Diva culture vs 'A Little Princess' - part 2 Bruxism & Dopamine excess.
This got too long for email, it covers a few themes including a wrap-up about bruxism-grinding or clenching the jaw at night and bitesplints.
To recap a few points from Bruxism-Part 1 which I didn’t spell out - clenching or grinding of the jaw during sleep seems to involve excess dopamine and over acidity. The COMT gene alleles are potential risk factors and those may cause reduced dopamine levels that lead the person to self medicate and have elevated dopamine, or fluctuating, or other alleles might lead to elevated dopamine. Over-acidity would cause muscle cramping and the jaw clenching might really be involuntary muscle cramping rather than ‘anxiety’ or ‘stress’ - rather than being only about mood.
Lack of B vitamins and elevated homocysteine which can lead to epigenetic changes and increase pain hypersensitivity might be involved too. Lack of an expensive custom fitted bitesplint is not the only ‘causal factor’ or the only correctable factor.
A well-fitting one may help train the person to hold their jaw in a more relaxed position rather than trying to line up their teeth. To try to explain to someone without the problem - when I close my jaw with it in alignment, my upper and lower teeth are about 1/8th to a 1/4 inch out of alignment. Chewing is a bit of a side to side motion along with up and down and it works out for me. The bigger point is that bruxism is more common in younger years (15-50% of children) and becomes less common in older adults (3%) - so training the person’s jaw to be aware of the correct alignment when not chewing may have real benefit.
The custom-fitted bitesplint from 1985 was like a sleek sports model though compared to what I got in 2018 which felt huge and I couldn’t sleep with it at all - constant awareness. The slimmer fitting 1985 model was clear and I could even wear it during the day but it made talking a little funny. It is a lifestyle change though, as the custom fit will stop fitting if you don’t use it for a while. Our teeth gradually shift positions in the gum and the perfectly molded plastic piece would no longer fit then and hurts to try to make it fit. As an investment, it only lasts if you use it almost every night.
The self fitting silicon NightGuard I bought for $20/25 is comfortable and only took a few minutes to fit.
While cleaning I found the mold used in 2018, the dental assistant gave it to me in case I needed another made maybe. The bitesplint you get from that process is much firmer than silicon. The Doctor’s NightGuard has a firmer layer of plastic that doesn't melt as much as the inner silicon layer. Zooming in on the image above shows the two layers.
Elevated dopamine is the tie-in to the children’s book “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It was given to me by my mother on my ten birthday according to an inscription and I have saved it even though it is missing its paperback font and back covers. I hadn’t reread it though, that I remember since childhood and it was a fun trip back in time to my childhood and to the era of the book - 1800s London. Well written historical fiction gives us a sense of what it really was like to live at that time. When classics are rewritten to be ‘inclusive’ of other races or attitudes, then the rewrite would be a fantasy, not a historically based fiction novel.
Staying up later than usual to watch a webinar left me wide awake and I have been unpacking my books. Clearing a shelf for my functional nutrition textbooks was a motivator to keep clearing space among my parents books and unpacking my own books. I started reading A Little Princess and then didn’t or couldn’t stop. Elevated dopamine can cause compulsive behavior whether eating too much or reading too much. Fiction also captures my imagination and it can be more vivid for me than watching a movie. The movie scenes are in a well written book.
A summary rather than a book review
The book is written for girls with only one boy character with a main role. Its subtext themes are about fairness in life - we aren’t handed out money, or kindness, or intelligence, or thin-ness equally. Nice people won’t hold that against you though. The main character, our little ‘princess’ is not literally a princess but her super rich and adoring widower father bought her such a sumptuous wardrobe and hired a French speaking maid for her stay at a boarding school. India was thought not to be healthy for children. Fast forward - it wasn’t healthy for the father or his business partner. They got sick and worried about an investment going bad and the father died and the business partner skipped town proverbially.
