The Importance of Mental Health


By: Francesco Yepez-Coello

These past couple of years, it seems that every week there is another tragedy occurring all over the United States. The Washington Post reports that there have in fact been 44 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, which had national coverage. That isn’t to mention the non school related incidents, such as the one in Isla Vista that occurred very recently I’m sure many of you heard about. With story upon story in the news of violent killings, the cycle of violence may leave many of us feeling helpless, and unable to stop them from occurring again.


Although the last particular shooting I mentioned has sparked a lot of debate over misogyny in our society, and with good reason, I propose that neither societal structure or regulation of firearms are exclusively responsible. Another giant factor that has lead to senseless violence is that each perpetrator was mentally ill, and there is plenty that each of us can do to ensure not only that we are healthy, but that our loved ones maintain a healthy lifestyle as well.


May has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month by Mental Health America, an organization dedicated to helping people achieve mental health by changing policy, educating the public on mental health issues, and providing services that promote wellness to whichever indivual or community that requires them.


Although MHA works throughout the year reaching out to populations at risk of developing disorders and link them with professionals who can help, lobbying in Capitol Hill to ensure that laws facilitating the outreach of treatment to those who need it are passed, and the like, in May they make a particular effort of educating the community. Some of the programs they advocate include the “Live Your Life Well” program that summarizes their mission quite well.


The Center for Disease Control identified 13 different health concerns early last year they felt were the most critical they were going to combat. Among them are preventing the onset of mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders, as well as putting an end to the violence; two problems they attribute to poor mental health. The Live Your Life Well campaign addresses these concerns by giving these helpful tips based on decades of research on the factors that promote wellness and prevents mental illness:


  1. Connect with others: Next time you think of a witty remark or complaint you need to post as a status on facebook, instead of posting it publicly, call up a friend and tell him about it yourself. Better yet, when you call them make plans to hang out and tell him in person. Connecting directly with people builds your relationships and the support group that may give you strength in times of need.


  1. Stay Positive: When faced with a problem, think of its solution rather than how difficult the problem is to begin with. Medicine shows a negative response to stress increases the likelihood of heart disease. Don’t give yourself extra problems by ruminating on the original one.


  1. Get physically active: Exercising can often be a drag for most of us, but it is actually shown to give us more energy throughout our day instead of wearing us out completely. Next time you have about an hour to kill, hit the gym. Better yet, do it with a buddy, there’s no need to be alone all the time.


  1. Help others: Next time you see someone who looks lost on campus, help them find their way. Or if you see someone carrying an absurd amount of books, offer to help him carry some to their next class. You don’t have to join the Peace Corps, but doing small things for people who could use your help will lift both your mood and theirs, readying you for what is next in your day. 
  1. Get enough sleep: I wrote an article about this a while back.


  1. Create joy and satisfaction: Most college students I know are constantly stressed by the competitive nature of the job market and the grad school atmosphere. In your busy schedule, remember to make time to do things you enjoy. Read, watch netflix, play video games, whatever you like. But the simple pleasure of the activity will energize you so long as you do not


  1. Eat well: Good nutrition has obvious benefits, but it affects your mental health as well. Over or under eating are symptoms of many eating disorders, as well as depression. Next time you have a date, cook for them instead of taking them out to a restaurant. If you get cravings during those late nights after a party, make yourself a burger instead of getting one from the King. Making it yourself will make you question whether you really want it or not anyway.


  1. Take care of your spirit: Religion is an important and healthy source of strength for many. Talk to your appropriate religious leader in a time of need, it may help. GMU, for example, has a campus ministry that, although Catholic, would not turn away people of other faiths who are interested in talking to a priest. For all my secular brothers and sisters, do yoga. A powerful spirit will motivate you to accomplish your goals.


  1. Get professional help if you need it: It takes courage to admit when you cannot over come an obstacle alone, no matter how trivial or large it may be. If you feel overwhelmed, contact your school’s counseling and psychological services. MHA has a list of easy access tools you can use to find a mental health care provider near you as wellGMU CPS: 703 993 2380

    CRISIS LINK: 1 800 273 TALK


MHA even made a cute little calendar that organizes each of these tips into short little activities you can do a few minutes a day to promote your own mental health and that of others. Although the month of May is coming to a close, you can apply these lessons to whichever month of the year.


There are even multiple groups that promote an open dialogue about mental health on a smaller scale. Pennsive is a blog in which U Penn students can anonymously share mental health stories in a safe, non judgemental environment. GMU students are developing their own blog of a similar nature, with posts coming soon! Active Minds chapters all over the nation advocate mental health, with GMU’s own former chapter president Melissa Simkol posting daily throughout May in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month on the group page on facebook.


