Adderall and the American Dream

Adderall, a drug intended to treat ADD/ADHD, has been around for a long time. People have used it, legally and illegally, for a wide variety of things. Adderall, being an amphetamine, is sometimes prescribed to people with narcolepsy. Similarly, it is commonly referred to as a ‘study drug’ because it helps students stay up all night to cram for an exam. More recently, Adderall has become popular with Millennials. In Lawrence Diller’s article: America’s Love Affair With Legal Amphetamine, he provides a unique opinion of this generation of young adults. Diller blames the spike in misuse of Adderall on our country’s economy, irresponsible pharmaceutical companies, and mainstream culture. Besides these obvious contributors, he offers a new reason as to why Millennials turn to drugs like Adderall. He goes as far as creating his own hypothetical psychiatric disorder. “My disorder is called Achievement Anxiety Disorder (AAD), and it explains the increasing reports of prescription amphetamine misuse most often in the form of Adderall abuse.” Millennials are the first generation to live worse-off than the previous generation. Diller says that this, along with a “broken cultural norm that makes happiness impossible to achieve,” is the root of AAD.

Diller’s Fake Diagnoses

Lawrence Diller has a medical degree and has written various books about Adderall and other amphetamines. His credibility is undeniable. The statistics included in his article make it clear that the millennial generation does, indeed, have a problem with Adderall. However, his argument contains fallacies and is somewhat problematic at times. The subtitle of the article sets the tone for his argument, “When will we be able to just say no?” That line in itself is condescending, and it delegitimizes the struggle of addiction. Diller’s article recognizes the tragedy of America’s prescription drug problem while making it seem as if he believes solving the problem is as simple as saying no. He goes on to take jabs at drug companies for creating new psychiatric disorders out of thin air by doing just that. Creating Achievement Anxiety Disorder for the sake of his argument is inappropriate but could possibly be overlooked if it added anything new or constructive to the conversation. This phony disorder seems like a thinly veiled attempt at mocking Millennials and those with mental health issues. He compares AAD to legitimate conditions. “Just what is Achievement Anxiety Disorder? Like all psychiatric conditions, there are no blood tests or brain scans to make the diagnosis” (Diller). Not only is this a clear attempt to delegitimize disorders people have, but it is incorrect. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, brain scans show, “In youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared to youth without the disorder.” Diller’s inaccuracies work to further discredit him.

Diller goes on to explain AAD, “You can see it all around us- frantic people working ever harder to achieve a certain level of material satisfaction and security.” He takes in to account the difficult economy handed down to Millennials, but he seems to point to the generation’s collective attitude of entitlement as the real culprit. Diller is playing into the ever-popular narrative that Millennials are whiny and weak-minded and in need of a participation trophy. While it is true that today’s young adults must work harder and go above and beyond to attain the lifestyle their parents did, this does not directly relate to Adderall use. According to an article in The Atlantic, young adults that graduated during the recession of the 1980’s were also worse-off than their parents. The struggles they faced did not push them to Adderall use even though the drug was in the market by then.

Millennials as ‘Casualties’ of Adderall

A recurring trend in this article seems to be the criticism of today’s young adults. Diller continues to connect the country’s rampant Adderall use and misuse to Millennials’ shortcomings. He compares previous generation’s perceptions of the American Dream to Millennials when he says, “A once-personal struggle for self-acceptance and success has turned into contagious angst about a collective failure to live up to our dreams.” This line suggests that this new generation has turned the American dream into something toxic by obsessing over failure and relying on substance to avoid it. It suggests that past generations were intrinsically motivated, and the current generation is more focused on material gain. Diller’s stance throughout his article seems to be that Millennials are caving to the pressure of everyday life and turning to Adderall to deal with the stress. His general perception of Millennials is that it is a weaker generation.

Towards the end of the article, one line sticks out as outright offensive, “Our young adults who are turning to Adderall are the stark casualties of this broken cultural norm that makes happiness impossible to achieve.” Here, Diller basically labels anyone who takes Adderall as a ‘casualty’. This is significantly more problematic than simply taking a jab at drug companies for creating disorders. Saying this, even if it is an opinion piece, is extremely inappropriate and it discredits the rest of the piece. ADD/ADHD is a legitimate disorder that can be tested and detected in brain scans.

The Reality of Being Prescribed Adderall

Rhetoric like Diller’s is insulting to people with ADD/ADHD who truly suffer. Untreated, ADD/ADHD makes concentrating in school and even performing day-to-day tasks incredibly difficult for people. This results in bad grades, disciplinary issues, and in turn a general anxiety about anything school related. When people are given the necessary medication, such as Adderall, the side effects are miserable. Those who have to take Adderall for their ADD/ADHD will tell you how much they hate it. It stifles their personality, diminishes their appetite, and inhibits them socially. In this piece, Diller calls the DSM-5, “America’s official psychiatric bible of common life dilemmas translated into mental disorder.”  Here, he is brushing over not just ADD/ADHD, but all mental health conditions. The real common life dilemma that plagues those with ADD/ADHD is if they want to take Adderall and succeed in school while feeling like a zombie or take no medication at all and suffer through school and work.

By the end of the article, there is no real take-away of what or who the true culprit is. Diller takes jabs at Millennials, the economy, new social norms, and drug companies, but ultimately, he offers no real solution besides the subtitle that reads, “When will we be able to just say no?” Lawrence Diller attempts to give a unique answer to America’s rampant Adderall use by creating his own psychiatric disorder and taking jabs at anything from Millennials to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Sleep Training

I recently posted an article comparing the CIO (Cry It Out) group supporters to the Co-Sleeping supporters, and briefly discussed our daughter’s experience with both sleep plans. We are now 4 weeks into implementing a successful CIO bedtime and nap-time routine for our 11-month-old daughter. I have not seen a detailed example of how CIO plans are implemented, so I have decided to share the specifics of our plan.

