The breasts we can’t live without. Or can we? (teaser)

Breasts. They are so important to us! We can’t live without them. We want them on display in videos and on billboards. We want them big, round and firm. And we really don’t want to be reminded of their primary function.

1,649,271 breast augmentation operations were performed in 2016*

583 197 breast lifts.

465 665 breast reduction.

Compared to the previous number in 2015, the number of surgical interventions in the aesthetic vision of female breasts has jumped by 11%.

There are no official statistics on aesthetic surgery in Bulgaria but we can assume that we are not far away from the world’s trends. A pair of silicone implants has become a common high-school graduation gift. Naked female breasts are playfully peeking from every advertisement and youtube video, so much so that flashing a nipple whilst performing on stage no longer makes it to page 6, or any page for that matter.

At the same time, breastfeeding in public fires up heated public debates. Is it appropriate? Is it moral? Should it be allowed? After all – breasts are being shown in public!

This double standard imposed on female breasts clearly tells us that if they are there to excite the sexual fantasies of the audience – breasts are warmly welcome, however, everything else related to their real functions are unacceptable and should not exist.

This puts a massive weight of social expectations on women’s backs (breasts) that often remains unconscious until a breast/health decision needs to take place.

Ah, breasts! We can’t live without them. Or can we?

Juliet Fitzpatrick did not recognize reconstruction as an acceptable option. “I thought it was a very brutal and complicated way to make a lump-shaped breast attached to my chest. The new “breast” will never be the same as my natural breast and there will be no nipple. I did not want to live the rest of my life with one huge breast and nothing on the other side.”

 

Read the full article and an interview with Juliet this Friday on the pages of Жената днес The full English translation will be uploaded here after the Bulgarian gets online. I know you can’t wait – me either! 

 

 

Photos: Sue Lacey (Instagram: sue_lacey)

The breasts we can’t live without. Or can we?

Breasts. They are so important to us! We can’t live without them. We want them on display in videos and on billboards. We want them big, round and firm. And we really don’t want to be reminded of their primary function.

1,649,271 breast augmentation operations were performed in 2016*

583 197 breast lifts.

465 665 breast reduction.

Compared to the previous number in 2015, the number of surgical interventions in the aesthetic vision of female breasts has jumped by 11%.

There are no official statistics on aesthetic surgery in Bulgaria but we can assume that we are not far away from the world’s trends. A pair of silicone implants has become a common high-school graduation gift. Naked female breasts are playfully peeking from every advertisement and youtube video, so much so that flashing a nipple whilst performing on stage no longer makes it to page 6, or any page for that matter.

At the same time, breastfeeding in public fires up heated public debates. Is it appropriate? Is it moral? Should it be allowed? After all – breasts are being shown in public!

This double standard imposed on female breasts clearly tells us that if they are there to excite the sexual fantasies of the (male) audience – breasts are warmly welcome, however everything else related to their real functions are unacceptable and should not exist.

This puts a massive weight of social expectations on women’s backs (breasts) that often remains unconscious until a breast/health decision needs to take place.

Flat Friends

In recent years, along with the advancement of science and technology in breast reconstruction after mastectomy, alternative trends have also emerged. Many women make the conscious decision not to have their breast reconstructed.  This is not a widespread alternative, however, those who have made that choice are campaigning for no reconstruction and living breast free to be an active and equal treatment choice to reconstruction.

The English NGO Flat Friends is one of the organisations that stands behind that cause. Initially launched as a Facebook group of several women who were brought together by their breast free choice, they are now over a thousand and one of their goals as a non-governmental organization is to have the refusal of reconstruction and complete mastectomy viewed as an equal option for any woman who goes along this path.

Breast Cancer – Bulgaria 

2015 – A total 51 108 with 3819 newly discovered

2016 – A total of 52 055 with 3526 newly discovered

Ah, breasts. We can’t live without them. Or can we?

