Mind Matters: Awake or asleep

In 1967, just seven months before his assassination, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered an historic address to the American Psychological Association Convention. At that time, MLK pointedly urged social scientists to confront “race-based problems plaguing the country.” On the 50th anniversary of this keynote, the APA Monitor on Psychology published the reflections of notable psychologists regarding MLK’s remarks. Here are two.

APA president-elect Jessica Henderson Daniel, notes how “Dr. Martin Luther King’s … speech remains relevant today because race and ethnicity continue to matter in the United States. He advocated for research that would produce more understanding for blacks and whites.”

Noting how “social science knowledge is not being used as effectively as it should,” because, says psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum, “we still don’t want to talk about race. You can’t solve a problem if you can’t talk about it.” So indeed, for her, Dr. King’s words still resonate.

These researchers, as well as others, interviewed assert that change is possible but that it takes action, attention, and effort.

The field of psychology touches every facet of life because we, as human beings, affect and are affected by our milieu. Hence, the issues of social justice and discrimination are very much a part of a psychological study. As a matter of fact, they are integral to our understanding of perception and bias, both explicit and implicit.

In the Glossary of Psychological Terms, by Richard Gerrig and Philip Zimbardo, the “belief bias effect is a situation that occurs when a person’s prior knowledge, attitudes or values distort the reasoning process by influencing the person to accept invalid arguments.” In other words, in the face of facts, bias has us asleep at the wheel of sound judgment.

The Kirwan Institute of Ohio State University notes that implicit bias, “also known as implicit social cognition … refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” Not only do psychologists study how and why we perceive and act as we do, psychologists also study how we can gain the skills and tools to understand both personal and cultural/institutional biases and to change both behaviors and attitudes.

Even our attitude towards sleep is not without subjectivity. In an APA report on “The Power of Restorative Sleep,” Michael Grandner, Ph.D., director of sleep research at the University of Arizona, says “meeting the biological need for sleep is driven by choices, beliefs, attitudes, opportunities — all of the things health psychologists have been talking about for ages.” Perhaps sleep, like implicit bias, has been given short shrift over the years.

Researchers are discovering that sleep is restorative to brain function and perhaps good sleep habits over the years can protect people from bodily inflammation that leads to diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and neuro-degenerative disorders.

While quantity is important: at least six hours, preferably seven to eight hours each night, over eight hours may be detrimental for reasons that researchers continue to ponder. However, quality of sleep is also important. Is there time for deep sleep? Uninterrupted by sleep apnea, for example (both yours or theirs!)?

Bryce Mander, Ph.D., of UC Berkeley, notes that disrupting sleep disrupts function everywhere in the body (including the brain, of course!). So the hope is that improving sleep might also improve everything.

Sleep may not fix our implicit biases, but it may help us think more clearly. We can all sleep on that—then may we all wake up.

See
• APA Monitor on Psychology, September and October, 2017
• KirwanInstitute.org
• APA.org

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Belmont, Massachusetts. 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

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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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