First, I would like to clarify that my previous article was not well accepted nor appreciated in some groups. Several individuals firmly believe that subjecting a child to CIO is inadequate and cruel parenting. Therefore, if you believe children should not be subjected to CIO, then I recommend that you do NOT read this article. If you and your partner are not ready to commit to a sleep plan, it would not be a good idea to implement a sleep plan. I apologize to those that I have sickened. I do not claim to be a parenting expert, and I believe that every parent should consider researching multiple resources before making substantial child raising decisions.

Before we begin, I must clarify the following: successful sleep training methods require schedules, routines, and consistency. I strongly recommend implementing the following suggestions before starting sleep training. Under each point I have noted some of the specifics of the schedule we had before attempting sleep training.

Sleep and Feeding Schedule

  1. Set a sleep schedule with at least a 3-hour window between the last nap and bed time.

From the age of 9-10 months, we had set a somewhat consistent nap schedule for our daughter. Her first nap started about 2.5 hours after waking in the morning and 3 hours of waking from her second nap. This usually left about 4 hours until bed time.

There were times when the nap was pushed back too late. If she wouldn’t fall asleep for the second nap we would then take her on a car ride to help her fall asleep, and that was often too late in the afternoon after the failed nap attempt. A child certainly needs sleep; however, we should have kept that 3-hour window between the last nap and bed time even if she was exhausted. The night-time sleep plan trumps the nap plans.

  1. Set consistent sleep routines with the night sleep routine lasting about 10 minutes.

From the age of 9-10 months we also started implementing a sleep routine. We would read to her before each nap and bed time for about 5 minutes. The bed time routine also included a diaper change and putting her in her pajamas.

The night-time routine should have lasted closer to 10 minutes, and we should have included a more detailed, consistent, and step-wise routine. This will be further discussed in the ‘Re-Set’ plan below.

  1. Set a consistent feeding schedule, including a dream feeding if necessary.

We did not put this into practice until we started the CIO plan at the age of 10 months. We used the bottle as a sleep aid, and this was a mistake. Looking back I have realized that even if the initial CIO method would have worked at the 6 or 9-month attempts, it would not have lasted through the night. This is probably the case even if we would have implemented a well-timed dream feeding because she was dependent on the bottle as her soothing requirement. If you want to implement a sleep plan, the bottle should not be used as a soothing tool.

The last feeding must be at least 15 minutes before the start of the night-time sleep routine. If feedings are necessary during the night, a dream feeding should be scheduled before the child would wake for the feeding. At 10 months we decided a dream feeding was not necessary since her night feeding usually resulted in a skipped morning feeding.

Additional Considerations

There are situations when such schedule synchronization is difficult to implement. If all of these variables are perfectly set, your child is probably very close to being perfectly sleep trained anyway. Most parents who are researching sleep training are facing exhausting and overwhelming inconsistencies which need to be corrected. That is exactly where we were, and we started the successful sleep training from a fairly unstable starting point. Our daughter did not have any self-soothing skills before our 10-month sleep training attempt. Furthermore, her inconsistent sleep from the age of 4-10 months left her exhausted for too much of the day. This scattered her eating schedule, and the cyclic nature of inconsistencies continued. We didn’t realize how exhausted she was until about 5 days into our successful sleep training attempt.

(Re)Set the Sleep Stage

  1. The Child Must Sleep in a Crib, and That Crib Is the Only Sleep Option.

Allowing a child over 6 months old to fall asleep while feeding, being held, riding in a car, or co-sleeping are not helpful options when attempting to acclimate a child to sleeping in a crib. If the child is used to those options, the challenges of sleep training increase exponentially. The crib must be the only option. By the age of 10 months we had allowed alternative sleep options much too frequently, and she knew that crying in her crib would eventually result in being removed from her crib.

Before the official sleep training attempt began, she was required to sleep in the crib for 4 nights. She hated it, and it didn’t matter if we were in the room or not. I decided to lay with her in the crib for an hour, and then sleep next to her on the floor for the entire night. Your methods are up to you, but before a sleep training attempt it must be accepted by all parties that sleeping in the crib is the only option.

  1. Optimize the Sleep Environment

For us, the two final steps for the optimal sleep environment included adding about 8 more pacifiers around the crib and using a white noise machine. The room should be completely dark and a comfortable temperature.

  1. Continue or start a schedule.

If you haven’t already, do your best to set the sleeping and eating schedules. The more defined the schedules are, the easier the sleep training will be. As these schedules are set all milk feedings should be at least 15 minutes from any sleep attempt.

For bed time, the consensus is a 7:00 – 8:30 time window. During our four days of preparation we aimed for a 7:30 p.m. sleep time. This would be +/- 15 minutes depending on when she woke up from her last nap. In the morning we took her out of the crib no earlier than 6:00, but if she was sleeping we let her sleep until 7:30 (that never happened). The first nap would start 2.5 hours after she woke up in the morning. The second nap would start 3 hours after she woke up from the first. The second nap would not continue past 4:30 p.m. We had to wake her up twice on the occasions when she fought the second nap for too long.

Ideally, the previously mentioned sleeping and eating schedules as well as not using the milk for soothing purposes would also be integrated as much as possible. The better these foundations are set; the easier sleep training will be.

  1. Optimize a Sleep Routine.

Set the sleep routine of your choice. The final feeding should start at least 20-30 minutes before the child is set in the crib for the night. After the feeding, allow the child to sit or be held upright for about 5-10 minutes, then proceed to the sleep routine. This part of the routine should last about 10 minutes. Our routine included a diaper change, a coconut/lavender oil massage, dressing her in her pajamas, two books (4-5 mins), clicking on the sound machine, and then laying her in her crib. As you are prepping for the sleep training, you could be crazy and sleep in the crib as I did, you could stand by the crib, and/or you could stand across the room. Whatever works! The goal is as little crying as possible with as little contact as possible. For naps we included a diaper change and one book.

