Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Social Welfare and Political Ideologies and Health Care Reform, Oh My!

If you don't feel like reading this whole thing, at least read the last paragraph
and the last line.

Introducation to Social Welfare Systems is quite the interesting class. It makes me
feel like a sine curve, haha.

"Why am I a Social Work minor?"

"This is going to be really helpful and applicable."

Chapter Ten was about "Social Work and Social Policy." Included within that chapter
was a discussion of political ideologies and how they influence the policies that
influence the field of social work.

I would like to quote the definitions directly from the textbook, but am at the
library and do not have it with me, so will have to quote what I wrote down while I
was reading the chapter...

Included in the textbook were Liberalism, Conservatism, and Radicalism.

My reading notes...

= uphold human rights/social equality, protect political/civil liberties, ensure
economic freedom/democratic participation.
social welfare = legitimate function and citizen's right
neoliberal = reduction in spending, working with businesses

= free-market, individualism, competition, localism, work ethic
social welfare = only temporary, destroys individual initiative, privatizing
neoconservative = needs-based, family responsibility, state/local responsibility,
blame big structures, empower mediating structures

= societal responsibility, revolutionary social change through work force
macrostructural reform, redistribution of power/wealth
[non-capitalistic welfare state in which all citizens share benefits equally]

--> interactive mix of ideological perspectives generates a creative
tension that invigorates and renews the profession (social work).

When Dr. Ford began to lecture about the political ideologies outlined in the book,
she began by saying she did not know why the textbook authors chose to include these
three because radicalism has never been prevalent within the United States and never
will because we've never experienced a workers' revolution because we always had a
high supply of workers. For example, if miners complained about poor work conditions,
their supervisors were able to not care because there were always people seeking work
and workers have always been replaceable.

...workers have always been replaceable? Perhaps. Perhaps for simple manual labor.

She continued by saying that, although radicalism is not existent within the United
States (something I believe I disagree with), there is a third political ideology.

I grinned.


I grinned more.

She asked if anyone had studied anything about Libertarianism in other classes.

No, but I have outside of class!

She asked for examples of prominent Libertarians in society.

"Ron Paul!" I said.

She agreed after a moment's hesitation and explained that he infiltrated the
Republican party and made many of them mad with his Libertarian values.

When Ron Paul was a guest on The Colbert Report and Stephen Colbert asked him to
confirm the fact that he is a Libertarian, he said, "I like liberty, yes." :)

The next example of Libertarianism she provided was Rush Limbaugh. Rush. Limbaugh.
Rush. Limbaugh. What a terrible example. This would not have been that big of a
problem, except for the fact that she did this singling out the Libertarian ideology.
But that's because Libertarianism is less-known and everyone is familiar with the
archetypes for Liberalism and Conservatism!

No matter. Equality in all information given. Right? Equality? Yeah.
She continued to talk about Libertarian values, how the root of the term is the
word "liberty" and how Libertarians value liberty and prefer limited government.

Okay, okay, we're on the right track. But then, of course, she felt the need to
talk about the most extreme example of a "true Libertarian," which again would not
have been that big of a problem, except for the fact that she did this singling out
the Libertarian ideology. Again.
Anyway, she went on to say...

"A true Libertarian believes in defense forces, not armed forces; that government
should not rule abortion, that government should be as minimal as possible, that
there should be no social services, that public education should be federally funded
only through sixth grade, and that federal government should not fund social welfare."


"It sounds like Libertarians just don't care about people in need, doesn't it?"

A student in my class nodded in agreement. I nearly died. But she saved herself.

She explained that this doesn't necessarily mean that Libertarians don't care about
the needy, simply that they do not believe that welfare should be funded through the
federal government, and especially not through taxes.

Right! Because we don't like taxes! :)

There was some other stuff she said that made me kind of mad and I had a fun time
laughing to myself instead of being the outspoken person that I am.

I hope she saw me resist the desire to open my mouth. lolz.

We talked about the health care reform bill. Before you kids jump all over me and my
Libertarian ideology, let me just say that, to be completely honest, I'm mostly
neutral to the health care reform bill itself, simply because I have not researched
it on my own time. Sure, I've heard stuff about it, but I've heard stuff in both
directions, from both sides of the table. And I certainly cannot just rely on stuff
I've heard.

So, in regards to the health care reform bill, I'm mostly neutral.


However! Amongst what I've heard from others, I have heard values that are either
reflected or denied within the bill and, in regards to these, I know where I stand.

