Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

The Crazy Americans

A myth that is perpetuated by many Brazilians is that there are many mentally ill people in America compared to other countries. Mental illness is a condition that can affect any human being, anywhere.

America has a higher number of serial killers, although the crime du jour seems to be senseless shootings of as many people as possible. Brazilians like to say that in Brazil there are more crimes of passion while America has more crimes of hate. In reality, there is a lot more crime per capta in Brazil, fueled by money and goods (cell phones, watches, cars..).

When it comes to the urban myth that Americans are crazier than other nationalities -which can encompass from slightly nerdy to violently murderous-here are some possibilities:

1) The nuclear family is less prevalent in America. Many single parents, higher divorce rates, more lonely seniors, more never-married folks.

2) The decentralized cities, the far-out suburbs, higher dependency on individual cars instead of walking and public transportation; less human contact overall.

3) Winter.  Long months of short days, grey skies, uninviting cold temperatures that make people cocoon.  It is well known that people get more depressed in the winter and rainy days.

4) The Protestant work ethic. More work, less play. Long hours, 3 jobs, long commutes. Less time for family, friends and community.

5) A more materialistic society. Acquiring goods only promotes temporary happiness. There are many poor folks in developing countries that claim to be very happy with very little.

6) The gun culture. The “cowboy and war movie” culture.  The glorification of violence instead of diplomacy and negotiation.

7) Lifestyle. More processed foods, less fresh fruit and vegetables. Less walking and biking compared to other countries. Low nutrition diets and lack of exercise do not promote mental health.

8) Extreme individuality. The idea that everyone can “pull themselves through their bootstraps” makes people not look for help and suffer alone. Selfishness in intimate relationships that makes people never commit because they are waiting for the bigger better deal.

9) The cost of therapy. Mental health was not included in many health plans. Now, under the ACA, it will be. Nevertheless, most people cannot pay their share of the cost. Free services are few and sometimes not quality based, and people do not know where to find it. Clergy do not have the qualifications to help mentally ill people and sometimes only make it worse with religious prejudice.

Here are some staggering statistics about mental health in the US vs the rest of the world (from 2004): http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20040601/rate-of-mental-illness-is-staggering

More:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/10/why-more-americans-suffer-from-mental-disorders-than-anyone-else/246035/#slide1

http://news.discovery.com/human/health/united-states-mental-health-care-20121221.htm

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Difference between cultures, Lifestyle, Psychology, Society | , | 3 Comments

Just say no to “friends with benefits”

booty-call-text

Disclaimer: if you are a man or a woman who wants to be in a casual, no strings attached relationship, this post is not for you. But if you want to be in a committed, exclusive, genuine, safe and sound relationship, read on.

People need to learn to read the signs whether their love interest is interested in them in a serious way or just interested to have some temporary fun while they look for the “bigger better deal”. Usually, it is women who are more interested in making their relationship committed, while men notoriously have more problems with commitment. Blame it on biology or cultural upbringing, but it is a fact. However, there are some cases where a man is looking for a stable relationship while the woman just wants the party lifestyle.

One of things that is happening nowadays in our digital love era is that everybody thinks they can do better. No one is happy with what they have. People have become one more material possession. If you think you can do better than the one you are dating or seeing, you will NEVER commit to them. No matter how wonderful they are.

When you are in love and the hormones of attachment (oxytocin) are in play, it is very hard to detach from someone who is not giving you the respect you want. Not only there is the physical bonding, which is very addictive, but there is the emotional dependency. When being with someone feels good, you want more of that. When being with someone makes you smile or laugh, you get hooked. However, with time you may develop anxiety if you feel the other person is not on the page as you. The other person may not want to be with you much, has other priorities or makes others more important. The other person likes you but is not invested in you. The other person will not be there for you when the chips are down. The other person may box you into a certain day or time when they can see you, but exclude you from more important events. The other person may not contact you for long periods, completely disinterested in what is going on in your life.

“Out of sight, out of mind” is their motto.

Oftentimes, the person who is more in love misses the red flags. You don’t want to see the bad because the good feels so good. Like religion, you only care for the biblical messages that suit you and forget the vile things the bible stories condone.