Juliet Fitzpatrick did not recognize reconstruction as an acceptable option. “I thought it was a very brutal and complicated way to make a lump-shaped breast attached to my chest. The new “breast” will never be the same as my natural breast and there will be no nipple. I did not want to live the rest of my life with one huge breast and nothing on the other side.”

Now, I feel much better in my body, says Juliet. She is much happier looking at her body in the mirror now that there are no breasts than when there was only one after her first operation. “I think I look beautiful as a flat woman – it’s almost as if I have the body that I always should have done, although I think small breasts may be better than no breasts.  I feel empowered and strong because I made the decision to have the other breast removed.”

Juliet acknowledges the importance of the breast in the woman’s social presence. “They are definitely seen as a big part of the sexual makeup of a woman and it seems at the moment that large, round and firm breasts are the most sought after.  

Older and sagging breasts aren’t seen and I think this is part of the process by which women become invisible in society when they hit middle age.

I think it’s important to highlight that flat is an acceptable option, as the more that it’s out there, the more it will be seen as something that is not taboo.

For Juliet, the benefits of going flat are many – from symmetry and better self-esteem and control to reduced risk of recurrence of the disease. After the shock of diagnosis, the fear, the painful therapy, surgery, and her new body, she now feels good with herself. After her story made it to the Huffington Post and gained astonishing popularity, Juliet and I sat down, put fingers to keyboard and talked about female breasts – her personal experience in retrospect, the disease, the new female body, and the power to give up the perceived attributes of social femininity.

 

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This is Juliet. She is 56. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016. The diagnosis was followed by a lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy and Herceptin.  She had her second mastectomy for symmetry in November 2017 and is now am living flat. Juliet writes runs a blog – Blooming Cancer – “Odd companions you may think, but the second grew out of the first! I hope to write about my cancer and its treatment, and my fledgeling flower farm business. We’ll see!”

 

Juliet, what was your relation to your breasts throughout time? Can you please start with your first breast memory – do you remember seeing your mother’s breast or another adult woman and what were your first impression? (I, for instance, remember thinking my mother has strange nipples and wished that I never had breast).
I remember always seeing my mother’s breasts as we never hid our bodies in our family. I didn’t like her breasts as they seemed very large and saggy to me. I hoped that I wouldn’t develop the same breasts as her, but unfortunately I did! I’ve always been a little jealous of my three sisters’ breasts as they are much smaller than mine and seem more easy to live with.

How did you feel when your breasts started developing? Did it change anything about the perception of your body and who you are?
I think I felt glad because it was a sign that I was becoming a woman. When I was young, I had small breasts which was good because I was a real tomboy. I played a lot of sport when I was at school and university and I liked having small breasts because they didn’t bounce around too much. But as I got older, my breasts got a lot larger and I started to dislike them.

Have you ever wanted to change anything about them – bigger, smaller, rounder, higher, lower…?
Yes, once they got really big, I wanted them to smaller and not so droopy. But I never considered having them reduced.

Have you ever felt stared at, judged, pressured or uncomfortable in any way in social situation (because of your breasts)?
I think I made myself feel uncomfortable because of the size of my breasts. There were definitely clothes that I didn’t wear as I didn’t want to draw attention to them. It was often a bit of a joke that I had such large breasts, especially for someone of my small size.

How did you feel about breastfeeding? Did it change anything about the perception of your body and who you are?
I was very happy to breastfeed both of my children. I fed them both until they were a year old, and I loved it. I missed doing it once I stopped. It made me feel like a mother and a nurturing woman and it felt very natural to me.

When and how were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016. It was picked up on by a routine screening mammogram. I hadn’t felt any lumps or seen any of the other signs of breast cancer.

What were your initial fears and how did they change over time?
My initial fear was that I was going to die and after that, I was worried about how I would tell my children even though they were 20 and 24 years old. Over time, I learnt that my particular diagnosis meant that after my treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, and drugs) I. have a very low risk of recurrence. The fear of the cancer coming back is still with me but it’s usually at the back of my mind and I don’t worry too much about it now. I was very scared about losing my breast when I was told I needed a mastectomy, but now I’m happy with my decision to have the other one removed too.

