Friday, December 18, 2020

Some thoughts on the social psychological impact of 2020: emotional dehydration and collective trauma

I've been on something of a rollercoaster of experiences the past several months and it's given me pause to think about the social psychological impact of 2020. Given the breadth of impact I think just about anyone can find something to relate to in these ideas.


Earlier this summer, after spending several months already in a form of lockdown, it struck me that I was feeling a sense of illusion. I recall discussing this with my immediate family. They too echoed similar sentiments. “Things just seem weird.” 

For all intents and purposes I’ve been a professional Sociologist for almost 25 years. I’ve spent that time doing research and in academia. I have a good eye for understanding social experiences and how they impact the sense of self. This sense of “feeling weird” was a sensation, if you will, I found unique. I found it to be beyond a similar term in the field, “anomie.”

Particularly since March 2020, there has been so much for mindful people to absorb. I say “mindful people” because I believe the psychological impact of the many stressors experienced as a result of covid-19, social unrest, and matters related to the presidential election has hit mindful people more deeply than those that live life largely with blinders. Given the limitations of my willingness to explore that in depth in this piece, let’s throw all of these largely external stressors into one bag. Now, let’s set that bag to the side knowing there is much in that bag that affects who we are. It indeed has been a very tough year for everyone.

Memory and sense of self

So much of our sense of self, even our own reality, is anchored by our memories and the patterns of our behavior. Our actions and behaviors in everyday life serve to establish the pattern of our self. In sociological social psychology there is much to be said about social experiences that impact and sustain the self. It is amidst this process of socialization where I began to find answers to why “things just seem weird.” The impact of all the stressors “in that bag” has been to chip away at the memories rooted in our psyche. While this December the holiday season will result in a sadness we have not experienced, it is also a very common experience. Mindful people will adhere to public health guidance, and many of us will not see family in our common place of gathering for the first time in our lives. The holidays this year will seem quite “weird.” They will feel that way because how we will celebrate will be far different than what our memories will remind. 

Guardrails for life

Over time our everyday habits serve to establish guardrails for our lives. These everyday experiences serve to give us perspective into our own reality. Thus the life I live over the course of a day, of several days, of a week, of several weeks, and so on firmly establish my guardrails and sense of reality. For most people this makes life comfortable. Life is predictable. It’s a stability of living. 

When guardrails fall apart nearly overnight this can be characterized as an experience of trauma. Allow me to explore this further. Before covid-19 hit, I was going into work daily. I did this generally five days a week. For a moment though, consider the varied experiences I would engage in a given work day. I would wake up, get myself prepared for work, drive to work, park in the parking lot, walk into my building, go to my office, and go to class two to three times a day. Let us not underestimate the significance of the mundane, small things we do everyday and what that means for who we are. Now, magnify that everyday experience by five days a week, by four weeks a month, by a year. One can begin to see how this predictability of daily behavior could serve to establish my guardrails of everyday life. So when the impact of covid-19 hit, daily life changed in an instant. As of writing this piece, I’ve not been in a classroom since March 2020. I’ve been onsite at my workplace for a total of 20 minutes since that time. But, my work did not stop. I did not shut down. Instead I began to install new guardrails for work, this time in the comfort of my own home. I used to go to work to work. I used to go home for comfort. Since March my home has also served as my worksite. And my home has also served as the place of schooling for three children. My home has also served as our church. The comfort of home has not much served as the comfort of home. And I think this is a reality for a lot of people. This experience has been so profound that I have begun to consider the abrupt changes in everyday life as a form of trauma. 

So what does this experience, this trauma look like for a 6 year old? For a 13 year old? For an adult? For older folks? 

I do not use this word lightly. Trauma is an extremely powerful term. Trauma is generally defined as: “a deeply distressing or disturbing experience,” and “emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may be associated with physical shock and sometimes leads to long-term neurosis.” One way to address trauma is to remove oneself from the situation, to relocate, to seek out a different environment. The difficulty doing that is regardless of where you go a similar trauma you're likely to find. The trauma I allude to above is not just my experience. It’s the experience of a lot of people. In fact some people have more experiences since March that provide even greater significance to the trauma. There’s a general collective experience going on here. Perhaps we should begin to consider the idea of a collective trauma. And, how does a society address collective trauma?