My values are not blurry.

My teacher began by explaining that the journey toward health care reform (namely,
universal health care) began with Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900's. The
American Medical Association (AMA) was originally opposed to the early attempts at
initiating universal health care, but now vigorously support it.

That sounds fishy to me.

We then worked with a partner to try and complete a T/F quiz about "How Health Care
Reform Will (and Will Not) Change Your Life?" This can be found here.

Starting in 2014, if Americans do not have the minimum required health insurance,
they will have to pay a fine. (There is contradicting information on the amount)

Individuals and employees will choose plans for themselves.

The government will not launch a new health insurance company that would compete
against private companies.

Not all employers will be required to offer health insurance to all workers. (Only
business with over 50 employees. Tax breaks for small businesses who do offer.)

Small business owners who want to offer their employees health insurance will be
granted tax credits. (Uncertain about amount)

Insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage based on age or medical condition.

Federal money cannot be used to pay for abortions, except in cases already allowed,
such as rape, incest, or endangerment of the mother's life.

Illegal immigrants still will not be able to purchase health insurance. (Apparently
there is a university in PA that is accepting illegals?)

There will be an estimated sixteen million new Medicaid recipients.

My teacher said that the debate over the bill is simply the embodiment of politics.
= lies on both sides.

As I continue reading more and more newspaper articles, I keep realizing how poorly
they tend to be worded. "Tax credits will be awarded to small business owners who
want to offer health insurance"? Really? All a small business owner has to do in order
to receive a tax credit is prove that they WANT to offer health insurance?

We then read an article titled, "For Consumers, Clarity on Health Care Changes,"
which my teacher failed to cite. It was written by Tara Siegel Bernard and published
March, 21, 2010, and I am certain that you can find it, if you so desire.

The last thing we did in class was imagine circumstances to see how the health care
reform bill will affect real people. You can participate here.
Again, TERRIBLE WORDING, media! Way to go!
A computer-generated database CANNOT tell a person "what the health bill means to
"To mean to" refers to one's personal opinion. Media, I believe you meant "to mean
for," which refers to impact upon an individual.
What's EXTRA interesting is that the hyperlink says "mean-for," rather than "mean-to."

Ohhhhh my. Not only are you wrong, media, you're also inconsistent. Oh dear.

Annnnnnyway. Enough about politics. Back to political ideologies. What I originally
set out to say. Personally, I believe that Radicalism is alive and well in America,
even though it may not necessarily be reflected through workers' revolutions.

Radicalism = "redistribution of wealth"

That's all I hear anymore. Interesting that that's also a core value of Communism.
(Which is an economic system, not a political structure.)

What I REALLY want to say is that, until Social Welfare class last night and reflecting
upon it afterward, never before have I felt like such a true Independent. To be quite
honest, I like parts of each political ideology (Liberalism, Conservatism, Radicalism,
Libertarianism), but will have to discuss this more in-depth when I have my textbook.
And, while I am whole-heartedly proud to be registered as an Independent:Libertarian,
never before have I felt so unfairly stereotyped and pigeon-holed. This is an example
of how judgment is not okay. When judgment is applied without equity, when a certain
group is singled out and spoken about in a negative manner, when... this is when
judgment becomes discrimination. Stereotypes are dealt with differently, but discrimination
occurs when one specific group is singled out for negativity above the rest. Not only
do I appreciate certain values about each ideology, I also disagree with specific
goals or values of each ideology. This is the opposite of discrimination. Things are
viewed equally and the good is extracted from every perspective. Marx* may have missed
some things, but he provided perfectly sound (and moral!) sociological insight and it
is this good that I agree with and extract and add to my own perspective.

Never before have I felt so Independent.

*"Marx Missed Some Things," written during the Fall 2008 semester when I took
Introduction to Sociology with P.T. Collamer. Apparently, I've never posted this
reaction paper anywhere, so will put that on my list of things to post. It's a
winner. Also, remind me to email Collamer.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I want to talk about stereotypes.

I feel like I've written about stereotypes a lot, but when I conducted a word search
for "stereotype," "label," and "judg," I did not find much.

I distinctly remember writing, at one point in time, something that somewhat condoned
stereotyping and labeling and (gasp!) judging, to some extent, to a small degree.

But all I found was this...

"Granted, his statements and implied opinions are true for the majority, but this
kind of blanket stereotype is insulting to the non-majority and is therefore unacceptable."

...from College# Overview.

and this...

