June 30, 2015

The "I'm Right; You're Stupid" Argument

"Talking Heads 1" by Fran Hogan
As humans, we debate over many issues, which way is right or wrong or more useful. We call these arguments. The word argue is based on the reconstructed Proto-IndoEuropean root *arg- "to shine, be white, be clear" (also related to Latin argentum for silver). Arguments should shine light on an issue and make it clear. Expressing opinions in a respectful manner leads to issues becoming clearer. Usually we can combine approaches to reach a solution.

However, some "opinions"  are truth, belief, or scientific fact. You can argue all you want with gravity, but stepping off a cliff will still lead to a certain injury or death.

Argumentum Ad Hominem or the Personal Attack

Resorting to personal attacks is a common tactic in our society. These attacks vary and can be outright, subtle, or sarcastic. No matter how the attack is presented it is still a logical fallacy. It hurts others, and it only makes it more difficult to come to a real solution. We may question someone's actions, motivations, and credibility if it is relevant to the argument. 

Passive-Aggressive Put-downs

Passive-aggressive arguments often appear witty or educated, but they are still personal attacks! They may not say directly that you are stupid, unhinged, too emotional, but they imply it. These manipulations are more insidious than direct attacks. It is designed to make someone feel stupid or worthless without implicating the aggressor. Passive-aggressive manipulation is a form of dishonesty because the aggressor hides behind a facade of civility.

Direct Put-downs

I don't condone outright name-calling, but I prefer it over passive forms of put downs. It is more honest. And hey--it is more exciting! Kidding. I'm tired of politicians, activists, fanatics, and news pundits on any side calling each other names. Stick to the issues or talk about something else. Sometimes two sides won't ever agree, so there is no point for the debate.

Truth Matters

The truth matters whether it be spiritual, physical, scientific, and so on. We cannot deny truth when discussing issues because this will not lead to a solution. In this case, errors--whether intentional or accidental--should be called out in a respectful manner. This is not a personal attack, but seeking the truth. After all, the purpose of an argument is to shine light and make things clear. When an opponent is dishonest in any form, their credibility should be questioned.

Absolute Rights, Wrongs, and Neutrals

Many things are absolute rights or wrongs, no matter what people call it. Good cannot be called evil, nor evil called good. Most arguments are over neutral or trivial subjects. A trivial, neutral subject would be whether soccer or football is better. It doesn't matter in the eternal scheme of things. There are also situations where there are multiple ways to approach a solution. How we solve the problem of poverty has several approaches from the public and private sectors, many which are viable. The key is to maintain civility, respect agency, and dignify the poor in such discussions.

The Spirit of the Argument

When the spirit of contention enters an argument, the truth is lost amid the fight for dominance (see 3 Ne. 11:29). This is true even if someone may be technically right, but contentious. Arguments only achieve solutions when there is respect and truth-seeking on both sides. If one or both sides have the spirit of contention, then the argument achieves only hurt feelings. When someone testifies of truth in the spirit of meekness, others who are receptive will understand the truth too, even when the other person is contentious. After stating the truth, it is time to walk away.

Common Ad Hominem Attacks

We come across several different types of personal attacks when discussing issues: "I'm right, you're stupid;" "I'm right, you're crazy;" and "I'm right, shut up." These attacks, whether direct or indirect, hurt people and can become abuse as gaslighting.

I'm Right; You're Stupid

Is there any reason to insult someone's intelligence? Everyone has innate intelligence, with or without formal education. Everyone has a brain to think things through. All we need are the facts. Someone may have less formal education, but that doesn't mean they haven't spent the time studying or have experience in that area. Sometimes you don't have to study something in-depth to have an informed opinion. Sometimes, we instinctively know whether something is right, wrong, or neutral.

I'm Right; You're Crazy

First off, "crazy" is a relative term. Calling someone crazy is an abusive technique and throws logic out the window. This attack is often used on anyone an opponent disagrees with, whether that person has mental illness or not. Mental illness--like anxiety or depression--does not affect a person's reasoning capability. In the case of paranoia or hallucinations, this only interferes with reasoning for a time. Unfortunately, we discount the mentally ill too often, thus making them frequent targets of abuse.

