This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.
Today I am writing about a topic which is on the hearts and minds of many parents, myself included. It is probably one of the most challenging and frustrating periods that all parents will face at one time or another; in some form or another. The day will come when you will be sitting at your dinner table with your family and become suddenly aware that your son or daughter has been replaced by a stranger. Even though it would seem that little has changed in the day to day activities with the same familiar faces of your family, it will descend on you without warning.
For some parents, the changes may seem gradual. But for others, it may appear as if the only remaining evidence of your dear child are features that federal agents could use to identify through their physical remains. However, what is important to understand is that as your growing child moves through common stages toward adulthood, their behaviors are the sum of their particular environment, both outside and inside their skin.
Between these environmental forces, the least understood and yet most influential by far is the climate within (or under) our skin. It is very complex and beautifully synchronous team of biochemical and molecularly organized structures that operate independently, yet together for the whole body. Everything within the internal environment is there for a reason. Every part from the greatest to the smallest, mobile to fixed, weaved or fragmented has a role and would not be there without serving some purpose. One role which is often a focus of behavioral sciences is that of communication, that is how the parts “talk” to each other. This is where you may have heard the term, “chemical messengers”. This refers to the wide array of signaling methods used to communicate top-down instructions on what to do and when to do it.
One way in which communication is carried out is through a type of “public broadcast message” via hormone influence. Hormones are much like the common cell to cell interactions, but hormones target a very wide population of cell sets and stir various role-specific groups to fulfill a particular job for a particular need. As a system-wide message has many important targets, the announcement must be loud, clear and lasting. In other words, unlike a neurotransmitter that makes you move your arm, the message must be loud enough, specific and last long enough to assure every player is on board for the same objective. You could say that it is much like the horns and sirens alerting the city of an oncoming tornado, where emergency crews, support teams, and families make the necessary preparations in order to secure well-being. The article I will be introducing is about two such hormone messengers, testosterone, and cortisol.
Since stress is such a profound issue in adolescence, let us just mention this first. As children develop toward independent and responsible adults, they will have to pass through a very difficult transition where their world is completely reframed. They understand their environment through the eyes of their parents. They emerge into a large society of many other individuals where they lack significance and meaningfulness beyond “who they are” as children of their parents. It is through their groups and select friends that they become unique as a separate entity, therefore more meaningful and significant. But these associations are not without bruises and bumps to their sprouting young ego. This is often where kids become more abrasive with others especially those in authority and challenge the important values they were taught from youth. It is important to understand that attitudes and actions are not motivated by a hurtful intention. It is a desperate attempt to become unique in a world of others; to be an individual and therefore to be special and meaningful. Sometimes, this may even mean having to reject everything and everyone they know close to them just to see what remains, which helps define “who they are”.
In order to better understand the magnitude of stress that a teenager faces, we must consider that they are experiencing significant changes in their own physical development and these changes impact their evolving self-regard through family, school, and social group dynamics.
When stress is experienced we are wired to prepare for some form of adaptive action. This means our minds and body need to fall back on a base level program in our DNA that is designed for survival in the face of potential threats. Through “perceived” dangers, our brain relates a message that the pituitary gland must amplify for “full alert” to the entire body. It releases a hormone trigger (ACTH) that quickly stirs the adrenal cortex (along the top of our kidneys) to send out the alert through cortisol.
High levels of cortisol produce a hyperactive sense of “fight or escape”. The body becomes completely dedicated at that point to return to a comfort balance, either through confrontation or avoidance.
Now we shift our spotlight to Testosterone. Yes, ladies, you have some of this stuff too. However, it usually is fed forward toward modification as an estrogen precursor. However, this topic is relevant to both genders.
Testosterone fuels our “stress prepared” body toward a direct action. It is aligned and in complete agreement with the cortisol signal, that is to return to a state of comfort. Therefore if there is an action which we may believe to be effective to restore comfort, then such an action is then presented to our “judgment command center” for consideration.
