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Is Suicide Ever Right?

17 Jun

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” The suicide recently, of a friend has spurred the revisiting of an older post. On the heels of California becoming the fifth state to legalize a “right to die” for patients, the events of this trying week beg the question: Is suicide ever the right thing to do?
Before I move into a bit of conversation, I would like us to make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, spouses, families, and friends. We must state our love in words and in actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point. The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddled with chemical imbalances, at times. We are frail and all of us one breath from the end of life here on earth. We also live in a world that would swallow us up, as a vortex vanquishes its volume. The pressures are great on us all.
For me, there is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted by internal and external forces to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose, and that is our fault as Americans. There is also no mistaking the fact that there are other factors that can cause people to “feel” hopeless, and convince themselves there is only one way to deal with this hopelessness. These feelings are real. These feelings are heightened beyond reality, sometimes. They are feelings, nonetheless. I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into depression and destructive thoughts.
With that last query in mind, I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause irrational thoughts and bizarre behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or PTSDs–and even child sexual abuse. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously by loved ones and friends. A person living with “harmed and fractured insides” sometimes believes that such harm is a norm and that what we would call “additional harm” may be viewed as that person’s “additional norm.” When this happens, something is wrong inside the person. Add to this some form of chemical or substance abuse, and the brain is all cross-circuited, and emotions are imbalanced. The brain both affects and is affected by biology and chemistry. Emotions and the brain are inseparable, especially so for girls and women.
As a Christian man, I can assure you that praying for people is the right thing to do. Miracles do occur. I have seen some. But God gives us common sense also, and sometimes prayer has to be coupled with professional assistance and treatment. Asking a person to simply pray their way out of depression, or for healing from a fractured youth is one thing. Walking through these issues has to be accomplished by the person first admitting there is a problem. This is where there is often a hang up.
As quickly as we go to the doctor for a physical disease, the same should be done for something problematic emotionally and mentally. However, getting the right help with the right worldview is critical. I am no physician, and certainly I am not a psychotherapist. But I am a man of common sense and signs of trouble are perceptible if we take the time to see them and act accordingly. They are easily missed, and even more easily dismissed–until it is too late. Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for additional conversational purposes.
First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such? Love to know your thoughts.
Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is certain death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide? Can it ever be heroic for a person to take his or her own life, albeit for a higher cause–even if it means pain in the present? I have heard people say, “They would be better off without me, in the long run.” Some people actually think they are choosing a higher path, in their own minds. That is the issue. They see this negative as a positive. In a disabled mental or emotional state, one’s mind can confuse purposeful actions.
Therefore, third, is it possible for a person to be in such a confused state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? The converse of this is whether suicide is a cheap and selfish way out of problems a person sees not end to, and it is ultimately purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic. I have always said, if those who kill themselves by their own choice, could float above the room in which their family and friends gather, and see the devastation and grief their actions leave behind in the people they claim to love, they might very well wish to un-choose their actions. Yes, this is only speculation. But, we struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction.
If we trace the family history, sometimes is seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. But this is not always the case for the first person in the family to carry out the act. But now there is a precedent and a bridge crossed for others to more easily justify the action for themselves. I have heard people say, “I have suicidal thoughts because my mom and grandfather committed suicide.”
Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on. I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might can fit as factors. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not. We must understand that death is not a part of life, like a nap from which we awaken later. Death is the cessation of physical life. Taking one’s life with the hope that there is an eternal life, lessens the value of this temple we are given–the very house of the Holy Spirit and new creations, at that! This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I have my beliefs and these are strong beliefs–but I simply do not know. This is where my faith comes in.
I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and the eternal state of created souls. Certainly we cannot practice anything we want at any time, and think our lives are in line with the Almighty. What is more, we cannot expect those in their right minds, who rake their lives, to be accountable. Inasmuch as a small child’s brain is not fully developed to be accountable for his or her actions, I also believe there are probably some adults whose brains, hearts, and minds are so injured that they are not accountable for their actions, either. My only dilemma is whether or not all suicides fit this accountability factor. Again, that’s up to the Almighty.
In summation, here are six questions to consider:
(1) How is killing another the same, or different from killing self? Is killing still killing?
(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?
(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot repent and ask for forgiveness, after the fact?
(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?
(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?
(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or does not keep one from heaven?
Thanks for reading and thanks, in advance, for your comments. Please keep them respectful.

