Tuesday Reads: LanguishingPosted: April 20, 2021
I’ve been really dragging lately–partly because of health problems, but very likely also because of the exhausting events of the past year. Am I “languishing”? Are you?
Dakinikat pointed me to this New York Times article by organizational psychologist Adam Grant: There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.
At first, I didn’t recognize the symptoms that we all had in common. Friends mentioned that they were having trouble concentrating. Colleagues reported that even with vaccines on the horizon, they weren’t excited about 2021. A family member was staying up late to watch “National Treasure” again even though she knows the movie by heart. And instead of bouncing out of bed at 6 a.m., I was lying there until 7, playing Words with Friends.
It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.
Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.
As scientists and physicians work to treat and cure the physical symptoms of long-haul Covid, many people are struggling with the emotional long-haul of the pandemic. It hit some of us unprepared as the intense fear and grief of last year faded.
That sounds familiar. Of course I was already completely exhausted by the horror of 2016 and three years of Trump insanity when the pandemic hit. I’ve also been dealing with an autoimmune disorder called polymyalgia rheumatica. Despite seeing a Rheumatologist and taking multiple medications over the past year, I’m still struggling with chronic joint pain and stiffness. That has added to my sense of emotional exhaustion. I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s been happening.
More from Adam Grant on “languishing:”
In the early, uncertain days of the pandemic, it’s likely that your brain’s threat detection system — called the amygdala — was on high alert for fight-or-flight. As you learned that masks helped protect us — but package-scrubbing didn’t — you probably developed routines that eased your sense of dread. But the pandemic has dragged on, and the acute state of anguish has given way to a chronic condition of languish.
In psychology, we think about mental health on a spectrum from depression to flourishing. Flourishing is the peak of well-being: You have a strong sense of meaning, mastery and mattering to others. Depression is the valley of ill-being: You feel despondent, drained and worthless.
Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.
The term was coined by a sociologist named Corey Keyes, who was struck that many people who weren’t depressed also weren’t thriving. His research suggests that the people most likely to experience major depression and anxiety disorders in the next decade aren’t the ones with those symptoms today. They’re the people who are languishing right now. And new evidence from pandemic health care workers in Italy shows that those who were languishing in the spring of 2020 were three times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference. When you can’t see your own suffering, you don’t seek help or even do much to help yourself.
Read the whole thing at the NYT and see what you think.
Now for today’s news . . .
Walter Mondale died yesterday. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Walter Mondale, who rose from small-town Minnesota to vice presidency, dies at 93.
Walter F. Mondale, a preacher’s son from southern Minnesota who climbed to the pinnacle of U.S. politics as an influential senator, vice president and Democratic nominee for president, died on Monday. He was 93.
Known as “Fritz” to family, friends and voters alike, Mondale died in Minneapolis, according to a statement from his family.
“As proud as we were of him leading the presidential ticket for Democrats in 1984, we know that our father’s public policy legacy is so much more than that,” read the Mondale family statement.
Former President Jimmy Carter, who chose Mondale as his running mate in 1976, called his friend “the best vice president in our country’s history.”
“He was an invaluable partner and an able servant of the people of Minnesota, the United States and the world,” Carter said in a statement. “Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior.”
After serving four years under Carter, Mondale was the Democratic nominee for president in 1984. He lost to the incumbent, President Ronald Reagan, in a historic landslide.
“A night like that is hard on you,” Mondale wrote in his 2010 memoir, “The Good Fight.”
Even in defeat, Mondale made history by choosing as his running mate Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for vice president on a major-party ticket. It followed a series of political landmarks in a public career that spanned seven decades.
A protégé of Hubert H. Humphrey, another Minnesota politician who rose to the vice presidency and lost a presidential election, Mondale served as a U.S. senator from Minnesota for a dozen years. He played a lead role in the passage of social programs, civil rights laws and environmental protections that defined President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society.”
As vice president from 1977 to 1981, Mondale transformed the office from what had historically been a punchline into what both he and Carter called a true governing partnership. Mondale’s role as chief adviser and troubleshooter, working from a West Wing office near the Oval Office, became a model for successors including George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden.
“The first person I called was Fritz,” Biden once said about the time President Barack Obama offered him the No. 2 position.
At The Washington Post, Karen Tumulty wrote about how Mondale changed the vice presidency: Opinion: Walter Mondale reinvented the vice presidency. Both Biden and Harris should thank him for it.
Read more at the WaPo.
The Derek Chauvin trial wrapped up yesterday, and now the nation awaits the jury verdict. Here’s an interesting op-ed by former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rogers at CNN: Chauvin trial is ‘believe your eyes’ vs. ‘hey, look over there!’
Prosecutors treat closing arguments as an opportunity to make things simple for the jury and to keep them focused on the critical issues. Thus we heard state prosecutor Steve Schleicher’s mantra to the jury to “believe your eyes,” and his repeated references to the video evidence as well as his use of visual aids through which Schleicher listed and then checked off each legal element of each offense as he reminded the jury of the evidence proving them. This was a very effective technique, giving jurors who walked into the jury room inclined to vote to convict some ammunition to use in convincing more reluctant fellow jurors.
Defense lawyers have a different checklist, and Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson hit all of his marks. Defense lawyers use closings to distract the jurors, to pull them away from the focus encouraged by prosecutors, and to provide as many reasons as they can muster as to why the prosecutors’ theory of the case fails.
Nelson embraced this tactic, spending almost an hour showing body camera footage of and arguing about the period before Chauvin restrained Floyd, a time when other officers were trying to cram a resisting Floyd into the squad car, while virtually ignoring most of the 9 minutes and 29 seconds that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. Nelson then tossed out all of the alternate causation theories he had cultivated throughout the trial — Floyd’s preexisting heart condition, his consumption of fentanyl and methamphetamine, the paraganglioma tumor, and possible carbon monoxide poisoning — claiming that with all of these possibilities out there, prosecutors couldn’t possibly prove causation beyond a reasonable doubt.
Jurors would be forgiven if their heads were spinning a bit from this rapid fire of legal theories — and that is exactly what the defense was aiming for.
Read the rest at CNN.
One more big story from yesterday at The Washington Post: Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who engaged rioters, suffered two strokes and died of natural causes, officials say.