Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z is for Zollner Effect - An Optical Illusion that Shows It's All About the Context

Take a look at the image below.  

Do you see the horizontal lines angled toward each other?  If so, you’re not alone. The reality is that the vertical lines are completely parallel.   Don’t believe me?  Then try this link where you can hide the shorter lines and see for yourself.  Then play around with the shorter lines to adjust the angel and watch as the horizontal line seem to become more or less tilted toward each other.

What Do You See?

The Zöllner illusion is a commonly demonstrated optical illusion. Created in 1860 by an astrophysicist, Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner, this illusion presents a series of seemingly tilted long lines crossed with overlapping shorter lines. The seemingly tilted long lines appear as if they would intersect one another if they were extended.  However, the lines are actually parallel to each other.\

How Does It Work?

This optical illusion shows how an image’s background can distort the perceived appearance of straight lines. Several explanations for the Zöllner illusion have been offered. First, the angle of the short lines compared to the long lines creates the perception of depth. One of the lines appears to be closer to us and the other farther away. Another possible explanation is that our brain tries to increase the angles between the long and short lines. The result is a distortion resulting from our brain attempting to bend the lines away and towards each other.

Most optical illusions result from the way that the images are captured with the eyes and are reconstructed by the visual cortex.  While we may believe that the information we receive from our senses is accurate, this information doesn’t actually correspond exactly to reality.  With vision, for example, the image that hits the retina contains considerably more information than what the optic nerve conveys to the brain.  The brain compensates for this enormous loss of information to provide us with visual perceptions that possess contrast, color, and movement.  In order to do this, the brain uses abstract boundaries that clarify, fill in or elaborate the small segments of reality that are actually provided. The brain's tendency to interpret visual information in this way sometimes results in impression of coherence being created where none exist.  

This is the case with an optical illusion.  The brain uses well-rehearsed strategies to fill in the blanks that are supplied by the image and the incomplete segments of the image that are supplied.  For example, if the brain interprets an image as representing distance it will use perspective related strategies to interpret the different segments.  Parallel lines going away from us into the distance (think railroad tracks) appear to converge as if they will eventually intersect somewhere out of our line of sight.   Of course, while we may perceive railroad tracks as seemingly converging, we logically know they are not doing so and therefore, ignore what our eyes are communicating to our brain and dismiss the image as an optical illusion.  

Yet when we happen upon novel images that use specific features, in this case an image of straight lines crossed by smaller, angled lines our brain automatically corrects for the parts that aren't communicated based on it’s interpretation of distance.  However, in this case we do not have any context as we would with railroad tracks.  We don’t look at it (unless you are already familiar with the illusion) and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s the Zollner Illusion that makes a bunch of parallel lines look like they’re converging.  Of course, I know better.”  So we become convinced our visual perception is accurate and have a lot of trouble when someone tells us that our perception is faulty, trying to change the way we see it, to no avail.  As with everything in life, the context is all important.

An interesting effect occurs if the color of the lines and background are changed.  If you make the color of the lines green and make the color of the background red, the effect entirely disappears and the lines will appear to be parallel as they actually are, as long as the two colors are equally bright.



I'd like to thank all of you out there who came along with me on this journey. At times it seemed like the longest month ever while at other times I had no idea where the days had gone and how I'd keep up the pace.  But I'm glad I did it and it managed to call up some new ideas and even generate a few new full length articles.  You never know what the next year will bring but as of now I'll say I look forward to repeating this challenge the next time April rolls around!  I'll keep you posted.  You do the same.  Don't stop stoppin in though, now that the excitement is over.  Hopefully, I'll keep posting things you find interesting, though not at the same pace as this month. 
 Ciou - SYOTB

Friday, April 28, 2017

Y is for Yerkish - Chatting with Chimps Leads to Speech Assistance Technology for Those with Autism

The ability to speak has been viewed as the most important factor that distinguishes humans from other animals.  Many modern linguists, most famously Noam Chomsky, have argued that language is, indeed, a unique characteristics of humans.  This is not to say that other animals don’t communicate – dolphins use whistles to identify themselves and send information to one another while elephants use trumpeting to call to each other to signal danger as well as a complicated form of sign language to communicate intentions, moods and desires.  Yet no naturally occurring language that exists in other animals has the complexities, flexibility and developmental capacity of human language. 

During the early 1900’s, several scientists attempted to teach human language to chimpanzees but were   unsuccessful.  It later came to light that this was not due to the potential of the chimps but to structural differences in ape and human vocal tracts.  This meant the chimps weren’t able to physically produce the sounds of human language.  Later research focused on teaching a non-vocal language to primates. In the late 1960’s Washoe, a female chimpanzee learned to use well over 350 signs, learning many spontaneously from observing the humans around her.  Around the same time, others used tokens that stood for words, teaching the ape’s to arrange them in different orders.  A female chimp named Sarah learned to produce streams of tokens which obeyed a grammar and could use if-then-else expressions. 

Watch this video, A Conversation With Koko The Gorilla, an award-winning documentary about an amazing gorilla who learned to converse with a researcher using sign language.

Then in the 1970’s, Ernst von Glasersfeld developed a language that researchers first taught to the female chimp named Lana.  It was called “Yerkish” after Robert M. Yerkes, the founder of the laboratory within which the language project was carried out. Lana was taught to comprehend and use symbols via an innovative computer-based keyboard.

Yerkish, not to be confused with Yiddish, has developed into a language used to communicate with nonhuman primates. The language was initially used to communicate with the primates at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, GA. In addition to Lana, Duane Rumbaugh used the language to communicate with two other chimpanzees at Yerkes. The symbols represent but are not necessarily exact portrayals of words.  A keyboard with a lexigram laid out on the keys is used by the primates and the researchers. Lexigram boards were composed of three panels with a total of 384 keys. When pressed, keys would light up and the associated symbol would be projected on a screen above the keyboard.  “Correct” or “legal” sentence resulted in automatic results.  For example, the sentence “Please Machine Give Juice” would lead to juice being dispensed.  Other sentences or questions would be responded to by human caregivers also using the keyboard.

As this project continued it became clear that keyboard facilitated learning successfully helped chimps develop language skills.  These skills went beyond just learning the exact associations that were taught to them.  The chimps were able to spontaneously generate novel combinations of symbols to communicate desires and ask questions along with answering questions and completing assigned tasks from researchers. 