For Juliet, the benefits of going flat are many - from symmetry and better self-esteem and control to reduced risk of recurrence of the disease.

For Juliet, the benefits of going flat are many – from symmetry and better self-esteem and control to reduced risk of recurrence of the disease. Photo: Sue Lacey

What made you feel repulsed by the reconstruction option?
I didn’t feel repulsed, but I was very anxious about the long operation and recovery time. My reconstruction option was the DIEP flap which entails a long hip to hip incision and fat from the stomach being used to fashion a new breast. It seemed a very brutal and difficult way to get a breast-shaped lump of fat onto my chest. The new “breast” would never be the same as my own and wouldn’t include a nipple. I decided that it was not an option for me.

What are the benefits of double mastectomy?
For me the benefit is symmetry. I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with one large breast and nothing on the other side. After my second mastectomy, I feel so much more positive about my body, I no longer have to wear a bra and prosthesis an I feel a lot lighter. I guess that now that I have had all of my breast tissue removed there is less chance of a recurrence of the cancer, but that was always an additional benefit for me.

How your decision to go flat has changed your own body perception?
I feel so much better about my body now. I never thought that I would ever say that I like my body without breasts. I much prefer to look at myself in the mirror now that I’m flat than when I had just one breast. I think I look beautiful as a flat woman – it’s almost as if I have the body that I always should have done, although I think small breasts may be better than no breasts. I feel empowered and strong because I made the decision to have the other breast removed.

How much weight do you think society puts on women’s breast?
I think that some parts of society very much judge a woman by their breasts. I know that I got a lot of stares from men and women when I had breasts and a lot of women commented on the size of my breasts. They are definitely seen as a big part of the sexual makeup of a woman and it seems at the moment that large, round and firm breasts are the most sought after. Older and sagging breasts aren’t seen and I think this is part of the process by which women become invisible in society when they hit middle age.

What is the breast – femininity connection and why unibreast-ism or going full-flat is important to be put out there as an equally acceptable option?
I never saw my breasts as being part of my femininity. Maybe this is because I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, and have never dressed in a terribly pretty way. I don’t wear a lot of makeup either. But I have always felt like a woman and to a large extent feminine. A flat or uniboobed woman can be just as feminine as a woman with two breasts. I think it’s down to the individual and how she feels about herself and her body confidence. Apart from straight after my operation, I haven’t really missed my breasts, although I do sometimes think it’s a bit strange that I have reached this body shape. I think it’s important to highlight that flat is an acceptable option, as the more that it’s out there, the more it will be seen as something that is not taboo.

 

Photos: Sue Lacey Photography

Behavioural economics – a legitimate tools for setting public policies? Professor Dan Ariely

Dan Arielythe James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics, currently teaches at Duke University and is the author of the bestsellers Predictably Irrational and The Upside of  Irrationality. His  TEDx lectures have over 12 million views and counting. Prof Ariely is the founder of The Centre for Advanced  Hindsight.  His work has been featured in a variety of media including The New York Times,  Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Business 2.0, Scientific American,  Science and CNN.  I can say much more, but I am sure if interested, you would follow the links and educate your self-serves, as prof Ariely is truely impressive. Enjoy the interview. 

Let’s start with the basics. What is behavioural economics and how does it differ from the classical economics?

In classical economics we assume that people are always rational – we make the right decisions, we consider everything, we don’t have emotions, we look into the future. In behavioural economics, we don’t assume much. Instead, we put people in different situations and we see how they behave. And it turns out that when you put people in different situations and see how they behave, they often don’t behave rationally – people are emotional, don’t look into the future, we don’t consider all the options, we are looking for a shortcut – we do all kinds of things that are far from being rational. And this is the key and the reason it’s so important is if you want to get the world to be a better world, if you want to design the world in a way that is compatible with how people function, whether you offer health insurance or education, or whatever you design, if you take into account the human nature, you are likely to design something that is going to fit with peoples trueability. But if you assume that people are perfectly rational, you are going to design things that are not in line with how people function and people are going to make mistakes.