Sleep Training

If steps 1-7 are going well, sleep training might be as easy as all of the CIO and Ferber advocates proclaim. Our sleep training started by implementing the previous 7 steps within the narrow time window of only four days. Since we were consistently implementing each step, and we were confident that our plan would work. The small 4-day window of preparation as well as the previously failed attempts (intermittent re-enforcement) did not make our sleep training path easy. However, it worked.

  1. Start with only night-time sleep training.

There isn’t much to say about the sleep training once steps 1-7 are set in place. At 10 months she no longer needed a dream feeding. After the night-time routine, we left the room for the night. For the first week she averaged 25 minutes of crying, for the second week she averaged 10 minutes, and for the third she averaged 5 minutes before falling asleep. For the first two weeks we only implemented sleep training at night. Since naps are more challenging with less of a physiological sleep synchronization, we remained next to her crib until she fell asleep for naps.

As our daughter became more comfortable with the sleep training routine, she also had some interesting behavioral changes. After the feeding we would walk into her room, and she knew that it was sleep time. For some reason she always accepted diaper changes, but after the first week she started to fight the diaper change. She knew that it was bed time, and she knew that she would be stuck going to sleep once it happened. After the diaper change she usually calmed down more during the massage and dressing in her pjs. Then, during the book reading she was very calm. The battle shifted from fighting sleep in the crib to making a short plea within the bedtime routine.

  1. Continue to nap sleep train if necessary.

After the first week of sleep training at night, the naps became more challenging. She wanted us to pick her up out of the crib. We were focused on the night-time plan, so we would often give in to relentless crying and take her on a drive so she would fall asleep. I don’t necessarily regret this decision, but after the second week of night-time training, we also implemented CIO for naps. The first week of nap-time sleep training also had it’s challenges. We maximized CIO to 45 minutes, and she reached that two times. We are now at week 4, and over the last four days she has averaged 5 minutes of light crying before falling asleep for naps, and she is averaging less than 5 minutes of light crying for bed time.

Conclusion

By our daughter’s 10 month mark, it seemed as if co-sleeping or sleep training were the only two options we had. We thought co-sleeping would have been a fairly easy pathway and at least another 6 months of low quality sleep for us and for her. We figured sleep training would at least require a solid three days of torture for everyone involved. If sleep training worked, we were pretty sure it would be worth it, and even if it didn’t, we had to know if it wasn’t a possibility. Sleep training did require several hours of crying over the first week, but from weeks 2-4 there has been significantly less crying than we were used to. After the first week our daughter started to crawl, pull herself up, and balance herself while standing. She has started to interact with us more than ever, she has been more interested in everything around her, and she is a happier girl in general.

Hopefully this outline was helpful. If you have any questions, thoughts, or suggestions please leave a comment!

Experiencing the Moment with One Half of the Mind

As mentioned in my story, I had a tumor removed from my left temporal lobe. Before the tumor was surgically removed I experienced complex partial seizures isolated within the left hemisphere of my brain. During these one to two-minute complex partial seizures, I was unable to speak. It felt like I was entrapped within a dysfunctional mind. My silent, slurred, or illogical communication attempts during seizures were always frustrating and sometimes embarrassing.

The Wada Test

My neurosurgeon wanted to confirm that temporarily disabling the left hemisphere of my brain would indeed leave me unable to speak, and he also wanted to know if the right or left hemisphere of my brain was my primary memory operator. If the test concluded that the disabled brain hemisphere was important enough, a functional MRI would have also been performed before the surgery to ensure valuable parts of the brain were not removed. Of course, I wanted the functional MRI performed regardless of the primary memory location of my brain. Most of the time I would make a convincing argument against extreme practices for very little benefit. In this case my insurance deductible was already met, and this procedure, the Wada Test, sounded like an entertaining adventure.

The Adventure of Half of the Mind

A catheter was inserted into the femoral artery in my leg, and it was pushed all the way up to the internal carotid artery of my neck. It felt weird in my stomach area, but I couldn’t feel it move any further than that. However, I could see it through the computer screen showing an ongoing x-ray of my body. The catheter then released dye into my body which heated significantly as my body rejected the visitors. The x-ray clearly showed the dye map out all the veins in my left hemisphere.

My neuropsychologist prepared me for the memory test of random objects shown to me when the anesthetic would be released into my left hemisphere.

First as the anesthetic was being injected, I had both hands up wiggling my fingers and counting. At exactly 33 seconds I was unable to speak, and my right arm fell to the bed. As I was trying to say the number 34 I gazed at my right hand in awe as I tried to move it back to where it was originally. I was staring at it and expecting it to move where I wanted, but it wouldn’t move. My left hemisphere was undoubtedly numbed by the anesthetic.

Then the neuropsychologist started showing me the random objects. I was supposed to name them; however, I was unable to speak. Initially I thought my lack of speech was because I couldn’t think of the name of the object. I convinced myself I was just trying to remember the name before I said something. I would sometimes use filler words like umm, or uhh at times when I experienced partial seizures, or just couldn’t remember names. In this case I just couldn’t speak at all. The Wada test was like an extremely long and intense partial seizure. It felt like I was entrapped in a realistic dream where I was unable to speak. I was stuck with a goal that simply could not be accomplished.

He kept showing me the objects anyway. I was baffled by my inability to speak. In that moment I did feel confident that I knew the name for one or two things out of the fifteen. I also recognized all the objects, but the names for the others were just nowhere to be found. I was trying very hard to push the words out, but they just didn’t go. When I hear the word speechless, I think back to the Wada test experience and wonder how closely that relates to their word choice.

After about 15 minutes the anesthetic wore off. Since half of my brain wasn’t functioning it actually felt more like 2 minutes to me. He showed me the objects again. I knew immediately if I had seen them earlier, and I could clearly remember a snapshot of the moment he showed me each one. It was very relieving because it confirmed some functional immediate memory in my right hemisphere. This meant that all of my memory would not be lost as a result of the surgery.