The little girl had been at the boarding school a couple years by then though and had made friends with girl her own age who was a little left out due to being overweight and not learning things well. Ermengarde’s father was very smart and disappointed in her. *Dietitian aside, Ermengarde was likely low iodine and hypothyroid leading to easy weight gain and lower learning ability. It was not uncommon to be low iodine and especially for younger siblings in larger families).
Sarah started helping Ermengarde with French and other lessons and also befriended a very young boarder - age four, who would have tantrums and complain about having no mother anymore. Sarah also had lost her French speaking mother (that is why Sarah was a natural at it which made the headmistress dislike her almost immediately) and suggested she would be like a mother to the little tot and Sarah’s fabulous doll Emily would be like a sister to her. That worked.
The bonding continued with a scullery maid who was poorly treated and underfed and already small from stunted growth. Sarah started giving her confectionaries that she would buy with her pocket money and then happened to find meat pies were much more satisfying for Becky’s hungry growing body. A couple years of the sumptuous wardrobe lifestyle and star pupil occurred. Sarah would be brought in to show off to prospective parents thinking about boarding their child at the school and she was a polite girl who cooperated with it but didn’t become changed.
As a younger child in India, she had lived as an adored child with many, many Indian servants who it seems were treated well, instead of being partially starved.
When the news arrived that her father had died and there was no money to pay the fial bill, the headmistress was ready to throw her out on the street and the banker involved suggested a prudent business woman should know how bad that would look if people found out. Better to keep the child and put her to some use… The headmistress immediately took away all the nicer newer, sumptuous things to sell and left Sarah with only her older, plainer, and sometimes too small clothing. She was given an unheated room in the attic next to Becky’s.
Throughout the whole book, Sarah enchants us and her friends with her imagination. She soothes Becky and her friends with stories about history or fantasy. The cold attic rooms become the Bastille prison and they are prisoners able to knock on the wall in code and speak to each other.
When Sarah’s circumstances were changed within the school, the other girls took on the headmistress’ attitude and ignored or mistreated her. Initially Sarah didn’t respond to the overweight girl who had been like a best friend. One tired night a few weeks after the abrupt change she made it to her attic room and found her friend there in the cold, dark attic room. She was frightened and hurt and didn’t know why Sarah had stopped liking her. Sarah realized that her friend was nicer than she was. Sarah had thought that the friend didn’t want to be friends anymore like all the rest of the snooty girls (there are two older students who are reminiscent of ‘Mean Girls’ or ‘Clueless’ - one being meaner and one occasionally commenting that maybe that was mean - roughly).
More happens and the power of imagination is found to be a little harder when too cold and hungry but magically, it still helps and at times, literally. A fourpence is found when Sarah is wishing to find a sixpence. Looking up, there is a bakery right there too, she is sooooo hungry. On her way in she sees another girl who she recognizes is hungrier and more starved than Sarah was. She goes in to buy four penny buns and the kind bakery woman sees how thin and hungry she looks and gives her six anyway. Sarah goes out and gives three to the other little girl who eats them so rapidly that Sarah gave her two more, keeping only one for herself. The bakery woman went outside shortly later and saw that the other girl was eating the buns and asked how many she had been given. The generosity of Sarah led the woman to tell the other girl to stop by for bread again if she was too hungry.
On the reread, with our modern pedogate awareness, there was an odd phrasing and theme - a daughter’s and father’s love for each other. The book doesn’t have a creepy vibe but in rereading with Woke culture awareness, some people might pick out the phrase “friends and lovers” as creepy. ??? Or the special role of a daughter for a widower. Her father’s nickname for Sarah had been the Little Missus - the little woman of the house. She is a nurturer of the other students, and a befriender of the sparrows and rats that visited her garret room seeking crumbs she would save. Love matters more than money is a theme. Kindness counts more than sumptuous ostrich feather and ermine trimmed outfits.
A Little Princess is an old book - written in the late 1800s, so it is fiction about the current times lived by the author, rather than a novel written about a historical time. When we read the ‘current’ fiction of older times, we are getting a fairly accurate idea of what it was like to live at that time and place. Rewriting that to ‘fit’ modern attitudes would turn it into fantasy - make-believe - not an accurate representation of what it was like to live at that time and place.
