Humiliation; the catylist of violence


Humiliation,  Steven Kotkins writes in his historical biography Stalin, does often serve as the wellspring of savagery. Here, we see the young Stalin, whose real name was Josef Jugashvili, as a boy oppressed by the orthodox seminary who lived constantly at the receiving end of a drunk, abusive father. Raised on the outskirts of the Russian Empire in the small town of Gori Georgia, Jugashvili seemed torn by an unusual family dynamic of an exalting mother, an aloof father, and several childhood accidents, as well as illnesses, that lead him to become rather effortlessly, despite his peculiarly small stature, tougher than the average boys of the region. This would serve as history’s best reflection of the future dictator’s ruthless seedbed, leading to the violence that would later ensue upon Russia.

However, accurate or not, it does speak to a greater truth, particularly in our way of raising children that rings with me as a father, and should force any morally serious person to question the effect of humiliation on others, that the effect may remain potent with the individual years after the fact. Linda Hartling, Ph.D. shows us in her Humiliation Inventory ((Hartling, 1996; Hartling & Luchetta, 1999) “ I found that those with high scores on the scale described their experiences of humiliation as if it had happened yesterday, even though the experience may have occurred many, many years in the past. Their experiences remained painfully fresh and vivid in their minds. Since then, I have wondered what mechanisms contribute to the potency of humiliation. What keeps humiliation present in our lives?”

The grim nature of humiliation on the brain is more startling. The way you feel derives from the way you think, according to the cognitive theories of emotion. When one is lowered in status in front of others, he/she is likely to feel humiliated and, according to Linda Hartling’s study, they will clutch these feelings for years as though it had happened the day before. This causes one to be susceptible to triggers, as it will remain so fresh in the mind if the pattern of thinking isn’t changed. But could humiliation lead to the same spring of vengeance and violence seen under Stalin’s reign? It would appear the answer rests in the chemistry of the brain. Hartling goes on to cite other studies which observe that “ social pain triggers some of the same mechanisms and responses in the brain as physical pain.”  Additionally, a study was conducted which involved participants who were under the belief that they were playing a virtual ball-tossing game. “In actuality, there were no other players involved. To create the illusion of an interactive game, a computer generated the actions of the other players to include the participant in one round and to exclude the participant in another round.

Excluded participants showed increased activity in the dorsal ACC, which was strongly correlated with the participants’ self-reports of social distress—“how rejected, excluded, meaningless they felt.” ACC refers to the Agenesis of the corpus callosum, which also seems to activate in response to physical pain. These studies indicate a direct correlation in the brain, a lingering presence humiliation has in one’s recollection, and the profound effect exclusion may have on humans socially. Imagining for a moment, the numerous childhood incidents when you were excluded from a group, and these feelings of degradation, justifiable as they are, have remained with you your whole life. Are they linked to lack of self-awareness, leading to violence? Hartling explains, “Based on these studies of social exclusion and the brain research on social pain, we can hypothesize a pathway along which humiliation progresses toward aggression. In theory, humiliation may trigger social pain activating the alarm system of the brain leading to decreased self-awareness in the form of a deconstructed state, which includes emotional numbness.”

She goes on to reflect the experience of the individual by referencing the alienation of Muslim immigrants in France, leading to riots and racial lash-outs. It’s sobering to imagine the circumstances in schools and communities, and the social pain absorbed by adolescence. These circumstances aren’t left without a solution, as Hartling hypothesizes “Humiliation is a relational violation that profoundly damages one’s sense of connection and triggers social pain,” and that violence is a direct result of the loss of self-awareness, and this occurs through social pain caused by exclusion. The human connection seems to be the key to breaking the cycles of social pain. So although violence isn’t the inevitable end for the individual experiencing humiliation, it does inflict damage to he/she and should be understood by today’s leaders, teachers, and parents that social connection and inclusion are key to disrupting the patterns of social pain, especially in youth.

Discover 3 ways to Achieve Family Balance For Better Homelife.

By Jason Kaefer


Part of being a parent is finding quality time together as a family and simultaneously making a marriage work. In other words, how do you find the balance? My wife and I have our little boy of two years, and he requires most of our energy being that my wife is a stay at home mom and he hasn’t begun preschool yet. We couldn’t be happier with what we have, but it’s difficult finding the balance for ourselves. There are steps I’ve noticed that benefit our family. Consider the following:

1. Do things together

The ocean is nearby for us. For my wife especially, collecting shells on the beach is therapeutic. We bring our little guy so he can play in the tide pools ( the safe, shallow part). Both my wife and I both have reported feeling less tension after spending time in the sand. Even our little guy appears happier on these days. If you’re not located near the beach, consider an activity you all would enjoy. Try getting outside. Hiking is a great way to get exercise and generate happiness. The time will reinforce confidence in your kids that you are there as a support, together.

