sometimes known as ‘sympathetic pregnancy’. She is keen to explore if the symptoms – which are similar to those felt by pregnant women, such as nausea and sickness – might be physiological as well as psychological. The dad takes a blood test shortly after the birth of his third child and Antrobus discovers that hormones could be the cause of his symptoms: possibly nature’s way of ‘priming’ him to become a more nurturing father.

Laverne then meets one of the UK’s leading experts in the father’s role within the family. While observing father and toddler play in his lab, she finds out how the rough-and-tumble play they witness is classic ‘dad behaviour’. It is believed that this type of fatherly play is essential in teaching toddlers the boundaries of aggression and discipline.

In the final investigation, Antrobus looks into recent research which claims that men who have a good relationship with their daughters can influence the kind of husband the daughters choose. The study also found that girls whose fathers were absent during their formative years tend to reach puberty sooner and age quicker. Laverne recruits a team of married women to take part in one final, fascinating experiment.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Androgen Depletion Therapy for Prostate Cancer May Make it Worse

Okay, guys, there is one basic rule with prostate cancer - if they want to use androgen depletion therapy (ADT) to eliminate your testosterone in the (false) belief that it will save your life, you need to find another doctor. Period. This article explains examines how ADT can actually INCREASE your risk of developing an aggressive form of the cancer.

Key point:
"Stretching our data even further, these findings suggest that as men age and their testosterone levels decrease, loss of testosterone might actually encourage indolent prostate tumors to become more aggressive," Roberts said. "This suggests that testosterone supplements might be a good thing for the prostate, even though current wisdom suggests the opposite."
If you have an aggressive form of prostate cancer, it will already have metastasized to bone by the time you receive ADT (it happens very early in the process) - and then with ADT you will lose sex drive, muscle mass, and bone density (not to mention developing cholesterol issues, depression, and potential heart disease). Once it gets into the bone, your chances of survival are lower, anyway - so why die impotent and depressed?

Another important issue is that ADT - when it works - only works for a couple of months, while the PCa is androgen-dependent. Eventually, it will become androgen-independent and things get worse form there.

The upshot of this research is that using ADT in men who are in the early stages of benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH) or high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, a prostate abnormality that is thought to lead to prostate cancer, should not be deprived of testosterone because it raises the risk of developing a high-grade, aggressive form of the cancer - the opposite of what they intend with this treatment,

The numbers vary, but only around 10% of PCa is aggressive, and the death rate is down to around 3-6% for PCa overall (depending on whose numbers you read). Here is one set of stats, which is a little scary for guys my age (45), who entering the risk years:
Given current screening trends, it is estimated that 16.2% (1 in 6) of American men alive today will be diagnosed with the disease and approximately 3% (1 in 33) will die of the disease (Brawley 2012).
Here is the new research:

Preventing Prostate Cancer Through Androgen Deprivation May Have Harmful Effects

24 December 2012

The use of androgen deprivation therapies to prevent precancerous prostate abnormalities developing into aggressive prostate cancer may have adverse effects in men with precancers with specific genetic alterations, according to data from a preclinical study recently published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"The growth and survival of prostate cancer cells are very dependent on signals that the cancer cells receive from a group of hormones, called androgens, which includes testosterone," said Thomas R. Roberts, Ph.D., co-chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.

Previous findings from two major randomized, placebo-controlled prostate cancer chemoprevention trials revealed that androgen deprivation therapy reduced the overall risk for low-grade prostate cancer. However, both trials also revealed a high cumulative risk for high-grade prostate cancers that has caused concern among experts.

High-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia is a prostate abnormality that is considered to be a major precursor to prostate cancer. Loss of the tumor suppressor PTEN is detected in 9 to 45 percent of clinical cases.

Using a mouse model of PTEN-driven high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, Roberts and his colleagues investigated whether surgical or chemical androgen deprivation could prevent the cancer precursor from progressing to more aggressive disease.

"When we castrated the animals, we thought the tumors would shrink and they did initially," Roberts said. "However, they then grew back and became invasive."

The results of this preclinical study suggest that prophylactic reduction of the most active form of androgen, or blocking androgen receptor function, might have unintended consequences in some men.

"Stretching our data even further, these findings suggest that as men age and their testosterone levels decrease, loss of testosterone might actually encourage indolent prostate tumors to become more aggressive," Roberts said. "This suggests that testosterone supplements might be a good thing for the prostate, even though current wisdom suggests the opposite."

Roberts noted that these results should be interpreted with caution because the prostate glands of mice are different from their human counterparts. More data on human tumors are needed to evaluate whether the data from this mouse study are applicable to men.
Source: The American Association of Cancer Research

Brawley, OW. (2012). "Prostate cancer epidemiology in the United States." World J Urol 30(2): 195-200.