Dealing with stress is important. It isn’t just people who are “ill” who should mind their mental health, but all of us. If we do not learn how to cope with the stresses of every day life or worse, we may not be equipped to face these challenges and still be able to lead a productive and meaningful life. For some, they are overwhelemed to the point that they resort to violence. Pass the calendar or the list of Live Your Life Well tips on to a friend- little by little, our community can become a brighter, healthier one!


“The Bizarre And Horrifying Autobiography Of A Mass Shooter.” Weblog post.Buzzfeed. N.p., 25 May 2014. Web. 26 May 2014. <;.


“Mental Health America.” Mental Health Support. Mental Health America, n.d. Web. May 2014. <>.


Strauss, Valerie. “At Least 44 School Shootings since Newtown — New Analysis.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2014. Web. 26 May 2014. <;.


United Sates of America. Center for Disease Control. CDC Blog. Center for Disease Control, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 May 2014. <;.


Israel Peace Week and Positive Psychology


By: Miranda Lapides

Another group at George Mason University, the Israel Student Association, is doing some good on campus this week! We all combat stress and conflict in our lives on a daily basis, and hearing about conflict going on in the rest of the world is the last thing we want to hear. Obviously it is important to educate yourself on the harsh realities and negative impacts of conflict, but it is just as equally important and beneficial to look on the “bright side” of things. This is where positive psychology comes in to play with conflict.

The Israel Student Association’s message for their Israel Peace Week project is that no matter your views on the Arab-Israeli conflict, you cannot deny that Israel wants peace and has tried numerous times for peace. This week they represent that message through tabling in the Johnson Center with posters, flyers, and prizes. Most importantly, Israel Peace Week involves its grand social media campaign, bringing messages of peace to the Mason community. The Israel Student Association invites students and faculty to take a picture with a whiteboard stating what peace means to them and have it be uploaded to ISA’s Facebook page. ISA’s kiosk also includes a giant poster where students can simply write what peace means to them on a piece of paper and tape it to the board. So far the project has raised some awareness on campus, with students defining peace as “understanding,” “being sensitive to the suffering of others,” and “free to travel without fear,” and it is just the beginning of the project!

The Israel Student Association’s latest project is directly related to positive psychology. Positive psychology is the study of what contributes to human happiness and emotional health, though no one defines it better than Christopher Peterson, a former professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and current author, when he says, “Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” He goes on to say that this particular type of psychology focuses on strengths as well as weaknesses, how to build up the good things in life as well as fixing the bad, and fulfilling mentally healthy peoples’ lives as well as healing those with mental illnesses.

This is exactly what Israel Peace Week is all about: taking an area of the world with a conflict and shedding some light on it by giving it a positive spin. It is so easy to count the number of missiles being fired from both sides and the number of lives each side has lost. With anything in life, it is easier to focus on the negative than the positive, but this project puts the negative on hold and gives students and faculty a chance to put their most important values on display, the values that make life most worth living.

What does peace mean to you? Join the campaign by messaging ISA on Facebook.

View other photos here!

Christina DiCicco, junior

Francesco Yepez-Coello, junior, a fellow writer



Peterson, Christopher. “The Good Life.” What Is Positive Psychology, and What Is It Not? Psychology Today, 16 May 2008. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <;.


“The call of Death is a call of love. The End can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative, if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation, and submit to its calming, blissful embrace.”

-Hermann Hesse

Suicide is the third highest cause of death among youth 15 to 24 years old, and rates of suicide have doubled in this age group since the 1970s according to data reported by the American Association of Suicidology, which informs the rest of this article. Due to its prevalence, it is important to understand the causes of suicide, and what can be done to prevent it from continuing to occur.

The wish for death is born when one’s pain exceeds his resources to cope with that pain. Upon experiencing imesurable grief, and having no source of support in facing it, one so seeks to end their life in order to stop suffering.

There are many risk factors which may lead to suicide ideation and attempts. A history of mental illness naturally predicts suicide: 90% of suicides reported in 2010 were cases diagnosed with a mental illness, with the highest rates seen in those diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, and substance dependency.

However, many people who have not been formally diagnosed with a disorder may still consider ending their lives. A history of abuse, whether physical or sexual, is a risk factor for comitting suicide, as well as a history of violent and reckless behavior. Less obvious, but just as serious, risk factors also include a history of unstable relationships, like divorce or seperation. Having had an aggressive relationship with one’s parents also contributes to this risk factor. Finally and most markedly, a history of self-injury, like cutting oneself, predicts suicide.