There are those who say that there is no reason to waste time and money trying to teach human language to apes.  Yet the language project with apes provided the foundation for creating communication boards and keyboard facilitated language development devices for use with non-verbal children with autism. This further led to developments in speech assistive technology that has proven to be invaluable for those with autism who have trouble learning vocabulary and grammar, don’t understand the social rules for conversations, or have difficulties spontaneously using spoken language.

View this segment of a video produced for Autism Acceptance Month of a young man named Dillan who uses technology to convey what the world is like for him.  His words remind us how important it is to ensure everyone with a voice can be heard.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

X is for Xenaphobia - Kakadu The Musical Fights Nigerian Oppression in South Africa

Related image

Xenaphobia or fear of the “other” has been a problem that has led to prejudice and violence in every country with large numbers of immigrants. This is not a medical label but a political once.  More specifically, the term is used to refer to a circumstances involving members of one group or culture regarding members of another group or culture as threats to their own interests.  

Among other nations, one country that has seen a continued presence of xenophobia for decades is South Africa. Although 1994 was a remarkable year for the country after the downfall of Apartheid, this also was the time that strong nationalist views and sentiments were established which had the function of fueling the xenophobic attacks.  And despite the fact that Nigeria spent $61 billion between 1960 and 1995 while helping to destroy apartheid and the establishment of democratic rule in South Africa, it is against Nigerians that xenophobic attacks are most commonly seen.

Now, in a historic event, a Nigerian musical will be the first ever to open in South Aftica.  After three years of sold-out performances in Nigeria and Davos, Switzerland, the award-winning stageplay, “Kakadu”- The Musical will be coming to the Mandela stage, as part of the Africa Day Celebrations in June 2017.  Kakadu – The Musical is based on several critical events that occurred in Nigeria between 1965 and 1974, which led to the Biafran War and its aftermath.

Most importantly, though, Kakadu is about building bridges, and encouraging peaceful co-existence among members of different cultures living in the same country and across Africa.  According to the director, Omo, this is actually the first time a stage performance is going from Nigeria to South Africa.  This is a crucial step in light of the most recent xenophobic vigilante attacks on Nigerians living in South Africa which resulted in the destruction of homes and business as well as several deaths.

This despite the Memorandum of Understanding signed by South Africa in an effort to reinforce diplomatic ties with Nigeria, in the hope of stopping attacks that had been carried out since 1998. Yet perhaps this musical will accomplish what Memorandums have not.  It is hoped that the musical will enlighten South African residents as to the history, current events and lifestyle of those living in Nigeria as well as to underscore a commonality that exists among those across the continent.
The musical’s creator Uche Nwokedi, says that the story is about dealing with common problems that occur across Africa.  “We are also going to be doing a workshop in Soweto. Basically, we are looking at Kakadu as a classical African story. The problems that were addressed in Kakadu are in every African country.”

According to one of the musical’s lead performers, Benneth Ogbeiwi, who plays Kakadu’s charismatic manager, Lord Lugard, Kakadu could actually serve to “address the little issues we have about ethnicity, politics, religion, and, of course, the question that lingers in the mind of every Nigerian”.

Enjoy a clip from Kakadu the Musical, watch rehearsals and learn about how it was created.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

W is for White Bears –Trying to Suppress Your Thoughts May Just Make Matters Worse

Whatever you do, don’t think of a white bear. Do whatever you want and think about whatever you want – Just so long as it isn’t a white bear. Close your eyes and just relax, but don’t think of a white bar.  I imagine, right now, many of those of you reading this are thinking of a certain pale four legged ursidae.  This illustrates the common phenomenon, known as the White Bear Principle.  This principle describes what happens when we try to suppress our thoughts. Once we try to not think of something specific, we often find we think about it all the time.  This paradox can contribute to such problems as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression and is one of the hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

In a study by Wegner (2011), two groups of people were told to verbalize their thoughts for five minutes.  One group was told not to think of a white beat, the other group was told they could do so.  All participants were to press a counter each time they thought of the bear.  There was no difference between the groups suggesting that efforts to suppress the thought was not effective. 

The really interesting thing about this experiment however, was shown in the second part when all subjects were told they could think of the white bear.  Those who had been in the suppression group previously, thought of the bear at a much higher rate than the other subjects.  It appears that the act of suppression can have a rebound effect when the person stops trying to suppress the thought.

This rebound effect has interesting implications for a variety of situations in which we try to suppress our thoughts. Consider someone who is dieting and has a terrible sweet tooth such that they have to constantly tell themselves not to eat their favorite cakes and cookies.  Wegner’s study suggests that if they tell themselves it is okay to cheat a little on a special occasion it is possible they may suddenly have a host of uncontrollable thoughts suggesting that it is okay to indulge which throws off their diet entirely.  A better way of handling thoughts that we want to control may be to use intentional distraction to take our mind off of the thought instead of trying to suppress it.


Wegner, D. M. (2011). Setting free the bears: escape from thought suppression. American Psychologist, 66(8), 671.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

V is for Virtual Reality - Using Virtual Reality to Treat Alcohol Addiction

Virtual reality therapy has been shown to help alcoholics fight their addiction. VR treatment exposes patients to simulated situations that would normally trigger anxiety or cravings in a safe and controlled environment. One of the reasons advocates of the therapy say it is effective is that it allows treatment to be individualized for each person.  The situations that each person is exposed to are specific to the environments that are most likely to lead to alcohol use. 

In one study, following a week long detox, subjects were exposed to three virtual situations while practicing coping strategies to help them tolerate physiological and psychological cravings (Son, Lee, Seok, Kee, Lee, Kim, & Han, 2015).  The first situation was a relaxing scenario. The second situation utilized a restaurant scenario involving other who were drinking alcohol. The third situation was an aversion scenario which included the sights, smells and sounds of others getting sick after drinking too much.  Participants underwent two virtual reality sessions a week for five weeks.  PET and CT scans evaluating changes in brain metabolism showed decreased cravings for alcohol following treatment completion compared to control subjects.

Although this study was only a preliminary investigation with a small number of subjects it does provide important implications.  First, it suggests that those with alcohol dependence have an increased sensitivity to stimuli that trigger alcohol use which can be observed in their limbic system.  This offers a potential method of evaluating pre and post treatment levels of cravings, which can help control for the low reliability of self-report measures. 

