Mind Matters: Macro or micro, aggressions are real

Perusing a most recent American Psychological Association Journal, I wondered which article would be a springboard for my next Mind Matters column. So many topics seemed relevant to today’s news, it was hard to choose.

One article discussed how the APA supports that Native Americans at Standing Rock who are protesting construction of an oil pipeline that would cut across their land and possibly contaminate their water supply. In a letter to President Obama, the APA said, “As psychologists, we are particularly troubled by the potential for adverse neurological effects of oil-contaminated water. … We are disturbed that the pipeline was considered too risky to route close to Bismarck, N.D., but not to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.”

Furthermore, the APA letter included reference to historical and intergenerational trauma that Native Americans have suffered for centuries and how this mistreatment has been demonstrated again by the violence that has been inflicted upon the protestors at Standing Rock.

Why did the APA take a stance in this dispute? Because the APA has chosen to bring light to injustices inflicted upon marginalized groups. It has been stated that the “APA’s mission is ‘to advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.’ This mission underscores the need to speak out when the health and well-being of any group are threatened.”

Another marginalized group of people addressed by the APA were refugees. We may not want to face it, but the refugee situation is the greatest humanitarian crisis since WWII. The war in Syria compounded what was already of massive proportions — In 2015, 65.3 million people “had been forced from their homes because of persecution, human rights violations, conflict, and other violence.”

The refugees are not the terrorists, but the terrorized. Many refugees have been severely traumatized, whether having experienced violence to themselves and their families, or having witnessed horrific brutality. Psychologists trained in trauma have worked with such refugees. Others work with the family systems, looking to re-establish resilience and healing. Given the numbers of refugees, this is a daunting task.

Another article in this APA publication took on an issue perhaps far less daunting than the refugee crisis but nonetheless still about marginalization, and that is the issue of micro-aggression.

While refugees and Native Americans face macro-aggressions, micro-aggressions are those subtle, verbal violences that demean a person in almost imperceptible ways. I remember plenty of micro-aggressions from childhood: “If you lost a few pounds, you’d be better.” Or “You didn’t look that great in high school, I didn’t expect you’d look good now.” Or “That’s so gay.” Or “Ooh, what does your hair feel like, can I touch it?”

Micro-aggressions are short “statements or behaviors, that, intentionally or not, communicate a negative message about a non-dominant group.”

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” goes the child’s verse. Balderdash, retorts the science. Words do affect us and micro-aggressions are harmful. If a little bit of arsenic on a daily basis can kill, mini-violences of words can take their toll too.

We are coming into an era where we all the more need to be cognizant of what it takes to be adults who care about the human condition on both the macro and micro levels and who don’t side with violence in any form.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or 610-388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com. See book.quietwisdom-loudtimes.com for information about her book, “Quiet Wisdom in Loud Times: The Rise of the Wounded Feminine.”

** The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ownership or management of Chadds Ford Live. We welcome opposing viewpoints. Readers may comment in the comments section or they may submit a Letter to the Editor to: editor@chaddsfordlive.com


About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.



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