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Psychology

Misunderstanding, Misunderstood: The Sylvia Plath Who Wrote For Children

Misunderstanding, Misunderstood: The Sylvia Plath Who Wrote For Children

At 17, I read The Bell Jar. After grimacing through the suicide attempts, the shock therapy sessions, the nervous breakdowns, and the general darkness, I closed the book, appreciated the work, and then thought, “Damn. This woman was crazy.”

At 21, I thought my life had become The Bell Jar. I felt the same suffocating dread Plath expressed in her characters’ fears of “settling.” I wallowed in my failures, was crippled by indecision, felt misunderstood, tired, and nervous. About everything. Plath was my female masthead, unapologetically vocalizing every one of my rite-of-passage fears with poetic authenticity.

Then, just last week, my English major survey…

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That’s the Law, Baby

That’s the Law, Baby

Since I’m a parent of two small children, I watch a lot of crap TV. (This is, to be clear, different from the crap TV I used to watch of my own volition. See left.) And by “watch,” I mean, “check my phone/read while the kids watch.” But recently a plot point of an episode of Octonauts caught my attention. Please stay with me–I promise at least the potential of relatability.

The animal adventurers (I guess there’s a submarine? And they’re in some version of the Navy? Or something?) stumbled upon their twice-per-episode sea creature, and this particular example was…

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Cords of wool in the EU Colors

String Theory, Shoestring Theory, and Your Entry in Modern Jackass Magazine

In 2010 Kathryn Schulz, a journalist for the New Yorker, wrote a book called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. This passage comes from that book, and describes a phenomenon we know all too well: that we pretend to know something that we, in fact, don’t know anything about. Maybe we lay out the chief causes of the Flint, Michigan water crisis because we skimmed a Washington Post story on it. Maybe we throw out some statistics about incarceration in America–statistics even we didn’t know before they came out of our mouth. Maybe we describe to our spouse how he/she should water the fig plant….

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Personality Assessments: Grace in Neuroses

Personality Assessments: Grace in Neuroses

In seminary there were three really important questions you asked your fellow students:

What diocese are you from? (New York)
Sherry or Port? (Lemon-tini)
What is your Myers Briggs? (INFJ)

I haven’t figured out if Myers Briggs was a part of the Gnostic gospels or the Apocrypha, but it is a fundamental personality identifier in mainline Protestant seminary culture. So it must be in the scriptures somewhere. As a J, I can tell you that it was the fastest way to sort out the weirdos from the weirdest. And also, it was a great way to preemptively excuse your bad behavior. Once I learned…

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From the Archives: Projecting Our Way Through Holy Week

From the Archives: Projecting Our Way Through Holy Week

The friendly overtures of a person whom we no longer love, overtures which strike us, in our indifference to her, as excessive, would perhaps have fallen a long way short of satisfying our love. Those tender speeches, that invitation or acceptance, we think only of the pleasure which they would have given us, and not of all those speeches and meetings by which we would have wished to see them immediately followed, which we should, as likely as not, simply by our avidity for them, have precluded from ever happening. So that we can never be certain that the good…

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From the Archives: What Kind of Anxious Are You?

From the Archives: What Kind of Anxious Are You?

“To some people, I may seem calm. But if you could peer beneath the surface, you would see that I’m like a duck—paddling, paddling, paddling…” – Scott Stossel

You don’t have to have a therapist on speed-dial to relate. You don’t need a prescription to Xanax or Ativan, or a shelf full of ‘how to reduce stress’ books to know what he’s talking about. You don’t even need to be interested in mental health. All you need is a pulse, and possibly an Internet connection, to know that the ducks are multiplying.

Indeed, the level of anxiety in America is skyrocketing. Every…

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Even Though I Ought To…I Kant!

There was an interesting article in the Gray Matter column of this past Sunday’s Times. The article, written by philosophy student Paul Henne and social science researcher Vlad Chituc, take a look back at one of central ideas of Immanuel Kant, the 18th century German philosopher who is also considered to be the central figure of “modern philosophy.” He is known for his moral philosophy, and specifically his understanding of the “categorical imperative,” that moral laws–if they exist at all–must exist universally and necessarily. Kant also believed that a prescriptive law, by definition, implies that it can be followed/achieved.

In their article, “The Data…

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Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Wealth is Health

Everybody Else’s Biggest Problem: Wealth is Health

Welcome to the fourth installment of act two of author Ted Scofield’s series on everybody else’s biggest problem but your own. If you missed one or more of the previous installments, you can find them here.

In Act One of this epic, we determined that as a culture we cannot define ‘greed’ and certainly won’t label ourselves as ‘greedy’.

Today we’ll investigate a challenging fourth answer to the obvious follow-up question, Why? The bottom line is this: Accumulating money–income and wealth–is correlated with better mental health for ourselves and our offspring, higher self-esteem, and more confidence.

Let’s start with mental health. A 2013 Gallup survey…

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Some Things Can’t Be Solved: The Formation of the New Detective

Some Things Can’t Be Solved: The Formation of the New Detective

They all think any minute I’m going to commit suicide. What a joke. The truth of course is the exact opposite: suicide is the only thing that keeps me alive. Whenever everything else fails, all I have to do is consider suicide and in two seconds I’m as cheerful as a nitwit. But if I could not kill myself–ah then, I would. I can do without nembutal or murder mysteries but not without suicide. – Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

The detective narrative has evolved drastically since Doyle’s unflinching genius, Sherlock Holmes, and his uncanny ability to solve the most baffling crimes with little…

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Partisan Narratives (and Cruel Choirmasters) in an Election Season

Partisan Narratives (and Cruel Choirmasters) in an Election Season

Slightly updated for context:

Living in a “swing battleground state” (VA), I get the privilege of witnessing the escalation of hostilities from a front row seat every election season. And escalate they do! From the ads on TV to the volunteers at the door, the signs on the street to the telemarketers on the phone, it’ll be hard to hide come November. Last time around, apparently even Walking Dead viewers were on the fence (Arrow viewers, not so much).

There’s obviously an important place in a presidential race for indignation and culpability, anger and blame, etc. The permanence of the logs in…

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The Best Natural Disaster There Is? In Praise of Blizzards

The Best Natural Disaster There Is? In Praise of Blizzards

The psychology around snow days is fascinating. Blizzards especially, like the one we experienced in Virginia over the weekend. For all they cover up, a massive snowstorm also exposes some less-than-fluffy sides of our species and culture.

If you’re like me, the snow days of childhood are cloaked in soft-focused wonder and excitement. A break from routine, a time to sled and build forts and drink hot chocolate. Like one of Riley’s Minnesota memories in Inside Out.

The snow days of adulthood are different. There is still beauty to be seen and fun to be had, walks to be taken, new recipes to…

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Frank Lake on God-Talk and the Power of Plainspeak

Frank Lake on God-Talk and the Power of Plainspeak

This comes from Frank Lake’s Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling. In this section, entitled, “The Use and Misuse of Religion,” Dr. Lake discusses the age-old propensity of religion and religious language to become either a self-defensive shield between a person and their much-needed comfort; or, on the flipside, for religion to become the “bad thing” upon which all of their collective discomfort–past, present, and future–is projected. This is not the time for apologetics, Lake argues. In a time of such opposition, it is better to listen. This great story illustrates his meaning:

I never find myself threatened by hostility to religion in those who consult me: quite the reverse. The…

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