Finding my Balance

Written by Laura Anderson, WLLC 2015-2016

When I moved halfway across the country to live on my own in college, I thought that being independent was what I wanted more than anything. I was so excited to jump into opportunities and figure things out as I went. I ran 5 miles to the grocery store on my own, found a job on my own, and felt like I was doing pretty well for myself. After a few not-so-pleasant events, though, I began to feel trapped by my freedom. I was all alone; I had no one to turn to when my choices and the choices of others came to haunt me.

A couple of weeks in, I was sitting in worship put on by a few people from CRU (Campus Crusades for Christ), a time in which we all soak in worship music and silent prayer. In that hour of time with no one but God and myself I was forced to acknowledge my loneliness and need to reach up to God and out to my peers. At first, I thought I was just asking for a ride, but within minutes I was spilling my guts to a person that I barely knew at the time, but who is one of my closest friends and mentors now. Contrary to my fear that she might judge me or simply dismiss me, this person was so supportive in prayer and in action. Ever since that moment, I have been overwhelmed by the vulnerability and kindness that I have encountered in almost everyone I have interacted with in CRU, and have constantly craved to spread that same pure honesty throughout all my interactions.

Unfortunately, though, I am quite the black-and-white thinker as well as somewhat of a bleeding heart. I got caught up in this honesty that I allowed myself to enter a very dangerous codependent friendship that was starting to suck me dry. I felt guilty every time I couldn’t be there, and constantly full of shame that I couldn’t be a better friend. When I read Brené Brown’s study on Shame Resilience Theory, I really related to the participants’ feelings of being “trapped, powerless, and isolated” (Brown 45).

I finally realized that while it is wonderful to embrace vulnerability and climb down into that cave with someone to empathize with them; you can’t stay there forever, and you can’t let them drag you down at all hours of the day and night, at the expense of your own wellness (Brown). My response to the situation was all wrong, though. I started building my walls back up and trying to remove this friend from my life, slowly closing myself off to vulnerability.

That’s when God stepped in. He used this moment in which I felt more confused and alone than ever to teach me a valuable lesson about the balance required for vulnerability and empathy. As Omid Safi clarifies, when practicing vulnerability, we have to keep in mind that “it’s not about foolishness and being reckless with one’s hearts, but with knowing that no one is an island unto themselves.”

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I think that when we try to embrace the virtuous qualities of vulnerability, and especially empathy, we can often take them too far; sacrificing our own wellness in an attempt to help others. But these qualities are about more than just trusting your peers and allowing them to trust you; they’re about trusting God to speak through you and through the people around you in order to heal and empower everyone involved. Only then can vulnerability and empathy fully succeed.

Living in Love

Post and poem written by Alina Naismith, WLLC 2015-2016

As human beings, we are constantly subjected to emotions, fragile and intense.

As human beings, we love to live passionately, and live for passionate love.

As human beings, it is ordinary to have universes collide, through love or hate.

As human beings, a beautiful love somewhere embraces our soul.

As human beings… we wouldn’t have it any other way.

–Alina Naismith


 

There is one particular topic that seems to arise in every being’s life each day: Love.

It is engraved in our chemistry, a constant flow of hormones involuntarily running through our brains and veins. Our species appears to endlessly crave for this incredible passion, unconsciously searching for a higher sense of self and ultimate purpose through the tenderness of another’s existence. To further understand the implications of love in the brain, I observed and evaluated a TED Talk featuring Helen Fisher, a prominent neuroscientist whom studies how the brain responds in relation to being in love. As a Cognitive Neuroscience student myself, I found this lecture extremely intriguing, and could directly apply the concepts of love introduced to recent experiences in my life.

Below is an explanation of research conducted by Helen herself that I found especially noteworthy:

Through a latest study with newly separated couples, neuroscientists found that, when the brain is analyzed through an MRI, there is “activity in a part of the brain that is associated with intense, romantic love” (Fisher, 5:45). At this point, one perhaps desires they could let their rejecting lover go, yet the emotional connection rarely fades so effortlessly. Love infatuates humans, incessantly consuming their thoughts, as if “somebody is camping in your head” (Fisher, 5:04). As Helen mentioned, when you are in love you cannot stop “obsessing” about the other person, so letting go after a separation, whether one-sided or mutual, is emotionally taxing on the soul as well as the mind. In addition, brain regions associated with “calculating gains and losses” (Fisher, 6:25) and the “deep attachment to another individual” (Fisher, 7:14).

Through that research, which in my opinion was the most essential aspect of the Talk to reflect on, there is an indication of pure romantic drive, distinctive of sexual drive, motivating day-to-day ambitions. As Helen describes it, the desire for love is perhaps an addiction. In my view, love isn’t as much an “addiction” as it is a yearning for passion and the emotional, as well as physical, warmth that you may depend on for tenderness…. one who embraces your true self, and understands your fears, your beliefs, your passions (although that merely my personal definition).

