First, thank you very much for following this blog and being a part of my life. You taught me that writing, in general creating, doesn’t have to be a lonely process. When we share, we grow. Thanks for growing with me!
I would like to share with you some exciting news! I have launched my new business “Ece Gurler Art” a few weeks ago and it is already growing. I would like to tell you more about it if you let me.
IF you are interested in art, AND want to improve your drawing or painting skills, check out my Youtube Channel for my art tutorials with tips and techniques! ALL these tips and tutorials are at no cost. Click here to view all my tutorial videos. Feel free to share if you like them.
IF you know SOMEONE who would be interested in improving their art skills, OR starting art from scratch, you could let them know about this wonderful FREE channel of art resources. Because I know that they will benefit from it greatly.
Finally, I have one more piece of wonderful news to share with you! My childhood dream has come true and I WROTE A BOOK!!! My 222-page-long middle grade sci-fi book “FRANK” is going to be published very soon! If you want to hear from me when it is published, OR If you want to download the FIRST TWO CHAPTERS of my book for FREE, youcan download them here:https://ecegurler.ck.page/frankfirst2chapters
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this! I really hope that you can support me during these early stages of my new career path. Creating is fun and it spreads as we share it! Of course, I will continue to post on my blog.
George Raymond Richard Martin is a New Jersey based author who wrote the famous series “A Song of Fire and Ice” (i.e. Game of Thrones) together with thirty-nine other novels and short stories. From teaching journalism and chess, to writing TV scripts, he took up many different roles in his career to financially support himself but according to him, nothing satisfied him as much as writing. Like many other authors, he suffered from writer’s block, as well. Although he admitted publicly many times that he is not a fast writer, there was an immense pressure from his readers and the TV audience of his book’s series. They were asking him to finish his last two books of the series “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring”. However, despite the fact that the TV series already ended, he is yet to finish the sixth book “The Winds of Winter” since 2011. This is the longest it took for him ever in his career. In this post, I would like to study Martin’s writer’s block that he encountered in his 6th book and investigate what may have caused it.
Background and Childhood Years
George R.R. Martin was born in New Jersey in 1948. Although he came from a wealthy family, his parents suffered from great depression terribly just like the rest of the country those days. As a result, when he was 4 years old, they moved into an apartment of their own in the brand-new low income housing projects with his parents and two younger sisters (1). In his own website he admits that walking to the school 5 blocks away everyday was as far as he could go. He found it boring as he always wanted to travel and see different worlds (1). Later he would admit that this is why he became an avid reader. He was reading a lot of fantasy books, comic books and he was selling the monster stories that he wrote to the neighborhood children. These stories were about mythical kingdom populated by his pet turtles. Once he realized his turtles kept dying in their toy castle, he thought they were killing each other off in “sinister plots.” Nobody knew he was actually giving hints about what his future plots were going to be like.Although he didn’t like the fact that his high school was all boys, he became the editor of the school newspaper there and he graduated as the class valedictorian. His reading habit improved in high school tremendously. The creator of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee, Shakespeare and J.R.R. Tolkien had become his biggest influences.
In order to see more of the world farther from five blocks from home, he applied to Northwestern University in Illinois located in just north of Chicago. After earning his BS and MA degrees in journalism there with summa cum laude (Highest honorary grade), he objected the draft that asked him to serve in Vietnam War. Instead, he did alternative service work for two years as a VISTA volunteer (2) in order to help people fight with poverty. Although he was writing short stories and novels, in mid 70s, Martin was barely making money. So he started teaching journalism and English at Clarke University (Now Clarke College). Also, he was working as a tournament director of Continental Chess Association.
But in 1977, with his close friend and author fellow Tom Reamy’s death, he reevaluated life and made a series of radical decisions. He quit his job at the university and went back to writing full-time. According to the resources, that is when his writing really took off. He also moved to a warmer climate, Santa Fe with his wife in 1979. The same year, the couple got divorced (1)(2). His books sold many copies and his novella was purchased for film adaptation. But after the failure of The Armageddon Rag in 1984, all editors rejected his upcoming novel, which might have paved the way for his writer’s block years later. He started working for television as a writer-producer. Another interesting point in his life happened in 1991. Although he was making good money from working in television, he felt as if his imagination was limited. TV channels were cutting his plot short due to budget and time restrictions. So, he went back to writing again, where he could be completely free. That is when, the epic “A Song of Ice and Fire” series was born.
In 2005, his 4th book in this series became a number one best seller. In 2011, when he published the 5th one, it became a best seller again. These commercial successes are followed by a deal signed with HBO to turn his novels into TV series. The 6th book, “The Winds of Winter” is still on the way. The producer of the TV series already did the series finale, airing their own plot since they couldn’t wait for him to finish.
I will delve deeper into his writing process and writer’s block in the next section but from this background information, we can definitely see that Martin fits Csikszentmihalyi’s (1996) description of a creative person (3). First of all, looking at all the stories and characters he created, one can easily say that he has great imagination. Second, his success in academic life shows his discipline and wisdom. His high grades show responsibility whereas his procrastination hints some irresponsibility. By refusing to join Vietnam War, he shows his rebellious side. Lastly, Csikszentmihalyi (1996) mentions the openness and sensitivity of creative people. I believe Martin’s life decisions right after losing his best friend such as changing the location, getting a divorce, quitting his job indicate his sensitivity in his personality. All this data I gathered about his personality confirms what we have learnt about creative people’s common behavior so far in the course.
The Problem with His Creative Process – Writer’s Block?
After he published the first book of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series in 1996, he kept publishing a book in the series every two years successfully. But once his 4th book became a best seller in 2005, his 5th book took 5 years to come. In 2011, that one became a best seller and he made the deal with HBO the same year. After that signature, despite the pressure from the readers and audience, the 6th book has never been finished. It has been 9 years. There might be three main reasons for this long wait which I will try to explain in detail.
From this chronologic evidence, what we understand is that as Martin’s books became more popular, the pressure he felt to do a better job had weighed on his shoulders more heavily. With all his “openness” in his interviews he confesses: “I know there are a lot of people out there who are very angry with me that Winds of Winter isn’t finished,” Martin tells Entertainment Weekly. “And I’m mad about that myself. I wished I finished it four years ago. I wished it was finished now. But it’s not. And I’ve had dark nights of the soul where I’ve pounded my head against the keyboard and said, ‘God, will I ever finish this? The show is going further and further forward and I’m falling further and further behind. What the hell is happening here? I’ve got to do this.’” (4) In his interviews, he also claims that he has never liked deadlines. In order to avoid them he chose to be a fiction writer, instead of becoming a journalist (5). Knowing his own pace and how he reacts to deadlines, for many of his books he made a deal with the publisher saying “no contract and no deadlines”. He says, “No contracts, no deadlines, no one waiting. Write at my own pace and deliver when I’m done. That’s really how I am most comfortable, even now.” (5) But it didn’t happen the same way this time with the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. As the novels gained fame, the expectations increased and so did the pressure about deadlines. Susan Kolodny (2000) claims that writers might build up resistance based on their transference to their readers or fans (6). She describes transference as the writer’s unconscious expectations and fantasies about the others who will read their work. For Martin, the thoughts about what the readers will expect from him after the success of the last two books and the TV series must have kept him up at night. Kolodny (2000) also adds that transference expectations might be based on real negative experiences the writer had or on how they interpret or revise these actual experiences. The fact that after the failure of his book “The Armageddon Rag,” he was rejected by publishers might have caused this transference issue for him.