All of these risk factors, whether they are acute enough to warrant the diagnosis of a disorder or not, breed the wish for death precisely because they strip a person of their strength to cope with pain. Violence and abuse in a family causes one to feel lost or abandoned, unable to rely on theircaregivers as a source of support. Similarly, frequent mobility makes it more difficult for one to build a social support system. As a result, a very low self-esteem may incubate, and the potential to harm themselves may be born as a reaction to lack of affection.

As severe as such cases may sound, the behavior of someone contemplating suicide isquite distinct, and there is much hope for you to spot these symptoms in a loved one in time to intervene. A withdrawal from friends and regular daily activities may be the first warning sign you notice in a person contemplating suicide, as well as a corresponding loss of interest or pleasure from activities that used to elicit it. Hearing one talk about having no purpose or find no meaning in life is a common thought as well. Serious anxiety and feeling like there are no solutions to one’s problems is also characteristic of this condition, as are unusually violent outbursts, impulsive behavior, and a high increase of drug use.

A significantly distressing life event may bear the fruit of death in a person who you know well and perhaps would not expect to resort to committing suicide, which is why it is important to be alert for these warning signs. Most obviously, if a person has expressed intent to kill himself, has a definite plan, or is looking for the means to do so, he is at high risk. Someone who has shown no previous interest in firearms but suddenly comes into possession of one should be of concern, given that they remain the most commonly utilized method of suicide by essentially all groups. About one-half (49.5%) of the individuals who took their own lives in 2010 used this method, although men tend to use firearms more often than women as a means for suicide.

But what can one do to help a person who has spawned the desire to die? If you spot the symptoms I described in a loved one, having a regular conversation about how their days are going is a normal way of starting a dialogue about the way they feel. Inquire politely, but directly, about anything that may be distressing. If they express that they are overwhelmed, and see no way out of his problem, offering a solution may bear relief.

However,if upon trying to help they continue to express the hopelessness and despair that characterizes someone thinking about dying, it would be important that you simply asked, “have you thought about killing yourself?” As wacky as that sounds, it is best to speak openly and directly about the subject, otherwise you will make the situation uncomfortable for everyone. Your confidence will lead the way in the conversation, whereas being hesitant in asking will make the person hesitant to respond honestly.

If you find that they have not been contemplating suicide, they will most likely not be offended, rather appreciate the concern and the two of you can move on with your day. If they reveal to you that they have, let the know that you are with them to accompany them through their pain. Remember that feeling abandoned and alone begets the wish to commit suicide, and so showing concretely that they are not alone is the best way to combat the impulse towards death. Of course, you can then link them to the counseling and psychological services on your campus. Most colleges offer psychotherapy free of charge to students, and I know for certain that Mason does. Offer to walk with them to their first session to show them where it is and show support, ensuring they will have the strength to seek help.

The vast majority of people I have met in my experience are open to seeking help and overcoming their pain. They manifest these symptoms as a cry for help, and so at the first sign that there is another who cares for their lives, there is hope that their will to live may blossom. Living is quite a task. But in spite of all its trials, it is nonetheless worthwhile, particularly when we have the love and support of the people close to us.

Should you have any spontaneous questions about how to talk to someone who declares they have the means to kill himself and wishes to do it, know that you can call a crisis hot line at 1 800 273 8255 and a specialist will walk you through how to communicate with the person in order for him to choose to continue his life. Thanks for reading everybody, stay safe.

“But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.”
-Albert Camus


Krysinska, Karolyna, and Martin Graham. The Struggle to Prevent and Evaluate: Application of Population Attributable Risk and Preventive Fraction to Suicide Prevention Researach. Blackwell Publishing, Oct. 2009. Web. Feb. 2014.

United States of America. American Association of Suicidology. US Census Bureau. By A.L. Berman. American Association of Suicidology, 2010. Web. Mar. 2014.

The Media and Eating Disorders: A Link to Be Reexamined

                                                                     By Melissa Simkol

This week, February 23rd through March 1st, is National Eating Disorders Week. More often than not, this means one can expect to be bombarded with messages encouraging women (and men) of all shapes and sizes to love and accept their bodies and to reject the unrealistic beauty standards that are heavily promoted by the media. While promoting positive body image is certainly a good cause, it isn’t right to equate it with eating disorder awareness and prevention.  In fact, these body image campaigns—which focus primarily on the common stereotype that eating disorders are superficial in nature—might actually be counterproductive to that mission.

