G3.2: Thinking flexibly may help against the negative effects of stress.

Chronic stress can damage the health of brain cells. Routines may help save energy for the brain but may also make it more difficult to change habits once the routine has been established.

Neuroplasticity refers to the connections and pathways that form between brain cells. Long term habits develop as routine nerve pathways between brain cells where an initial action may stimulate the rest of the routine habit. Having routines embedded in our memories may help to save us time when we’re performing routine activities like household chores or driving home from work but it may interfere when trying to replace an old habit with a new habit. Routines may save energy for the mind to wander to other thoughts while the familiar chore is being performed.

The ability to form new pathways in the brain may also help to reduce the negative effects of stress. (G3.1) Games that are designed to boost brain plasticity may simply be boosting our ability to take tests. 

When habits become an automatic part of life they can save energy by reducing the need to make minor decisions. Every decision or use of willpower that we perform throughout the day can deplete our mental energy and reduce our ability to resist making impulsive decisions. Isaiah Hankel describes a way to make habits that last by making smaller changes and attaching them to a routine that already exists. If you always brush your teeth each morning and want to be better about taking a vitamin supplement or medication every day attach the new habit to the old one by linking them consistently. Older research suggested it can take three weeks of consistency to build a new habit while more recent research suggests it may take closer to two months. For more information see Chapter 8: Automaticity, Scaling, and the Rise of Mental Loops, in the book by Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D. called The Science of Intelligent Achievement, (pp 52-58, G3.123).

More research is needed to better understand neuroplasticity and how we can change old habits by changing the old neural pathways. (G3.2) In the meantime learning new words has been found to stimulate reward pathways in the brain. And it was found that people with stronger connections between the two regions of the brain involved in the reward pathways were able to learn more words than people with weaker connections. (G3.3)

Poetry may activate the brain similarly to music by helping increase brain connectivity in a similar way to what occurs when someone is listening to or composing music. (G2.1)

Meditation & Mindfulness Training can help an overanxious brain.

Mindfulness Training can help increase awareness of the issues that may be exciting or infuriating, but at a wordless subconscious level so they may go unnoticed and lead to behaviors that don’t seem to have a obvious reason or cause: How Mindfulness Helped a Workplace Diversity Exercise: (12.22)

And other research suggests that meditation and having a sense of purpose in life may help reduce some of the negative effects of stress which include cellular changes associated with aging. (G3.4)

Communication or Assertiveness Training may help reduce stress by improving effectiveness of conversation and by increasing the likelihood of having pleasant exchanges rather than difficult ones.

Communication difficulties can lead to direct stress effects on the body that occur during the conversation, lack of oxygen itself from tensely holding the breath, talking too fast or crying, might also add to negative effects of oxidative stress.  Stress might also occur over time from the resulting lack of progress on the topic that was being discussed with difficulty instead of with clear exchange of each persons priorities, concerns, and goals.

Issues from our childhood with communication problems we observed in our parent’s or other caregiver’s conversation may show up in our own behaviors. Role playing in a group may help reveal where other people’s typical responses are different than what you might have responded yourself. Role playing can help provide a safe place to practice new communication techniques with people who understand the technique and that it is practice. The strategy is used in Family Systems Therapy but power struggles can be part of many types of relationships not just within families.

Training materials about equality within a conversation or within a relationship were developed for helping victims of domestic violence and batterers learn how to recognize problem behaviors within their communication and actions. The handouts may be helpful for most age groups as emotional manipulation or abuse of power and control can occur in many types of relationships not just between couples. Discussing the difference between equal exchanges in a conversation and unequal ones in a calm neutral setting may be helpful to prevent a difficult exchange from ever happening in the first place.

  • Power and Control and Equality Wheels  The Power and Control Wheel (I.21) was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs (DAIP). (I.22) Manipulative behaviors are grouped into eight categories in the model. An additional Equality Wheel (I.23) was developed to help guide batterers and victims of emotional or physical abuse towards healthier ways to interact. It is grouped into eight equivalent categories with examples of healthier ways to interact with each other. Problems frequently can involve communication issues by both people in a relationship.

