168 posts categorized "Social Psychology"

November 28, 2022

Tears as Social Phenomenon

Cornelia Mayr Author Photo By Cornelia Mayr

November marks the point in the year when the cold beings to set in. Fields, buildings and streets are blanketed in heavy fog, blurring the city like an old painting. Trees look like skeletons and dawn frost carpets the grass. It is the time when biting winds gnaw on our skin and whip chilly, wintry air into our eyelashes. Our eyes tear up, because it's freezing.

Tears keep our eyes lubricated when it is cold and blustery; wash away smoke, dust or other irritant substances; and protect us from foreign particles that enter the eye’s environment. Though some animals do have the physiological ability to produce tears, humans are the only creatures whose tears can be triggered emotionally.

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October 31, 2022

Competitive Socialization and Exercise

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I’m not training for a triathlon. At least I don’t think I am.

Occasionally, people ask me if I am training for an event like a triathlon because my workout routine at our local rec center is pretty intense, and I can work out for an unusually long time. The staff might notice that some days I’m at the gym before the crack of dawn, go home for breakfast, and return soon after for a few hours of lap swimming. I also watch lots of videos on YouTube with training tips for swimming and running.

Why do I do this, if I’m not training for an event or trying to lose weight, you might wonder? I actually enjoy doing it.

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October 24, 2022

Lonely at the Top: The Toll of “High Functioning” Depression and Our Pandemic Mental Health Crisis

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

From the vantage of midlife, I’ve pondered social mobility’s toll on myself and others who’ve climbed from the poor or working-class into the professional class. I’ve spent my entire life developing a titanium outer shell, making myself strong and tough as poverty conspired to knock me off track. Skilled at powering through, I’ve worn my resilience like a Purple Heart. I had to fight. And fight. And fight.

But I’m tired of running to stay in place. At 42, I still spend considerable time quieting the inner monologue that says I’m not good enough. In my current position as an assistant professor of sociology, work and productivity remain intertwined with my identity and self-worth. Rejections can feel personally crushing. I’ve often dwelled on my failures, feeling like an imposter. Being hard on myself served me in the climb, but harmful perfectionism now yields diminishing returns.

Continue reading "Lonely at the Top: The Toll of “High Functioning” Depression and Our Pandemic Mental Health Crisis" »

October 10, 2022

Greetings: The Cultural Context of Saying Hello

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Saying hello seems pretty straightforward, and something we seldom think about unless we are in an unusual cultural context. When do we offer a greeting, and when we do, what do we say? Recent travels abroad made me think about these questions as I interacted with people who spoke different languages and had different cultural customs.

We usually don’t have to think much about these questions because we have cultural and social scripts that guide our behavior when interacting with others. We might think of these scripts as a series of words and actions to take in particular situations.

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October 03, 2022

Smile for a Change

Cornelia Mayr Author Photo By Cornelia Mayr

Department of Sociology, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

“The circus is coming! The circus is coming!” a colorful street poster silently shouted at us while a friend and I were walking down the sidewalk. Amazing trapeze artists, skilled acrobats in fabulous costumes and exotic animals, all captured in a performing pose in front of a tent-like symbol. Right next to the artistic performers grinned the huge face of a comical clown cheerfully down on us. “Clowns are creepy,” my friend claimed determinedly. “Why?” I asked him. “It’s because. I don’t know. Just look at them. They are... clownish.”

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September 19, 2022

The Right to Grief Without Diagnosis: Prolonged Grief in These Times is Normal

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

I dreaded the recent one-year anniversary of my father’s death from lung cancer, sensing an expiration date on others’ patience with my grief. The recent inclusion of “prolonged grief disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) — which defines “prolonged” as lasting at least a year for adults—heightened my apprehension.

Is my intense sadness a mental illness or just being human? Rather than pathologize ten percent of grievers that may fall into “prolonged grief,” what if we instead embraced slower grieving?

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September 12, 2022

The Social Psychology of Kindness

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

In my last post I wrote about how the stress of animal care has led to workers leaving the profession, and how I had hoped a brief note of appreciation after my cat’s surgical procedure might be a small antidote to this stress.

I have been particularly attuned to front-facing workplace stress since my own stints as a server in a restaurant and working in retail during and shortly after college. I know what it is like to be yelled at by a stranger for something you didn’t do or can’t control, and how it feels when there is nothing you can do but smile even when that is the last thing you feel like doing, something called emotional labor.

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September 05, 2022

Emotional Labor and Animal Care

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

My cat recently needed oral surgery to have three teeth removed. It was an expensive procedure, as it required anesthesia and monitoring for most of the day. The local animal clinic is a busy place, too busy for its small storefront location, and humans are required to wait outside due to space limitations and the ongoing COVID pandemic. There is constant shuffling of newly arriving animals and those who have finished their appointments.

But staff there do a great job; they are quick to recognize when a patient arrives outside and immediately check in with the patient’s person. Vet techs later come to greet the animal with care, and the vet comes out after an examination, sits down with the person to discuss their findings. I received several phone calls throughout the day with updates about my cat’s progress, including when she was out of surgery and in recovery. When I came to pick her up a vet tech sat down and talked with me about her medication and follow-up care.

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August 08, 2022

The End of Ending Relationships

Cornelia Mayr PhotoBy Cornelia Mayr

Department of Sociology, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

My colleague and I recently spoke about our experience with death. He asked me whether I have ever seen a dead person in real life. My answer was yes and so did he. Our experiences with death led us to talk about the opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one for the last time.

How often do we say goodbye, see you, so long, ciao, adieu, adios, sayonara, auf Wiedersehen, to our family members, friends, or acquaintance--mostly with the taken-for-granted assumption that we will meet another time? In fact, the German word auf Wiedersehen literally means until we see each other again. But what if we won’t be able to see this person again or do not want to? Do we always part our ways harmoniously? If you had known that you will never see a person close to you again, how would you have said goodbye?

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July 18, 2022

Death and Emotional Labor

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Since the pandemic started in 2020, I have “attended” three funerals online, two for elderly relatives who had cancer and one for the elderly father of a friend who had Alzheimer’s disease. Being thousands of miles away, the online option saved me the time and expense of making last-minute travel arrangements. I appreciated the privacy of watching the funerals alone, as I can get emotionally overwhelmed by other people appearing emotionally overwhelmed.

Of course, this is part of what the funeral ritual is for: to comfort the bereaved, and to be in a place where one can openly express sadness. In most social settings, there are unwritten rules that encourage us to stifle any impulse to weep uncontrollably. Typically, we try and hold back sobs and tears whenever possible. At a funeral such rules are loosened, but they still exist. This reflects Erving Goffman’s notion that we work to “regulate… face-to-face interaction” in his book Behavior in Public Places (p. 8).

Continue reading "Death and Emotional Labor" »

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