One day you realize that the person you love is not giving you the signs you need to feel safe and comfortable. You see other couples and you compare. You see your friends adding proudly “in a relationship with…” on their Facebook status while your love interest hides you from their friends. You see other couples making long term plans, like travel or living together, marriage. You find out the other person has been actively been trying to find other relationships, whether online or offline. You realize that when you need their help, they find excuses. You realize that you are always wrong while others are always right. You just know that the moment the person you love finds someone more appropriate (in their eyes), they will drop you like a hot potato, with no remorse.

Many times the “friends with benefits” becomes a downright “booty call” system, where your love interest just calls you from time to time late at night when they have no better plans. There are no invitations done in advance, nothing planned ahead of time, nothing that includes his or hers friends and family.

You know something is not right and you start feeling bad about it.

So what do you do? You stay, because you have hope. Women in particular, are extremely hopeful creatures. They think their partner somehow has feelings for them and they will “see the light”. But they never do. There are rare cases where people decide to become a more committed partner, but it is not the norm.

If more women stop allowing this behavior what are players going to do? If men or women who are not being taken seriously STOP ENABLING people who are not treating them as a priority what will happen? Two things will happen:

1) Their self esteem will increase and they will be in control of their lives, opening up to better relationships.

2) By not playing the player’s game, players will have to step up their game, because they will not find any more willing participants. Either they will have to be alone or they will have to change and try to be more committed.

A BIG sign you were just a booty call is when you end things with your flaky better half, he or she will not attempt to contact you or repair the relationship. He or she will not try to convince you to stay or fight for the relationship. Because in his or her mind, you were just convenient for a time period. Basically, your flaky romantic partner was not in love with you. They will actually feel completely indifferent that you are gone.

So women, if you continue enabling non committal men, they will continue to create havoc in your life and feelings, as well as the next person after you. If you don’t want to be friends with benefits, if you don’t like to be hidden, don’t stay. Run. Respect yourself. Say “F*** that!”

Just say no to “friends with benefits” and watch the players die out just like the dinossaurs after the asteroid killed all their food sources…

September 5, 2013 Posted by | Psychology, Relationships | , | 8 Comments

Over-40 Childless Folks

Disclaimer: as with all my posts, there are always exceptions to the rule and this is only MY OWN observation. Others may have a completely different view:

There are many circumstances why people don’t have children. Some people never wanted children, and that is a personal preference that needs to be respected. Others never had the opportunity nor was it a goal in their lives. Others threw themselves into their demanding careers and never thought about having children (sometimes regretting it later). Others wanted to have a free and hard partying lifestyle, and settling down with one person and being unable to enjoy life for maybe 2 decades seemed like hell on earth.

Whether it was a personal decision or just life circumstances, adults who never had children differ a bit from others from my observation:

First, having not gone through the stages of parenthood and all the sacrifice it entails, people over 40 who never had children seem to have a more selfish lifestyle. They are not used to care for others, only for themselves.  They don’t have to think what someone else wants to eat, take them here and there, take care of them when they are sick, change diapers and stay home while their friends are partying. They party well into their 50’s and 60’s as if they were still 25. They relate better with younger people who have no family obligations. Their lives have no structure: they don’t have regular meal times and tend to go to bed very late and sleep in. They are used to living alone and resent sharing their space or personal belongings. When in a relationship, they usually make decisions that don’t involve the other person, since they don’t have the habit of considering others’ needs.

People without children tend to have more pets, often dogs or cats who they treat as their kids. They also tend to spoil their nieces and nephews-people with children don’t often do that with theirs. On the other hand, while people without children may become more selfish over time, they sometimes also feel the need to assist others more-which is a good thing. It may derive from their need to “father” or “mother” someone, to nurture. Finally, people without children seem to invest more time in charities and causes-often a substitute for taking care of children, and sometimes like to work in professions that involve children (think headmistresses, clergy, nuns).

There is no right or wrong way to live one’s life. To have or not to have children is totally an individual choice, but there are some differences in the way people live and act.

August 22, 2013 Posted by | Lifestyle, Psychology, Relationships | 3 Comments

Are men more afraid of aging than women?

man mirror

Everyone has heard about the famous mid-life crisis. It is usually more applied to men than to women. We imagine the red sports car, the working out at the gym incessantly and the sudden need to exchange the woman your age for someone who could be your daughter.

I am sure women may go through the same worries about their changing appearance, the need to hold on to the last remnants of youth and assure themselves they are not has-beens yet. Nevertheless, I find women more accepting of age.

