But the Zoloft ad’s insinuation aside, it’s also possible the young woman is “just shy,” or introverted — traits our society disfavors. One way we manifest this bias is by encouraging perfectly healthy shy people to see themselves as ill.
This does us all a grave disservice, because shyness and introversion — or more precisely, the careful, sensitive temperament from which both often spring — are not just normal. They are valuable. And they may be essential to the survival of our species.
Theoretically, shyness and social anxiety disorder are easily distinguishable. But a blurry line divides the two. Imagine that the woman in the ad enjoys a steady paycheck, a strong marriage and a small circle of close friends — a good life by most measures — except that she avoids a needed** promotion because she’s nervous about leading meetings. She often criticizes herself for feeling too shy to speak up.
What do you think now? Is she ill, or does she simply need** public-speaking training?
Before 1980, this would have seemed a strange question. Social anxiety disorder did not officially exist until it appeared in that year’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ... It was not widely known until the 1990s, when pharmaceutical companies received F.D.A. approval to treat social anxiety with S.S.R.I.’s and poured tens of millions of dollars into advertising its existence.
Personality and the ability to make difficult choices seem like human characteristics, but other animals had them long before we came along. Even the beadlet anemone can boast these traits, and it doesn't even have a brain. Yet individual anemones have distinct personalities, and they can make decisions in a remarkably nuanced way.
Briffa headed out to the south-west coast of the UK and found colonies of beadlet anemones living in the tidal zone. He decided to look at one aspect of their behaviour: how they respond to threats. He threatened 65 anemones by squirting them with a jet of sea water from a syringe. In response they retracted their tentacles, closing the hole on their top surface that serves as both mouth and anus. Briffa measured how long they stayed that way before reopening.
Each anemone was tested three times over the course of a fortnight. Briffa found individuals were highly consistent, even when he factored out differences in water temperature, which slightly affected their behaviour.
Labels: Grand Blueprint
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.