My New Blog Is Coming in April!
We are in the checklist/troubleshooting phase. Yeehaw! You know what I love best about SquareSpace? They have a helpful customer service/tech service department! And they hire real, live, intelligent, trained people. No pawing through message boards of customer problems to find our problem and its (possible) solution.
This blog will stay up for reference for a long, long time. It may live forever through the WayBack Machine at https://web.archive.org/.
The new blog will be online sometime in April. As soon as we go live, I will let you know!
Spencer and the Dentist
My dentist, not his. Once again, I asked the assistant to talk to me as much as possible about anything at all. She chose to talk about her cats. Thanks to Annie, I didn’t have a flashback the whole time.
She likes cats, has four cats, fosters other cats, takes care of feral cats…and has a Turkish Angora. She was happy to talk about them for an hour, non-stop. I couldn’t ask for anything better. Except I did ask for something even better, something I really need.
I told her I was 85 and planned to live forever, but was prudently making arrangements for other contingencies. One of the things that I want to have in place is a foster home for Spencer should I become unable to take care of him. I described Spencer’s personality in detail, and she said, “Sure, I’d be glad to! I am used to timid cats and that should be no problem.” That was my lucky day!
As for Spencer’s dentist, his regular vet will see to his teeth. However, I thought it would be good idea to give him preventative care. I am pretty sure I would fail miserably if I tried to brush his teeth because I have more than enough trouble brushing my own.
Mr. Google told me that there were treats called Greenies that keep cats’ teeth clean, preventing the build-up of tartar. So I ordered some. I am supposed to give him eight treats in the morning and eight at night. Of course, since he’s a cat, there was no guarantee he would eat them.
He LOVES them! But he doesn’t want to stop at eight. He wants the whole bag. And he doesn’t want it twice a day, he wants it available all day long. Plus which, he remembers exactly where he was given them and haunts those places seeking more.
Sometimes, even a reasonably-priced product from a legitimate company with good customer ratings is so popular with the end users that nobody wants to buy it.
Of Mice, Memories, and Ritual Abuse
I get a lot of medical news – announcements of newly-approved drugs, articles, research findings, social and economic issues. Recently, a research article on mice memories caught my attention. Here is the abstract of the article. Scroll down to see the figures and captions, which are also interesting. “Activating positive memory engrams suppresses depression-like behaviour.” https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14514#Sec23.
(Sorry folks – I can’t make this link work. You will have to copy and paste.)
I have no idea how they did this because it was described in other papers. Apparently, they could isolate the tiny part of the brain that contained a memory. They could even obtain an image of the shape of the configuration that corresponded to the neural network that held the memory. They then injected a substance that made the image of that particular memory glow when exposed to laser light. Green for memories of fear and pain, red for memories of pleasure.
Now here comes the fun part. They triggered the fear memory, then triggered a pleasant memory. Lo and behold, the green dots became fainter and started to disappear. The pleasant memory was taking the fear out of the unpleasant one!
Just think! No more flashbacks. Constantly diminishing anxiety. No psych meds. No payments to therapists or psychopharmacologists. Just remember to think happy thoughts. Easy peasy!
I can’t remember how many nights I have lain awake at 3 AM thinking, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you think of anything pleasant? Just one little happy memory? Or you can make up a happy little story. Come on, you can do it.”
But the dark thoughts flowed back in and usurped my mind. I could not think of anything even remotely pleasant. I probably was making each unpleasant memory worse by remembering other unhappy and frightening things and thus reinforcing the fear.
I am split between cynicism and hope. Cheer up! Don’t be so negative! Just think of happy things, and the fear will melt away. Say affirmations daily, and you will no longer feel you are the lowest of the low. Buy a book on cognitive behavior therapy. Make a cheery playlist of uplifting songs.
I believe that these things work. I conceptualize the process in terms of brain plasticity. If you repeat something often enough, that thought becomes readily available. A new neural pathway has been created and strengthened by use. The image that comes to mind is one of a rutted dirt road. Each time a car passes over the road, the ruts become deeper and more visible. Instead of looking like a long-abandoned road, it looks well-traveled.
This is why cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectic behavioral therapy works. Positive thoughts weaken negative ones. It’s not instantaneous by any means, though. You have to be persistent and keep repeating positive thoughts and acting positively.
This was true in the mouse study. If a memory of a negative experience was triggered, and then, before it had faded, a positive memory was triggered, the amount of fear diminished. But the next time, the fear was just as strong. It took many repetitions of pairing memories of negative and positive experiences to extinguish the fear.
I know that mice aren’t people and that not all the discoveries using mice as research subjects apply to humans. Still, this paper has chipped away at my cynicism. So next time I think badly of myself or ruminate on past actions I regret, I will try my hardest to counter these thoughts with positive ones.
I think the positive thoughts don’t have to be on the same subject. Any thought that engenders a sense of well-being will do.
If I can’t think of anything positive in the whole wide world, I can try doing something engrossing. Move furniture? Timed writing prompts? I’ll make a list of activities that require focus and concentration so that I don’t have to remember them in the middle of a negativity storm.
Thank you, little mice!