Education Recommendations for Federal and State Agencies

7 May

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FEDERAL AND STATE AGENCIES*
The following list of fifteen recommendations is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point for federal and state level governments.  This list is provided to these bureaucracies as they consider future development and implementation of education programs that come packaged with national implications.
Recommendation #1: Transparency. Transparency would have provided the necessary debate and open sharing of costs, benefits, and public concerns.  Changing programs from one thing to something else should never been undertaken without open discussions. Understand that government does not know best, but that an honest and open government that lifts up people to the changes they view as best is a government of the people. Such a government works best.
Recommendation #2: Remain Politically Neutral. Remove the political aspects of agenda from partisanship and political maneuvering. Validate Americans, and not political parties.
Recommendation #3: Focus on Students First. Focus efforts to change education upon students and families, and not the types of jobs required for future corporate employers.
Recommendation #4: Consider the Arts, Music, and Trades. Consider how all the areas not included in Common Core standards can be incorporated.  After all, students in America are not students in Europe or Asia.
Recommendation #5: Place Less Emphasis on International Assessments.  Be wary of utilizing international assessments for the basis of changing entire systems of education in the United States.
Recommendation #6: Avoid a National Curriculum. Steer completely clear of any discussion of a nationalized curriculum, or a one-size-fits-all area of content. The United States is not Europe, and many foreign nations that have national curricula have lower academic performance than America.
Recommendation #7: Develop More Accurate Domestic Assessments.  Understand that assessments are not the picture of whole persons; they are snapshots and moments in time. Reliance on imperfect assessments does not tell the whole story about American education. Continue development of more and better domestic assessments.
Recommendation #8: Empower States to Step Up. Enable states to compete for federal grants to establish exciting and different programs that include trades, technology, and innovative careers geared toward the future.  Empower entrepreneurialism, beginning in elementary school.
Recommendation #9: Do Not Force All Students into a College Mold.  Understand not all students are college bound and that forcing students into a federal blueprint for education is perceived as control and not as freedom to choose.
Recommendation #10: Allow States to Structure Teacher Accountability.  Allow states to hold their own teachers accountable for education. Allow universities and colleges of education to ramp up their requirements to enter programs of teacher training. There should be no federal punishment for teachers struggling to finds ways to educate the masses in inner cities.
Recommendation #11: Provide Block Grants for Trade and Tech School Startups.  Support states with block grants, so high schools can partner with businesses and create jobs for those who wish to work in high school, as they train for a trade, or experiment with business start-ups online.
Recommendation #12: Attract the Best and Brightest to Teaching.  Mount a campaign to attract the best and brightest to colleges and universities to train to become teachers.  Focus on demand, not just supply. Find those called to teach and invest in their lives.
Recommendation #13: Cease Partisan Argumentation. Cease the side-taking and partisan bickering over the direction of education. Allow more local control of decisions on education. Enable states to work together to create regional hubs of excellence, so that regional certification can be added to state certification. In the process, focus attention on impoverished areas and bring communities and families together to brainstorm ways to move forward.
Recommendation #14: Be Proud of Our American Heritage.  No nation is perfect.  Do not be ashamed of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, as it provides a mooring to our purpose as a nation.  Students need a sense of purpose for their existence.  Not everything in American education should be about individuality. Common good should also be in the equation.
Recommendation #15: Recognize School Choice. Recognize that there are models of schools that meet the needs of families throughout the nation.  Support these families for their choices. Whether public schools, private schools, private religious schools, or homeschools, support all of them and encourage all models that parents deem best for their children.

 

*Excerpted from Ernest J. Zarra, III, The Wrong Direction for Today’s Schools:  The Impact of Common Core on American Education.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, pp. 260-262.

Coming Out . . . The Genius of It All

2 Mar

coffee3

A few years back, our school newspaper published an article titled, “Sexuality loses meaning as it becomes career booster.” The title, in-and-of-itself, was an oxymoron. The very thing that enhances careers is indeed meaningful. In fact, the claim of “sexuality” at all has become and “enigmatic enhancement” of the first order. How’s THAT for an oxymoron?

But semantics aside, titles are meant to catch people’s attention. What is it about today’s culture, anyway? Everyone seems to be defining themselves by their sexuality. The stars in the media always have to come across as sexy. Clothes have to be sexy. Food has to be sexy. Then there are mouthwashes, toothpastes, cars, whatever! Sex sells, I guess. Being sexy-gay, and metro-sexual also sell in today’s culture. Even Facebook has caved to the pressures of sexual expression, called by progressives as “gender identity.”

In that issue of the school newspaper, comments by students were printed in response to others, who have chosen alternative lifestyles. Isn’t everyone’s lifestyle an alternative one? Titles really do not define us, and neither do nicknames. What they do, though, is capture attention. Consequently, if a person favors traditional marriage, he or she is labeled “anti-homosexual,” or a homophobe.” Attention pushes emotions and thus, fads are born. High school campuses are replete with fads. Sex is just one more fad. However, fads based on sexuality are just a bit different, in that people seem to think their sex and gender are who they are.