In one of his interviews he describes the problem with his writing process as follows: “I never had the sort of writer’s block where I didn’t go near the type writer. But I had days I would sit there and I couldn’t write, spend all they answering emails, I’d re-write and couldn’t go forward.” In her research, Victoria Nelson (1993) describes this as “procrastination” instead of a writer’s block, but it can be as dangerous (7). Nelson’s (1993) stud also talks about how procrastinating comes from self-loathing. During a live talk that he did with Stephen King, Martin asked him this question: “How do you write so fast? You always get six pages a day? You never get constipated? You never get up and go get the mail and think ‘Maybe I don’t have any talent and should have been a plumber?” (5) Then he goes to explain that he hates what he writes sometimes so much that he feels not talented. This type of self-loathing, and his past failure with his book “The Armageddon Rag” probably caused his procrastinating behavior. Speaking of this bad experience, according to behaviorists (Flaherty, 2004) once they are negatively rewarded in their lives, authors find it hard to get themselves back on writing (8). She also discussed in the same research that tight deadlines help writers to keep themselves on track, however, the publishers are not as strict to the authors as the newspapers are to journalists. So, novelists can find themselves in this procrastinating stage. Nelson (1993), in “The Myth of Procrastination” chapter of her book discusses that procrastination is not laziness but it is a reaction to an inner state of imbalance. According to Nelson, the writer’s unconscious is doing this in an effort of protecting itself from further abuse (In Martin’s case, this abuse is from the audience and readers) by closing down all the channels of communication (7). Martin’s behavior might show a lack of self-love but not of self-discipline as his previous academic success in his past proves this point. She claims that self-distrust and compulsive control are common among so-called procrastinators. Martin’s interviews reveal that he doesn’t trust himself or the work he produced, either. From the information I have on Martin, I can see that he has the master slave relationship (7) since his series have become a best seller. He couldn’t find a middle ground between his ego, who is anxious due to deadlines, and his unconscious, who wants to create and imagine but whenever he wants to. Once on his blog he responded to his fan who asked why even though he met his wife in 1981, they got married in 2011, half-jokingly he responded: “What can I say? I’m slow. With writing and with … ah … other things.” (9)
Another reason of his block could be his perfectionism. He mentions many times how he re-writes a lot. He says sometimes it is grammar but sometimes it is big structural changes. Martin says the 5-year gap between the 3rd and the 4th book is the fact that he was originally going to jump forward 5 years in the story but then he realized it wasn’t working. So he re-wrote everything (10). Nelson (1993) points out two facts about perfectionism both of which fit Martin perfectly. One variation of the perfection phenomenon is “Fear of Perfection.” In this scenario, the author starts so well, writes so perfectly that in the middle he gets the fear of not being able to keep the quality the same for the rest of the book. In his own account, many times Martin mentions that he couldn’t finish many stories because of that. Not that he wasn’t skilled to do it, but he didn’t believe he could. The second effect Nelson mentions is called “Reverse Midas Effect.” With this one, the writer finishes the first draft but when he goes back to the beginning, once what was seen a perfect story suddenly has so many flaws or looks dull. In this case, the author either tosses the story away or makes unnecessary revisions or revisions that turn the work into an average one. This might have happened with his 4th book, which took him 5 years to publish. When the book was finally published, many fans were really upset main characters were missing in the book. Also, the perfect pacing of the first three books was missing and the book introduces so many secondary characters who didn’t advance very far into the overall story. Martin’s explanation was he divided the story into two and the main characters would be in the next book, which would eventually take him 6 years to write (10). Finally, his perfectionism might have caused obsessive rewriting. Nelson (1993) says many writers during their revision process start to have the feeling of ultimate closure. But the obsessive reviser never experiences closure. This is a way to avoid criticism in case his work doesn’t meet the expectations. “You can never be judged for what you have not finished,” Nelson says.
ConclusionNow that the TV series is over, the extra weight on Martin’s shoulders has been lifted. However, he knows that his fans are still waiting for the 6th book impatiently. Having analyzed all the interviews he gave to the press, and his published biographies, I couldn’t find any conditions from his childhood or early development stages that would affect his writing behavior. But it is obvious that he procrastinates and he loves to work on his own pace. He is a perfectionist with occasional self-loathing so it takes him much longer to finish than others. His bad luck – ironically best luck as well – was his series was turned into TV show and that created extra strain on him which impacted his writing even more. A lot of criticism caused so much stress, but he has never given up on the quality of his writing. On Martin’s defense, the famous author Neil Gaiman said on his webpage once: “It seems to me that the biggest problem with series books is that either readers complain that the books used to be good but that somewhere in the effort to get out a book every year the quality has fallen off, or they complain that the books, although maintaining quality, aren’t coming out on time.” This is a quite true statement as many series writers, including J.K. Rowling went through similar struggles. I would like to finish this post with another line from Gaiman: “People are not machines. Writers and artists aren’t machines.” PS. As a fan myself, I am patiently waiting for the Winds of Winter!
There are so many reasons to love Margaret Atwood. Besides her wonderful writing skills, for example, her wit shines through her every sentence. She is a feminist, nature and science lover. Born in 1939, she said there weren’t many opportunities available for women in terms of a career. In one of her interviews she says she was given a limited number of choices: stewardess, secretary, teacher, nurse or home economist (!). She said none of these interested her. Despite her parents’ wish for her to become a scientist, she decided to become a writer at the age of 16.
Becoming a writer was not an easy process for her. Well, I guess it is never easy for anybody. In her case, many doors were shut for her as those were not the best times for women to advance. Her first book never got published, as the only publisher who contacted her asked her to change the ending of her book in which a woman was pushing her husband off of the roof – the publisher found this very unrealistic. Atwood refused to change it. She wanted to go to school of journalism after high school but they told her as a woman she could only write obituaries or fashion pages, which she was not interested in, at all. After studying English at the University of Toronto, she started her graduate studies at Harvard University. There, her advisor told her “Forget about this writing business, find a good man and get married.” Of course, she didn’t listen to him either. All these challenges she faced molded her character development later: strong female characters who refuse to be a pawn of religious or political games in society were going to be the center of her books. I have gathered some invaluable writing tips from Margaret Atwood by watching various interviews with her and reading about her. I wanted to share all these wonderful words of wisdom with you here. Please share your comment and tell us what you think! Writing Tips from Margaret Atwood:
Identify your fear: If you have the writer’s block, that means you fear something. What is it? Identify it and fight with it. If it is the possibility of being laughed at, nobody will see it until you publish it or until you show it to them. It is not like a stage play, if you make a mistake, you go fix it without anyone noticing it.
Waste Basket is your best friend (Which is equivalent of Recycle Bin on your computer): If you are not satisfied with where you are going with your book, start again. Go back and make revisions.
Importance of the first 10 pages: You need to show the reader an action in the first ten pages to get them hooked. If there is no break in the pattern in the first 10 pages, you might lose the reader.
Decide your voice from the start: Who are you telling this story to? Whose voice do you have? What are you trying to say? Are you going to write from the 1st person point of view or “know it all” third person? Which way could you get your message across to your reader in the most beautiful way?
Know your characters: Not only names. What are their hobbies? What do they like to eat? What color is their favorite? What do they do first thing in the morning? How do they react to certain circumstances? Create your characters and be consistent with them throughout your book.
Don’t give up: Writing requires dedication, concentration and investment. But don’t give up. Writing is the best thing can happen to you. I wrote 200 pages once. It had 8 characters but the story was not going anywhere, I put it in the drawer. I had another book, 150 pages in I realized there were too many time levels. Back to the drawer. My first book never got published. J.K Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers. Do you see the point? Don’t give up.
Do Your Homework: If you are writing for a Western audience, know western culture. Your “Tool Kit” to write – that’s what she calls it – would be the Greek & Roman Myths, folk tales, indigenous stories, African stories and the Bible. Understanding these essentials will help your writing tremendously.
With 66 published work since 1961, and 56 Awards, Margaret Atwood has every right to be considered as a legend. I hope that you find her tips as helpful as I did. As we got our daily dose of motivation now, let’s get back to work, authors!
Language is powerful. So powerful that it can play tricks on the mind. For instance, “I don’t want to be anxious anymore” can create more focus on anxiety as the word will be highlighted each time this thought crosses the mind. Whereas when one thinks as “I want to be at peace from now on,” they are actually doing the right thing. Because the mind is now working towards the word “peace” instead of “anxious.” Think about this whole process like coding. Once the brain is coded in one way, it keeps running in automatic mode in the subconscious and it runs on loops.
If we want to live in a world where we can talk about equality between men and women, we need to pay attention to our daily language as they can create obstacles for women. Out of habit, we can use a sexist language without even noticing it. Although this doesn’t seem like a big deal at first for most men, and even for some women, it makes a significant impact on one’s perception and the way of thinking. This is the reason why we need to make an effort to stay alert in this kind of language. As society, we need to avoid these language mistakes and correct them whenever we can.
The first common mistake is about the choice of the pronouns, such as picking a certain gender pronoun for a specific role only. If you are using the pronoun “He” automatically for engineers, scientists, police officers or pilots, you might want to stop that as you are completely ignoring all the women in that profession with your language. Following the same logic, when one talks about nurses, caretakers, teachers, they shouldn’t be choosing the pronoun “she” on default, either. How about using the good old ‘they’ instead? That would solve all our problems.
Another example of sexist language is the use of certain negative adjectives that are associated specifically with women. It wouldn’t be unfair to claim that some negative definitive words such as “crazy,” “overreacting,” “emotional,” are mostly used for women or who identify themselves as women, instead of men. Let’s have an experiment with you right now, right here. Try to think men equivalent of these adjectives: whiny, bitchy, sassy, slutty, hysterical, intense, gossipy, drama queen, gold digger, man-eater, bride-zilla, blonde -you know what we mean here-, career woman, helicopter mom, soccer mom, easy, tease, cougar, chatty, modest, flaky, bossy. How did you make it? Except bossy and modest, it is difficult to find men equivalents, right? When you simply type in “negative adjectives used for men” in search engines, you will get a list of words like: angry, annoying, insecure, irrational, jealous, arrogant, lazy, mean, needy, selfish, etc. which are pretty neutral and not gender-specific in nature. As obvious as it is, although hidden in the language, the inequality is right there.
There is also the problem of generalized uses of the word “man” in our daily conversations which can create an invisible obstacle on women’s minds about what they can achieve in this life. When a little girl hears about NASA’s “Manned spacecraft launch”, is it abnormal for her to think that she won’t be able to grow up to be a space engineer or astronaut because she is not a “man”? It is possible, we don’t know how psychology plays out here.