If the level of stress is high, the tentative action regardless of consequence is more likely to be chosen. If the choice leads to undesired consequences or punishment, then testosterone is postured to remove some of the stings from the hard consequences.
Now for the sake of clarity, consider the following example.
Let us say you were not responsible enough to prepare for a school final exam which was to be administered in class the next day. You were talking with one of your peers and discovered that it was going to be over half of your class grade. You were already fighting to keep your grades up in other classes and knew that a failing grade on the exam would mean you would fail the year. The cortisol would be broadcasting an alert throughout your body. You are feeling a sense of desperation and then think about ANY action to achieve a passing grade.
You believe you are honest and would never consider cheating. Then judgment gets an option which can likely restore balance. Testosterone sends a message. I do not believe in cheating…But..the stakes are high…it is only one time…what if…
Now, let’s look at how this all plays a part in behavior. Consider the following example:
A DECISION TO CHEAT
Let us say a youngster was not responsible enough to prepare for a school final exam which was to be administered in class the next day. While playing a game with one of his friends after school, he was reminded of the test and how the test counted over half of his class grade. He was an average student already, struggling to keep his grades up in his other classes. He began to dread, knowing that a failing grade on the exam would mean you would a fail for the year. Alarms begin to scream through his body. The cortisol would be broadcasting an alert throughout his entire system. A sense of desperation sets in and his mind begins to explore ANY action to achieve a passing grade.
He has good family values and knows the importance of honesty. He would never consider a decision to cheat on any test. But his judgment center receives a telegram and it provides an option which can likely restore the balance. Testosterone responds to soldier another telegram.
I do not believe in cheating…BUT..the stakes are very high…it is only one time…what if…
This is the mechanism. See how it played out?
In this example, the scenario did not result in an ethical choice when the cortisol was off the charts. However, if it were effectively minimized, it may have made an honest choice more likely. Translated in biological terms, preparing the child effectively for the challenge meant the child is less likely to perceive the task as highly stressful. Adequate preparation is likely to promote choices which are more ethically aligned and more responsible.
In terms of adolescence, it would be better to understand the stressors behind a child’s experience and provide the needed help to meet their challenges instead of addressing poor choices and coping behaviors. By aligning with their struggles, we can shoulder them and guide them more effectively. If we only pass judgment on their choices, we add to their wagon of stressors and then become part of the problem and not part of the solution. Ideal parenting is not just pointing out the right decisions in life, but helping kids steer away from poor choices through better coping skills.
No…I am not dying!..well, someday..but not now.
I appreciate you my readers, and the many guests visiting my site. Over the past few years, I have seen the numbers grow to nearly half a million views. It is very humbling. I believe it has much to do with the curiosity we share in defining who we are and how we behave. The social network has never been greater, and yet our identities have never been more blurred by interactive noise. I write mostly about what matters; what challenges our faith; what defines meaning in our lives. I choose my topics based on personal curiosities and public concerns voiced around me. I am a simple man and believe that the world, our culture and our own thoughts do not have to be as complex as we make it.
I will continue to write on matters which tend to derail from sober thought or topics that lack proper clarity. I live and learn like all people. I am happy to accept your companionship in this journey we share in life.
I am moving my site to another location: braindoctr.org
Feel free to pass by and sip of life with me. Drop me an email if so inclined.
I have not decided about this present site, but due to spam problems I may be closing it shortly. But I will forward posts from my new site soon. Thank you dear friends and guests.
It was before starting Medical School. I was working in the area of Cognitive Remediation for a facility in Texas. I trained on administering various Neurocognitive Assessment tools and the use of cognitive remediation equipment. I used a number of available tasks and devices to help clients address various cognition deficits and/ or sequelae from head injuries. That was when I learned about the A620, a novel instrument for EEG biofeedback for analysis and therapy.