In 2005, Global Market Insite, through a contract with the National Eating Disorders Association, published a poll that surveyed the American public’s perceptions of eating disorders. One particularly notable finding is that approximately 2/3 of American adults think that the media is the primary cause of eating disorders, while only 30% consider genetics to play any role in their onset. These numbers are disheartening because, as it turns out, the media’s “thin ideal” that stigmatizes weight does not cause eating disorders. Can airbrushed models and an onslaught of weight loss commercials contribute to their development? Sure. But do any one of them alone cause an eating disorder? Absolutely not.

Like all mental illnesses, the psychopathology of eating disorders is extremely complex. Because we are all unique individuals, eating disorders develop and manifest differently from person to person. This means that what might trigger one individual to develop an eating disorder might not be a significant stressor for another. This also means that a desire to be thin or a fear of being fat is not at the core of every eating disorder. That’s not to say it’s never a central feature of eating disorders, but rather that the degree of fat phobia varies from person to person. For instance, a 2000 study of Hong Kong patients with Anorexia nervosa (AN) found that some patients were consistently fat phobic, some never displayed fat phobia, and others started off as fat phobic but eventually lost that phobia, or vice versa.

Still not convinced? Let’s explore another concept: if the media and thin models were the sources of eating disorders, then someone who had never been exposed to them would be at zero risk for developing an eating disorder, right?

Wrong. Numerous case studies exist of women with AN or Bulimia nervosa (BN) who have been blind since birth or from a very young age. In one such case study, a woman who was blind since age two had a troubled childhood consisting of alcoholic parents, a grandparent committing suicide, and her father cheating on her mother. As a young child she was constantly pressured to eat more, resulting in an aversion to eating food: “she would claim not to like certain foods, even if she did, because she didn’t like being forced to eat” (Yager, 1986). Once she began to menstruate at age 13, she developed a fear of gaining weight. She went on to study at a music school, but as her teachers were unsure how to handle her blindness she was eventually forced to leave, causing her to become severely depressed. So if she had no idea what being fat looked like and certainly had no fat phobia, what caused her eating disorder? Said Yarbo:

“Her fussiness with food, use of food in control struggles with her parents during childhood, and weight preoccupation during early adolescence all provided a background of vulnerability. Her subsequent AN coalesced during a time when she was without a sense of direction or purpose – when her sense of self, always shaky at best, was lowest since she was no longer a musician or university student; AN then provided her with an identity, at a time when she desperately needed one… The perfectionistic strivings she had as a student and musician, the presence of binge eating episodes in one sister, and the harsh, critical nature of her father are all possible contributing factors.”

A more recent study in 2006 detailed a case of BN in a 47 year old blind woman from Barcelona, Spain. The woman had been engaging in binging and purging behaviors 2-4 times a week for 4 years. She had never expressed a desire to be thinner until psychosocial stressors led to her gaining weight, and she wanted to lose weight “not because of shape concerns, but because of physical reasons” (Fernandez-Atanda et al., 2006). She also exhibited symptoms of anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and “deficits in social and problem-solving skills, which were the result of interpersonal conflicts she had with her family, especially with her children” (Fernandez-Atanda et al., 2006). Her treatment consisted of non-symptom-oriented cognitive-behavioral therapy that focused more on the patient’s behavioral and emotional symptoms than her eating symptoms.  At 12 months follow-up, she was not engaging in any ED symptoms. The researchers concluded that “in the current case, the ED seems to be a consequence of inappropriate coping skills with stress. Indeed, patients who present some behavioral handicaps or deficits are more vulnerable to the development of an ED… the ED is not due to an overemphasis on physical attractiveness, but to a personal difficulty to cope with stress” (Fernandez-Atanda et al., 2006).

These three studies mentioned above strongly suggest that eating disorders arise from a multifaceted mixture of psychological, social, and genetic factors. When we boil eating disorders down to a product of bad body image, we understate the immense significance of the many other dynamics that interact with each other. Furthermore, by focusing just on the symptom of body dissatisfaction we convey eating disorders as superficial, further perpetuating the exact stereotype we’re working to disprove. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses—how can it be possible that there are so many people starving themselves to death just because they want to look good? People suffering from EDs go through the process of restricting their caloric intake, binging on food, and purging after meals because—for them—these behaviors have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects on the brain, and they are unable to use healthier coping mechanisms to achieve those same results. In other words, alcoholics abuse alcohol because it helps them escape from their life troubles and inner turmoil, not because they actually enjoy alcohol or want to be drunk.  Similarly, eating disorder symptoms are indicative of underlying problems that go far beyond the thin ideal that the media helps to perpetuate.

