JBMTI Blog

The Jean Baker Miller Training Institute is proud to welcome you to the JBMTI Blog! Our hope is to create a place where the JBMTI community can visit often to check out the latest news on Relational-Cultural Theory practitioners, events, applications, and inspirations.

Please feel free to send us any ideas for posts to jbmti@wellesley.edu.

Recent blog posts

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boy in front of chalkboardResearch has found that boys can connect emotionally with others at a very deep level—we just have to make it safe for them to do so.

At a recent workshop I gave, a man raised his hand to tell me that his discussion partner had to “talk him down off the cliff” because he wasn’t able to feel compassion during a compassion-inducing exercise I had just led everyone through. He wondered if, as a man, his capacity for compassion was limited.

This experience spoke to me of the tragedy in our society that labels men as unable to feel or connect to the same degree that women can. And that maturity in men means emotional stoicism, autonomy, and self-sufficiency—a lonely existence, for sure, particularly as research time and again shows we all need human connection to thrive.

Yet scientists are discovering that what society says about men’s (and boys’) social and emotional abilities is simply not true, and that cultivating their natural capacity for emotional attunement and relationships is critical to their overall well-being. But we can’t wait till they’re men to do so—we need to start when they’re young. ( -excerpt from GreaterGood.com 12/1/14 post by Vicki Zakrewski)

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teenagers-talking-serious-bigst1.jpgJulie Fast’s friend went to the hospital for a terrible colitis attack. "It was so serious they sent her straight to the ER." After reviewing her medical records and seeing that her friend was taking an antidepressant, the intake nurse said, "Maybe this is all in your head."

When it comes to mental illness, people say the darnedest things. As illustrated above, even medical staff can make incredibly insensitive and downright despicable remarks.

Others think teasing is okay.

Fast, a coach who works with partners and families of people with bipolar disorder, has heard stories of people getting teased at work. One client’s son works at the vegetable department of a grocery store. He has obsessive-compulsive disorder and poor social skills. When his symptoms flare up, his coworkers will ask questions like, "Why do the labels have to be so perfect? Why do they have to be in line like that?" They’ve also teased him about being in a psychiatric facility.

But most people — hopefully — know that being an outright jerk to someone about their mental illness isn’t just inappropriate and ignorant. It’s cruel.

Yet there are moments when even neutral words may be misconstrued, because the person is in a vulnerable place, according to F. Diane Barth, LCSW, a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. “The truth is that it can be complicated to find the right comment to make to someone who is struggling with emotional difficulties.”

This is why it’s so important to educate yourself about helpful things to say. In fact, Fast, author of several bestselling books on bipolar disorder, including Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, believes that we have to be taught what to say. "It’s not innate at all to help someone who has a mental illness."

So what makes an insensitive remark? According to clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D, "The problems happen when people make statements that imply that mental illness is a sign of emotional weakness, it’s something that can be quickly overcome with some trite homespun advice or they minimize it as a minor issue you can just get over." (-excerpt from Margarita Tartakoysky, M.S.'s recent PsychCentral post).

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braininconnectionBeing shown pictures of others being loved and cared for reduces the brain's response to threat, new research from the University of Exeter has found.

The study discovered that when individuals are briefly presented pictures of others receiving emotional support and affection, the brain's threat monitor, the amygdala, subsequently does not respond to images showing threatening facial expressions or words. This occurred even if the person was not paying attention to the content of the first pictures.

Forty-two healthy individuals participated in the study, in which researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brain response.

The study, published this week in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, suggests that being reminded of being loved and cared for dampens the threat response and may allow more effective functioning during, and activation of soothing resources after, stressful situations. This was particularly true for more anxious individuals.

Previously, research has shown that brain responses to pain are reduced by similar reminders of being loved and cared for, but this is the first time the same has been shown for brain responses to threat.

Dr Anke Karl of Psychology at the University of Exeter, senior researcher of the study, said: "A number of mental health conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are characterized by hypervigilance to threatening information, which is associated with excessive negative emotional responses, amygdala activation and a restricted ability to regulate these emotions and self-sooth. These new research findings may help to explain why, for example, successful recovery from psychological trauma is highly associated with levels of perceived social support individuals receive. We are now building on these findings to refine existing treatments for PTSD to boost feelings of being safe and supported in order to improve coping with traumatic memories."

Following these results, researchers at the University of Exeter are also running research studies measuring body (heart rate, sweat response) and brain (electrical brain waves measured by EEG) responses to understand related mechanisms in different populations such as highly self-critical individuals, individuals with depression and survivors of psychological trauma such as severe car accidents, assaults and natural disasters. (Story originally posted on www.sciencedaily.com, 11/7/14)

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Amybookquote
 

Forthcoming from Penguin Random House (February 2015)

Advance orders via Amazon

Research shows that people cannot reach their full potential unless they are in healthy connection with others. Dr. Amy Banks teaches us how to rewire our brains for healthier relationships and happier, more fulfilling lives.

We all experience moments when we feel isolated and alone. A 2006 Purdue University study found that twenty-five percent of Americans cannot name a single person they feel close to. Yet every single one of us is hardwired for close relationships. The key to more satisfying relationships—be it with a significant other, family member, or colleague—is to strengthen the neural pathways in our brains that encourage closeness and connection.

There are four distinct neural pathways that correspond to the four most important ingredients for healthy and satisfying relationships: calmness, acceptance, emotional resonance, and energy. This groundbreaking book gives readers the tools they need to strengthen the parts of their brain that encourage connection and to heal the neural damage that disconnection can cause.

AMY BANKS, M.D. has devoted her career to understanding the neurobiology of relationships. In addition to being the Director of Advanced Training at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Wellesley Centers for Women, she was an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. She is the first person to bring relational-cultural theory together with neuroscience and is the foremost expert in the combined field. She has a private practice in Lexington, Massachusetts, which specializes in relational psychopharmacology and therapy for people who suffer from chronic disconnection.

Leigh Ann Hirschman is a bestselling nonfiction writer who specializes in psychology, parenting, and health.

In the three days since Hollaback’s exposé on New York City’s street harassment epidemic went viral, the video—in which we see men ceaselessly approach a young woman with a hidden microphone and camera as she strolls around the city for 10 hours—has generated a lively conversation. Some men, in their first reaction, questioned the video’s loose definition of the term “harassment”—many arguing that a semi-cordial “good morning” isn’t comparable to stalking a woman for five minutes, as we watch one man do in the video. Then, Wednesday, as the video reached more eyes, some people—including Slate’s Hanna Rosin—noted another potential flaw: Hollaback edited out nearly all the white male catcallers. “The video also unintentionally makes another point,” Rosin writes, “that harassers are mostly black and Latino, and hanging out on the streets in midday in clothes that suggest they are not on their lunch break.”

In a statement explaining the absence of white guys in the video, Rob Bliss of Rob Bliss Creative, the firm that partnered with Hollaback on the video, said, “We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing or off camera.” I’d bet this is because, as Bliss gets at in his quote, white men, on average, don’t catcall in the same way that men of color do—and oftentimes, as I’ve learned, they don’t do it at all.

That, of course, is not to say that white men don’t have their own predatory nature—one that is expressed in ways unique to their privilege. As we know from countless court cases, it’s not that white men don’t hassle women (or rich white men, as Joyce Carol Oates implied this week in a tone-deaf tweet), it’s that they do it in a different way. (-excerpt from Dee Lockett on Slate.com's XX Factor, 10/31/14)

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GlobalTop10It will take 81 years for the worldwide gender gap to close if progress continues at the current rate, according to the latest report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Women currently have 60% of the standing of men worldwide - just four percentage points up on 2006 when WEF started the report measuring female economic participation, education, health and political involvement.

A gender gap is not necessarily a measurement of women’s quality of life in general, for example issues like abortion are likely to be excluded, it is about measuring the gap in various sectors of society between men and women.

Not one country has closed its overall gender gap since 2006 but all five of the Nordic countries have closed more than 80% of it and they now sit at the top of the rankings. Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4) are now followed by Denmark which rose three places to fifth this year.