"'A name's a name.' Yes, well, it's also a label. Your child, Mr. Campbell, is going
to grow up with the stigma of what Hitler did forever attached to him. And sociology
studies have shown us that, chances are, he will strive to live up to his label.
(Deviants are deviant, after all) I think it's fairly possible that this child will
have serious emotional damage. If other people can't get over it and accept it as
'just a name,' why should he be any different?"

...from I Bet You Money Nazis Had Birthday Cakes.

All in all, quite disappointing. I am certain I've written more.

Ohhhhh, I know what probably happened. Whatever I've written before was probably
contained within a comment replying to someone who commented on one of my posts when
they were on Facebook. They're still there, as are the comments, but itwill take a
significantly longer period of time to find what I'm looking for. :(

- I really like statuses and place a lot of weight on them. Probably too much, at times.
- Labels are super, super influential. While they are certainly not all bad, because
they have such power, they must be used with wise discretion.
- Stereotypes are fun! To an extent. When not applied in a blanket fashion. Blankets
are bad.

What's the word... when you make a broad conclusion and want to say that you realize
there are exceptions, etc. That you understand what you said sounds like a blanket
statement, but understand that's not how you meant it? Starts with an a? Allowance?
No... :( I don't know. It's kind of like exception, exemption, allowance, but none of
those are the word I'm thinking of...

Oh, during-college vocabulary, how you fail me so.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Horney and Adler"

As promised, my personality theory paper for Psychology of Personality class...