How ever you experience love within your life, recall that through this research it is apparent your brain is completely infatuated, obsessed, and in some opinions “addicted” to your significant other. It makes letting go extra challenging in the incidence of a break-up, but also has the ability to connect two beings together in such a way that you know, in your heart, you are in fact in love.

Rub-a-Dub

Written by Morgann Monahan, WLLC 2015-2016

I have been trying to write this blog post for an hour now, with only the words on the page being: “Oh weekly practices…” I couldn’t think of a single thing to write about the weekly practices. I had already written about the ones that I had done, what else was I supposed to say? This may not have been as hard if I had really connected with any of the practices, but I usually found myself stressed that I had to make the extra time for them. I enjoyed them, nonetheless, but I didn’t connect to them. So here I am thinking “What the hell am I going to say here?” and it finally, after literally 47 minutes of staring at my empty word document, it comes to me.

The weekly practices didn’t click for me because they weren’t mine. They were other’s practices and what other’s do to find peace or center themselves. I don’t really believe that was the purpose of these practices. It’s not the same to practice someone else’s practice. One has to create their own practice. It can be built off of the practices of others but it needs to be carved and whittled to fit the needs of it’s beholder. Which is something I did find over this quarter. Through all the other practices, I found my own. It came to be during the week of Meditation. I was so annoyed with trying to silence my brain, something I’ve never been able to do. I tried, and tried, and tried. Everyone else does it! Why do I loath meditation so much when basically everyone in Wellness loves it? It’s just not for me. I gave up after a few days of that practice, I turned to coloring. However I learned this quarter what my “meditation” is. My way of meditating is bathing, like bubbles and yummy smelly soaps, the real deal.

This is a pretty new thing too. At home when I take baths I usually only soak for about 20 minutes and I rarely took baths anyways. Now I take baths weekly and will soak for about an hour. The girls on floor 5 think I’m a psycho because I’ll be in there for so long and I’ll wait if someone is using that shower. It’s like the scene in Mean Girls during the assembly when they yell “You don’t even go here!” because I don’t live on their floor and I’m using their favorite shower stall for hours and sometimes play classical music or something weird. But that’s okay, I can deal with girl judgment, especially after my weekly, meditative bath ❤

Healthy Mind

Written by Cassidy Knipp, WLLC 2015–2016

Today more and more people suffer from mental illnesses. It is not uncommon for someone to be on anti-depressants, have a med-card, or any other medications. More commonly we see depression springing up in people’s lives more so than we should. Scientists have played around with different anti-depressants, and behind our backs placebos. Both seem to help the victim of depression control it a little bit better. However, it never fully goes away. We treat mental illnesses as something we can cover up—like “hey here’s a pill, so you won’t feel numb/hear voices/get extreme mood swings”. Why do doctors and scientists treat mental illnesses like a regular cold? These illnesses are way more complex and demand way more of our attention than a simple head cold.

“Approximately 30%–40% of patients with major depression have only a partial response to available pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions.” (Qureshi, “Mood Disorders”). What happens if we combine traditional medicine with alternative medicine to help fight mental illnesses? And what if on top of all that we also looked at the personal life of the victim as well, to see if there are any changes that could be made there too. This isn’t a one pill solves all solution. “Use of complementary medicines and therapies (CAM) and modification of lifestyle factors such as physical activity, exercise, and diet are being increasingly considered as potential therapeutic options” (“Complementary Medicine”). I believe there are a lot of contributing factors to mental illnesses, but I believe we can combat these illnesses by putting more thought into the antidotes.

Adjusting My Attitude Towards Failure

Written by Summer Graham, WLLC 2015-2016

This past week provided me with a valuable learning experience. As a Computer Science major, one of the most important things I can do ( or so I’ve read) is to get an internship. So I’ve been applying to different jobs literally since the beginning of the school year for anything that I qualify for. It was during Super bowl Sunday that I got my first email-from Pinterest asking me to interview. I was very excited and I immediately emailed them back with times that I was available to meet with them.

Then the interview day came, I sat in my room ready, I went over practice leadership and coding problems, and then Zac came on the screen and completely threw me off guard. Tech companies are weird, that was one detail that I forgot, so I didn’t know how to answer his questions. They involved asking me different ways to use a vending machine, and how to design an alarm clock for blind people. I answered as best I could, but I felt like I had messed up. Then Victor popped up on the screen for my coding interview. It would have gone better if I was able to interview with them this week because everything he asked me, I literally just learned yesterday in class. Bummer. To turn a long story short, I woke up to a sympathetic email two days later saying I didn’t get the job. It sucks but I could only view this as a positive experience and handle it with grace.