Nicaragua went up by four places to sixth, while Rwanda came into the rankings for the first time at seventh. Ten countries from Latin America made the top 50, although there were significant declines for both Brazil and Mexico, and sub-Saharan Africa registered three in the top 20.

In terms of the metrics the global gender gap is at its least severe in health and survival (96%) followed by educational attainment (94%). The gap for political empowerment is the worst of any of the metrics at 21% - meaning that women are represented in about two out of 10 political positions - although, at the same time, the WEF says this is the area in which the world has shown the most improvement since 2006. (-excerpt, guardian.com DataBlog post by George Arnett, 10/28/14)

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SmallerAmyhead shot for JBMTIOctober 10th is Mental Health Awareness Day.

We live in a time of easy access and quick fixes. People expect to be able to stream a video in less than 60 seconds, to have the entire written history of the world at their fingertips, even to have a complete dinner delivered in under 30 minutes. Given the mind-numbing pace of life, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by my clients’ impatience and disappointment when I offer an antidepressant to treat disabling anxiety or severe depression that takes three to six weeks to kick in. Just 100 years ago they would be resigned to a life of tormenting melancholia. Sure, there are new treatments on the horizon that promise quicker response times. Maybe ketamine will be the Netflix of mental health treatment. Most people overlook the one thing that unequivocally helps our emotional and physical health--supportive human relationships.

The fact that healthy human relationships are central to all human growth and development is not self- evident in a culture that values and promotes separating from and competing with others as the pinnacle of maturity. But research now shows the human nervous system is literally wired to function best when in healthy relationships. If you do not believe it, try a very simple experiment to see and feel the impact of healthy relationships on your mind and body. Close your eyes and think about a positive interaction you have had with a friend or partner. As you play it out in your mind, watch how your body changes. Most people describe an openness in their chest, a smile forming on their face, a lift in their mood. This simple visualization, something I call a positive relational moment, allows you to tap into the healing physiology of connection and changes your neural chemistry just as clearly as Ativan or Prozac--but with fewer side effects! In honor of National Mental Health Day, reach out to others, engage in healthy interactions, and build new positive relational moments. It is perhaps the ultimate win-win in this culture of competition.

Amy Banks, M.D., is the Director of Advanced Training at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College. She is the author with Leigh Ann Hirschman of Four Ways to Click: Rewiring your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationships, forthcoming from Penguin Random House (Feb. 2015).

160988-165416Developing the capacity for compassion and sharing is a huge challenge for young children. Because they are still in an egocentric stage of development, they lack the awareness of and empathy toward others necessary to see how not sharing impacts those around them. Yet, sharing, as an expression of compassion, is a message that your children must get. For our family, we try to strike a balance in which we establish the expectation of sharing (i.e., encouraging and sometimes forcing sharing), yet also give our daughters permission to not share everything. We allow them to designate some of their possessions as “special” that they don’t have to share with others. Of course, we encourage them to share everything, but the "special" category gives them the feeling that they have some things that are truly theirs. Also, at times when they don’t want to share, we make a point to tell them that the best kind of generosity occurs when they don’t want to share.

Eve and Darren believe that compassion arises from the realization that there are people in the world different from them. So, from their two children's earliest years, they exposed their kids to as much racial, religious, age, and socioeconomic diversity as possible. They live in a large and diverse city in a neighborhood of mixed ethnicity and explore every nook and cranny of the urban landscape, even poor areas in which they are a bit uncomfortable. Eve and Darren expose their children to every kind of international cuisine they can find (though, admittedly, every taste isn't always welcomed). They read books to their children that show them about other peoples, cultures, and religions. Once their children were old enough, the family took trips to India, China, Russia, and Africa.

Carly and Jake see compassion as starting close to home and expanding outward. They emphasize to their son and daughter that caring for each other is the foundation of their family and for compassion, kindness and generosity toward others. They establish clear expectations of how they wanted their family to treat each other and focused on activities that require cooperation. For example, they played games, worked on puzzles, and did household projects that can't be accomplished alone. (-excerpt, Jim Taylor, Ph.D., 9/30/14, Power of Prime blog post, Psychology Today)

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assault-questionnaire-protest-rallyThe new academic year has started, and once again students are attending seminars on staying safe on campus. These orientation workshops typically focus on tips for how young women can protect themselves — such as be aware and stay alert, don’t get drunk, and stick together in groups.

I’m sure all of this is good advice, but it misses what I have come to see as the crux of the matter: Teaching girls and women that they can avoid sexual assault if they just try hard enough places responsibility for rape on the shoulders of targets rather than on the shoulders of perpetrators and of political and cultural power-brokers.

As a parent and an educator, I feel obligated to tell my children and students the real truth: Rape is a weapon used to amass, exert and enforce power. It has nothing to do with the behavior or attitude or psychology or sociability or preparedness or intelligence or skirt length or alcohol use of particular girls and women. (-excerpt, by Susan Sered 9/12/14 Our Bodies, Ourselves blog; photo credit: Kiran Jonnalagadda)

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26WELL-tmagArticleDo you have a decisive marriage?

New research shows that how thoughtfully couples make decisions can have a lasting effect on the quality of their romantic relationships. Couples who are decisive before marriage — intentionally defining their relationships, living together and planning a wedding — appear to have better marriages than couples who simply let inertia carry them through major transitions.

“Making decisions and talking things through with partners is important,” said Galena K. Rhoades, a relationship researcher at the University of Denver and co-author of the report. “When you make an intentional decision, you are more likely to follow through on that.”

While the finding may seem obvious, the reality is that many couples avoid real decision-making. Many couples living together, for instance, did not sit down and talk about cohabitation. Often one partner had begun spending more time at the other’s home, or a lease expired, forcing the couple to formalize a living arrangement. (-excerpt, Tara Parker-Poe's 8/25/14 NY Times Well blog; photo credit: Stuart Bradford)

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anxious-kid-small.jpg

Why do we sometimes respond with resentment, not gratitude, when people are good us? Research has the answer—and points to a solution.

Does guilt get in the way of gratitude?

It does for me. After years living on my own out of town, I recently moved back home to live with my mom and stepdad to save up for a house. The trouble? Mom is always doing something nice for me, whether I ask for it or not. She throws my laundry in the wash while I’m at school and buys my favorite groceries.

I appreciate everything she does for me, and I know I should feel grateful, but sometimes I feel guilty instead resentful, even for all her care. In some embarrassing way, the feeling that I will never be able to repay her prevents me from feeling and expressing my gratitude. When she cooks me a delicious dinner, I’m grateful for the act, but not the dishes she’s left me with. Or I’ll just feel plain guilty that she hits the kitchen on my behalf after she’s had a long day hard at work.

Researchers have become increasingly interested in studying gratitude over the past decade, and the resounding message from their work is clear: Gratitude is good for our mental and physical health, and it may be an essential ingredient in happiness.

But in practice, simply feeling or expressing gratitude can be a challenge. Sometimes other feelings—like the guilt and indebtedness I feel—get in the way.

Moving back home has made me wonder: When people are good to us, why do we sometimes respond with guilt and resentment, not gratitude? And how can we overcome those negative feelings and just let ourselves be grateful? (- Excerpt from Stacey Kennelly's 1/14/14 Greater Good blog post).

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neuroscientistsA new study has confirmed that humankind's capacity for love and friendship sets us apart from all other species. Researchers at University of Virginia have found that humans are hardwired to empathize with those close to them at a neural level.

Interestingly, the ability to put yourselves in another person’s shoes depends drastically on whether the person is a stranger or someone you know. The study titled "Familiarity Promotes the Blurring of Self and Other in the Neural Representation of Threat" appears in the August issue of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

According to researchers, the human brain puts strangers in one bin and the people we know in another compartment. People in your social network literally become entwined with your sense of self at a neural level. "With familiarity, other people become part of ourselves," said James Coan, a psychology professor in University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences who used functional magnetic resonance imaging brain (fMRI) scans to find that people closely correlate people to whom they are attached to themselves.

