Category Archives: Just Stop!

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The Bystander Effect

I just read a book that described the research behind the Bystander Effect. It is a disturbing phenomenon, indeed, and it has been empirically proven in many studies. The misconception most of us hold is that when someone has been hurt, witnesses will rush to their aid. The sad truth is the more people who witness a person in distress, the less likely it is that any one person within the group of witnesses will help.

The line of thinking in the Bystander Effect is that if one person , alone, sees someone in  trouble, he or she will feel compelled to help. If three or more people are witnessing someone in trouble, each supposes someone else in the group will help and so the individual abdicates his or her personal responsibility to step in. According to David McRaney, author of You are Not So Smart, the Bystander Effect has cost plenty of victims either their physical and/or emotional well-being. In many cases, by-standing has caused victims their lives, while others looked on.

I can personally relate to the Bystander Effect. When I was traveling in Florence, Italy, I was unaccustomed to the uneven cobblestone walkways. Upon exiting my hotel, I tripped just outside the entrance and went down sprawling onto the sidewalk. I hurt my knee and could not immediately get up. The number of pedestrians who literally climbed over me was astounding. Scores of them. Not one person offered help. I don’t remember what hurt worse: the injury to my knee or the shame of being ignored via apathy. I think the latter. Gosh. How do some people sleep at night?

I believe that the Bystander Effect needs to be considered as seriously as leaving the scene of an accident or leaving the scene of a crime. If it was our civic and legal responsibility to help someone in need, perhaps there would be less bullying, less domestic abuse, less hate crimes, less assaults, fewer injuries and fewer victims. Why do you think people abuse or bully other people? …because they can!

I have decided that by-standing someone in distress is officially not part of my behavioral repertoire. If I see someone being mistreated or in danger, I want to act in some way to be of aid to the victim. In my opinion, not only is it the moral choice; it is my honor to be of service to another who may be in distress. Give it some thought. What stand do you take?


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Mother’s Day and Mythology

Mother’s Day is typically celebrated for loving mothers everywhere. The day is dedicated for remembering all the sacrifices and kindnesses mothers, old and young, have demonstrated to their offspring.

But for many children, Mother’s Day is a myth. It is a fantasy; an idea or illusion a child wistfully carries in their mind, but never truly experienced. The population of these children who are older, are the ones who linger by the Hallmark cards for long periods of time: reading and replacing; reading and replacing. They finally settle for some benign message that ultimately says “Have a Nice Day”, but nothing more. This blog is dedicated to all those children. There are plenty of them out there and, for them, Mother’s Day can trigger some powerfully painful emotions.

The children who contend with Mother’s Day Mythology are usually the children who have not received love via compassion from their moms. They may have been overtly or covertly abused. They may have been overtly or covertly neglected. They may have even received some virtuous traits from their mom’s role modeling, but they still suffer. Many are in therapy or many need to be. Sad children, young and old, affected by insensitive mothers and who may now struggle with attachment challenges, low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, …too many adverse effects to list here.

Here is what I want to say to children who have not yet risen above their maternal yearning:

  • You are a lovable and valuable human being.
  • You are whole and nothing is missing.
  • You have special gifts and talents that deserve to be encouraged.
  • You deserve unconditional love and regard.
  • You are not to blame because your Mom struggled in her parental role; she probably wasn’t mothered very well, herself.
  • You are not to blame that you may not have loving feelings for your Mother.
  • You can blame your Mother every which way from Mother’s Day and it won’t change a thing for you, unless you change.
  • You can grieve the loss of a loving mother, whether your Mom is alive or not.
  • You can still find a loving mother-symbol in other relationships.
  • You can still be a wonderful Mother, even if you didn’t have one.
  • You can forgive your Mother and release yourself from the myth.
  • You have strength, wisdom, determination and fortitude as a direct result of your painful mother-experience.
  • You have everything it takes to be your own loving mother.

I humbly and respectfully invite any child of this particular experience to add to this list. I am certain there are many more attributes to be shared. You deserve to be heard on Mother’s Day.

If you have or had the gift of a loving mother, please take a minute and send some loving thoughts to all the children who wish they did too.

Thank you for reading my blog and Happy Mother’s Day.


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Virtual Vexation: Is Social Media Endangering Your Health?

Last week, I shut down my computer, packed a small bag and headed for the mountains to hang with my dear friends and let my brain stop aching. I felt like I was coming down from a serious binge and had to heal from a heavy hangover. What was the drug? Social Media; a “drug” that will prove to become toxic if taken in frequent and/or large doses.

Many of us spend hours and hours daily posting on a plethora of pages, blogging, tweeting, linking, commenting, uploading, downloading, sharing, responding. This activity is like a contagion and we drag it along everywhere we go: our cell phone, lap top, desk-top. Pretty soon it will be accessible on our wristwatches. Maybe it already is accessible on a wristwatch and I have not kept up!

I know am not alone. Every day, millions of people enter a virtual reality and operate in that alternate reality in a way that changes the structure of the brain and intensifies stress levels. Operating in this virtual reality seems to be moving from a pastime…to a habit…to an obligation…to a pressure…and finally to a consistent, gnawing fear of being left behind. Please; let’s stop the madness!

I call the new syndrome, already widely researched, Virtual Vexation. Virtual is a term which has been defined in philosophy as “that which is not real” but may display the salient qualities of the real. Many of us are operating in our real stressful world and, at the same time, in a quasi-world that has no boundaries or predictable structure because it is constantly changing. The quasi-world will further elevate our stress levels and produce more lethal cortisol in our bodies.

Nicholas Carr already wrote about several research studies in his article entitled “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains”. Psychologists refer to the information flowing into our working memory as our cognitive load. When the load exceeds our mind’s ability to process and store it, we’re unable to retain the information or to draw connections with other memories. We can’t translate the new material into conceptual knowledge. Our ability to learn suffers, and our understanding remains weak. That’s why the extensive brain activity that scientists discovered in Web searchers may be more a cause for concern than for celebration. It points to cognitive overload. Cognitive overload creates stress and anxiety. Repetitive stress and anxiety will make us sick.

In the real world, weekends serve as our downtime for relaxing and stress-recovery. The virtual world also needs to include downtime. Make a deliberate and conscious decision to limit your virtual experience. If after doing so, you find you can not abide by your own self-created limits, you may be experiencing Virtual Vexation. If this is the case, you need to turn everything off, detoxify and allow your brain to recover. What good is being social if it can make you sick? Think about it.