Friday, July 9, 2010

Expat syndrome

Some of the work that I do is with English speaking expats. I can tell you from the experience with my clients that moving to a new place and adjusting to a new culture can be hard. Especially for the "serial movers".
Sometimes it happens that seemingly perfectly adjusted individuals present anxiety disorders and depression. These are usually the kind of people that manage to cope on a conscious level, by rationalization, to the change. But their unconscious mind feels the rupture, and when they deny it consciously, the unconscious manifests itself through sleep disorders, anxiety and depression. And since from their point of view adapting to this new environment was not a problem, these symptoms scare them because they fail to understand the cause.
Another characteristic of these frequent movers is that at some point they realize that any new meaningful relationship is doomed. At some point they would have to leave and also leave this relationship as well. Some invest at first emotions in these relationships, and when they first have to move they feel like they lost a friend for instance and they feel hurt and disappointed. And so from fear of getting hurt they stop investing emotion in any new relationships, which in time leads to feelings of loneliness, and back to the same symptoms I talked about before.
I am only sharing this so you could get an idea on what the psychological dynamics of these individuals might be. Of course, it is not always the same.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The 12th IAHAIO International Conference in Stockholm

I have just returned from this conference in Stockholm. For those of you who are wondering what the hell IAHAIO means, here it is: IAHAIO is an acronym for the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations. It is an international umbrella organization for all organizations within its field.
The conference lasted for four days, and was filled with some very interesting presentations on all areas involving human-animal interaction. My presentation was on the work I do with the VIER PFOTEN Foundation in Bucharest on animal assisted therapy for children with disabilities.
This conference brought together people from all areas involved in human animal interactions: medical doctors, psychologists, ethologists and dog trainers. The only problem is that all these people do not speak the same language (we got along just fine in English, but that's not what I want to talk about). Researchers came to share studies, recent research and scientific information. Dog trainers came to talk about their practice with dogs. Some of the more scientific presentations were I think too scientific for the dog people, and some of the dog trainers presentations seemed to lack scientific support to the scientists.
In the end, there was something in it for everybody. Everybody got what they came there for. But still the gap remains between the practitioner and the scientist doing the research. And still the practitioners accuse scientists that they lack hands on experience, and the scientists accuse the practitioners of lack of scientific rigor. 
The way I see it there is only two ways out of this:
1. to promote the scientist-practitioner paradigm, meaning that the scientists should get out of the lab and get their hands dirty
2. to create mixed research teams in which practitioners should be included
There is a lot of valuable information and knowledge out there with the practitioners, that doesn't push science further just because the practitioners don't write it down, structure it and publish it. Opinions, and ideas should be encouraged more in practitioners. Research should be based more on solving the problems they face every day in practice.  
Human Animal Interaction is a new field. It's normal that the beginning should be like this. Events such as this conference bring together people from different disciplines to share knowledge. And it's great this is happening. But in the end, it all comes down to money again. How many good people interested in this field can afford the trip to Stockholm for the sake of knowledge ? Even more, 3 years from now, in 2013, when the conference will be held in Denver, how many Europeans will afford the trip to Colorado ?
Not many from Romania, I can tell you that.
What's sad is that we have a lot to offer in this field in terms of research material. We have great wildlife, and a consistent population of stray dogs. The number of research topics that can be explored extensively on stray dogs alone is tremendous. 
These are some of the thoughts I brought with me from this trip. This, a lot of contacts of wonderful people I met, a lot of ideas to work on, and the image of beautiful Stockholm.

Autism and intelligence

A friend send me this link to a video on YouTube. It can shift your view of intelligence altogether. It actually confirms one theory that I had for a long time about autistic children such as this case presented here.
And that is that all the manifestations of severe cases of autism, like the one presented here, are often regarded as mental retardation, when in fact, they can easily represent a complex of compulsions able to mask the intelligence. The problem is that this complex also makes intelligence very hard to stimulate, and the instruments available now to test the intelligence are limited and restrictive. They are mere artificial patterns in which we are trying to squeeze real people. Watch the video !