Attacking Beliefs as Deceived or Delusional

Some claim moral or religious people are delusional or deceived because of their beliefs. Everyone has a belief system or religion, whether it be secularism, Judaism, humanism, Islam, atheism, Christianity, Buddhism, and so on. Some religious beliefs are truths that are spiritual and not quantifiable. It is a matter of faith. Other beliefs can be proven, but people will still choose not to listen. Some say they can speak with God, but they are sometimes ridiculed as delusional. That would make the majority of the world delusional. Praying is not delusional: it is an act of faith.

If we chose to ignore our moral beliefs, we would have complete anarchy. We don't have to agree on all beliefs to have a meaningful discussion. We need to respect each other.

I'm Right; Shut Up!

If this isn't an obvious affront to logical argument, I don't know what is. This defeats the purpose of seeking a solution. There are several ways to shut up an opponent: tell them to shut up, ignoring them, walk away, discredit them unfairly, jail them, sue them, hurt them. Several tactics are "legal": to sue someone into silence, threaten them with allegations, invade their privacy and so on.

There are times when you have to walk away from an argument in the case of personal attacks, lies, and contention. There is nothing to be accomplished at this point. Simply state the truth and go. 

Agree or Disagree Agreeably

There is no winner or loser in an argument. Anyone going for the symbolic victory only causes contention. Both sides "win" when they show respect to one another (including apologies). If there's no consensus afterward, simply disagree agreeably. There can be other discussions, or a truce. Really, everyone wants to be heard and understood. We want to feel validated, whether we are right or wrong.

The goals of an argument are to shine light on truth, make a clear path for solutions, and to show respect.

How have you dealt with these type of attacks? How do you disagree agreeably? 

June 22, 2015

Intro to Series: Reducing Rape Culture

"Everyone Has a Choice" by George Hodan
This is my opinion on how to reduce rape culture. We each have strong opinions on such a devastating aspect of sexual abuse in society. We can work together to reduce potential predators and create help for victims.

Some classify cultures as rape cultures that create sexual predators. Some aspects of culture do contribute to sexual predators, but predators decide what they do. Their culture didn't make them predators, only influenced them: they choose to become who they are. However, there are strategies to reduce rape cultures.

Debunk Fallacies

We tell men: don't rape! Well, women and adolescents rape too. Simply saying don't rape doesn't account all the factors that led to someone choosing to act on sexual predation. The ultimate act of rape begins slowly with small deviations that lead to bigger deviations. The key is to persuade and teach everyone to take care of the small sins that can lead to rape or molesting.

We tell women: don't learn self-defense. That's dangerous thinking for every woman who believes that statement. Every man, woman, and older child has the power to reduce their risk of rape and sexual abuse using deflection strategies and self-defense. We have to accept that we can't control predators, but we can control ourselves.

So what will we counteract to reduce and one day eradicate rape culture?

After reading Protecting Our Children from Sexual Predators by Dr. Leigh Baker, she describes characteristics of sexual predators. Counteracting these characteristics in our culture will reduce sexual predators. Here are the characteristics to counteract: doesn't take responsibility and blames others for failures, acts entitled, has low self-esteem, needs to control or have power, deviant sexual attitudes and behaviors, trouble forming relationships with adults, lacks empathy, abuses alcohol or drugs, and troubled/abusive childhoods. Anna C. Salter discusses other characteristics of sexual predators: practiced liars, glibness (slippery), likability, and outward niceness.

I will discuss the remedies going through this series: taking responsibility, humility, loving yourself, dealing with helplessness, healthy sexuality, forming healthy relationships, developing empathy, abstaining from drugs and alcohol, preventing/coping with a troubled past, being honest, and discernment.

This sounds simplistic, but we tend to overcomplicate solutions. As each of us takes responsibility for ourselves, we create a healthier society. It all begins with the individual and influencing other individuals for the better.

Have you noticed other characteristics of abusers? What would you recommend to reduce rape culture?

June 16, 2015

Goodbye Glasses

"Glasses" by Daniele Pellati
Last night I was riding my bike and bugs rushed at my face. I spit them out. My face soon became sweaty as I was dodging bugs. In the midst of riding fast, my glasses flew off my face. In the dark, I couldn't see worth beans. I touched every weed hoping it was my glasses. My husband came and he searched for the glasses too. No luck.

I put in my contacts this morning, which I hate, but I only have 15 year old backup glasses. I can see 15 feet away clearly, but not beyond that. Maybe not even that.