A620 EEG BIOFEEDBACK
In order to move on to my discussion, let us just say that this device made it possible for clients to improve in their mental aptitude and skills by reflecting on their own brain activity, prompted by audio cues generated by the device which was connected to a pc computer. I would hook up the client to the computer program by two leads, a ground wire on the ear and probe wire on a particular area at the top of the head by a conductive gel. This allows the device to monitor a general EEG signal spectrum. The operator then sets up the device to filter for a particular frequency,. The device then provides an audio sound or feeds the computer a “moment-by-moment” reward score for an “attention” game or “reward” graphic. Now clients could play a simple computer game without using their hands. Just by “thinking” correctly, the client could earn points and therefore “learn to optimize focus”. It was rather brilliant. I had clients that were failing in subjects at their school that was able to begin making the high grade as clients improved their attention skills.
After setting up the machine, and mounting the probes to the client’s head, one can bring up a spectrum display as seen above. It is through the initial set-up that one can choose a target frequency (e.g. Beta, concentration) for reward points. When the device is set to filter beta, the brainwaves for concentration, as the client concentrates, the computer beeps and gives reward points; the higher the score, the greater the percentage of time spent concentrating.
What waveforms show up when we pray?
One Friday evening after seeing my last client, I was about to close up the office. Then I began to think about how brain activity changes under different conditions. I began to think about prayer and how it was much different from other routine daily activities. My, curiosity had me in a corner. The more I wondered, the more curious I became. I decided to take this unique opportunity and find out for myself. After hooking myself up to the device and after calibrating the machine for a broad-spectrum view, I determined that I would have 3 goal activity conditions.
1) 20 minutes of reading
2) 20 minutes of Math problems
3) 20 minutes of Praying
This was not the correct way to run an experimental design and the validity would be lacking since I was the only control. Nevertheless, if I had just a chance to just “peek in the box” of what happens when we pray, how could I just pass this chance up? Well, after a disruption-free hour, and completing each phase I ran the analysis. The reading phase revealed what I expected. There was some artifact but the strongest activity was around the beta level, mixed with Alpha (typical for ADHD). The Math phase seemed almost the same, but with much more alpha across the spectrum (always a hard subject for me to focus on). But as for the Prayer phase, what I discovered was far more than I expected. I had thought that prayer was mostly about concentrating, and therefore the beta wave was going to be the highest activity mixed with alpha waves. But No. What I found was two distinct patterns occurring at the same time, with minimal artifact. They were cleaner than the waveforms observed in the other conditions. But equally astonishing was the fact that these separate waves (Theta and Beta), were triple the amplitude of the other conditions! I felt a chill up my spine. What could this mean? I cleaned up the setting and left for home. I had some research to do.
Meditating like a re-chewing
So, beta waves are generated under concentration conditions. Theta waves occur in meditative states or when experiencing one a hypnotic trance. Was I inducing some form of trance when I prayed? I went to the scriptures and found a verse. “On thy law do I meditate (psalms)”. I explored the Hebrew meaning of this word “meditate”. It was a word to related to cattle, ; the groans or low “moo” sounds the cow makes, like chanting to oneself;, and also related to the activity of a cow bringing up consumed foods, re-chewing its cud. That was fascinating! Bringing up something again, recalling, and remembering while concentrating.
Prayer is Unique
If thy brother has a matter against you…
When I returned to the office, I shared with one therapist about my experiment. He shared something with me that I was unaware. He told me that patients who were in a state of theta often broke into tears and relate the pains and traumas they have experienced years prior. He shared that theta allows for repressed memories to surface into our conscious mind. It was so well founded, that some therapist was trying to get their patients in a state of theta in order to shorten the duration of therapy since it helps break through defenses.
Then it came to my mind something I had read in the bible.