What I learned about myself

Shutting down my left hemisphere with an anesthetic was similar to having an intense seizure in the left hemisphere of my brain. This was an interesting realization considering hyperactive neuron firing of a seizure is the opposite of the anesthetic numbing of the Wada test. The recovery process after a complex partial seizure was also similar to the recovery process my brain needed after the Wada test. I was able to experience the effect of a seizure within a controlled experiment.

This knowledge was valuable as I prepared for the upcoming surgery and dealt with my occasional seizures. Seizures were no longer a baffling annoyance and irritation; after this procedure the experience of a seizure evolved into more of an experimental data point. For the sake of my health I did everything I could to minimize the occurrence of seizures, but seizures became less of a fear. When the occasional seizure occurred, I was able to fully accept that moment in time. Rather than push to overcome the effect of the seizure, I learned to rest within the unaffected areas of my body until the seizure had quieted.

Have you experienced a challenging situation which lead to a peaceful realization? Please share!

Connecting With Your True Self

As young children we inherently embrace the present experience and our true self. Therefore, our happiest and most free moments of existence are often tied to our childhood. As a child I remember following a daily routine of exploring the fenced horse field with my pet dog, and that field felt like it was my world of existence. This is not because I confined myself to that space, but because I only had a faint awareness of everything beyond that space. There was no reason to explore anything beyond the field because there was so much to learn within that area. It was a pure and complete experience of my true self.

A Glimpse of the True Self

During my high school years I had a few glimpses of my true self and a clear mind. I swam for my high school, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sport. Mostly I loved the competition within each race. The shot would fire to start the race, and my body would simply take over the experience. I was in autopilot mode.

Swim a few strokes; flip turn; repeat.

Bolt to the finishing touch pad.

The race experience was automatic. My mind was clear and I was fully experiencing the movement of my body.

Unfortunately, I slowly began to integrate some borderline obsessions. I was constantly thinking about the next swim meet, which was trumped by the more important conference meet, which was trumped by the more important sectionals meet, which was trumped by the more important state meet. Once the date arrived my day was still about preparing and waiting for the event. The event was exhilarating, but even that started to fade with time. After the event I over-analyzed the experience. How could I have performed better? What should I do to train for the next one? The experience of my true self was only a glimpse.

Culture and the Self

In many ways I feel that our culture does not promote a full embrace of the true self. With time my life evolved to focus on the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of labels, and the pursuit of money. I am willing to guess that everyone has struggled with balancing these factors from time to time.

I thought I had a strong grasp on the human self. I studied the science of biochemistry as well as the psychology of development and interaction. I had also studied and experienced different religious and spiritual perceptions of the self. Each were valuable perspectives, but I was unable to fully grasp the interconnectivity between each topic.

I was constantly formulating perspectives of the world around me, and I did not realize that my perception was often trapped outside of myself. My viewpoint was often intertangled with what a psychologist would describe as an adapted self. The adapted self has lost touch with the intimate identity of the true self, and the adapted self has a primary goal of adaptation to the surrounding environment. I lost touch with my true self.

As I was studying chemistry I had to be flexible. I had to adapt to the new research, and mesh with my research team. In the psychology realm I wanted to help my clients identify their barriers, so they could adapt to their surrounding environment. In the context of religious practices, my goal was to practice the faith with full and complete honesty. My overall goal was to continue to grow, learn, and adapt myself (my adapted self) to the surrounding environment. I thought that was appropriate, and it matched with what I was taught as a child, adolescent, young adult, family member, team player, and employee.

The True Self Vs. The Adapted Self

Near the end of my psychology studies I came to the following realizations:

My ‘adapted self’ became my primary focus and identity

My ‘true self’ was distant and unclear

These realizations were startling at the time. I began to question my helpfulness as a counseling psychologist after realizing that I did not even know my true self. In the field of counseling psychology, a primary goal is to help the client see their world, their sense of self, more clearly. We help our clients find a pathway to step outside of their internal dialogue of entrapment. We help them to see the picture of the true self.

I spent quite a bit of time analyzing my adapted self. I questioned why it mattered to adhere so strongly to habitual agendas, social expectations, and economic satisfaction. Was I doing this to conceptually please my true self, my adapted self, or the people around me?

Throughout my personal process of self-discovery, I was able to help my clients through their explorations as well. I helped my clients question why it mattered to adhere so strongly to habitual agendas, social expectations, and economic satisfaction. We explored ways in which their adapted self could undergo change for a more productive adaptation to their community. Eventually, we could then question the adapted self and reconnect with the long forgotten, true self.

I learned that strongly holding onto the adapted self inhibits the complete and pure experience of life. I struggled with this realization for 2 reasons.

  • My clients had a strong need to live within the flaws of their adapted self. Most of the time this directly related to their formulated vision of how other people saw them. It was my goal to help them modify this formulated vision for the better. The breakthrough came in directly and positively modifying the adapted self. However, the next step of abandoning the adapted self to embrace the true self was a daunting challenge.
  • I had glimpses of abandoning my adapted self and reaching my true self, but I could not maintain a connection with my true self. If I couldn’t do this for myself, why should I be counseling others?

I had too many goals to accomplish. I was trying to help my clients reach their highest potentials. I was focused on being a good family member, friend, team player, and employee. I saw the light, but I was still entrapped within my adapted self.

Social interaction was my primary concern, and if social interaction was not involved I was intertwined within too many personal distractions: Home repair projects, athletic training, watching tv, speed reading the next book, scanning social media, pursuing more education, and writing more papers. My adapted self had full control over my time.

Even though the consistent experience of my ‘true self’ had risen high on my (adapted self) list of priorities, I (my adapted self) was incapable of letting go. I was incapable of letting go because I fit the social norm quite well. I was physically active, continuously learning, financially supporting myself, saving for retirement, socially involved in several groups, and well-connected with my family. I was getting things done and accomplishing my goals. However, I was trapped within my previous accomplishments and future goals. I was disconnected from the present moment and disconnected from my true self.