Julie Gillis - Men Deserve Real Empathy, Not Deference

Yesterday I posted an article by Christy Wampole from the New York Times on guns and the decline of young men. Over at the Good Men Project, Julie Gillis posted a response later in the day - and Gillis believes men need some real empathy and compassion, not deference, as suggested by Wampole.

Men Deserve Real Empathy, Not Deference


Julie Gillis challenges a New York Times Op-Ed that insists that women should show deference to the men who feel they are losing privilege in a changing world. 
Recently, in light of the Connecticut shootings, Christy Wampole wrote an article for the NYT Opinionator blogs about young men, guns, their feelings of disassociation and rage.

If the soldier has largely been replaced by the video game character and the drone, if the mothers have proven that they can raise the children alone, if the corporations are less able or willing to guarantee the possibility of upward mobility and some level of respect that comes with title, if someone else can bring home the bacon, what is left for young men?

She then relates how we (women) should show more empathy in the form of deference to these young men who are suffering from losing privilege in the world, who are feeling lost and useless.

Empathy could serve many of us: those who have not yet put themselves in the position of a person who is losing their power and those who can aim a gun at someone without imagining themselves on the other end of the barrel. For those of us who belong to a demographic that is doing increasingly better, a trained empathic reflex toward those we know to be losing for our gains could lead to a more deferential attitude on our part and could constitute an invitation for them to stay with us. To delight in their losses and aim at them the question, “How does it feel?” will only trigger a cycle of resentment and plant the seeds for vengeance. It is crucial to accommodate the pain of others.

Hugo Schwyzer wrote a good takedown of the piece, though I have to admit it was a little too sarcastic for my tastes, but something hit me about what he said and hard.

Wampole doesn’t recommend that women defer to men out of respect for masculine authority, but out of empathy for those suffering from Post-Patriarchal Depression. But why should empathy require deference rather than a passing acknowledgement that yeah, life can be confusing for many young men today? 
Read the whole post.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christy Wampole - Guns and the Decline of the Young Man

Writing for the New York Times Opinionator blog, Christy Wampole suggests that the decline of males in our culture - and most Westernized cultures - has a lot to do with why all of the mass killers, save one, have been white and all have been males. She argues that maleness and whiteness are commodities in decline.
And while those of us who are not male or white have enjoyed some benefits from their decline, the sort of violence and murder that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary will continue to occur if we do not find a way to carry them along with us in our successes rather than leaving them behind.
As is the case with most attempts at explaining these kinds of tragic events, her perspective is useful but partial. We need a systems approach to this issue.

Guns and the Decline of the Young Man

THE STONE | December 17, 2012

Updated: This post originally contained an article that was not ready for publication. The correct version appears below.


In the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., and the resulting renewed debate on gun control in the United States, The Stone will publish a series of essays this week that examine the ethical, social and humanitarian implications of the use, possession and regulation of weapons. Other articles in the series can be found here.


Adam Lanza was a young man. Jacob Roberts was a young man. James Holmes is a young man. Seung-Hui Cho was a young man. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were young men.

We can all name a dozen or so hypotheses about why they kill: their parents’ unlocked gun cabinet, easy access to weapons on the Internet, over- or under-medication, violent video games and TV programs, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental disorders, abusive or indifferent parents, no stable social network, bullying. However, young women are equally exposed to many of the same conditions yet rarely turn a weapon on others. This leaves us wondering about the young men.

There is something about life in the United States, it seems, that is conducive to young men planning and executing large-scale massacres. But the reasons elude us.

The first reaction to the horror and bloodshed of a mass killing like the one in Newtown, Conn., is a rekindling of the gun control debate. I happen to believe, along with many others, that the repeated mandate we give to the National Rifle Association and its lobby, and the complacency with which we allow our politicians to be subject to the will of gun manufacturers is odious.

Limiting access to weapons is certainly a pragmatic albeit incomplete solution to the United States’ propensity for murder. However, were the guns to vanish instantaneously, the specter that haunts our young men would still hover in silence, darkly.

What is it that touches them?

I come from a small town near Fort Worth, Texas. In this region, like many others across the United States, young men are having a very hard time of it. When I consider how all of the people I knew there are faring, including my own family members, the women have come out considerably better than the men. While many of the women were pregnant in high school and have struggled with abusive relationships, financial hardships and addictions, they’ve often found ways to make their lives work, at least provisionally, and to live with their children if not provide for them in more substantial ways.