All Software Engineering job interviews are structured like that so I will be much more prepared when my next potential employer emails me, and I have to think, maybe it just wasn’t meant for me. Maybe next quarter or next year even I will be at the level where I can impress people with the skills that I’ve learned and get a great internship. In my book Emotional Freedom that I’m reading the author suggests that instead of getting mad, try and stay calm. I was proud to say that I did just that because a year ago it would have been a completely different story and to be honest that email I received from Pinterest probably would have ruined my day.

I told my mom the outcome, even though I really didn’t want her to know that I didn’t get the job, but being vulnerable to her allowed her to comfort me so I didn’t feel bad and her encouragement is going to help me for the next time I have to interview with somebody. I think this was a great lesson because many great people fail but turn it into a positive thing so that they can succeed later, and that’s what I hope to do through this experience.

Breaking Down the Walls

Written by Danielle Nebel, WLLC 2015-2016

Being vulnerable is very scary for most people, including me. It is hard for people to vulnerable because we are afraid of getting hurt so to prevent this we put up walls. In the article Walls Around Hearts by Omid Safi, he says,

“so many of us have fronts, masks, barriers, walls to guard the vulnerability of our own hearts.”

People think that by guarding yourself it is a way to protect yourself from getting hurt. By doing this it is actually making it harder to connect and form relationships with others because according to Safi it “keeps us from being loved, keeps anyone from reaching us.” Even though it may be difficult I need to learn to be more vulnerable by letting my guard down and stepping out of my comfort zone.

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In most cases vulnerability has a negative connotation and is seen as a weakness even though it should not be. Most people do not even talk about the subject because it is uncomfortable for others to discuss even though many people are afraid of being vulnerable. According to Brene Brown’s podcast the Courage to be Vulnerable, vulnerability is something that people should embrace. While vulnerability may lead to struggles, Brown say that it is these “struggles that make us who we are”. By allowing ourselves to open up it makes people stronger and braver because it can be risky at times. Even though it can be risky, being exposed takes courage and allows people to face fears or problems that they try to hide and escape. It is worth the risk to let your walls down and open up to others because if you do not you can miss out on forming connections with others and it will separate yourself from family and friends.

As I learned about this concept in class during week 6 it made me realize that being vulnerable is not something to be ashamed of and is a healthy way to maintain my emotional wellbeing. It will allow me to accept my flaws and make me realize that I do not need to be perfect. The courage to do this will boost my confidence and I will not have to worry because I will be able to be myself. Nobody should put walls up to protect themselves, which can lead to stress and create an unstable emotional state. I aim to be vulnerable and break down my walls by stepping out of my comfort zone and being open to new opportunities.

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Personally, I Play for the Other Team, and I Prefer Pepperoni

Written by Emma Bacon, WLLC 2015-2016

I’ve heard the baseball metaphor for sex that Al Vernacchio describes all through out my life. I can recall when I was hearing about the sexual difference between getting to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base. I never realized how terrible of a metaphor baseball was until I heard Vernacchio’s Ted Talk. He describes it as

“…incredibly problematic. It’s sexist. It’s heterosexist. It’s competitive. It’s goal-directed. And it can’t result in healthy sexuality developing in young people or in adults.”

He introduces a new metaphor: the pizza metaphor. He says that if we incorporate the pizza model into sex education,

“we could create education that invites people to think about their own desires, to make deliberate decisions about what they want, to talk about it with their partners, and to ultimately look for not some external outcome but for what feels satisfying.”

In my opinion, there is a lot that is lacking in our sex education system that leads to serious issues in society and also wellness. In general, boys and girls get a very different education about sexual activity. For example, boys are often taught about masturbation while girls are not. Also, girls are more often taught about abstinence and boys about using condoms. The difference between educations creates a difference in self-image and in being comfortable with ones sexuality. This also plays a role in the idea that men are the pursuers in a sexual relationship, and that women are submissive. I think this is a serious problem that could be aided by Vernacchio’s pizza model.

I think this also relates Omid Safi’s “Walls Around Hearts”. The poem talks about how “So many of us have fronts, masks, barriers, walls to guard the vulnerability of our own hearts” and how important it is to break down these walls in order to be truly loved and to connect with people. When applied to sexual activity, this guardedness can be a result of the competitive and non-communicative nature of sex today. People might build these walls around their hearts because they’re taught that being sexual with someone is not about open communication with their partners. I think being open and honest about what you want and like is what Vernacchio is trying to encourage and that being vulnerable in that way creates a better experience for both partners.

In terms of wellness, I think this particularly influences emotional wellness. Having a healthy relationship with your partner, and particularly having a healthy relationship with yourself, is crucial to being emotionally well. Feeling stress from an unhealthy relationship with your partner and/or feeling uncomfortable with yourself can cause serious emotional toil. Because of this, I think implementing the pizza model into sexual education would help create a better future for young people as well as help improve society’s misconceptions and practice of sexuality.