One sign that men don’t take aging well are online dating profiles. Take a look at them: almost EVERY middle-aged man needs to say that he looks and feels younger than his age. Also: that people tell him he looks (insert number of years) younger than his real age. People are kind. When the subject of guessing someone’s age comes up, people usually guess much younger to stroke their ego. Add to that the fact that most people don’t look at details: quality of skin, hands, teeth, neck, eyes-all dead giveaways of someone’s real age, no matter how much plastic surgery.

It seems to me women are more self-critical and have a clearer image of what they look like, their imperfections and how old they look. Men are also a lot less self-conscious about their body. They parade around naked and seem oblivious to their protruding bellies or sagging everything. They probably look in the mirror and see an Adonis. That’s why they feel younger women will fall for them, even when they don’t have a hundred million dollars? Because they see themselves as young hunks still?

May 21, 2013 Posted by | Psychology, Social Media | , | Leave a comment

Indoctrination of children

Parental alienation and Religious indoctrination are both very harmful to children. They are both lying to your children, even if you think you are right when it comes to the other parent.

Parental alienation is common after bitter divorces with minor children. The parent who has custody badmouths and attacks the other parent, with the purpose of creating fear and resentment in the child. It’s a petty revenge tool. Parental alienation can also be family alienation, when parents badmouth other relatives which they have a beef with to their child. Whether it’s grandparents, uncles or aunts, the child grows up with a terrible view of that person, poisoning their relationship.

Religious indoctrination, as Richard Dawkins points out, is a form of child abuse. Teaching myths to children as if they are real is basically lying to your child. Instilling fear (which many religions do) and guilt and undermining the child’s questioning.

Unfortunately, children belong to their parents and the indoctrination will continue. The good news is that when it comes to religious indoctrination, more and more parents are becoming secular and raising their kids with morals but no religion (like I did).

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Being a mother, Family, Psychology | 1 Comment

20 reasons why I love being middle-aged:

1) My health is still good and my energy levels the same as before
2) I’m done with raising children and now have the freedom to enjoy myself
3) I have more money
4) I can take vacations off-season
5) I have much more wisdom and courage
6) I have learned from my mistakes
7) I am much more confident
8) I no longer feel I have to take bullshit
9) I am more independent
10) I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant
11) I know my limitations and accept them
12) I am more tolerant with others’ limitations because I know no one is perfect
13) I am less prejudiced
14) I have a better capacity to analyze and understand things
15) I have accumulated life experience and knowledge
16) I am not shy and I am much more fearless
17) I no longer have illusions of becoming rich and famous
18) I appreciate simpler things in life
19) I take better care of my health
20) I still love Love and Sex 🙂

For those afraid of the big 5-0, think about it.

July 31, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | 1 Comment

How do we select our friends?

Pretty much the same way we select our partner, minus the sex. Pay attention to all your friendships. Think about what attracts you to that person to the point you two have an ongoing relationship. What makes you want to call him/her? What makes you want their company? What makes you want to tell them your most personal issues? It’s called compatibility and admiration. We choose people to be friends who have a familiar character trace or who see the world the same we do. The interesting thing is that you can have different friends for different reasons. One can be someone you have a common hobby with, the other can be someone you are intellectually on the same page with, the other can be someone who likes to do the same things than you, the other can be someone who you admire for their intelligence or fame, another can be someone with the same background, culture or race as you.

Interesting to note that many people also choose friends who have similar physical traits with them. Think about the high school cafeteria mentality: the nerd hangs out with the nerds, the pretty girls hang out with the pretty girls, the fat kids with the other fat kids, etc. When I was growing up, I preferred female friends who were more on the tall side, because I hated having to bend over to talk to and be heard by them.

University sororities and fraternities are also arranged in terms of groups divided by looks instead of academic achievement, as unfair and discriminatory as it sounds. Human nature makes us want to be with those who are more similar to us. They are more familiar, they are less threatening.

The United States is an example of a country where the groups don’t interact very well, unless it is professionally. In the realm of personal and social life, black folks hang out with black folks, anglo-saxon Americans with other white Americans, hispanics with hispanics, the rich with other rich, the poor with the poor. With the mixing of America and more access to education, the trend is for racial barriers to end.

Still, we will choose our best buddies based on things that hit home. Things that are familiar to us. Think about every friend you have and find out what you two have in common.