The same cannot be said for many young men in the region, who are often absent fathers of multiple children by multiple women, unemployed or underemployed, sullen and full of rage. While every woman in my family has done O.K. in the end, every man on one side of my family except for my grandfather has spent time in jail, abused drugs or alcohol, suffered from acute depression, or all of the above. Furthermore, pervasive methamphetamine use, alcoholism, physical and psychological abuse and severe depression have swept not only my hometown and my region but large segments of the United States. If this pattern is not familiar to you personally, I am certain it is the lived experience of someone you know.

This is merely anecdotal evidence, not social science, but I believe that it is indicative of a sort of infection spreading in our collective brain, one that whispers to the American subconscious: “The young men are in decline.” They were once our heroes, our young and shining fathers, our sweet brothers, our tireless athletes, our fearless warriors, the brains of our institutions, the makers of our wares, the movers of our world. In the Western imagination, the valiance of symbolically charged figures like Homer’s Ulysses or the Knights of the Round Table remained unquestioned since their conception. However, as centuries progressed and stable categories faltered, the hero figure faces increasing precarity. Even if we consider the 20th century alone, we see this shift from World War II, when the categories of good and evil were firm, to later conflicts like the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, involving a disparity between what the government believed to be right and what much of the civilian population did.

Does the heroic young man still make sense today, or has his value already been depleted?

Certainly, there are young men who are paragons of success: the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, the sharply dressed bankers, the swarms of brilliant graduates who receive their diplomas each year. And there are heroes who fight our fires, soldiers who fight our wars and the first-responders who are the first to set eyes on the dead children’s bodies at the scenes of mass shootings. But more young men these days are avatars of soldiers rather than soldiers themselves.

If the soldier has largely been replaced by the video game character and the drone, if the mothers have proven that they can raise the children alone, if the corporations are less able or willing to guarantee the possibility of upward mobility and some level of respect that comes with title, if someone else can bring home the bacon, what is left for young men?

All this, and they still are not allowed to cry.

There is also the issue of race. Not all of the men I listed in the beginning of this piece are Caucasian. However, take a moment and imagine what the archetypical image of a mass murderer in the United States looks like. Is he white in your mind? This image can only be attributed to the truth of those patterns that have established themselves, from Charles Whitman’s 1966 shooting spree at the University of Texas, to Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, to the 1999 Columbine massacre, to Wade Michael Page’s 2012 attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The mass murderer is a type. And his race is white.

Young, African-American men are often imagined to be violent on the street, killing one another in gang-related violence or murdering convenience store clerks while trying to empty the cash register. The stereotypical image, even in its wrongheaded reduction of the black man to an inherently violent being, does not leave room for that other kind of murderer, the one who plans and executes a calculated, non-spontaneous large-scale death spree.

The angry white man has usurped the angry black man.

I would argue that maleness and whiteness are commodities in decline. And while those of us who are not male or white have enjoyed some benefits from their decline, the sort of violence and murder that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary will continue to occur if we do not find a way to carry them along with us in our successes rather than leaving them behind.

For women, things are looking up. We can vote, we can make more choices about our bodies than in decades past, we’ve made significant progress regarding fair pay, and more women are involved in American politics than ever before. The same can be said for minorities. However, because resources are limited, gains for women and minorities necessarily equal losses for white males. Even if this feels intuitively fair to many, including those white males who are happy to share resources for the greater benefit of the nation as a whole, it must feel absolutely distressing for those who are uncomfortable with change and who have a difficult time adjusting to the inevitable reordering of society.

From the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960s and onward, young men – and young white men in particular – have increasingly been asked to yield what they’d believed was securely theirs. This underlying fact, compounded by the backdrop of violent entertainment and easy access to weapons, creates the conditions for thousands of young men to consider their future prospects and decide they would rather destroy than create.

Can you imagine being in the shoes of the one who feels his power slipping away? Who can find nothing stable to believe in? Who feels himself becoming unnecessary? That powerlessness and fear ties a dark knot in his stomach. As this knot thickens, a centripetal hatred moves inward toward the self as a centrifugal hatred is cast outward at others: his parents, his girlfriend, his boss, his classmates, society, life.

A partial solution to these toxic circumstances could be a coordinated cultivation of what might be called an empathic habit. Most people surely felt an impulsive empathy for the parents and survivors involved in the Sandy Hook massacre, as shown by the countless memorial services and candlelight vigils that took place after the murders. But empathy could help best if exercised before rather than after such tragedies.

Empathy could serve many of us: those who have not yet put themselves in the position of a person who is losing their power and those who can aim a gun at someone without imagining themselves on the other end of the barrel. For those of us who belong to a demographic that is doing increasingly better, a trained empathic reflex toward those we know to be losing for our gains could lead to a more deferential attitude on our part and could constitute an invitation for them to stay with us. To delight in their losses and aim at them the question, “How does it feel?” will only trigger a cycle of resentment and plant the seeds for vengeance. It is crucial to accommodate the pain of others.

