Monday, April 30, 2012

Behaviorism...a few clarifications

"What is the difference between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning?"

Over the course of my college career, I've heard this question more times than I care to count.  Today, when a 300 level psych student asked this, it broke my threshold of patience.  So I have decided to settle the question once and for all.  On your mark...get set...learn!

Classical Conditioning
This was discovered by a British physiologist named Ivan Pavlov who noticed that the dogs he was working with would begin to salivate when the experimenters walked into the room.  Over time, he figured out that by pairing the sound of a bell with food, he could eventually make the dogs salivate just by sounding a bell.  

The key to classical conditioning is that it involves the pairing of two previously unrelated things.  Here's a great example from The Office.  Jim takes two unrelated things, Altoids and the sound of his computer rebooting, and pairs them so that he can make Dwight salivate by simply rebooting his computer.  Brilliant.

Operant Conditioning
This type of conditioning was developed by B.F. Skinner, an American psychologist, who developed the idea that animals could be taught by reinforcement and punishment.

The key to Operant Conditioning is that is involves a consequence that increases or decreases a behavior.  A reinforcer is anything that increases a behavior, while a punisher is anything that decreases a behavior.  Positive reinforcement is the addition of something that increases the behavior; a reward.  Negative reinforcement is the removal of a punishing stimulus, like removing a shock.  Positive punishment is the presentation of an unpleasant stimulus, such as spanking, while negative punishment is the removal of a positive stimulus, such as a removal of privileges.  Through Operant Conditioning, behaviors can be increased, reduced, or eliminated.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Spiritual Jenga

Today I had a bit of a mini-breakdown over the thing that scares me the most- being wrong.  And not wrong in an argument, or wrong about an answer- nothing like that.  I'm afraid of thinking about things wrong.  Petrified that I will buy into a flawed way of thinking for so long that I don't even realize it's wrong.  Worried of realizing that everyone has lied to me thus far, and that all I have accepted as truth isn't real.  Or worse, that I think about things wrong and won't ever realize it.  Sort of like my life is the Truman Show, and I'm the only one who is gullible enough to buy into it.

I am so blessed to have knowledge of deity that teaches of the Holy Ghost- that Heavenly Father will never leave us alone in our search for truth.  So blessed that we are assured feelings of peace and comfort when we embrace correct principles and concepts.  As difficult as it can sometimes seem to find truth, it is an overwhelming comfort to have the opportunity to hone the skill of recognizing personal revelation.

Sometimes my life feels like a massive game of Jenga- constantly trying to pull out of the bad blocks without knocking the rest of the tower down, allwhile finding good ones and replacing them.  It's a tedious process, and often I wish I could just knock the whole thing down and start over.  But I know that's not the way it works for me.  One day the tower will be built, and it will be sturdy- it will just take a lot of hard work and patience.

Hard work, patience, and faith.  Because we never know what it will feel like on the other side of the change- we just have to believe that it will be worth it.  And so far, experience tells me that it will be.  So I choose to take more steps into the dark, because I want to be better than I am.  It's all about progression- and progression takes faith.

Even for all the ups and downs, I love being alive.  I learn so much.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sometimes what I need more than anything else is patience, perspective, and hope.  Hope is so powerful.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Joy in the Journey

I think the key to viewing life as an exciting and rewarding journey, instead of focusing on the frustrating lack of destinations you seem never able to reach, is service.  When we focus on others and their needs- when our purpose is to show others how deeply our Heavenly Father loves them, life takes on a meaning and purpose that makes time pass almost too quickly.  Wallowing in our sorrow, despair, or even accomplishments is short sighted and really only draws the focus and pressure closer to home.  Recognizing our part in a greater plan, however, which is often to lift and help others, creates within us a sense of unity and belonging- both of which are essential elements of lasting joy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All I want to do is knit I really hope my friends and family like scarves.  Because at this rate, I'm going to have made a whole lot of them by Christmas.

Also, I have the best friends in the world.  Seriously.

Monday, April 16, 2012

truth emerges in solitude

It was sometime during the second mile that I realized I was actually enjoying the run.  The plan was only to run a few more blocks, but suddenly all of the hurt and pain that has been building up channeled itself into sheer willpower- the power to push on.  So my legs kept running.   Even though my pace was already faster than normal, I sped up.  I took deliberate turns toward steep hills and unrelenting inclines, willing myself to keep on until I didn't have anything left.  It was amazing, how I could feel all that had been swelling inside beat against my chest and rush out as I exhaled.

Before heading home, I stopped in the bookstore.  While I only meant to purchase a new journal, as usual I found myself perusing the used book aisle.  Soon I was curled up in a cozy chair in the corner, opening to the middle of one of President Monson's captivating narratives, wrapped up the warmth of his words. So many beautiful words.  Words about finding the light of dawn after the tears of a despair-ridden sunset.  Words about the purity and meekness and flawless perfection of children.  Words about love, and laughter, and hope.  Words.