Carina Botterbusch
Dr. Randy Young
PSY 430
March 16, 2010

________________________Horney and Adler

______Neo-Fruedians are personality theorists who came after Sigmund Freud and adjusted his ideas in order to create their own theories. Neo-Freudian psychology agrees with Freudian psychology in that a person’s unconscious and childhood are important to personality development, but disagrees with Freud’s over-emphasis on infant sexuality and under-emphasis on the ego and interpersonal relationships. The main tenets of Neo-Freudian theory are that the ego is an important adaptational force; that mental representations and interpersonal relationships are crucial to the development of the sense of self; and that society, culture, and social skills greatly impact personality. Neo-Freudian psychologists include Carl Jung and Erik Erikson, as well as Karen Horney and Alfred Adler. In order to demonstrate Neo-Freudian ideas, I will be discussing the theories of Horney and Adler, drawing comparisons by applying them to my memories of preschool, homeschooling, and being called “sheltered,” and determining which theorist better explains my personality.
______Karen Horney’s theories revolve around the ideas that a person is driven by his or her basic needs for safety and satisfaction and that everyone experiences basic anxiety stemming from the childhood necessity of having to depend on others for these needs to be met, but wanting to be independent. In order to deal with this basic anxiety, Horney outlined three basic solution styles that involve the basic conflicts of moving toward, against, or away from people. The passive style avoids disagreement and confrontation so that others will not leave. The aggressive style focuses on competition and believes that perfection is more important than relationships. The withdrawn style moves away from people so that threats are not seen and pain is not felt. According to Horney, healthy individuals use all three styles according to unique circumstances, whereas neurotic people compulsively use one.
______Another important aspect of Horney’s theory is self-concept. In regards to how people view themselves, Horney identified three trends: the ideal self, and the despised self, and the real self. The ideal self focuses on perfection, but does not motivate successfully because its focus is impossible. The despised self focuses on inferiority and short-comings, which does not motivate because it is too discouraged. However, the real self is the healthy self-concept because it is able to recognize both strengths and weaknesses in order to see potential and have a realistic sense of motivation. According to Horney, the ultimate goal of personality development is to recognize the real self, which Horney referred to as achieving self-realization.
______Alfred Adler’s theory revolves around the ideas that personality is self-determined and based on the meaning given to experiences, that applied ability is more important than ability alone, and that motivation is based entirely on feelings of inferiority. Adler explains that feeling inferior can be an effective motivator for striving to attain perfection or a personal best. However, while inferiority is healthy to a degree, an exaggerated sense leads to an inferiority complex, which creates a very fragile high self-esteem. In order to overcome inferiority, Adler said a person utilizes fictional finalism, which is the act of finding motivation in the ultimate goal a person wants to achieve. According to Adler, the creative ways in which this final fiction is achieved are what lead to an individual’s unique personality. The other most important concept of Adler’s personality theory is the idea of social interest, which also aims to overcome inferiority by working with others to achieve competency and coherency.
______Adler outlined four different styles of life, which represent how individuality is expressed in any situation. The ruling style seeks to establish dominance and leadership, whether through active or passive methods. The getting style constantly leans on and follows others and tends to be very passive. The avoiding style tries not to deal with problems, usually resulting in a sense of superiority from never experiencing negative situations. The ruling, getting, and avoiding styles are misdirected, whereas the socially-useful style is healthy because it aims to benefit others through a high level of social interest. Adler believed that a person’s style of life was set fairly early in life, due to the parenting methods of a child’s parents, such as being encouraging, showing respect, not offering excessive sympathy, providing a routine, not giving too much attention, and showing the importance of cooperation. Throughout Adler’s theories, the most important aspect is social interest, which is treated as the sole criterion for the judgment of a person’s social worth.
______Some of my earliest and most treasured memories come from the two years I participated in a homeschool preschool program known as Joy School. During these third and fourth years of my life, I spent a significant amount of time with a group of about six other children. I consider these times of making stone soup, going fishing, making green eggs and ham, and setting goals to be some of the best memories of my entire life. A particular situation that stands out in my mind is when two of the girls in Joy School liked the same boy and constantly fought over him by competing with each other. This common interest was nearly detrimental to their friendship and I remember sobbing after Joy School one day because I had put myself in the middle of the situation to try and act as a mediator and was upset when I couldn’t fix the situation.
______Applying Horney’s theories to this memory, this experience somewhat fits the passive solution style because I tried to mediate the conflict so that the friendship between my two friends would not be broken. However, Horney’s passive solution style does not fully explain this situation because I was not avoiding the conflict, but rather was facing it directly so as to resolve it. Horney’s theory of self-concept is applicable to this memory because, at the time, I was more focused on my ideal self and the belief that I could resolve this conflict for my friends. Because I quickly noticed that I was incapable of resolving the situation on my own, this experience encouraged me to come closer to the self-realization that I cannot fix everyone, but can still make the effort because mediation can help to an extent.
______Adler would view this early memory in light of fictional finalism and say that this memory reflects my final fiction of wanting to be a youth counselor. It is relatively easy to see how this final fiction motivates most everything I do and Adler would explain that this is why this early memory is consistent with my goal of being a youth counselor. Because I view my life with an emphasis on interpersonal relationships, under Adler’s theories, it makes sense that this early memory carries the same emphasis. Adler would also reach a conclusion similar to Horney in that seeing my inferiority and inability to resolve the conflict between my two friends now provides a deep motivation to continue striving to be the counselor among my friends. This memory and my final fiction of being a youth counselor can also explain why I frequently find myself in a similar position of mediating and resolving conflict.