The study results also suggest a potential treatment that uses exposure in life-like situations that can be administered and controlled in a therapeutic environment.  Exposure has been repeatedly shown to be the most effective method of preventing relapse for alcohol use disorder.  Avoiding high risk situations involving alcohol consumption may be recommended in the initial stages of therapy, but it is rare that this strategy can be maintained.  Alcohol use is wide spread in our society and is often a part of socializing and celebrations. It is therefore, very difficult to continue to completely avoid situations and environments that include alcohol use.  Since these situations often include the triggers that have led to a person imbibing in the past, unless they can work on maintaining sobriety in these high risk situations, relapse will be likely when exposed to these situations in the future. 

However, it is also extremely risky to have the individual expose themselves to high risk situation in the absence of therapeutic support as would be done with other behavioral difficulties.  Virtual reality allows those with alcohol dependence to practice coping techniques for resisting alcohol use in life-like scenarios.  While cognitively the individual knows the situation isn’t real, the physiological findings suggest that this method may still successfully help to reprogram the brain when in real life situations.  This could improve response to treatment as decreased physiological cravings could help the individual resist psychological cravings making cognitive behavioral techniques more effective with quicker results.

There are critics of the use of virtual reality treatment for alcohol and drug abuse.  Some have stated that studying how the brain reacts during the scenarios would be crucial in understanding any neurological outcomes that may result.  This can only be determined with MRI’s and other imaging techniques requiring the individual to be completely still, which is not possible when using virtual reality methods. Some researchers also question whether the use of VR treatment could make symptoms worse for some individuals due to the realistic nature of the treatment.  Larger studies carried out using subjects of different ages, backgrounds and gender are needed to further investigate the effectiveness of virtual reality treatment for alcohol dependence and how individual characteristics effect treatment outcomes.

See this link for a video of how virtual reality is being used to treat a host of mental health difficulties and disorders.


della Cava, M. (2016, February 6). Virtual reality’s promise, risk loom large for health researchers. Retrieved from

Son, J. H., Lee, S. H., Seok, J. W., Kee, B. S., Lee, H. W., Kim, H. J., & Han, D. H. (2015). Virtual reality therapy for the treatment of alcohol dependence: a preliminary investigation with positron emission tomography/computerized tomography. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs, 76(4), 620-627.

Monday, April 24, 2017

U is for Unconditional Positive Regard -What You Can Do to Develop It

Unconditional positive regard is a term invented by Carl Rogers, founder of Person Centered Therapy which refers to accepting and supporting others exactly as they are, without evaluating or judging them.  The basis of the concept is the position that everyone has the individual resources within to help themselves lead a fulfilling life, provide they are given an environment of acceptance allowing them to recognize this truth.

You can only have unconditional positive regard if you see others as complete people not collections of behavior and if you don’t view others only regarding how they impact you.  You first have to be able to step outside yourself and recognize that others are different and often have different needs, viewpoints and ways of operating in the world than you do.  Unconditional positive regard doesn’t mean you have like someone.  You don’t even have to be nice to them, or do anything at all for them.  You simply have to put your personal judgments and opinions about them to the side.  This does not mean letting others hurt you and take advantage of you.  It does mean not developing a series of negative assumptions as to why the person might treat you that way.

How You Can Start to Practice Unconditional Positive Regard for Others

  • Expect people to have the skills to figure things out by themselves instead of constantly giving advice as if only you know best.  
  • Suspend judgement and bias. Start to become aware of how often you view others only in terms of what is wrong with them. 
  • Notice what you are really thinking when you are supposedly listening to someone. Instead of  thinking about how you will correct what they are saying or point out how it relates to you, simply clear your mind and focus on hearing only what they are telling you.
  • Don’t try to prevent others from being different.  “Different” doesn't mean “wrong”.

Friday, April 21, 2017

T is for Tend-and-Befriend – A Unique Female Response to Stress

Most likely you’ve heard of the “fight of flight” response, the tendency of people to either flee to escape a potential danger or fight to defend themselves and overpower an aggressor to save themselves when threatened in order to ensure their survival.  Perhaps you’ve experienced this response yourself and know of the immediate rush of energy and practically automatic response your body makes possible in highly stressful and potentially dangerous situations.  While it has been assumed that this response is universal to all people, it has come to light that this may not be the case.  Specifically, there appear to be differences in how men and women respond to stress.  It is now known that women respond to potential dangers with a behavior pattern that has been called “tend and befriend.”

It’s no secret that women tend to be more socially focused than men.  This is evident in the coping mechanisms the different genders use when dealing with threats in their life. Stress leads women to focus caring for their offspring and to do things that are likely to help them accomplish this goal. The “tend and befriend” pattern of coping is said to increase survival when women are pregnant, nursing or caring for young children which would prevent them from being able to fight or easily flee.  By befriending other women and forming a network, individual women and their offspring are protected.  This occurs as predators are less likely to attack groups as opposed to individuals.  Additionally, a mix of women who are or aren’t pregnant, nursing or caring for children at a given time ensure that there are always some women who can protect the other members of the group.

Research indicates the gender related stress reactions appear to be predominantly accounted for by physiological responses when confronted by an acute threat.  Both men and women produce oxytocin when facing danger but women release far more.  Additionally, estrogen, produced in greater amount by women, facilitates the effects of oxytocin while androgens, produced in greater amounts in men suppress the effects of oxytocin.  Oxytocin has been demonstrated to decrease blood pressure, anxiety and pain perception and increase a sense of calm as well as mother-infant attachment.  These effects suppress the fight or flight response.  The “tend and befriend” stress response has largely been tied to the greater amount of oxytocin produced by women compared to men.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

S is for Sadistic - The True Nature of Glinda the Good

While I was recovering from Shingles, I was doing anything I could to keep my mind off of it.  This mostly consisted of watching Netflix and any movies I could find that took almost no thought.  One of those endless days of marathon binge watching included the Wizard of Oz.  Granted, I wasn’t in the best of moods and was likely getting annoyed with things I wouldn’t have otherwise, but I couldn’t help wondering who had decided Glinda was a good witch? 