“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift..”(Matt 5:23,24)
Instrumentally, prayer is not only recalling the “experience of God”, but it likely permits bitterness, hurts and pains to surface into our conscious mind. If such burdens are then addressed, it would surely bring more peace. It is almost as if prayer invites a sort of a mobile psychotherapist waiting to give counsel. There is a verse for that as well.
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But the man of understanding will draw it out (Prov 20:5)”
Designed to Pray
Now I still had one more matter, which required attention. Granted, two perfect wave signatures from theta and beta is incredible, but why would these waveforms occur at three times the amplitude? Aligned with the scientific approach, one has to admit the possibility that I was “practiced at prayer”. Yes, I learned to pray at an early age and grew up in a conservative, Christian home. But if I may speculate, I believe that this was not the full explanation. I believe the reason why prayer spiked in this magnitude of power is that “we are designed to pray”. Just like comparing a paper towel tube to a brass trumpet for producing music. Both items can produce sounds, but only the trumpet is designed for the music I intended to produce with the clean, pleasing song I desired. If we are designed to pray, then we are tuned for it; we were made for it. After all, Jesus himself, the second Adam and model of our humanity considered prayer as a vital part of living. So, it is an activity for us not to neglect. “In this manner therefore pray..(Matt 6:9)”. The article below prompted me to recall and write my thoughts on this matter of prayer. Prayer is a personal activity, and I believe there are particular neurological pathways involved. As we are spiritual beings housed in imperfect physiology, I believe the soft and hard wiring can overlap in some pathological conditions. But as a vehicle or channel of Gods revelation, we have a choice to either align with our God in discovering more about him or stand on the sidelines and avoid the experience of knowing God. However, as the fish cannot describe the watery environment separately from where it resides, one cannot describe the activity of God without some grasp that the first does exist and is involved in the discovery of Him. Enjoy!
The words from my title were lifted from a Shakespeare Sonnet, and they orbit the issue I wish to share today. But in order to set the stage, consider this true story from my history.
I was about thirteen years of age, checking on what my mom was preparing for dinner when there was a sudden desperate knock at our front door. I skipped down the stairs and opened it to find a neighbor’s daughter, a little older than me. She seemed urgent with a message that she wanted to share. “Are your parents home?”, she asked with a very desperate tension in her face. “Yes”, my mom answered as she stepped quickly behind me.
The girl continued with a rapid, pressured speech, “one of your boys was hit by a vehicle about four blocks away while he was riding a bike!” My mother let out a shout to my father, and quickly they were racing for the car to rush to the accident. “Which boy was it?”, they asked as they jumped into the car. “It is one of the older twins”.
“It was Craig, my twin brother”, I exclaimed as I flipped a leg over my bike, ready to race to my brother.
“Stop”, yelled my dad from the driver’s side window. “Stay here, and do not take your bike anywhere!”, he ordered. I watched the neighbor jump into the back seat and with a slam of the car door, my parents sped away down the county road. I did not know what to think, but somehow I just knew he would be fine.
Later my parents returned briefly with only a few words, as a next-door neighbor agreed to sit with us, my two younger brothers my sister and me. But before they headed off to the hospital I blurted out, without any doubts in my mind, “check his right leg, he has a bruise there”
My brother had to stay in the hospital overnight while some tests were carried out. He was conscious, and according to my parents, “he was lucky to be doing so well”. Then my parents asked me, “How did you know he had a bruise on his right leg? Did you go see him after we told you to stay at home?
“No”, I answered, ” I stayed home like you told me. I don’t know how I knew. I just knew”.
For me, it was just a fact. My twin brother and I have always been close. Often, we finished each other’s sentences. People were always confused about telling us apart. We laughed and talked the same. It was only over a course of years before we developed personal tastes and carved out a clearer distinction of habits.
I have revisited this event countless times, trying to unravel the mystery of my certain knowledge of my brother’s condition. There have been a few times since then, when I had a particular sense of his environment, though many miles away.