Again, I would like to reiterate that I am not saying the media does not play any part in the onset of eating disorders, because it could certainly be a precipitating factor for some, nor am I trying to undermine the indisputable effects of unrealistic beauty standards on the self-esteem of the general population. But I am saying that we invalidate the experiences and potentially even impede the recovery of many sufferers when we only discuss poor body image.

So why, then, do we only see eating disorder awareness and prevention campaigns attacking the thin ideal? My best guess is that they’re easy to put on, fun to participate in, and most attractive to the general public. I mean, let’s be real here; I can’t think of any engaging activities centering on the interplay of genetic, social, and psychological factors in eating disorders. But I do think that instead of focusing on the negative role of the media, we should work to incorporate education about positive coping skills and more adaptive emotion regulation behaviors into our programming. One would be hard-pressed to find someone perfectly content with their body; therefore, having the ability to productively manage body image issues seems to me far more practical and effective than eliminating negative body image entirely. We know that urging someone with depression to “just think positive” isn’t going to cure them, so why do we think that simply telling an individual with an eating disorder to love their body is going to be any more successful?

It’s time to seriously reevaluate how we talk about eating disorders. If we really want to reduce and prevent the onset of these potentially deadly illnesses, we need to do more than just talk about the media’s role. We need to acknowledge that eating disorders evolve from more than just a desire to look a Hollywood star; it is this widespread misconception that often prevents men, minorities, and older adults from being diagnosed and receiving proper treatment.  We need to accept that not everyone with an eating disorder is afraid of being fat or has a negative body image to respect sufferers who don’t exhibit those symptoms. And we must teach young men and women to not just reject thin models and magazines marketing new ways to attain a “bikini-ready” body, but to cope with the negative emotions that arise from their unavoidable presence. So in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness week, join me in raising awareness about the reality of eating disorders.


GMI (2005). American public opinion on eating disorders, Seattle: National Eating Disorders Association.

Fernández-Aranda F, Crespo JM, Jiménez-Murcia S, Krug I, & Vallejo-Ruiloba J. (2006). Blindness and bulimia nervosa: a description of a case report and its treatment. The International journal of eating disorders, 39(3), 263-265.


Ngai ,E.S., Lee, S., & Lee, A.M. (2000). The variability of phenomenology in anorexia nervosa. Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica, 102(4), 314-317

The Positive Effects of Humor in the Workplace

 The Quest for Success: The Hidden Gem of Business

By: Denisa Holeckova, Lauren Bernard, Thompson Imasogie, Tim LaPlante, Katie O’Brien

What’s the secret behind running a successful and profitable business? Much like Indiana Jones and his quest for the Golden Mayan Statue, we too have struck gold. The secret of business success has finally been uncovered, and we’re here to tell you firsthand what’s in this clandescent treasure chest. There are many components that make up a functioning and lucrative business. These components act much like jewels on a ring, surrounding the center stone, and enhancing the remarkability of the piece. Without the center stone, the piece is not complete. The jewels of business management, human resources, and even psychology garnish the exceptional stone and together they make up an unprecedented success story. Before discovering the treasure chest, the whereabouts of the center stone were unknown, but as we had hoped, the stone was indeed a part of our treasure. The center stone is the gem of Humor. The Humor gem unites all the jewels together, forming a successful and lasting masterpiece. Continue on and experience the many ways the Humor gem can be a business saving grace, as we go on to explain its benefits that business owners and managers often forget about.MIchael-Office-NBC-1.JPG

The renowned treasure cove containing all operations large and small

The hunt begins as we venture into the tall grass of the corporate jungle scoping out the treasure. The legendary treasure cove awaits your discovery, containing a plethora of loot ensuring your success. Amidst the plentiful cove, people often wonder what it takes to succeed when in reality, it takes nothing more than a little. Think about any business that you see around you, particular those associated with customer service. You walk into any office and what do you see? People sitting in cubicles avoiding social interaction?  Yes and no. Every business needs a combination of two things: employees that want to work, and a reason. If you give your employees a reason, and encourage social interaction, make them laugh every now and again, it will create a tidal wave of loyalty that will inspire productivity. Think of your office like a family. If your family is unhappy then more than likely you will be unhappy. If they are comfortable and happy, then you will be as well. Your workplace is meant to be somewhere where you can be productive. But how exactly can you reach the maximum productivity? Consider humor for example. A study called the The Wheel Model of Humor indicates that laughter and humor is practically contagious, and that once initiated, virtually everyone gets a dose of laughter somewhere along the line (Robert and Wilbanks, 2012). This occurs even if the joke wasn’t even heard, all it takes is the sound of laughter to get a smile, or a chuckle, or just a good hearty laugh rolling.