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May 17, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | 1 Comment

Child Molestation: the hidden horror

More and more people are speaking up about being molested as children. Celebrities like Ashley Judd, Oprah Winfrey, singer Sinead O’Connor, actress Mackenzie Phillips, Senator Scott Brown, actor Rob Lowe, DWTS dancer Cheryl Burke and many others have spoken about it in their memoirs. Last year, a Princeton grad student, Bill Zeller, left a very shocking suicide letter (read letter here: thttp://www.ivygateblog.com/2011/01/bill-zeller-graduate-student-at-princeton-passes-away/) describing the horror he lived with all his life after being repeatedly raped since age 3.

Many Catholic priests have been accused and confirmed of having molested minors. More and more stories are coming out of the woodwork. Child molestation is the dark secret that for decades and probably centuries was always very well hidden, since it was always perpetrated by an adult to an innocent child, who was often threatened if they dared tell anyone. These cowards use their power and strength to scare the child, who they know have little chance of reacting. These people are often frustrated people who in real life do not have much power over anything. It is not so much about sex as it is about power. Imagine the suffering millions of children have gone though and have carried with them through their lives. Most children don’t tell anyone afraid of the consequences and the fact that no one will believe them.

The more people speak about it and warn their children to tell them if it ever happens to them, the less these sick people will get away with such a terrible violation. The effects of being molested affect people in different ways, and the degree of molestation can vary from a caress that is inappropriate, to exhibitionism and to full rape. Whatever the degree of sexual abuse is, it is never forgotten and can negatively influence one’s life. Few children get any psychological help.

Parents should always be careful with whom they leave their children. Many parents, especially those with low incomes, have little alternative than to leave their kids with relatives, sometimes male relatives. These relatives are publicly “nice” people who would never be seen as child molesters, but who are sometimes able of such a horrible act. Even though I don’t want to vilify the male sex only, (there are many women who also molest children) there are many more cases of male caregivers who do it. Fathers, stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers, neighbors, friends of the family, clergy. There are too many stories in the world to ignore this terrible violation. I have personally heard from many people who have been molested as children by people who their parents trusted, if not by their own father. The more we expose this, the more we talk about it and the more we alert our children about it and make them feel safe to tell us, the less chances these monsters will get away with it.

June 29, 2011 Posted by | Family, Psychology | 1 Comment

How envy destroys relationships

Envy is a very common human feeling. It is natural to covet things other people have. Sometimes envy works in our behalf, by making us more motivated and willing to achieve, but other times it paralyzes us, by making us waste energy in negative feelings that are detrimental to our well being.

For some reason, human beings feel more envious when someone close to them has something they don’t have. Sibling rivalry comes to mind, as well as friendships torn apart with envy when life hands people different cards. Who doesn’t have friends who like us more when we are down? Or who disappear when something amazing happens in our lives? Why don’t we envy Bill Gates more than our friend Bill who bought the new expensive car? Why do we envy our childhood friend who married this amazing guy more than the Hollywood celebrity who just got married? Simple: we envy what’s closest to us. Somehow, we think that we deserve the same our sibling, best friend or co-worker has, because we see ourselves as similar to them, in the same level. Celebrities are demi-gods, unattainable, unreachable and far “superior” to us. They deserve what they have because of their special intelligence, talent or beauty.

I have already talked here about how envy between couples is harmful for the marriage and is completely opposed to the idea that marriage is a partnership.

It takes practice and maturity to accept that life isn’t fair, that people achieve different things, and that we will always meet people who have nicer things than we do. It takes wisdom to keep that negative feeling at bay and to be able to be genuinely happy for the lucky ones. Also, remember that life is full of surprises: your successful friend may one day have setbacks, and you may one day achieve the things you desire if you stop wasting time wallowing in envy.

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Psychology | 1 Comment

Is altruism self serving?

Once you understand that we are not “creatures of god”, but simply evolved beings who grew a complex brain, we become more patient with human faults. And we understand better our intentions.

I have always believed human beings do good actions like charity and activism because they want to feel good about themselves. The goal isn’t material reward, but a kind of psychological high. I think Mother Theresa enjoyed doing what she did; it made her feel valuable and important. When we give money to a cause or a charity, we feel empathetic and happy, which probably increases the dopamine levels in our brains.

Human beings are self protective. Our survival instinct is always at play, except when we make bad choices. Bad choices can be a result of low intelligence, bad parenting, emotional and mental illness. However, humans usually try to do things that make them feel good.

Skeptical much? Yes. I believe we behave and treat others well because we want to survive-and feel good.

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Activism, Psychology | Leave a comment