A Goodbye Message (that you will climb like a tree)

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Dear Graduates,

Once again, I’ve been asked to write a goodbye message like the Mean Girls and Pitch Perfect ones I wrote last year and the year before.  This year, though, I wasn’t really feeling it.  I kept trying but everything just came out like a very sad handwritten book.

Anyway, instead, I just thought I would tell you all how thankful I am to have been able to teach you these last few years.  People ask me why I enjoy working with college students so much.  They say things like “when they reach that age, ugh. Disgusting. They smell, they’re sticky, they say things that are horrible.”  I get that, but I just really love teaching.

And I think I’m pretty good at it.  There were days when my lectures were so good, it felt like it was coming out of me like lava!  Honestly! I had a student shout out to me, “You’re really doing it, aren’t ya?”  The funny thing about teaching, though, is that even when I think I’m doing well, I sometimes get terrible course evaluations.  Students write things like, “you know, you’re not as popular as you think you are,” “you look like an old mop, “I feel bad for your parents,” or even “you’re an old, single loser who’s never going to have any friends.”  I’m not going to lie, that last one hurt a little.  I mean, why can’t you be happy for me and then go home and talk about me behind my back like a normal person?

Fortunately, though, for every five or six really mean ones, there’s at least one sort of nice one.  Last semester, someone wrote that I am more beautiful than Cinderella and that I smell like pine needles, and have a face like sunshine!  It was a weird thing to write, but nice.

Of course, being a professor isn’t all about teaching.  I do a lot of research, advise students, and even supervise a few student organizations.  I’ll tell you something, students really tell us some deep secrets sometimes.  They think we’re just like priests… except we would tell everybody afterwards.   I had way too many advisees too.  I think I overcommitted with 9.  Six is a comfortable number.  My student organizations were into some weird stuff too that kept me on my toes.  One student suggested an event where we all come dressed as our favorite Pixar character, and another student was like, “or a Fight Club, a female fight club.”  I had to put a stop to that quick. Thanks. But…um, no way! No way in hell!

But enough about me.  This should be about you and the journey ahead.  I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be tough.  You’re going to be like, “help me, I’m poor.” You’re going to try and blame the world for your problems.  You going to hit rock-bottom, but I want you to know that hitting bottom is a good thing. Because there’s nowhere to go but up.  Plus, I don’t associate with people who blame the world for their problems. You are your problem. You are also your solution.  Do you think my life has always been easy?  I had it rough when I was in school.  They called me a freak. Do you think I let that break me? Think I went home to my mommy crying; ‘Oh, I don’t have any friends.’ No, I did not. You know what I did? I pulled myself up. I studied really hard. I read every book in the library and now I work for the government. I have the highest possible security clearance. Don’t repeat that!

Whoa, sorry about that.  I’m obviously working through some stuff.

Don’t worry about me, though.  I’m gonna be fine. So don’t worry, okay? I’m gonna be…I’m gonna be fine. I am fine. And besides, you need to blaze the trail for me and then report back and tell me what’s coming.  So, in short, I would just like to say to you and to everyone here, “Gracias para vivar en la casa, en la escuelas, en… en la azul… “markada”. Tienes con “bibir” en las Fortuashla?” and gracias!

Yup, I would like to invite you to no longer live with us.  It’s time to graduate. This is so awkward. I really want you to leave, but I don’t know how to say it without sounding like a… jerk.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love you all and will miss you.  Honestly, I really will miss each and every one of you.  You are such a stone-cold pack of weirdos, and I am so proud!


Ryan Martin

PS. If this all came out wrong, I want to apologize. I’m not even confident on which end it came out of.

A Goodbye Message to Our Graduates… that you will eat up like a cheesecake

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Dear Graduates,

I wanted to drop you all a quick note to say congratulations on your upcoming graduation.  A few of you asked that I do something for you like the Mean Girls goodbye I wrote to last year’s graduates.  I was like, “yeah, that’s not a thing, and you’re not the boss of me.” Instead, I just want to say goodbye in my own way and not feel pressured to try and include a bunch of quotes about flying Mexican food or whether or not synchronized lady dancing to a Mariah Carey chart-topper is lame (it’s not by the way).

The truth is, this is a tough group to say goodbye to.  It makes me sad.  I don’t know if that is a good feeling or an incorrect feeling (Feelings are hard.  Sometimes I have the feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think, ‘Mmm, better not.’).  I just know that lately, when it comes to saying goodbye, I wanna do something else (we could re-live my parents’ divorce?)  It will be ok, though.  I am a survivor, but I have to pull back because I am limited.

We did a lot of great things this year: Psychology March Madness, the Smile Squad, February Psych Challenge, when we wrestled crocodiles and dingoes simultaneously (just to name a few).  One of the best things we did this year, though, was the NAMIwalk.  You may think we just show up and walk for something like that but, nope, the presidents of PHD and Psi Chi made it very clear, “We will practice, and I trust you will add your own cardio.”  I was like, “Yeah, no. Don’t put me down for cardio” but that didn’t stop them.  It was a great walk and we all had a great time, until I realized I parked in a lot where they do not validate.  Plus, if I’m being honest, I realized a couple minutes in that I should have taken that cardio tip more seriously.  Maybe some horizontal running?