How about we turn the table the other way around? How would these terminology sound to you?
“Womankind writes history one more time” (instead of mankind)
“Womanned spacecraft launched successfully.” (instead of manned)
“That requires a lot of womanpower” (manpower)
“Those flowers are not real, they are womanmade” (manmade)
If you are a man and you just read those sentences, probably you are wondering why you were left out. That’s exactly what women have been trying to figure out for centuries.
Besides the ugly words that you hear often in the street language like “D-bag” “P—y” “Bastard” or “Mother-loving-ones” or C-word, there are also female-related insults in our everyday language such as “He throws like a girl,” “He runs like a girl,” or “He cries like a woman”. Besides, let’s not forget, when someone says “She wears the pants” or “She has balls”, they are complimenting on women by making them more man-like. How messed up is that?
Finally, let’s talk about the sexist language we use with our children. As we all know, it is such a huge responsibility to raise a human being. The way we talk to them, the way we act next to them just adds to the pile of information that they collect. Eventually, this mountain of knowledge shapes who they are going to be, like an artist working on their sculpture. In his 2017 book, “Everybody Lies: Big Data, New data,” the ex-Google expert Set Stephens-Davidowitz talks about the interesting Google search results. He thinks that the search terms that we type in when we think nobody is watching us, holds a mirror up to actually who we are. According to the data received from Google, the most frequently searched question including the word “son” is “Is my son gifted?” whereas the most commonly searched question including the word “daughter” is “Is my daughter overweight?” This analysis shows the bias that society has towards how a perfect man and woman should be: women are expected to be physically appealing and men to be smart. In order to stop this biased way of thinking, we need to start early and start from our family. While showing affection to our daughters and sons, let’s try to be fair. If your choice of endearment for your daughter are the words “princess” “pretty” or “Little Lady”, whereas you call your sons “champ,” “buddy,” or “son,” you are giving the message that you are prioritizing looks and status over personality.
In a world where we shape each other’s thoughts and thinking process every day in every way, we need to be extra careful with our word choices. It is our responsibility to create a healthy society that brings out the best in each other by acknowledging and fighting the issues like sexism and by raising amazing children with the values of equality and integrity.
Being a proud member of generation Y, I loved what the three past decades had taught me. First and foremost, being a child during 80s was fantastic. Watching so many cool cartoons on TV, accidentally recording your voice on Michael Jackson tapes, getting scared with Gremlins, E.T., or A Nightmare on Elm Street highlight beauty of those times. Then came the colorful 90s! It was a perfect time to be a teenager: Walking around with your Walkman, watching The Fresh Prince of Bel Air every day, and thankfully the previous decade’s horrible fashion was gone. Yes, there was AIDS, Lady Diana’s death, the collapse of both USSR and the Berlin Wall. But growing up, we didn’t really go through a global trauma like Generation Z did, not even close.
How about I give you a chance to see the world from Generation Z perspective? Let’s say you were born in 1995. When you were six years old, you saw the biggest terrorist attack in the human history on TV, live. While you were playing with play doughs, you saw two planes hit World Trade Center. You couldn’t understand what was going on quite yet, as you were very little. But your parents seemed upset, like, all the time. Everyone was talking about this horrible event, scared. A few months later the words “bombing,” “war,” “Iraq,” echoed wherever you turned. At school, at home, the annoyingly sad tension was hanging in the air like a fog.
Then, the day you turned 13, your father apologized and said he couldn’t afford to buy you a birthday gift. That was your first time hearing the word “Bankruptcy.” Family trips that you were excited about were all canceled. You could hear your mom secretly crying at night in the bathroom. To make matters worse, your best friends’ family had to move since they couldn’t afford to live in that city anymore.
Just two years later, you saw Arab spring on the news. With the rebellious teenage blood running through your veins, you were supportive of this movement. Freedom and democracy for everyone! But you had no idea about ISIS until a few years later, when you were a freshman in college. Their brutal attacks were all over the news, causing the 9/11 trauma to resurface. You heard a night club shooting in Turkey, an airport shooting in Belgium, multiple attacks in France and more.
Year 2019. Congratulations! You got your master’s degree! You were so ready to go in the business life and kill it. Lucky you, you got a job offer quickly and with your first paycheck you bought a big screen TV. You entered the new year with high hopes and enthusiasm. 2020 was going to be your year!
Well, that did not happen. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, you were laid off. You had to move back in with your parents. Now, there are no new jobs out there and if there are, with record 40+ million people unemployed, job market is really competitive. You have rent to pay and your monthly loan payment is coming up. So, what now?
This COVID-19 pandemic might be the final blow for Generation Z. In workforce, this generation will be now even more extremely cautious and anxious than ever. Although their self-reliant and realistic nature help them do their best in survival mode, the constant ups and downs, turns and twists are blurring their vision for their future.
Being the most educated and one and only tech native generation so far, at work, they will have higher expectations than previous generations, such as additional perks, bonuses and development opportunities. Because of the unknown, and clearly visible competition out there, they feel the urge to constantly build skills for their resume. Knowing the fact that what they have today can be gone tomorrow, this generation will face commitment issues. They might be afraid to build rooted relationships with their companies or colleagues so as not to suffer a separation later.
Let’s look on the bright side now. Generation Z has a good tendency to save money, as well. With the infinite online resources out there, they constantly learn about so many different things which allows them to compare and contrast products, companies, communicate with people and do networking, and learn about strategies online. With the commitment problem, the eagerness to grow and earn more, Generation Z might create many great young entrepreneurs. However, starting a business means getting out of your comfort zone. In order to do that, they will have to learn how to tackle their fears about their future first.
Pandemic has been affecting all of us negatively. But if you are among 600 Million people who suffer from anxiety in general, these days must be extra difficult for you. I have always been interested in Psychology and finally, last fall semester, during my master class, I was able ti study Cognitive Psychology in depth. In my final literature review paper, I dig deep into what anxiety is, what are the causes for it, whether it is hereditary or not and what the best treatment method is. Turns out that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) seems like the most effective treatment method although it faces its own challenges as well. Maybe this time my blog post is in a different format, a little harder to read or follow, but please trust me. I wouldn’t have shared it if I didn’t believe that people would benefit from it. I certainly did!
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s Success in Treating Anxiety
University of Massachusetts Boston
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY’S SUCCESS IN TREATING ANXIETY
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 globally suffers from anxiety. The WHO reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide with specific phobia, major depressive disorder and social phobia being the most common anxiety disorders (Baxter et al., 2013). As far as the treatment methods are concerned, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven to be the most effective treatment method in treating anxiety disorders.
This literature review will discuss the methodology of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in treating anxiety disorders and its success. Moreover, herein it will be discussed what has been working and what needs improvement in practicing CBT. This study will conclude with suggestions for future research.
In the US alone, about 40 million adults are suffering from clinical levels of anxiety (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.2). The word ‘anxiety’ originates from the ancient Greek word ‘angh’ meaning ‘to press tight’, ‘to strangle’ or ‘to be weighed down with grief’. It also means ‘load’ ‘burden’ or ‘trouble’ (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.2). There have been many attempts to define ‘anxiety’ but none of them are truly complete yet. However, we have to be able to define the problem, as well as the causes to it, so that we can propose treatment methods.
The DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which is compiled by the American Psychiatric Association, gives below definition (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.11):
‘The apprehensive anticipation of future danger or misfortune accompanied by an unpleasant feeling or somatic feelings of tension. The focus of anticipated danger may be internal or external.’
As any other emotion, anxiety occurs normally and regularly. It can be observed in all human beings from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds as well as in many animal species (Wiedemann, 2015, p.560). According to DSM, there are 5 anxiety disorders: panic attacks and panic disorder, phobias, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder. PTSD and OCD, of which the anxiety remains as a relevant dimension, are no longer considered among the anxiety disorders (Wiedemann, 2015, p.560).
Many people with anxiety wonders why they are feeling the way they do. According to Wiedemann (2015, p.805), anxiety has complex roots including genetic, biological, social and psychological events and influences. The most significant factors affecting anxiety are listed as genetic and biological disposition, acute stressors and traumatic experiences that challenge the person to adapt to both new changes and the developmental and environmental impacts on the individual.
There have been 4 main perspectives proposed to explain the origins of anxiety since the end of the 19th century: psychoanalytic, behavioral, cognitive and neurobiological (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.14).
In Psychoanalytic approach, Freud claims ‘At the root of every neurotic anxiety is the fear of an external danger.’ He introduced the term “Anxiety Neurosis” (Angstneurose) which must be distinguished from other forms of nervous illnesses (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.15).
In Behavioral Approach, anxiety is a learned response. John Broadus Watson and his followers explain our behavior in one simple sentence: We learn it. Watson and Rosalie Rayner introduced the term ‘conditioning’ which is a process of learning to fear an innocuous random object or situation after associating it with another event which is frightening. Watson and Rayner suggest that all fears are learned in our childhood as a result of conditioning nature (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.19). CBT has its insight from this approach unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are learned. Therefore, they can be unlearned with a help of a therapist (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.22).