But it wasn't until I took the long way home, because I wanted to stop by the stream and feel the water flowing through my hands, that I realized today was the first time in ages I have felt like myself.  It was only for a few small moments, but it was beautiful.  I felt alive, not because I was accomplishing something, or doing good, or making a difference in the world- but because I was taking the time to appreciate the things that strike to the very center of my soul.  Pushing myself to go further.  Stopping to fall into the world of the written word. Wanting to be an intricate part of the small things around me.  As I walked by the waterfall, I ached for the Yuba River, wishing I could splash in its whirlpools and whimsically find adventures in climbing up and around and under and through its boulders, always to collapse on the warm sand in laughter and exhaustion.

Sometimes I forget how well I know what makes my soul happy.  But for some reason I have such a hard time showing that girl to the world.  It feels as though all that I show is the bitter, skeptical girl who focuses on productivity and always doing things "right".  I wish I could find a way to be this girl, the one who finishes a run with a stroll through the bookstore and plays in waterfalls, around others.  I want to find and create magic with others.  And I want others to experience it too.  

Because life is so magical.  And magic is meant to be shared with those you love.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

the furthest distance i've ever known is from my head to my heart

You know those moments?
...when your heart aches so bad and you know exactly what you want to do- like running out into the rainstorm to catch someone even though you're only wearing short sleeves and no shoes and your hair is a mess, but it doesn't matter because you know it's what you must do because your heart feels so strongly that you can't think, and it's all worth it for that one moment in which everything suddenly feels like it will be okay again.  Yeah, those ones.

But those moments are so often overshadowed by the moments that remind me the importance of perspective. That if I did everything I felt right in the moment, too many harsh words would be said and there would never be quiet time to learn and grow.

So here's to perspective.  Something I'm sucking at right now.  So clearly something I need to work on.

Here's to progress.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Up and Up

You all are welcome to give me condescending looks for liking the acoustic version of this song, but today is an acoustic kind of day.  
It's the kind of day where it can be rainy and sunny and loud and soft and tired and exuberant all at the same time.
but I guess that's what progression means.
and I'm learning to love it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Today was hard.

It was the last day of classes, and so full of running from one place to the next.

Stress abounded as I had a test to take and only a few hours to study for it.

And I experienced the heart-wrenching pain that comes from words crafted in anger.

But today was also amazing. 

I learned that sometimes an extra 3 hour class period that seems like a Professor droning on and on about his life story is really the sermon I needed to learn how to move through the mess.

This evening I finished my first knitting project- a scarf for a woman I love dearly.

Today I realized how much Heavenly Father truly does speak to me, and how sometimes he sends hard, scary things to teach me to trust my instincts.

Most of all, today I learned what it means to hope.

If you have faith you have hope, and if you have hope, you have everything.

One of Satan's biggest temptations is related to the loss of hope- usually based on a misunderstanding of God's promises.

The most basic truth I know is that God loves and cares for me.  And because of this, I can choose to live a life full of hope. I prefer to live a life that is predicated on hope.  A hope that goes beyond optimism, that deals with the really tough issues and provides satisfactory answers.  A hope that I can anchor my life with.  I cannot deny that God knows me, and that he loves me, and therefore in every experience I have, I must come back to interpreting it through that lens.  I can say to myself, "My Heavenly Father knows and loves me, so what does that tell me about this experience?"

This brings a whole new face to hope.  It transforms it from a blind wish that things will get better, into a firm understanding that all my life has to offer is based on eternal truths of one who knows exactly how to help me find true joy.

So I choose Hope.  I choose patience, kindness, and determination.  Not to sit idly by and wish for better, but to create a better life.  To know that all of my experiences are intended to help me learn and grow, so that I can one day reach the divine potential I possess as a Daughter of God.

Yes, I choose Hope.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I believe we are to find a balance somewhere between skepticism and childlike ignorance.  Something that includes intelligence, humility, meekness, education, idealism, and rationalism.  This may sound (and often seems) impossible, but I believe it is a noble goal to work toward- and one that will bring us much true happiness.

Today I read the talk "Love is Not Blind" By Elder Bruce C. Hafen.  It is quite a good one, especially for any (all!) of us who seem to have constant questions, concerns, and struggles.  Especially right now, I'm struggling with how to be merge the adult-like responsibility I learned so early on with the meekness and joy of childlike simplicity- and I found this talk helpful.  

A few of the quotes from the talk I liked:

"I think some of these people are more interested in being certain than they are in being right."

"My suggestion is that some uncertainty is characteristic of mortal experience. The mists of darkness in Lehi's dream are, for that very reason, a symbolic representation of life as we face it on this planet. Many things are, of course, very certain and very clear, as is so beautifully represented by the iron rod in Lehi's dream; but, particularly to those who pursue a college education, there is enough complexity to make the topic of ambiguity worthy of discussion."