I mean, honestly, just look at her behavior.  First, instead of dealing with one of her rival in a rational, reasonable manner she drops a house on her and kills her. Then she pillages the body, steals the poor witch’s shoes and hands them to a young girl without asking if the girl minded that they’d come off a dead woman.  Not exactly a gift that says, "Thinking of you."

When push comes to shove, Glinda even blames said young girl with the other witch’s death, then sets her up with this supposedly great and powerful Wizard who she had to be in cahoots with.  If she was really a witch, wouldn’t she had known he was just some sad wizard wannabe hiding behind a curtain and wasn’t even talented enough to keep his balloon on track?  Glinda must have known the Wizard wasn’t just going to zip Dorothy home, in fact didn’t even have the ability to get her home at all.  Plus, Glinda had already handed Dorothy the way to get home at the very beginning.  Remember those shoes she took off the dead women?  

Had Glinda just told her to click them together at the beginning of the story, Dorothy and friends

would have never have had to deal with the opium overdose from that field of poppy's not to mention being kidnapped by those terrifying flying monkeys.  Those things still give me nightmares.  What must they have done to poor Dorothy?  And while it may be the Wizard who demands that Dorothy assassinate the dead witch’s last known relative, Glinda encourages it every step of the way, putting not only Dorothy’s life at risk but three of her friends to boot. Glinda just doesn’t seem to ever have any understanding that what she is doing is wrong, which even the Wizard gets, if only in a pitiful, sniveling kind of way.

While Glinda may meet criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder as well, she takes it a step further.  While antisocial's may charm others into doing what they want they don’t necessarily derive pleasure from the other person’s suffering.  They actually likely don’t even recognize the other person is suffering as they have no empathy or ability to see or feel things from another’s point of view.  Antisocial's are focused exclusively on getting what they want and any damage to those they use to do so is merely collateral.  If you asked about Dorothy after they got her to do their bidding they most likely would have looked blankly at you and replied, “Dorothy who?”  Glinda on the other hand would have likely smirked, clearly knowing exactly who were talking about and reminiscing with the reply, “Good times.”

This characteristic would be more suggestive of Sadism, as those who are sadistic are amused by the emotional turmoil and suffering of others.  In addition, the disorder is characterized by the tendency to lie simply in order to cause confusion and more pain. Sure enough, it’s clear that Glinda knows from the start precisely how to send Dorothy home, but instead she makes up an absurd quest to some fake wizard with no tangible gain for Dorothy whatsoever.  Glinda’s mental illness becomes even more glaringly obvious when she ends up being the one who helps Dorothy get home in the end, given the mortal danger she put the girl and her companions in along the way.  Plus she sends Dorothy home believing the blood of two the two dead witches are on her hands. Yet Glinda just keeps smiling that vague little smile that never seems to leave her face despite the numerous tragedies and hardships that come Dorothy’s way.

If all that’s not enough, immediately after the Wicked Witch loses her sister, Glinda starts taunting her in an obvious effort to demean her and in front of a crowd to boot.  After questioning the Wicked Witches magical abilities, Glinda then actually suggest that the witch better watch herself as someone might just drop a house on her as well.  And Glinda keeps on smiling. Those in the crowd may remain silent during her sadistic treatment of the witch and cheer her death of her sister not to mention shouting and singing, “Ding, dong, the witch is dead,” when she, herself, is melted down into a puddle of water in seeming support of Glinda’s efforts.  Yet that’s not surprising given they probably are aware of just how mean spirited Glinda can be and many of them have likely been her victims before and don't relish being one again.  They likely figure she is less likely to pick on those whoever support her the loudest.  And given Glinda's way of torturing people including cold blooded murder and assassination through house dropping and melting, can you blame them? 

Remember also, that once she kills the Wicked Witch of the West’s sister, who we don’t get to meet at all and have to simply take her word for it that the witch was evil, Glinda then takes the only keepsake the poor women might have to remember her sister by, the dead witch’s footwear. And when Dorothy clicks those pretty little shoes together three times and disappears where do the shoes go exactly?  I’m betting not back to their rightful owner, that being the next relative in line after the Wicked Witch of the West, a person who has lost two family members, both of which Glinda had a hand in.  I’d put money on Glinda putting some sort of spell on those ruby slippers so they’d return to her.  She could then dangle them in front of the next living relative of the two murdered witches, saying, “Come and get them,” only to jerk them out of reach, laughing,  as soon as the poor soul tried to do so. 

Something tells me that if you ever happened upon wherever it is that Glinda calls home, you’d find it decorated with rugs made out of real flying monkey fur and perhaps a couple of pointy black hats mounted on the wall.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

R is for Rabbit – Psychological Diagnosis of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland

Short Report, Diagnosis and Recommendations

Reason for Referral:

I have been approached by the courts to conduct an independent evaluation of Mr. White Rabbit, following his apprehension for the alleged kidnapping of a young girl who he was said to have lured into his hole which led her to an alternate realm called Wonderland.  While there, it was further alleged he provided her with drugs that may have caused her to hallucinate, believing herself to shrunk to the size of a mouse then to have grown to giant size.  The underage girl also reported believing she had come into contact with a number of unusual creatures including a cat who appeared and disappeared at random, a pipe smoking caterpillar with whom she had a conversation, a Duchess who had her baby sit her infant who turned out to be a pig, and the Queen of Hearts with whom Alice plays croquet using flamingos as mallets and hedgehogs as balls.  

While the kidnapping charge was dismissed due to Alice’s own testimony that she had followed Mr. Rabbit voluntarily and he hadn’t done or said anything to force her to do so, the drugging charge still stood.  I was asked to evaluate Mr. Rabbit due to concerns as to his mental state as well as complaints made by residents of Wonderland regarding his tendency to make them and their children feel anxious to the point they hesitate in going out so as not to run into him.  They reported that he is constantly seen hopping “madly” around Wonderland looking at a large pocket watch and replying to any general pleasantries with the comment, “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.”  

When asked about his apparent rush, Mr. Rabbit stated that yes, this was the case, and added that in fact he was late at that moment, attempting to rush off.  As he was being held in custody due to the fear he would jump bail, literally, his inability to leave the room where the evaluation was taking place seemed to exacerbate his symptoms and he became increasingly agitated over the course of the interview.  Asked what he was late for, he stated he didn’t know exactly, but knew that if he didn’t get there on time it would be “disastrous.”  He was also unable to say precisely what he believed would happened if he was late.  Mr. Rabbit reported being anxious “most of the time” but couldn’t really give specifics of what triggered his anxiety.  Other that “when the Queen of Hearts wants to behead me.” He also couldn’t point to anything that made the anxiety worse or lessened it.