“A Little Princess is a 1905 children's novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It is a revised and expanded version of Burnett's 1888 serialised novel entitled Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin's Boarding School, which was published in St. Nicholas Magazine.” (Amazon)
Frances Hodgson Burnett was a woman ahead of her times and in some ways similar to Sarah Crewe in that her own childhood family lost her father to death and his business didn’t last either. They became quite poor after having been comfortable. Her mother was still alive though and she had four other siblings. Her writing began early in her life and was set on earning money to help support her mother and siblings after they had moved to the US to live with an uncle, whose business then had also failed, due to the ending of the Civil War. Later she became fairly famous and rich and a socialite of US and European culture - all supported by her own writing. She is most famous for a few of her children’s books, including A Little Princess, but also wrote many books for adults and turned quite a few into plays. (womenhistoryblog.com)
She scandalized society with two divorces and one of the more famous children’s books, Little Lord Fauntleroy, starred a rich boy who was dressed in specially made velvet suits and wore long hair curled in ringlets — like she dressed her own sons. (womenhistoryblog.com) A Secret Garden is her third most famous children’s book and it is about a young girl who is sent to the country to live with an odd older male relative who was very sad or angry because he had lost his wife. He let her garden go wild and the girl found it and learned to care for it from a poor local boy and his mother. The rich old relative was initially mad at them for entering the locked area and then saw the magic, learned to love again - roughly, I didn’t reread that book last night. ;-)
Frances Hodgson Burnett is described as becoming eccentric in her old age, and died at age 74. (womenhistoryblog.com)
Hmmmm I am not sure what to think about all that. It is a bit eccentric.
History repeats itself
What is interesting about reading fiction or poetry from older times is how much of it is the same human foibles. Mean girls at school were a thing in 1888 and in 2008. In the poetry of Rumi we see that drunkenness was a thing in the 1200s and still is in modern times. We also learn older words like ‘bedclothes’ - a word I heard being talked about on the radio - someone had never heard the expression and found it odd. The word was in the book. Bedclothes means the sheets and blankets and pillowcase. Poor Becky in the freezing cold attic had little bedding compared to what Sarah was likely used to before she was moved to the attic too. Imagination doesn’t really help much when it is freezing cold and there is scarcely a blanket to wrap around you.
Sarah was teased about being a ‘little princess’ by the other girls or headmistress once she was poor, but for her it was a lifestyle choice or core value. A princess observes but does not participate in meanness. She saw what the headmistress was like and the mean girls but she didn’t stoop to their pettiness. A princess cares for others and helps feed the populace if they are hungry.
In romantic historical novels, feudalism has a nice side - the Lord and Lady of the manor take care of their cottagers and help those who are having trouble or sickness. Boxing day was a day near Christmas time when boxes of supplies or food were given to the villagers. The Lord and Lady of a good system did not overtax or overwork their people, instead building a community that knows and helps each other. The village was more the extended family - you take care of each other in a family. A Lord and Lady who are loved will be more likely to be fought for if necessary compared to the mean Prince in the tale of Robin Hood who overtaxed the people - took too much of their harvest for them to be able to survive comfortably.
Modern life in an oligarchy is more like the over-taxing but the money is going to corporations instead of a royal family.
Through a variety of magical circumstances that took two years, Sarah was found by the run-away business partner who turned out to not be evil, just foolish for leaving when the business seemed to have failed. She is ale to remain friends with Ermengarde and Lottie and Becky was hired away from the abusive school to work as Sarah’s maid in her new home with the Indian business partner and his manservant lascar and the lascar’s monkey who had a starring role in Sarah’s discovery and magical rescue.
I am a dreamer. Elevated dopamine is associated with being more susceptible to hypnotization or placebo/nocebo effect. Do you believe easily? empathize easily? It might be a little extra dopamine.
COMT gene alleles
“COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase) is a central enzyme that breaks down catecholamines including dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.
