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President Obama describes the “denial, anger, bargaining, despair” of meeting his limits early in his journey into politics. [Transcending limits is the natural outcome of wrestling honorably with those honest emotions.] He acknowledges being “angry about policies that consistently favor the wealthy and powerful over average Americans.” [When anger is as well-handled as it appears to be in Mr. Obama’s hands, it is THE precision tool of change.] He cites how in recent years Democrats have felt increasing drive to “match the Republican right in stridency and hardball tactics” and points also to the national pastime of maligning our politicians and  politics…and then counters those perceptions with the observation that voters consistently like their own politicians…because most politicians are “pretty likeable folks…intelligent thoughtful and hard-working.” [In fact, all of daily life is “political.” When you refrain from saying something, you have judged it “impolitic.” When you strive not to offend in speaking, you are “polite.” Whenever we rail at someone distant from ourselves, we are mostly displacing our anger onto a “safer” target than difficult issues in our own lives. So examine your own “denial, anger, bargaining, despair” closely, and honorably, and your anger, to get the direction you need to make healthy change in the politics of your own life.]

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Katie Liljedahl at katielilj@gmail.com , in an article for Hope Dance, describes our current despair, powerlessness and guilt over not making sustainable changes soon enough for our consciences. She calls this condition The Great Lag. It’s a lovely description of the creative nature of despair, or, as I like to say from the perspective of my Unified Theory of Emotion, as testimonial to the enormous potential and hidden treasures in any kind of sadness. She describes the role of community: our reaching out to join hands in global problem solving. There are growing numbers of activities to make a difference. For your inspiration: Transition Town is in operation at Santa Barbara www.sblocal.org. Making A Difference in wonderful ways is yours for the taking.

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From Dr. Sarita Freeman, Ph.D. Psychologist specializing in developmental disabilities: Although autism is a diagnosis and a “disorder” (whatever that means), it’s important not to consider it a “pathological condition.” In fact, some of those previously undiagnosed individuals that appear to have had behaviors consistent with a current dx of autism include geniuses, scientists, brilliant mathematicians, politicians, computer designers, etc., and are likely to have been responsible for the many technological advances and comforts that we non-autistic individuals now take for granted. This has been the most recent discussion and debate in the field related to the possibility of being able to identify autism in utero and what could happen as a result of the gradual genetic “weeding out” of these great minds. From my experience working with children and adults on the spectrum, they are very interesting individuals, their “take” on the world is unique, refreshing, and really can make you think. Do they struggle? Yes. Is that a reason to label them pathological? Hardly…most of them wouldn’t hurt a fly, and they would be the most loyal of friends you would could ever have if you allowed them into your circle. From my vantage point, if they get the appropriate interventions from early-on (the earlier the better), many can go to college and become contributing members of our society.
In terms of the autism dialogue: What we have learned about Autism over the last 15 years of research is that it is a neurobiological disorder. It is not an attachment disorder and is not related to being left at daycare. Although the rates in CA appear to be somewhat higher than in other places, there are other pockets in this country (New Jersey, for example), where rates are higher as well. But the most current statistics from the CDC of 1 in 150 are accurate throughout the world, and daycare is not utilized to the same degree worldwide. In addition to genetics, there is a great deal of ongoing research in the field looking at environmental triggers that may be unleashing a genetic predisposition in particular children.
Recent reports of an extremely high incidence of autism being diagnosed in children from Somali families living in the U.S. (1 in 14? but don’t quote me on that), has been fodder for the surge in research looking at environmental factors. Another recent set of studies have identified that exposure to higher levels of testosterone in utero may be responsible for at least some cases of autism. The genetic research thus far has shown that, in fact, autism is a highly heritable and genetic disorder. Identical twins have a significantly higher incidence of having autism spectrum disorders when one of the twins has it, than in the general population. Siblings of children with autism have a higher incidence of language delays and/or learning disabilities and/or autism. If you already have a child with autism, your risks of having another one are significantly higher than in the general population (I think it’s 25%, but again, don’t quote me on that). In interviewing the families of children or adults with a confirmed diagnosis of autism by an autism expert using gold standard methods, we find in most cases a strong history of other family members, including one of the individual’s parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, long lost uncles, etc., who either have had a confirmed dx of autism, or were always somewhat “off” and exhibited by observation, symptoms that could be consistent with ASD.
Although better diagnosis can account for some of the rise in cases, it’s not the only reason. That being said, it’s important to remember that previously we didn’t even consider the possibility that people who were “high functioning” (i.e., IQ within normal range) could be diagnosed with any kind of autism until Asperger’s Disorder appeared in the DSM-IV in 1994. So, the possibility that anyone could have a diagnosis of autism who did not present with behaviors that were at minimum consistent with what we saw in the movie Rain Man, did not exist until 1994.
If you’re really interested in learning about adults with autism spectrum disorders who are on the speakers circuit, google Temple Grandin, Stephen Shore, Jerry Newport, or go to http://www.autismhangout.com to hear podcasts where some of these people talk about their lives and experiences. Mozart and the Whale is a movie that was modeled after Jerry Newport and his wife, who both have autism. [Sarita Freedman, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Adults and Children
Developmental Disabilities, 26540 Agoura Road, Suite 100, Calabasas, CA 91302, (818) 999-9330, sfreedmanphd@sbcglobal.net ]

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An ancient Greek myth tells of a time when all was perfect on earth. The gods had put all the potential ills away in a locked trunk, guarded by a faithful human who tol no one of its contents. As ill luck would have it, though, this man’s teenage daughter, Pandora, became fascinated with finding out what was in the trunk. One day, she finally found a way to open the trunk. Out exploded all the ills of existence, each more terrifying to behold than the next. Horrified, Pandora slammed the trunk closed. Then, she heard a voice calling from inside the trunk. Curiosity yet again overcoming her prudence, Pandora drew near, and listened. “I am Hope,” the voice said. “Please let me out. The world needs me in order to endure the ills, and to find ways to overcome them.” And so, Pandora let Hope out of the chest. From the spin of my Unified Theory of Emotion, hope is a balanced, virtuous, spiritual feeling that is part of the emotion of humility. In hope, we swallow despair, and we take time to digest all that has happening. In hope, we balance our awe over what is beautiful and good with our hopelessness over what is ugly and bad. Hope is also part of the complicated virtue of wisdom, which is in turn a combination of the simpler virtues of pain, humility and compassion.