Mr. Rabbit continued to hop about the room in a frenzied manner, frequently consulting his pocket watch and stating he must be released as he was late.  When queried as to why it was so important to him he replied that something terrible would happen if he didn’t arrive on time.  He was offered a cup of (caffeine free) tea, in an effort to calm him, he refused, saying tea was only for tea parties and the evaluation was far from a party as he was being held prisoner although he had done nothing wrong.

When asked about the substance he had given to the young girl, Alice, to drink, which apparently made her believe she had grown to an enormous size "like that of a giant", Mr. Rabbit became short tempered.  He replied in a clipped tone, that she had found the substance in his home and had decided to drink it on her own.  Afterwards, Mr. Rabbit alleged, she grew to a "huge size" and attempted to grab him in one of her "monstrous paws".

When asked how she had gotten into his house, Mr. Rabbit stated that he had “mistook her” for a servant and had her washing his “unmentionables.”  Though he was not home at the time, he left the door locked to ensure the girl could not escape.  He showed no remorse for wrongly making her work for him, nor for wrongly imprisoning her, saying that where he came from, “Servants know their place and understand that their class is meant to make life easier for those of us who are above them.”  He merely shrugged when reminded that the girl was, in fact, not his servant, but an underage girl who did not belong in the realm in which he lived.

Mr. Rabbit  added that “the girl” had already shrunk and grown several times prior to the episode in his home due to drinking and eating substances she likewise found that didn’t belong to her.  He pointed out that these other instances had nothing to do with him.  He said this just went to prove that Alice’s experience growing and shrinking was her own fault.  He stated he couldn’t be held accountable for a girl who clearly had a problem with “stealing and excessive risk taking.” 

When queried further about this it was evident that Mr. Rabbit also believed it was possible to grow and shrink based on ingesting certain substances found in Wonderland, including different parts of some sort of mushroom.  He denied that the mushroom constituted a “drug,” further denying using any kind of “mind altering substance.”  He did acknowledge drinking a large amount of tea during the day, attributing this to attending numerous tea parties each day.  He reported drinking 3-5 cups of the beverage at each party, adding, “Well, you can’t just go and not eat or drink anything can you?  They’re called tea parties for a reason, you know.”

Mr. Rabbit wasn’t able or willing to describe the actual mushroom, becoming more agitated and         

 replying, “Don’t you understand?  I’m late and talking about mushrooms is just wasting more time and making matters worse!” Attempting to further clarify additional points and areas led to aggressive posturing and Mr. Rabbit began to yell, physically threatening the psychologist and psychometrician who was also present.  Ultimately, a sedative was ordered and it took two orderlies holding him down to enable the nurse to inject him with the anxiolytic.  Mr. Rabbit quickly became calm then sleepy, unable to remain awake and the interview was terminated.


It is unclear at this time whether drugs could be a cause of or contributing factor to Mr. Rabbit’s anxiety, though he states he does not use any type of substances.  Due to the premature termination of the interview it was unclear whether Mr. Rabbit’s reality testing is intact or if his claims were due to a psychotic process.  Additionally, the causes of Mr. Rabbit’s behavior and anxiety could not be determined.  Furthermore, conclusions regarding Mr. Rabbit’s potential for contributing to the delinquency of a minor cannot be made at this time.  As such, regarding diagnoses, only Rule Outs can be assigned without competing the evaluation.

Preliminary Diagnoses:
  • ·         Rule Out Psychotic Disorder, NOS
  • ·         Rule Out Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • ·         Rule Out Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • ·         Rule Out Hallucinogen Use Disorder
  • ·         Rule Out Drug Use Disorder, NOS
  • ·         Rule Out Narcissistic Personality Disorder


1)      It is recommended that drug testing be undertaken to determine if any substances are in his system that may be contributing to his difficulties.  However, it is understood that due to the length of time that has occurred since he was first detained, no indications of substance may show up on his toxicology screen.  As such he should be observed carefully for physical symptoms or behavioral indicators or changes that might indicate drug withdrawal.
2)      It is recommended that Mr. Rabbit avoid drinking tea due to the caffeine content.  This includes decaffeinated tea as this still has some caffeine included in the product.
3)      Further evaluation of Mr. Rabbit’s background and history would be useful in determining whether there are other logical sources of Mr. Rabbit’s extreme anxiety.

4)      Follow-up interview with Alice should be conducted to clarify her perceptions as they related to Mr. Rabbit’s legal and other difficulties.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Q is for Quiet – Review of the Book: Quiet - The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Whether you consider yourself outgoing or not, chances are you know at least a few introverts.  That is because at least a third of the people we know in this country are introverts. Introverts are those friends of yours who prefer listening to what others have to say rather than doing the speaking; who are incredibly creative and stellar at innovation and  but dislike self-promotion; who favor working solo rather than working on a team. Many of the greatest contributions to society can be credited to introverts such as Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Newton and Bill Gates.

Yet those who are not introverted often view those who are in a negative light. They may regard introverts as aloof, arrogant or rude, suggesting to the introvert that they are too serious or frequently asking if they are okay?  Given the message, largely by extroverts, that there is something wrong with being them, introverts often feel like they should try to change their natural preferences and become more social or try to act more upbeat and boisterous.  Yet those who have attempted to accomplish this, are often unhappy and quickly feel burnt out.  This is because introversion is no more a choice than extroversion.  Introverts and extroverts are different, different in the way they process information, their desire for social interaction and their need for solitude.  Different does not mean “better than,” or “not as good as”.  Different means, well, different.

One book that has had a major impact on the way introverts are viewed, and how they view themselves, is, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, written by Susan Cain. In this presentation that shows the strength and influence of introverts in our society, Cain argues that we significantly undervalue introverts.  She clearly shows just how much we lose in doing so.  Documenting the growth of what she terms “the Extrovert Ideal” during the 1900’s and the author establishes how much it has taken hold in our culture. She goes on to introduce the reader to a number of successful introverts who describe not only what it took for them to achieve their goals but also how the Extrovert Ideal caused many of them to attempt to mimic the characteristics of extroverts.  Cain mixes these personal accounts with social sciences research and her own well-reasoned views of resiliency of introverts and the manner in which they are able to accomplish things that extroverts cannot.  This book is a must read for everyone, introverted, extroverted or somewhere in between.

