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Commentary

An Analysis of the Impact of Alcohol on Mental Health in “Streetcar Named Desire”

Text below taken from Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, 1986:

BLANCHE:

Mitch!–just a minute.

[She rushes about frantically, hiding the bottle in a closet, crouching at the mirror, and dabbing her face with cologne and powder. She is so excited that her breath is audible as she dashes about. At last, she rushes to the door in the kitchen and lets him in.]

Mitch!–Y’know, I really shouldn’t let you in after the treatment I have received from you this evening! So utterly un cavalier! But hello, beautiful!

[She offers him her lips. He ignores it and pushes past her into the flat. She looks fearfully after him as he stalks into the bedroom.]

My, my, what a cold shoulder! And such uncouth apparel! Why you haven’t even shaved! The unforgivable insult to a lady! But I forgive you. I forgive you because it’s such a relief to see you. You’ve stopped that polka tune that I had caught in my head. Have you ever had anything caught in your head? No, of course, you haven’t, you dumb angel-puss, you’d never get anything awful caught in your head!

[He stares at her while she follows him while she talks. It is obvious that he has had a few drinks on the way over.]

MITCH:

Do we have to have that fan on?

BLANCHE:

No!

MITCH:

I don’t like fans.

BLANCHE:

Then let’s turn it off, honey. I’m not partial to them!

[She presses the switch and the fan nods slowly off. She clears her throat uneasily as Mitch plumps himself down on the bed in the bedroom and lights a cigarette.] I don’t know what there is to drink. I–haven’t investigated.

MITCH:

I don’t want Stan’s liquor.

BLANCHE:

It isn’t Stan’s. Everything here isn’t Stan’s. Some things on the premises are actually mine! How is your mother? Isn’t your mother well?

MITCH:

Why?

BLANCHE:

Something’s the matter tonight but never mind. I won’t cross-examine the witness. I’ll just–[She touches her forehead vaguely. The polka tune starts up again.]–pretend I don’t notice anything different about you! That–music again…

MITCH:

What music?

BLANCHE:

The “Varaouviana”! The polka tune they were playing when Allan–Wait!

[A distant revolver shot is heard. Blanche seems relieved.] There now, the shot! It always stops after that.

[The polka music dies out again.]

Yes, now it’s stopped.

MITCH:

Are you boxed out of your mind?

BLANCHE:

I’ll go and see what I can find in the way of–[She crosses into the closet, pretending to search for the bottle.]

Oh, by the way, excuse me for not being dressed. But I’d practically given you up! Had you forgotten your invitation to supper?

MITCH:

I wasn’t going to see you anymore.

BLANCHE:

Wait a minute. I can’t hear what you’re saying and you talk so little that when you do say something, I don’t want to miss a single syllable of it… What am I looking around here for? Oh, yes–liquor! We’ve had so much excitement around here this evening that I am boxed out of my mind!

[She pretends suddenly to find the bottle. He draws his foot up on the bed and stares at her contemptuous]

Analysis

The impact of alcohol on mental health is a prevalent global issue throughout the world. It is also seen through many literary texts. For instance, this issue is explored in the play “Streetcar named desire” and mentions of such issues are deeply layered to discover and inspect the human mind. This is seen throughout this dialogue and that Blanche is on the influence of the drug, and as a result her physiological and mental state are deterred, which is coupled with Mitch’s rejection of her love. Tennessee Williams effectively portrays this through various literary devices such as juxtaposition and employing music to develop Blanche’s mental deterioration and her dependence on alcohol. For example, in the first dialogue, William utilizes the polka music to demonstrate Blanche’s instability and the resulting halt of the music coupled with Mitch’s entrance showcases the emotional connection and affection that Blanche has for Mitch, and it further illustrates that Mitch’s company is the only way for Blanche to escape her guilt from her husband’s death; however, her attempt later falters as her facade, symbolized by the makeup, crumples as Mitch realizes about her past. Thus, this action parallels Blanche’s failure to kiss Mitch and capture his love which also juxtaposes Mitch’s contemplation to kiss her in scene 6. This rejection comes as a shock to Blanche because she is not used to being rejected to be intimate with men. This is revealed in scene 9 where she confirms the fact that she uses sexual encounters with random strangers to fill up the hole in her heart after the fact that her husband had died. This superficial attempt, subsequently, resulted in Blanche’s dependence on alcohol and her ensuing guilt for her husband’s death to fill the gaping hole. Her tolerance for alcohol is shown as she appears on one side to be agitated but then also reverses to being welcoming and giddy. She then becomes delusional and lies about where her drink is like in Scene 1 to her sister Stella and then pretends to worry about Mitch’s mother. Her instability comes to a boiling point and hence the polka music resumes again and even Mitch couldn’t stop this repetitive music that seems to inevitably drive Blanche to insanity. This shift results in Blanche to become reliant on alcohol and risking her mental sanity to solve her problems and cope with the foreboding music that alludes to the guilt of her husband’s death.