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Harvard Medical School recently shared some “easy and natural” ways to ease and prevent headache pain. Every year, “almost 90% of men and 95% of women have at least one, and the vast majority of them are simply natural responses “to the realities of life: stress, fatigue, exposure to allergens, and lack of sleep.” [Ah, yes! Lack of sleep. The rampant popularity of getting less than 9 hours nightly accounts for a huge chunk of the excessive stress and fatigue.] (1) Get enough sleep [see Dr. Sharon’s past newsletter and look for her upcoming CD “Sleep for Health”], (2) “figure out whether there’s a connection between your headaches and particular foods” or activities. “Few triggers are obvious, so a headache diary is a good tool to use when trying to figure this out.” [Red wine is a common headache trigger, as are many other common foods. Excessive sunlight is a common trigger for some, as is excessive noise.] (3) Deal with the muscle tension in your head, neck and shoulders. [Activator chiropractic methods, acupuncture, deep tissue massage, and rehabilitation of posture (through physical therapy, therapeutic pilates, yoga, Tai Chi) can all help to develop better muscle habits to prevent muscle tightness and spasms that bring on headaches.] (4) Learn to relax throughout your day. [Just taking one to two minutes every hour or two to focus on breathe fully in and exhale fully out can go a long way in grounding you. Meditation comes from simply extending that breathing and focus on just breathing to five, ten, fifteen or twenty minute periods.] “A heating pad applied daily…can relax tense muscles in your neck and shoulders and help prevent headaches. Taking a hot shower or bath can also help. A cold pack (on neck or temples) can constrict blood vessels and ease the pain of a headache already in progress. (6) Learn to practice physical expression of confusion and ambivalence as taught from Dr. Sharon’s Unified Theory of Emotion. Practice shaking your head, in confusion, gently side to side, chin horizontal, as if you are shaking (or agitating) your brains around a washing machine spindle. Practice ambivalence by rolling your shoulders (as if swimming) and your head (around in circles in either direction). These physical movements help to keep your from tensing up in resistance to confusion or ambivalence. Confusion is needed for any new thought: without confusion there is no new conclusion. Ambivalence is needed for any well-thought through decision: it keeps your head and heart “talking” to each other, rather than slamming down rigidly in your musculature to prevent the discussion.

 

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I’ve long said that I am a sugar addict. The reason for so saying is my complete inability to eat intense sweets in moderation. I can let a little super sweet treat creep into my diet, and then, more creep in. And more and more. At a certain point, I start thinking obsessively about where my next sweet is coming from, and how long I have to wait before ingesting it. That’s when I know I’ve gone over the edge. Recently some research added  credence to my assertion of sugar addiction. As reported in Scientific American Mind, April/May 2008, graduate student Magalie Lenoir and colleagues at the University of Bordeaux in France compared the attraction of rats to IV administration of cocaine (the rats were experienced “users” in self-administration) and highly sweetened water. Overwhelmingly the rats chose the sweet beverage over cocaine! Neurological research has shown that drugs and food activate similar reward pathways in the brain, and other behavioral research has showen that rats can become dependent on sugar, “exhibiting typical symptoms of addiction, including craving and both behavior and neurochemical signs of withdrawal”. Rats like me! And maybe like you or someone you know? A caveat on the sweet-preference research is that rats might not addict to cocaine, but still…. I think they’re on the right track.

 

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I have to confess my support of the Obama-Biden ticket. But also I have to confess that I had, until very recently, been (naughtily) expressing overly antagonistic, frightened opposition to the McCain-Palin ticket. Now, if you have read my earlier blogs, you know that I think that acting out heatedly as I have been (even if only in my own mind, or by venting my spew to sympathetic others) is a sign of really bad marksmanship and unresolved issues. Still, I was delighting in displacing my anger and worries onto McCain and Palin, and I was stuck in my ardent disability to understand why anyone would favor them. Shame on me. Then along comes the more entertainment-oriented end of media. First, in terms of what really hit my radar, there was a lovely video by prominent performers on getting out to vote, regardless of position. Second, there was coverage of the dinner at which John McCain and Barak Obama roasted each other. Watching Senator McCain’s reactions to Senator Obama’s roast was delightful. I giggle still. Although I must admit that I immediately had a lousy night’s sleep worrying that if people feel warmer toward Mr. McCain, as I did after that show, then how would they choose Senator Obama? Panick-driven, because ideally we will choose our candidates on issues and on the basis of our estimation of their ability to do the job not on them being cool or one of the guys (or gals). Next, there was a lovely spoof on several of the candidates by JibJab that helped me realize at least one aspect of Senator Obama that causes opposing viewpoint folks to feel as violently against him as I had been feeling against McCain. Finally, along comes the Saturday Night Live appearance of Governor Sarah Palin. Wow. That took guts and a sense of humor on her part! For those humanizing events, I thank our free media, and I thank all our candidates. I am still pro-Obama-McCain, but I am at last, per my prescription to ourselves, freed of a large measure of the burden of worrying against McCain-Palin. I breathe a sigh of happiness and humor thinking maybe things will, somehow, turn out alright either way.

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