[Please see the related article, The Psychology Query, Third Edition, on temperament]

Sunday, April 16, 2017

P is for Power - Regain a Sense of Power in Your Life

Pressure can be a positive force as long as you're in control of the situation. Lose your sense of control, however, and it is not long before you feel overwhelmed and anxious. Developing an internal rather than external attribution style can enhance your ability to monitor and cope with mounting pressure.  An internal attributional style means that you believe that have control over the important things in your life.  Those with an external attributional style believe that others or fate control their lives.

When we feel that other agents are acting upon us and we can do nothing to influence the course of our own lives a couple of important results occur.  First, there is a loss of motivation to act.  If we feel nothing we do has any effect on our lives why bother trying in the first place?  It would be waste of time and lead to more frustration, anger and the sense of being overwhelmed.  This is what learned helplessness means.  When we have been exposed to a number of situations in which we did everything thought was right and effective in achieving a goal only to have things outside our control determine otherwise, we may start to feel this sense of helplessness. 

Another thing this process may result in is a biased view of what takes place in our lives. When not in a positive frame of mind we are most likely to remember the negative things in our lives, the criticisms and instances when we believed we failed at something.  We are less likely to pay attention to and sometimes even remember the positive things that occur on a day to day basis. This can help convince us we lack the ability to be successful which just adds to the problem caused by believing others control our present and our future. Without knowing it we may even go a step farther – we may act in ways that sabotage our own efforts proving that nothing we do has an effect.  This is what is meant by the term self-fulfilling prophecies.  You believe you are powerless so you act in ways to prove it.

The opposite side of the coin can obliterate this negative cycle of defeat, However. when you believe that you are responsible for your own success you will act in ways to make that success happen.  Believing that you can have a positive influence on the situation you're in will lay the foundation for this to occur. But it takes consistent effort to consciously rewire your brain to relive your past wins more often than your failures.

“Easier said than done,” I hear many of you saying.  If you are mired in a pool of negativity and the certainty that you do not have the power to change anything it may seem that this is the case.  But by taking small steps, baby steps in the words the words of the main character in the movie “What About Bill?” you can start to regain a sense of control over your life along with all the perks this will lead to.

Three Ideas to Get You Started

1) Relive Your Successes Regularly

Trophy wives and trophy cars and trophy kids - Whoever decided bragging rights regarding our own achievements belong only to others?  Credit yourself for your “trophy” moments and this time don’t share the credit. Think about those times when you felt completely confident, proud, inspired, and capable of doing anything.  Create a personal “Brag Book” – Don’t worry, it’s just for you not to share. List all the things that you’ve done that have made you feel proud and amazing, big or small. No one else will see it so go ahead and be over-inclusive without the fear of being seen as pompous or arrogant. Use a beautiful journal or format a computer document with a fancy background or border. Review it regularly and continually add to it.  Bam – Immediate confidence boost!

2) Face Your Fears Daily

By fears I don’t necessarily mean the things that terrify you the most.  Try to do one thing every day that scares you or at least makes you anxious.  These can be little things, even things that would normally not make you anxious but which you have put off giving them the power to upset you.  When we avoid things long enough they take on a life of their own.  When you deliberately face you fears or anxieties they lost the power to control you and instantly gives you a sense of power over them. It also helps put other stressors in your life in perspective and makes you realize, “If I could do that, then I can do anything.” Each accomplishment makes each subsequent one easier.

3) Organize Your Space

Often when we feel a lack of control in our lives, this plays out in a disorganized work or living space.  When the things in our lives are organized we feel a sense of control as well as a feeling of calm.  Once we start to let housekeeping and organization go, it can become a routine and something else we dread that causes us anxiety.  Eventually, the task seems overwhelming to the point that there appears no place to even start in addressing this.  Begin small, if the task seems overly daunting.  Decide that over the weekend you will organize one small closet, the coat closet perhaps or the guest bathroom if you have one.  Take on each room or even part of a room step by step.  Focus exclusively on the area or task you are working on instead of viewing it as one small step to organizing the whole house or work space which is likely to cause you to shut down again. Let yourself take pleasure and feel pride at accomplishing each step no matter how small.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

O is for Oulipo – Clear Writer’s Block & Encourage Journaling for Better Mental Health

Anyone who struggles with stress, depression, or anxiety, (who doesn’t at some point?), can use journaling to gain control of emotions and improve mental health.

“But I’ve tried,” you may say. “I’ve tried journaling and I get stuck so I can’t write anything at all. Then I get frustrated which just makes matters worse!"

This is a common problem.  Writing can help you cope with all sorts of negative emotions and let you organize your thoughts to see knew solutions.  It can help you process things that just seem like a jumble in your mind. It can act as a type of catharsis, letting you express extreme emotions in a healthy manner without the repercussions of confrontation.

Unfortunately, negative emotions can also make it difficult to begin the writing process.  Staring at a blank page with no ideas of where to start can be daunting.  When already experiencing strong, negative emotions, it can be a short trip from daunting to frustrating to seemingly impossible.  Giving up becomes just one more thing you feel you can't do which causes the negative emotions to just grow stronger.

Though it may seem counter intuitive, putting limits on your writing can help you reign in your emotions by providing specific rules to follow that act as a guide to the writing process. This method which is called Oulipo (Ouvroir de litterature potentielle/Workshop of Potential Literature), began in 1960 in France.  This system is a collection of constraints and rules that you can use to guide your writing.  If approached as a fun kind of challenge without expectations of the final product Oulipo exercises can help you adjust your emotions by providing a sense of positivity, enjoyment and accomplishment.  This alone can alter your ability to balance and adjust negative emotions.  Turning down the pressure associated with expectations will also free you to express whatever your thoughts and feelings which is a great coping technique for stress.

Some examples of Oulipo techniques are:

  • N + 7 which involves taking an existing piece of writing and substituting each noun with the seventh one following it in the dictionary.  This can be changed by altering the number you add to come up with new nouns.   
  • Snowball which is a poem in which each line is a single word, and the word on each successive line is one letter longer.
  • Lipogram which involves excluding one or more letters. Vowels or consonants may be excluded.
  • The Prisoner's Constraint which is a particular type of lipogram that excludes all letters with "legs" (b, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, p, q, t, and y).
  • Palindromes which are words or sentences that read the same forwards or backwards.