This year the Nobel prize went to the field of behavioural economics for the second time, 15 years ago the award went to Daniel Kahneman “for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty”. What has changed over these 15 years in the field of behavioural economics?

I think the biggest changes in behavioural economics have occurred because of technology. So, we always did lab experiments and we could do things in the lab, but measuring how people behave in the real world has been difficult. Think about something like dating. We could do some experiments in how people form attraction in the lab, but measuring lot of people on how they date and form attraction was difficult. Or think about shopping. We could get people to do some shopping things in small environment but we couldn’t really track how people do that. Now we have Amazon. So what happened over this time is that we got much more and better data and with better data, the field between the lab and the field has changed. And the field became more interesting because now we can study more things that are about real life but also the evidence has become much stronger. So it’s becoming an area of research that has moved from the lab into the field – it became more interesting, more exciting, dealing more and more with things that people deal with on a daily basis and also the evidence and data become more interesting.

Has the discipline reached a point where it can be used for making tools for setting public policy?

First of all, I think, the answer is – obviously yes. Public policy is basically an attempt of the regulator to change human behaviour. It has always been like this. If the case was that people were behaving perfectly, nobody would have started policy. We only set policies when we think people are not behaving well. Now, the question is what kind of insights about human behaviours are we incorporating – if we are incorporating naïve notions of people being perfectly rational then it’s not going to work. But if we take the new answers of how people actually behave, then policies are going to work out. So think about something like the death penalty. In the US some states have a death penalty and some state don’t and the logic of the death penalty is that people would worry about the death penalty, they will fear it and they will not behave badly, they will not murder for example. The results show that this is not the case. That the death penalty doesn’t change the propensity of people to commit a crime. So here is a policy that we have, that is based on the idea that people will do the cost-benefit analysis but people don’t do the cost-benefit analysis and therefore it‘s an ineffective policy. And, of course, this is an extreme example, but there are many-many example like this.

Isn’t behavioural economics limiting in terms of unifying the lack of rational motivation behind the decision-making process just as the standard economy unifying theory?

Standard economics has a unifying theory, basically saying that all people are motivated by money and they don’t take anything else into consideration. Behavioral economics says that people are motivated by money, and by pride, and by competition and there are lots of different things and it’s slightly uncomfortable to realize how complex life is, and the economic theory is much simpler in many ways the behavioural economy is more complex. And there is something uneasy about the complexity of behavioural economics. The standard economy might say – I have a theory I have a solution, I will tell you exactly what to do. Whereas behavioural economist will say – I have a few theories, and I can propose an experiment to see which one works in your situation, but they don’t have this conviction that they have the right answer for everything.  It’s an uncomfortable position not to know exactly what’s the right thing to do, but I think it’s also truer. In the same way, when an engineer builds a bridge, you want him to take into account the specifics of every particular environment, I think in the same way when we come into implementing something into social science we need to understand the particulars in each environment, and not just assume that we could just abstract everything is the same.

Could you please give us a couple of practical examples when behavioural psychology has been successfully implemented?

There are lots of examples. Think about automatic deductions from checking accounts into long-term savings. It is certainly not an optimal approach but it gets people to save. Rules against texting and driving – why would you need such rules, if people were rational nobody would text and drive.

We recently did a scale with no display. We find that when people stay on their bathroom scale the fluctuation of the bathroom scale creates confusion and demotivation so instead of showing people their weight in pounds, we

What is your prediction on the development and implementation of behavioural economics in the future years?

I think that there is going to be a big field of applied social science and this field of applied social science is going to do a lot of good for the world. In the same way that we design anything physical, we think about how it fits with the human abilities. I think it the same thing would work for behavioural economics to apply social science.