The Genius of It All

Here is an example. If I call myself a genius, a born genius, and I am someone who joins up with groups of geniuses—and even begin to wear the “attire of the genius” groups, use the language of geniuses, etc.–I am perceived by these actions as a genius. But am I truly a genius? Would a genius seek to be one so desperately that he must come out as one and join a group?

Taking things even farther, I could even have participated in a community parade of geniuses and protested people of ordinary intelligence, calling them all hater of geniuses, if they dared to speak of the ordinary in ways that validated their ordinary intelligence. All things considered, do any of these actions mean I am a genius? Participation in the actions that some equate with lifestyle does not necessarily equate to the conclusion that I am a genius. I could bear the title of GENIUS and not be one. What is more, I could claim to have been born a genius, only to arrive later in life at the realization that I am quite an “ordinary genius.” Talk about oxymorons?

We live in a heightened state of sexual identity today, media-driven to be sure! How else would high schoolers—or anyone for that matter—know their sexuality, absent the practice? In my opinion, the titles we ascribe to our identities are not the real points of identification. Just like one’s beliefs, names are just that—NAMES. It is the actual, continued practice that defines us, in my opinion. Attraction is not the main issue. In the same way no one can claim to be a potato because of one’s regular cravings, attractions–and even addiction–for french fries, no one can say they are heterosexual or homosexual merely by attraction, or sexual lust. I’ll return to this conclusion a bit later. One thing is certain: We are all born sexual.

In case no one has paid attention yet, allow me to open a door and reveal this truth. We, the human race, are sexual creatures. Did you hear me? WE ARE SEXUAL. Why should we have to go around labeling ourselves by culturally-spotlighted titles? Why should heterosexuals and homosexuals have to somehow be certain that their sexuality is front-and-center? Think about it. Why do we have “sexuality clubs” on school campus? The Gay and Straight Alliance (GSA) is a club titled after sexual orientation and practice? Is being “straight” a belief or a practice? Or is it a world-view? Or better yet is it an inalienable right to be homosexual, found somewhere in Jefferson’s Declaration, or Locke’s Natural Rights?

Considering Teenagers

How do teens ever know what they are, unless they practice something long enough to know? Are high schoolers even oriented yet? Their brains and bodies are changing daily. Do we expect that teens WILL inevitably experiment with sexuality to discover their orientation? I hope not. That is quite dangerous. So, what purpose does a “sexual-titled” club have? I’d love to hear of the celibate homosexual–talk about the ultimate in doublespeak!!!

Any Google search will produce the answers to the questions just raised. There are places all over the nation popping up that base their identity on sexuality—as far down as middle and elementary schools. However, instead of going Google, many young people are going “Gaga.” Here is one such recent example:

The Youth Empowerment Summit (YES)

YES took place at Everett Middle School, just one of dozens of locations in the past few years. YES remains a FREE conference, sponsored by GSA Network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, and straight ally youth dedicated to fostering safe schools and youth activism. The conference is open to all youth and allies, with a focus on middle school and high school. Adults and teachers are welcome. Under the guise of “bullying,” the homosexuality agenda has made its was into all the corners of our kids lives.

It is not a moot issue to ask why not have a BSC Club too (Bi-Sexual Curious club). What about a Transgender Club? Many GSAs include these other orientations and lifestyles as protectionary, for those choose to proclaim a different sexuality. If gays do not feel comfortable in places, based upon their sexuality, then bisexuals and transgenders will probably feel just as uncomfortable. Should all sexual expressions have their own club? I would like to know just what “alliance” is formed between students of different sexual expressions? What about the “teenagers with crushes on their teachers clubs”? I’ll stop there at the edge of absurdity.

Why can’t we just stick to clubs period, you know, those that enhance civic participation and not sexuality? Why does sexuality have to be the open door? I shudder to think that demonstrating sexual practice is somehow one’s civic duty. Does there have to be a heterosexual community service club and a homosexual service club? Could we ever envision a non-gender club? Hmmm. How about naming it the Interact Club, where everyone interacts? What about Rotary, or Lions Clubs?

What About the Celibates?

What I am pointing out in this article, and hopefully the reader is catching some of my sarcasm and facetious allusions, along the way, is that we are all sexual creatures– including celibates? Those folks are defined by their LACK of practice, or orientation. Are they born that way, or is it a choice? Do we have opportunities for them to be celibate, and are they offended by all of this intolerable sex-talk? Celibates are still male or female, therefore sexual. I would like to see the statistics on gay celibates–those who have never had sex before. I would enjoy a discussion to discover how celibates know they are gay. The norm never has to explain itself. It is pure silliness to think that just attraction and even physical lust makes one gay, yet these are the primary determinants of one’s “same-sex-ploration,” if you will, all pigeonholed by the phrase “born that way.”