I decided to fire my ‘adapted self’.

With more awareness, I learned that my adapted self was too much. My adapted self was requiring relentless effort toward constant achievement. Even my individual practices were becoming obsessions which had secondary benefit for achieving social success. My adapted self had become my identity.

I experienced my true self though meditation.

Firing my adapted self required meditation. Meditation allowed me to ‘see’ my train of thought, and eventually I was able to disconnect from it. I was able to acknowledge entrapment within goals and accomplishments. I was able to see the distance my thoughts had from my true self.

Meditation was not a quick fix for the problem. When I first started the practice of meditation I had maybe a 5-minute glimpse of my true self within the 45-minute practice. This experience reminded me of the glimpses of peace within my childhood. I wanted to experience more of my true self, so I began to focus on the thoughts which were inhibiting me from reaching that goal. I began to realize that focusing on these thoughts, focusing on the problem, was the whole problem! My adapted self really wanted to be re-hired, so it was a sneaky pursuit of re-orientation which happened a countless number of times!

Meditation eventually evolved into a 30-minute pure experience within the 45-minute meditation. My adapted self was gone. My thought director was silent. My goals pursuit coordinator was absent. My history analyst was disappeared. It was a great feeling, yet it was a bit alarming at the same time.

Nothing was in my mind other than the present experience. Rather than noticing that I was breathing, I was in the experience of breathing. Rather than noticing the feelings of my hands on my knees, my hands were simply present and touching my knees. Rather than noticing the feeling of my body sitting on the floor, my body was simply in direct contact with the floor.

No other thoughts were present, and no other thoughts were relevant.

I experienced plenty of regression within my meditation practice, and I still do to this day. I gave some credit to the adapted self earlier, but I just want to clarify that the adapted self is a remarkably efficient mastermind which is very eager to control the mind. The adapted self is a hard worker, forever available, and freely available to you. The adapted self is just waiting for an opportunity to jump back into the scene.

I applied the meditation experience to other practices.

The disconnection from the adapted self cannot be sustained if meditation is your only escape. However, the meditation experience is valuable when applying your true self to other activities. I was able to experience meditation similarities through solitary activities like biking, walking, and gardening. Initially the pure experience did not last as long when I was doing these activities, but similar to my meditation practice, time and practice helped.

Bike on a TrailWith the biking scenario it was certainly important to maintain awareness of the world around me. My goal was to enjoy life, so it was important to remain aware of things like traffic, stops signs, and deadly accidents. The first step to applied meditation was clearing my mind, and the second step was becoming one with the bike. Although the initial step of clearing the mind was more challenging in the applied biking situation, it was much easier to keep my mind clear when I was connected with the process of biking. My body became synchronized with the rotation of the pedals just as much as it was already synchronized with my heart beat. From that point I was able to expand the connection I had with my bike to the world around me. The bike synchronized with the road and the road synchronized with the traffic.

It should be noted that this goal of applied meditation has some competition with the applied self. The preparation for the experience and post experience analysis slowly begin to suffocate the true self. I still have trouble with this from time to time, but I have found ways to limit this from happening

Repositioning Your Adapted Self

The thoughts and analysis will always be there for me. I am not going to retreat to a meditation camp for years at a time to overcome this issue. I hope there will be a social shift which promotes this in the near future, but I don’t think it will happen.

That being said, I have removed my adapted self from the forefront of my mind. In high school my true self was sadly watching my adapted self maintain 99.9% of the operation. Now, my true self maintains at least 80% of the operation, and the ruminating thoughts of my adapted self still sneak in to take the other 20%. My goal is to be at 100%, but here is how I got to 80%.

I literally mapped out my physical, psychological, and rational perceptions and priorities through studying, research, practice and writing. After that extremely lengthy process I concluded that all aspects of my body and mind are only tools allowing my true self to operate on earth. I concluded that I should optimize these aspects so that my true self can fully experience each moment of life.

I continued this journey with an exploration of spirituality. I discovered many similarities and differences between the locally approved religion of Christianity and the mostly ignored religions including Taoism and Buddhism. I chose to practice one religion and continue to fully respect and experience the teachings of other religions. I recognized that religions are only tools. I choose to use these tools to help my true self be the primary operator of my mind and body.

I found that my true self needed to have some disconnection between my physical, psychological, rational, and even my spiritual references. I found that my true self was truly synchronized with the present moment in time. The practice of meditation helped me feel that experience, and I was motivated to apply that in all areas of my life.

Now my true self, my connection with the present moment, is who I am. The thoughts that are ruminating on the past and future have been quieted, and they are further from me. My adapted self has been quieted and repositioned, and my true self is my primary identity.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback and your story!

Children and Television Background Noise

My recent post discussed the objections which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has regarding TV watching experience for infants and children. I shared my personal perspective which sided with the AAP. Feedback from the post has inspired me to continue researching the topic with a focus on non-direct television exposure (TV background noise). This article will summarize a few research studies as well some additional thoughts and perspectives on the topic.

Before we begin, I admit that I used to over-watch the television. Between the NFL, NBA, college sports, news, weather, and prime-time television, I was often close to the national average of television watching time.  Currently, my wife and I do enjoy a few entertainment shows; however, we watch them only when our daughter is asleep. They do not offer any educational value, and I am not willing to admit the names of the shows. Feel free to guess our current preferences in the comments section!

Research on Television Background Noise

One of the most inclusive research summaries of background television noise found that children aged 0-2 years old are exposed to an average of 5.5 hours of background television per day. Television noise of 5.5 hours per day is 38.5 hours per week which is 83.4 days (24 hour periods of time) per year. This is equal to approximately 3 months per year. Nearly ¼ of the year is clouded with television shows and commercials. This extensive quantity of time is a crucial data point which is often overlooked when considering the specific effects of background television noise exposure.