The earlier economic models don’t consider the human factor as significant and present it as a random deviation. Behavioral economics, however, claims that these are systematic deviations in human behaviour that go against the theory that irrationality will throw you out of the market. Can you please give an example of these systematic deviations?

I will give you one example that is very telling. People value effort. Here is a little story. Imagine you come to visit me in Durham, North Carolina, you are parking by the parking meter, you need a quarter, you check in your pockets, you don’t have one, I happen to pass by and you say – excuse me, do you have a quarter and I say – yes, I have a quarter, I will sell it to you for a dollar. Most people say – no, thank you, I am not going to buy your quarter for a dollar, I will take my risk. Situation number two – you are trying to find a parking, the parking needs your quarter, you don’t have a quarter, I pass buy, you ask me – do you have a quarter and I say – look, I don’t have a quarter, but I will tell you what – there is bank for blocks down the street, if you want I will run as fast as I can down there, I will change a dollar for quarters and run as fast as I can that, but if I do that will you give me a dollar? Now, not only you would feel happy to give me a dollar, you would feel like you are getting a good deal. What happens here is that we derive value from the amount of effort when we do something, even though at the end of the day you are getting the same quarter for the same price. So here is a bias – we evaluate effort and because of that we pay more for things where the effort is clear and pay less when the effort is not clear. And it is not throwing us out of the market. Of course, it does create some inefficiencies and is also a very systematic deviation from a perfect rationality.

 
This one question is for my own personal pleasure – I saw on social media that you were with the “relationship gurus” amongst who Esther Perel, who I really like to get in touch with and have been failing to do so. Did anything come out of this meeting that will engage economics and relationships in a brand new hybrid?
I think that Esther is great and we have been talking for the last few years about dishonesty – I do work on dishonest, she has been doing work for quite a few years on infidelity, and of course, this came out is her new book. So, there are lots of interesting things – I think the relationship is a very interesting topic – there is lots to think about and learn about. Relationships are kind of a model for human behaviour, we are designed for relationship, so a lot of the biases, juristics, short-cuts, the way we deal with the world, reflect on relationships. So our relationships at work are not at different from any other relationships. So understanding romantic relationship is a really good way to understand relationships more generally.

 

Infidelity & Economics. Esther Perel and prof. Dan Ariely

This one question is for my own personal pleasure – I saw on social media that you were with the “relationship gurus” amongst who Esther Perel, who I really like to get in touch with and have been failing to do so. Did anything come out of this meeting that will engage economics and relationships in a brand new hybrid?
I think that Esther is great and we have been talking for the last few years about dishonesty – I do work on dishonest, she has been doing work for quite a few years on infidelity, and of course, this came out is her new book. So, there are lots of interesting things – I think the relationship is a very interesting topic – there is lots to think about and learn about. Relationships are kind of a model for human behaviour, we are designed for relationship, so a lot of the biases, juristics, short-cuts, the way we deal with the world, reflect on relationships. So our relationships at work are not at different from any other relationships. So understanding romantic relationship is a really good way to understand relationships more generally.
 Stay tuned for the whole interview in English here, and in Bulgarian – on the pages of Economy Magazine Bulgaria

Knowledge and education are key to building empathy and tolerance. Dr. Neel Burton

“Depression: the healthy suspicion that modern life has no meaning and that modern society is absurd and alienating.”

Dr Neel Burton

Dr Neel Burton

Dr Neel Burton is a psychiatrist and philosopher who teaches in Oxford and is also a writer (“The Meaning of Madness”, “Heaven and Hell – the Psychology of Emotions”, “For better, for worse” – to mention a few), a blogger for Psychology Today, associate follow of the Green-Templeton College, and a laureate of many prizes. Amongst many beautifully rational and well backed-up viewpoints on complex issues, he has a fantastic take on depression, which is how I came to familiarise myself with his work.

