After eight years of the dark cloud and litany of abuses cast by the Bush/Cheney administration, many of us are dealing with PPPTSD-- political, partisan PTSD and learned helplessness, even though America is back in the light. There are some answers that could probably help anyone adversely touched by the last eight years.
We had some good news on Tuesday night. The end of an era/error is near at hand. I wear several hats. One involves the world of Positive Psychology, matter of fact, f or a good six or eight years, I’ve been posting on and participating in a positive psychology listserve group.
This morning, a study was reported, which showed that anticipating positive experiences is good for you. Over 20 years ago, I wrote a book, referenced below, which described a model I came up with, The anatomy of positive experience. One part of it described the idea of anticipation as a valuable element in having positive experience skills. So I commented on the study.
This conversation got me thinking about Obama's victory. The fact is, for the past eight years, we have been in a kind of hell, living under the cloud of Bush/Cheney rule, facing terrorism, unnecessary war, torture, invastions of privacy, economic catastrophy, the tearing down of the constitution, erosion of our democratic freedoms. Whether you're a liberal, moderate or conservative, this cloud has been real and it has done some damage to our psyches-- nationwide and world-wide.We've been suffering from Political, Partisan Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-- PPPTSD.
Suddenly, with Obama's win, the clouds have cleared, light has shown through and the future's possibilities are very different. As we crawl out of our Bush/Cheney "fallout shelters" and other assorted emotional holes in the ground, it is understandable that some of us may wince or flich at any sudden movements, have flashbacks, have difficulty trusting, have moments of anger, panic or fear.
Some of us will recover from PPPTSD faster than others. Some will find themselves stuck.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman did dog studies which demonstrated that if, several times, you shock a dog if it goes to one part of a cage, the rat stops going to that part of the cage even if you remove the shock. He called it Learned helplessness.
Now, as editor in-chief of opednews.com, I have been facing commenters who are angry, negative and who believed nothing would change regardless who was elected. Now, they are saying that nothing HAS changed. In some ways, they're demonstrating symptoms of learned helplessness, even though things may now, suddenly, be very different.
Seligman discovered that about a third of the dogs in the experiment did NOT develop learned helplessness. This finding contributed to Seligman studying OPTIMISM, and how some people are more optimistic than others. This research contributed to the development of the field of Positive Psychology and Seligman went on to become the president of the American Psychological Association and a pioneer in the field of positive psychology.
Frankly, before thinking through this PPPTSD aspect of the negative commenters, I was less tolerant of its victims. I was thinking, "The world has changed, things are better, there is more hope-- get with the program." But viewing these victims-- and they are from all ideologies-- through this lens, I'm finding more compassion and tolerance. Their negativity is inappropriate and is really not longer tolerable, but they need help, not chastisement.
Today, the positive psychology listserve group brought a study to my attention which showed that if people anticipated a positive experience, they'd experience health benefits. That reminded me of one of the factors involved in a model of happiness skills I'd described in the anatomy of positive experience. Basically, the model suggested that people could build their happiness skills by planning and anticipating postiive experiences. I think this also applies to those people who are suffering from PPPTSD.
First, here’s the study report, and that’s followed by my comments.
At a scientific conference in San Diego earlier this month, a Loma Linda University professor presented research further demonstrating that looking forward to happy experiences may have health benefits.
Lee Berk, DrPH, offered these findings during the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society, which was part of the Experimental Biology 2008 conference. This annual conference, which is a multi-society, interdisciplinary scientific meeting, met April 4–9. Dr. Berk is an associate professor in the School of Public Health, and an associate research professor in the School of Medicine.
Specifically, Dr. Berk reported that the anticipation of a happy laughter experience lowers three stress hormones: cortisol (a steroid hormone), epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), and dopac (a major catabolite of dopamine).