COMT plays a vital role in regulating dopamine signaling in the prefrontal cortex where dopamine transporters are relatively sparse.1 Dopamine levels here are critical for memory, attention, judgment, and other executive functions.2,3” […]
“Val158met (rs4680) is a common single nucleotide polymorphism in the COMT gene which results in a change of one amino acid in the protein from a valine (Val) to a methionine (Met). The met allele is associated with approximately 40% lower enzymatic activity, leading to increased dopamine activity.
The heterozygous genotype (Val/Met) is considered as the normal level of dopamine degradation or clinically non-actionable.
Individuals with the Val/Val genotype display elevated COMT enzyme activity and thus reduced dopamine levels.
Individuals with the Met/Met genotype have reduced COMT enzyme activity and thus elevated dopamine levels. 1,4-7”
I have this allele: COMT Val158Met G>A GA - so I may have normal dopamine as a general rule but I am not sure. It is confusing as to which allele is meant. A difference reference says G > A means methionine (Met) is being used instead of valine (Val). (snpedia.com) That suggests the reduced enzyme activity and more dopamine on average.
However I also have this allele: MAOA Arg297Arg G>T TT. MAOA is also an enzyme that breaks down dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. The TT allele means reduced MAOA activity and potentially more anxiety and in females there may be more feelings of anger and self-aggression, self harm rather than being a risk to others. Males with the G allele have more MAOA activity, reduced dopamine, and tend toward increased aggression. (selfdecode.com)(selfhacked.com)
It is kind of annoying to try to figure out what allele is being discussed as slightly different ways to write it seem to exist. The rs number system is more specific.
rs6323: “People who produce more MAO-A(G or GG) aren't as affected by the placebo effect (R)
G or GG=Higher MAO-A.
In females, the G allele was associated with higher outward anger and G allele also causes aggression in males. G=More Aggression.”
Increased MAOA activity and levels of MAOA (GG).
Reduced MAOA activity and levels of MAOA (TT).”
Also: “Rs6323 Rs6323 (MAOA R297R Gene) – The G or GG allele was linked with higher levels of the enzyme, while the T allele indicated lower levels (T is the ‘risk’ allele). In females, the G allele was associated with higher outward anger (p = 0.002) and the G allele was also associated with aggression in males .
In another small study, women with TT reported higher levels of “angry temperament” and female suicide attempters with TT reported higher “self-aggression” .” Is MAOA the “Warrior Gene”? High/Low Levels & Testing, by Ana Aleksic, MSc. (selfhacked.com)
I have the TT version which seems to be more anxiety oriented. I would be producing less MAOA and tend to have excess dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Hmmm. Maybe I am over self-medicating. I have other alleles that make it difficult for me to make endocannabinoids normally and seem to need an external or dietary source. Some nutrients are conditionally essential - essential for those people who can’t make them due to gene differences, age, or illness. Endocannabinoids seem to fall into that category in my professional opinion. They are essential for a newborn baby to have good appetite and normal growth rates and are in breastmilk in some form.
I also have a more normal COMT gene so maybe it is active instead of the variant.
I had gene screenings done from two companies with specialized panels. This post has alleles from an older screening I had done which focused on alleles common in autism. Gene alleles Table, n=1, Case studies can be informative about heterogenic conditions. Dec. 9 2022. (Substack) The COMT and MAOA variants matched on the two screenings, except the later one mentioned only one COMT allele.
That gene stuff was probably boring but it clarified for me that I likely have tended toward elevated dopamine all my life and easily believing things, or maybe imagining possibilities. Creativity is associated with more dopamine. When I go even higher dopamine I am setting myself up for the binge eating, compulsive reading or other actions. Why do I bite my nails and have given up trying to stop? It is a nervous anxius habit but it is also self protective against scratching too much. Elevated dopamine or histamine promotes itchiness and I have also ha eczema a lot of my life.
If you ever notice extreme itchiness on the top of the feet or back of the hands - and can’t stop scratching - that is ‘grooming’ behavior and it is a symptom of elevated dopamine or differences in the dopamine receptors. (Taylor, et al., 2010) I have had that symptom in the past. I think my thyroid level may still have been off at that time and I had undiagnosed hyperparathyroidism too.