Crisis Hotlines and Resources:

  • U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255, Available 24 hours everyday. (I.16.suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
  • National Helpline: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.”  (I.17.samhsa.org)
  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, RAINN Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE, (I.18.RAINN.org)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 24/7 confidential support at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. (I.19.thehotline.org)
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway: a variety of toll-free hotline numbers for concerns involving the safety of children. (I.20)

See a healthcare provider for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

References:

  1. Don Joseph Goewey, Stress, the Brain and the Neuroscience of Successs, Huffingtonpost.com, Aug. 10, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/don-joseph-goewey-/stress-success_b_5652874.html (G3.1)
  2. Gary Stix, Neuroplasticity: New Clues to Just How Much the Adult Brain Can Change. Scientificamerican.com, July 14, 2014,  http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/talking-back/2014/07/14/neuroplasticity-new-clues-to-just-how-much-the-adult-brain-can-change/ (G3.2)
  3. P. Ripollés,  Marco-Pallarés, U. Hielscher, A. Mestres-Missé, C. Tempelmann, H. Heinze, A. Rodríguez-Fornellsi, T. Noesselt, The Role of Reward in Word Learning and Its Implications for Language Acquisition, Current Biology, Volume 24, Issue 21, p2606–2611, 3 November 2014 http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(14)01207-X (G3.3)
  4. James Hamblin, Health Tip: Find Purpose in Life, theatlantic.com, Nov. 3 2014,  http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/live-on-purpose/382252/ (G3.4)

G3.1: Positive stress has a sense of purpose – “eustress.”

Positive stress or “Eustress” can be less of a negative for health and happiness and instead be the challenge that keeps someone going and gets them out of bed in the morning excited to greet each new day.

  • See the article What is Positive Stress? for more information and a link to a business related article with more information about making a business environment support an employee’s sense of purpose and ownership of their work. Having “autonomy” over some aspect of your job can help provide a sense of purpose and value even when the work is repetitious or boring. (12.21)

Self-reported mindfulness was found to be associated with more self-esteem and an orientation for autonomy – feeling the ability to be self-directed. The research authors suggest mindfulness can be innate but which is also a skill that can be developed over time and improved with practice. Having an autonomy orientation has also been associated with more prosocial behavior – helping others, volunteering or other positive activities – and more to the point for a guide about writing policy for guiding behavior – autonomy support was associated with lower volunteer turnover. (12.23)

A sense of autonomy refers to feeling that you are in control over your actions instead of having your every action be micromanaged with excessively controlling policies. For “Autonomy support,” try investing in the workers with training and career planning resources. Effective managers and leaders aren’t born, they are trained and mentored, and opportunities for resume building projects may have been handed to them through networking.

Whatever Happened to Assertiveness Training?” asks a psychiatrist in an article focused on the need for assertiveness training for physicians. (G7.6David M. Allen shares his concern that the changes in the health insurance coverage and managed care industry have left physicians more stressed and rushed than is healthy for them or their patients – potentially.

The solution that has been offered is mindfulness training, to help cope with stress. He makes the point that it is not a solution that would help protect patients or the physician’s time and stress caused as a direct result of having ineffective conversations with managed care or insurance company representatives. Who in turn can be rude or abrupt, or just a human but one who is having to enforce annoying, unrealistic policies that may even be life threatening. And oh, yes, the physician might be pressed for time as well. Mr Allen recommends assertiveness training for the physicians to help them directly reduce stress by giving them better tools for managing the real underlying cause of some of the stress – having to perform a job that has unrealistic demands on their time, and their patience and professional need to prevent harm to their patients. (G7.6)

While everyone needs a livable wage, younger workers today may value a sense of purpose and autonomy more than a pay raise or monetary bonus. They are more likely to switch jobs many times in comparison to workers of previous generations.

  • Read more: Forget work perks, millennial employees value engagement. (12.26)

Leaders and managers can be the role models for purposeful behavior and smooth the way for employees to seek out a purpose they find stimulating. Guiding the selection of projects and helping the team collaborate can also give younger workers a chance at leadership roles which can add experience to their work record and resume.