Humans have evolved to have our self-identity become woven into a neural tapestry with our loved ones. James Coan said, "Our self comes to include the people we feel close to. This likely is because humans need to have friends and allies who they can side with and see as being the same as themselves. And as people spend more time together, they become more similar.”

To test this hypothesis, Coan and his colleagues conducted a study with 22 young adult participants who underwent fMRI scans of their brains during experiments to monitor brain activity while under threat of receiving mild electrical shocks to themselves versus a shock to a friend or a stranger.

The researchers found that regions of the brain responsible for threat response – the anterior insula, putamen and supramarginal gyrus became active under threat of shock to the self and to the threat to a friend. However, when the threat of shock was to a stranger, these brain areas showed minimal activity. When the threat of shock was to a friend, the brain activity of the participant was basically identical to the activity displayed under threat to the self. (-excerpt, Psychology Today article by Christopher Bergland)

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20131120bwGoodHealth01Sheila Good faced the decision most mothers dread. Should she spend more time raising her son or earning a paycheck? Should she be a better mom or a better provider?

For her 6-year-old son, Benjamin, a little redhead dedicated to baseball, either choice would induce stress. It's one of those puzzles of poverty with health impacts on children. Three recent studies add to mounting evidence that poverty can exact a lasting toll on a child's mental and physical well-being, with stress representing a key pathway.

Those studies focus on poverty's impact on a child's brain volume, the adverse impact of childhood poverty on adult health, and the mental and behavior problems associated with substandard housing.

Realizing the high stakes for her son, Ms. Good, 29, of Pulaski, Beaver County, went part time for Benjamin's sake last summer despite living in poverty. Soon after that decision, a car accident on Aug. 2 left her in seizures from a concussion. Her car was totaled. She lost her part-time job. She and Benjamin now struggle to live on $940 a month, with $425 going for rent and $12,000 in arrears for accident-related medical expenses. Ever since Benjamin's birth, Ms. Good said, they've lived under or near the federal poverty threshold. Savings, food stamps and child support payments fund the family's monthly budget.

Without a family car, Benjamin no longer can go to the park, the batting cages or the skating rink.

"We're not doing as many things as we did before," said Ms. Good. "I don't like to let my anxiety trickle down to him, but he gets it [himself]. His quality of life has changed. I have to tell him no."

She links her son's anxieties directly to household income. He's now in therapy.

"My son never had difficulty with anxiety or a sleeping disorder until our recent struggles to make ends meet," said Ms. Good, who has post-traumatic stress disorder from an impoverished childhood, bipolar disorder and anemia from a genetic bone-marrow disorder. "One small event can lead to a chain of events for a single-income household. One month we were living comfortably and then the next we had no car, no job and no health insurance -- and I was in poor health." (-excerpt, David Templeton's 11/24/13 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story; photo credit: Bill Wade)

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africanwomenRwanda's parliament is now almost two-thirds female, while Malawi, Liberia and Senegal have women at the helm. Western feminists, take note.

What would have once sounded like a far-fetched feminist fantasy – namely women forming the majority of a parliament – is a reality in one country in the world, Rwanda.

Early reports from the parliamentary elections last Monday indicate that women now hold nearly 64% of the seats. Prior to the genocidal conflict in 1994, the figure was just 18%. In fact, women have made significant gains all around Africa: indeed, the most successful social movement in Africa in recent decades has been the women's movement, particularly in policy and legislation.

Malawi and Liberia have female heads of state, and earlier this month Senegal elected its first female prime minister, Aminata Touré. Also, the African Union chair is female for the first time in its history. Africa's strong legacy of female leaders is a hugely positive statement about the continent's direction.

So why does the western feminist movement hardly look at African feminism for clues? Why does it only pay such little attention to the realisation of a once utopian fantasy of female majority leadership in Rwanda where, since 2008, women have held over half the parliamentary seats? Feminists everywhere have spent decades campaigning for equality in political leadership, yet its achievement in Rwanda has been met with a loud silence.

NGOs and international bodies have addressed the changes – not a bad thing per se – but as a result, without feminist debate, gender equality in Rwanda is mostly discussed in terms of the 1994 genocide, which killed an estimated one-tenth of the population (800,000 people), most of them men. Or gender parity is attributed to the country's quota system, which is indeed meaningful, though only responsible for allocating 24 of the 45 seats women hold. Even worse, the debate has, in Eurocentric fashion, all too often implied that women's progress in Rwanda is a result of the adoption of western values and that westerners are "helping" local women achieve them. (-excerpt from Minna Salami's 9/23/13's www.theguardian.com article; photo credit: Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)

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heartHave I led you to believe that my life is perfect? That my kids are always impeccably dressed and sweetly behaved? That my marriage is flawless and my home is gorgeously Zen and organized at all times? That I have bulletproof body confidence and walk around in negligee every evening for my husband?

Let me disappoint you (or relieve you).

The truth is, my life is far from perfect, and I apologize if I've led you to believe that it is. My kids are phenomenal little humans, but they look like ragamuffins most of the time and are prone to public meltdowns when tired. There are days when I'm so furious with my husband that I fantasize about putting all three of my kids in the car and leaving him for sunny Southern California. I truly love my body, but that certainly doesn't mean it's society's ideal. I am curvy, have some soft spots, and could definitely stand to lose a few pounds, but I am healthy and strong. I am not willing to diet or deprive myself and I really like to savor delicious meals and drink wine! It's all about our choices and where we put our time and energy.

Do you choose a perfectly clean and organized home or a place of play and comfort for your family? Sometimes we choose different priorities on different days. There are moments when my house looks gorgeous and beautifully organized for guests, but if you looked in the closets and drawers you'd see where I'd just stuffed a week worth of papers and junk.

My life is real. (- excerpt from 11/11/2013 Huffington Post column blogger by Erin Cox)

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BeinghumanWhat happens when we define some people as more human than others? A Q&A with Susan Fiske about the new science of racism.

The questions raised by racism and xenophobia go straight to the heart of what it means to be human, for they involve dehumanization. Prejudice means we implicitly embrace a definition of humanity that includes some—usually those who most resemble us—and excludes others.

That’s why Susan T. Fiske was invited to speak at Being Human 2013, a showcase (co-sponsored by the Greater Good Science Center) of scientific insights into the nature and direction of our species.

As the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, Fiske has become one of the leading investigators of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination, and she is the author or co-author of many books, including Envy Up, Scorn Down: How Status Divides Us and The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products, and Companies, just released this month.

Fiske has especially explored how snap judgments shape our social interactions. She has found that people we see as warm and competent elicit the most positive emotion and behavior from us. Unfortunately, however, her studies show that those perceptions are heavily influenced by factors like race, age, gender, disability, and more and that this millisecond social-sifting translates into widespread stereotyping and discrimination. (- excerpt from 10/21/13 Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life article, by Jeremy Adam Smith)

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Amy Banksweb

“The C.A.R.E. Program” Relational Neuroscience in Action, with Amy Banks, M.D.

All webinars will be presented on Fridays from 11am-12:30pm EST

January 31st: The C.A.R.E. Program “C” is for Calm - Strategies to Increase Vagal Tone and Rebalance Your Autonomic Nervous System

A new understanding of science reveals that there is more to our autonomic nervous system then fight, flight or freeze. This webinar will review recent studies will review studies supporting the existence of a third pathway (in addition to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) of the autonomic nervous system responsible for modulating the stress response when in healthy connection. The webinar will also describe ways to build your capacity to connect by rebalancing the automatic nervous system and increasing your vagal tone.

 March 14th: "A” is for Acceptedness - Rewiring Neural Pathways towards Social Inclusion

Social Pain Overlap Theory (Eisenberger and Leiberman) tells us that the distress of physical pain and the distress of social rejection activate the same area of the brain. This transforms our cultural ideas about pain and calls into question cultural norms that lead towards increasing levels of separation. This webinar will review the neurological basis of SPOT Theory and offer exercises that will help build brains with acceptance as the norm.