______Another thing that I consider to have been very influential in who I am now is the fact that I was homeschooled throughout my entire life, all the way to my high school graduation. My dad had a regular job, but I spent a significant amount of time with my mother and brother every day. Because of the integrated nature of homeschooling, school was not separated from my family life or my mom’s parenting style. My homeschooled life caused me to be very close with my family, particularly my mom, even to the point that I cried at summer day camp when I was ten because I was so unaccustomed to being away from her for any length of time. My homeschooled life also meant that my mom’s parenting style was present at all times since I was not out of the house for any schooling, aside from an occasional field trip and my high school years when I began taking more outside classes and started college courses through dual-enrollment.
______Horney advocated distant parenting in order to develop career-driven children because she believed that low self-esteem would inspire a person to focus on his or her career. However, I consider myself to be a fairly career-driven individual and consider myself to be very motivated to succeed in my academic and professional pursuits. Because of this, Horney would probably be confused as to how this could be because my parents were very loving and supportive, rather than distant. I did not experience distant parenting like Horney did, but instead saw how dedicated my parents are to my life based on the fact that they wanted to be so involved in my education. While Horney’s theories do not explain how my parents’ attached style of parenting led to my motivated personality, it makes sense to me because they demonstrated how important education is by taking an active role in mine and this value of the importance of education has since been transferred to me.
______Adler’s theories do a better job of explaining my parents’ influence on my personality through my education based on the parenting advice that stems from his perspective. Adler said that parents must give encouragement, not just punishment; must be firm, but not dominating; must show respect; must not engage in power struggles; must not offer excessive sympathy; must maintain routine; must emphasize cooperation; must not give too much attention; and must show concern through actions more than through words. Considering how my parents acted toward my brother and me, particularly in light of our homeschool education, I can see that they both demonstrated all of these principles that were laid out by Adler. I think that my parents were especially good about knowing the difference between giving attention and spoiling, as well as the difference between empathy and sympathy. Adler said that parenting style influences a person’s style of life. My homeschooled life makes sense according to Adler’s theory of parenting because, not only were my parents good parents, they were also especially present in my life due to my being homeschooled, which explains my high level of social interest and my socially-useful style of life.
______Something else that I consider to have had a profound impact on my life and how I view myself is how often I have been called “sheltered” and how it has reinforced my reputation of being “the good kid.” Because of my mom’s prominent position within the York Home School Association, I was always well-known throughout the homeschool community and experienced a fair amount of pressure to uphold the reputations of my mom and the homeschool group by upholding my own reputation. During my high school years, as I began to befriend more people outside of the homeschool community, my “good kid” reputation caused me to be considered as being “sheltered.” Sometimes this would happen passively, such as when one specific friend said something to the effect of, “Wow, you’re homeschooled? But you’re so talkative and friendly!” Other times it was more direct, such as the many times my friend from Harrisburg Area Community College explicitly referred to me as “sheltered.”
______These memories somewhat relate to Horney’s theory of self-concept in that I probably tended toward my ideal self throughout my younger years, although I have always been aware of the negative expectations and stereotypes that are applied to homeschoolers. However, as I began to interact with more and more non-homeschooled students, this ideal self had to be reconciled with the despised self that was placed on me through the stereotypical expectations most people have of homeschoolers. Although this despised self was not necessarily internalized by me, the fact that others placed these negative stereotypes on me affected the way I thought about myself and inspired the self-realization that there are negatives of being homeschooled, even if these negatives are primarily only perceived by others around me. This self-realization is important because I have since recognized that the negative stereotype of being a “sheltered homeschooler” may cause obstacles and, at the same time, I continue to recognize the deep benefits of having been homeschooled and the extra opportunities my homeschooled life has provided.
______These experiences with the stigmas that are attached to homeschooling also relate to the ideas of Adler. Although Adler’s theories in regards to these experiences are similar to the general concept of Horney’s ideas, Adler’s theories provide a more concrete conclusion because they deal more directly with feelings of inferiority that lead to motivation. Adler’s views of inferiority are particularly interesting when applied to my experiences of being called a “sheltered homeschooler” because I never felt inferior as a homeschooler, even if I had been somewhat sheltered. However, others frequently viewed or treated me as inferior and these experiences caused me to be motivated to dedicate my efforts to becoming more educated and aware. Even though I have never considered myself to be inferior simply because I was homeschooled, the attitudes I have received from others have served as motivating compliments and have had the result that Adler would expect to stem from feelings of inferiority.
______The theories of Horney and Adler are very similar because they overall attitude of their ideas is largely the same. Horney focused on feelings of anxiety from being dependent and Adler focused on feelings of inferiority from being weak, but their conclusions are very similar because they both talk about motivation and striving to be a better person, whether this means being more independent and strong or being more involved and useful. Both Horney and Adler do a good job of explaining my Joy School experience of acting as a mediator between two of my friends, whether because of the self-realization that I cannot fix everyone or because of the inferiority I felt as the mediator, which motivates me to be a better counselor to my friends. However, Horney falls short because the passive solution style does not explain the fact that I was directly trying to resolve the conflict. Adler also does a better job with this memory because his theory of fictional finalism directly relates it my primary life goal of being a youth counselor. Adler also better explains my homeschooling experiences because my parents reflect his advice for good parenting and Horney’s theory of distant parenting cannot explain my value of education and career goals. Finally, although the theories of Horney and Adler are similar in regards to my experiences of being called “sheltered,” Adler’s theories are slightly more applicable because his terminology is more accurate to these situations. Although there are important similarities between these two theorists when talking about my memories of Joy School, homeschooling, and being called “sheltered,” Adler ultimately does a better job of explaining who I am today.