Recent research suggests workers are more engaged when their manager or business leadership shows a sense of purpose. The team of researchers suggest that organizations can promote purposeful and ethical leadership in their management staff with several key strategies: adopting relevant policies; providing leadership role-modeling; having a core vision for the business; providing training and development for staff; and providing an organizational culture.

  • See Why Leaders With A Moral Purpose Have More Engaged Workers: (11.70)

An organizational culture that would be more supportive of purposeful leadership would promote positive interpersonal relationships and support the staff who are demonstrating the values of the core vision of the business.     

A purposeful leader incorporates the values of a moral self, with vision and commitment to stakeholders according to a report by Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, CIPD, and a purposeful organisation would have the attributes of societal responsibility, values, and ethics. The full report is available for download: Purposeful leadership: What is it, what causes it, and does it matter?, CIPD.co.uk: (12.31)

Advocacy for causes that support society in general or at a local level or even for the employee who needs a new car to get to work are all serving a “moral purpose.” Advocacy can be very challenging and trying to help can sometimes end up being harmful instead. Guidance is available, a free ebook, “The Complete Guide to Advocacy,” might help make speaking up for the environment and for human rights less stressful and more likely to result in providing effective help: (12.32.thecampaignworkshop.com)

References:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes. 

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)

Formaldehyde: Health risks, and Environmental and Dietary sources.

I mentioned in my last post, (a long time ago – I’ve been busy spring cleaning), that I would discuss oxidative stress next – some background information first:

(“Formaldehyde is a cause of oxidative stress.” LMGTFY: 1,450,000 results.)

Formaldehyde:  formaldehyde is a chemical that can be produced within the body as part of metabolism, it is toxic however and the body would continue to break it down further for removal from the body in conditions of normal health. Formaldehyde is found in the environment from a variety of sources and is produced in the body or in food products as a metabolite (a chemical produced from the digestion/metabolism of a larger chemical) of some alternative sweeteners (G.48) and other dietary sources including fruit juices and artificial and natural flavorings. ((G.49, (p476, G.50)) (G.56)  “Formalin” is chemically very similar and may cause similar health symptoms. (G.42(G.25Formalin is used to induce pain in lab animals for experimental purposes and it was determined that the pain was due to activation of the TRPA1 channels. (G.86)

Environmental and dietary sources of formaldehyde include, (G.56):

  1. First and second hand smoke, (G.44); The formaldehyde content of some types of E-Cigarette preparations used for “vaping” instead of smoking the volatile gases have been found to vary significantly. Skipping to the last point on this list may provide the explanation – fruit flavoring based on fruit juice and essential oils from fruit and other artificial “flavorings” are frequently chemicals from a group of chemicals called aldehydes. They can break down over time into smaller chemicals which can include formaldehyde or other toxic types of aldehydes. (G.49) So if you are “vaping” in order to avoid toxins in cigarette smoke then it may be advisable to skip the “chocolate or fruit flavoring” and use an E-Cigarette product that just has the natural tobacco flavor instead. (Yes, tobacco is an herb and it has a flavor and nicotine can have some health benefits, however formaldehyde does not. The nicotine patch provides a steady dose of nicotine without any volatile toxins.)
  2. Poorly ventilated air or smog; (G.45)
  3. Vinyl and PVC plastic products off-gas formaldehyde and other volatile chemicals at levels that can make a sensitive person feel ill. (G.45). A poorly ventilated room would increase the risk of the gases accumulating to more toxic levels. The wax refinishing treatments used to clean and shine vinyl flooring are also sources of formaldehyde and other toxic gases. One re-waxing session can produce as much volatile chemicals from the chemical products that are used to strip off the old layer of wax polish and add a new layer, as the vinyl floor itself would off-gas throughout all the years of its installation. So making a choice about which type of flooring to install is also making a choice about the  type of cleaning products that will be needed to maintain the floor. (G.46) A Cleaning Product Fact Sheet is available from the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board: (G.47). Types of flooring and other building materials are discussed in extensive detail in a review article regarding sources of Formaldehyde in the Indoor Environment: (G.45).
  4. Metabolites of the breakdown of the alternative sweetener aspartame and Neotame include menthol and formaldehyde. (G.48)  
  5. Older packages of fruit juice also may contain formaldehyde in amounts that can continue to increase as the product ages. The formaldehyde is produced as other chemicals become unstable over time and metabolically breakdown into a variety of smaller chemicals which include formaldehyde. The food preservative method of ionizing radiation has been found to increase the chemical breakdown of larger aldehydes in apple juice into formaldehyde and other chemicals with toxic properties. (p476, G.50)
  6. Before leaving the topic of formaldehyde, the symptoms of toxicity with workplace exposure to formaldehyde have been reported to include allergic type symptoms including: “sneezing/airways-related symptoms, itching and watery eyes.” (G.51) Formaldehyde exposure may also be a cause of systemic allergic contact dermatitis, (G.52, G.53, G.54), possibly even with symptoms of rash occurring on the eyelids.(G.55) A diet designed to avoid formaldehyde intake may be helpful for alleviating the eczema like rash. (G.52)