May 16th - C.A.R.E. for Kids: Raising Competent and Caring Children

Relational neuroscience has revealed a wide neural network used to build healthy human connection. In fact, our brains and bodies are healthiest and happiest when we are immersed in supportive community and cultures. Western cultures that focus on separation and individuation as developmental milestones undermine these pathways needed for healthy connection putting all people at risks. This webinar will review relational science and offer practical strategies for parenting children in a way that supports there natural desire to build and maintain healthy connections.

Registration Information:

  • One and a half (1.5) CEUs will be awarded for each webinar (APA approved; NASW, LMFT and LMHC approval pending).
  • $50 per program; pre-registration is required.
  • Group rates of $30/person will be available for 6 or more people. (Please contact the JBMTI office at jbmti@wellesley.edu or 781-283-3800 to register groups. At this time only individual registration is available online.)
  • Student scholarships are available - please send scholarship request to jbmti@wellesley.edu.
  • Registration closes at 9am the day of the webinar.
  • Online registration will open in late fall 2013.

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Brief-Empathy-small.jpgA new neuroscientific study shows that compassion training can help us cope with other people's distress.

Empathy can be painful.

Is there a better way of approaching distress in other people? A recent study, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, suggests that we can better cope with others’ negative emotions by strengthening our own compassion skills, which the researchers define as “feeling concern for another’s suffering and desiring to enhance that individual’s welfare.”

"Empathy is really important for understanding others’ emotions very deeply, but there is a downside of empathy when it comes to the suffering of others, says Olga Klimecki, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany and the lead author of the study. “When we share the suffering of others too much, our negative emotions increase. It carries the danger of an emotional burnout.”

The research team sent study participants to a one-day loving-kindness meditation class, which utilized techniques and philosophies from Eastern contemplative traditions. Participants, none of whom had prior meditation experience, practiced extending feelings of warmth and care toward themselves, a close person, a neutral person, a person in difficulty, and complete strangers, as a way of developing their compassion skills.

Both before and after the training, participants were shown videos of people in distress (e.g., crying after their home was flooded). Following exposure to each video, the researchers measured the subjects’ emotional responses through a survey. Their brain activity was also recorded using an fMRI machine, a device that tracks real-time blood-flow in the brain, thereby enabling the scientists to see what brain areas were active in response to viewing the videos. (- Excerpt from August 22, 2013 article by Adam Hoffman on Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, Photo Credit: Catherin Choi)

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layli.jpg"Womanism, Relationality, and Culture"

Speaker: Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., Katherine Stone Kaufmann '67 Executive Director, Wellesley Centers for Women and Professor of Africana Studies, Wellesley College
Date: October 18, 2013, 7-8:30pm
Location: Wellesley College Science Center, Rm 277

Lecture is free and open to the public. Booksigining after lecture (books will be available for sale).

Dr. Maparyan will discuss relationality as it appears and functions in African culture worldviews, particularly among women. What happens when we incorporate the natural element and the spirit world into our notions of human relationality? What then are the implications for "better relationships" and "social change?" How do womanism and Relational-Cultural Theory converge and diverge on these questions?

Dr. Maparyan is the author of two groundbreaking books about womanism, The Womanist Reader (2006) and The Womanist Idea (2012). She has served as a Fulbright Specialist at the University of Liberia and has led the Women's Initiative at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Her ongoing scholarly work focuses on the intersections of Africanity, spirituality, and social change.

Please RSVP to jbmti@wellesley.edu or 781-283-3800.

 

 

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Richard_Atherton.jpgThere’s not, at first, an obvious connection between feminist literature and information technology.

But reading the writer Jean Baker Miller from the Stone Center, Wellesley College, Massachusetts, offers some important lessons based on her insights into the nature of human relationships.

Miller broadly worked in the context of connections between female therapists and their clients. You may be wondering why a therapy writer could possibly have any relevance to the world of computing? But there are some valid parallels between her world and that of IT.

The interpersonal dynamics Miller described are paralleled in many workplace scenarios typical for an IT department - leader and team member, client and vendor, IT and "the business".

The question that seemed most relevant was that old chestnut, “How can IT improve its relationship with the business?

A poor relationship with business colleagues can lead to a variety of ills for IT leaders - finding it difficult to retain the budget for projects; producing less relevant solutions; and, in the worst case, the business bypassing IT to deal directly with external providers.

Some IT leaders tackle this issue by looking at structure and processes, perhaps the use of business relationship managers, or aligning certain teams to specific business areas.

Much of this helps, but alone this is not enough to really make a difference. On reflection, in part through reading Miller, it becomes apparent that these were largely logical solutions to a fundamentally emotional issue - the quality of relationships between individuals working in IT and those in the business. (-Excerpt www.computerweekly.com column by Richard Atherton)

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antoinette_tuff-620x412.jpgIn a testosterone-heavy cultural landscape, how can women envision themselves as heroes—and in doing so, transform the ways all of us respond to threats and violence?

When 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill stormed into Georgia’s McNair Discovery Learning Academy on August 20, he toted an AK-47 and broadcasted his intent to kill as many people as possible.

He was met by school clerk Antoinette Tuff. Through a quick exchange with Hill, Tuff intuited that he was a troubled young man who needed encouragement. Tuff had been through her own share of difficult times, so she understood why Hill might resort to a desperate act. She felt terrified and wanted to flee, but instead she stood her ground—by extending compassion to the would-be shooter.

“We all go through something in life,” she told him. “I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me. But look at me now. I’m still working and everything is okay. It’s gonna be all right, sweetheart. I just want you to know that I love you, okay?”

Touched by Tuff’s generosity, Hill gave up his gun. (-Excerpt, 9/26/13 article "Heroes Without Guns," by Elizabeth Svoboda on Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. Photo credit: ABC World News)

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SuzanneTuckerphotocreditlonely-boyNEW ORLEANS — Feeling lonely? New research suggests you might want to reach out. Not only is loneliness an unpleasant condition, it can harm the body's immune system.

The new study, presented Saturday (Jan. 19) here at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, reveals that people who are lonely experience more reactivation of latent viruses in their systems than the well-connected. Lonely people also are more likely than others to produce inflammatory compounds in response to stress, a factor implicated in heart disease and other chronic disorders.

"Both, in different ways, indicate that the immune system is a little out of whack," said study researcher Lisa Jaremka, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine. (Photo credit: Suzanne Tucker, Shutterstock)

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ThinkstockwomanandchildWe can cultivate empathy throughout our lives, says Roman Krznaric—and use it as a radical force for social transformation.

If you think you’re hearing the word "empathy" everywhere, you’re right. It’s now on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists. But there is a vital question that few people ask: How can I expand my own empathic potential? Empathy is not just a way to extend the boundaries of your moral universe. According to new research, it’s a habit we can cultivate to improve the quality of our own lives.

But what is empathy? It’s the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. That makes it different from kindness or pity. And don’t confuse it with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As George Bernard Shaw pointed out, "Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you—they might have different tastes." Empathy is about discovering those tastes. (-Excerpt 11/27/12 Roman Krznaric's www.greatergoodberkeley.edu post)

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CompassionHand-Payne.gifHumans are selfish. It’s so easy to say. The same goes for so many assertions that follow. Greed is good. Altruism is an illusion. Cooperation is for suckers. Competition is natural, war inevitable. The bad in human nature is stronger than the good.

These kinds of claims reflect age-old assumptions about emotion. For millennia, we have regarded the emotions as the fount of irrationality, baseness, and sin. The idea of the seven deadly sins takes our destructive passions for granted. Plato compared the human soul to a chariot: the intellect is the driver and the emotions are the horses. Life is a continual struggle to keep the emotions under control. (-Excerpt from Dacher Keltner's article on www.greatergood.berkeley.edu, Photo credit: Jonathan Payne)

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Child-sleeping-SteveNearly 60 years ago, a decade before the counterculture erupted throughout the United States and beyond, Aldous Huxley described his first experience with psychedelic drugs in The Doors of Perception (1954). The book’s title cast back to the metaphorical language of the English Romantic poet and printmaker William Blake, who wrote in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790):

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.

