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Oh PETA, oh PETA, with your naked protests and fake blood and…sea kittens. You mean well, but you come across as so…strange. There are better ways to draw attention to the plight of animals, and to encourage vegetarianism.
Most of your protests seem to be something more along the lines of trench warfare, getting down and dirty in crafting your next move. You tend to go for the shock value, trying to get at people’s guts rather than their hearts, with some success. I can’t deny, many a vegetarian has been created after visiting your website or watching your protests. Nothing wrong with creating vegetarians, most became vegetarian after learning about the violent nature of the meat and poultry industry, and depriving the industry of that insatiable demand for meat (and I suppose fur and other animal-derived products) is the best way to reduce these practices. Yet you haven’t shied away from using violent (throwing fake blood at people wearing furs) and underhanded methods in expressing your discontent with the industry as a whole, which seems to defeat the purpose of PETA. People are, after all, animals too.
I think what set me off is this article from Newsday, about a PETA protest at an elementary school in Hempstead, a town on Long Island. It’s one thing to target adults, who are at a point in their lives where they have the ability to grapple with the (often horrifying) details of animal mistreatment. It’s another thing to target young children, who are still vulnerable and cannot necessarily handle all those realities. What a way to target them too! Protesters dressed up as circus animals and handed out coloring books entitled “Circuses are not fun for animals.” Seriously PETA? Do you know what the ramifications are of that? These kids are young, they can’t logically say “oh I won’t go to the circus because they mistreat animals” and not run through the other, dizzying possibilities that exist, real or imagined. Let kids have their childhood, leave it to the adults to initiate change…since they are in a better position to do that than the kids are. I’m surprised PETA hasn’t gone around to school cafeterias dressed up as farm animals with propaganda to inform kids that their hamburgers and hot dogs didn’t come from a quaint, little farm.
There are better ways to inform our children that what they think they know about animals in their day to day lives may not be what it seems. Why scare them, especially at such a young age? That is incredibly irresponsible. Please, if you’re not going to tone down the nature of your protests, at least keep them away from children. Leave it to their parents and teachers to choose whether to tell them or not, and how to tell them.
I should probably start out by saying I’m not entirely sure what to make of the readiness with which doctors prescribe a pill for anything and everything. This is mostly based on my observations and what I’ve heard. I’m not a doctor (though I want to be) and I’m trying to understand this as best as I can given my relative lack of medical knowledge. Yet my gut instinct is to say that doctors are all too willing to find a condition to fit a pill, or a pill to fit a condition (and for everything else, an antibiotic). This seems to especially be the case with psychiatric conditions. Everyone that’s depressed seems to be prescribed pills. I concede that are some that legitimately need medication in order to function, but for the vast majority, it seems unnecessary.
I’m going to stick with antidepressant/stimulant meds for this one. Fibromyalgia and antibiotics deserve their own post.
Humans are programmed to experience fear, because fear is a useful response to noxious stimuli. Yet, there are those fears that are more irrational that others.
I suffer from ligyrophobia. Ligyrophobia is defined as the irrational fear of loud noises. Balloons popping, fireworks, thunder, explosions, dogs barking, and (even at one time) vacuum cleaners used to scare me beyond words. Of course, now it’s greatly improved for the most part. It may seem silly, being scared of loud noises, and it is. I’ll be the first to admit it. My mother blames it on the fact that she went into labor when a car backfired right next to her. I’m not too sure about that, but there is something to be said for traumatic events setting one up for a lifetime of phobias.
The suffix “phobia” itself derives from the Greek, meaning “fear.” A host of prefixes can be attached that denote the specific fear. Agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces (or conversely, leaving one’s home), agora referring to the ancient Greek, open-air marketplace. Arachnophobia is a fear of spiders. The list goes on, with some of the fears being especially off-beat. Fear of hippos. Fear of wrists. My personal favorite is fear of peanut butter getting stuck to the roof of your mouth. Arachibutyrophobia. Try saying that ten times fast.