A more recent publication has clarified the impact television background noise has on child development. Children exposed to significant tv background noise develop shorter attention spans and decreased playtime focus abilities. Even if they do not care to watch the television, they are cognitively distracted by the noise. Since they are also experiencing less person to person communication as well as less content rich communication, they consistently test at lower levels of language development, receptive vocabulary, and cognitive development.

In summary, television background noise is limiting the thought processing and developmental potentials of the child, and it is distracting the adult from high quality parent-child interactions.

Does the Specific Distraction Content Matter?

Very little research has been completed on the content specifics. What is the difference between watching Jeopardy vs Judge Judy? Higher fractions of Jeopardy content are more content rich and educational. Commercials are also slightly more content rich, and the emotional tone is much less negative. That being said, background noise from either source is a cloud of distraction. The closer and louder it is for the child, the more distracting it will be. The repercussions are also dependent on the parent’s level of investment. If you are only distracted from the child for 5 minutes of a Judge Judy show vs 15 minutes of a Jeopardy show, then Judge Judy might be the better option.

Children playing with constant television background noise

Although the television is high on the list of distractions within today’s norms, the broader distraction issue is the primary concern. Other potential distractions include the radio, cell phone, computer, books, magazines, and newspaper to name a few. If you are focused on something else you cannot be fully present with your child. For this reason, very little research has delved into the specifics in terms of distraction rankings for the impact on child development. Silent options might be slightly better since they are not directly distracting the child. However, they are often more fully displacing the interest of the parent. Noise only options like the radio may be better since they might be less distracting for the parent, but the child is exposed to the constant sound. If the radio content is a flurry of negative news and commercials, it is probably not the best option for yourself or your child. If the content is positive music with plenty of co-singing and dancing involved, then we have probably ventured into the realm of positivity for child development.

Maximize Learning Potentials

I am the first to admit that interacting with an 8-month child is not the most entertaining experience. However, I assure you that children are soaking up your words and actions like a sponge. If your language is distracted and inconsistent, regardless of the cause, valuable knowledge is not present to be absorbed. At this point you might be wondering if you should hire out jobs like washing dishes, doing laundry, and cleaning the house in order to maximize positive parent-child interaction time 24/7.

I am not making  a case for obsessive catering to all of your child’s immediate desires, as this will probably do more harm than good. However, your child is very perceptive to your presence. Rather than distracting yourself and your child with TV background noise, consider including some fascinating self-dialogue about the dish washing experience, laundry organization process, and the house cleaning chores. With these habits you are maximizing the child’s focusing and language acquisition potentials.

Consider limiting your newspaper or magazine scan to just a few minutes, or better yet, read the details while your child is asleep. Then, your child would love to hear your perceptions of the content, especially if it closely relates to the order and efficiency which all the toys are removed from the toy bin. When a text is received make sure to verbalize who contacted you, what they have to say, and the thoughts behind your response. Two or three years later they will have much more valuable input when you are working together to formulate an ideal text response for family updates.

Outdoor time is a valuable experience for child development as well as parental sanity. Consider taking a walk highlighting the sights, sounds, textures, and smells of the great outdoors. Another blogger has already beat me to writing a great research summary clarifying how the outdoor experience allows your child’s the imagination, patience, and peace to truly flourish.

In conclusion, if you feel that your time could be invested more productively for yourself and your child, then I highly recommend you clarify and pursue your goals. For me it seems fair and logical to provide a pathway for my daughter to reach her highest potentials. One big step in the right direction is simply pressing the off button on the TV remote and remaining present with my daughter.

Children Watching Television

Concerns and Research on Children Television Time

Infants and children seem to love watching the television, and many adults love seeing their kids watch TV as well. After my daughter was born, I searched for some articles clarifying the impact which television sights and sounds have on young children. Our families, friends, co-workers, and even the random lady at the grocery store have advice about TV time (and pretty much any topic), and advice from one person to the next is frequently contradictory. Fortunately, there is plenty of research describing the implications of increased amounts of television exposure. A great summary on national data is available here, and the specific learning implications are specified here.

There are many important details within each article, but the following quote sums it up quite well: “Audible television is associated with decreased exposure to discernible human adult speech and decreased child vocalizations. These results may explain the association between infant television exposure and delayed language development.”

Children and the Television Experience

As the child views the screen they are processing the non-stop and overstimulating content to the best of their ability. It is the item of peak interest. There is an entire world of complexity beyond reality and beyond imagination all encompassed within a viewing box in the living room. The child is completely invested in the television moment, and the adults are grateful for the short break from the trials and tribulations of parenthood.
Once the world of fascination is turned off, the mind of the child is slow to disconnect from the television. Nothing in the actual living area is able to reach that level of stimulation, but it doesn’t matter because their mind is still attempting to process and store the massive quantity of information which was recently projected onto them.

Children and the overstimulating tv

Imagine the most thrilling movie you saw when you were 10-12 years old. After you watched that thrilling movie, what was it like as you left the theater?

You were probably feeling some emotional excitement, and you may have been feeling a bit exhausted from the theatrical journey of the movie. Most importantly, you are engrossed within each moment of the movie. After the movie you enjoyed remembering the specifics of what you saw and re-experienced the excitement of your favorite scenes.

When a young child watches the television, there are some similarities. They are also completely engrossed within each moment of the show, and they are also emotionally stimulated by the screen activity.
The child is also hyper stimulated with the thrilling experience of non-stop motion, happy sounds, and bright colors. Their ability to categorize and discuss the events are lacking, so the experience is inefficiently stored within their developing mind. The TV experience takes priority over the sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes of their current experience, and their ability to process their surrounding environment is hindered.

Perceptions after the TV Experience

Children are still experiencing the stimulation of the television after it is turned off, just as you continued to experience the stimulation of the thrilling movie after you walked out of the theater. The journey of learning, and the sensory experiences of reality are altered by the television experience for two reasons.

  1. The lights and sounds of the living room and the family experience are not up to par with the television.
  2. The child’s experience of television excitement requires additional ‘processing’ even after the television is turned off.