Huxley likened the human brain to a reducing valve. It functions to limit your awareness to only those perceptions, ideas, and memories that might be useful for your survival at any given moment, eliminating all else. Although narrowed awareness prevents you from becoming overwhelmed by a flood of images and impressions, it can become an overlearned habit, a self-limiting cavern that you become convinced is reality. But Huxley believed there were ways out:

Certain persons … seem to be born with a kind of bypass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others temporary bypasses may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate ‘spiritual exercises’, or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs.

Huxley’s hypothesis that the doors of perception can temporarily swing open wider than usual — even seemingly spontaneously — is now confirmed by brain imaging experiments. Importantly, however, you don’t need drugs, hypnosis, or lofty spiritual experiences to open those doors. Sometimes all it takes is a little love. But to understand this you will need to set aside your preconceptions of what love is.

It’s difficult to speak of love in scientific terms, I’ve found, because listeners have so many pre-existing and strong beliefs about it. Many of these beliefs reflect our shared cultural heritage, like all those proliferating songs and movies that equate love with infatuation or sexual desire, or with stories that end happily ever after, or even the realistic marriage ceremonies that celebrate love as an exclusive bond and commitment. Other beliefs about love are deeply personal. They reflect your own unique life history, with its interpersonal triumphs and scars, lessons about intimacy learnt and not yet learnt. Left unaddressed, these preconceptions can derail any serious intellectual discussion of love. They might even keep you from soaking up the full implications of the new findings on love. (-Excerpt from "The Science of Love," by Barbara Erikson, March 15, 2013, www.aeonmagazine.com. Photo credit: Steve McCurry/Magnum)

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Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Building and maintaining relationships is something we all do, but did you know that healthy relationships can help improve brain function?

Dr. Amy Banks M.D. is well known in the field of psychology and neuro–biology and is in Duluth to spread the word on how we are hard wired to connect.

Research at the Wellesley Centers for Women, where Banks works, has found that rather than pushing our children to be more independent, we should actually be promoting interactions with others.

She also says, a simple smile can go a long ways in making us less stressed and even help our bodies and brains stay healthy.

"What happens with a smile this sound, it literally feeds back into your autonomic nervous system and helps you be less stressed so that's one of the ways a healthy connection and safe connection actually de–stresses you," explained Banks.

That session is intended for people with professions that directly work with children such as educators, youth counselors and daycare workers.

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BlogMindfulnessIt's easy to have blind spots when examining our own selves and personalities. After all, it's incredibly difficult to judge ourselves in an objective manner. But a new study suggests the best way to really get to know ourselves -- without help from rose-colored glasses -- is through mindfulness.

The study, published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, shows just how mindfulness can help us really know ourselves, without the negative or positive bias.

This is important because "blind spots" in knowing ourselves can spell trouble. "For example, one who overestimates the positivity of his or her personality or status is often disliked by others, whereas having insight into how others perceive the self and acknowledging one's flaws seems to attenuate the negativity of others' impressions," researchers wrote in the study.

Mindfulness helps us to see our authentic selves in two ways: nonjudgmental observation, and attention. Nonjudgmental observation enables people to really get to know themselves without feeling any negative feelings, study researcher Erika Carlson, of Washington University in St. Louis, noted.

Recently, a study conducted by University of Utah researchers showed that mindfulness is linked with greater emotional stability and self control, not to mention better sleep.

"People who reported higher levels of mindfulness described better control over their emotions and behaviors during the day," the researcher of that study, Holly Rau, said in a statement. "In addition, higher mindfulness was associated with lower activation at bedtime, which could have benefits for sleep quality and future ability to manage stress."

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AreYouMyMotherWhen I'm with a child, I feel about a million times lighter. What does this kid know that I don't? What is so a part of children that they can leaves us feeling like dopey adults, left out of their secret?

Certainly, life gets more complex as we grow and many childlike attitudes and activities have to be relinquished -- but not all of them. While I'm no expert on relationships, I am an astute observer. I keenly watch marriages and long-term friendships and notice trends. Here's some of what I've learned:

Shame

As modern lifestyles creep further and further away from the "it takes a village" model, I believe -- whether they realize it or not -- that many adults feel the need to protect themselves emotionally the way our ancestors protected themselves physically. The way I see it, this has made us much more cerebral and out-of-touch with the way we feel.

Many people tend to suppress the natural flow of feelings and thoughts as they come, often even feeling shame for having had the feelings in the first place. I think the root causes of many big, bad, grown-up fights and confusion can often be found in simple, child-like statements: "I'm sad." "I'm scared." "I missed you."

Radical Honesty

I didn't always hear these messages so clearly, but that changed a few years ago. Shortly after, I began communicating them to the people in my life. The result has been phenomenal.

To illustrate what it feels like to be "radically honest," let me invite you to participate in an activity. Recall a time when someone made you feel embarrassed, angry or scared. Now, just within your mind, observe any thoughts or feelings which might arise; lastly, consider what it would feel like to speak these truths to the person the thoughts or feelings are about.

If you did this activity, did you feel anything? Relief, terror, calm? I believe the ability to be this honest within yourself and then kindly convey the messages to the relevant parties is the definition of radical honesty, and incredibly helpful to relationships. But it might not be easy... (-Excerpt from Allison Berkowitz's www.huffpost.com 1/30/13 blog)

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100727-cecile-richards.jpgDate: March 12, 2013 - 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Presenter: Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund

Location: Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall Auditorium
Wellesley College, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will speak about how advances in, and access to, reproductive health care have expanded opportunity for generations of women. She will address the domestic policy and political climate, as well as the global context for this work.  


This event is free and open to the public. 
Preregister online: www.wcwonline.org/march12event or wcw@wellesley.edu
 
Presented by the Center for Work & Service and the Wellesley Centers for Women.
Special thanks to our event supporters: Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, Wellesley College Women’s & Gender Studies Department, and the following Wellesley College student organizations -- The Hippocratic Society; Instead Feminist Housing Cooperative; Feminists for Reproductive Justice; Wellesley Sexual Health Educators; and Wellesley Women for Public Health.
 
Parking is available in the Davis Parking lot across from Alumnae Hall, near the Central Street entrance of the campus.   

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The Women Change Worlds blog of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) encourages WCW scholars and colleagues to respond to current news and events; disseminate research findings, expertise, and commentary; and both pose and answer questions about issues that put women’s perspectives and concerns at the center of the discussion.

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I doubt that our forebears who ratified the Second Amendment in 1791 ever imagined how carelessly and callously firearms would be used centuries later. Witness the senseless slaughter of 20 innocent children and 6 adults last month in Newtown, Conn. As a mother of two and grandmother of four, I can’t imagine a more painful loss.

If you are as concerned as I am about the safety of your children and grandchildren, consider that it may be time for a grass-roots movement, comparable to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to help break the stranglehold the National Rifle Association seems to have on our elected officials. Do you really want, as the association proposed, an armed guard in every school?

The Connecticut massacre occurred just two months after the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new policy statement on firearm-related injuries to children. Murder and accidental shootings were not the academy’s only concerns. “Suicides among the young are typically impulsive,” the statement noted, “and easy access to lethal weapons largely determines outcome.”

In an article published online last month in The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Judith S. Palfrey, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and her husband, Dr. Sean Palfrey, also a pediatrician in Boston,highlighted the shocking statistics. (- Excerpt from 1/7/13 NY Times article by Jane E. Brody)

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open circle logo 25th celebratingA message from Open Circle, the elementary school social emotional learning (SEL) program at the Wellesley Centers for Women:

"In light of the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, we are writing to share some resources that school communities might find helpful at this time. This tragedy touches all of us, both near and far, regardless of whether we are educators, parents or students. Open Circle would like to offer its assistance during this difficult time by helping schools support students who, understandably, may have questions or concerns in response to this tragic event.