Emotional memories, especially fears, are generally encoded in the amygdala. The amygdala (from the Latin for “almond” because of its shape) sits in the middle of the brain, and is also encircled by the hippocampus, another important memory-related structure. Yet it is interesting because fear itself is not totally dependent on memory, per se. In an experiment conducted during the turn of the 20th century, it was observed that in a Korsakoff’s patient, pricking her hand would result in her being less likely to shake the researcher’s hand, but she couldn’t pinpoint why that was the case. In Joseph LeDoux’s lab at NYU, rats who were conditioned to associate a 30 second tone with a small shock to the foot. Eventually, rats would freeze and/or display other typical fear responses to the tone alone. Some rats were given amygdalar lesions and lost the conditioned response that they had to the tone, and reacted as though there was no association at all. The response to shock, though, was unchanged.
The amygdala is hardwired to pair variables together, usually sights, smells, sounds, and certain touches to events, positive and negative. Perhaps in phobias, there is a a tendency to overextend and associate seemingly innocuous objects with a negative response. fMRI studies have confirmed the link between amygdalar activation and phobic responses in humans (in this case, with arachnophobes).
So is there a way to really cure phobias? Not really anything much more than strength of will and perhaps therapy. Some fears are easier to overcome than others. It has taken me years to get over some of mine, but will probably take many more to get over it completely. For me, ligyrophobia is something I have had for as long as I can remember. Getting rid of something so rooted in your psyche is a challenge, a challenge which I don’t mind taking. It helps a little, to know the biological underpinnings for why we fear, it makes fear less nebulous and more conquerable. It also helps to have a strong support system, friends, family, and loved ones usually make any task a lot easier.
“There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” Franklin D. Roosevelt once said. Certainly misplaced fears should be avoided, but I don’t think there we should ever attempt to fear nothing, because fear is after all a much-needed survival response. Some spiders, sharks, lightning (at least, close-range), and other things are obviously dangerous, and should be feared and avoided to a degree. I think Ellen DeGeneres summarized this and other points in one of her monologues the best, and I’ll leave you with that.
We all dream. In fact, over a lifetime, we spend about six years dreaming. Six years! Imagine what you could do over six years of your life.
So my question is, should dreams be treated solely as the product of neurotransmitters and REM during sleep? Or should they be interpreted as something deeper, steeped with meaning? For someone like me, who is both an aspiring doctor with a fondness for neuroscience and a deeply spiritual person who deals in the abstract, it’s a bit of a debate.
Neuroscience hasn’t gotten around to providing a concrete biological definition of dreaming, but there are theories being thrown around. This is the best summary I can come up with:
During sleep, your brain goes through periods called rapid eye movement (REM), where (if one were to do an EEG) the resulting brain waves during those periods look remarkably similar to those from wakefulness. Scientists have postulated that several neurotransmitters are involved in creating the dream state, while a host of others are suppressed. The result is a situation similar to wakefulness, but also a state of virtual paralysis so as to prevent the sleeper from acting out the motions in his or her dreams. Curiously enough, a chemical called dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is suspected to have a large role in creating the dream state. Among other things, it is a psychedelic agent. Need I say more?
Yet of course, there are others who treat dreams differently. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung published numerous case studies where they analyzed patients’ dreams. They, as well as several psychologists downstream, held that dreams reflected the interplay between the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious allowed thoughts inaccessible to the conscious to bubble to the surface during dreams. Dreams, therefore, could be interpreted to get at the underlying emotions.
So who’s right? The neuroscientists or the psychologists? I’d like to think both are right.
Yet interpreting dreams is an inexact science that is open to many, often wrong, interpretations. Is it really worth it? Sometimes it helps to give some degree of closure or clarity, since dreams have a tendency to just be downright strange, if not emotionally charged. That’s of course, if you can get at an interpretation that achieves that end.
Then there are the prophetic dreams. Some say they’re religious experiences, some say they’re random events. Others argue it’s the brain putting 2 and 2 together into some logical conclusion that turns out to be right in real life. I, however, am not sure. I’ve had a few of these, and I can’t describe them any other way other than inexplicable.
Why do some people experience dreams differently from others? I have talked to my friends about my dreams, and find that among many of my friends, I tend to have very vivid dreams replete with the whole range of sensory experiences: color, touch, smell, sound…heck sometimes music. Others I know tend to have consistently bizarre, and often humorous dreams. Others still have violent dreams. Perhaps it’s a function of our individuality, including how we deal with experiences that we may have had in our day to day activities that have since sunk into our subconscious.
So will we ever solve why we have dreams, and how to deal with them? Probably not, but what say you, the reader? How do you deal with dreams? Any interesting ones?