Additionally, having dinner together strengthens family relationships. Try to set at least 3-4 nights per week for dinner together.

2.  Date Nights

Set time aside, whether it’s once a month or once a week, and spend time together on a date without the kid(s). The time together will serve as a subtle reminder that you’re both in it together and allows you both to appreciate one another’s effort. Keep it light. Somewhere local and quiet that allows you both to talk freely and just relax.

3. Glass of wine and a movie 

When the kid(s) are asleep, make it a point to spend time together watching a movie or just simply talking. By doing this, you will not only go to bed with a positive, fresh start for the following day, but it helps to summarize your thoughts and feelings for the week. My wife and I are movie fanatics, so we’ll discuss the details of a film with a glass of wine. But as I’ve said, find a balance that is right for you. 

The balance of work, marriage, and family is a complicated one that takes a while to find. The above suggestions work for us but don’t have to apply to everyone. Find your own balance in a similar routine!

Avoid Becoming Stressed And Apply These Methods To Your Life.


Nothing prepared me for the stress of being a Case Manager in the mental health field. In my twenties, a long night out would alleviate much of my discomfort from work. Even then, I was working as a Paramedic on an Ambulance, and this produced an enormous level of stress. But it was my relatively young age that allowed me this ability to decompress. As time went on, I began noticing that my mind had grown fragile, as though it would slip into a tremble when external stressors effected it, and my physical health also lacked resiliency.

The job of Case Manager involves a lot of administrative time, appeasing the gods of Medi-Cal through paperwork, justifying our services. This job depended on superior organizational skills and time management, as our success at the end of the month relied on our productivity. My stress levels went through the roof after six months! To add to this, I’ve never been good with caffeine, not knowing when is enough until it is too late and my heart beats on like a drum. In this state, problems with obvious solutions become magnified due to anxiety. I even remember once, sitting at my desk trying to begin my paperwork and feeling so stressed out that I couldn’t raise my hand up to the keyboard.

So whats wrong with a little stress on our life?

Well, nothing; When it’s minimal and enough to motivate you, I suppose. But similar to my physical symptoms, stress can, and often will effect your mind and your body in the sense that it forces your body to react. Your Cardiovascular, Nervous, and immune system are all activated in the moments of high-level stress. This will cause an acute rise in blood pressure, heart rate, and cause long-term disorders like arrhythmias, sleep disorder, chronic headaches and backaches, and anxiety. Sounds fun right?

I decided this didn’t have to be my life. 

I found ways to deal with the symptoms I had been experiencing, and much of it is common sense. For example, taking breaks during the day (aside from your lunch break). Not working is, frankly, un-American. We value relentless work effort and positive results. Our greatest leaders, CEOs, Entrepreneurs, etc have always had exceptional work habits. Steve Jobs, for example, woke up at 6am, worked for 3 hours at home, and then headed to work. He also had a list odd habits he would later change that I won’t touch on.  But these ARE characteristics of people we revere as successful. Others include Margret Thatcher who was rumored to only sleep four hours a night. President Trump also, four-five hours per night.

We lend credibility to these habits and cobble them with personal work ethic. But as a society, we don’t value the ability to regulate stress. How would you feel running on four hours of sleep five days a week? Would you be at your optimal level of focus, active listening, and personal happiness? Maybe you fall into that category of person who can do it. But if you’re like me, you’d be having a nervous break down at this point. It’s wise, I think, to dismiss these extreme habits as relative to the person and not a guide for anyone desiring success in life.

Which brings me back to alleviating stress. In his book, Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D. points out that “human beings are actually remarkably resilient to stress. One way or another we manage to persevere, to survive, and to have our moments of pleasure.” I think this is most notable for me and has worked to change the pattern of stress in my life; to have moments of pleasure.