Since infants and young children are incapable of adequately processing that level of stimulation, the jumbled excitement is scattered across their mind. Sensory learning experiences become secondary and different from what they were before the television stimulation. Processing the words of people is less interesting, and communicating with people becomes less relevant.

Recommendations for Families

NPR has a great article summarizing the recent recommendations changes made by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). ‘No screen time before the age of 2’ has been replaced with allowing limited educational content after 15 months, and video chat communication (Skype or iPhone Facetime) are OK for communication with family and friends.

However, if you read beyond the quoted headlines, the AAP has three important recommendations for children under 5 years old:

  1. Only allow the children to watch the best educational content options including Sesame Workshops and PBS.
  2. Limit screen time to no more than 1 hour per day.
  3. Always co-experience the screen time with the child to support adequate information processing.

I am in full support of the AAP recommendations. Rather than exposing my daughter to overwhelming screen stimulation, I will do my best to fill her day with broad ranges of human interaction, toys for learning and imagination, and as much time outdoors as possible.

Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these topics, and here is a quick link to the comments section.

The Fear of Guilt

As Lorean and I are raising our daughter Madelyn, the choices we make for her seem to be non-stop. With my ties to psychology and obsessions with neurological development, I am known to overthink decisions every once in a while, (or all the time according to Lorean as well as reality). We are trying to provide a loving environment where our daughter can maintain her sense of peace while experiencing the world around her. Decisions including:

Food: times, temperatures, quantities, introductions, allergies, etc.

Sleep: times, habits, positions, environments, consistency, etc.

Family: times, obligations, travels, vacations, meals, etc.

Medical: appointments, doctors, research, medications, etc.

Babysitting: times, cost, selection, etc.

…can be overwhelming from time to time (or all the time). So, then I start to ponder the inevitable question: Am I doing what is right for her as well as what is right for us and the people around us?

Unfortunately, that question doesn’t have an answer.

Am I doing what is right for her as well as what is right for us and the people around us?

The black and white assessment of right and wrong is an overwhelming weight to carry. If the standard is locked at the unreachable (right) perfection, it would be more accurately described as impossible. The impossible scenario often leads to the feeling of guilt, and with habit and more thought, the guilt is enhanced with fear.

Guilt

According to Merriam Webster, guilt is defined as “feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy”. First, let’s assess the components of this definition in more detail:

‘Feelings of deserving blame’

When you feel that you deserve to be blamed, you are identifying yourself as the cause of the negative situation. The feelings associated with this label include fear for the situation itself, and fear for the potential guilt which may occur. There is a potential of experiencing more guilt. Therefore, the feeling of guilt is compounded into a more overwhelming feeling.

‘Imagined offenses’

Something may happen in the future which the family, friends, group, coworkers, or whoever else will not be happy about. There is a fear that the something will happen, and there is a preconceived guilt regarding the potential experience. Personal blame is anticipated due to situational involvement.

‘Sense of inadequacy’

This sense of inadequacy may be a bigger issue to tackle, and it is important to jump right to the specific root of the feeling of inadequacy:

[Let’s imagine I am currently experiencing extreme cycles of the fear of guilt. That was a fairly negative introduction to this topic, and I am personally feeling a little down about things after that analysis. Surely if I am feeling negative then everyone else who reads those descriptions will also be feeling negative. If there is already a fear of guilt factor within the reader I don’t want to impose more negative feelings. I am feeling anxious that the reader will not benefit from my attempt to help. Somehow, I have to make things better for the reader. Everyone will probably end up worse than where they started. I need to delete this whole thing and start over. It would probably be best if I just didn’t post anything on this website. At this moment I am feeling some tension in my neck. My palms are starting to sweat. I am thinking about other faults I have, and I am wandering further into how these faults may have a negative impact on other people.]

If you can identify with similar feelings related to work, parenting, relationships, family, etc., then I have a few considerations and self-assessment work for you.

Considerations

First, let’s take some time to assess the bigger picture. Whether the situation is a couple years within the 4 million years of human existence, or the situation impacts a small group of individuals within the 7-billion-person population of the current earth, it could be argued that the ‘imagined offense’ is not of significant magnitude. Yes, all lives are important, and all time is valuable. Therefore, your time should be allocated for sharing positivity within yourself and with those around you.

Another perspective of the bigger picture might be related to the wrath of your religious leader and/or God Himself. Many religious followers and leaders have thoroughly implanted a fear within the minds of children who accept the affiliation (before their minds are able to differentiate rational choice). Thus, it may be rational to fear the potential scenarios which may damn you to hell. My apologies for sliding right back into a spin of negativity…..

Spirituality offers another helpful perspective of the bigger picture. The following Bible verse from the book of Matthew is one of the most important as well as a personal favorite:

“Teacher, what is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”

This is a very simple and profound message with 3 important take home points:

1. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind

Your spiritual journey must remain fully encompassed within your love for God. Obsessions over personal and/or community issues will distract you from loving God.

2. Love others as much as you love yourself.

Your love for God and your spiritual journey will become distorted and distracted if you do not also share your love with yourself and the people around you.

3. Love yourself

This crucial message is usually grouped with the previous point, especially in the context of current Christian religions. Within the quote the statement was phrased as if loving yourself would be easy and inevitable. Although immediate personal satisfaction could be argued as our current social norm, it has become easy to disconnect from the true love of our human self. I will write more about this later, but personal satisfaction tends to outweigh self-love too much of the time.

If you have fully dedicated your heart, soul, and mind to loving God and loving others as much as you love yourself, guilt is minimized. This love is a holistic entity of belonging which is more than right and wrong, it is different than the social norm, and it is a fulfilling experience.