We live in a society that is so afraid to discuss the gay-issue, for fear of being labeled a homophobe (fear of gays). Labels, Schmabels, Carling Black-Labels (Calm down; The latter is a beer). As a person, I dislike bashing of any kind. Bashing heterosexuals who speak out as activists against the gay-lifestyle, with labels of bigotry, is as bad as heterosexuals who bashing gays at every opportunity. I agree with my colleagues that bashing and sexual slurs have to stop. But, I will go one further. Defining oneself by their sexuality invites polarization, and that also has to stop, unless we are going to allow additional marginalization of Americans with whom they choose to love and with whom to have sex. I call that form of identification quite shallow. But we live in a culture of labels and shallowness, and it is as if people are so uncontrolled in their desires they cannot help themselves and have little choice in their actions. Additional labels are assigned when one finds heterosexuality, and comes out of the homosexual lifestyle. It seems that with sex, you can’t have it “both ways.”

Lost and Found?

Anyone who comes out of the closet to admit their sexuality is somehow viewed as a person who has found himself, or herself. When were they lost? Many gay-adults are people who had opposite-sex spouses and families, children, and were involved in mainstream American life and living. Suddenly some of these folks walk away from marriages, many of their responsibilities, and those they reared, in order to pursue themselves? That is quite the height of selfishness, if you ask me–another hallmark of the current culture.

Do I have to admit to being a heterosexual for the world to accept me? Am I intolerant if I have different set of beliefs about sexuality? Not at all in either case.

New Civil Rights?

I have heard it said that the gay rights issue of today is a new “race” issue, like unto what the blacks faced in earlier decades. I think that argument is a red herring. No one I know has chosen to leave the Asian, Black, or Caucasian races to join another. Slaves were property with no rights, no freedom of speech, etc. Gays have all of these constitutional rights and more, depending on the state–where the Constitution grants everyone the same basic rights. Your skin color and DNA are what they are. If just one person leaves homosexuality and lives a heterosexual life, then there goes the ALL GAYS ARE BORN THAT WAY.

If a person uses race as analogous to sexuality, in order to define or identify oneself, then a coming out of one race to realize he or she is not truly that race, would suffice. Many of us have heard about, or know gays and straights, that have chosen another lifestyle. Trust me on this. There is nothing Eminem, Madonna, or JT can do to be Timbaland, “no matta how day dress wiff dare cloves.” I know we are “One Nation,” but don’t ask the aforementioned to “Apologize” for their own identities. They did NOT choose them. I reiterate, if just one gay or straight has chosen the alternate lifestyle, then the “birth” argument needs to be reexamined. And believe me, it does need to be reexamined. There are many reasons for “being” homosexual, departing from the norm. Maybe I have it wrong. Maybe we are all born homosexual, and because of abuse, social conditioning, or gender identity maturity, we just come out as heterosexual–even though we say nothing about it. Are you shaking your head yet?

Today we have gay sports teams being sued by bisexual players for sexual discrimination. Homosexuals are demanding that marriage is a right, when it is clearly NOT a right. Government might grant a legal right, but it can never be “right.” Gays in Texas want to divorce there, even when they were not married in that state. They’ll try anything to get a state to recognize marriage. If states against gay-marriage grant divorces from OTHER states’ marriages, then they (1) would have to recognize the marriage for a divorce to be granted, and (2) “the full faith and credit clause” would be implied, opening the door to federal decisions to bring the “doctrine of incorporation” into the mix. Having said that, it is just a matter of time before homosexual marriage (notice, I did not say same-sex marriage) is brought to the Supreme Court. The trend is that soon, homosexual marriage will be a legally done deal, and incorporated into all 50 states. Then it will be like abortion–forever an issue that will raise anger and disgust for many.

Radicalism

We have proms being cancelled because lesbians and gay teenagers want to make it a point to being same-sex dates. Things are so out of control that there is little sense anymore. It’s all about the individual and not the common good. Soon there will be heterosexual proms, homosexual proms, bisexual proms, transgender proms, etc. There are already proms and graduation parties designated by race and ethnicity. I am starting to see some reasons why some Muslims of the radical sects want to destroy the western world. But they don’t have to do it. We are doing it to ourselves.