As I mentioned above, we value relentless work effort but neglect one’s ability to take care of him/herself. Imagine being in the gym. For anyone who is active, you would understand that your body needs ample time to recover from the stress you’ve placed on it. Whether it be squats, deadlifts, or running, you need to give your body time to heal itself. This was proven thousands of years ago that athletes require a period of rest for optimal performance.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz point out in their book The Power of Full Engagement, “Energy is simply the capacity to do work. Our most fundamental need as human beings is to spend and recover energy.” Whether you’re in the office or out handling manual labor, remember to give yourself a moment or two for a stretch, a glass of water etc. my goal during the day is to stand from my chair and walk down the hall for 5-10 minutes followed by two glasses of water. Another good recommendation would be to bring a canteen of water, typically a half-gallon to be kept by your desk. The reason for this (the breaks I mean) is to conserve energy.

Deep Breathing 

I’ve mentioned in other posts that mindfulness can keep you focused. Using the same techniques of deep breathing can reduce stress as well. Take ten minutes, find a quiet space, even if it’s at work, sit comfortably, and begin by breathing in deeply through your nose, noticing your belly and chest rising. Exhale through your nose and follow your belly and chest as they fall. I perform these exercises at home, so its more comfortable for me to lie on my back. Although, I can understand that you wouldn’t want to scare a colleague at work!! So sitting is perfectly fine. This technique has been proven to reduce stress, and there are several videos available on the internet for guided breathing. Give it a shot!

Hit the Gym!

Seriously! Get off the couch! People have a tendency of doing what is comfortable. The last thing anyone wants is to move faster and harder for an hour in a gym after work. But its been shown that regular exercise can decrease levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.




How to Stay Centered, How to stay focused.

By Jason Kaefer


A friend once mentioned that I seemed unable to focus. Much of this was made worse by caffeine during the day, lack of sleep, and worrying about things out of my control. I also read provoking material that cranked me up late at night and kept me awake. Simple tasks like interacting with others seemed impossible when my mind was being pulled everywhere at once. My friend mentioned that meditation could allow me to center myself and increase happiness and focus. Like many people, I dismissed the claim and assumed it was too good to be true. The idea seemed too Hollywoodized and overused when referencing some far eastern thing about energy and flow.

I was wrong.

The benefits of meditation are immense. Trust me! But like many people, I was faced with the difficulty of learning the technique and of course, staying with it. Meditation is a learned skill and requires discipline. In the beginning, the concept remained abstract and I didn’t understand much of what I was doing. I even experienced anxiety during my first session in a Tibetan monastery in San Jose, CA.  But as I stuck with it over time, I began to notice an increase in focus and the ability to remain in the moment when my mind wanted to scatter in a thousand directions.

Does it actually do anything? 

Yes. The mind is an exhausting thing to comprehend. When dealing with physical exercise, it’s far more understandable that you would break down a muscle and allow it to build back up. You then give yourself time to recover, then have at it again. This would also involve measurable goals, and with this comes quicker satisfaction, as you would see yourself making progress in a mirror. Although, with the perfection of our physical selves should come to the strengthening of our minds. Meditation scientifically works. Numerous studies have shown that people who have used meditation for years have literally preserved their brain as shown in higher levels of gray matter. Other benefits of this method include;

*Lower heart rate

*Reduces Anxiety

*Happier state of mind

*Less stress

It gets you outside your own head!

The best way to explain the effect I experience is that it allows me to step outside my own head and remain in the moment and stay focused, even when a song comes on the radio or a flashy car whizzes by. Our mind produces thousands of thoughts a day and the vast majority of those words are negative, the mind doesn’t always make perfect sense. This could also be called the inner critic, much of it is subconscious. The key is to turn off the voice altogether. So how do you do it?

Give yourself 10 to 20 minutes a day to practice. I would recommend first thing in the morning, as its quieter and you won’t be interrupted. It also sets the tone for the rest of your day. Sit in a comfortable position, either in a chair with feet flat on the floor, arms in your lap, or sit on the floor with your legs crossed and your arms resting on your knees. The key is to be as comfortable as possible. Avoid laying on your bed; I’ve fallen asleep doing this. Close your eyes and breath deeply in and out. Count your breaths as you inhale, 1-2-3-4, and then repeat. Here’s where it gets tricky, your mind is going to wander. Thoughts will pop back into your head and distract you. When this happens, pull your attention back to your breathing, count 1-2-3-4 and repeat. As you do this, you strengthen your ability to focus, which subsequently allows you to push away distracting thoughts during the day.