In Cognitive Approach, appraisal or interpretation of a situation creates anxiety and this doesn’t always take place as a conscious process, it usually shows itself as an ‘intuition’. According to this approach, if the thinking process can be changed, so can emotions. Ingrained preconceptions, ideas or habitual thought processes, or as Aaron T. Beck defines as ‘schematic beliefs’, affect our lives negatively by causing us to adapt ‘safety behaviors’ which aims to avoid the occurrence of whatever we fear of (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, pp.22-26).
In Neurobiological Approach, It has been claimed that the two components of the amygdala in our brain, central nucleus of the amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis indicate a high degree of connectivity and they play a key role in producing negative emotions such as fear or anxiety once stimulated by an environmental or conditioned stimuli (Johansen et al., 2011). Thus, amygdala is involved in appraisal of emotional meaning. However, it is more complex than that since there is an interplay of multiple regions of brain such as frontal lobes, the hippocampus and insula which creates awareness for internal feelings and the neurochemicals such as Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH releases stress hormones when amygdala detects danger) and Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA calms us down when we are anxious) (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.32). Besides all, the monoamine transmitters, serotonin and noradrenalin and neuropeptides such as CRF play a significant role in regulating anxiety and fear (Kent et al., 1998 & Sullivan et al., 1999). Therefore, this approach suggests that people with anxiety disorder might have: an overactive amygdala and/or insufficiently active frontal lobes and/or a hippocampus which cannot locate exactly what factors in an incident on the basis of past experience signal danger, causing an unnecessary anxious reaction.
Nature or Nurture?
Heritability of anxiety has been studied extensively and yet there are so many questions remained unanswered. Researchers indicate that, with a 20%-40% probability, anxiety disorders are moderately heritable. This affirms that 40% of the differences in levels or neuroticism across the population are likely to have genetic roots although we don’t know which genes are responsible for it. The most prominent theory is the ‘polygenic theory’ in which many different genes are in play in generation and maintenance of anxiety (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.37). In addition, neurogenesis, genetic and epigenetic factors may have the power to regulate proliferation, survival and integration of cells into the hippocampus. This is particularly important since hippocampus is in charge of information processing of fearful events (Kheirbek et al., 2012).
If we consider the fact that genetics’ contribution to anxiety is 40%, then it leaves 60% to the environmental factors. The main environmental factors that researchers thought of were: 1, Traumatic or other upsetting events; 2. Parenting and attachment styles during childhood and adolescence years (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, pp.38-44). Under acute and chronic stress, an imbalance of neural circuitries creates changes in the amygdala and prefrontal cortex due to their structural plasticity. In short term, the effects maybe adaptive. However, despite the fact that dangerous situation no longer exists if the changes in neural circuitries persist, anxiety disorder may form (McEwen et al., 2012). Besides abusive and neglecting parents, the overprotective and controlling ones also might contribute to their children’s future anxiety problems. As far as the attachment styles are concerned, psychologists discovered that babies who displayed anxious/resistant attachment with separation anxiety and stranger anxiety combined, are more likely to develop anxiety problems (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, pp.41-43).
In treating the anxiety disorders, the best results have been received with the application of CBT. Researchers believe the reason why it works as the best solution is that CBT aims to question the accuracy of beliefs and anxiety occurs when a person ‘believes’ a situation or object is threatening. In this paper, CBT process and benefits in treating anxiety will be discussed in great detail.
Although with CBT, the gains are much greater and they last longer and CBT has no side effects, medication is still considered as another form of treatment. SSRIs, which increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, Benzodiazepines, which produce a sense of relaxation, and Beta-blockers which quickly prevent many of the anxiety symptoms are among the most commonly prescribed ones to treat anxiety symptoms. Although they are helpful in short term, without therapy they don’t provide a long-lasting solution (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, pp.111-117).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Originally developed by Aaron Beck to treat depression, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a complex and rich treatment model that aims to identify and assess negative thoughts, feelings and resulting unhelpful behaviors (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.117). CBT not only does work in a wide range of psychological disorders, especially in treating anxiety, but also is considered as an evidence-based approach to psychotherapy (Wenzel et al., 2016, p.6). The main idea of CBT is that fear is a result of an interpretation process. People are in fear not because there is a threatening situation right now, because they believe it will happen in the future. CBT includes testing this interpretation by exposing oneself to the situations that they fear, without using any safety behaviors that the person adopted. This way, CBT proves that the beliefs are misplaced (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.118).
A standard CBT session structure is described as follows, by Wenzel et al. (2016, p.44): “1. A brief mood check; 2. Bridge from the previous session; 3. Agenda setting; 4. Discussion of the agenda items including the review of previous homework; 5. Development of new homework; 6. Final summary and feedback.” Although this is a typical structure, depending on the client needs, the order can be changed by the therapist. All these steps play a crucial role, however, there is a great importance of homework in CBT. The ‘Homework’ term refers to the work the clients do in between sessions to practice what they already discussed in session in a real-life experience (Wenzel et. al, 2016, p.51). As in education, the more attentive and complete assignment one submits, the more benefit they gain in CBT. Most clients consider homework as the key to their treatment and they openly express its necessity in their healing process (Wenzel et. al, 2016, p.51). Kazantzis et. al (2010) claims in their meta-analysis of 46 studies that 62% of clients show improvement when their therapy included homework whereas the success rate went down to 38% in clients who chose therapy without homework. The client’s failure to do the homework also plays a critically important role as this way the therapists can analyze what caused them to fail in terms of their environmental and interpersonal variables.
Therapists follow behavioral strategies during CBT in order to help their clients to change their ways in their daily lives. These behaviors might include but not limited to increasing their engagement with rewarding activities, overcoming their avoidance behavior for the activities that feel overwhelming for them, or helping them adopt healthy behaviors so that they can focus on their self-care better (Wenzel et. al, 2016, p.54). There are two main strategies that CBT therapists use: Behavioral Activation includes the most effective set of methodologies to treat depression. It aims to help clients reengage in activities which will rebuild their confidence and sense of accomplishment. This will also give them the feeling of satisfaction and pleasure (Wenzel et. al, 2016, p.55). The second strategy, Exposure is the main component in CBT while treating anxiety, Obsessive-compulsive-related, and trauma- and stressor- related disorders (Olatunji, Cisler, & Deacon, 2010). Basically, Exposure is a well-structured, well-ordered, prolonged contact with the stimuli or the situations that the client fears (Wenzel et. al, 2016, p.62). One important recent advancement in exposure strategy is that the effectiveness of it is maximized when the therapists make the ‘fear tolerance’ their focus, instead of ‘fear reduction’ (Craske et al., 2014). Learning the coping skills for uncertainty and risk is necessary not only for clients who have anxiety problems but also for all human beings.
Difficulties in CBT
Despite the fact that CBT works wonders for many psychological disorders, there is comparatively only a tiny fraction of clients who suffer from anxiety receive the treatment. For example, in comparison to 34% of clients who receive some sort of therapy and medication for their phobias, there is only 11% who receives CBT. Another example is while 15% people with generalized anxiety disorder take some kind of medication and therapy, only 3% is treated with CBT (66% doesn’t even seek treatment) (Freeman & Freeman, 2012, p.114). The reason has been explained as there are not being enough well-trained CBT practitioners yet.
Another problem CBT is facing is that there is still a considerably high number of clients who fail to complete the treatment. Therapists face problems such as resistance, poor or non-existent homework performance and dropouts. There are also issues such as clients who rejects the therapy all together or those who suffer from relapses or residual symptoms (Federici et al., 2010, p.11).
There are many factors which can lead to negative treatment outcome. One of them is Client-Related Factors; If the client holds positive opinions about their symptoms, they will tend to resist treatment more. Also, clients who don’t have high hopes about getting better, who disagree with the treatment structure won’t go very far in healing process. Therapist Related Factors include poor alliance which is associated with no or little warmth towards the clients (Foa, Steketee, Grayson & Doppelt, 1983), lack of confidence (Hedley, Thornes, Larsen & Friis, 2006), lack of therapist skill, poorly timed interventions, not setting therapeutic goals, setting unrealistic expectations, etc. (Federici et al., 2010, p.13). According to Hadley & Strupp (1976), the negative results received in treatments often are because of therapist related factors. Among the Diagnosis Related Factors, there are the situations when the severity of the disorder is really high and the comorbid situations such as comorbid mood disorders, substance use, autism, and intellectual limitations affect the treatment outcome negatively (Anderson & Morris, 2006; Chambless, Tran, & Glass, 1997). About the intelligence level, it has been proven that the higher the fluid intelligence, the greater improvement the clients will show for depression and anxiety (Double day, King & Papageorgiou, 2002).
There have been many studies suggesting different approaches to solve the problems CBT is currently facing. In this paper, in order not to lose focus, only few of them will be mentioned.