Post-Script: Attachment Styles (Ambivalent, Avoidant, and Secure)
______The way a child attaches to his or her mother impacts how he or she will attach to others later in life. This attachment is based on love and physical contact and has three functions: to provide a secure base, to provide a safe haven, and to serve as a proximity monitor. Attachment style is based on how well these three functions are met and what happens when the primary caregiver momentarily leaves. The ambivalent style develops because of an inconsistent mother and results in a person who always experiences separation anxiety and fear of others leaving. The avoidant style develops because of a neglectful or rejecting mother and results in a person who fears emotional attachment and tries to keep his or her distance from others. The secure style develops because of an affectionate and responsive mother and results in a person who is cooperative and obedient and has more friendships of a higher quality.
______I believe that my attachment style is secure because I have always had a good relationship with my mom. Throughout my life, and even to this day, she has always been very affectionate and responsive. When I am home from school, she will occasionally tuck me in for bed and, although it may sound silly, it demonstrates that she is reliable. It also illustrates my secure attachment because, while I enjoy the time I spend with my mom before bed, I am perfectly fine if she doesn’t tuck me in or cannot because I am at school. I also believe that I am securely attached because of the fact that I was homeschooled, which allowed me to spend a great deal of time with her each day. While I was probably too securely attached at one time when I was younger, which was evident in my shyness or homesickness, I have since found a good balance of security which enables me to live at school without being debilitated by being separated from my mom. My secure attachment style is also reflected within my friendships, which I have recently become more aware of as I began to realize how much of a social person I am. While I may be insecure at times, I am not incapacitated by the fear of others leaving me or getting to close to me, which shows that my secure attachment to my mom has allowed me to securely attach to others.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Balancing the Individual and the Community"