In closing, I reiterate, we are all born sexual, for that is what being male and female imply when you check the gender box. I know it is popular today for people to define gender and sex different ways. Expressing that reality with sexual practice, or not expressing that is mostly about one’s choice. Without the practice, who knows? We all have our feelings and passions. How does anyone really know what his preferences are, when they are based in experimentation? I would not trust a teenage mind to make a lifelong determination about sexuality.

Teenagers and Life-Altering Decisions

I would hate to define anybody by their feelings and passions—especially high-schoolers–whose brains and bodies are changing every day. Here’s the bottom line. Am I against gays, or somehow a homophobe? Nope. That would be silly. I can easily separate issues from people. What I am against is this notion that somehow we must accept that everyone’s individuality who is either born gay, straight, whatever–over and against the vast majority of others. I am against a group hijacking sexuality and calling those who speak out, all sorts of names. It is classical republicanism versus individual rights all over again. Common good for the majority, versus the individuality expression of one, or a group. This is a good struggle to have in a democracy, as long as the struggle is not enjoined by haters using media and politics to ruin dissenters.

Coming out of the closet is a choice. I repeat, coming out in a “choice.” So too, is coming out of, and entering a lifestyle. No one is so compelled and driven to practice a lifestyle, unless there are issues of abuse, self-control, or some other sociological or personal concerns, such as addictions. Does this mean that out of all homosexuals, NONE are born that way? Probably not. However, no one has discovered the “gay gene,” yet. But does that mean all are born as such? I would reject that notion, because humans are not so bound that they cannot un-choose, make new choices, or choose not to choose, at all.

Speaking of such concerns, I want to go on record and come out and state that I am a “caffeinexual.” I have been hiding this fact and been cavorting with tea drinkers. People think I actually am a “tea-drinker.” I feel highly empowered, after having written this piece. I also feel like a parade is “brewing.” Coffee drinkers unite! We are all born this way. I can now check the gender box as a caffeinexual. But I can both ways, honestly–and I have! Coffee or tea? I am attracted to both, depending on my moods and the days of the week. Come and join me in my classroom any morning in my new Coffee-Tea-Alliance, to celebrate my “phreshness,” as long as you have “grounds” to do so.

Attention Educators!

20 Apr

Front Cover

Front Cover

We have a national epidemic on our hands!

http://www.amazon.com/Teacher-Student-Relationships-Crossing-Emotional-Physical/dp/1475802366/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1366476640&sr=8-1″ title=”Teacher-Student Relationships: Crossing Into the Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Realms” target=”_blank”>

Psychology and Jury Decisions

9 Jul

Here we are, just having come off the media-blitzed Anthony Trial.  Somewhere between 80-90% of Americans polled, believed Casey Anthony murdered her toddler, Caylee.  Yet, after just a mere 11 hours of deliberations, the jury of her “peers” returned a verdict of “not guilty” to first-degree-murder, and a host of other charges, etc.  They did convict her, however, of several charges of lying to law enforcement.  Lies are cover-ups–unless one is a liar by nature–which then means a person has nothing to hide if lies become one’s “truth-to-live-by.”

Much of the nation that watched with interest were shocked at the Anthony jury-verdict.  Some of us were not shocked, and predicted the outcome.  I am in the camp of the latter, thank you very much.  However, I am not pleased.  Like many, I am torn between the disconnect between justice and legality.  This is especially prevalent in the criminal “justice” system whenever a person walks because of improper prosecution, or well-paid lawyers who know psychology.

MORE TO THE CASE THAN WE KNOW

Aside from the evidence that lacked a clear connection in the Anthony case–the kind needed to actually convict a young woman in Florida of killing her child–there was a lot more taking place in the courtroom than the average person may know.

First, only two women in the history of Florida criminal justice system have been convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  These two women were hardened serial killers, and the evidence of multiple murders was against them.  There was no such “level” of evidence against Casey Anthony, which is why I predicted acquittal.

Second, psychology was present in the courtroom, as a replacement for DNA and other evidence.  This stratagem was skillfully used by the defense team, and born out of research of juries of the past–the Orenthal James Simpson case being one of these.  Jury consultants were brought in and with them, so too was psychology.

Third, there was strategy.  Consider the following strategy.  Defense attorney Baez admitted his client was a liar right at the beginning of his opening statement.  This is much more than a lawyer’s admission of his client’s nature.  Baez seized the psyches of the jurors.  Baez also claimed Anthony was sexually abused by her father, and that Caylee died of an accidental drowning.  See the picture?  “LIAR + ABUSE = ACCIDENT.”  Was there evidence for any of this?  Hardly.  Was there supposed to be evidence for this?  Not really.  Why then did Baez use extraneous things in his opening in a very important capital murder trial?  The answer is in the “psychology” of it all.

