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Therapeutic Recreation after Disasters: Research Memos

This post is meant for my research project on therapeutic recreation in post-disaster contexts. As I re-analyzed some of my past interview studies, I would like to be transparent with my analysis by showing all the memos associated wit it. ============= The following are the memos ============== Title: Lack of mindfulnessDate: 12/27/2018 So far I have coded several cases from Katrina and GEJE. Right now, I am coding Tosh from Katrina. Among the 5 LWB mechanisms, I think I have got 4 covered, except for mindfulness (although leisure gratification was not mentioned a lot either; that's another memo). And I used this mindfulness code for the first time for Tosh. He was describing how his mind was focused on the single, urgent task of rebuilding his flooded house for 11 months after the hurricane. This is a long time for one to focus one's mind on a single project. However, the task was related to such a fundamental part of his life: house. House also relates to other basic components of life -- sleeping, taking shower, cooking, and having leisure (like, Tosh's favorite home-based leisure: watching TV). When one's mind is this busy with one thing, it takes up the room for being mindful for other things. This may be why 5 or so transcripts I have coded so far did not mention any of mindfulness components. Instead, they mentioned A LOT of uncertainty. Uncertainty in the post-disaster contexts means not knowing the extent of disaster damage, not knowing where to live, how to live, what to do; not knowing when one can get a house back, a job back, a community back, a school back, etc. These are the content of uncertainty, or "what" of uncertainty. The consequence of uncertainty is that the never-ending thought and worry. Post-disaster uncertainty is related to essentially un-answerable questions. For example, no one knew how soon one survivor can get his home rebuilt. No one can answer it, but it does not mean that one can stop asking this question and thinking about it. That's the real harm here, in relation to mindfulness. Survivors' mind is too full of thoughts and worries about these uncertain issues. There was no room for mindfulness and mindful leisure specifically (with the fact that leisure had a less priority in their mind at that time). Having this noted, I would argue this absence of mindfulness is NOT the evidence that mindful leisure would not work in post-disaster contexts. I feel that the opposite would be the case for many survivors. If you can intentionally create the space to be mindful about surrondings that one can be certain about--including leisure, that could help survivors being free from the endless loop of uncertainty thoughts. I would need to find at least one case for this... Perhaps Ume, who did some meditation?

Title: Scope of leisure gratifications

Date: 12/27/2018

At this point, I have coded a few of each of Katrina and GEJE survivors, and there were only a few references to "leisure gratifications" (e.g., Hurley), which I think goes beyond the definition of this concept by Hood and Carruthers (2016). They defined the concept by stating "learning to identify, select, and modify leisure experiences in order to create the possibility of flow and ultimately to support the ongoing development of skills and capacities" (p. 7). So, it's essentially about flow and engagement (as per Seligman).

I think there are some fundamental problems. The first is that "gratifications" -- by which Hood and Carruthers meant deeper satisfaction -- are assumed to be derived only from flow. Flow is an optimal psychological experience, but it's just ONE TYPE of it. Within leisure contexts, Fenton and Walker discussed that there are several other psychologically deep experiences (also see Kleiber et al., 2011). Some of them are communitas, fascination (based on nature and ART), and spirituality (transcendence). The interpersonal/community aspect of the optimal experience -- communitas -- may be very important too in the post-disaster context, because disasters disrupt communities and relationships. Moreover, some of group events (e.g., Saints home game after Katrina) is symbolic and uplifting -- it sends out the message that survivors are there and are having a life. These events also reassure them that they will get through this challenging time. The festive nature of sports and music events (e.g., Mardi Gras) tend to cause this fleeting sense of community.

All of this means that "leisure gratifications" or optimal/engaging leisure in the post-disaster context needs to be conceptualized more broadly than Hood and Carruthers did. It's not simply about flow. It can't be. Sometimes survivors lose access to the activities they are good at. Often the issue is not about developing one's individual skills and capacities, but to re-building community's resources and capacities (in relation to resilience). Thus, optimal leisure after disasters can be interpersonal and communal.

Title: Disaster hassles and mindfulness

Date: 12/28/2018

Today, I was coding Ume, one of the Japanese American Katrina survivors. She was an artist and I knew she talked about some of mindfulness and spirituality issues. This was an intentional selection after discussing the absence of mindful leisure so far in the past memo. Indeed, Ume mentioned some of mindful leisure. Taking time. Scheduling leisure, unstructured time to get out of a harried life after the disaster. This part -- the relationship between mindfulness and hassle-- something that I want to discuss further in this memo.

Based on the literature review, I thought that mindfulness would be important for survivors who suffer from the constant worry about the future and flashbacks of traumatic past events. So, I theorized that mindfulness would bring survivor's attention from the future or past to the present. This was not really apparent so far (I have coded 6 people so far).

Instead, what Ume was suggesting was that she was having this post-Katrina life with increased hassles, and that's where it was important for her to be mindful. Take time off. This I could see apply to many other individuals after Katrina or GEJE. Many GEJE survivors, for example, said that time flied so fast dealing with many things -- e.g., funerals, rebuilding house, getting a job, taking care of family members etc. Their post-disaster life was a constant, load of tasks to do. Although this kind of sounds like a typical lifestyle in a big city, this was not really case for many Kartina and GEJE survivors. New Orleans was known for slower lifestyle, while the country side the GEJE struck was also very different from the metropolitan area in Japan. This could be very stressful for survivors.

Hence, the mindfuless. It's sort of like being relaxed and peaceful for a moment, too. But, just trying to slow down this quick pace life, even temporarily. Perhaps, having a cup of tea with your friends or neighbors. Listening to your favorite music. Playing with your children. Just be here and now, rather than constantly thinking of what to do next. Personally, I can resonate with this a lot. I tend to schedule my life based on my work -- a series of teaching preps, writing papers, doing research, writing grants, etc. They never end. I feel very good about being spontaneous here and there. Just going for a half round of gold with a colleague because the weather is so nice. Just spending a lazy morning with my wife. The same could be true for disaster suvivors, to an extent.

Title: comfort and authenticity

Date: 12/28/2018

This is a memo about the 3rd type of leisure well-being model mechanisms -- authenticity -- and its relavance to post-disaster life contents. I have used this code authenticity a few times so far -- survivors getting back to who they really were, expressing their truer sense of self through leisure. So, that part has been very consistent with Hood and Carruthers's conceptualization. There has been several instances I created and used the code called "comfort." Survivors are talking about feeling comfortable with their own (rebuilt) house, with their family or close friends, with their pet, etc. I have this gut feeling that there is something about the relationship between authenticity and comfort, which is why I am writing this memo.

First, here is the definition of authenticity from Hood and Carruthers (2016): "experiences that reflect personal strengths, interests, and aptitudes" (p. 7). They also say, "Using and cultivating one's most self-defining signature strengths, interests, and virtues lead to the realization of one's full, unique human potential. ... Signature strengths, interest, and aptitudes are characterized by a sense of 'true self' abd authenticity, intrinsic motivation, enthusiasum and excitement, and energization." Is it only me who thinks this conceptualization heavily Western, individualistic? It also sound like biasing toward high-arounsal dimension of psychological experience. Why being authentic has to be "exciting"? If one feels like being who they are, don't they feel rather relaxed, calm, peaceful, and "comfortable"? Like, the