Frank Liu, Youth Medical Journal 2020

References

Reis, Kurt, and Tennessee Williams. A StreetCar Named Desire. 1986.

Categories
Neuroscience

Mental Health: What is Good Life?

The key to happiness and good life has been disputed among many contemporary and past philosophers to search for a finding of these factors. This essay answered this research question: What factors play an important role in the philosophy of a good life? By exploring the factors of gratitude, exercising, and the use of idle time, this essay highlighted and proved that it has a strong impact on emotional and physical health, as well as maintaining happiness in life. Gratitude, for example, allows the brain to release ‘happy chemicals’ that are used to make one feel positive. Exercising, similarly, produces these chemicals that relieve stress and the worrisome of life. Lastly, the use of idle time fuels creativity and improves one’s mental intricacies. The inducement of happiness derived from these factors has been addressed throughout the essay coupled with research such as from experts and professors. Naturally, this essay acknowledges only a myriad of possible interpretations of ways of life, which may challenge the points raised within this essay.

The philosophy of a good life has been challenged by many individuals and philosophers. From Plato to Aristotle, many theories of life such as the moral life where your moral values present as an important factor of happiness in your life,  pleasure life where your pleasure is what makes life worth living, or the meaningful life that argues that to have a good life one has to make their life’s worthy of existence. This essay seeks to universalize the idea of a good life and challenge the theories offered by many Greek philosophers of a good life. For instance, Socrates’ idea of the moral life, Epicurus’ idea of the life of pleasure, and the theory of a meaningful life.   

What factors play in the philosophy of a good life? To explore and answer this theory, this essay will examine the three components to a good life. These include relaxation, exercising, and use of idle time. Using research from the Mental Health Organization, an article by a professor of philosophy at University Dublin, Hallie Smith with the education of a Master’s degree, and a health and lifestyle writer, Markham Heid, this essay will showcase the key factors to life. To further explore these key ideas, this composition will also highlight how these components contribute to your emotional and physical health, and how that will play in the overall happiness in your life. This research question is worthy of research because it is an endearing question that is present throughout ancient Greek history to modern society today. A philosophy of life allows us to guide ourselves to a good life, rather than aimlessly walk through life.In our busy, daily lives we often have instances where we forget about our possessions or thoughts that are important. These happenings occur because of our packed schedules and events that cause us to take away our own time. Often, our work is the basis of our life, as it is the structure that is providing you the necessities for living. This idea is integrated into our modern society and has created a culture where your work dominates a good portion of your lifespan, and where your idle time or free time has been reduced. Hence, a work-centered life restricts your freedom, and while allowing time to idle and not working  “help develop mental processes[,]storage and retrieval”(Heid, “Why Your Brain Needs Idle Time). 