"we need to develop the capacity to form judgments of our own about the value of ideas, opportunities, or people who may come into our lives. We will not always have the security of knowing whether a certain idea is "Church approved," because new ideas do not always come along with little tags attached to them saying whether the Church has given them the stamp of approval. Whether in the form of music, books, friends, or opportunities to serve, there is much that is "lovely, . . . of good report, [and] praiseworthy" (Article of Faith 13) that is not the subject of detailed discussion in Church manuals or courses of instruction. Those who will not risk exposure to experiences of life that are not obviously related to some well-known Church work or program will, I believe, live less abundant and meaningful lives than the Lord intends. We must develop sufficient independence of judgment and maturity of perspective that we are prepared to handle the shafts and whirlwinds of adversity and contradiction that are so likely to come along in our lives. We should not be deceived by the clear-cut labels some may use to describe circumstances that are, in fact, not so clear. Our encounters with reality and disappointment are in fact vital stages in the development of our maturity and understanding."

"I hope that I will never be so aware of "reality" that I am unresponsive to the whisperings of heaven."


"Not feeling anything is an attractive option when what you feel sucks."
-Once Upon A Time

But that doesn't make it the right choice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grateful Irony

I find it slightly comforting that today I have to prepare a presentation on the research regarding Gratitude in Organizations.  Because if there's something I haven't been today, it's grateful.  So just for fun....did you know?

Gratitude has been consistently shown to lead to:

More regular exercise
Fewer physical symptoms
Better sleep quality
Feeling more connected to others
Increased Optimism, Alertness, Enthusiasm, Determination, Assertiveness, and Energy
Better conflict management and increased problem solving skills

I have so much to be grateful for.  My nearly impeccable health.  Education.  Supportive friends.  Mending family relationships.  Constant learning and growing.  Knowledge of things spiritual and eternal.  A relationship with deity.  Truth.  Sunshine.  Mountains to climb.  Pictures to color.  Books to read.  The list could continue forever.  I'm making a goal to be more grateful.  I don't have to be stronger- but I do need to step back and appreciate the small, beautiful moments in life.

Because after all, those are the things that matter.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Once we can acknowledge and accept that everyone is doing their best with what they've been given, we will learn how to love more completely.  And ultimately I believe that's a huge part of what we're here to do.  There's a reason the first 2 commandments center around learning to love.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

also true

The truth be spoken (cute,love,true,quote)

soft moments, drastic consequences

I've had so many humbling moments lately.  Little things, like remembering to appreciate the beauty of the world around me, as well as major ones that sweep me off my feet and shove me to my knees.

Recently, I've found that it's important to have lots of quiet moments.  And not just devoid of noise, but calm.  Having a heart that is at peace puts all things in perspective and allows me to calmly address the struggles and joys of life.

Today I'm grateful for my mother.  I spend a lot of time frustrated at the things that happened in my home when I was little, but I don't usually express gratitude for anything that happened there.  Today, while listening to one of the talks from Priesthood session, I had a huge realization: My mother was a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  She was the first person in her family to be baptized, and then she took that knowledge and used it.  She married a worthy priesthood holder in the temple, and as such I was born in the covenant.  Because of this, I grew up familiar with many of the teachings and resources of the Gospel.  And now, as I am struggling to work through some of the most difficult things I have ever faced, I have the indescribable advantage of knowing where to find the most important resources.  The things that I am learning about my relationship with deity and the way I understand truth principles are only possible because of the introduction I had to such things as a child.  It wasn't a perfect explanation, nor were such principles perfectly employed- but they were introduced.  And maybe, just maybe, Father knew that that was all I needed.  So today, I am eternally grateful that my mother fulfilled her part in His plan.  I am grateful that she made the hard choices that allowed me to now be on a path that fills me with lasting joy and happiness.

...and one more thing.  We truly do love those we serve.  If you ever find yourself thinking selfishly or wishing you could have more from someone than you currently do- take a moment and think about the struggles that person is facing.  Then do something to help remedy them.  The results are miraculous.

I can't wait for summer rainstorms, 
they make me feel so alive.

Monday, April 2, 2012

broken things

I think that Humility means needing to break so that God can put us back together in the way He had in mind.

Life sometimes means learning to put things in perspective, and appreciating your life infinitely more because you have had to face the stark possibility of living without things you were taking for granted.  Sometimes something has to be taken from you before you realize exactly how much it means to you.

In Mere Christianity, I believe C.S. Lewis had it right:
Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of-- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.

My first year at Especially For Youth (an LDS summer camp for youth aged 14-18), I was checked in by a counselor that I soon discovered was the brother of my sister's fiance.  Later during the week, he sang this song.  Since then, this song has held special meaning for me.  Especially today.

Broken, Kenneth Cope
(Ignore tacky video...)

More to come about General Conference weekend...