Blissfully Informed Hippie Chick

Encouraging people to think critically about everything.

Disconnect to Reconnect

It’s pretty common knowledge that rats will choose to use cocaine addictively in a laboratory setting, if given unlimited access to it. But did you know that rats who are placed in a fun, engaging, social, mentally-stimulating environment will not partake in the cocaine in an addictive manner? Researchers have realized that the rats in the community environment don’t feel the need to use cocaine excessively. It’s only when in isolation that the rats choose the cocaine. Because why not? What else have they got to do with their time?

The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

The advert explains: “Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it. And use it. And use it. Until dead. It’s called cocaine. And it can do the same thing to you.”

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.

At first, I thought this was merely a quirk of rats, until I discovered that there was — at the same time as the Rat Park experiment — a helpful human equivalent taking place. It was called the Vietnam War. Time magazine reported using heroin was “as common as chewing gum” among U.S. soldiers, and there is solid evidence to back this up: some 20 percent of U.S. soldiers had become addicted to heroin there, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Many people were understandably terrified; they believed a huge number of addicts were about to head home when the war ended.

But in fact some 95 percent of the addicted soldiers — according to the same study — simply stopped. Very few had rehab. They shifted from a terrifying cage back to a pleasant one, so didn’t want the drug any more.

Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge both to the right-wing view that addiction is a moral failing caused by too much hedonistic partying, and the liberal view that addiction is a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you. It’s your cage.

After the first phase of Rat Park, Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days — if anything can hook you, it’s that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can’t recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is — again — striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them.

I theorize that all addiction is the same thing… lack of connection. I have no trouble staying off Facebook when I’m out and about, visiting with friends or family, running errands, etc. It’s when I’m feeling lonely, isolated, faced with either cleaning my house (again) or scrolling through my news feed that I just can’t seem to resist.

Until not that long ago, humans interacted tangibly with each other daily. And not with just members of one’s family or extended family, but with members of the greater community at large. The lack of connection we as a species are experiencing is likely a driving force behind increases in everything from crime to mental/physical health problems to parenting struggles. (For a great read on the adverse effects the decline of the community on child development, and why this happened, read this article by Peter Gray, Ph.D.)

Loving, caring physical touch has been known to lower stress levels so significantly that wounds even heal faster. I would posit that just being in the presence of happy individuals improves one’s mood. Which is why churches are so successful… they meet several times a week, sing uplifting songs, hug everyone, and talk about things like loving your neighbor. Why wouldn’t people like to go there? And how better to get people to donate money to you than to give them happy feelings? Not that all churches are taking advantage of this, but some definitely are. What we need are communities like churches, without the hell and damnation, without the silly recitations and expectation of belief in a deity; but with all the things like visiting the sick and elderly, free child care, potlucks, food pantries, love and concern for all.

The question is, how do we get people to see that Facebook isn’t real connection? Beyond that, how do we get people to see that they know more about their favorite sitcom family than their friends’ families… and what a tragedy that is? This disconnection is so pervasive, it might take a huge jolt to wake everyone up to it.

I think we all know, deep down, that connection is what we need. It’s why we’re so quick to click that tantalizing button: “Connect with me on ______.” (Fill in the blank.)

So what’s it going to take to end the disconnection, once and for all?



Facebook, the Anti-Connection

What if I want real-life tangible relationships, because human beings are social creatures who crave human connection… but everyone is too involved with their technology-driven lives to get off Facebook and even send me a text message…

What if I loathe the idea of this false sense of “connection” that lies in social networking…

What if people in my own little tiny town are so caught up in this artificial rat race that they’re too busy to sit in their front yards and chat, or heaven forbid, invite someone into their home…

What if me on Facebook is simply a band aid on the broken back of society…

Because I know what’s missing. Community. Friendship. Connection. Not the fake “connect with me on Facebook” connection. Real-life, tangible, energy-swapping connection.