"Children may need reassurance that their classroom and school are safe places for them. It is important to recognize the needs of individual children who might have a harder time coping with this event than others. Often children who are prone to anxious feelings or those with their own trauma history can be triggered by another traumatic event, even if it did not directly happen to them. In addition to the positive, supportive classroom climate and the social and emotional learning tools that Open Circle provides, some students may need additional time with a school psychologist or guidance counselor to help them manage their fears.

"It is also critical that adults get the support they need to help students with their questions and feelings about this tragic event. Modeling how to stay calm and knowing when to ask for help yourself will help reassure students of their safety and remind them that the adults in school will be there to take care of them.

"During difficult times, safety, consistency and predictability are critical to helping children maintain a sense of stability and psychological comfort. Open Circle provides a classroom routine and climate that is safe, consistent and predictable. Continuing to do Open Circle, as usual, is very important. Revisiting and applying the following skills and concepts may be one way to help students and adults as they deal with this traumatic event.

Calming Down
Being able to apply calming-down techniques is helpful for both children and adults. It is normal and understandable for adults to feel anxious when upsetting things happen, and yet children take their emotional cues from adults. When adults model ways to calm down, they are reinforcing a critical self-regulation skill. The physiological benefits of calming down are also useful as we try to take care of ourselves during stressful times.

Knowing how to calm down contributes to a child's courage and resiliency. Children are empowered to take charge of their own bodies and emotional reactions. They can use this strategy in and out of the classroom, whenever they feel worried or upset.

Understanding Feelings
In Open Circle, children learn that people have all kinds of feelings - some feelings may be comfortable or uncomfortable, but all feelings are OK. We are encouraging children to share their feelings and expand the range of feeling words that children can identify. Our emotions give us information about our internal state, and they can pass with time. Children can learn to identify many feelings to best communicate their emotional state, and they can also learn that even uncomfortable feelings don't last forever. We do not need to bring up the tragic event directly to encourage use of feeling words. For example, we can ask, "When you wake in the middle of the night and hear loud thunder, how might you feel? Are there other examples of times when you felt that way?"

Feeling words allow us to let people know in words rather than in actions how we feel and therefore keeps them from misinterpreting, let's them know what's wrong, and helps them to pay attention to our experience. Sharing children's books such as The Way I Feel, by Janan Cain, or Lots of Feelings, by Shelley Rotner, might be one way to help young children expand their feelings vocabulary beyond "sad" and "mad," so that they can communicate with more accuracy. Some children will have difficulty expressing feelings and say that they are feeling "nothing." This is at times a self-protective strategy when feelings are experienced as too overwhelming. (At other times, children are simply unaware of their feelings at given moments). We cannot push children to talk about feelings if they do not want to, but rather we can teach the necessary skills and create a safe and caring environment so that when they are ready, they can participate.

Speaking Up
Even if children can identify feelings and find feeling words, they are not always comfortable with speaking up and therefore they may not share the feelings they are experiencing. The Open Circle lessons on speaking up focus on the importance of speaking up on behalf of oneself and others.

Dealing with Double D Behavior and Telling a Responsible Adult
In Open Circle children are learning to identify at least one adult with whom they can speak if they feel anxious or scared. This lesson also reminds children that when they tell a responsible adult about dangerous or destructive behavior they are keeping themselves and others safe.

Listening Skills
In times of crisis and stress, children need the support of adults who will really listen to them. In the Open Circle lesson on listening skills, children learn to identify what listening well looks and sounds like and which people are capable of listening to them when they need to be heard.

Problem Solving
Some classes might want to find ways to help victims of a tragedy. The process of giving to others is often empowering, as well as helpful. The problem-solving process can guide students as they choose an appropriate way of helping. If your class uses a problem box, keep this box available and remind students that it is anonymous. If you are not comfortable dealing with what a child writes for the problem box, consult with school counselors, administrators and parents.

Additional Resources
We recommend the following additional resources from the National Association of School Psychologists and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

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6723277761_984f052703.jpgIn 1997 I arrived in Geneva to work for a year at the headquarters of a relief organization. Feeling overwhelmed by my job and lonely in a city of overworked expats passing through for two to three year stints at the United Nations or other organizations with the rather nebulous goal of “changing the world,” I made friends with a group of women. I was 22, and all three women — one American, one German, and one Argentinian – were 30 years older than I and had worked for the same organization in various administrative capacities for the length of time I’d been alive. After one lengthy, boozy dinner of fondue and buckets of white wine, they quickly took me into their friendship fold and jokingly referred to themselves as “the Wrinklies.” We met once a week for dinner, and saw one another every day at the espresso machine in the hallway, in the fabulously lush cantina, on the expertly-tended grounds of our superluxe office building outside the city limits. We had inside jokes and secret looks. We gave each other little gifts: a cookie, a note, a bar of chocolate, a little token of affection spotted at a shop and slipped underneath an office door.

All three women (and myself as well) were unmarried, living alone, and working to assist people in real need in countries around the world. Despite the fact that I immediately felt accepted, supported, challenged and nurtured by each of them, when I first joined their weekly dinner group, I felt sorry for them. They weren’t married, they weren’t mothers – and at this time, and up until very recently, I clung to the belief that this constituted some failure on their part. They found me equally mystifying. Was I really worried about the size of my ass or trying to finagle a recent date with a man they thought (from my description) was boring and slightly odious? (He was.) Was it a good use of my time, they wondered, to hang out in bars getting smashed and looking to score and by doing this (they were rightfully doubtful) find “the love of my life” when I said I wanted to be a writer? Sure, sure, I said, but I dismissed their concerns, and mourned what I interpreted as their missed opportunities to have a real life, which I assumed would only start for me when I was married and a mother. I loved them, but in my mind I was remembering that old phrase I’d heard for most of my life, in hushed and shameful tones: old maid. I was also keen to make my life look “normal” and “acceptable” in some way because I have a disability; if I didn’t get the body part right, I reasoned (irrationally, although it seemed quite rational at the time), I could get the “what your life looks like” part right. While I was obsessing about how I looked and who would love me, these women were helping to save the world – not in a way that would win them accolades, certainly – but the work they were doing was important and life-giving. And there I sat, foolishly pitying them. (-Excerpt from "Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship," by Emily Rapp, 1/22/12, on www.therumpus.net)

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imgres.jpgIntensive early behavioral therapy, considered by many autism experts to be the best in developing language and thinking skills, might also help normalize brain activity in children with autism when they look at faces, and improve their social skills, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of California Davis’ MIND Institute looked at 48 children diagnosed with autism between 18 and 30 months old. Half of the children were randomly selected to receive a form of intensive early behavioral therapy called the Early Start Denver Model for 20 hours a week for two years, while the other half received other forms of intervention. After two years, the researchers used electroencephalograms to measure the brain activity of children with autism, as well as of children without autism, while they watched faces and toys.

The majority of the autistic children treated with the Early Start Denver Model showed greater brain activation when looking at faces rather than objects, a response common to children without autism. The opposite was found among the kids with autism who received other interventions.

The autistic children with increased brain activity at the sight of faces also had better social and behavioral skills. The study is the first to find underlying changes in brain function along with behavioral changes after early therapy. (- Excerpt from Boston.com article by Lara Salahi)

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2012-11-26-ShadiaPic.jpg"It's messed up, I had to lose an eye to see things clearly," Alia said, shaking her head. My charismatic and confident classmate then carefully tucked her hair under her veil. "Bushwick Bill?" I asked. She smiled and showed off her perfect row of teeth. "Yes!" She seemed pleased, yet slightly embarrassed that I had noticed that she was quoting an old-school rapper. I was intrigued by Alia's story and by the words she used to describe how fortunate she was compared to her "sisters" in the poorer parts of the city. "Do you listen to hip hop?" I asked. "Do I listen to hip hop?" she laughed, "not only do I listen, but for your information, I am the most talented yet least famous undercover MC in all of Cairo. Matter of fact, not even my parents know of my musical accomplishments!" I leaned back and listened.