The hidden gems of business success present a multitude of reasons as to why they are helpful, but it would probably be better for you to understand how this could become profitable over time. Let’s consider examples set by companies that have been around for decades. Companies such a SouthWest Airlines provide outstanding, if not exemplary customer service to their customers.  SouthWest Airlines not only provides the service of transporting their passengers, but they aim to make their passengers feel comfortable while on the flight. SouthWest has survived for so long by utilizing the simple rule “happy employees equals happy customers.” (, 2013) Some companies aim to provide more of a service and give the customer their product while others aim to connect with the customers themselves. It is fundamental to establish these relationships in order to get to know the customers better.  One of the many benefits of humor comes from the very interaction with the customers. SouthWest airlines greets their customers and entertain them in flight. While waiting at the gate, attendants are given books with games to play with passengers pre-flight if delayed. Onboard, attendants even do impersonations of famous actors or singers such as Mr. Rogers, or Elvis while making announcements (, 2013). Other attendants are more famous for their rapping skills such as David Holmes, a Las Vegas based flight attendant, or the “Rhythmic Ambassador” as introduced at the annual GAAP meeting by Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines (Mccartney, 2013).

This generates profit because of customer word-of-mouth. Review submissions from anywhere to SouthWest Airlines directly, or personal blog postings will allow for customers to go back and fly using that airline. How is this profitable? Talk to the customer, give them their product, and encourage them to return. Given that it is the twenty-first century, you are near guaranteed that somewhere on the internet, somebody is giving a good review. Someone else sees this review and has to try this out for themselves. For small businesses, Angie’s List is probably one of the greatest tools that you can use to your advantage solely due to what customers give you for a review, it would allow for your business to grow.  By providing a good product, more business is generated, and more customers are spreading the news. Continue reading

The Top (?) 5 Love Stories in Disney Films


By: Francesco Yepez-Coello

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought it may be fun to talk about love.You may be surprised to learn that the concept of love has stirred much debate among psychologists. Psychologist Robert Sternberg formulated a triangular theory of love and argued that love has three different components: intimacy, commitment, and passion. All forms of love are viewed as varying combinations of these three components, some such as ‘companionate’ love, ’empty’ love, and ‘consummate’ love.American psychologist Zick Rubin sought to define love with statistical methods, and states that exactly three factors constitute love: attachment, caring, and intimacy.

While psychology is a science and therefore could reasonably attempt to categorize love through standardized methods, I respectfully disagree with the above theories. I find the psychoanalytic definition of love most fitting, which is summed up nicely by French psychologist Jacques Lacan. That “ to give one’s love, is essentially to give as such nothing of what one has, because it is precisely in so far as one does not have it that there is a question of love.” What he means is, that to love is to give something important to your beloved before you give it to yourself.

I rather like that, but it is not a popular opinion, for the aforementioned debate between psychologists about the nature of love reflects modern society’s secular and hollow longing for this elusive force. A longing that I find more evident still in the modern american folktale: The Disney Movie. With Lacan’s theory in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best, and some of the worst, love stories in Disney films from the last twenty five years.

The Little Mermaid 1989

Credited with beginning what came to be known as “The Disney Renaissance,” this film is a classic that sculpted the mold for animated musicals. It’s got a catchy score and a female lead who breaks the mold of stereotyped expectations of women, which is a pattern in all the films I will discuss in this article. But its love story is convoluted and ultimately shallow.