In the morning, my husband looked around for 20 minutes. I checked separately with no luck. One person passed by and asked if I was okay. "I'm looking for my glasses." She said she'd tell me if she saw any. I know I looked funny because I was weaving from one side to another scanning the ground. Maybe I looked drunk.

Today, I went to an eye doctor and set up an appointment. I need glasses now! I wish I could afford Lasik, but I am going to see if I am a candidate. I would be worth it to me to have perfect vision again. Only been going blind for the past 20 years. I hope I get my new glasses soon.

June 15, 2015

Misfortune & Serendipity

"Two Dices" by Charles Rondeau
Two months ago, my family and I went to a buffet restaurant. My toddler coughed so hard that he vomited. We paid all this money and we couldn't take home what was left on our plates! The servers gave us small clean up kits that didn't even begin to clean up the mess. We left in a rush and huff. The restaurant gave us two meal tickets, but how could that make up for our children begging to finish their dinner?

The next week, my husband and I went on a date to that same buffet with the free meal tickets. I ran into an old roommate that I haven't heard from in nine years there. I smiled because I had tried to contact her that entire time, but had outdated contact information. She was at the restaurant because she had run out of gas and her dad had picked her up. Our misfortunes led to our serendipitous meeting.

We visited last week and she helped me gain some perspective for my life: We are all beautiful in our own way. What we look like is not our true beauty. The world has set patterns of beauty, especially for women. I don't fit the ideal like I used to, but she reminded of the beauty I have. I have red hair that so many people dye for. I am a caring and talented person. But I still want to lose weight!!! I also am learning I don't need to compare myself with others. I especially can't compare myself to the media's portrayal of a flat stomach, large chest, and wide hips. How many pictures are photo-shopped? Or how much surgery did someone get for that body? We live in reality with imperfections. So my friend reminded me of my own worth.

God works in mysterious ways to bring people together (or apart). Several times I have been annoyed at my misfortune or bad timing, but the misfortunes turn out for my benefit. I meet friends or strangers who I need to talk to. (Or I miss seeing toxic people at the store.) Misfortunes have been serendipitous in bigger ways in my life. For example, I had wanted to go to BYU when I was in high school, but I ended up going to a junior college first. The timing was perfect to go to BYU as a transfer student when I roomed with my future husband's sister.

So when I'm frustrated at my misfortunes, I try to remember that it could be God intervening for my benefit.

Has misfortune led to serendipitous (lucky) situations for you?

June 10, 2015

A Child's Health Problems Are Heart Wrenching

My son's left club foot as an infant
I scroll through my Facebook news feed and I see the updates on several babies that were born prematurely or have other health problems. It hurts my heart seeing babies and children suffer. It is the ultimate torment for any parent. What must Heavenly Father feel for us?

My Experiences

When my oldest was four, he had a burst appendix. Because the appendix ruptured, my oldest had to be on IV antibiotics for several days after surgery. He was so dehydrated that multiple nurses and anesthesiologists couldn't get an IV in. I broke down during that time worrying about my son. A neighbor dropped by and gave me hug, which brought me through the moment. He went to a bigger hospital as a result. The doctor knocked him out with a shot and then the team went to work. It was quite interesting seeing my oldest go into a very relaxed state and sleep. I was so relieved when he came home and had no further complications.

My youngest baby was in the hospital for five days after being born. I was so stressed and sleep deprived. I just wanted him to come home. He came home on oxygen and a oxygen monitor, which I wanted to bash into the wall when it beeped through the night. I was so relieved when we got rid of all the medical equipment four weeks later and my infant was better.

I Pray for the Baby

When I see a baby hurting on Facebook, I say a short prayer before I forget. I hope those prayers make the difference for each baby, but not all babies get better. I can only imagine a portion of what the parents must be going through. People who make it through are amazing.

I know God cares for each child and loves them so much, even when they don't become better. I remember the promise that when we are resurrected, we will have a perfect body. Right now is just a test that feels like eternity. Other children God brings home early. We have a promise that we will be able to raise that child during Christ's Millenial Reign. That can give some comfort, but life will still be difficult. Through God's plan we have hope to cling to, though it may seem insignificant.