The year was 1993, I was a high school exchange student in Cairo. It was the first time I had heard of the growing underground hip hop/rap movement in the Middle East -- a movement in which young Arab women played a prominent role.

Rewind.

South Bronx in the late 1970s -- also known as the birth place of hip hop -- was plagued by unemployment and racial discrimination. At the same time, the civil rights movement helped establish a sense of identity for minority and marginalized communities. It also helped shape the hip-hop mindset and movement, empowering the young and disenfranchised and giving them a creative outlet to share their stories of growing up in the inner city, about feeling ignored or being taken advantage of.  (-Excerpt from The Rhythm of Empowerment: Female Rappers From Morrocco to Gaza, www.huffingtonpost.com, 11/26/12. Photo credit: Ridwan Adhami.)

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146538141.jpg.CROP.article250-medium.jpg Actors and writers in Hollywood generally dodge direct questions about the role that race or gender have played in their careers, so it's decidedly refreshing to hear Brenda Chapman, the creative force behind Brave, address the issue head-on. “We need a woman. And you’re the right price,” she says she was told by the Disney higher-up who hired her in 1987.

Despite that jarring sound bite, Chapman writes about her experience as the first woman working in Disney Animation's story department as a largely a positive one. Rather than isolating her, Chapman's male colleagues treated her hiring as a more important crack in the glass ceiling than even she was inclined to do. And her impact on the team was more than just symbolic. "I think by just having my presence in the room, and because we had such a mutual respect for each other, the men were more aware of what might be condescending, or to put it bluntly, 'sexist' toward women in their work," she writes. "We all seemed to work together trying to move the Disney fairy tale into a more contemporary point of view for the heroines—and the audience."(-Excerpt from Slate.com's "Disney Hired Brenda Chapman Because She's a Woman. Good Decision," 10/24/12. Photo credit: David Livingston, Getty Images)

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JBMTI's Director Judith Jordan appeared on the 4/26/12 edition of "All Together Now" Charlene Spretnack on the Progressive Radio Network.

The Relational Shift in Psychology: a conversation with Judith V. Jordan, director of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute (housed at Wellesley College), about the Relational-Cultural Model of the self and human development, which she co-developed beginning in 1978; the relational shift in the field of psychology from a Freudian model (the separative self) to a more realistic model of dynamic interrelatedness, with attention to the effects of social systems as well. - (Program description)

 

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Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly today announced the appointment of Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., as the new Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), one of the nation’s largest and most influential organizations conducting scholarly research and developing action programs centered on women’s and girls’ perspectives. Maparyan will assume her new responsibilities effective July 1, 2012.

“I am so pleased that Dr. Maparyan will join Wellesley in this important role,” said Bottomly. “Her work on women’s issues and her dynamic leadership abilities are ideal for building upon the Centers’ legacy of influential and groundbreaking programming. The invaluable work by scholars at the Centers—undertaken in the United States and abroad—reflects Wellesley’s century-long commitment to investing in women and women’s leadership.”

As executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, I see my role as working to identify cutting-edge frontiers of policy development, expanding sources of funding, and ensuring that WCW continues to attract and support leading scholars to maintain the rigorous standard of research for which the Centers is known,” said Maparyan. “I’m committed to women’s issues across a wide spectrum—and further, to the role of scholarship in informing meaningful change in the broader community.”

From 2003 to the present, Maparyan served at Georgia State University as associate professor in the Women’s Studies Institute (WSI) and associated faculty of the Department of African American Studies. At Georgia State, she has been graduate director of the WSI as well as a University senator. Previously, Maparyan had served as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for African-American Studies at the University of Georgia, where she was founding co-director of the Womanist Studies Consortium. Her civic engagement includes coordinating the National Center for Civil and Human Rights’ Women’s Initiative in Atlanta. Maparyan will hold a faculty appointment in Wellesley College’s Department of Africana Studies. (-Excerpt from WCW 4/23/12 press release)

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Richmond - Many people question why some sex trafficking victims stay with their traffickers. As a survivor, I know this simple question requires a rather complex explanation.

I am a survivor of sex trafficking and of child abuse by a family member. My story demonstrates that an untreated case of child sexual abuse can lead to the sex trafficking of that child victim. 

My history of sexual abuse began when I was under the age of ten. To make this trauma worse, my parents instructed me to lie about it when confronted by a social worker at home. My parents seemed to believe that they needed to protect our family from the social stigma associated with child sexual abuse. But by squelching the truth, they in turn sentenced me to an adolescence of misunderstanding and distrust. My resilience and sense of self-worth further diminished.

Without proper counseling, I harbored a secret of past abuse, a secret which slowly ate away at my self-confidence. The day I met my trafficker, I was shuffling behind my friends in the mall.  I was feeling angry and depressed.  I hated my parents and teachers.  At the same time, I was losing my friends in the naturally changing social circles between middle and high school.

My self-esteem had spiraled downward throughout intermediate and middle school. I endured several exploitations by older high school boys and men who prowled the neighborhood and local skating rink for unsupervised girls.

By the time the trafficker spotted me in that New Jersey shopping mall, I had already been broken down.

Smith goes on to quote Price:

Kate Price, M.A. lectured in a Wellesley Centers for Women seminar titled, Longing to Belong: Relational Risks and Resilience in U.S. Prostituted Children. Price stated a link between the prior history of sexual abuse and the prostitution of minor victims.  She stated it really is that history of betrayal that really is a risk, and oftentimes…the entryway, into how children even end up in prostitution.

Price reports that at least 60 percent of sexually exploited children, which includes prostituted children, have a prior history of sexual abuse. Studies also show that roughly one in four girls—and one in six boys—will be victims of childhood sexual abuse. (Excerpt, Washington Times, 4/8/12. Photo credit: Holly Smith)

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Editor's note:Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth's mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Ever noticed how scientific opinions swing from one extreme to the other?

Take the importance of mothers in the development of children. In the early days of psychiatry almost every mental illness, from depression to schizophrenia to autism was blamed on bad mothering. Then in the 1960’s and 70’s the discovery of medications that helped these illnesses allowed psychiatry to reframe them as biological conditions, no different from cancer or heart disease. Parents were fully absolved for the mental illnesses of their children, except to the degree that they passed along bad genes that caused chemical imbalances in the brain.

Myths inevitably survive long after they’ve been scientifically disproven. Such is the case with the fantasy that mental illnesses can be written off solely to genes and chemicals. Over the last decade a string of scientific discoveries has shown that the biology driving mental illness has at least as much to do with the environment as with chemicals or genetic inheritance. And it increasingly appears that the single most powerful environmental factor is the love - or its lack - that children receive from their parents. So in a very real way we parents are back on the hook for the lifelong emotional well-being of our kids. (Excerpt from CNN.com's "The Chart," 3/12/12. Photo credit: ThinkStock)

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Conference at Brandeis University, Monday, March 19th, 12-6:30pm

In Speaking Truth to Power, Anita Hill highlighted the particular hurdles Black rape survivors face in U.S. criminal justice system. Together, Anita Hill and Bernadette Brooten seek to enhance public discussion of this problem in order to promote both social and legal change. The conference will draw upon theater, religion, law, history, and public policy to help participants become agents for change.

We will begin with award-winning actor Vanessa Adams-Harris’s “Who Will Sing for Lena?” a dramatic representation of a woman’s response to a rape. Panelists will then offer insights from their respective disciplines.

The Brandeis Feminist Sexual Ethics Project commissioned two meta-analyses of legal and social-scientific research confirming that Black rape survivors face greater hurdles than do those of European origin. ??The research found that societal myths about race and sexuality combine to play a significant role in responses to sexual assault—from the victim’s reaction to an assault, to a prosecutor or judge’s confidence in the validity of her story, to the credibility members of the jury give to her testimony and their willingness to accept the act described as a sexual violation.

Because these responses are societal and cultural, we recognize that any effort to address them must go beyond the legal system itself, to the larger society. Please join us in this interdisciplinary conversation.