For a start, feeling needed is undoubtedly essential to each individual. This fact must be addressed at home, at school, in the workplace, and in politics. For example, one could envision the development of a school curriculum that centers around an empathic practice, particularly in courses such as history, social studies, literature, and political science. If students have no access to an empathic model at home, they would at least be exposed to it in the classroom. In the workplace, the C.E.O. must be able to put herself in the position of the lowest ranked employee and vice versa. Victims and victors must engage in the hypothetical practice that forces each to acknowledge the others’ fortunes and misfortunes.

Empathy is difficult because it forces us to feel the suffering of others. It is destabilizing to imagine that if we are lucky or blessed, it just as easily could have gone some other way. For the young men, whose position is in some ways more difficult than that of their fathers and grandfathers, life seems at times to have stacked the cards against them. It is for everyone to realize the capricious nature of history, which never bets consistently on one group over another. We should learn to cast ourselves simultaneously in the role of winner and loser, aggressor and victim.

We have a choice whether our national refrain of “No more mass murders” will be meaningful or meaningless. We cannot neglect the young men. By becoming empathic stewards of civic and personal life, there is a chance we could make someone think twice before targeting another human being.

Related: “The Freedom of an Armed Society.”

~ Christy Wampole is an assistant professor of French at Princeton University. Her research focuses primarily on 20th- and 21st-century French and Italian literature and thought.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wallace Stevens - The Snow Man

The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

For those who feel uneasy trying to read or understand modern poetry, NPR ran a short piece on this poem a while back (in 2005, the 50th anniversary year of Stevens' death), and the reviewer names this as the best short poem in the English language. It's hard to argue with that assessment, this is one of great American poems.

Wallace Stevens: 'The Snow Man'
November 29, 200512:00 AM


All Things Considered

Wallace Stevens won the Pulitzer Prize for his book Collected Poems in 1955.Corbis

Read the Poem: 'The Snow Man'

The American poet Wallace Stevens died 50 years ago this year. Commentator Jay Keyser says Stevens wrote the best short poem in the English language, "The Snow Man." Stevens marries what the poem is about with the way that it is built.


Now in praise of Wallace Stevens. The American poet passed away 50 years ago this year. Commentator and linguist Jay Keyser saves his highest praise for one of Stevens' poems.


With something as personal as a poem, it's risky making hard and fast judgments. That won't stop me. I declare that Wallace Stevens wrote the best short poem in the English language, bar none, and in a minute I'll tell you why. But first, listen to the poem. It's called "The Snow Man."

(Reading) `One must have a mind of winter to regard the frost and the boughs of the pine trees crusted with snow, and have been cold a long time to behold the juniper shagged with ice, the spruces rough in the distant glitter of the January sun, and not to think of any misery in the sound of the wind, in the sound of a few leaves, which is the sound of the land full of the same wind that is blowing in the same bare place for the listener, who listens in the snow and, nothing himself, beholds nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is.'

Why is this poem so good? Unlike any other English poem I've read, "The Snow Man" marries what it's about with the way it's built. If you were to parse it the way I was taught in high school, diagraming all those clauses and phrases on those slanted lines, you would come up with a perfectly balanced mobile built around the conjunction `and.' That's the trick of the poem. Each clause seems to be coming to an end and then suddenly up pops another `and.'

It begins `One must have a mind of winter to regard the frost and the boughs of the pine trees crusted with snow.' Fine, that looks like the end of the first sentence. But, no, it goes on impelled by `and.' `One must have a mind of winter to regard the frost and the boughs of the pine trees crusted with snow and have been cold a long time to behold the juniper shagged with ice, the spruces rough in the distant glitter of the January sun.' There, we're finished with the `ands.' Think again. The very next word in the poem is another pesky `and.' Stevens is forcing his readers to reanalyze what they have just read again and again and again.

I once put all the words of the poem on little white cards and made a mobile out of it. It dangled, perfectly balanced, like an Alexander Calder creation. The poem, twisting and turning when I blew on it, became the visual counterpart of what it's about.

But what is it about? The poem is a recipe for seeing things as they really are. To do that, you must see the world the way the snow man does. The snow man is free of human biases. He knows that in winter the days aren't cold and miserable; you are. To see like him, you must constantly challenge your own assumptions. It's one thing to say that in words. It's quite another to say it in the structure the words hang on. No one did it before. No one has done it since. You can measure great jugglers by how many balls they keep in the air. It's the same thing with poets.