For more information on using these techniques, read TryOulipo and Never Have Writer’s Block Again.

Friday, April 14, 2017

N is for Nonsense as in Nonsense Diagnosis and Treatment

Based on an assessment conducted by Sam-I-Am, the unnamed character in Green Eggs and Ham appeared to be suffering from sitophobia or the fear of food or eating, specifically, fear of eating green eggs and ham.  Over and over he refuses Sam-I-Am’s intrusive insistence that he eat, eat, eat! 

This unnamed character has the classical response to coming into contact with the feared object. He avoids it which is believed to cause his anxiety to decrease thus reinforcing his avoidance behavior. The patient clearly exhibits another classic feature of phobias, specifically generalization as the target foods are refused in all settings and under all conditions.  For example, per the report, the patient was quoted as saying:


Sam-I-Am uses exposure therapy to force the character to come into contact with green eggs and ham in an effort to break the link between the feared objects and the belief that something catastrophic will happen should he consume these foods.  According to the treatment summary, after tasting the triggering foods once, the unnamed character’s phobia completely disappeared and he ecstatically ate the foods absolutely everywhere, thanking Sam-I-Am enthusiastically. Following the single taste, the patient was reported as saying:


While it would be nice to believe that treatment for phobias could proceed so easily and so rapidly unfortunately this kind of response is practically impossible.  Sam-I-Am’s report of the treatment outcome is unrealistic and unbelievable.  While exposure therapy works considerably faster than systematic desensitization, according to the treatment summary, the patient essentially decided to try the phobic triggering foods and willingly did so to get Sam-I-Am to leave him alone.  After one bite, the patient was allegedly over his food phobia, having decided he then loved green eggs and ham and would eat them anywhere at any time.  This is at best far-fetched and at worst a complete fabrication. 

An investigation of this case subsequently failed to confirm this outcome and in fact, failed to confirm that the patient existed at all.  As a result, Sam-I-Am’s license to practice has been revoked and he will have to pay a large fine. 

(Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss first published on August 12, 1960, Random House)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

M is for Macropsia, Micropsia and Migraines – Associated Features of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Macropsia and Micopsia are perceptual symptoms that can be extremely distressing to individuals.  They are found in Todd Syndrome, named for the physician who first described the disorder.  Todd actually called the disorder, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome as the symptoms resemble those experienced by Alice in the book.  The disorder appears to be primarily associated with Migraines.

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is a disorienting neurological condition primarily found in children.  The disorder is characterized by distorted time, space, and body image, with the passage of time seeming to slow down or speed up with the surrounding environment seeming to “zoom” in or out. Patients with AIWS have the sense that their entire body or specific parts of it have been altered in shape and size. These symptoms can be overwhelming for the child. 

The most common symptoms in Alice in Wonderland Syndrome are altered visual perceptions, specifically Macropsia or objects appearing larger than they really are and Micropsia or objects appearing much smaller than they really are.  These symptoms are particularly troubling as not all objects are affected so most things in the room may appear relatively normal but one of the chairs seems to be the size of a refrigerator while the couch appears as large as a minivan. These symptoms may also be mixed so while the couch seems to be the size of a minivan, the chair seems to be the size of a mouse.  Macropsia and Micropsia can affect inanimate and animate objects alike.   

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is a rare neurological which may be associated with migraine, epilepsy and infectious mononucleosis. The disorder does not appear to be associated with damaged eyesight or brain tumors. The majority of patients with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome report a family history of migraines or suffer from migraine themselves. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

L is for Labeling – We Act as We Are Treated

It is normal for us to use labels to create categories of things.  This is a shortcut to gaining an understanding of the vast amount of information we come into contact with.  Yet we also have a habit of labeling each other as well as the children entrusted into our care.  The problem is that when we have a label we stop seeking information that might go counter to the it and when have labeled something, or someone, we feel empowered to take action.

This does not have to be a problem and in fact, it is helpful when we are talking about some sort of diagnoses.  When we have determined that a certain diagnoses is warranted, that provides implications for curing or managing the condition.  We know that when someone has a Strep Throat certain antibiotics should be given to treat the infection.

Yet when we use labels for each other, more often than not these are negative judgement calls.  Once a label is assigned it often sticks with the person a long time, sometimes for life.  When the label is passed from person to person and setting to setting this can be extremely damaging. A prime example is teachers passing labels such as ADHD, hyperactive or even calling a child a “behavior problem,” a label that suggests this describes everything about the child and there is nothing else to learn.  When labels are passed one to another we tend to see what we have been told to see rather than get to know the person and form our own judgements based solely on our own perceptions.

Unfortunately, when we label someone, especially a child, they will begin to live up to our expectations.  I am reminded of a classmate I had in nursery school, named J.J.  I don’t know how or when it came to be but everything negative that happened in the classroom was attributed to J.J.  Did he terrorize the other kids in the classroom?  Maybe.  But I can’t help but wonder how his behavior might had been different had he been referred to as a leader or good friend or sharer.  One thing is certain, call a child a “behavior problem” year after year and regardless of whether he’s one to begin with chances are he will certainly become one.  Why wouldn’t he?  If no matter what he does, he’s perceived that way, why not give people what they seem to want and expect?

Research has shown just how powerful this effect is.  Two groups of teachers were given descriptions of made up students.  The two descriptions were identical except for the final sentence.  The descriptions for one group ended with the statement that the child was diagnosed with ADHD.  They were then asked to rate the imaginary child on positive and negative characteristics such as friendliness, disruptiveness, polite, cruel etc.  The teachers who received the description with the ADHD statement, rated the child as far more negative that did those with the other description (Ohan, Visser, Strain & Allen, 2011).

At the same time, research has shown the positive side labeling.  Teachers’ positive expectations for student intelligence and achievement has been shown to predict life outcomes for decades afterwards.  Teacher judgments of student intelligence at age 12 has been found to predict adult intelligence and other major life outcomes Including educational attainment, socioeconomic status and physical and emotional health at age 52. These effects seem to be accounted for by Grade Point Average (GPA).  In particular, teacher’s positive expectations were associated with higher GPA and educational attainment which in turn predicted the other outcomes (Fischbach, Baudson, Preckel, Martin & Brunner, 2013).