Ariel, who longs to live in the human world, falls in love with the first human man she spies on, Prince Eric, presumably because he is handsome and has legs. In fact, other than this he does not have much personality, and is nearly interchangable with all the ‘prince charmings’ in the Disney movies of old. Even when she finally walks amongst humans, Ariel is mute, and so their relationship is based mostly on apperance. He did not care that Ariel had nothing to say, he was satisfied with the carnal pleasure of oogling at her looks. Is our idea of love so lacking that it must be portrayed as little more than physical attraction, which is ultimately just a selfish fulfilment of one’s desire, and not a gift one gives to our partner? F

The Beauty and the Beast 1991

This film is regared as one of the greatest love stories of all time. It won an oscar for its achievement in sound, and is applauded for its message about true beauty and superficiality. It’s a great film, but just a mess in how it portrays romance. The protagonist Belle spends five minutes singing about her passion for learning, discovery, and her yearning for adventure. You’re telling me she’s going to fall in love with a monster who locks her up and makes her his prisoner? The Beast is essentially the same as Gaston; she despised the latter for trying to imprison her within society’s standards, but The Beast imprisoned her too, in a literal sense. This love story is worse than the last one. F-

Aladdin 1992

I have a soft spot for this film, given it’s outrageously romantic musical number midway through the film, which manages to build a meaningful relationship between the two protagonists. However, Aladdin and Jasmine’s romance is not quite perfect. Sure, Jasmine falls for Aladdin because he opens her eyes to the world outside the palace, and he does not try to shelter or censor her the way all men have tried in her life; a beautiful gift to Jasmine indeed. Yet Aladdin could have fallen for any rich, beautiful, princess. There is little that indicates that Jasmine in particular was special for Aladdin, given that at first, he attempts to woo her by lying and putting on a ruse of having equal wealth and beauty. The fact that he thought Jasmine would value this above chivalry and valor proves he did not know her that well after all. C+

Hercules 1997

Hercules is one of the most under-rated animated films of all time. It was released during the decline of the Renaissance as a result of the advent of computer animation, so its love story is not credited with its true worth. Hercules struggles with feeling out of place on Earth, caught in the ambivalence of semi belonging to two opposite homes. He finds that the place where he belongs is anywhere as long as he is with Meg, who makes him feel at home. Meg on the other hand, falls in love with Herc because he does not treat her at all as shallow as all other bulked up heroes presumably have done in her past. Their romance stems from giving each other the kind of affection that was missing in their respective lives until they met. Solid B

The Princess and the Frog 2009

Skip more than a decade into the future, and our idea of love has matured nicely. In this gem of a movie, the female lead, Tiana, has worked tirelessly all her life to make her dreams of owning a restaurant come true. But avarice and circumstance tear her dream away nonetheless. Enter Prince Naveen who, though a hedonistic, lecherous fool in the beginning, learns from Tiana the value of hard work throughout their journey to become human again. As he begins to value the intangible over the material, he wishes not simply to fulfill his own desires, but to make Tiana’s dream manifested into reality. Tiana, on the other hand, attempts to bring Naveen back down to Earth out of spite originally, but ultimately teaches him about the real world out of love, for she wishes to see him thrive, knowing his good looks will only get him so far. By the end, they each thought about the other’s needs before they thought about their own. A+

Love is ostensibly a vague concept. Upon a little inspection, however, it appears love is a concrete idea: to care more about another’s well being more than one does his own. What varies is how you express love, but not the type of love itself. So this Valentine’s day, and every day really, remember to show your loved ones, in whichever way you choose, that they are important.

Sternberg, R.J. (1986). “A triangular theory of love”. Psychological Review 93 (2): 119–135. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.93.2.

Jacques Lacan, Seminar V, The Formations of the Unconscious, Seminar of 07.05.1958

5 Financial Tips for Recent College Graduates

By: Pierre Durant

I graduate next week… In fact, I graduate in three days and the feeling is indescribable! There’s a mixture of happiness, anxiety, overwhelming pressure and hopefulness for the future. I can’t help but hope to get a job, enroll into Graduate School, and start a new chapter in my life of independence and self-sufficiency with my finances. So, as I know many other graduates are floating in the same boat of emerging adulthood as me, I thought I would provide a few tips toward making wise financial decisions in the transition from the undergraduate level to the world beyond.

1. How to Save EffectivelyCollege Grad Finance

The secret to saving is outlined by Dave Ramsey in his book entitled: The Money Answer Book. He expounds upon the fact that often times people want to save but don’t know how due to the difficulty of delaying gratification. Currently, I am very excited to purchase the PlayStation 4 game system that was just released a few weeks ago. However, I realize that with rent, college loans, and my graduate school application expenses, I simply cannot afford to spend that amount of money and time on a box. It takes an incredible amount of focus and drive to forego things we want for things we need. However, it may take spending less money on popular clothing and shoe releases, fast food outings, and concert tickets. It takes substituting spending that frivolous money for putting ten percent of your pay check in the bank and letting it accrue interest over time to build a safety net of security for the future. As college students it was easy to say, “Hey, I’m in college and I deserve to have a good time! Mom and Dad will spot me a few bucks!” However, as a recent graduate, wouldn’t you like to tell Mom and Dad that they can keep their money for themselves for a change and take the reins in your own financial plan? It will shock them and it will give you a sense of confidence in the fact that you can be in control of your own spending without being completely broke as you were during your previous undergraduate years. I, for one, am ready and willing to begin investing in endeavors that will build passive income and work toward more significant purchases such as my first home, a car, and insurance.