JURY CONSULTANTS

The truth is that law-firms usually employ jury experts, so that they can understand the make up of a jury, based on their written surveys, voir dire, and body language.  The make-up of a jury is way beyond the qualification of an assembly of “peers.”  Lawyers are sometimes not the best judges of people, so they need help in that area.  Group dynamics have a psychological dynamic of their own.  Lawyers attempt to assemble juries which they consider subjective enough, and sympathetic enough to their arguments.  Jury selection and jury assembling is not random.  As a result, the qualification of “peerdom” for a defendant is quite inapplicable.  I say this with the larger cases in mind; the more impacting the case in the media, the more attention will be paid to psychology.  How peer-oriented is that?  Unfortunately, the average person is not privy to such counsel.  This is also a huge inequity in our system of justice.  The italicized phrase being somewhat of a legal conundrum–at least–a moral oxymoron at most!

Trial lawyer consultant, Jonathan Lytle Ph.D., writes the following in the Orange County (CA) Bar Association’s Lawyer Journal:

A familiar refrain from trial consultants is that attorneys should give the strongest possible opening statement.  Consultants grant so much weight to these first words partially based on intuition and anecdotal evidence, but also because actual scientific research supports them as a powerful tool.  An opening statement allows the attorney to provide the framework through which jurors view a case and process evidence.  Information that fits into the established framework is easily remembered.  Information that does not synch is discarded or distorted by jurors.  Research has demonstrated that jurors make their decisions early in a trial.  So, the faster an attorney can ge the jury on their side, the better.  (Lytle, July 2011, Orange County Lawyer, p. 28)

SCHEMATA

In other words, first impressions, whether fictional, false, or flamboyant are the psychological pictures from which a jury will begin processing what is to come.  This suggested picture is an attempt to create in a juror’s mind what psychologists refer to as “schemata,” a type of framework into which additional bits of information can be placed.

Juries are known to make up their minds early in a trial and then discard what does not fit into their framework, or schemata.  This is called “predecisional distortion.”  Lawyers are encouraged to take advantage of this distortion in alignment with the order of evidence presentation.  The presentation of strongest points of opening and argument, aligned with strongest evidence creates the best-case for juries making up their minds prior to deliberation.

Every day in courts around this nation, attorneys use this reality to paint the prosecutorial, colorful canvas of conviction, or create doubt.  Inasmuch as one understand colors objectively, shades exist and there are layers of paint unseen on all canvases.  The same is true in the courtroom.

In the Anthony case, did not Baez create an unbelievable opening argument?  Did not the jury, throughout the trial, discard the outrageous claims and hold what they considered relevant?  The discards and irrelevancies are indicative that the jury had made up its mind rather quickly in the trial.  Their schemata had been established, due in large part to Baez’s opening statement.  Allow me to expand my point.  Experts, like Lytle, maintain that lawyers should “not leave the good stuff until the end” (p. 29).  Obviously, Baez and team took advantage of this advice.  It is pure psychology.

All things considered, Americans are upset that Baez did not prove the story of what he said happened to Caylee.  Any time a child’s murder is at the center of a trial, it does something serious to the psyche of a nation.  But the truth of the matter is:  BAEZ DID NOT HAVE TO PROVE ANYTHING!  He knew full well, that in order to get the jury to arrive at “reasonable doubt,” all he had to do was use psychology of distortion and distraction to arrive at juror predecision.

Sure, like most Americans, I wish our system was more aggressive toward the accused–especially now that our culture has definitely become more dangerous and criminal.  But it is what it is.  We cannot expect perfection from a highly imperfect system that protects up-front, both the innocent and the evil.  What most of us resent is the acquittal of the evil.

PSYCHOLOGICAL PLOYS

Here are a few of the psychological ploys used by Baez.  First, everyone understands how important first-impressions are in all of all lives.  Lawyers, like the rest of us, never have a second-chance to make a first-impression.  First-impressions are what are what the average person relies on the most, in forming opinions.  Baez’s persona and words made a distinct first-impression.

Second, the creation of a story that is unbelievable utilizes what all psychology-experts call the “big-lie that is more believable than small lies strung together.”  Surround a “fish-story” with witnesses that cannot tell the truth, contradict each other, and create doubt of any veracity and consistency, is confusing to the human brain.  If a jury does not know what to believe, then such inconsistency creates doubt.  This is the way it is in the real-world.  Consider a child’s paramour.  If his or her life, recent actions and words are confusing to the parents, then we would probably going to doubt that such a relationship has any future.  Couple this doubt with possible in-laws that are devious by nature, and I don’t think for a moment that the average person would give a blessing to such a marital, or familial connection.  I know I would not.