P.S. He is a wine-lover.                                                                                       

Psychiatry (2006)
Living with Schizophrenia (2007)
The Meaning of Madness (2008)
Master your Mind (2009)
The Art of Failure: The Anti Self-Help Guide (2010)
Heaven and Hell: The Psychology of the Emotions (2015)
For Better For Worse: Should I Get Married? (2017)

At the time when I requested Dr Neel Burton’s thoughts on the topics of depression, happiness and everything else, he was right about to launch his latest book “For better or for worst – should I get married”. “I’m so sorry”, he replied to my inquiry, “I’m not going to have the time to answer your questions in full and as you would like me to. The questions are very large and wide-ranging, and it would take forever to do them justice.” With all his gentle kindness, however, Dr. Burton couldn’t fully decline my request. Despite his very limited time, he kindly went on with his response, providing me with links to the places where he’d touched upon the topics I am interested in, and a couple of words to some to some of the questions.

This gives me a fantastic opportunity to present to your attention a compilation of Dr Burton’s very insightful, factual yet juicy blog post for Psychology Today and his books, which we will hopefully see translated into Bulgarian very soon.

Depression is on the rise, as we are kindly informed by the annual reports of the World Health Organization. You define depression, as “the healthy suspicion that modern life has no meaning and that modern society is absurd and alienating.” It seems that the pandemic of depression is something that comes as no surprise to you. What is wrong with the modern world and why are we reacting to it with depression?

“In the past 50 or 60 years, real term incomes in countries such as the USA and the UK have increased dramatically, but happiness has not kept apace. In fact, people today are considerably less happy than back then: they have less time, they are more alone, and so many of their number are on antidepressants that trace quantities of a popular antidepressant have been found in the water supply.

Although economists focus on the absolute size of salaries, several sociological studies have found that the effect of money on happiness results less from the things that money can buy (absolute income effect) than from comparing one’s income to that of others, and in particular to that of one’s peers (relative income effect). This is an important part of the explanation as to why people today are no happier than people 50 or 60 years ago; despite being considerably richer and healthier, they have only barely managed to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

But there is more. If I am to believe everything that I see in the media, happiness is to be six foot tall or more and to have bleached teeth and a firm abdomen, all the latest clothes, accessories, and electronics, a picture-perfect partner of the opposite sex who is both a great lover and a terrific friend, an assortment of healthy and happy children, a pet that is neither a stray nor a mongrel, a large house in the right sort of neighborhood, a second property in an idyllic holiday location, a top-of-the-range car to shuttle back and forth from the one to the other, a clique of ‘friends’ with whom to have fabulous dinner parties, three or four foreign holidays a year, and a high-impact job that does not distract from any of the above.

There are at least three major problems that I can see with this ideal of happiness. First, it represents a state of affairs that is impossible to attain to and that is therefore in itself an important source of unhappiness. Second, it is situated in an idealized and hypothetical future rather than in an imperfect but actual present in which true happiness is much more likely to be found, albeit with great amount of hard thinking. Third—and most importantly—it has largely been defined by commercial interests that have absolutely nothing to do with true happiness, which has far more to do with the practice of reason and the peace of mind that this eventually brings.

In short, it is not only that the bar for happiness is set too high, but also that it is set in the wrong place, and that it is, in fact, the wrong bar. Jump and you’ll only break your back.”

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201203/why-is-it-so-difficult-do-nothing-all)

It seems that over the past decade the palette of socially acceptable emotions has shrunk to a couple of shades of happiness – judging by social media, striving towards constant happiness and frantically avoiding sadness, grief and even quite melancholy, seems to be a trend. How accurate is this observation according to you and what are the potential consequences of such tendency? Looking back in history, can we say that there is a “preferred” emotion over periods of time?