So consider the predictability of the guardrails of life. Prior to March of this year I had spent years on “building” my guardrails for work, for home, for church, for recreation, for my side business as a DJ, for how I relate to my spouse, to my children, to my family, to my friends. Each set of these guardrails was fundamentally changed in the matter of the month of March. How are we to live life without guardrails? Well, we adapt. With family and friends I’ve spoken much about the need to thrive during this crisis. Those words of advice included moving forward in one’s own way with what we are given to work with. I believe thriving requires realizing the catastrophe of the disruption of everyday life, and moving forward in ways of adaptation. This means adapting your home for work. It means doing your gatherings much more differently until it’s safe. For us that has meant using Zoom for gatherings. Adapting and thriving means building and establishing new guardrails. Adapting and thriving means doing the best you can. But it’s tiring. It’s exhausting. More recently I’ve been thinking about emotional dehydration.

In conclusion, this emotional dehydration and trauma can get better with time. A major obstacle of identifying and treating these “conditions” is the importance of time and space. The guardrails of life I mentioned earlier are anchored in our memory enhanced by time and space. So, it will get better once my work is back at work. Once my religious practice is back in a church. Once my “normal activities” can once again be resumed in normal context. Unless work, church, and my other activities completely change to a new normal, my guardrails will continue to be reduced to suggestions. So until things get back to normal, things will “just feel weird.” And we might be feeling weird for a little while longer.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Live electronica improv: 2020 Halloween Spooktacular

Bookmarks: Population and Urbanization

U.S. Fertility Rates - Pew Research Center - Posts | Facebook

World Population by Income | Pew Research Center

Macau Hong Kong bridge, world's longest sea-crossing, finally opens - CNN

Population and Climate Change

There has been a remarkable global decline in... - The Sociological Review

Climate change will shrink US economy and kill thousands, government report warns - CNN

(11) How will we survive when the population hits 10 billion? | Charles C. Mann - YouTube

US fertility rate is below level needed to replace population, study says - CNN

DEIS Maps | I-69 Ohio River Crossing

Daily Overview on Instagram: “The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is an artificial archipelago created with 4.3 billion cubic yards (3.28 billion cubic…”

Delhi pollution: Air quality reaches toxic levels as India loses battle against polluters - The Washington Post

18 Maps Of The United States That Made Us Say "Whoa"

Bookmarks: Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs


National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) |

FinalNeedsAssessmentReport.pdf - Google Drive

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) |

Welcome to the MTF Website

SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Trends & Statistics | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Bookmarks: Memes, etc

Memes, GIFs, Vines - Google Slides

I Am Speed | Know Your Meme

When you do 20 grams of meth in under 10 minutes | I Am Speed | Know Your Meme

Ultra Instinct Shaggy | Know Your Meme

Classic 80s Music Memes - Home | Facebook

Prof G Entertainment Services on Instagram: “I had such a GREAT time working year two with McLean County High School football. We wrapped it up tonight with a big win. Here is how we…”

Best Memes of All Time: Funniest and Most Popular Memes Ever Made - Thrillist

List of most-followed Instagram accounts - Wikipedia

List of most-liked Facebook pages - Wikipedia

List of most-viewed YouTube videos - Wikipedia

List of most-streamed songs on Spotify - Wikipedia

List of most-subscribed YouTube channels - Wikipedia

List of most-followed Twitter accounts - Wikipedia

List of most-liked Instagram posts - Wikipedia

Bookmarks: Immigration

 U.S. immigrant population projected to rise, even as share falls among Hispanics, Asians | Pew Research Center

Do immigrants lead to crime? A recent study says no. | The Marshall Project

Bookmarks: Crime


An Animated Visualization of the U.S. Mass Incarceration Crisis - CityLab

All About the Ferguson Syllabus

National Criminal Justice Reference Service | NCJRS

U.S. Department of Justice

Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

States with the most (and least) gun violence

Crime | Gallup Historical Trends

Brennan Center for Justice |

Programs and Practices - What Works in Criminal Justice -

Popular Projects | National Institute of Corrections

The International Association of Chiefs of Police > IACP Homepage

Bookmarks: Data Sources

 Pew Research Center | Nonpartisan, non-advocacy public opinion polling and demographic research

Wealth Inequality

Measure of America: A Program of the Social Science Research Council

Center on Urban Poverty

The National Bureau of Economic Research

National Center for Children in Poverty

United States Department of Labor

What The Hell Is Happening With These Alabama Polls? | FiveThirtyEight


Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates - Interactive Data and Mapping - U.S. Census Bureau