Health isn’t easy but it is worth it.
Rereading the children’s book about imagination and kindness and unkindness and a daughter’s and father’s love for each other showed me roots of my interest in public health and helping others to not be hungry. My career was in a program that gave away food and education to pregnant women and families with young children.
What is a princess?
A print I found among my sister’s things with a few pictures of Disney princesses:
I am a Princess . . .
I try to be kind.
I try to be generous.
I am kind even when others are not so generous…
I believe compassion makes me strong.
Kindness is power.
And friendship is the tightest bond of all.
I have heard I am beautiful
I know I am strong.
I am a princess.
Long may I reign.
I realize the negative of having learned to value helping a father or husband do their work so they can support you in your own kind endeavors is that you are waiting for a father or husband to help instead of helping yourself with your own goals.
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a book about traditional gender values of the late 1800s England and colonies. It is set within a female run boarding school though and a female bakery owner had a starring role (I won’t give away the ending, go read the book, I recommend it). The book likely was empowering to girls at the time - women could be in charge, but are they being nice about it - like princesses - or petty and mean? Males have roles as banker, lawyer or the rich business men.
In modern culture we seem to be valuing mean girls more than nice ones - be a diva - be a queen - and get pretty bracelets from males. A video went viral of a very young girl, maybe 6, showing off a bracelet and kind of bragging about how she got her boyfriend to give it to her. Six year olds are too young for boyfriends or there is no age that is a good age for manipulating people into giving you gifts. There is an impolite word for that besides beggar when you are female getting gifts from males. Why is our modern society promoting cute videos of very young girls showing off their skills at vamping? Is vamping even a word and what does it mean? Vampiring men?
Yes, that is a definition but it seems more commonly used now to mean all-nighters, whether gaming or partying, staying up all night and then sleeping during the day - vampire style.
“A woman who aggressively seduces men, sometimes to exploit or manipulate them. 2. A vampire. v. vamped, vamp·ing, vamps. v. tr. To seduce or exploit “ The Free Dictionary.
Modern Diva culture is teaching girls and now young boys too, that being seductive and manipulative or demanding is a good thing. Why? Why is being nasty and demanding a good thing? Just because you shake your body at people? Does that make your body the most important thing about you? Is being objectified a good thing? or a bad thing?
Is it queenly to be a demanding diva? or is that a US re-interpretation? Or is it that the UK royalty were taken over by people with really nasty secret habits and they aren’t really nice and kind people at all. They only play those roles for public view. Fake niceness has a price, a what’s in it for me later? or an expectation of toeing the line and playing sycophant to the falsely nice person.
Kindness and truly having that attitude of peace and acceptance is healthy for us while faking it, pretending not to be angry or other emotions can be unhealthy - video interview with Gabor Mate by Dairy of a CEO.
Doctor Gabor Mate: The Shocking Link Between Kindness & Illness!
the segment: 30:57 💑 Emotional Intimacy in Relationships: Avoiding Mothering Dynamics may give us a little insight into Sarah Crewe being called Little Missus - Gabor Mate says men have a tendency to want their partner to mother them, but then if that is happening a healthy man won’t feel sexually attracted to his mother and a healthy woman would no longer feel sexually attracted to the man she is now mothering — not untrue in my opinion.
Yet being her spouse’s chief cheerleader and supporter is a traditional role for wives - sooth worries, serve hot soup when sick, host dinners for the boss if needed. The traditional role has the husband as leader or head of the family with the wife as second in command. Extended community of neighbor women might step up to serve the hot soup if the wife is sick - the feudal system of a protective village who knows each other has been lost in our busy over-crowded modern world.
43:43 🙅♂️ Trauma and Authenticity: Overcoming People-Pleasing Habits - people pleasers - people who are nice because they are afraid something bad will happen if they are not, may be unhealthy emotional repression and also may be a trauma response → then it may be helpful to work on healing your trauma which may mean digging into subconscious, unspoken trauma. A counselor can be a good idea.
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