Portrait of Pornography in the Mind of a Young Person

New research from Cambridge University has revealed that pornography has the same effect on the human brain of compulsive viewers as the thought of alcohol does in the mind of an alcoholic. This seems to suggest that it is possible to become addicted to pornography. For those who are compulsive users, this will come as no surprise.Combine this with a study from East London University that found that 20% of teenage boys “were dependent on porn to have sex” and a problem of epic and disastrous proportions begins to reveal itself. Teenage boys are collecting, grading, and sharing porn. Their expectations are founded on what they see, often resulting in humiliating, degrading, and ultimately disappointing experiences with girls. The adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to addiction as the pre-frontal cortex that controls impulses does not mature until the mid-20’s.

The good news is that steps are being taken in the sex-education curriculum to address this very real problem. Also a national newspaper has started a campaign to limit access to porn by young people. For some the scale of this problem may seem insignificant but it is growing by the day. Sex is one of the ways in which we relate to one another. But the objectification of another puts an end to this and limits the range of caring and sharing. In Jungian terms this means it makes the awakening of the female aspect in males by females that much more difficult. Reciprocity is thus stunted in both the male and female. Male desire may contain elements of power, status, and of course, immortality. But ideally there is also a place for respect, recognition, and care. This is what we must foster in the young.

(Internet pornography addiction may be defined as “a psychological addiction to, or dependence upon, pornography, characterised by obsessive viewing, reading, and thinking about pornography and sexual themes to the detriment of other areas of the viewer’s life.”)

Hurt People Hurt People. The Long Lasting Scars of Bullying.

A new study has revealed that bullying leaves a long terms scar on the lives of both those who were bullied and the bullies themselves. Researchers at Warwick University and Duke University tracked 1.273 children into adulthood and measured everything from substance abuse, criminality, income, education, mental illnesses like depression and family functioning. The study found that both groups had significantly worse outcomes across these assessments than the general population. The researchers believe that this may be down to the physiological effects of bullying on immune and stress systems. Bullying is often cited as a major component of Boarding School Syndrome.

For many of those who were bullied or for the bullies themselves, the results of this study will come as little surprise. They are both victims. The expression “hurt people hurt people” captures this tragic dynamic where those already in pain visit that pain on others (who often themselves are struggling). And so it goes, around and around. Much is being done to address bullying and it is a welcome development but there is much left still to be done. Cyber bullying in particular has been cited as the reason for several recent suicides of schoolchildren. If your life has been marked by bullying don’t let it eat you up – get in touch with a therapist of organisation such as http://www.stopbullying.gov/


Walking it with Brene Brown

I went to a brilliant talk recently. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. In her work she asks: “How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?” What I love about her work is the way she understands the nature of real courage. That courage is being heard, is standing up for what is important to you, is saying your piece even when it makes you feel like the world will swallow you up. It is a thoughtful, genuine and careful process whereby we dare to be known and rise up so that we might ask another who they are, or if they feel the same way we do. As you will see in her videos she not just “walks it” – she “talks it”. Much of her message can be found in the heart of psychotherapy. Her work is an inspiration and can be found here: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html and http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

Mental Health

More good news for those that like to move. A new report from a Professor Arthur Kramer, director of the Beckham Institute for Advanced Sciences and Technology at the University of Illinois reports “Increased physical activity has direct and relatively rapid effects on cognition and brain health.” One implication is that people who have sedentary jobs and take little exercise may suffer degeneration of the brain as well as the muscles. His warning was echoed by Barbara Sahakian at Cambridge University, who said monitoring mental health was as important as looking after physical problems. It’s reassuring to see a scientific basis for something most of us took for granted.