On one such occasion, I was spending time with a friend in Texas, walking around a mall when I stopped and turned to her and said, “My brother is at a ball game right now”. She would just look at me with a puzzled expression, and said, “Okay, so he said he was going to a ball game today?”. I replied, “No, I just sensed the crowd and the smell of snacks in the air”. Later, I found this was truly the case. He had never shared this with me, and he rarely attended games. But when I had the chance later, I called to ask him, and he had confirmed my suspicion.
There have been many stories along with a similar theme popularized by those claiming to have “Psychic Powers”. I have never felt there was enough validity in the “circumstantial evidence” of such “after the fact stories”. However, I could not explain this issue; I had no answers, even from my academic and professional education and experience as a Psychiatrist.
The nearest explanation I could come up with is through an article I had read once about particular moths that could pick out a specific mate over 1000 miles away from their location, just by their “smell like sense organs”. I was not sure about this study, but it was the only nearest explanation I had to a theoretical framework. So maybe, our primary senses are acuter and finely tuned than what we have yet discovered. It seemed too illogical to believe in the fuzzy pseudoscience of a psychic phenomenon.
This brings me to the point of this article, with which I would like to share. I read a fairly recent study about an interesting topic known as “brain-to-brain interfaces” (BBIs). Here is an excerpt.
” A TMS device creates a magnetic field over the scalp, which then causes an electrical current in the brain. When a TMS coil is placed over the motor cortex, the motor pathways can be activated, resulting in movement of a limb, hand or foot, or even a finger or toe…”
“..We now know that BBIs can work between humans too. By combining EEG and TMS, scientists have transmitted the thought of moving a hand from one person to a separate individual, who actually moved their hand. The BBI works best when both participants are conscious cooperators in the experiment. In this case, the subjects were engaged in a computer game).
“..The latest advance in human BBIs represents another leap forward. This is where transmission of conscious thought was achieved between two human beings in August last year. Using a combination of technologies – including EEG, the Internet and TMS – the team of researchers was able to transmit a thought all the way from India to France. Words were first coded into binary notation (i.e. 1 = “hola”; 0 = “ciao”). Then the resulting EEG signal from the person thinking the 1 or the 0 was transmitted to a robot-driven TMS device positioned over the visual cortex of the receiver’s brain. In this case, the TMS pulses resulted in the perception of flashes of light for the receiver, who was then able to decode this information into the original words (hola or ciao)”.
Sounds like a something Hollywood dreamed up, doesn’t it?
So not only could thoughts be transmitted under experimental conditions, so could actions, even to the point of controlling the behavior of animals.
“..that a human could control the tail movements of a rat via BBIs”
What this article presents is how one subject in a remote location can directly influence the actions of another subject in a different location through changes in thought content. This seems too incredible to believe. Yet, because we all share some structural similarities within our brains, I can see how this can actually be plausible. First, we need to consider what we know of “mirroring neurons”.
“..Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observe in primate species.4
“..In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.6
One way to address this issue is to consider what is common to all of us, which already influences us beyond our “active knowing”. A case example can be understood in the context of yawning. If we are around others who begin to yawn, before long we began to yawn. The same is true for laughter. If we are around others who are laughing, it becomes contagious. Others will start to giggle and laugh, just due to the presence of someone laughing. Such a design is important for us socially, though explanations are lacking.
So, if we have a similar foundational and interactive framework, isn’t feasible that thoughts could be conveyed to another person, especially those more similar or familiar to us, under the right conditions, having a very common reference point? On a more spiritual plane, how much does this finding play a part in our prayer lives? When that loved one is suddenly dealing with a trauma, how often do we find ourselves “thinking of them” and feel the need to pray for them without knowing why? Since I believe we were designed as social and spiritual beings, does it not make sense that such a mechanism must be in place? Maybe we need to rethink those moments and reach out to them when this happens. Maybe that is the optimal act of good to perform, given this design. After all, we are designed for more than we understand and we do have a great designer.
