Ethics & Morality

Recognizing Expressions of Spiritual Activism

In these last few weeks we’ve witnessed countless bold, inspiring acts of Spiritual Activism, with people holding space for equality, inclusion, justice and love. In case you’ve missed any of them, and need a dose of what’s right in the world, read on.

1. Healing Racism: In the face of great sadness, pain and confusion in the wake of the Mike Brown case in Ferguson and Eric Garner decision in New York, there has been an awe inspiring and very visible response in hundreds of cities and towns, where folks have gathered in great numbers, marched, rallied, prayed and staged "die-ins" calling out for the much needed transformation and healing to end racism.

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I’d Never Tell Anyone This, But…

I was 12 years old when my 16-year-old cousin got me alone in a room and started feeling me up. I remember being so shaken and scared. I didn’t know what to do.

When I came home, I told my mother. I shall never forget what she said to me: “Stop making up stories. Your cousin is a good boy. You know that. Why would you want to say bad things about him? What’s wrong with you?”

I froze. Could I have imagined the whole thing? Could it not have happened? Could it have been my fault? I ran up to my room and never mentioned the incident again.

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CIA Torture Report: A Sad Day for Psychologists

This week marks a low point for U.S. psychologists. Two psychologists were responsible for devising the CIA program that uses "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- what the rest of the world calls torture -- on certain detainees after 9/11.

It also took the American Psychological Association years to clarify its ethical policies on how psychologists could be involved in the torture of suspects. (In contrast, the American Psychiatric Association -- representing U.S. psychiatrists -- simply invoked an outright ban for its members from being a part of any torture interrogation.)

One of the two psychologists -- who were paid handsomely ($81 million) for their program development -- even had the audacity to defend his work to the Associated Press yesterday.

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‘I Can’t Breathe:’ People with Mental Illness & the Police Response

The outrage for no one being held accountable for Eric Garner's death at the hands of the police -- for selling cigarettes on the street, a petty crime at best -- is pouring over.

And it's no wonder. The officers' heavy-handed tactics in handling this nuisance crime were over-the-top. Garner repeatedly told the officers, "I can't breathe," even as they were suffocating him -- apparently oblivious to his very real distress.

If anybody other than a police officer was responsible for Garner's death, someone would have at least been indicted on a manslaughter charge. But because it was a police officer, no justice will apparently be had.

Sadly, Garner is just the latest in a long history of police "over-zealousness" when it comes to dealing with people who just won't abide by their instructions. People with a mental illness have long been given short shrift when it comes to being treated with simple decency and restraint by police officers all across the country.

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Can New York City Fix Its Mental Health Treatment Problem?

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio believes he can fix New York City's terrible problem within its criminal justice system and its poor treatment (and mistreatment) of people with mental illness. He's putting some much-needed money where his mouth is -- $130 million, to be specific.

The money will be used to help begin to reform how those with mental illness are treated while in custody, help shunt them over to treatment services as a first response, and train all of its police officers on how to respond to people with mental illness with compassion rather than violence.

But is it enough to address the problems of providing timely public mental health care to those in the criminal justice system, in a city of 8+ million?

Probably not.

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How to Degrade a Human Being at JRC

In Massachusetts -- supposedly one of the most enlightened and liberal states you can live in in our fine United States -- a facility is engaged in a horrifying business. Some have even call it state-sanctioned torture on American soil.

They degrade human beings daily, calling it a form of "treatment."

They do this regardless of the lack of scientific evidence on the treatment (outside a few flimsy studies published by the facility's former disgraced director, Matthew Israel). They do it even when important safeguards were lacking for years.

Yes, I'm talking about the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts. And yet another survivor from that institute is speaking out.

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Pumpkin Fest Madness & the Age of Narcissism

"It's just like a rush. You're revolting from the cops ... It's a blast to do things that you're not supposed to do."
-- Steven French, age 18 [1]

When I first saw the headline -- “Pumpkin Festival Riot” -- I thought it might be a parody, along the lines of spoofs published by The Onion.

But it was all too true: there really was a riot at the “Pumpkin Festival” held Oct. 19th, 2014 in Keene, New Hampshire. What is it about a small-town annual festival that has turned it into a chance to party -- and riot? Does it say something about changing societal norms?

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Love Crimes: When the Abused Believe It’s for Their Own Good

One of the most nurturing, compassionate women I know is also an abused wife who once shared her biggest regret. Did she regret staying with her abusive husband? No. The most regretful day of her life was when she phoned the police after he physically assaulted her yet again.

“I ruined his life,” she said. “It’s the biggest mistake I ever made.” Immune to any reason, she pressed on, blaming herself for the “humiliation he had to endure” at anger management classes, the draining of her family’s resources on lawyer fees and the indelible black mark “she caused” on his otherwise spotless veneer.

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Anger Detection and the Brain

When Greta gets angry, Dave has noticed that she tends to be quiet, almost stoic. Greta can detect slight changes in Dave's tone of voice that signal to her he is angry. Couples like us can learn to be extremely sensitive to signs of anger in their partners, because understanding your partner's emotional state helps you decide how to respond.

It's also important to be able to detect anger in strangers -- in some cases, your very life might depend on it! Over the years, lots of research on anger has focused on facial expressions. While "anger" does have a characteristic facial expression that is readily detected, there's plenty of other evidence we can use to decide if someone is angry, like Dave's tone of voice and Greta's silence. Until the past decade, however, very little research had been conducted on another important component of anger detection: Body position and movements.

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Childhood PTSD: Spanking Is Not ‘About Love,’ It’s About Rage

My first memory is of being spanked. I was 3 years old, and I didn’t know what I had done wrong. All I know is that it made me terrified of my father and forever doubtful of my safety in my home.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was recently suspended after he was charged with reckless or negligent injury of a child after allegedly spanking his 4-year-old son with a switch. Peterson's mother Bonita Jackson told the Houston Chronicle that spanking “is not about abuse”:
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How to Be Real Without Being Mean

The mantra to “get real” has become popular nowadays -- and for good reason. We live in a society where images rule and authenticity is reserved for blue jeans and ethnic recipes. We’re trained to polish and parade a false self that we think will garner acceptance and accolades.

The isolation and disconnection that’s rampant in our society is based on a disconnection from our own genuine feelings and longings. We’re afraid to show what’s real, including our fears, insecurities, and yearning for love and intimacy. Instead, we may try to project a confident, self-assured, unruffled self that we think will win us friends and gain success. For example, we might conceal our hurt or sadness when our partner is late. Our built-up disappointment or resentment might leak out later over something trivial, which leaves our partner confused.

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The Psychology of Personal Space: Seat Reclining

Over the past few weeks, we've heard more and more accounts of airline flights being diverted because of an argument over reclining seats. Reclining seats are obviously not the problem -- they've been available on most airlines' flights for the past five decades.

The problem is that as airlines seek to eek out every dollar of profit from your pocket, many have decided to reduce the space between seats, making your personal space up to an inch smaller than it was just a year or two ago. The person in front of you trying to recline their seat isn't to blame -- the airline you've chosen to purchase a ticket from is.

But all of this really a battle over personal space. And no battle may be more emotionally involving than this one.

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