A summary, in reverse order;

Formaldehyde might be accumulating from several sources, (G.56):

  • Workplace exposure; Workers more at risk might include health professionals, (G.51); and hair stylists or nail salon technicians, (G.58); and funeral directors may be more at risk for developing the paralyzing chronic disease ALS, (G.59); some industries such as the garment and textile industry may have formaldehyde exposure, (G.63);
  • Aseptically packaged juices, the amount may collect in older packages as the product ages, ionizing radiation methods of food preservation have been found to increase the amount of toxic aldehydes including formaldehyde and therefore is not a recommended technique for the juice industry, (p476, G.50);
  • Nutrasweet (aspartame) and Neotame, alternative sweeteners. (G..48)
  • Vinyl flooring, cleaning products, and other PVC type of plastic products. (G.45, G.46, G.47);
  • Poorly ventilated air or smog. (G.45); *Note, lighting large numbers of decorative candles may be increasing volatile chemicals in your air supply. Also air fresheners and cleaning products may contain chemicals that break down into formaldehyde. (G.60) Lifestyle choices besides smoking cigarettes can negatively affect health. Try a fern for air freshening instead; give it a nickname and you might get some emotional benefits in addition to other physical health benefits. Plants can be useful household decorations because some types can clean the air of formaldehyde and other toxins. The original research was by a NASA scientist for use in keeping the air fresh in living environments for astronauts. For the most effective air cleaning ability, the plant does need to be watered and misted as its particular type requires, because the chemical removal of formaldehyde from the air is dependent on the roots and leaves access to water. (G.61); a mechanical problem with the furnace or water heater and ventilation system may be leaking toxic chemicals into the building’s air supply; increased efficiency of insulation and other building materials have created rooms and buildings that are too good at preventing air circulation, which makes maintenance and cleaning of ventilation systems and fans important – otherwise everyone working or living in the space might start feeling some symptoms of “sick building syndrome.” (G.62)
  • Smoking cigarettes or other products, and flavorings in “vaped” E-Cigarettes may also be a source of formaldehyde. (G.44, G.49)

Fact Sheets regarding Formaldehyde, Environmental Safety and Health:

  • The Centers for Disease Control provides a fact sheet for further guidance regarding risks and precautions regarding formaldehyde: What You Should Know About Formaldehyde, (G.57)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency provides a fact sheet on sick building syndrome: Fact Sheet: Sick Building Syndrome, (G.62)
  • The Cleaning Products Fact Sheet, by the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Resources Board provides guidance regarding safer cleaning products: (G.47)
  • The National Cancer Institute’s Fact Sheet: Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk includes research on occupations that may be at risk for formaldehyde exposure and provides a list of organizations that might have more information or other help to offer. (G.63)

Sick Building Syndrome: Symptoms that may occur due to breathing air that contains too much formaldehyde may include sore throat, cough, scratchy eyes, and nosebleeds according to the fact sheet by the Centers for Disease Control. (G.57) So if everyone working in a building, or many workers or family members are all experiencing allergies or a slight cold that just doesn’t seem to want to go away – then bad air may be a problem. See the fact sheet on Sick Building Syndrome by the EPA for more information. (G.62)

