Releasing the Dolphins: The Effect of Laughter on Greif and Stress


To start things off here is a short video from Ellen Degeneres about how laughing is good for the brain.

Ellen DeGeneres once said “If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that”. We as humans live in a world where bad things can and do happen every day. We can’t control what happens all we can do is adapt to what happens, and overcome our hardships. How do we do that though? How do we adapt when the people who are supposed to protect us hurt us? How do we adapt when a loved one struggles with an addiction? How do we adapt when a loved one dies? How do we deal with that loss and grief?

In this blog, I will begin by talking about how deaths from addiction are different than other causes of death. From there I will talk about loss, grief, stress and the healing process. Then I will move on to talking about the idea of releasing the dolphins, and how humor and laughing like a five-year-old is key to the healing process. Finally, I will end by summarizing the key points.

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Cracks in the Foundation: The Impact of Childhood Trauma


John Steinbeck in his book East of Eden states “When a child first catches adults out — when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not always have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just — his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing”.  Just as you have seen in this quotation from Steinbeck, the family is a powerful force and can greatly impact an individual and their development. What is the impact of a dysfunctional family on a child? What happens when the child does not grow up in an environment that supports them? What are the results of the trauma associated with growing up in dysfunctional families?

In this reflection paper, I will begin by talking about the importance of maintaining healthy relationships. From here I will talk about different types of dysfunctional families including families where there is abuse, foster children, divorce, and addiction. Then I will talk about gender and its role in relation to trauma. Finally, I will conclude with a summary of the points I made in the post.

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Following the Yellow-Brick Road: Pathways to Recovery


Frank Baum writes “The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick, said the Witch so you cannot miss it. When you get to Oz do not be afraid of him, but tell your story and ask him to help you”. For an individual planning on entering treatment so they can recover from an addiction, finding the right kind of treatment is a journey, much like the one Dorthy-Gail faced on her way to see the great and powerful Oz. There are many different yellow-brick paths that an individual can follow on the way to recovery. Then once they locate the right program, and they can see their emerald city in the distance, it is all about telling their story and getting the help that they need to recover. So, what options are out there for an individual recovering from addiction? What options are out there for families of individuals who are recovering? What does it take to hook someone and how do you keep them engaged?

In this blog, I will first begin by talking about peer based support groups. Then I will move into some of the challenges that make treatment of addiction hard. From there I will Talk about some of the tools that have been developed to aid an individual with an addiction through their recovery process. Finally, I will end by discussing relapse and why it is important not to consider a relapse a failure.

To begin, listen to Crystal’s story below:

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Behind the Mask: Silent Suffers and Issues of Suicide


Stephen Chbosky writes “That’s why on the back of a brown paper bag he tried another poem. And he called it “Absolutely Nothing” because that’s what it was really all about. And he gave himself an A and a slash on each damned wrist. And he hung it on the bathroom door because this time he didn’t think he could reach the kitchen”. This is an excerpt from a poem known as the suicide poem, seen above, which is featured in the book Perks of Being a Wallflower. Suicide is a mental health issue that is a taboo in American society, there are a lot of stigmas not just around suicide but, also mental health in general. Individuals refuse to believe that mental illness diagnoses are real and that the brain can “get sick”. It is an ignorant assumption that has allowed the number of suicides to increase yearly. So what can we as community members in our various roles do to decrease the number of deaths by suicide? What can family members of individuals who have died by suicide do? What can survivors of attempted suicides do? The answer, which can be found in the video below, which will introduce you to the themes of this blog post.

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The Mind, Body, and Spirt in Relation to Opioid Addiction and Recovery


In her book Crank about a girl named Kristina, who ends up living with an addiction to “the monster”, Hopkins writes “Life was good before I met the monster. After, life was great. At least for a little while”. Individuals who are addicted to opioids abuse these drugs for a variety of reasons. Each individual addicted to substances has a different story about how they were exposed to, abused, became addicted to, and in some cases recovered from addiction to substances. The truth is that once you’ve met one person with an addiction, you have met one person with an addiction. So, in the face of this epidemic of addiction to opioids, the question becomes how do we confront the issue? How do we aid individuals living with addiction and their families as they embark on their journey to recovery? What connection do the mind, the body, and the spirit play in the journey to recovery?

In this blog, I will begin by introducing the opioid epidemic that is currently happening not just locally in various parts of Pennsylvania but nationally. Then I will move into some interventions that are being used to combat the opioid epidemic. From here I will talk about how this impacts the individuals, their families and the community in which they live. I will end by talking about the importance of being in touch with the mind, body, and spirit to live a healthy and holistic life.

Opioid Epidemic

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Global Service Learning Trips and Intercultural Sensitivty: Drawing on Times in the Navajo Nation


Amelia Earhart once said “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” We all have experiences in our lives that have shaped us into the people we are today. Sometimes these experiences happen locally and sometimes they happen with a little bit of traveling to places that push you to your learning edge. As we experience more and more things we learn more about who we are, and what our place is in the global context.

The world is a big, and diverse place meaning that having a global worldview that promotes intercultural sensitivity is important. In this blog, I will be adapting an assignment done after my time spent in the Navajo Nation as a part of a global service learning trip. I will begin the post by talking about the concepts of Global Service Learning and Intercultural Sensitivity. Then I will move into my personal experiences in the Navajo Nation and how those experiences impacted my development.

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What Sociology Can Tell Us About Intellectual Disabilities

*** Originally Published on Engaged Sociology by IUP Department of Sociology***

Defining Intellectual Disability:

Intellectual Disability (ID) is a new diagnostic term that is being used in the DSM-V, to replace the older terminology of Mental Retardation (MR). According to The American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), Intellectual Disability is defined as “a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. This disability is said to originate before the age of 18” [[i]]. To understand what this definition is saying we also need to understand what intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviors are. Intellectual functioning is also referred to as intelligence and specifically talks about and individual’s general mental capacity which is measured by a standardized IQ exams. A note here would be that IQ exams are not always entirely accurate, so it is important to pay attention to the other diagnostic criteria as well to avoid misdiagnosis. Individuals with ID usually fall two standard deviations below the mean leaving them with an IQ score of 70-75. Adaptive behaviors, on the other hand, are skills that people use to complete tasks in their daily lives that usually fall into three categories: conceptual skills, social skills, and practical skills. It is important to know that intellectual disabilities exist on a scale that ranges from moderate to severe and that these individuals have the ability to be autonomous and live happy and fulfilling lives. To further break down what the term means, and to discover the characteristics see the video below

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