Integrating SMAD (Self-wound Model for Anxiety Disorders) with CBT: Wolfe (2005, 2006) suggests that self-wounds are products of the interplay between traumatic life experiences and both cognitive and emotional coping strategies that the patient created for themselves. In other words, the clients’ anxious symptoms are due to the unconscious fear they feel towards the exposure of painful, intolerable views of themselves. The latter one manifests itself as the fear of a disaster about to happen to them physically and/or psychologically (Alladin, 2015, p.2). Alladin (2013b, 2014b) has integrated hypnotherapy into Wolfe’s integrative psychotherapy for anxiety disorders and that created Cognitive Hypnotherapy (CH), which is essentially the combination of CBT with hypnotherapy. In this approach, what is different from mainstream CBT methodology is: First, hypnotherapy that is used to uncover and heal self-wounds. Second is a third-wave addition to the therapy: the promotion of mindfulness, gratitude and acceptance (Alladin, 2014a; Wolde & Sigl, 1998).
Promotion of Positive Emotions Approach: Taylor et al. (2017) proves that during CBT therapy, by focusing on positive traits instead of negative emotions, the anxiety symptoms during and after treatment can be reduced significantly. Mention of positive traits had regulatory and calming physiological effects on patients during stressful thought-challenging exercises. Additionally, distress tolerance is proven to allow clients to engage in treatment fully and a previous study has already shown the positive correlation between people’s emotional and physical distress, and positive emotions (Simons & Gaher, 2005). The neuroscientific study by Yoshimura et al. (2017) demonstrated that MPFC-ACC had increased connectivity causing depression during self-referential judgment of negative words of emotions and increased connectivity after CBT. They proposed that CBT might be suppressing this MPFC-ACC coupling, diminishing depression. If we make the connection with Simons & Gaher’s (2005) study, we can claim that there might be an interaction between positive emotional words and the MPFC-ACC connectivity decreasing, which needs to be studied further.
Although CBT is still considered as the most successful therapy for anxiety disorders, there needs to be more work done in terms of future research to make CBT more efficient. The effects of Motivational Interviewing (MI), which helps with treatment resistance (Miller & Rollnik, 2002), the positive influence of ‘Acceptance and mindfulness-based interventions’ in CBT practice (Federici et al., 2010, p.21), the ways in which the positive emotions affect the distress tolerance, the answer to the question: ‘Is fear tolerance or dear reduction better?’, the limitations of SMAD or CH and the functional connectivity in brain from pretreatment to post treatment need to be studied further.
Treating anxiety can be challenging as there are many variations of this disorder, each of which might require different treatment strategies. Until this day, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has kept its fame as being the most fruitful treatment method in treating anxiety. However, the research indicated that despite the high demand for CBT trained therapists, there aren’t enough of them in the field. In addition, new approaches that are mentioned in this paper need to be considered, further studied and implemented in order to prevent the failure of the treatment due to incidents such as ambivalence, drop outs, re-lapses and residual symptoms. Once these factors are carefully considered and necessary steps are taken, the future of CBT in treating anxiety will definitely be brighter.
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We have been living in strange times. Most of us have never experienced a pandemic like this before. So, for us, this feels like a horror movie became a reality. Not knowing when this is all going to end, how far it will go, and how this is going to affect our business, our family, and our health is a huge psychological strain on all of us. For the past 16 days my boyfriend and I have been self-quarantining ourselves. We are one of the lucky ones that has the opportunity to work from home. At least for now… We are also facing the chance of losing our jobs if this affects our customer numbers terribly which is not unlikely at this point. Yet, we still keep our heads high up and try to stay positive! I wanted to share with you the lessons I have learned during this pandemic mania. Of course, we are still all learning. This, for sure, has been one hell of an experience for all of us.
Nature revives as humans retreat. In addition to decrease in air pollution and having clearer skies now, there is also another thing took affect: Our office space in our apartment has two wide windows. I sit just next to one of them and I hear all the time the neighborhood kids playing, the rain falling, UPS car driving by with loud music, etc. After a week or so of the quarantine in Massachusetts, I started to hear something else by my window: the nature. The birds and the bugs that I have never heard before were all over the place like an orchestra! They were all singing as if they were celebrating the absence of humans, saying, “Finally! we can share this space too.” The photos of monkeys invading the streets in Thailand, deer walking around in Japan, peacocks exploring streets of Madrid show what life would look like in human deprived cities.
2. The times of crisis are the most important times that we need leadership. Yes, we have control over our lives, and our daily actions. But we don’t have control over others’. In cases like this, when others’ actions also affect us and our loved ones’ health, we can’t help but feel helpless. That’s why we desperately want someone to take an authoritarian action. This has worked well in China and Germany. But has failed miserably in the USA and Italy. President Trump ignored all the news coming from China and all the advice he got from the healthcare providers in the US before the hell broke loose. This was March 9th:
And the tweet below was from yesterday, after 135,328 confirmed cases and 2,381 deaths in just 2 weeks:
Even now, people are still outside, partying, going to restaurants or organizing house parties, flights are still happening, people are still gathering at churches, and all of this is because there is no unified authority to shut them down.
3. People are weird. No additional comments needed.
4. Culture speaks for itself. The fact that China, Japan and Korea have done a much better job at containing the virus than the US, Italy and Spain, was because of their long-term thinking and planning cultural trait. Also, the western countries’ individualism showed itself when all the white and blue collar emptied the shelves in the markets, leaving nothing to old and poor who barely live on a daily income. Many homeless shelters closed down, leaving the most vulnerable even more vulnerable.
5. Apparently, toilet paper is important in our lives. Who would have thought? Together with bread, pasta, rice and flour, toilet paper was the first one to disappear from the shelves. People were fighting over it (see below) and also over-buying it, again not thinking someone else might need it too. Some even have the decency to make a throne and declare themselves as toilet paper queen.
Click here to see the fight between the supermarket customers over toilet paper.
I want to add an interesting note here as well. When I went to grocery store a few weeks ago, the aisle for the toilet paper was empty – which is not shocking, I know – But also I saw people riding their carts by the aisle and looking frustrated about this and leave. However, right across the toilet paper shelves, there were paper towels and the shelves were full… So, why not become resourceful and use them as toilet papers, people? Like below??
6. People deal with stress in different ways. Some of us sleep less, some of us sleep more. Some of us lost appetite, and some of us eat way more than normally what we would eat. We get agitated more easily, especially in traffic or to customer service people. We are more suspicious of each other, so not being able to trust one another creates this weird angry feeling. Some of us keep checking the news, refreshing the pages to see the latest updates, some refuse to check the news for their own sanity. Even the grocery shopping has become such a hassle as we wipe everything down, wash ourselves before we place them in our homes. We miss seeing our family, having happy hour with friends, grabbing a Pike Place roast from Starbucks, going to a pub to enjoy a beer, eating our favorite dish at a restaurant. But we all carry the responsibility for one another, and this has a strain on our body, too, as it does on our minds. It is normal to feel neck, shoulder and back pain due to stress. Also, I have lost so much hair… Even some of us show flu like symptoms although we are not sick. All these psychological effects are normal but in order to minimize them, we need to meditate, exercise, focus on our hobbies and work, spend time with our loved ones on the phone and try to stay positive.
7. We are not as powerful as we think. We are not Gods. We need to stop acting like one. Nature rules.
We cut trees, we burn forests to build cities, we feel powerful.
We raise animals, then cut open and eat them, we feel powerful.
We feed pets, take care of them like our babies, we feel powerful.
We swim in the ocean, spill our oil in it, leave garbage on the beaches as we please, we feel powerful.
But then… An earthquake shakes, we die, thousands of us. Storms and floods sweep streets together with their economies, we cry, thousands of us. A virus spreads so fast and so fatally, we die again, millions of us. Each and every time nature reminds us who we are. We are not the ultimate power. We are not actually in control. Frankly, we are just one meteorite away from eternity.
This is why we need to keep in mind how powerless we are and stop acting like we are the kings and queens of the universe. This is the only way we can get our acts together.
‘Born a Crime’ has been my commute companion for the past month. I can explain you like this: I liked this book so much that I was looking forward to my 35 min train ride to work, every day. One time I forgot it at home and when I realized that, I wanted to cry.
This 285 pages long adventure takes you to the streets of South Africa in the 80s, where blacks and whites had completely separate lives under the Apertheid. Having a white, Swiss father and Black South African mother, Noah’s job was extra difficult since he was perceived ‘too white’ for blacks and ‘too black’ for whites to be accepted in their circles. Although he identifies himself with black community the most, he said he would still draw too much attention sometimes among them. This is why his grandmother would never let him play outside for years.
Noah starts the book by creating the scene of 80s South Africa and explains what Apertheid is, which is actually pretty difficult to understand if you never grew up in it, but he is successful at explaining in his pre-chapter sections. Which I call ‘Apertheid for Dummies.’ He talks about his childhood, how he learned 6 languages by himself, his love for his puppies, and how naughty he was the whole time. His childhood memories will make you giggle, even laugh loud sometimes, I can gurantee that. But then in the middle of that laugh, he says something like ‘And that’s when my mom and I jumped off of a moving minibus to save our lives…’ Then you freeze, feeling completely perplexed. “Wait… What???”