“The manic defence is the tendency, when presented with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, to distract the conscious mind either with a flurry of activity or with the opposite thoughts or feelings. A general example of the manic defence is the person who spends all of his time rushing around from one task to the next, and who is unable to tolerate even short periods of inactivity. For this person, even leisure time consists in a series of discrete programmed activities that he needs to submit to in order to tick off from an actual or mental list. One needs only observe the expression on his face as he ploughs through yet another family outing, cultural event, or gruelling exercise routine to realize that his aim in life is not so much to live in the present moment as to work down his never-ending list. If one asks him how he is doing, he is most likely to respond with an artificial smile and a robotic response along the lines of, ‘Fine, thank you—very busy of course!’ In many cases, he is not fine at all, but confused, exhausted, and fundamentally unhappy.”

(…)

“Indeed, the essence of the manic defence is to prevent feelings of helplessness and despair from entering the conscious mind by occupying it with opposite feelings of euphoria, purposeful activity, and omnipotent control. This is no doubt why people feel driven not only to mark but also to celebrate such depressing milestones as entering the workforce (graduation), getting ever older (birthdays, New Year), and even, more recently, death and dying (Halloween)—laughing when they should be crying and crying when they should be laughing. The manic defence may also take on more subtle forms, such as creating a commotion over something trivial; filling every ‘spare moment’ with reading, study, or chatting on the phone with a friend; spending several months preparing for Christmas or some civic or sporting event; seeking out status or celebrity so as to be a ‘somebody’ rather than a ‘nobody’; entering into baseless friendships and relationships; even, sometimes, getting married and having children.

In Virginia Woolf’s novel of 1925, Mrs Dalloway, one of several ways in which Clarissa Dalloway prevents herself from thinking about her life is by planning unneeded events and then preoccupying herself with their prerequisites—‘always giving parties to cover the silence’. Everyone uses the manic defence, but some people use it to such an extent that they find it difficult to cope with even short periods of unstructured time, such as holidays, weekends, and long-distance travel, which at least explains why airport shops are so profitable. In sum, it is not that the manically defended person is happy—not at all, in fact—but that he does not know how to be sad and, in time, at peace and at play.

It should be noted that the manic defence is particularly prevalent in Occidental and Occidentalized societies such as the USA and the UK. (…)”

 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201204/the-happiness-trap 

Can we find a silver lining in this trend depression and manically running away from the problem? How can we turn this wave of depressive experience of the world to our benefit and what is it telling us about the human nature and psyche?

“(…) depression can have a silver lining. Crushing though it may be, depression can present a precious opportunity to identify and address deep and difficult life problems. Just as physical pain evolved to signal injury and prevent further injury, so depression may have evolved to remove us from distressing, damaging, or futile situations. The time and space and solitude afforded by depression encourage us to reconnect with our bigger picture, and reconsider how we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the world.

Your depression could be your way of telling yourself that something is seriously wrong and needs working through and changing, or, at the very least, processing and understanding. Sometimes, we can become so immersed in the humdrum of our everyday lives that we no longer have the perspective or opportunity to think and feel about ourselves. The adoption of the depressive position compels us to stand back at a distance, re-evaluate and prioritize our needs, and formulate a modest but realistic plan for fulfilling them.

At an even deeper level, the adoption of the depressive position can lead us to a more refined understanding of ourselves, our lives, and life in general. From an existential standpoint, the adoption of the depressive position obliges us to become aware of our mortality and freedom, and challenges us to exercise the latter within the framework of the former. By meeting this difficult challenge, we’re able to break out of the mould that has been imposed upon us, discover who we truly are, and, in so doing, begin to give deep meaning to our lives.”

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201612/philosophy-depression)

Over the past years we are observing tremendous social changes in Europe – on the one hand homosexual partnership has been legalized in many countries, Serbia got their first female and homosexual prime minister, TFL scrapped ‘ladies and gentlemen’ to make announcements gender-neutral, on the other hand Europe was faced with a huge wave of refugees, carriers of a completely different culture and values. How are such changes in communities affecting the psyche?

It is hard to disentangle social and cultural change from economic and technological change, but there is now a clear backlash, which, if one reads Hegel, could be interpreted as a necessary step in the historical dialectic.

Are we (humans) equipped to accommodate these (the above mentioned) rapid changes and what role does tolerance play in our ability to accept and adapt? 