Should I continue to pretend to myself that Facebook is the best I’ll get? Because I think I’m past that. I think scrolling through my news feed is too bittersweet, because deep down, I feel like if these people cared about me at all, they’d have taken the 10 seconds to send me that picture that I “liked” on Facebook. They’d have sent me a message or a text saying “how’s it going with you?” Are we really going to fool ourselves into believing we’re “too busy” for that?

But if I give up Facebook, what’s left? Who will still send me pictures of their life? Who will ask me how I’m doing? Who will make the effort? That’s a scary, lonely thought.


I Love Me


I love my crooked, toothy grin
I love my bright blue eyes
I love my frog-like swimming toes
I love my skinny thighs

Far beyond the physical,
I love my intelligence
I love my thirst for knowledge
I love my common sense

I love that I’m compassionate
I love that I’m ever-caring
I love my adventurous streak
I love it when I’m daring

I love my musical abilities
I love that I cook so well
I love that I’m not afraid
to try things when I might fail

I love my determination
I love my creative style
I love that I can learn new skills
after just a little while

I love the way I dance
I love the way I sing
I love my way with words
and that I can spell most anything

I love that I love my kids
more than my very life
I love that I do my best
to be a loving wife

I love that I am loveable;
my imperfections make me whole
I love that I learn from mistakes
to help me reach all my goals


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Loving Me

Somehow, I have to start loving *me*. In the past, I’ve asked friends or boyfriends or my hubby to tell me good things about me. It makes me feel good for a time, but I don’t really believe them, so I have to keep hearing it over and over to feel good. I’m done with that. I’m done relying on others for love.

I decided that telling myself isn’t good enough. I decided to express my love for *me* in a way I’ve expressed love for others… in a poem. I began writing last night. Words usually flow through me so easily. I’m stumped. Oh, I’ll get back to it, for sure! But just the fact that I’m stumped speaks volumes to me.

I’m beginning to understand how important loving oneself is to emotional health. Self-hatred is a battle that spills outward and affects everyone around me. I want peace in the world, yet I’m not at peace within myself. Since I can only control me, then any changes I wish I see in the world must be made within. 

I believe everyone is worthy of love. Yes, everyone. And that has to include me. I think this is my first step…I am worthy of my love, imperfections and all.



Change Your Response, Change Your Brain


I’m currently dealing with a sick 2.5 yr old and an 18 mo old in the midst of a sleep regression. Yesterday, I was parenting from 415am-1115pm. And then I was up again at 445 this morning.

I’m proud of myself for mostly staying patient. These are the trying times of parenting when it feels like I’m barely surviving. When I ignore the dishes and the pile of laundry. When I take naps if given the chance. When we eat leftovers and snacks. When the floor stays littered with toys.

I used to try to do it all… but I always fell short, because no one can do it all, all the time. Especially with very little sleep. I’ve come to realize that those things don’t matter. What matters is patience, compassion, understanding, comfort. What matters is the piles of books I read to them, the hugs and kisses I give them, the songs I sing to them.

Chances are, they won’t look back at pictures like this and think “I wish mom had picked up toys more often”. Chances are, they’ll think “look how happy we were!”

Facebook is full of perfectly-posed pictures. I could have taken this picture up close, just showing their smiling faces. I chose to show the whole room because this is reality. Reality is messy, chaotic, and unpredictable. All we can control is our response to it. If I don’t like how I respond to something, I can learn from that and try again next time. It is absolutely possible to change those responses. Yes, it takes time. It takes practice. It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do, because it’s literally rewiring your brain! But it can be done. I’m living proof of that. Believe in yourself. Show yourself compassion. You can do this =)

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The function of the child is to live his own life, not the life that his anxious parents think he should live, nor a life according to the purpose of the educator who thinks he knows best. All this interference and guidance on the part of adults only produces a generation of robots.

Dadosaurus Rex

I stumbled across this while perusing the vast caverns of the interwebs.  It is a chapter of a book called “Summerhill” written by an educator named A. S. Neill, and the message resonated with me so strongly, I couldn’t help but post it here.  Enjoy.

