Born This Way: Identity and Cognitive Dissonance

By Breanna Martin

Last month, the Trump Administration announced that they are considering narrowing the definition of gender to a biological condition defined by the genitalia a person is born with, effectively removing the US government’s recognition of transgender individuals. In the US political landscape, past and present, it is common to see the everyday struggles and egregious injustices experienced by various classes of people diminished by the cis-het white male mainstream. Now, in the age of “identity politics”, this proposed gender policy takes that age-old tradition to an extreme. Aside from the severe legal implications, this new policy represents an erasure of the existence of transgender identity, nullifying the lives of an entire group of people.

In these times, when we feel as though our identities are under attack, reaffirming the importance of recognizing and cherishing who we are is crucial.

Let’s try an exercise:  Continue reading “Born This Way: Identity and Cognitive Dissonance”

We’ve Got a Lot to Be Mad About – But, Now What?

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By Breanna Martin

Monitoring the state of the world has become an increasingly stressful task in recent years. Between violence, political frustration and natural disasters, we are hit with an onslaught of negative narratives. The nature of these stories and the 24-hour news cycle occurring across multiple platforms constantly bombards us. Trying to keep up with current events while taking care of oneself can be maddening. Unsurprisingly, in this climate, anger has become a constant companion for many of us. We are experiencing a higher baseline of anger and are more prone to outbursts.

Anger is an intense and powerful emotion but it can be difficult to process. In order to get to the root of how we can best channel our anger, let’s first explore what anger is.

Anger is a largely automatic response to pain stimuli which can be either physical, such as stubbing a toe or burning your hand on a hot stove, or emotional, such as experiencing a rejection or suffering a loss. The onset of pain ignites a chain reaction that leads to the release of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline (NICABM). These hormones serve to increase the rate of neural activity, dilate your pupils and increase heart rate, among other physiological effects. The anger neural pathway is an evolutionary vestige that helps us stay alert in dangerous situations. Continue reading “We’ve Got a Lot to Be Mad About – But, Now What?”

Neuroplasticity: Changing Your Frame of Mind

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By Breanna Martin

Nothing has rocked popular culture’s perception of neuroscience like the advent of neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain’s structural makeup and functional patterns can change at any time in one’s life. The discovery of neuroplasticity stands in stark contrast to the centuries-old myth (beginning in the 1880’s) that once the brain reaches maturity, it enters a stage of neural decline, unable to repair any damage or regenerate after injury.

Since the 1960’s, pioneers of neuroplasticity have been working to demonstrate the adult brain’s ability to change. We have seen examples from stroke victims, the blind and deaf and those with cognitive disabilities that, despite significant physical damage, the brain can reroute functions and repair itself.

The great strides the scientific community has made in structural repair of the brain have led to a greater question: What more can we do with neuroplasticity? Continue reading “Neuroplasticity: Changing Your Frame of Mind”