Knowledge and education are key to building empathy and tolerance.

“Attitudes to homosexuality have undergone nothing short of a revolution in the past five decades.

First published in 1968, DSM-II (the American classification of mental disorders) listed homosexuality as a mental disorder. In this, the DSM followed in a long tradition in medicine and psychiatry, which in the 19th century appropriated homosexuality from the Church and, in an élan of enlightenment, transformed it from sin to mental disorder.

In those days, some therapists employed aversion therapy of the kind featured in A Clockwork Orange to ‘cure’ male homosexuality. This typically involved showing ‘patients’ pictures of naked men while giving them electric shocks or emetics (drugs to make them vomit), and, once they could no longer bear it, showing them pictures of naked women or sending them out on a ‘date’ with a young female nurse.”

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201708/the-gay-revolution)

“(…) Many people still think of same-sex marriage as a historical first, but this is far from being the case. Same-sex marriage was practised and accepted among precolonial peoples such as the Two-spirits, the Fa’afafine, and more than 30 African cultures; in Ancient Mesopotamia and perhaps also Ancient Egypt; and in Fujian province during the Ming dynasty.

In Ancient Rome, same-sex marriage, after three centuries on the run, was explicitly outlawed in 342 AD by the Christian co-emperors Constantius II and Constans—and it is worth noting that its return in our age corresponds with an ebbing of Christianity from the West.

In Ancient Athens, aristocratic men such as Agathon and Pausanias, who feature in Plato’s Symposium, went beyond the pederastic tradition of mentoring young males by forming lifelong partnerships. The ancient epigram Lovers’ Lips had for a long time been ascribed to Plato himself: ‘Kissing Agathon, I had my soul upon my lips; for it rose, poor wretch, as though to cross over.’

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201708/the-gay-revolution)

Would you comment on the importance of gender roles and their function in the structuring of society?

Human societies tend to various degrees of patriarchy, in which men hold primary power. Most anthropologists agree that there are no known unambiguously matriarchal societies. In the state of nature, man subjugated woman by being physically stronger, while the woman was frequently incapacitated by pregnancy and childrearing, which, through giving birth and breastfeeding, naturally fell upon her. In a modern society such as ours, with technology such as mechanization and birth control, the male advantage has become largely if not entirely redundant. But still the patriarchy perdures, upheld by hoary ideology and vested interests.

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201708/feminist-critique-marriage)

On the other hand,

“From Alaska to Patagonia, Native American cultures often held gender variant individuals in high regard, valuing them for their unique spiritual and artistic aptitudes and important economic and social contributions. Having been blessed with the spirits of both man and woman, these ‘two-spirits’, as they are still called, could mediate between men and women, and between this world and the other. They could accomplish the work of both sexes, meeting the need of the moment and compensating for any gender imbalances in their family or tribe. They often served as educators or guardians, taking in orphans or children from large or problem families.

European colonists saw two-spirits as ‘sodomites’, and, in 1513, the conquistador Vasco Nunez de Balboa infamously fed forty of them to his dogs. Unlike Europeans, who thought in fixed and binary terms, Native Americans understood gender as a continuum and sexuality as fluid. Neither did they confound gender and sexuality. Two-spirits were often males who preferred males, and sometimes even married a male, but they could also be males who preferred females, females who preferred males, and females who preferred females. This did not preclude them from sexual relations with the other gender, or make their same-sex partners into two-spirits.

(…) This brief and incomplete survey suggests that gender variation and same-sex relations, though often driven underground, or omitted from the historical record, are timeless and universal, and part and parcel of the human condition. It also suggests that concepts of gender and sexuality are, to a large extent, culturally conditioned, and that our rigid and binary concepts of male and female and heterosexual and homosexual are not necessarily the historical norm, or the best way of apprehending, supporting, and celebrating the diversity, even within a single person, of human gender and sexuality.”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201707/gender-variation-and-same-sex-relations-in-precolonial-times.