Third, the human brain cannot operate in a vacuum.  It needs to categorize and come to  conclusions.  The average person does not have the mental toughness to remain in a vacuum for weeks.  Brains work to sift and decide.  As a result, “objectivity” of a jury is truly a notion beyond reality.  Long trials do next-to-nothing in arriving at truth, or to change a jury’s corporate mind.  The longer the trial went on, the more extraneous the information, the more disconnected the testimony, and the more it bolstered predecision on the part of the jury.

HUMANS TAKE SIDES

Humans take sides early on, then look for reasons to bolster their beliefs.  This happens in politics.  It happens in sports.  This also happens in marriages.  The average person is simply falling into the “comfort zone.”  We do it quickly and we do it comfortably.  Our brain needs closure.  Is this not why open-endings in movies, and in books, etc., really cause our emotions discomfort?  This is simply who we are, whether teenagers, or adults.  Our brains classify, sift, and decide.  When we allow a lawyer to determine the schemata into which evidence is placed, there is a distinct psychological advantage to the lawyer.  Baez used this to his advantage.

IDEALISM AS DISTORTION

The use of psychology can also backfire.  Relying on public sympathies and idealism to reach a death penalty is all right for media attention.  But these same sympathies enter the courtroom with a jury that views a conviction as death sentence for a mid-20s, fresh-faced, weeping liar.  When the prosecution went for the capital-crime home run, their idealism got in the way.  Make no mistake about it. I believe someone killed the toddler.  I believe Casey had a hand in it, or did it herself.  But my belief is not evidence.  My belief is not objective.  My belief is subjective.  It is a fallacy to think that jurors make up their minds as objective humans.  This is not how life is lived.  The same thing can be argued about a relationship.  Allow me to explain.

If a person thinks another person is perfect, how long can that admission hold up before the humanity of the idolized becomes all too obvious.  Overlooking the imperfect means there is a boas, or subjectivity in the way of reality.  Furthermore, trying to prove perfection based on real-life circumstances is not a good strategy.  One would have to be deluded to believe another human is perfect, when the circumstances showed otherwise.  Being imperfect by circumstances does not mean a person is a murderer.

PSYCHOLOGY GONE AWRY

The prosecution used an “idealism” principle and it backfired.  The defense merely stated that to believe in the prosecution’s case would be to believe in something that did not exist, amidst the circumstances.  The Baez and team painted an unbelievable scenario of its own, essentially creating possibility to bolster predecision and bias.  Knowing that proof was not needed to back up its defense, Baez simply allowed jurors to believe early on that an accident was the possible cause of Caylee’s death.  He used psychology on them and allowed them to believe they were making up their own minds.  Realistically, can a jury possibly convict a woman to death if an accident killed the infant?  Bingo.  Case over.

The accident theory has already been put out as to why Juror #4 voted to acquit Anthony of the murder charges.  Baez used psychology to persuade the jury early on.  it obviously worked in on juror #4, and others, according to her.  That’s all it took to create reasonable doubt.  He bolstered the case for the defense by bringing in witnesses who tossed contradiction around like it was candy at Halloween.  Doubt plus doubt does not equal truth.  Unfortunately, either does it equate to justice for a dead toddler.  Nevertheless, once that was established, the trial was over.  The jury had made up its mind.  In the words of Lytle, “Asking the right questions will plant ideas in the jurors’ minds and begin to frame the case according to your position.”  (p. 29)  Lytle is quite astute.  Baez knew exactly what strategy to employ.

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

In closing, a few curious points warrant further investigative research on my part:

  1. What parts do political underpinnings of jurors, prosecutors, and defense attorneys play in the psychology of jury selection and ultimately jurors’ decision-making processes?
  2. Is it possible that the vast number of defense attorneys are Democrats, whereas it is the opposite, politically, for prosecutors?
  3. How much do lawyers rely on the “psychology of thought in connection to political sympathy” as an unspoken, underlying factor for jury selection?  How much does this affect jury decision-making?  [Is there any thing closer to the truth in politics than the axiom “Republicans and Democrats do not think alike and do not see the world through the same eyes.”]

Ms. Interpretation

24 May

“He is a fool who thinks by force or skill to turn the current of a woman’s will.”  (Thomas More)

I was sipping my coffee this morning and, in-between paying bills and prepping for the day, a bit of humor emerged from the midst of the mundane.  In other words, my brain was seeking its own entertainment.  Sorry guys, my mind sometimes works to the chagrin of others and this blog will prove to be no exception.  The reader might very well consider most of what I write along the lines of “sigh”-chology.  Be that as it may (I love colloquialisms too), I am smiling at the possibility of the trouble I am going to get myself into this morning.  Want to know why I say “trouble”?  I bet you do!