One of his funniest memories that I remember and found interesting was about him an his grandmother. One day while he is playing doctor at home with his cousins, Noah sticks a cotton ear swab into her cousin’s ear and punctures her ear drum. Blood starts to come out and everyone freaks out. She starts crying like crazy, holding her ear. Trevor thinks he is so much in trouble. His grandma rushes into the room and after seeing what happened, she spanks his cousins, but she doesn’t even touch him! Trevor feels invisible and enjoys this privilege although he doesn’t have a clue why. The very same day, when Trevor’s mom comes from work, she finds her mother crying in the kitchen. She asks what happened. Her mom says,” This boy of yours, is so so naughty. I haven’t seen anything like it. He is killing me!” Then Trevor’s mom answers, “Well, hit him, if that’s how he is going to learn!” His grandmother’s answer is mindblowing:
“I can’t beat a white child. When you hit a black kid, they stay black. I’m used to it. When you hit a white child, they turn red, pink, purple, green, yellow, I don’t know anything about that, what if I kill him? No, I won’t hit him.”
Below, from left to right, you can see Noah with his father, his grandmother and mother.
Towards the middle of the book, Noah shares more about his teen years. His struggles with his identity, his prom date and such. Then we learn how in a poor upbringing, he found so many clever ways to make money. He mentions a few of his friends a lot throughout the book and Bongani who-knows-it-all is one of them. Then you will meet a showman named, actually named, Hitler. The stories including Hitler in this book will make you laugh – and yes, Trevor Noah will explain why the hell this guy was named after Hitler.
Trevor Noah describes this book as a ‘Love Letter to his mom’, Patricia Noah, who grew up in Soweto, South Africa. His love and admiration to her is clearly there in every chapter. Even in the moments that he doesn’t understand her, he still respects her. For instance, as a true believer, explains Noah, his mom used to take him to three different churches every Sunday: to the black church, to the white church and to the mixed church. They would come home late at night, exhausted. Whenever Trevor tried to explain that probably Jesus would be still happy if we pray from home, that was a no-no for his mom: Even if their car breaks down, even if they get kidnapped, they will still go to church. So, this “She does whatever she sets her mind to” personality of her and her perseverance were what Noah found most admirable in her. “We were a team, my mom and I” he says. How sweet is that? 🙂 You can see his mother’s and his childhood photos below.
Well….The final chapters are where it gets dark. Once again, you face the ugliness of domestic violence and what it can do to families. Patricia’s husband (She was never married to Trevor’s dad), Abel, is a typical abuser: Seems very nice, funny, smart and kind from outside but very controlling in the house, violent and alcoholic towards his wife and children. Yes, I said children! Trevor has two younger half brothers, sharing the same mother: Isaac and Andrew. How can I explain?… Hmm… I don’t want to give you the details but when you first learn about the abuse, a knife slowly pokes through your heart. As you move along the pages, it penetrates deeper and deeper . In the final chapter, the knife turns, making tears build up in your eyes. I think hearing about these abusive childhood from a child’s point of view was eye opening for me. I related to that myself a lot. Something he said struck me because it shows how confusing it must be for a child to live in a house like that: Trevor says Abel used to drink so much that he would forget where the bathroom is and he would come and pee in Trevor’s room. He would be so drunk that Trevor’s screams wouldn’t make much difference in the outcome.
As you can see in some of the photos below, Apertheid was really bad and it needed to go away. But in his book, Noah also mentions about the struggles of post Apertheid era after Nelson Mandela brought an end to it. Things were complicated. Especially for the mixed ones: where would they stand now? Where would they live? Was the inequilaty really gone? Or was it only on the surface?
One thing I found interesting was that he didn’t talk about how he got successful or famous in the book, AT ALL. I believe he purposefully avoided that as he wanted to keep his mother and the Apertheid in the center of his story, rather than making it all about himself. Honestly, I really respected him for that.
Books like this makes a difference in my world, because I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see South Africa and the Apertheid era in the 80s through a smart, creative and ambitious child’s eyes. Like what Mason Cooley says:
“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are…”
Jurassic Park was attracting millions of kids to the theaters like crazy. The US had just elected their new president, Bill Clinton. The World Wide Web (www. as you know it) was finally born at CERN. Whitney Houston had just rolled out her new single ‘I Will Always Love You’ which made her fans cry like lunatics! Michael Jackson had found himself in the middle of child abuse allegations for the first time. AIDS was spreading fast and creating even a bigger scare. Czechoslovakia was divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. European Union had finally been formed into its final shape upon the signing of Maastricht Treaty. Earthquakes had killed thousands in Japan, India and Indonesia. Canada had chosen their first female Prime Minister, Kim Campbell.
In the USA, the average Cost of new house was $113,200.00, average Income per year was $31,230.00, average monthly rent was $532.00, cost of a gallon of Gas was $1.16, movie ticket was $4.14 (No IMAX then) and average cost of new car was $12,750.00 whereas a loaf of bread cost $1.57. (www.thepeoplehistory.com)
In Turkey though, things were certainly dark and complicated that year. From the very beginning of the year, scary dark clouds had started to gather above the nation’s heads ready to pour and rain.
Before I start, I want to explain two important terms to you since they will be mentioned in the post for a few times:
PKK: Kurdistan Workers’ Party is a militant Kurdish nationalist/terrorist organization, founded by in the late 1970s. They have killed more than 40,000 people in Turkey. Although the group initially espoused demands for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state, its stated aims were later tempered to calls for greater Kurdish autonomy.
Ergenekon Trials: A network of was said to have been linked to the “deep state“, hardliner, neonationalist secularists in key areas of the Turkish establishment who are believed to have wielded considerable influence in political life in recent decades. Starting from 2007, 275 people were arrested with the charges of planning a military coup against current Turkish government. For a full report, please read here.
United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Informed Turkish Intelligence Agency that there is a Turkish ship called Lucky-S in the Suez Canal which was carrying tons of drugs and it needed to be stopped immediately. A Navy Forces Team of 7 were called to duty with their commander Ali Turksen. Although the captain and his son tried to sink the ship, when Commander Turksen cuffed both in the engine room and said ‘This ship sinks, you sink along’, they cooperated and saved the ship from sinking. 11 tons of drugs were seized by the police. This revealed that Turkey was involved in a serious drug-trade that had never been exposed before.
On this day, people woke up to horrific news. Well-known, awarded author and investigative reporter Ugur Mumcu was assasinated by a bomb placed in his car outside his home leaving two kids, a wife and a sad nation behind. He was smart and his pen was brave. Maybe too brave for this world. He had written a book about the relationship between the ultranationalist organization called ‘Grey Wolves’, the mafia and Mehmet Ali Agca, an assassin who tried to kill Pope John Paul II on 13 May 1981, after ‘magically(!)’ escaping from the prison. Right before Mumcu was killed, he had been working on his book about the Kurdish relations and the Deep State. Also he was investigating the relations of drugs and arms smuggling with the Kurdish issue, from the rise of the PKK to the rumored Iranian-Saudi links in political killings of the time. His assassins were never found. His book, which scared many important people in the system, was never finished. His colleague tried to finish it and published it under the name ‘Kurt Dosyasi (The File of Kurds)’ it was missing a lot of important information which Mumcu took together with him to heaven.
What is interesting is, according to Wikipedia, in an earlier investigation, Mumcu had been on the CIA‘s trail. Working on the Mehmet Ali Ağca case, he was the first to discover the connection between the Turkish mafia and the Turkish extreme right. In his Cumhuriyet (A famous newspaper in Turkey) column, Mumcu named Ruzi Nazar as the CIA’s liaison with the far-right Grey Wolves. The CIA’s Turkey station chief, Paul Henze, and an American reporter accosted Mumcu to convince him to write that the Pope’s assassin worked for Soviets or the Bulgarians, but Mumcu said he would simply follow the information trail. Henze left with an ominous “If you do that, you might find a nice surprise in store”, according to his wife, Güldal.
The Turkish Jewish businessman Jak Kamhi has been a successful businessman and ambassador for Turkey in international relations. He specifically worked on promoting tolerance between muslims and jews. In the morning of January 28th, five heavily armed gunmen opened fire on the armored car of Kamhi, whose guards returned fire. No one was hurt. The gunmen escaped and very oddly, they left behind all the weapons they had: an anti-tank rocket, assault rifles, pistols and hand grenades. They all had ‘Bismillahirahmanirahim’ written on them, which created the rumors of relationship to militan islamic forces in Iran. Also, the fact that they hadn’t fired the strongest weapon in their possession but chose the least damaging one raised suspicions. So, this unsuccessful (thankfully) assasination attempt has left many question marks in many people’s minds.