This research and other like it teaches an important lesson.  When children are expected to do poorly and act out, they will learn to do so.  Likewise, when they are expected to excel and achieve they fulfill this prophecy as well.  Children will act in a manner consistent with the way in which we treat them. And they will continue to do so over time well into adulthood and possibly throughout their lifetime.  This shows the how critical it is for us to take into account how we treat each other.

When we believe the worst about someone based on hearing things about them instead of getting to know them personally our actions will communicate this.  Similarly, when we view someone based on unconditional positive regard that person will live up to those attributions, which can correct for negative early life experiences.  We have the power to influence others in a way that instills either positive or negative beliefs that the person may come to adopt, acting in such a way that the prophecy is fulfilled.  It is our responsibility to act in such a way so as to affect others positively and avoid creating negative impressions that are communicated both to the individual as well as to others.  Each of us has the capacity to help or hurt.  Which one will you choose?


 Fischbach, A., Baudson, T. G., Preckel, F., Martin, R., & Brunner, M. (2013). Do teacher judgments of student intelligence predict life outcomes? Learning and Individual Differences, 27, 109-119.

Ohan, J. L., Visser, T. A., Strain, M. C., & Allen, L. (2011). Teachers' and education students' perceptions of and reactions to children with and without the diagnostic label “ADHD”. Journal of School Psychology, 49(1), 81-105.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

K is for Kibitzing – Remember to Put Some Social Interaction in Your Day

Almost everyone enjoys talking with others, sharing information, hardships and successes. It’s no wonder.  Humans are social beings. Sometimes though, with our increasingly busy schedules and day to day responsibilities we can get so caught up in what we have to do that days will go by without any social contact other than that involving basic necessities.  Yet social interaction and support are among the most important influences on our physical and emotional health and our ability to function adaptively in our day to day lives. This applies to those of all ages from childhood through older adults.   We are never too young or too old to benefit from social interaction.

Even if you have to schedule it in order to remember, make sure to take time for social conversation in your day.  A little kibitzing goes a long way.

Monday, April 10, 2017

J is for Journaling Jar – Make a Journaling Jar and Always Have Something to Write About

There are tons of benefits to journaling.  It can help you perceive and manage you emotions improve health through decreasing the effects of stress.  Creativity is often sparked through journaling and recording goals makes you more likely to achieve them. Journaling can even improve IQ through the exploration of language and building your vocabulary. Yet many people who consider journaling hesitate to take it up due to fear they won’t know what to write about. 

Creating a journaling jar and keeping it filled with ideas is a great way to ensure you will always have something to write about.  Find or make a beautiful jar.  You may have a canning jar, a mason jar, or another type of attractive jar around the house you can use.  If not, try craft shops, antique stores or online sites to find a jar you love.  You can also take an ordinary jar and decorate it with decopage, cover in sheet music or book pages, create a stain glass effect with clear paints, or try distressing it  Here are some ideas for decorating your jar 

I have included some prompts below to get you started as well as ideas for coming up with more.  
  • Print out the prompts then cut each into a separate slip of paper. Place the slips of paper in the jar. Add other objects, pictures, photos or things you find that make you think, lead to different emotions or remind you of something.
  • Reach into your jar each day as you prepare to write in your journal and take out one of the prompts.
  • Some people find the necessity of wring for a short period of time with no preparation freeing.  Try telling yourself it doesn’t matter what you write all that matters is to keep going. Don’t look at your prompt until you set the timer.
  • Some people have a hard time writing without any thought.  You can take five minutes (set the timer) to think about what you want to write about.  Then set it again for the amount of time you intend to write.
  • Set your timer for at least 10 minutes.  You can set it for longer depending on how much time you have and the ease with which you write. 
  • Write anything that comes to mind as you read the prompt and elaborate on each point as much as you can.  Some days you might have an idea for a piece of fiction, prose or a poem.  Don’t restrict yourself to the form in which you express yourself.  Journaling is about the freedom to voice your inner thoughts and feelings in whatever way you choose.
  • Do the best you can to continue writing until the timer goes off.
  • If you are in the “zone” and your writing is going well when the timer goes off, you don’t have to stop.  Continue writing until you come to a natural ending place

Starter Ideas for Your Jar


  • What scares you? Is there a reason? When have you been scared?
  • Do you have a plan? Do you need a plan? Have you had a plan fall spectacularly to pieces?
  • What is your take on soul mates?
  • Are you a worrier? Is there a particular worry that you can’t shake? How do you cope with worry?
  • Dear Past Me . . .
  • Dear Future Me . . .

Lists – Elaborate on Each Item Using Where, What, Why, When and How

  • Places you’ve enjoyed visiting.
  • Places you’ve always wanted to visit.
  • Things you’ve done that you previously thought you could never do.
  • The people you most admire.
  • Your favorite books.
  • Your favorite movies.
  • Your favorite songs.
  • Your top five short term goals.
  • Your top five long term goals.
  • People who have influenced you the most.
  • Your favorite holidays.
  • Your favorite foods
  • Your favorite hobbies or activities
  • Your favorite sports
  • Your favorite bands.
  • Your most treasured memories.


  • Nobody knows that I . . .
  • Dear ____, it weighs on me that I never told you . . .
  • The biggest lie I’ve ever told is . . .
  • I feel guilty about. . .
  • I want to be forgiven for . . .
  • The worst thing I’ve ever done is. . .
  • My most secret desire is . . .
  • The most outrageous thing I’ve ever done is . . .

Ideas for Creating Your Own Prompts

  • Favorite quotes or passages from your reading
  • Lyrics to songs
  • Images from magazines (Paste on index cards and cut to size)
  • Expressions – cut out pictures of people with different expressions
  • Colors – use art magazines to cut out colors.  You can also search pinterest by color for some intriguing options
  • Things you hear as you go about your day that sparked a thought or emotion
  • Personal photos or parts of letters
  • Found items around the house
  • Matchbook
  • Unusual website names
These are just ideas to get you started.  Anything can serve as a prompt.  Collect things that can serve as ideas from places you visit regularly or special places you go to once.  As you add more ideas and items, you jar will become a valuable wellspring for any kind of writing you choose to do in your journal.