Well, hold on tightly.  Here is my first crack at trouble:  I think women interpret things so very differently than men interpret things.  In fact, women have a higher tendency, or let’s call it a gift, an intuition, to “read into things” much more deeply than we men read into things.  I think most readers know exactly to that which I am refer. 

As a result of this intuitive “reading,” women may be more prone to misinterpretation.  Now, if you are interpreting what I just wrote, you missed the part where I said women MAY BE MORE PRONE.  Make no mistake about it, women do not corner the market on misinterpretation.  Men are also prone toward this!

Uh oh!  I can hear it now.  “What does he mean by that?” 

See what I mean? 

All the men are nodding their heads in agreement, folding their arms and loving that someone finally told it like it is.   The women are trying to figure out some elaborate and grand interpretation. 

OK, stop.  STOP! 

Men are more apt to take things at face-value.  We say, “I love you,” it’s precisely what it means.   If we say “I love you,” we are not thinking compared to whom, or more than so-and-so, or she is better to love than Gertrude.  When we love we are not saying it to have you think, “OK, what does he mean by this, and how much does he love me?”  We are not trying to get something from you.  How shallow is that?  We mean it at face-value.  Too often, men cease using the words and resort to love-actions.  Actions speak louder than words, and are often less misinterpreted.

Allow me to illustrate.  Women love diamonds.  They are told that “Diamonds are forever.”  Marilyn Monroe sang, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”  We get it.  We really get it.  Women love stuff.  By contrast, man’s best friend is “dog.”  We love our dogs.  We love our women.  Face-value, ladies!  FACE-VALUE.  We don’t love our women like we love our dogs.  And we don’t treat our dogs like we treat our women.  (I can hear the mumbling and gossip now. “Yeah, they treat their dogs better.”  See?  You did it again)  Now, just pretend you understand and we’ll buy you a diamond ring, or a set of earrings.  There!  Is that better? 

There is truth in the statement that sometimes men think you love them as you love your diamonds.  Thus, we believe that you conclude we love you like we love our dogs.  Speaking on behalf of most men (and I surveyed millions of men just this morning), we separate the things and people we love.  This is called compartmentalization.  We love stuff.  We love people.  These are different loves.  Get it?  Cool!  You keep this up, and we are going to throw in a necklace with the ring and earrings.  Are you smiling yet?

Second point to be made is this:  Women see body language, and they interpret.  Not only do they interpret body language, but women interpret another woman’s interpretation of body language.  Nuances in words are interpreted.  Looks are interpreted always seeking meaning and even motivation.  Mind if I ask just what language is being used to “interpret” these things?  For men, it’s seems kind of foreign. 

OK, play a little game with me this morning. 

It’s spring.  The birds are chirping, trees are blooming (No allergies are allowed in my game), and you are young all over again.  A guy sees your gorgeous visage, closes his eyes and drinks in your perfume.  He is lost in the rapture of your voice, and you are both 17, once again.  You watch all of this.  Your heart is touched.  He opens his eyes, saunters on over to where you are seated.  He smiles and says, “I think I’m in love.”  Your eyes meet and you smile. 

INTERPRET PLEASE! 

For the guy, at that moment he thinks he is in love.  What do YOU think?  Is he is love with you?  Is the young man in love with someone else, something else?  WHAT?

Do you hear wedding bells?  Are you seeing something that he does not see?  Is he a keeper?  Is he even yours at all?  Do you size him up, like a pair of shoes?  Does he have the potential to be an excellent father and grandfather?  Is he going to be rich?  I am waiting for an answer.

“The so-called weaker sex is the stronger sex because of the weakness of the stronger sex for the weaker sex.” (Anonymous)

Women and men are different and that’s the way it is supposed to be.  Our brains and hearts are wired differently to complement each other, and not just for the couple’s benefit, either.  Raising children is a chore done best with both male and female present.  No apologies for that.  Children in schools have female teachers so much more than they have male teachers.  Students are taught from female perspectives more than from male perspectives.  I wonder what to make of that (flipping the tables on you).  But we’ll save that discussion for another time.  You bring the remote and we’ll bring the earrings. 

I am just lost this morning how Ms. Interpretation and Ms. Construe have become best friends–soul mates, as it were.  Men should take a lesson.  A good place to start is in the kitchen.  Consider the old Home-Economics teacher who “espoused” . . .

“Help your wife . . . When she washes the dishes, wash the dishes with her.  When she mops the floor, mop the floor with her.” 

Stop interpreting ladies!  We mean well.  For once, just once, would you mind sitting up nice and tall, open your mouths, begin to pant like our presence touches your existence, and look at us like we are sovereigns?  We have diamonds! 

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