Before we move on, it is important to first clarify a common misconception of love. The picture of yourself which you have created, your ego, will not support lasting or meaningful love. Unfortunately, it is easy to become trapped within our ego. We try to optimize feelings we have for our created sense of self, and these feelings are usually dependent on the guessed opinions of the people around us. The true entity of lasting and meaningful love becomes confusing and clouded. Personal satisfaction jumps up to become the primary concern, and there is an unhealthy dependence on the ‘love’ that other people have for you. Guessing how much you are loved and feeling guilty when optimal levels aren’t reached (or when there is a chance they won’t be reached) becomes habit.

It is time to break the guilt habit and resolve the underlying fear of guilt. Hopefully the enormous time-frame of human existence, the massive human population, and the full dedication of heart, soul, and mind references were helpful, but let’s identify some specific times when you feel the guilt and tackle the issue!

Self Assessment

What specific experiences initiate the cycle of guilt?

Has the situation actually occurred?

If the answer is yes, then you can move on to the next question. If you want to gain more control over the feeling of guilt, or if the answer is no, then it might be best to understand that many future scenarios ranging from the happiness of new life through the emotions surrounding death are quite possible. It is best to fully experience the present moment and share your love with the people around you.

Are you sure you are the primary cause?

If the answer is yes, then it may be more efficient to discuss the situation with the person or group before the negative situation occurs. If the answer is no, then it might be beneficial to simply experience the partly negative event with an open mind.

Do you feel that you have not prepared well enough for the situation?

It might be beneficial to simply experience the partly negative event with an open mind. If you feel that better preparation would have been beneficial, imagine this as a learning experience which will guide you through the process of preparation for future events.

Do you feel that you are incapable of preparing well enough for the situation?

This is a self-esteem or sense of self-worth issue if you feel that your preparing is always or inevitably lacking. Depending on the accuracy of your assessment as well as the level of the feeling, it may be beneficial to tackle these issues with counseling and other appropriate activities. On the other hand, if I were signed up to run a marathon tomorrow, I would certainly be having that feeling. I have not adequately prepared my body to run the marathon, and that would probably be too taxing for my body to handle. I would have to make a firm decision to either withdraw from the marathon, or pack a couple meals and plenty of water as I begin my casual 8 hour, 26.2 mile walk.

The overall goal is to focus on sharing and experiencing love. Therefore, when the feelings of guilt arise it is best to immediately tackle the issue. Here are a couple options to consider:

Stop participating in the experience if the guilt association is inevitable or it is not in your best interest.

Take a deep breath and accept each moment of experience for just that moment. Your assessment of potential scenarios is now complete, and the step-wise sequence of future events may or may not take place as you have foreseen. Either way it will be a learning experience and it will be a valuable experience for you.

The fix will not happen overnight, and you will have to remake your choice hundreds of times until it becomes natural for you. As you practice the valuable experience of self-growth, it is always helpful to focus on the positives. This applies to yourself and the potential situations which trigger the fear/guilt response.

What positive qualities are you bringing to the situation which may present potential challenges?

What characteristics about the upcoming situation may be interesting, valuable, or beneficial to yourself or others?

If you believe you will start to see progress, that is likely what will happen. However, if there are specific situations which you cannot overcome, it may be beneficial to ask yourself the deeper question: What are the specific reasons I cannot overcome the cycle of guilt within that specific situation? More importantly: What steps do I need to take to overcome the cycle of guilt for that specific situation?

As always, I look forward to hearing your feedback. Please leave a comment.

Self Awareness

Self-awareness is a general term which fully encompasses the topics I have specified within this blog. As this content continues to grow; more importantly, as you continue to learn, do not forget to step back and re-assess how the knowledge and content relates to your sense of self. Self-awareness is a cyclic process of continuous growth. As children, we experience these cycles for the first time. I am watching my daughter, Madelyn, begin to experience more physical potentials (sitting and crawling) followed by her emotional experiences in response to them. Eventually she will be able to talk about her actions, and one day she will ask about the purpose of learning her next task. The valuable cycles will continue as she begins to apply her physical self to mastering more complex tasks. She will experience more intertwined psychological responses, and she will have a better grasp of the rational pathway of achieving her goals. Her greater purpose will hopefully become more clear as she expands her interactions with the people around her.

How can I improve my sense of self awareness?

Self awareness is a broad and potentially daunting topic, hence why it is minimized and often overlooked by many. To tackle this challenging task it may be useful to itemize the components of who you are as a person. I look forward to relating a few well known references including Maslow’s hierarchy, Erikson’s stages of development, Piaget’s model, and Kohlberg’s theory in later posts. For now it is best to start with a more simple overview.

1. What are your physical health needs?

Many people overlook the critical needs of the human body. We are all dependent on the oxygen in clean air to breath, clean water to hydrate our body, healthy foods to nourish our body, a good night sleep to repair our physical body, and maintenance of the homeostasis potentials within our body. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook these necessities as more complex social challenges inevitably become prioritized. It is always important to keep in touch with your health.

2. What are your psychological needs?

Once your health is optimized, you are able to fully and completely experience the psychology of yourself. You have a psychological need to feel secure and comfortable with yourself, and this allows you to develop healthy relationships with the people around you. This drive to improve yourself and your relationships will also motivate you to follow at least a few social trends which may or may not be optimal for your health.

3. What are your rational needs?

Learning is a lifelong process, and the amount of knowledge which can be attained does not have limits similar to physical potentials. Whether you are eating a meal, interacting with other people, studying a book, or meditating in silence, the ongoing stream rational processing will continue. Each moment you are blessed with the option of applying that stream positively and productively for yourself and for those around you.

4. What are your spiritual needs?

The robotic and repetitive nature of socially defined productivity has minimal value unless there is a greater purpose. While churches aim to assist in helping to define spirituality, it is up to you to truly connect with something more. The support of your spiritual needs helps to fulfill the sense of the human self, beyond the human body and beyond the psychological ego. Spirituality fully encompasses the physical, psychological, and rational self in order to relate with the soul which will be carried into eternity (the ‘location’/specific definitions are up for debate).

As my first blog post I left this fairly general, but please let me know if you have any topics you would like me to discuss in more detail! Here is a quick link to the comments.