Eczema: The eczema symptoms reported in medical research may occur with more chronic long-term exposure to formaldehyde and/or in individuals who also have more difficulties metabolically with detoxifiying formaldehyde – we don’t know all the answers. I have personally experienced skin rashes off and on all my life and was startled to develop it on my eyelids in my more recent past – and then was more startled, or more relieved to learn of the possible cause – formaldehyde exposure (G.55) and systemic allergic contact dermatitis, (G.52, G.53, G.54) Poor air quality was a problem at the time in part due to water heater mechanical problems, and also first and secondhand smoke were contaminants in my air supply – I cleaned up and changed habits somewhat and my eyelid rash got better – yeah science! To me that seems like an example of effective self care and effective use of evidence-based medical research even if I had to read it on my own.

Other health risks include cancer and neurological conditions: The link between cancer and formaldehyde may be less strong than for neurological disorders such as ALS in funeral home directors, (G.59), or autism in a child whose mother had prenatal exposure to formaldehyde, (G.56), however research has found some cancers associated with occupational exposure to formaldehyde. The National Cancer Institute also has a fact sheet on the topic of formaldehyde and it includes a convenient list of addresses and websites for organizations that might have more information for workers concerned about exposure risks such as OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,. (G.64) See the National Cancer Institute’s Fact Sheet: Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk for more information and resources regarding formaldehyde and occupational safety: (G.63)

Houseplants can help offices as well as astronauts:

If you are looking for a hair salon that is likely to have less formaldehyde and other volatile toxins in the air then look for one with lots of healthy ferns and other tropical low light houseplants. (G.61) If you are a hair salon or other business owner interested in improving the air quality in your establishment with the help of ferns and other houseplants, then hire a staff member who knows and loves plants because they do require some consistent care that can vary quite a bit depending on the type of plant – or buy the book by the NASA research scientist and have an employee learn how to care for your indoor air-cleaning garden.

The scientist, B. C. Wolverton, organized what he learned to help astronauts in an easy to use plant guide that lists the species of plants which were found most effective at cleaning air. The book, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office, includes guidance for caring for each species and also lists them by the types of volatile chemicals that they were able to remove from the air. (G.66)

Large urban areas may have office plant services available where a greenhouse or florist shop supplies and maintains lovely office plants for a subscription or rental type of payment. An employee of the plant business has a route of subscribing businesses to visit each week in order to water, mist, and trim plants of any dead leaves, even a healthy plant will look sad if it is covered in a layer of dust and has a few dead leaves. Plants that are sick are simply returned to the greenhouse for care or recycling and the empty spot is filled with a replacement by the plant business employee.

Ambius is an example of an office-plant company with service locations available in many urban areas in both Canada and the United States. See the Ambius website for more information and service locations: Ambius.com.

Disclaimer

References:

Marginalization and Violence

Studies on random violence and terrorist acts have found that individuals and groups who are marginalized may be more at risk. Persecution and humiliation and child trauma or neglect was more common in the history of people arrested for a violent crime. The recent death of a peaceful protester in Charlottesville is tragic for the family and community, and the nation. (bloomberg.com/2017-08-14)

We are becoming even more divided since the difficult campaign season but marginalizing young adults may just lead to more violence. A group that has appeared to be supportive of or producing the Nazi themed memes  has a petition up to help save them from oppression, whether it might be satire about saving Pakistan is unclear. (change.org/p/the-recognition-and-freedom-of-the-kekistani-people)

of-the-kekistani-people)