This study stirs up many questions for me about the implications and utility awaiting us. It may also serve great potential for promoting skill set learning, as well as providing more effective means for a therapeutic alliance, which is yet to be revealed. We live in such an incredible era!
Pleasant thoughts coming your way, dear reader. (Can you sense it?)
Lying affects the way we write
different from the regularity of the strokes when writing the truth.Differences in duration, space and pressure were also found in false writing. The researchers were also able to divide the types of handwriting into more distinct profiles (very small or large handwriting, etc.) and to find other more substantial differences associated with each writing profile.
According to the researchers, when a person writes something false, cognitive load is created in the brain
and this load creates competing demands for resources in the brain, such that operations that we usually perform automatically, like writing, are affected. They added that the current study found that false
medical information in “laboratory conditions” creates cognitive load that enables the computer system to identify changes in handwriting, and it can be assumed that in a natural situation, together with the need to lie to the doctor, the cognitive load would be even greater.
Here is an interesting article on clues about lying.
How To Tell If Someone Is Lying: The Tell-Tale Signs
- TV shows and folk wisdom have suggested commonly held beliefs for spotting lairs, but the truth is they’re not always accurate
- A liar will tend to give too much information and they often struggle to
repeat their original performance if asked to recount the events in
- liars tend to avoid “I” statements and use third-person pronouns like “he” and “she” instead.
- people who are speaking honestly will maintain eye contact for about 60 percent of a conversation. When one lies, they work at keeping eye contact
- so as to appear honest.
- A lliar will often engage in more eye contact without much blinking.
- Liars will subconsciously point their feet towards the exit of the room.
- A smile often surfaces from the liar when they think they’ve successfully deceived you.
- Often they nod their head while denying or shake their head while agreeing.
By braindocPage with highlights – http://getliner.com/uGmJ7
Original page – http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/how-tell-if-someone-lying-tell-tale-signs-327998
Women: A Man’s finer Points
I have recently read an article that underscores predisposing components for behavioural tendencies which starts in utero. What this article states is how testosterone in the development of the foetus plays a very significant role in adults. In females, there does not seem to be a great deal of influence. However, numerous studies seem to consistently show that the behavioural tendencies of men are correlated with the level of testosterone.
The article also states that the influence of testosterone in utero also contributes to the finger length as well.
This is not the first time I have seen articles about finger length and testosterone levels in utero. But what was interesting was how this article used a ratio of the 2nd and 4rth digits for classification.
In other words, if the index finger and ring finger is close in length, then the level of testosterone was appropriately supplied in utero.
Having appropriate levels also seem to contribute to a more agreeable constitution as well ( as represented in the study).
For example, a male having a narrow ratio with the Index to ring finger seems to indicate he would be less argumentative with his female counterpart as well as with women in general. In fact, he would more likely to be a good listener and interact well with children. Sounds like a “handy” thing to know, doesn’t it? So, Have I stirred your interest? Enjoy the article below.
A video related to this topic can be found here:
PUBLIC RELEASE: 18-FEB-2015
Can you judge a man by his fingers?
Study finds link between relative lengths of index and ring fingers in men and behavior towards women
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This news release is available in French.
Maybe you should take a good look at your partner’s fingers before putting a ring on one. Men with short index fingers and long ring fingers are on average nicer towards women, and this unexpected phenomenon stems from the hormones these men have been exposed to in their mother’s womb, according to a new study by researchers at McGill University. The findings might help explain why these men tend to have more children. The study, showing a link between a biological event in fetal life and adult behaviour, was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
Men’s index fingers are generally shorter than their ring fingers. The difference is less pronounced in women. Previous research has found that digit ratio – defined as the second digit length divided by the fourth digit length – is an indication of the amount of male hormones, chiefly testosterone, someone has been exposed to as a fetus: the smaller the ratio, the more male hormones. The McGill study suggests that this has an impact on how adult men behave, especially with women.