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To have and to be able to maintain healthy and supportive relationships throughout life is central to growth and well-being for persons and society (J. B. Miller, 1986). However, when persons or societies assert patterns of interaction based on inequality and devaluing differences, marginalizing and oppressing those they consider "less than", persons and societies are harmed.

Such is the case with human trafficking. Human trafficking is a violation of human rights (Art. 4 United Nations Human Rights) and an extreme form of social injustice. It is perpetuated by dominant-subordinate attitudes that condone violence, resulting in significant suffering for individuals, and harm to societies.

The conference will mutually explore the challenges facing the international community to address human trafficking. The goals of the conference include: increased insight into the needs of trafficked victims and their communities, comprehension of the complexities of international cooperation, support for a collaborative path forward to care for those affected, and renewed resolve to help put a stop to violence and exploitation.

Conference Style

  • 3-day International Conference
  • Theory and Practice Oriented - involving experts in academics/ research and service providers
  • Open to the public with educational credits available for ongoing training for students and professionals
  • Main speakers and workshops

Conference Target Groups

  • Researchers and (Higher) Education Instructors
  • Professional Service Providers: Criminal, victim-service providers, NGOs, international organizations , church organizations, social service agencies, women‘s and men‘s organizations, health services, etc
  • Students
  • General public with interest in this issue

Sponsors and Supporters

  • European Information Centre of Lower Saxony (Europäisches Informations-Zentrum Niedersachsen)
  • European Commission
  • Hans Böckler foundation
  • HAWK Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen, Office for Gender Equality
  • HAWK Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen, IIW
  • HAWK Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen, Faculty of Social Work und Health, Hildesheim
  • HAWK Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen, Faculty of Management, Social Work, Construction, Holzminden
  • HAWK Hildesheim/Holzminden/Göttingen, International Office
  • Centre for interdisciplinary women’s and gender studies (ZIF)

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The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation has rejected charges that its decision to discontinue funding for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America was politically motivated.

In a statement posted on its website and a video on YouTube late Wednesday, Komen said its action had been "mischaracterized" so the organization needed to "set the record straight."

In the video, Nancy G. Brinker, who founded and leads the organization, said that the decision was made as part of a broad effort to use donations more efficiently.

The foundation regretted the impact of its new policy on groups such as Planned Parenthood, Brinker said. But she denied politics played any role and called accusations against Komen "scurrilous" and a "dangerous distraction" from the battle against breast cancer.

"Susan G. Komen will always fight for and serve the poeple who need us the most. We won't rest until every woman — rich, poor, insured or uninsured — can face a life without breast cancer," said Brinker, whose sister died from breast cancer. "That was my promise to my sister and my promise to you."

The foundation, known for its pink ribbon campaigns and Race for the Cure fundraisers, is a powerhouse in the world of breast cancer in the United States, raising billions of dollars for breast cancer research, care and advocacy. (Excerpt from www.wbur.org)

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Everyone agrees the United States needs to improve its education system dramatically, but how? One of the hottest trends in education reform lately is looking at the stunning success of the West's reigning education superpower, Finland. Trouble is, when it comes to the lessons that Finnish schools have to offer, most of the discussion seems to be missing the point.

The small Nordic country of Finland used to be known -- if it was known for anything at all -- as the home of Nokia, the mobile phone giant. But lately Finland has been attracting attention on global surveys of quality of life -- Newsweek ranked it number one last year -- and Finland's national education system has been receiving particular praise, because in recent years Finnish students have been turning in some of the highest test scores in the world.

Finland's schools owe their newfound fame primarily to one study: the PISA survey, conducted every three years by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in reading, math, and science. Finland has ranked at or near the top in all three competencies on every survey since 2000, neck and neck with superachievers such as South Korea and Singapore. In the most recent survey in 2009 Finland slipped slightly, with students in Shanghai, China, taking the best scores, but the Finns are still near the very top. Throughout the same period, the PISA performance of the United States has been middling, at best. (Excerpt from the article, "What American Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success, in the 12/29/11 Atlantic)

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Workers are dropping out of the labor force in droves, and they are mostly women. In fact, many are young women. But they are not dropping out forever; instead, these young women seem to be postponing their working lives to get more education. There are now — for the first time in three decades — more young women in school than in the work force. 

“I was working part-time at Starbucks for a year and a half,” said Laura Baker, 24, who started a master’s program in strategic communications this fall at the University of Denver. “I wasn’t willing to just stay there. I had to do something.”

Many economists initially thought that the shrinking labor force — which drove down November’s unemployment rate — was caused primarily by discouraged older workers giving up on the job market. Instead, many of the workers on the sidelines are young people upgrading their skills, which could portend something like the postwar economic boom, when millions of World War II veterans went to college through the G.I. Bill instead of immediately entering, and overwhelming, the job market. (Excerpt from NY Times, Instead of Work, Younger Women Head to School, 12/28/11.  Graph: Women Departing Labor Force, source Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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The Jean Baker Miller Training Institute will be on holiday break until after New Years. We will begin posting items to the blog again in January 2012.

Thank you to all of our amazing RCT practitioners and supporters around the globe. We had an wonderful 2011 and look forward to connecting with you in 2012.

Happy holidays, everyone. We hope you have a peaceful holiday season.

Too many suits: And not nearly enough skirts in the boardrooms

“PERHAPS WE WOMEN should just keep out of this male circus,” said one of the participants in a forum on “German Female Executives” run by Odgers Berndtson, a firm of headhunters. Gabriele Stahl, a partner in the firm’s Frankfurt office, recalls this comment because it seems to sum up the way many female managers feel about getting to the top of the corporate tree.

If they ever do. A study by Elke Holst and Julia Schimeta by the German Institute of Economic Research in Berlin found that in 2010 women held only 3.2% of all executive board seats in Germany’s 200 biggest non-financial firms. In the largest companies their share was even smaller. Financial institutions and insurance companies, where at least half of all employees are female, did no better than the rest, and state-owned companies were only slightly ahead. On the supervisory boards, the other component of Germany’s two-tier board structure, women are slightly better represented because some of the seats are reserved for employees, but last year they still made up only 11% of the total—and one-third of these boards had none at all. That list includes household names like Porsche, E.ON and Robert Bosch. The glass ceiling, like everything else in Germany, is pretty solid. (Article excerpt)

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Enjoy a preview of Callie Crossley, moderator for this Thursday's colloquium, "Getting to the truths about race: The politics of connection in The Help," discussing the book and movie on her WGBH radio show. This episode originally aired August 18, 2011.

Visit The Callie Crossley Show's website

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This is the second video in Mama Hope’s Stop the Pity, Unlock the Potential Campaign. This video represents a movement about humans and human dignity. With every school we construct, well we dig, orphanage we build, there are faces and names of people who are impacted; Lives that are changed.

Our latest video sets out to show the energy and potential of Africa and the interconnectedness we share. It is only when people are no longer seen through the stereotypes of poverty that we can begin to see we are not so different from each other. When the pity stops, the potential can be unlocked. This means more progress, but it will take all of us. This movement is our first step towards building a global society based on hope and connection. If you agree with us, join our movement and raise awareness! Join us in unlocking potential for a better future.

Directed by Joe Sabia and Bryce Yukio Adolphson
Shot and edited by Bryce Yukio Adolphson

Visit mamahope.org

Whether it's the rise of the Arab Spring in the Middle East or the killing of major Al-Qaeda figures – it's been a year of major changes on foreign shores. Staying on top of these sweeping changes has kept Secretary of State Hilary Clinton plenty busy. Clinton has been working aggressively behind the scenes to oversee the transition to democracy in the Middle East. At the same time, it's been a challenge to work within an administration headed by a former political rival.

Carol Costello speaks with Massimo Calabresi, who wrote this week's TIME Magazine new cover story on Clinton, to discuss the Secretary of Ctate's use of "smart power" – and her surprising obsession with social media. (From CNN.com - Photo credit: Time)

Hear the entire interview