Update, 8/18/2017, I’ve looked into this group further and it does seem to be a satire group whose artwork got taken up by other extreme right wing groups.. Their group’s name and artwork was not visible in any of the video footage that I saw of the event at Charlottesville. And a police officer has stated that the event may have been allowed to happen as a political move to show that the current administration is inciting violence. If the police officer is correct than the Charlottesville administration was the ones inciting it, but they deny it. Snopes has a debunking statement up about the police officer’s claim. Ever since the site debunked a story by suggesting it was simply a math anomaly I’ve been suspicious of their results – yes odd math happens but that is not a “debunking” – you’re not supposed to simply throw out the unusual experimental results simply because they fall at outside of the 98th percentile. See this article:  (yournewswire.com/charlottesville-inside-job) there’s a Snopes factcheck of it that says its false: (snopes.com/were-police-told-stand-down-charlottesville)

Young adults who are just looking for recognition and freedom from “normies” may need more variety of role models to follow. When “normal” society is the bad guy and Trump is the savior figure in the artwork – we all have a problem.

There are a few articles on my website about Zionism and World War II but the information is not in support of Hitler. Anti-Zionist at the time of World War II included Jewish people, such as Albert Einstein. There was collusion between Hitler and the Zionists at the time which may have left more of the non-Zionists Jews at risk for the concentration camps while a few left early for Palestine and they were allowed to take their possessions.  It all may involve banking and the national monetary system that Germany put in place after WWI cost them a large amount in reparations. History is complicated and the winners write the books.

I’ve been working on a health information website, a directory of links to other resources with narrative about their value. It started out as an example of a policy manual for preventing harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

Violence is bad, um’kay.” (A paraphrase of a line from Southpark.)

The footnotes aren’t renumbered for this yet, either. but here is a section regarding random violence and humiliation of others. When one is singled out for persecution it is warning all the others in the group and other marginalized groups, that if they aren’t careful then they could get the same treatment – so follow the group’s expectations – their norms. As a medical marijuana patient I’ve been in a marginalized group and the expectation has been to quit being an addict and take part in the business world and social community. I can’t. I’ve tried many times and my health keeps getting worse when I try.  It’s proven to me even more how important it is for my health.

Policy manuals can set consistent standards and be shared quickly. My own role as an administrator included many of them because I worked in a rural area with a small caseload and small budget for staff. As the main Program Coordinator I was responsible for several and then I also had the roles of “Nutrition Education Coordinator,” “Breastfeeding Coordinator,” and “Outreach Coordinator” – it doesn’t fit on a resume line let alone look good in a Human Resources interview. Each role had manuals to keep up to date, and it being a large rural area, I had four sets to keep up to date, one for each of four locations that the same few staff traveled too. Seven years later can I remember them? The names aren’t right, but, 1. the main State/Federal Policy Manual; 2. the Local Agency Policy and Procedures Manual (I had to write that one with our local methods for required policies and procedures); 3. AnthropometricLab & Clinic Standards Manual; 4. Civil Rights Training Manual; 5. Outreach Manual; 6. Nutrition Education Lesson Plan Manual with examples of all the handouts used, this was mostly original writing also, with some lessons and handouts from the state or other local agencies; 7. the Breastfeeding Manual; 8. the Coupon Inventory Log; and 9. the Equipment Inventory.

I loved my job – what I really did was measure babies and children, poke fingers for iron lab tests, assess nutrition, and income and social needs, as well, and provide education and counseling guidance as needed and enter it in the computer and print out food coupons – with few staff available I worked clinics by myself sometimes or with one other person to help. Updating policy manuals or even reading them was spare time work for at home in the evening, unpaid, or occasionally approved overtime on a weekend for an end of the year report or audit. With few staff it is difficult to make time during a work week for much besides the ten to forty clients I might have seen in a day.

The following is an excerpt from a book about policy manuals – exciting:

9.4: “Running amok,” “going postal,” or “a red stapler” moment.

Creating a pleasant work atmosphere where people feel safe from unfair persecution or humiliation may help prevent sudden violence where people who had seemed like quiet average people snap and try to harm others.

The sudden outburst of violence is not that common and is not about a serial killer who is concealing themselves as average among peers, or the manipulative and charming boss with a narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathic side. A random violent outburst more likely might be the hard worker who finally reached a “camel straw” moment – the proverbial final straw added to a load that makes the already overloaded camel’s burden too heavy for it to carry any further.

