Education

  • Epigenetics: The Impact of Environment on Development Epigenetics: The Impact of Environment on Development

    Epigenetics: The Impact of Environment on Development

Epigenetics: The Impact of Environment on Development

In new article published online in ADDitude Magazine, Dr. Joel Nigg reviews some recent findings on the impact of environment on the development of ADHD traits. Long thought to be strictly a genetically inherited brain dysfunction, increasing amounts of research (along with increasing amounts of attention paid to previous research) are demonstrating a clear link between ADHD development and the environment. This field of research, focusing on the link between genes and environment, is known as epigenetics. In this case, the prefix epi- refers to something beyond, over, or upon something else. In other words, epigenetics studies the factors beyond simple genetics (if there is such a thing as simple genetics) that influence the development of certain traits. In his article, Dr. Nigg states, “Epigenetics paints a much more complicated view of ADHD, but also a much more optimistic one; genes do not solely determine an individual’s fate.” For those who struggle with ADHD, the round pegs trying to fit into square holes, one of the bleakest aspects of daily life is the belief that things will always be this way and cannot be improved. Epigenetic research is telling us more and more that this belief is false. Nigg reports, […]

By |August 18th, 2017|Blog, Education, snippets|Comments Off on Epigenetics: The Impact of Environment on Development
  • Book Excerpt: Impact of Fear on Recollection of Experience Book Excerpt: Impact of Fear on Recollection of Experience

    Book Excerpt: Impact of Fear on Recollection of Experience

Book Excerpt: Impact of Fear on Recollection of Experience

The following is a very brief excerpt from my book, “This is Not That” due to be completed in 2048, based on the current pace. Let me know what you think. “In a rather complicated study, Professor D.B. Fenker and his colleagues (2005) had subjects view a series of emotionally neutral words on a computer screen. Randomly, some words were preceded by pictures of fearful faces or other disturbing images. The exposure to these images, however, was so quick that the individual was not aware that they had even seen the image, referred to popularly as subliminal images. Participants were later shown lists of words and asked to say whether they recalled seeing a word (had a conscious memory of learning it) or knew they had seen the word (they knew they had seen it before but couldn’t remember where or when). The researchers found that when words were preceded by a frightening or unpleasant image, they were more accurately recognized, though not consciously recalled. The implications of this study, and others like it, are momentous. If the brain is so sensitive to negative stimulation as to react in such a powerful way to such an insignificant trigger, imagine its […]

By |July 9th, 2015|Blog, Education, snippets|Comments Off on Book Excerpt: Impact of Fear on Recollection of Experience
  • Define This: Clarifying in Order to Communicate Define This: Clarifying in Order to Communicate

    Define This: Clarifying in Order to Communicate

Define This: Clarifying in Order to Communicate

You might read headlines in the newspaper such as “watching TV leads to depression” or “poor sleep habits linked to suicide risk” or “Justin Bieber is a train-wreck in progress”. All of these headlines are designed to grab your attention, summarize hours of research into a bite-sized piece of information (at least the first two), and lead you to a particular conclusion. While the truth of these statements is debatable, one thing they all have in common is their use of operational definitions. Operational definitions may not be the ones you find in the dictionary but they are adopted for the purpose of investigating a question, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. For example, if a researcher is interested in determining which kind of pasta is the most delicious, they must first define the terms pasta and delicious. Does pasta refer only to noodle-based dishes from Italy or does it include noodles from other regions such as Southeast Asia, India, or Japan? Should we include pasta dishes with sauce or without sauce? Should there be a limit to the ratio of sauce to pasta? How do we measure delicious? Can we objectify something as subjective as taste […]

  • Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It is not uncommon for people to refer to their idiosyncratic tendencies as “my OCD”. Youtube comedians Rhett and Link even wrote a hilarious song describing a person’s preference for things to be parallel and clean. While the song and video are funny, they don’t begin to capture the anguish experienced by individuals who actually suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If you are wondering what it is like, imagine that when things are the way you like them, such as the bed being made just right, or the doors closed and locked, everything is at peace in your mind. However, when a corner of the sheet isn’t flattened out properly, a high-pitched screeching noise pierces your eardrum, causing blinding pain. If the only way to remove the offending noise was to flatten the sheet, it stands to reason that you would be highly motivated to do so. While this isn’t literally what happens in the OCD brain, it is the metaphorical equivalent. One man, suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome, which shares many commonalities with OCD, stated that the compulsion to yell out inappropriate comments or make twitching movements with his shoulders was as strong as the desperation to breathe if someone […]

  • Hard Things Made Easy? Not Quite Hard Things Made Easy? Not Quite

    Hard Things Made Easy? Not Quite

Hard Things Made Easy? Not Quite

As a counsellor, I have been approached for help with a wide variety of issues. Sometimes it is a last-ditch attempt to save a relationship where years of muddy water has passed under the bridge. Sometimes it is eliminating the effects of a life-changing traumatic experience. Sometimes it is rewiring the brain of a child or partner who has special needs or mental illness. Regardless of the specifics, the basic element of many of these problems is the client asking me the following question: How can I do something hard in an easy way?” Predictably, my answer to this question is not always satisfactory. You can’t always clean up the mud, you can’t always erase trauma, you can’t always rewire someone’s brain, and even if any of these things are possible, it is never easy. There are many ingredients to change, but most important to the recipe is time and effort. Education that leads to understanding can certainly help this process, along with the support of the important people in your life, but even these tools can only go so far in the absence of time spent working on the issue. I’m not just referring to time spent on the […]