Other methods of mindfulness 

Find a method that works for you. With your eyes closed, try bringing your attention to the sensation of your feet on the ground. Notice your the way you are sitting, do you feel any discomfort on your back? How about your legs? Where are you feeling the tension, if any? Examine all sensation, and once you’ve reached your neck, noticing tension, calmness etc. bring your attention back to your breathing and count again 1-2-3-4.

As you focus on your breathing, allow your attention to shine on the thoughts that come into your mind, but don’t analyze them, don’t think about them, or question them. Simply observe them as thoughts and nothing else, like a conveyer-belt of thoughts. When negative thoughts roll by, grab them and throw it in the trash can. This method of meditation increases self-awareness. Being aware of your thoughts helps you to control emotion. For example, you arrive home after a long day and you’re tired. Your spouse is angry with you for being late and forgetting to text before you arrived. If you’re like me, you would feel defensive and unappreciated.

Your immediate reaction would be to fire back and scream how you feel, likely destroying the next 48 hours of your relationship. Being aware of your thoughts and emotions helps you to regulate yourself (keep yourself in check) because you’re calm now and know how to handle yourself when being accused. You slow yourself down and ask, “has her day been as bad as mine?” As you look around the room you notice how clean it is, and on the stove boils a crock-pot of chili. “Maybe he/she had a hard day with the kid?” The point is, this method will help you remain aware of yourself in moments when most people would snap.

Try these techniques and see what works for you! meditation is something I’ve learned to do over years and couldn’t live without!







My Morning Routine


What if I told you that waking up in the morning could be something to look forward to and less like a chore? On a good day, I used to throw off the blankets, roll un-gracefully to a sitting position, lumber my body to the shower, turn on the heater,  and let the water wake me up. This would be followed by a mug of coffee, a carb-loaded breakfast, and out the door to a heavy commute. Trust me, the above mentioned is how many Americans spend their morning lives, and this goes on for many years, adding stress from work, relationship problems, and possible substance use to take off the edge. I’ve found a successful day starts the SECOND you open your eyes. Stick to a healthy regime aimed at reducing sluggishness, and you will increase happiness and energy. It all starts with healthy sleep;

1. Sleep

7-8 hours of sleep is essential for a healthy start the next morning. It’s also beneficial for a healthy long-term life. All too often, we are pulled backward by work and family, and we skip that extra 2 hours of sleep. Some people, celebrities, and politicians alike have made a living sleeping 3-4 hours a night. However, the is the exception, not the rule. There are multiple benefits to a 7-8 hour sleep. You’ve probably heard that sleep repairs your immune system; this is true. People who have deprived themselves of sleep often experience changes in judgment and inability to recall recent information. You also make yourself more prone to sickness due to the sudden dip in your immune system. Lack of sleep can also be attributed to fatigue, mental break down, and mood swings. Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine at least 4-5 hours before sleep as these interrupt your circadian rhythm and change the production of chemicals in your brain. 

2. Water 

Consider that you go 7-8 hours without fluid. This is the state your body wakes up in. The best idea and the first task of the morning are to consume fluid to replenish what you’ve lost. Be sure to hydrate your body when you wake up; not after a cup of coffee and a shower, but immediately after you stand from your bed. Drink at least three glasses of water. By doing this you may hydrate your body and flush out toxins. A rule for anyone active in the gym, especially runners, your urine should be a pale yellow (not clear) for optimal hydration. Hydrating in the morning will also help energize you as well as kickstart your metabolism and promote strong immunity. 

3. Blood Flow

Once you’ve gotten 2-3 glasses of water in you, move on to a light exercise. This will depend on the person. If you’re a stronger individual, try push-ups 10-15 reps followed by deep stretching and breathing. I prefer cardio as it tends to energize better than resistance training. Stretching is also a great way to start the day. Spinal decompression can be accomplished with a simple stretch that involves placing your body on all fours, bringing your chest to the ground and your arms stretched forward. You might feel a pop or two in your back. This will help to alleviate any pain you may have acquired during sleep and allow you to sit, stand, and move more fluidly during the day. 

4. Cold shower

Taking a cold shower has been proven to reduce stress and improve your well being. It also has shown to aid your body’s recovery after an intense workout by increasing blood flow throughout. The energizing effect of a cold shower is what I personally enjoy most because you get a similar effect as a cup of coffee. And this energy lasts for several hours, plenty of time to get through a slow morning. Although beneficial, this isn’t easy to do and requires you to step outside your comfort zone.  But after a while, you will develop a tolerance to this icy displeasure, and the energizing effect will be instantaneous.