Verbal and physical intimidation are more common problems in the workplace; and not reporting problems is also common. When is problem behavior serious? Or when is joking and teasing and pranks approaching harassment?

  • More information and guidance about workplace violence, and examples of common situations in Canadian workplaces is available at violenceautravail.ca/Understanding violence.  The site includes a list of “Examples of Workplace Violence:  being threatened with death or injury; getting hit or pushed; having an object thrown at us; being subjected to sexual touching and sexual assault; being scratching or pinched; being spat at; being yelled at; receiving threatening messages or emails; being ridiculed or humiliated; being threatened physically (for example, being shown a fist); having our property damaged. (9.105)

Labeling situations as serious and reportable may help an employee see that what they are experiencing is “bad enough,” and that they should seek help before anything “really serious” happens.

Labeling emotions can help to recognize when they are starting to build in one self or others. Unrecognized emotions may be more difficult to control because they are unrecognized but are uncomfortable and may lead to agitation and gradually build to more intense out of control anger or fear.

Running amok” is an older term and “going postal,” is a newer term for sudden violence. A “red stapler” moment is a reference to a movie from the 90’s that became an instant classic among disgruntled workers everywhere: Office Space.

  • If you happened to missed it, then if you would just go watch Office Space, “That would be great.” (9.79)
  • Or go read this article about it: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Office Space (9.80)

The movie Office Space shows all the “do not do this to your employees” bad boss examples to avoid following. Don’t be left holding only a stapler, plan ahead and give everyone their own. Fair treatment and a sense of autonomy, a right to some control over one’s work, are important for employees in addition to earning a fair paycheck. Threatening job loss or other retaliations can leave workers feeling trapped and hopeless because they may need that paycheck even if it isn’t fair.

9.5: “Amok” was a medical condition during stressful times.

Research has found that during stressful times, whether due to economic or environmental reasons, people are more likely to act out verbally or physically against people who are not of their same ethnic group. (9.41) During times of stress, violence against women is also more common, particularly against women who are suspected to be sexually active or to have been unfaithful in a relationship. (9.43) Other research has found that the rate of violent crime is associated with the rate of infection in the population. Research into group and individual behavior suggests that the rate of infectious disease in a group is significantly associated with the rate of violent and property crime and with the rate of violent crime against strangers. (9.41)

It is unclear from epidemiology studies whether an association is causal or correlated, but if health is associated with less violence, it seems like a reasonable goal to promote health and try to prevent infectious disease.

Some types of infectious disease can directly lead to symptoms of increased irritability or rage and historically, and times of environmental or economic stress have been linked to a medical condition that was called “amok” where a previously healthy person suddenly started killing or assaulting people randomly. Historically a condition known as amok was first described in 1893 where an individual suddenly acted violently and then would forget the manic episode. Descriptions of the disorder were recorded by the British medical superintendent of the Government Asylum in Singapore. Increases in cases of amok were more associated with “times of social tension or impending disaster.”

The term fell out of use as a medical diagnosis but became commonly used in the phrase “running amok” to describe anyone who was acting unusually out of control. 99.42) Gun violence in modern times has involved racist xenophobia or religious ideology in many cases (9.53, 9.54, 9.56), it can also involve copycat reactions to news coverage of other violent offenders, (9.55), and in a few cases may have involved a shooter who claimed to have amnesia of the event afterwards. (9.44, 9.45)

Is “amok” a real condition that needs a more modern name? Controlling guns doesn’t control violence with knives or vehicles or explosives or with poisons. Promoting health might help more individuals control themselves.

Negligence can also be lethal.

Promoting compassion for others rather than supporting persecution and humiliation of those who are different is necessary. The young learn by observing the way others act and how they treat each other. Teaching compassion or another topic is easier with demonstration than discussion. Police brutality that goes unpunished teaches the wrong message that persecution and humiliation of some types of people is okay when it is done by other types of people. Recently teens filmed a man while he drowned and the group’s laughing and taunting was caught on the audio. The teens never reported the drowning and the man’s body was only found after a missing person’s report was filed. The video later became available and legally it has been found to fall into a loophole in the state’s laws. There is no legal requirement to help a person who is in danger in that state. (9.100)

Divisive politics and economic hardship can lead to more focus being placed on differences in religion or culture, sexual orientation or gender, between oneself and others but it doesn’t have to. Being civilized can mean recognizing those differences and valuing and seeking to understand them better instead of fearing or mistreating those who are different from oneself.

