According to Jennifer Ruef, Assistant Professor of Education Studies at the University of Oregon, math trauma is ‘a form of debilitating mental shutdown when it comes to doing mathematics. It causes stress which destroys careers and damages lives.’ (1)
There are certainly individuals who are thrown into a spin by vortex math, but is this really trauma? Is math trauma really analogous to PTSD? And if so, what does that tell us about who and what we have become?
PTSD, previously called shell shock or war neurosis, was originally defined as the lasting trauma caused by combat exposure. Lateral concept creep extended this to civilians impacted by physical or sexual assault (especially during childhood), and serious accidents such as car crashes, kidnapping and natural disasters. Vertical concept creep subsequently extended the definition downwards to capture an array of less severe phenomena.
PTSD was extended to victims of bereavement, bullying, racism and sexism. The gates opened wider to include those subjected to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, wider still to accept individuals who had witnessed or learned about traumatic events happening to others, and recently fell off their hinges to accept heavy users of violent video games (2); although not all agree with this last category (3).
All of which raises a question. Are new patient categories being conjured into existence by drug companies to increase sales, a successful but profoundly unethical marketing strategy known as ‘disease mongering’ (4, 5)? (Off-label marketing is a related but more overtly criminal technique). Or are we genuinely becoming more vulnerable?
Given our parlous evolutionary and historical past, my first thought was that our ancestors could not possibly have been as fragile as we seem to be today (6).
Game of Thrones is not a documentary (in case you wondered), but it captures the range and degree of risk our ancestors had to live and die with.
Despite and indeed because of the old ultra-violence, our ancestors bequeathed us great philosophies of acceptance such as Stoicism and Buddhism. These systems of thought facilitate the flow state, ataraxia (serenity) and resilience, qualities needed to successfully navigate the difficult passage from the absurdity of youth to the grotesquerie of old age. Sadly, those philosophies seem to be wearing thin.
When I compare the Greatest Generation (my parents) with milquetoast Millennials, it certainly looks as if we have become more breakable. Within the last century, for example, rates of PTSD in warzones have increased roughly ten-fold (7-10). One study of circa 9000 British military personnel found a 50% increase in PTSD between 2004 and 2015 (10), and American studies found a similar increase (12).
PTSD has now become one of the most common problems listed in the hallowed Diagnostics and Statistics Manual for Psychiatric Disorders. This, together with rocketing rates of anxiety disorders (ie 13) and depressive illness (ie 14), suggests that we really are less able to deal with stress than our grandparents were.
There are at least three likely major causes of this weakening of our psychological defenses.
These include the isolating replacement of friends by Facebook ‘friends’, the increasing destruction being wreaked by the most successful crime syndicates (our governments), and the toxic nature of our modern diet and lifestyle.
Loneliness is rife (15, 16), and this is a hugely important factor. Experts in disaster relief say natural disasters are far less stressful than civil wars or genocides (ie 17) when all human ties are broken or suspect. You don’t know who you can trust, and are alone. This is supported by research showing that when disaster does strike, the individuals most vulnerable to PTSD are those without social support (18, 19). Once again, Facebook friends don’t count.
We have lost the coherence provided by competent and caring leadership, which no longer exists in the West. The glaring gap between self-serving career politicians and their prey is evident in the use of Ukraine as a money-laundering machine, and the incessant virtue-signalling from Brussels. Sanctioning Russian oil and gas will not hurt Russians, and nor will blowing up their pipelines to the West; but Europeons will go cold and hungry this winter and for many winters to come (20).
Increasing rates of PTSD therefore likely reflect increasing loneliness and deterioration of the social fabric (15-19, 21-28). These are destructive and dangerous phenomena which facilitate mass formation psychosis and totalitarianism (29), a trend being capitalized on by Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab, George Soros and their reptilian ilk.
Last but not least, our psychological defenses are being undermined by the modern diet.
Previous posts have reviewed the relationships between dietary inputs and various psychological components including resilience (ie 30-32), so this is not news. It helps to explain why the post-mortem brains of contemporary PTSD sufferers show signs of progressive inflammation, damage and accelerated ageing (33, 34).
But there is, as always, a wider point. It is screamingly obvious that the modern diet and lifestyle make us more vulnerable in so many ways; more susceptible to stress, insults, math … more vulnerable to sunlight, brain damage, cancer, infection, allergy, autoimmune disease, trauma and tyranny.
And there is an even more general point. The obscure German saying ‘Hilfe macht hilflos’ (the more you help someone, the more they become dependent), has some truth to it.
Governments’ grotesque mis-handling of covid is one example. A virus with a mortality rate of well under 1%, and that overwhelmingly among the elderly and infirm, was used as an excuse to enforce lockdowns, devastate small business and enable WEF’s nightmarish social credit schemes. To ‘help’ us they flooded the economy with freshly printed scrip, unleashing a tidal wave of inflation. Help? Yes, but only for Big Pharma and the big banks.
There are plenty of other examples.
The drugs lavished on us by medical handmaidens to the pharma industry suppress the symptoms of problems driven, in the main, by our toxic diets and lifestyles. Weight-loss wunderwaffen like Tirzepatide (35) ($250/week) would not be necessary if the food industry stopped marketing their addictive, calorie-dense ultra-processed products. Today’s doctor-enablers ‘help’ us to continue to self-harm, when better healers would take harsher but more fundamental measures to help us to live a genuinely healthier life.
Back to PTSD.
Over the last three months I have heard repeated stories of military and civilian PTSD patients responding particularly well to a standardized saffron extract.
Just case histories so far, but as they are in line with pre-clinical studies (36-40), with neurochemistry (41), and clinical work with the functionally similar synthetic compound ketamine (42, 43), they are persuasive (44).
Finally, and if you are in self-help mode, you could combine saffron with a pinch of magic mushroom because the hallucinogens also show promise in PTSD management (45). The latest idea about psychedelics is that they temporarily dim top-down control by the pre-frontal cortices and amplify bottom-up processing from the primary sensory cortices (46), allowing holding patterns linking the conscious mind with its traumatic memories to be ‘re-set’. Nutritional kintsugi (47), if you will.
Saffron and magic mushrooms might sound like a witches’ brew, but that doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. Decode a grimoire, and you might find something that really works.
The ingredients in Macbeth’s witches’ brew, for example, were all in code. Eye of newt (mustard seed), toe of frog (buttercup leaves), wool of bat (moss) and tongue of dog (gypsy flower) made up a herbal tisane which could allegedly bring the souls of the dead to the borders of the land of the living. Hemlock and yew were added to move you a little closer to that border. Sub-lethal doses of intoxicants have been used in many cultures to dispel rationality and allow new connections to form; and the coniine in hemlock is certainly capable of inducing hallucinations (48).
Affron and psilocybin make up an altogether hipper version, and may help little John and Joanna overcome their fear of algebra. It could also make math class a whole lot more interesting.
News Flush. A therapist just told me of two menopausal women reporting hot flushes after taking Viva. This may be a real effect, and there is a possible mechanistic explanation. The saffron compounds in Viva act on GABAergic neurons in the midbrain VTA to increase resilience. The midbrain also contains GABAergic neurocircuitry which affects vasodilatory tone, at least in rats and cats (49, 50). If you have experienced this or a similar reaction to Viva, do let me know.
Next week: Plotting a flight into madness. Why we are all becoming more stupid, and what to do about it.
- Ruef J. Think you’re bad at math? You may suffer from ‘math trauma.’ The Conversation, November 1, 2018 10.50am GMT
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