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Emerging from the Bush/Cheney Cloud to Face PPPTSD and Learned Helplessness

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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, 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.

LLU researcher finds that anticipating happy times may have health benefits

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).

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also (more...)

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This is very helpful. Many thanks.... by Aurora on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 2:19:55 PM
the work I've done in positive psychology has ... by Rob Kall on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 3:48:29 PM
we do suffer PTSD, but some of us it is from livin... by Jay Farrington on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 4:08:54 PM
Obama will have to wield in order to change the De... by Laudyms on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 4:10:15 PM
regular doses of reality and paying close attentio... by Rob Kall on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 4:36:43 PM
Bull's-eye!... by Jill Herendeen on Friday, Nov 7, 2008 at 9:24:24 AM
Physical wounds heal and over time; they minimize.... by john mccarthy on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 4:54:59 PM
Geez, Rob...Sounds like an advertisement for your ... by Linda Maria Fernandez on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 5:02:12 PM
Rob, I apologize for not reading through your comp... by Oh on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 7:35:29 PM
I heard once, "Optimists build the planes and... by shirley reese on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 8:40:08 PM
I think the best thing people could do for their m... by truthtruffle on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 9:10:57 PM
I wonder how a normal person would react if he, or... by Steven G. Erickson on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 at 9:58:00 PM
        I ... by mary sunshine on Friday, Nov 7, 2008 at 3:22:11 AM
      I want to qualify m... by mary sunshine on Friday, Nov 7, 2008 at 4:54:17 AM
Love your witt.... by chris rice on Friday, Nov 7, 2008 at 8:48:14 AM