The effects of personality traits, self-esteem, loneliness, and narcissism on Facebook use among university students - ScienceDirect

The effects of personality traits, self-esteem, loneliness, and narcissism on Facebook use among university students - ScienceDirect

Bookmarks: Race

 Understanding Race

White Privilege, Quantified - The Atlantic

Separate and Unequal | FRONTLINE | PBS

Measuring Race: Census

RACE - The Power of an Illusion . Background Readings | PBS

The Enlightenment’s ‘Race’ Problem, and Ours -

Race and Censuses from Around the World - Sociological Images

The US Census and the social construction of race - Sociological Images


There Is No Such Thing as Race

Understanding Race After Charlottesville - Attend Events

Understanding Race After Charlottesville - Attend Events

Understanding Race After Charlottesville - Attend Events

Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys - The New York Times

There’s Never Been a Native American Congresswoman. That Could Change in 2018. - The New York Times

Sunday, November 1, 2020

15 day pre election financial data

It's required by law for candidates for office to report financial data. Here's a look at campaign finances for pertinent upcoming elections. 

Here are some key points and observations: 

* most campaign dollars for local elections come from the candidate and the candidate's family funds. 

* you need at least $5,000 to run a respectable city commission campaign. That doesn't mean you can't win on less. 

* only 8 of the 16 city commission candidates have reported finance data. This could mean they have raised and/or spent less than $3,000. Local candidates only have to provide financial data if they raise or spend more than $3,000. 

* the likely winning mayoral candidate will have raised and spent nearly $10,000. Per this report Conder has spent over $30,000 and Watson over $43,000. They both have more to spend. 

* be mindful that a lot of campaign money usually is spent between the 15 day report and the post election report. The post election financial data usually indicates a jump in expenditures in the 15 days leading up to an election. 

* there were no financial reports for any of the Board of Education candidates. 

I provide the U.S. Senate race data for comparison. Keep in mind the Senate race in Kentucky is hotly contested.

All of the state and local data above is found at the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance:

The data for the U.S. Senate race is found at the Federal Election Commission:

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Bookmarks: Social Class

Who Rules America: Explore the Power Elite

Mapping Poverty in America - The New York Times

Where Americans—Rich and Poor—Spent Every Dollar in 2012 - The Atlantic

In Climbing Income Ladder, Location Matters -

Inequality is real, personal, expensive, and it was created

Institute for Research on Poverty | University of Wisconsin–Madison

Where the 1 Percent Fit in the Hierarchy of Income - Interactive Graphic -

Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power

Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart - The New York Times

Are you in the US middle class? Try our income calculator | Pew Research Center

Childhood poverty linked to brain changes related to depression

5 facts about the minimum wage | Pew Research Center

Which States Are Givers and Which Are Takers? - The Atlantic

Americans Think Upward Mobility Is Far More Common Than It Really Is - CityLab

Plutocracy Rising | Moyers & Company |

Talk Poverty - Real People. Real Stories. Real Solutions.

10 least expensive states to live in the U.S.

Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your Blood Boil – Mother Jones

The Most and Least Healthy Counties in America - The Atlantic

America's Wealth Is Staggeringly Concentrated in the Northeast Corridor - CityLab

The Minimum Wage Used To Be Enough To Keep Workers Out Of Poverty—It’s Not Anymore: 
Raising It to $10.10 Would Lift a Family of Three Above the Poverty Line | Economic Policy Institute

Who Makes Up The Working Class, in 3 Graphs - CityLab

Peter Temin: Economic Mobility Requires the Nearly Impossible - The Atlantic

Why the Poor Don't Work, According to the Poor - The Atlantic

Very Sad Graph: How Much Americans Have Left to Spend After Essentials, Today - The Atlantic

NCCP | Budgeting for Basic Needs

Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality

‘Welfare Makes People Lazy’: A Myth That Needs Busting - The Atlantic

The financial impact of winning (and losing) the birth lottery - Mar. 6, 2018

The new gilded age: Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county | Economic Policy Institute

Barry Schwartz: The way we think about work is broken | TED Talk

How Many Americans Live in Poverty, and What Does That Actually Mean? (with Lesson Plan) | KQED

Middle-class income rose above $61,000 for the first time last year, U.S. Census Bureau says - The Washington Post