  • Understanding Self-Harm Understanding Self-Harm

    Understanding Self-Harm

Understanding Self-Harm

“Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by my stupid life, I get the urge to hurt myself. I take anything sharp that I can find and go to the bathroom. I cut myself on my abdomen, where no one can see it. I don’t even really feel the pain, it just feels kind of numb. If my parents ever found out, they would lose it.” Self-harm is not a new phenomenon but it is becoming a more prevalent topic of conversation with the help of social media. As with anything, the more exposure it gets, the more armchair psychologists are willing to authoritatively speculate on its causes and what can be done about it. We hear everything from, “they’re just trying to get attention” to “they’re seriously crazy” to “it’s all just an act”. But what is the truth about self-harm? Why, when a person is already hurting, would they want to hurt themselves even further? The answer is actually much simpler than it seems. If a person is cutting, burning or hitting themselves, it may be a cry for attention, but not if they are doing so in an area that they keep hidden from view. That would defeat the […]

By |November 27th, 2014|Blog, Education, Insight, snippets|Comments Off on Understanding Self-Harm
  • Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3 Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3

    Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3

Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3

Truth be told, even though these posts are all being published within a few days of each other, I originally started the series back in July. Don’t worry, three months is hardly even in the ballpark of my all-time record for procrastination. I once went seven years between journal entries. Anyway, I hope you’ve got something so far out of the series. Here’s the final instalment. 3. Defiance and Rebellion (Counterwill) Gordon Neufeld, child psychologist and author of the best-selling book “Hold On to Your Kids”, often refers to a natural, instinctive phenomenon which is known as counterwill. Simply stated, counterwill is the instinct to resist the efforts of others to control us. Neufeld demonstrates this instinct in his lectures by inviting an audience member to hold their hand up. He then pushes gently against their hand. As he does so, it is plain to see that, without any thought, the audience member instinctively pushes back. As I said before, counterwill is an instinctive response. However, it may grow much stronger in unhealthy environments. If you are a child who is overly controlled by a parent or authority figure, you may adapt by acquiescing and completely abandoning your own will […]

By |November 1st, 2014|Blog, Education, Insight|Comments Off on Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3
  • Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2 Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2

    Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2

Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2

Ok, it’s been 10 days since I finished writing the first installment of this article. I kind of knew that would happen. I knew it would happen because it’s happened so many times before. Despite this knowledge, I often feel powerless to do anything about it. Today, I’m going to address another reason why I might feel that way as well as making some suggestions that might help to overcome it. Lack of Motivation This may seem overly obvious as an explanation but motivation is much more biological (biochemical, to be specific) in nature than people realize. Wanting to do something isn’t as simple as being interested in doing it and then doing it. In order for any activity to be motivating, even those that we experience as intrinsically rewarding or intensely pleasurable, we rely on the presence of a critical neurochemical known as dopamine. Dopamine has many functions, depending on where in the brain and body it is being used. It is a pleasure chemical (stimulants increase dopamine levels, as does sexual activity). It also provides physical energy. It is implicated in control of fine and gross motor control (Parkinson’s patients don’t have enough dopamine in the part of […]

By |October 28th, 2014|Blog, Education, Insight|Comments Off on Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2
  • Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1 Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1

    Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1

Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1

The idea for this article came to me some time ago. I cannot say how long specifically because I’ve avoided writing or thinking about it as much as possible, so the timeline has become a bit fuzzy. This isn’t because I think this subject is boring, or useless, or unoriginal, or any of those reasons. I have been procrastinating, something that I am especially adept at. If they ever make procrastination an Olympic sport, I will win the gold medal for sure, as long as I got around to registering for the competition. I know that I procrastinate. Everyone who knows me reasonably well also knows this about me. Many of my clients know this about me. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t let it bother me when other people procrastinate. Given my familiarity with procrastination, the question that must be asked is not regarding how I procrastinate, it is regarding the reasons why I do so. The word procrastinate, according to its Latin roots, means quite literally to “put off until tomorrow”. Wow, that means that even by procrastination standards, I’m an over-achiever. I’ve been putting some things off for years! I procrastinated throughout school, from early […]

By |October 27th, 2014|Blog, Education, Insight|Comments Off on Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1
  • Playing Dead Emotionally: How Numbing Your Pain Can Be a Curse (and a Blessing) Playing Dead Emotionally: How Numbing Your Pain Can Be a Curse (and a Blessing)

    Playing Dead Emotionally: How Numbing Your Pain Can Be a Curse (and a Blessing)

Playing Dead Emotionally: How Numbing Your Pain Can Be a Curse (and a Blessing)

Fight, Flight and … Freeze? Most people have heard of the “fight or flight” response. It is the body’s naturally hard-wired way of dealing with threats to one’s safety. I have written about it before, a few times, so I won’t go into it again but today I’m going to mention the third part of this response: freeze. In nature, animals typically go to flight first, since they are free of ego and have nothing to prove, only to enhance their own chances of survival. If they can’t go to flight and escape danger, they will go to fight, posturing and growling in hopes of scaring off the threat. If this fails, they will actually engage in aggressive behavior, albeit defensive aggression. Once these two options are unsuccessful, or if they are unavailable, most species have a form of reflexive behavior that could be termed “playing dead”. Playing Dead Emotionally Since most of the threats people face in our neck of the woods are social or emotional (although many do face actual physical threats in many forms), the freeze response may look a bit different than it does for a possum or cat. In our case, we tend to play […]