Adnan Kahveci was Minister of Finance and the chief advisor to then Turkish President, Turgut Ozal when he was killed in a suspicious car accident together with his wife and daughter. His son was the only one who survived the accident. Prior to his death, Kahveci was working with Özal on the Kurdish question, and wrote a report urging a peaceful solution, including recognition of the Kurdish language. According to the autobiography of Sakıp Sabancı (One of the biggest business people in Turkish history), President Özal had also entrusted Kahveci with the issue of potentially reserving seats in Parliament for minorities (an idea Sabancı had urged Özal to take up). It was reported that when Kahveci had the accident, he was driving in the opposite direction, on a highway (!).
His son was later going to go on television and blameMOSSAD, the Intelligence Agency of Israel, for the alleged murder of his father and mother. He claimed that ‘Erhan Göksel’ was the key man who staged the alleged murder and executed it. He was allegedly given $10M for his service. Erhan Goksel was one of the consultants of Kahveci and Ozal (both of whom died suspiciously in 1993) who opened his political consultancy company in New Jersey in 1998 and in China in 2005. After the investigations and 4 days of jail time in 2009 under the Ergenekon Trials all his assets were frozen which led him to bankruptcy. He got a job offer from a bank in the US and he lived and worked there until 2010. He was found dead in a hotel room in NJ and the second autopsy report ruled ‘heart attack’ as the cause of death.
As General Commander of the Turkish Gendarmerie, Esref Bitlis supported the plans of President Turgut Özal to resolve the Kurdish–Turkish conflict by peaceful means. But when he started to feel like there were some games in play, he was not quiet about it. Here, I will mostly summarize it from Wikipedia: “A week before he died, Bitlis met the foreign ministers of Syria, Iran and Iraq to discuss Özal’s peace plans. He was also investigating an issue which journalist Uğur Mumcu, assassinated in January 1993, had been working on, namely the funnelling of 100,000 rifles from Turkey to Kurdish armed forces in Iraq. The Turkish Daily News later interviewed an army general who said that the commander of the Joint United States Military Mission for Aid to Turkey (JUSMMAT) had complained about Bitlis to the chief of staff for collecting information about illegal activities pertaining to Operation Provide Comfort (OPC). Other OPC officers also complained to Washington. Bitlis aggressively opposed American designs; he had allegedly dismissed Americans supporting the Turkish Gendarmerie as well as CIA agents operating from humanitarian organizations active in the region. The interviewed general said that Bitlis had discovered arms intended for Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani concealed in crates purportedly containing food. According to another source, Bitlis was given photographs taken by JITEM operatives depicting three OPC helicopters distributing materiel to the PKK on 10 December 1992. Such acts led Bitlis to conclude that America was intent on establishing a Kurdish state encompassing Turkey. Bitlis proposed to solve the PKK conflict by severing its logistical support. To this end, he suggested establishing relations with neighboring countries.”
On February 17, 1993, a snowy day, Bitlis was on an official trip by plane from the Güvercinlik Army Air Base in Ankara. He switched airplanes when the pilot realized the cockpit was out of order. His Beechcraft Super King Air B-200 crashed minutes after taking off from the air base. Bitlis, his aide-de-camp Fahir Işık, technician Emir Öner and the pilots, who had VIP green card certification for excellence in flying, died in the crash. The chief of staff, Gen. Doğan Güreş, said the accident was due to atmospheric icing. But this was denied by the weather experts (Wikipedia).
On the 16th of April, the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan made a peace agreement and he was going to announce it on the 17th of April so the violence would have stopped. The President of Turkish Republic, Turgut Ozal, who was trying to bring peace between kurds and white Turks, died on the night of the 16th in his bedroom in his wife’s presence. Doctors announced the cause of death as heart attack. After his death, the peace deal was no longer on the table. PKK continued to massacre messes.
His wife Semra Özal claimed he had been poisoned by lemonade and she questioned the lack of an autopsy. The blood samples taken to determine cause of death were lost or disposed of. 19 years after his death, after his son and wife’s tireless, years-long fights, his grave was re-opened.
In her 2013 book, an internationally distinguished leader in the field of Forensic Sciences, Sevil Atasoy says that she was there when the grave was opened (Atasoy, 2013 pp.215-259). Surprisingly, even after 19 years, Ozal’s cadaver was very well preserved due to a chemical called adipocere. Luckily, they were able to get a good toxicology sample. What they found odd was large amounts of atropine and atenonol. Especially atenonol, which is a chemical that is used in treating hypertension, was present in almost all the remaining organs indicating a possible overdose.
Every nation has many things, at least something, to be ashamed of in their history. This was one of the most shameful, horrifying day in Turkish History showing how a crowd of uneducated people can be tricked into hatred so quickly by using the religion as a tool.
If you don’t know already I would like to tell you about what ‘Alevi’ means and what ‘Sunni’ means. Because in this mob, sunnis burned 33 Alevis alive.
Alevi is the term used for a large number of heterodox Muslim Shi’a communities with different characteristics. Thus, Alevis constitute the largest religious minority in Turkey. Technically they fall under the Shi’a denomination of Islam, yet they follow a fundamentally different interpretation than the Shi’a communities in other countries (minorityrights.org) And Sunni is the largest denomination of Islam, followed by 87–90% of the world’s Muslims. Its name comes from the word sunnah, referring to the behaviour of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Many alevi musicians, artists and authors were in Sivas due to an annual festival. Among the festival attendees there was also an athesit intellect, Aziz Nesin. They were all staying in Madimak hotel when a big group of crowd gathered quickly after the Friday prayer at the mosque. Due to a tremendous amount of provocation starting from 2 days prior, and due to the fact that the government officials didn’t take the crowd seriously until it was too late, a protest turned into a mob, then into a massacre. More than 15,000 people gathered in front of the hotel and they set it on fire. 33 people, aging 12-66, died in the most horrible way one can imagine. If your heart can take it, you can watch it here. Let me tell you this, I’m just so thankful that you cannot understand Turkish. Because what the people behind the camera are saying makes my blood boil.
PKK had taken many lives in Turkey. They usually targeted soldiers, military bases or political locations. However, just after 72 hours of Madimak Massacre, over 100 PKK militans rampaged through Basbaglar village in the city of Erzincan, executed 33 civilians in the village square and burned down the whole village. 214 homes, the school, the mosque and the community center were all burnt down. This unexpected event had created so many speculations. One of them was about creating a deeper split between sunnis and alevis. Erzincan had mostly sunni population and this was attributed as a reteliation of hotel massacre 3 days ago.
After this, PKK killed 26 more civilians, 22 of whom were women and kids, in the city of Van on July 18th. Killed another 15 civilians who were travelling on a bus in August. On October 4th, 23 civilans were killed in Sirvan, Siirt. On October 22nd, mostly kids 22 people are killed in Baykan, Siirt. On October 25th, in Cat, Erzurum PKK raided a Coffee House, killing 35 civilians. These attacks were going to continue throughout the year.
Bahtiyar Aydın was a Turkish general, a regional commander in the Turkish Gendarmerie in Lice, Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey when he was assassinated by a sniper using a Kanas rifle. Officially a victim of the PKK (which denied responsibility), his death has long been considered suspicious. General Aydın was one of those who believed the “Kurdish Issue” could not be solved by force, and needed a peaceful solution with economic and social measures. As you can see, another peace maker was removed from the equation by assasination.
Ahmet Cem Ersever was a commander in the Turkish Gendarmerie, and said to be one of the founders of the Gendarmerie’s JITEM intelligence unit (Wikipedia). He was assassinated with his girlfriend and translator Nevval Boz, along with İhsan Hakan, a former PKK member, informant. He was sued by the military officials due to an interview Ersever gave to a newspaper. He left his apartment on October 24th to go to his court hearing in Ankara on October 26th. On November 1st, they found his girl friend’s dead body first. Then, the informant’s. It was going to be the evening of November 4th when they discovered Ersever’s body in Elmadag, Ankara. He was killed execution style while his hands were tied. During Ergenekon trials, a report found suggested that journalist Uğur Mumcu, General Eşref Bitlis and Ersever had all been killed to cover up arms sales from the Ergenekon organization to armed Kurdish groups.
If you made it this far, I want to congratulate you. Because it was even hard for me to write about all these. I felt the need to take several mental breaks in the process of writing this.
So, what do people say? What the heck happened in 1993 in Turkey?
Some people said this was a military coup that was organized and performed by the Turkish military through covert means. The aim was to prevent a peace settlement and protect the covert relationships between the Turkish military, intelligence services including JITEM, Counter-Guerrilla, Kurdish forces including Kurdish Hizbollah, and the Turkish mafia; In other words, ‘Deep State‘.
The others claimed the classic: The USA, Russia and the European Union, especially the United States, don’t want things to get settled in middle east and Turkey plays a huge role there. Wonder why? Let me show you a map showing the location of Turkey.