“It is fascinating to see that moderate variations of hormones before birth can actually influence adult behaviour in a selective way,” says Simon Young, a McGill Emeritus Professor in Psychiatry and coauthor of the study.
Smiles and compliments
Several studies have been conducted previously to try to assess the impact of digit ratio on adult behaviour. This one is the first to highlight how finger lengths affect behaviour differently depending on the sex of the person you are interacting with. “When with women, men with smaller ratios were more likely to listen attentively, smile and laugh, compromise or compliment the other person,” says Debbie Moskowitz, lead author and Professor of Psychology at McGill. They acted that way in sexual relationships, but also with female friends or colleagues. These men were also less quarrelsome with women than with men, whereas the men with larger ratios were equally quarrelsome with both. For women though, digit ratio variation did not seem to predict how they behaved, the researchers report.
Digit ratio and children
For 20 days, 155 participants in the study filled out forms for every social interaction that lasted 5 minutes or more, and checked off a list of behaviours they engaged in. Based on prior work, the scientists classified the behaviours as agreeable or quarrelsome. Men with small digit ratios reported approximately a third more agreeable behaviours and approximately a third fewer quarrelsome behaviours than men with large digit ratios.
A previous study had found that men with smaller digit ratios have more children. “Our research suggests they have more harmonious relationships with women; these behaviors support the formation and maintenance of relationships with women,” Moskowitz says. “This might explain why they have more children on average.”
The researchers were surprised to find no statistically relevant link between dominant behaviours and digit ratios. They suggest future research could study specific situations where male dominance varies – such as competitive situations with other men – to see whether a correlation can be established.
This study was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – Canada.
“Fetal exposure to androgens, as indicated by digit ratios (2D:4D), increases men’s agreeableness with women” D.S. Moskowitz, Rachel Sutton, David C. Zuroff, Simon N. Young, Personality and Individual Differences, March 2015 (available online 27 November 2014) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914006400
Bonds of Friendship : Life Lessons from Chemistry
I have always enjoyed the sciences, especially the study of chemistry. Chemistry helps one to understand the interactions of matter down to the smallest particle. When I enrolled in my first class, I had much trouble grasping some of the basic concepts as a visual minded individual, especially the whole discussion of “mole”. For all of you who do not know this term, it deals with the mass of elements, given 1 x 10 ^23 units. It is like when you wish to compare apples and oranges, except in dealing with atoms you need to convert to another scale than pounds or kilogram. If you could go to the “ATOMIC STORE” and wish to buy a bag of zinc, it would not come in the same size bag as helium. So, given a standard weight of reference, one is looking for how many apples weigh as much as ten oranges. It is an over simplification but allow me to get to my topic.
Ok, so as I was saying, I am very visual in my thinking. Most of the students in my class would schedule to see the professor after class with their questions written on a sheet of paper. But for me to grasp concepts I often took a marble model of the molecule in question and ask the teacher to reassemble the solutions to a problem for me. It helped me to ‘really understand’ the workings of a reaction.
Given this tendency to visualize chemistry problems has been an asset to me in applying metaphors to other disciples. If there is one thing I have seen over my years of study, it is that the “truth in a discipline”, seems congruent to the “truth held” in other disciplines. Visual models help me to grasp truths more effectively, especially in social sciences. Now to the point of this blog, I wish to introduce a very interesting chemistry concept that can be very helpful to those who ever suffered losses in their life.
On stage the curtain is pulled back. Let us give a warm welcome to a “lipid molecule (people often just call him ‘fat’).”
You will notice many repeating patterns in a lipid molecule. It has what is called a “carbon backbone” like many organic molecules in our world. But what I wish to point out is that you will notice a large set of Hydrogen molecules (white) hugging the carbons (black) in the chain.