I realize I never posted my Freudian Floyd paper. Perhaps someday. I'm really
just not a fan of Freud. At all. However, my paper about Adler? Winner. Even if
it is biased. Anyway.

My second Birth and Death main reflection paper.

I'm having trouble spelling "individual."

___________________________________Balancing the Individual and the Community
___________________________________Reflection Paper #2

___________________________________Carina Botterbusch
___________________________________Sociology 317
___________________________________Dr. Hayes
___________________________________March 14, 2010

_____Studying different cultural views of and reactions to death not only expands awareness, but also allows our own death culture to be understood in a broader context. By developing a cross-cultural perspective, American death culture can be viewed in a global context and comparisons can be made so that the American perspective of death can be understood, challenged, and improved. Differences and similarities are made apparent by studying various cultures and thoughtfully recognizing these differences and similarities makes it possible to see the strengths and flaws of the American perspective of death.
_____When developing a cross-cultural perspective of death, general categories of customs and rituals arise, including the setting of a death, the planning of a ceremony, the ceremony itself, the grieving ritual, and the process of coping and moving on after a death occurs. A cross-cultural comparison of these five general categories shows that American culture has a much more individualistic attitude. Individualism is considered to be one of the American core values and it is especially visible in regards to the American perspective of death within any of the five general categories of death culture.
_____The setting in which a death occurs essentially can be anywhere. Because of the medicalized nature of American society, American deaths tend to occur within hospitals. This is different from other cultures, which place an emphasis on the importance of being at home to die. Ann Crawford, quoted by Ken and Nga Truitner (1993), explains that it is very important in Vietnam to die at home, rather than at a hospital (p. 131). Truitner (1993) says that this belief is also important in the Buddhist culture because a death is believed to be better if it occurs within familiar surroundings (p. 131). The Hmong culture also shares this value and Bruce Thowpauo Bliatout (1993) explains that a person is not allowed to die at another person’s house (p.84). These customs of having death occur at home reflect the belief that familiar surroundings can increase the peace of an individual while he or she is dying.
_____However, in America, deaths usually occur in unfamiliar hospitals and people usually die alone. Within Buddhist culture, it is important that a person be surrounded by close family to put his or her mind at ease (Truitner, 1993, p. 130). This is important so that the stress of death can be lessened by having the opportunity to focus on relationships. Through this cross-cultural perspective of the setting of death, it is clear to see that death settings in America tend to be secluded and individualistic. While individualism can be healthy to an extent, studying the Vietnamese, Buddhist, and Hmong cultures provides an understanding of the mental and emotional benefits of dying within a familiar setting and among close family.
_____There are also cultural differences visible in how death is prepared for and how funeral ceremonies are planned. In some cultures, the individual does not plan his or her own funeral. For example, within Jewish tradition, close relatives are excused from religious rituals “so that they may attend to the funeral arrangements” (Cytron, 1993, p. 118). Muslims also do not plan funerals in advance, but planning differs from Jewish tradition because, within Islam, close relatives do not help plan because they are the most emotionally affected by the death (Gilanshah, 1993, p.142).
_____These perspectives differ from the American culture, which again reflects individualism by writing wills and planning funerals in advance. Rather than placing the responsibility of funeral planning in the hands of a person’s family or community, within American culture, most funeral preparations are made by the individual far in advance of death. While neither of these methods seem detrimental to a person’s emotional health of dealing with death, a cross-cultural perspective can be beneficial in achieving a sense of balance in regards to how funerals are prepared for and planned.
_____Next comes the ceremony, which is where the most diverse cultural differences can be found. However, even though there are vast differences between the details of funeral ceremonies, such as the body, offerings, and the speaker and leader, the focus and purpose of funeral ceremonies are largely the same across cultures. For example, within the Hmong culture, proper burial and remembrance of the deceased is essential to protect the family (Bliatout, 1993, p. 83). Many other cultures use the funeral to return the family and community to emotional health. Some cultures are more individualistic in the purpose of funerals, such as the Buddhist religion, where funeral ceremonies are performed for the benefit of the community, as well as for assuring a good rebirth (Truitner, 1993, p. 130).
_____The funeral ceremonies of the American culture are even more individualistic. Because of the preplanning that almost always goes into an American funeral, the ceremony of a person tends to be very unique and personalized. Although there is now even greater diversity because of the desire to be eco-friendly, the traditional American funeral illustrates the expected norm of having a personalized ceremony to reflect the personality of the individual. Jessica Mitford (1978) takes this one step further and argues that the American funeral has become a status symbol and a means of leaving a lasting legacy (p. 164). While status symbols can be good to a degree, a cross-cultural comparison is crucial to not allowing our individualistic mindset to distract us from the equally important purpose of comforting the community.
_____The cultural attitude toward death and death rituals can best be seen in how the grieving process is acted out. A cross-cultural perspective of grief after death shows more commonalities than differences and illustrates a general concern for the well-being of the larger community. This is visible with the Jewish culture, as explained by Cytron (1993): “…as individuals share their grief with one another [they are] in the comfort of, and sustained by, their religious community” (p. 121). Re-establishing solidarity by focusing on the community is also evident in the openness of many cultures about grief over death. For example, Buddhists outwardly portray their grief and offer comforting words to the close family of the deceased (Truitner, 1993, p. 133). Similarly, Martin Brokenleg and David Middleton (1993) illustrate that Native Americans express grief balanced with acceptance, rather than denial and anger (p. 108). A cross-cultural perspective shows that grief affects the community both as a whole and as a group of individuals.
_____While American customs of grieving over death also focus on the community as a whole, there again is a more individualistic focus. Mitford (1978) says the funeral business has exploited this attitude by selling funerals based on the myth that seeing an ideal picture of the deceased is essential to the grieving process (p. 165). However, when compared to other cultures, such as the Native Americans who express grief coupled with acceptance, one can see that this desire for the “ideal picture” functions as a type of denial, which is not helpful. From personal experience, I have also seen how the American process of grieving is very individualistic. The American grieving process tends to focus on a number of individuals, rather than a group that is viewed as a community; evident in how mourners are comforted by being asked how they are doing, rather than about the family or community. Likewise, people say, “Let me know if you need anything,” to comfort mourners, rather than expressing concern for the larger group that has been affected. Although this concern for individual comfort can re-establish the solidarity of a group by focusing on the well-being of others, a cross-cultural perspective is important to have so that the family, group, or community is not overlooked due to this individualistic attitude.
_____Finally, cultural differences exist in how people cope with a death and ultimately move on. Many cultures continue to hold memorials and mourn until one year has passed. Many cultures also utilize prayer as a way to cope, such as Lakota Indians who pray for their own personal comfort (Brokenleg & Middleton, 1993, p. 110). Anne S. Straus (2005) explains that the Northern Cheyenne Indians also pray, but for the different purpose of asking for the soul to return home (p. 75). Straus (2005) also says that they are coping with the emotional impact in a communal way; not from fear of their deaths, but from fear of the isolation that follows when loved ones die (p. 76). This reason for fearing death is very different from the American fear of death, which is motivated by the individualistic attitude of “I don’t want to die.”
_____The actions that make up the process of moving on after a death also differ across cultures. Because of the individualism of American culture, there are typically no steps that need to be taken once the funeral rituals have ended. Although the will still needs to be carried out, there are usually no decisions that the family needs to make because of the plan that is laid out in the will. Other cultures have a more communal attitude, such as the Lakota Indians who distribute possessions after a person dies (Brokenleg & Middleton, 1993, p. 110). Although I am not certain of the of the emotional affects of being actively involved in this process, it seems like it may help people cope more than the American custom of allowing a lawyer to do all the work. A cross-cultural perspective of the methods of coping shows that American culture may be too focused on the individual, which means we may be likely to overlook the needs of the whole community.
_____Developing a cross-cultural perspective of attitudes toward and rituals surrounding death shows that both differences and similarities exist between cultural traditions. This broad view allows American traditions to be examined so that they may be improved. Across the general categories of the setting of a death, the planning of a ceremony, the ceremony itself, the grieving ritual, and the process of coping and moving on after a death occurs, it can be seen that the American culture is much more individualistic, sometimes to the point of secluding an individual and neglecting the larger community. Individualism is certainly not completely bad, but it can be when it is taken to an extreme. This is why it is important to develop a cross-cultural perspective so that American funeral customs can be challenged and a balance between the individual and the community can be achieved.