Allowing our thoughts to be free and our creativity to be fueled, downtime is more beneficial than it seems. The ideas that idle time is a waste of productivity and a product of laziness are now manufactured in our fast-paced society; however, idle time is a way to give freedom to your body and it is a self-meditation technique, where it inspires you and allows you find the inner peace within yourself. It is where our minds and body relieve the internal stress and worry of our modern work and the time for our mental intricacies to be enhanced. Therefore, allowing more idle time to be in our lives, relieves more of our liberation to stress and adversity that relentlessly concede in our modern society. 

One of the most unparalleled emotions that humans possess is gratitude. It is the emotion that portrays your moral values and reflects an individual’s character. With gratitude, one can be open-minded towards life and induce happiness and an individual’s healthiness in life. As evident as exercising is beneficial to your health, being grateful has shown to be also instrumental. According to Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., being able to be grateful is beneficial with regards to “health, happiness, satisfaction with life, and the way we relate” to other people that we coexist with (“How Gratitude leads to A Happier Life”).  With the ability to indicate thankfulness for and to return graciousness, individuals display their kindness, caring, and respect for the world around them. Not only does enacting gratitude impact the ones around an individual, but also, in return, benefit the individuals that act upon it. 

For instance, our brain reacts to gratitude as a positive sign, therefore, we produce good feelings related to how exercising releases endorphins to dull the pain of working out; however, being grateful does not take excessive strength to carry out those happy chemicals, but rather, according to Kaia Roman, author of The Joy Plan, your “optimistic thoughts calm and soothe the amygdala” which is the part of the brain that signals stress (“So This Is Why Gratitude Makes Us Happier”). Optimism is also a crucial benefit from gratitude, it allows individuals to see the world in a different perspective, which helps one realize that sometimes our troubles and worries may not be as significant as the problems that other people in the world are facing. Gratitude inspires positive feelings, such as happiness, life, and fulfillment, which some studies display that it can trump out the pessimistic feelings that an individual might pertain to. By apprehending gratitude, individuals are able to turn our brains in a more optimistic mode, which in return, atones our brain’s proneness to concentrate on menaces, stress, and the nullifying parts of living (Greenberg, “How Gratitude Leads to A Happier Life”). Hence, life becomes fulfilling and the desire to want slowly diminishes as gratitude becomes more normalized. 

According to Melissa Chu, a writer for the Medium, asserts, “Those who were less grateful were more stressed, anxious, and depressed” (Why Gratitude Makes You Happier, Healthier, and More Popular”). Incoherence, the more grateful one is in life, the happier one will become.  For these reasons, gratitude is also integrated with many religions, such as Islam and Christianity, which enforces followers of the religion to have moral values that could help them be successful in life. Being able to have gratitude is also a moral that is well valued in today’s society. It reveals much of an individual’s nature; as a caring and humble character. Expressing and enveloping thoughts of gratitude not only can build a fine personality of an individual, but it can also as well create a more positive spin on a latter situation that allows the individual to deliberate into the optimistic side of life. Therefore, by being grateful, individuals are even able to appreciate the things that make the littlest impact of their life. 

References

  1. Chu, Melissa. “Gratitude Makes You Happier, Healthier, and More Popular.” Ladders, Ladders, 2 Oct. 2019, http://www.theladders.com/career-advice/gratitude-makes-you-happier-healthier-and-more-popular.
  2. Greenberg, Melanie. “How Gratitude Leads to a Happier Life.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 Nov. 2015, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201511/how-gratitude-leads-happier-life.

Heid, Markham. “Why Your Brain Needs Idle Time.” Medium, Elemental, 6 May 2019, https://elemental.medium.com/why-your-brain-needs-idle-time-e5d90b0ef1df

Categories
Neuroscience

Insight into Human Intelligence

When we talk about intelligence, it is often associated with school smarts or sometimes we reflect this term upon an archetype of an old man. Intelligence, however, is defined, in common psychology, as an intangible object and rather an ability to adapt to new situations , solve problems by learning, mentally assimilating into challenging environments , and overcoming obstacles. Intelligence can take a variety of forms, ranging from spatial, linguistic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, social, to emotional intelligence. This idea aligns with Eric Garner and was brought to attention by other psychologists such as Sternberg and his triadic theory or Spearmen with his g factor theory. Whether you are bad at math or have trouble connecting with others, these theories tell us that areas that you are not particularly advanced at, oftentimes translate into other forms of abilities of which you might not be aware