Finding Turkey very close to Russia and petroleum rich Iraq an Iran, the USA had decided that Turkey must be among the most important allies. No wonder why we have a US military base in our southern city, Adana, which keeps them even closer to the land of their interests. It also keeps a good protection measure for Israel. If Turkey didn’t have battles to fight, it would mean they wouldn’t need guns, ammo, helicopters, and other military supplies. If we were strong enough to stand on our own feet, we wouldn’t need US’, EU’s, Russia’s, China’s help. That means these governments wouldn’t be able to use ‘their help’ as the leverage for their own games on each other. See the point? ‘Divide and Conquer’ is unfortunately still a popular game among the Ivy league of the World’s nations. ‘Divide! So that they won’t have any power, money or time left to think about improving, expanding since they will be busy dealing with their own internal issues.’
As you can see, politics in my country is very complicated. The split among the groups has been worse. On top of that, the economic crisis is making people more agitated and frustrated than ever. The current government doing everything in their power to make the nation dumber by changing education system so that they can’t question and so obey. They are destroying the judicial system so that their supporters and themselves can get away with whatever they do, without any consequences. And this is making some nations really politically happy.
Please let me finish this way. People of a nation don’t represent the government, it is the opposite. I know that. So I’m not targeting anyone personally here. But you take the responsibility when you remain silent, choose to be ignorant and don’t vote in the elections. If you are a citizen of a powerful country such as the US or China or Russia, you have an extra responsibility, my friend. Because the person you choose can impact the destiny of this world and the faith of 99.2% in the world. The 0.8% are making more than $1M a year. So, whenever something goes wrong, they can fly to another country together with their assets and live there until they die.
I don’t know how many times I have heard “San Francisco looks like Istanbul! You should go see!” Of course this wasn’t the only reason for me to take a 7-hour-long flight to the city: Its colorful outlook, modern and accepting attitude, diversity and vibrancy made me desperately want to see this pretty city. When my mom gave me this trip as a present for my 36th birthday, I was speechless! Not only was I going to see this wonderful city, but also I was going to visit my best friend and her lovely kids who live in Lafayette, SF.
As far as the negative things we know about the city, we all know SF is also famous for its outrageously high housing costs, and a large number of homeless population. But I have also discovered two more things that I don’t like about San Francisco: hills and tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed (almost) every moment I spent there, but would I want to live there? I don’t think so. I’m really happy in Boston, thanks.
Before I started writing this blog, I made a cup of freshly brewed earl grey tea and I took this photo below just to show you my San Francisco souvenir: my colorful and lovely mug which will accompany me while I’m writing! Enjoy reading!
Mostly wide streets are full of people walking to work, going shopping or doing touristy things. The architecture is a mixture: One moment you see a wonderful historical building with sometimes Spanish, sometimes Victorian, and sometimes French style. Then you see modern and boring homes. Some districts are very interesting and some are average like in any big city. One thing to consider before you go to SF is the anumber of hills. On the map, places look close to each other but it takes forever to walk from A to B due to steep hills on the way.
Speaking of hills, I should tell you about my Lombard Street experience. It was PACKED with tourists. In order to get a good picture I saw two people at different times almost got hit by a car. Known as the ‘crookedest street’ in the world, Lombard street has sharp turns. Thankfully cars are moving slowly because I saw some crazy people who let their little kids go and play in the middle of the street. There is no way for the car to see the kid before it makes its turn due to tall bushes on the side of the street. Anyway, I climbed 253 steps up and 249 steps down and I should admit it was a good exercise in the summer heat!
Absolutely beautiful… The view of the bridge, and the view of the city from the bridge both are absolutely amazing. This was the first place where I felt like “Hmm… This reminds me of Istanbul now”. The calm, endless looking ocean divides the lands graciously. I think the red color for the bridge was a smart idea (originally it was going to be painted black and yellow stripes like Maya the bee-Glad they changed that haha) because it brings the blue and green together very well. We were walking on the bridge with baby steps because we were walking with a slow moving group of tourists like a pack of zombies from Walking Dead. They were walking pretty carelessly like zombies as well. I don’t know how many times I had to give the evil look.
Let’s talk about my favorite thing! Food!
San Francisco, like Boston, is famous for its sea food. As a person who is not fond of sea food much, this was a disappointment. But, I had two remarkable experiences: The first one was the Irish coffee and awesome breakfast at Buena Vista and the other one was the clam chowder soup in Boudin Bakery. Boudin was like a bread museum! They make breads in different animal shapes and exhibit them on shelves. I’m on KETO, a kind of low carb diet, so I couldn’t enjoy the delicious alligator bread but if one of you do, please let me know how it tastes! Buena Vista apparently was the first place to bring the Irish Coffee to the USA. It is really hard to find a spot (Guess why? Yes! Tourists!) so I highly recommend you to go there as early as possible.
Oh I almost forgot! The tamales I ate in Sausalito was one of the BEST!
Alcatraz was used to be a high security federal prison where notorious criminals were held. Because it was located on an island, it would make it impossible for the prisoners to break out. I had mixed feelings walking in the aisles of the prison. Maybe the audio tour is responsible for putting me in that mood as well. I felt the despair, anger, loneliness and mental challenges. The interesting details to take from that was the escape attempts. The prisoners digged holes with a spoon they stole from the dining hall and a drill they improvised from motor of a purloined vacuum cleaner. In an amazing way they created dummy heads looking like themselves by using soap, concrete powder, hair stolen from the barbershop and put these in their beds right before escaping so that the guards wouldn’t understand they were gone at least for a while! So creative! Wow! They left Alcatraz with an inflated raft but it is believed that there is no way they could have made it through.
There are also the dark cells in which the ‘naughty’ criminals are imprisoned for months and years sometimes… In pitch darkness…
Also, the courtyard for the breaktime had a gorgeous view and I thought “Is this a prize for the criminals instead of punishment?” But then the guide said it was intentional: Seeing freedom, the vibrant city that close but not being able to have it was the punishment. Apparently the wind brings the sound of the joyful city especially during the holidays which would become a torture for the prisoners.
When you get outside and see the view from house that used to be the prison warden’s, the beauty of the city of San Francisco and the ocean mesmerizes you. This is why I want to use bigger size photos here. Below you will see the warden’s house, which is pretty much destroyed and has become a host to different kinds of plant species.
Not seals! Haha. Keep confusing the two. In Pier 39, together with lovely dead fish smells (!), you get to watch these interesting animals resting and talking and maybe, singing? Although most of the time they sounded angry to me, definitely it is something to see while in San Francisco!
Pier 39 and Sea Lions
Beautiful district with absolutely amazing murals. The street art was everywhere! energetic, evolving neighborhood with Latino roots and a hipster vibe. All the street art we saw had a political message in Latino world. I wish there were someone with us to explain the meanings of all. They also apparently make the best burritos and tacos in town. Unfortunately were were too full to eat!
One of the most important things for me when I visit somewhere is to go to a local coffee shop and try their black coffee. My mom and I went into Philz Cafe in Mission and it was so hipster! We chatted with the young couple who were playing chess in front of us (I think we distracted them a little bit, sorry!) and the young man who was sitting right next to us with long brown hair and John Lennon glasses. He was reading a thick book. Basically we bothered everyone in that coffee shop, we were feeling chatty! What attracted my attention was their number one selling coffee: Tantalizing Turkish brew!
This lovely coastal town reminded me so much of the Princess islands in Istanbul. I was so happy to see finally cafes and restaurants located right by the sea in the US. Yet again, it was so hard to walk at a normal pace since tourists were in line in front of the local stores, some were stopping right in the middle of the side walk to take pictures, etc. Beautiful scenery, nice local people and summer vacation vibe. I loved it!
I had a love and hate relationship with SF cable cars. I think if I could go back in time, the only thing I would change in my trip would be going from Union Square (south) up to Fisherman Wharf (north)-where we stayed. When we took the cable car from north to south the line was not bad at all. We waited only for about 5-7 minutes. But for an 8-minute-long trip from south to north, we waited for… Are you ready?… We waited for exactly 1 hour and 23 minutes!!! Unbelieavable! My suggestion to visitors is don’t even try south-north bound, it is a complete waste of time.
Believe it or Not Museum
Because the interesting places to see is fairly apart from each other in this city, unfortunately we didn’t get to go to all the places we had planned to see. The evening before we left SF, with a last minute decision we decided to see a museum near our hotel at Fisherman Wharf “Believe it or Not” (By the way we found a Groupon deal with a $5 discount, just FYI) We weren’t expecting much, we were just going to kill some time there but, actually, it was a lot of fun! There were so many interesting things to see. The creator of the museum had a good sense of humor, as well. If you go, you will understand what I mean. From dinosaur feet to bug snacks, from an Egyptian mummy head brought from Turkey to here (Why?) from interesting and/or weird artifacts to a bridal gown made out of toilet paper, you can find anything here! The mirror maze in the end was also a fun surprise!
PS. Did you know when Charles Alton Ellis designed the Golden Gate Bridge, he wasn’t an engineer yet?
Mirror maze fun
The Other Colors of San Francisco
My 4 days of stay wasn’t enough but I got a very good gist of San Francisco. Here I want to share some more city details that I captured during my visit. I should say I didn’t fall in love with the city, but I can see why a lot of people find it charming!!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post! See you soon in another adventure!