Bliatout, Bruce Thowpauo. (1993). Hmong death customs: Traditional and acculturated.
_____In Donald P. Irish (Ed.), Ethnic variations in dying, death, and grief (pp.
_____79-99). Routledge.
Brokenleg, Martin & Middleton, David. (1993). Native Americans: Adapting, yet
_____retaining. In Donald P. Irish (Ed.), Ethnic variations in dying, death, and
_____grief (pp. 101-111). Routledge.
Cytron, Barry D. (1993). To honor the dead and comfort the mourners: Traditions in
_____Judaism. In Donald P. Irish (Ed.), Ethnic variations in dying, death, and grief
_____(pp.113-123). Routledge.
Gilanshah, Farah. (1993). Islamic customs regarding death. In Donald P. Irish (Ed.),
_____Ethnic variations in dying, death, and grief (pp. 137-144). Routledge.
Mitford, Jessica. (1978). The American way of death. (pp. 163-167).
Straus, Anne S. (2005). The meaning of death in Northern Cheyenne culture. In
_____Antonius C. G. M. Robben (Ed.), Death, mourning, and burial (pp. 71-76).
Truitner, Ken and Nga. (1993). Death and dying in Buddhism. In Donald P. Irish
_____(Ed.), Ethnic variations in dying, death, and grief (pp. 125-135). Routledge.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I seem like an easily-stressed individual. Am I?

I've been reflecting on this recently and my theory is that my occasional
panic attacks are less about me being easily-stressed and more about my
average stress tolerance being lower than the average person.

In regards to school, anyway. So far.

[[]] Addendum: I worded that poorly. My occasional panic attacks are less
about me being easily-stressed and more about my average "stress" level
being higher than the average person. See, it's not so much about tolerance
as it is about how much more seriously I take things than the average person,
which causes a higher average level of "stress" in my life. I am placing
stress in quotation marks because, to me, this average (my normal) level of
"stress" isn't really stress. It's just an increased seriousness about life.
In regards to school, this increased seriousness is what makes me appear to
be easily-stressed. Oh, so many words for such a simple concept! I wish I
could draw a diagram here! [[]]

I had this epiphany while I was sitting in Qualitative class on Monday, very
close to having a panic attack in the middle of class. My panic attacks start
with a tingly feeling, which leads to shaking. After that comes shallow breathing
and, at the very worst, a full-fledged sob session. :)

(I wholeheartedly believe that the occasional panic is okay and that it's not
detrimental to my emotional health. Rather, it is quite the opposite. Every once
in a while, I allow myself to experience a panic attack so that I can release the
stress that has built up inside of me in order to move on and focus on what needs
to be done (usually some kind of schoolwork).)

So, I was sitting in Qualitative class on Monday, very close to having a panic
attack. Why? I have handled the course well so far, acing every assignment to the
fullest definition of "acing." Why was I panicking about our next assignment?

My school-related panic attacks stem from the fact that I am more committed, more
dedicated, and more interested in school than the average student.

I like school.

I like to learn.

Because of this, school is important to me.

(Hm. I wrote about how my homeschooled life illustrated the importance my parents
place on education and this value was consequently instilled in me. Homeschooling
made school important to me. And school being important to me has made me more
concerned with school than the average student.)

I take school more seriously than the average student.

This is the root of the problem. Problem, not so much, but this is the root.

Because I take school more seriously than the average student, when a teacher
fear-mongers and insists that the students take the class/assignment/project
very seriously, I take this advice to heart.

But the problem is that, with my above average level of school-seriousness, when
I take a teacher's serious fear-mongering to heart, my commitment to school becomes
too high above average.

This is when stress ensues and a panic attack is likely to occur.

I wonder if and how anything will change, now having realized this. Hm.

Hm. Hm hm hm. Hm hm hmhmhm. :)