The Health Problem Becomes the Norm

In my own experience, we become accustomed to dealing with our child's health problems. It simply becomes habit. My youngest had a club foot, so we have seen an orthopedist since he was two months old. That was quite involved with all the casting and orthopedic shoes afterward, but not as stressful as being on oxygen. I became very used to the doctor changing casts weekly for the first few months after my son's birth. Then he wore the orthopedic shoes during the day and soon only at night. It's became a process of daily life. Admittedly, a club foot is so much easier to take care than other medical issues. I'll take my problems over anybody else's.

I hope we can all come to terms with children's hardships and learn how we can help and how we can accept what we can't change. We simply do our best.

How have you coped with a child's health issues?

June 02, 2015

My Advice for Pregnancy, Postpartum & Bipolar

"Pregnancy and Newborn" by Petr Kratochvil
I read this article this morning about having bipolar and pregnancy. She had bipolar 1, which is more complicated than bipolar 2 with symptoms and medicines. It was nice to see other women with bipolar manage pregnancy, birth and postpartum. It's quite a task that requires a lot of adjustments. I know of one woman who went off all meds to have a child, but I wouldn't recommend that!

Jennifer Marshall included three tips in her article: have a plan when bringing home the baby, consider not breastfeeding, and weigh the benefits of medication versus other medications. I'm including some of her advice with my own advice for handling mental illness during and after pregnancy.

Regular Psychiatrist Visits and Medication Management

I changed meds over the course of four months preparing to have my first child. I struggled during that whole time with hypomania and self-harm, but I knew I wouldn't have access to a psychiatrist after that four month period due to lack of insurance and funds. After two months of pregnancy, I was able to go on Medicaid and see a doctor! I dropped an antidepressant after the first two months of pregnancy, but without the recommendation of a doctor. Luckily, my doctor added a new antidepressant later, which made a huge difference.

Lesson: Have a psychiatrist monitoring meds before, during, and after pregnancy. Don't change meds too quickly or go off without monitoring.

Safe Medication During Pregnancy

I switched medication so I could have children from class D to class C and B medication, but this doesn't work for everyone. Pregnant women should work very closely with a psychiatrist and obstetrician to monitor the mother's mental health and baby's risks. I took a medication without a lot of research on it during pregnancy and third baby probably had mild effects from it. I think it might have slowed his metabolism after being born, but I don't know. My doctor encouraged me to report the effect of the medication to a research, but I didn't. I wish I had now to add to the medical literature.

In the last trimester of my first pregnancy, I went off my mood stabilizer so I could breastfeed. A few days after delivering my son, I had a day of thoughts of self-harm and harm to my firstborn. But that was the only day of those feelings! After eight weeks, I chose to resume my mood stabilizer medicine when I could feel a slight depression coming on.

Lesson:  It is worth being sane even if a medication may be riskier during pregnancy. Be willing to forego breastfeeding for sanity. A sane mother is better than a harmful, depressed, or psychotic mother!

Regular Counseling Before, During and After Pregnancy

I made the mistake of not going to a counselor for two months before my first child, which led to serious self-harm (and changing meds too quickly). Luckily, I had a neighbor who listened to the Spirit and came to talk to me at a critical moment. Even though I had no insurance, I should have sought counseling when I first felt myself slipping. After that, I did seek counseling through my church's social services. From then on, I was more stable during my pregnancy and after. 

I stuck with counseling through my second pregnancy too, but I made the mistake of not going after the eight-week mark. I had moved and was no longer insured. We were on Medicaid a month later, but I still didn't see a counselor because we were only there for my husband's short internship. I didn't seek out a counselor for another two years and while trying to get pregnant a third time, which led to a worse breakdown. Since then, I have been regularly going to a counselor through my third pregnancy and the years after.

Lesson: Counseling is too important to skimp on while you are trying to get pregnant. Hormones and feelings fluctuate too much during this trial period. I chose counseling during each pregnancy, which I'm thankful for. The postpartum period lasts longer than I thought. I needed it for a period of at least a year or more after each child.


I cannot emphasize self-care more for the periods before, during and after pregnancy. I ate more than I should have and gained weight, causing greater depression. I also stayed up too late at nights in an attempt to have "me" time. It has backfired into tired days and weight gain. Take care of yourself spiritually, mentally, and physically. I am a much happier mom when I take care of myself first and then my kids.

Hopefully this helps other women with mental illness who are having children. It's a delicate process and you need all the support you can get. Remember to create a support network of family and friends. We are an interdependent species.

Do you have more advice?