Biological discoveries of the brain have also made further developments into apprehending human intelligence. For instance, one of the most well-known scientists and theorists, Albert Einstein has rumored to average around a genius, and studies have assumed that Einstein’s brain differed from others in which the components of his neurological composition might have been an imputing factor to his intelligence. This study, conducted by Florida State University evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk, revealed that the prefrontal cortex of Einstein’s brain, the area for abstract thinking, was inherently different from others in that it contained “unusually complex patterns of convolutions”. This complex design led to another discovery of the abundance of “helping cells”, or glial cells, that may also be a reason for why Einstein was so mentally adept.  

In the intelligence spectrum, like any normal curve distribution, there are sometimes outliers and extremes of the human brain. An IQ below 70, for instance, is considered to be a lower outlier indicating a mental disability, while someone who has an IQ above 140 is seen as a genius. This comparison between one’s mental capacity is often determined by intelligence tests such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) for adults and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) for children and teens. These tests are divided into 10 subtests that inspect one’s verbal, perceptual, reasoning, logic, and memory intelligence. A final score is derived from these tests and is finally compared on a bell-curve scale. 

We would expect IQ, then, to be a factor in the occupations that people have and their requirements for certain jobs. Many studies have shown such evidence of a correlation between IQ and occupations. In fact, a prediction of low IQ and low success is more accurate than a high IQ with high success. We can fairly predict one’s occupational level by referencing an individual’s economic background and their parent’s job holdings. This circumstance is the case where hereditary provides a larger percentage in a person’s intelligence rather than the case where the environment plays the shadowing role. According to recent studies hereditary provides about 80% to intelligence while environmental factors only attribute about 20%. Hereditary, or your parents’ intelligence, therefore, is four times more likely to determine your IQ.

Intelligence tests, however, may not entirely determine your mental capacity or define who you are. For example, in special cases where people who have the savant syndrome -a condition in which a person otherwise limited in mental ability has an exceptional specific skill, such as in math or drawing- exemplify extraordinary abilities that others don’t possess and in which cannot be demonstrated on a simple reading and writing test. Famous savants such as Leslie Lemek suffer from complications at birth, but, like other savants, he shares an incredible talent in music. Insight into special cases like these help renovate IQ tests and aid people in emphasizing and helping them realize their specialty. 

The validity of intelligence tests also comes into question when assessing individuals. An individual’s motivation or persistence, for example, maybe the result of a failed exam rather than his intelligence. This idea is paralleled when approaching how kids and teens take these kinds of tests. Are they actually motivated and focused on the test, or are they finishing it to just get it over with?  IQ tests are then merely reduced to a performance test,  measuring one’s verbal and nonverbal intelligence. Intelligence tests only seem to measure one aspect of an individual, it does not give insight into someone’s anxiety with tests, one’s persistence, or other traits that IQ tests don’t veil. Cultural differences also call for well-established tests and forms of practical tests that are usable for everyone around the world.

References

  1. Bryd, Deborah. “Einstein’s Brain Was Different from Other People’s.” EarthSky, 2012, earthsky.org/human-world/einsteins-brain-was-different-from-other-peoples.

2. Eysenck, H. J. Know Your Own IQ. Penguin, 1962.

3.Black and White Portraits of Famous People, historicalphotographsoftheworld.blogspot.com/p/potraits.html.

4.“Getting Help for a Gambling Addiction.” SpunOut.ie – Ireland’s Youth Information Website, spunout.ie/health/article/gmb-scc-help-for-a-gambling-addiction.

5.“I.Q. Test Information.” Zetnet Meta Refresh, http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/think/inform.htm.

6. IQTest. “IQ Bell Curve.” IQ Test Prep, 2020, iqtestprep.com/iq-bell-curve/.