“I hold that the aim of life is to find happiness, which means to find interest. Education should be a preparation for life. Our culture has not been very successful. Our education, politics and economics lead to war. Our medicines have not done away with disease. Our religion has not abolished usury and robbery. The advances of the age are advances in mechanism – in communications and computers, in science and technology. New wars threaten, for the world’s social conscience is still primitive.

If we feel like questioning today, we can pose a few awkward questions. Why does man hate and kill in war when…

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Sensory Processing “Disorder”

I hate that term. “Disorder”. Just because my body reacts differently to sensory input doesn’t mean I have a disorder.

I have sensory “issues”. Though I was never diagnosed. I happened across a list a few years back and did more reading. I was always just told I was picky, over dramatic, exaggerating, etc. as a child. So it was good to find validation!

My four kids have varying degrees of issues. My 9 year old is the most like me. I think we all handle our degrees of sensitivity pretty well, with no therapy. We have things we like and things we don’t, and we do our best to make ourselves comfortable. I don’t see it as a hindrance. It’s a challenge, to be sure, but it’s also a wonderful thing. I have detected the scent of an electrical fire while it was merely smoldering in the other room. I never have to use a baby monitor. I can spot small lost items with ease. I can feel a bug tickling my arm instantaneously. I can create my own seasonings just by imagining what the herbs would taste like together.

These are super powers, not a disability! Yes, it takes time and effort to learn to live in a society inundated with bright lights, loud noises, and pungent odors. But I would personally never want to dull my senses. I’ll take the bad because of the good that comes along with it. Moving to a tiny rural town has greatly helped us all be able to live more peacefully, also. We retreat to our house often, but even going downtown is pretty stress-free here!

I say we stop trying to medicate away or dull anything that is outside of what the “experts” deem as “normal”. I say we celebrate our differences. Imagine how boring it would be if we were all truly the same?


Ripples in a Pond

I used to be a “yeller”. I yelled at everyone. Over and over. Every day. I hated it, I hated myself. It’s the worst thing I remember from my own childhood… my own mother, yelling and raging, making everyone walk on eggshells around her. It’s the one thing I swore I wouldn’t do to my kids, and then there I was, doing the same exact thing.

I have been trying to stop for years. Literally, years. Summer of 2011 is when I began personal counseling sessions with a therapist, and when I realized for the first time where my rage originated. I began to heal. I had to heal my broken inner child before I could change the behaviors that were the result of that brokenness. The deeper into myself I dive, the more clearly I see what needs to change, and how.

This is no easy task. It is a journey I’m still on. It has been filled with many painful memories, many tears, many emotions. It has been terrifying and enlightening. I have grown frustrated at my seeming lack of progress. If I could just wish my thoughts and behaviors away, I would have done so long ago.

I’m here to tell you this: it’s all worth it. Those tiny steps forward I’ve taken over several years and even the backsliding, the self-doubt, the anguish… and even knowing I have a lifetime of growing and learning left, including many future mistakes, I’m sure.

Why is it all worth it? Because the progress is real. I’ve seen it. It’s there.

Last weekend, my 11 year old daughter was mixing up some juice concentrate. She wound up tipping the pitcher and spilling over half the juice. All over the counter, cabinets, floor, herself. My instant reaction wasn’t yelling. In the past, I would have translated that sticky juice disaster into an emotional mess. But I didn’t. Not this time. I didn’t even let out a big sigh or roll my eyes. I immediately began directing her and my 9 year old as to what steps should be taken (safety first, unplug the coffee pot!). I grabbed towels and pitched in. The three of us communicated and cleaned, side by side. And in the course of a few minutes, the mess was gone.

As the girls took the messy towels to the washing machine to start a load of laundry, I told my husband, rather incredulously, “I didn’t yell, that whole time!” This was a monumental occasion. I am proof that people can heal. That people can change the neural pathways in their brain. It is the hardest path I’ve ever taken, but by far the most rewarding.

This is my hope for all of you here, struggling to change, doubting yourselves, wanting to give up. Don’t! Persevere! You can do this! There is hope. You are worth it. You deserve happiness and peace. And as you find it for yourself, it will spread to all those around you, like ripples in a pond.