2. How to Manage College Loans

According to the Huffington Post, in 2010 the average college student who used loans to pay off their tuition racked up $25,250 in debt. This can be a scary reality but it makes sense to set up a repayment plan where you can start paying off loans bit by bit in order to make it easier on yourself and your parents. Using deferment or postponing the repayment of your loan’s principal and interest can be an option as well as applying for forbearance. Forbearance can be granted by your loan officer to allow you stop or reduce your monthly payment for up to 12 months. If you are looking into Graduate School, perhaps apply a semester or two later in order to allow yourself time to stack funds to help pay for the experience rather than piling up more debt. Working two or three jobs while you have the youth and energy to do so may be necessary in order to use one or two alternate streams of income to allocate specifically for a designated task such as paying off loans, credit card debt, or a car payment. Being in the mentality that your hustle is a temporary solution to avoid debt in the future can be motivation enough to drive you to work every day.

3. How to Use Credit Efficiently

Only use credit for expenditures that you can pay off rather quickly. Now I was raised in fear of using credit cards in any way because my parents advised me that it is a dangerous habit to “charge it” for clothing, food, and other daily impulses that college students are often plagued with. I have no department store cards of any type because my folks scared me into never using them. However, upon the beginning of my junior year I went ahead and registered for my first credit card. I figured I was mature enough to handle a credit card and use it only for important purchases and emergencies. Through Wells Fargo, there is a student credit card with a small available credit limit meant to build credit for young adults who do not currently have any. The credit card’s purpose is only for school-related purchases and that was strictly what I intended to use it for. In fact, I didn’t even use it for the first year that I had it. But during my last semester as an undergraduate I used it for textbooks I needed for that semester only and since I had worked all summer, I was able to pay it all off immediately. This way I could build credit without getting too backed up to the point where I couldn’t pay off the bill. I am currently using my credit card to pay for Graduate School expenses such as applications, the GRE, and sending off my transcripts. Upon graduation on December 19th, I plan to use my gifts and Christmas funds to pay off my credit card balance.

4. How to stick to a budget

Write everything down! When I was a child, my father made me a chart and told me to write down every amount that I earned cutting grass, babysitting, and for allowance. Before I spent a cent, I took one-tenth of however much I earned and put it into my savings and another tenth went to the church as tithes. Then in another column, I would write how much I spent on various childhood expenses. I was also taught to spend money on my needs before my wants as well. This helped me track where my money went. I have recently stopped using that method but I am going to re-adopt this practice. When you dictate where your money goes rather than watching it flow out on its own, then you control how much you spend. Take your monthly earnings and separate out different categories of average expenditures such as bills, groceries, savings, loan repayments, and activities. Make sure you only spend your predetermined amount of money on that category and once you’ve spent it don’t spend any more. This will ensure that you stick to your plan without going over and having to dip into savings or emergency funds. Over time, with advancement in your career as well as additions in salary and income, you can increase your pre-determined amount to allow for extra spending where necessary.

5. Financial Counseling Before Marriage

I am not writing this simply because my career goal is to become a counselor. I know that for many rising college graduates this time of their life features a deepening of their relationships and for many couples poor money management is a deal breaker. Therefore, it is very useful for partners to be on the same page financially. Just bringing various fiscal issues to the surface can provide methods to make the partnership even more successful. The budget for the wedding itself can be the basis for a disagreement if it is not discussed beforehand. Therefore, it is wise to consult someone with experience in matters of fiscal responsibility. Drafting a practice budget as an engaged couple can be completely different than budgeting for an individual so making sure that bills and needs are taken care of before indulgences can be a necessary discussion to have before entering into a covenant. Keeping your other half accountable for responsible spending habits and reversing harmful ones can avoid a large discrepancy in credit scores between the two of you in your marriage, if that is in the plan for your relationship. Financial issues are among the top reasons why marriages fail, so solidifying the unity between two people regarding their spending can be an effective way to avoid a premature divorce or lapse in romance.


Ramsey, D. (2004). The Money Answer Book. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Pope, J. (2011). Average Student Loan Debt: $25,250. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Federal Student Aid: An Office of the U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from