These chains stay together by charges, known as bonds. The positive charges of hydrogen share fields with available negatively charged carbons. When two or more different chains sit close together, side by side, they will try to repel each other. Maybe now, you can probably then understand why oils are slippery. The positive bonded charges of the hydrogen atom of one lipid molecule tries to move away from the hydrogen atom of another lipid molecule close to it. You probably heard somewhere that “opposites attract and same repel”.
So, maybe it then makes sense. Lipids (or fats) in compact spaces tend to push each other away…meaning less friction..meaning it can be quite slippery. Knowing this, you can probably think of other substances that you found slippery. So do you think slippery substances have similar properties? Yes, in fact they do; whether it is a drop of oil for a hinge or a banana peel that makes an actor slip for a good laugh.
There is great lesson we can grasp through their “structural behavior” when a small piece is removed (e.g. a hydrogen atom is removed). The loss of hydrogen from paired carbon makes that empty carbon more negatively charged. This often results in two carbons sharing a neighboring hydrogen, like two boys dating the same girl.
Now instead of a single bond, the affected carbons create a double bond. Structurally, this makes the molecule more reactive to the environment. After all, the girl that is dating two boys at the same time, can more easily leave them both. In order for the whole molecule to become more stable, their will usually rotate slightly down the whole chain of carbons, permitting as much equal sharing to balance out the ionic shift.
Now in contrast, enter Salt. He is often called sodium chloride, like the table salt your use to season your food.
Notice, there are just two parts, a sodium atom and a chloride atom. What is very different here is there are not any other competitions happening for the bond they uniquely have. Usually a medium has to be available for them to let go of each other. This is what happens as it dissolves in water. The water (H2O) ,as a medium becomes aligned in ways that react with chloride and sodium, coming between them to disassociate.
Now outside of a medium change, it would be very difficult to break the bond of salt. However, if sodium and chloride get separated without a stable medium, something very significant takes place. Both sodium and chloride become very unstable and search desperately to be united with anything, if not each other. These are radicals.
Now an unpaired Chloride would seek other Chloride atoms for stability. This ultimately results in Chloride gas; a poisonous and toxic gas.
The Sodium, on the other hand becomes flammable and has the capacity to burn a hole through carpet!
Ok, what profound truth can we extract from this? We are all just like molecules, with bonds like relationships. Some people have only a few relationships like salt; those with whom they share memories, experiences and events. Living life without significant companions to reciprocate, may leave us more vulnerable to stress and ‘radical’ perspective after loss. It is much more likely to become reactive and may contribute to an emotional imbalance when an only friend or partner is unexpectedly lost.
A unique Reality that two isolated partners share exclusively can be dramatically altered after a loss of a partner and in such circumstances a survived partner may not be able to function in their daily activities.
In fact, the survived ones identity may be essentially lost, until a limited strategy (despite its logical merit) can be employed in order to go on.
Some people have a large number of people they share experiences . Such people tend to always have bonds with others and share on deeper levels, or on many levels with others. They are often a part of either a large family, a club, a church or community, or may have been raised with a community mindset. Such people are best equipped to share the loss they experience with others with whom they are intimately familiar. They can access the sympathy from others, and later when a similar loss is experienced by a close friend, the bond can be further reinforced by empathy instead of sympathy.
As joys and sorrows come their way, it is the company of established, mutually regarded companions that permit strength to face life’s unexpected challenges optimally.
Now you may see a parallel here between the loss of ionic bonds in chemistry to loss which may occurs socially; as a lost relationship. How one deals with a lost family member or partner in life have much to do with how well that loss can be shared with others. Culturing quality relationships, sharing favorable experiences with others, making good memories with others of similar core values, all strengthen bonds of your relationships. When anyone shares a bond with another then life’s challenges take on a different impact.
One writer once put it , ” friendship halves our sorrow and doubles our joy”. It brings more meaningfulness and stability to endure the unexpected hardships in our lives. Take the time to invest in your friendships. It is an investment you can not effectively live without.