  • TJ Brown suggests how in a section “Fight for a More Civilized Bigotry,” (pg 14) from a longer article: FEE’s Guide to Keeping Friends Despite Political Differences: How to Have Opinions and Friends (at the Same Time!), fee.org (9.106)

9.6: Gratitude and friendship boost dopamine, so does shaming.

Shaming others, reminding them of guilt, can cause an increase of dopamine in the brain of the person doing the shaming. However a compassionate exchange with a friend or acquaintance can also boost dopamine, and so can reading new and interesting information. Listening to music and enjoying good food can also. There are many positive ways to boost dopamine besides shaming others, such as being grateful for others’ diverse skills and unique backgrounds.

Shaming others may be a natural instinct to promote one’s own morality by making it clear one is not in support of the topic or person being shamed, (9.21), or it may derive from a sense of guilt about the situation or person being shamed. (9.22)

Being fair in the first place would leave less to feel guilty about, accepting each other for our differences as well as our similarities might also.

Shaming others, purposely humiliating them, can also be a form of control or intimidation to show power over another person or group of people. Shaming one member of a group can serve to humiliate and control the group. Less equal societies, with a group of wealthy elite at the top, may be more likely to use humiliation as a control tactic. (9.81) Human sacrifice in ancient cultures was found in a recent anthropology study to be more common in societies that also had greater inequality between the rich and poor. (9.82)  However, does shaming work as a form of social control to effectively promote changed behavior in the person being shamed?

The answer is no – or at least not effectively and consistently when it comes to alcohol abuse. Research with reality shows focused on alcohol addiction and recovery have found that alcoholism or relapse were still likely to occur even after public shaming. (9.156)

“The results add to a body of literature suggesting that widely used shaming and humiliating methods of treating alcohol and other drug problems — such as those seen on shows like Celebrity Rehab — are not only ineffective but also may be counterproductive.” (9.156)

“Guilt” is a noun referring to the feeling one feels oneself over an error or misdeed, while “shame” can be used as a noun it is more typically used as a verb, “to shame.” Others shame the one who is guilty or believed to be guilty of something the group disapproves of. Other studies with alcohol counseling individually also found that shaming tactics did not effectively help individuals stop abusing alcohol. (9.156)

Studies of serial killers and other types of violent offenders found an association with early childhood abuse. Rejection by a parent or other important person in their life was found to have occurred in the early lives of 48% of a group of 62 serial killers in the study. Other types of physical, sexual or emotional abuse such as humiliation have also been associated with violent offenders, and early adoptions, neglect, or abandonment in early childhood have been associated with violent crime. (9.63)

In a study that included over 1000 violent offenders, shame and humiliation were found to be a common factor; violence was an attempt to restore a sense of pride or self-worth: “In the work, “Shame, Guilt, and Violence,” qualitative data from over 1,000 institutionalized offenders were gathered and analyzed over the course of four decades. According to Gilligan, self-conscious feelings of shame and a deteriorated sense of self-worth are the causal factors underlying violence; humiliation, Gilligan argues, compromises one’s identity, i.e. the way one sees oneself, and leads to feelings conceptualized as a loss of cohesion of the self, or a conceptual death of the self. This leads one to become violent in order to restore pride, or a sense of self-worth (Gilligan, 2003).”  Overcrowding and economic job stress, which leads to lack of parental time, are factors thought to be involved in the number of young men in gangs who may join them seeking the nurturing that was missing at an empty childhood home. (9.83)

If someone at work has a favorite stapler, maybe just let them enjoy it in peace instead of teasing them about it – and maybe get one of your own to find out what the appeal might be. The topic of shame and shaming is continued in the next section, and a therapy method for individuals who suffer from excessive guilt and a tendency to self-shame (9.158) is discussed in more detail.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.