I got to have most of you in class too, which was a joy.  I’m impressed by how smart, talented, funny, and curious you all are.  Granted, it wasn’t always pretty.  Like that time I had to tell a student, “That’s not a real word, but keep trying. You will get there” or the time I had to write on a student’s exam, “not a good enough reason to use the word penetrate.”  I’m sorry if I was too rough on you, but I am my father’s son and he always says ‘if at first you don’t succeed’…’pack your bags’.

Plus, it’s not like you were always nice to me.  At least one of you wrote “Is it me, or did we just take a left turn into snooze-ville?” on my course evaluations.  That hurt.  Someone tried to take it out of the evals but I said, “Leave it. It fuels my hate fire.”  So you know, I’m not a total nerd. I also happen to be super-into close-up magic.  Plus, I’m good at modern dance, olden dance, and mermaid dancing (it’s a lot of floor work).  That said, if I could sing a lick, I would. But I can’t. And I hate myself everyday because of it.

But enough about me.  This week is about you.  So in closing, let me say this.  I’ll miss you.  I’m serious…  Dixie Chicks serious.  It’s been an incredible experience working with you all and I’m thankful you chose to study psychology at UWGB.  I don’t like saying goodbye, but like I’ve told you… endings are the best part.

Hands in,

Ryan Martin
Chair of Psychology-UW-Green Bay
Lead Singer- The Minstrel Cycles

PS. I’m sorry for the name of my singing group.  That’s an unfortunate name.

On Being Hangry

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We’ve all been there. We haven’t eaten all day, so we try and grab a quick bite only to find out there’s a wait at our favorite restaurant. BAM, we snap.

Jimmy Johns


You’ve been struck by “hanger,” the combination of hunger and anger, an insidious little monster that works its way into our lives and destroys relationships with both our loved ones…


and our favorite fast-food employees.



No one should be surprised by the existence of hanger. In fact, we should be surprised that we took so long to come up with a word for it.



We recognize hanger in kids with no problem. In fact, a cursory glance at most parenting books will tell you that the vast majority of child crabbiness is explained by sleeplessness, hunger, or both.


So what causes hangriness? Well, unlike shark anger, which remains a mystery despite my efforts, scientists actually know the answer to this one.

Here’s the key. Comparatively, food is fairly important when it comes to sustaining human life. We don’t live very long if we don’t eat, so our evolutionary history has provided us with a fairly simple set of eating reminders (stomach contractions and growling, low energy, difficulty concentrating, headaches, etc.). These reminders get more extreme the longer we go without food and feeling cranky, irritated, or frustrated falls in that moderate to severe food deprivation range.


Don’t Make Me Hangry…. You Won’t Like Me When I’m Hangry.

More specifically, it has to do with blood sugar. When our blood sugar gets too low, we get anxious, uncomfortable, and irritable. Ultimately, glucose helps regulate self-control in the brain. Without it, we have a more difficult time controlling our emotions and behaviors.

This means that hunger affects anger on both the front end and the back end of the experience. People get angry when they appraise a situation as unfair or unpleasant. They get even angrier, though, when they’re in a negative state (tense, anxious, hungry, etc.) right before the unfair or unpleasant event (the front end). But, since glucose helps us regulate our behavior, hunger also makes it harder for us to control that anger, and we’re more likely to lash out (the back end).


Can someone get Bill a sandwich or something?

So, can we avoid it? Yes, by eating.

Maya Cooper Michele Perchonok

I’ve cured hunger!

If you’re looking for more than that, here are some helpful resources.

If none of those work, though, there’s always this:


If “Hanger” Can be a Thing, Why Not These?

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According to a recent Huffington Post article, 10 Things Hangry People Do, hanger is when people are both hungry and angry.  It seems to lead to all sorts of problems like a need for butter and starch and “chocolate freak-outs.”

It got me thinking, though; why not combine anger with other emotional/cognitive/behavioral states to create more fun new words.  In that spirit, here are a handful of portmanteaus (a word I totally knew on my own and didn’t have to ask my colleagues in the English department about) we should embrace:

  • Temperature Tantrums: An uncontrollable outburst of anger because you are either too hot or too cold.
  • Lustration: Intense sexual desire… for someone who’s just not that into you.
  • Checkoutrage: The frustration from consistently choosing the wrong line at the grocery store.
  • Inferiation: An inaccurate deduction that leads to infuriation.
  • Resetment: The feeling of betrayal and irritation that comes with having to restore your cellphone to factory settings.
  • Madderall: The drug prescribed for people with anger and attention problems.
  • Pollyannoyed: Feeling irritated by another’s joyful outlook on life.

This is intended to be just the start.  Please feel free to add others to the comments below.

By Ryan C. Martin

The Value of Humor in Frustrating Times

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I find that when I’m angry, it helps to find something to laugh about.  Is that true or am I just fooling myself?

Chances are you are right that the humor is helping you in those situations.  There’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that humor and laughter are important coping mechanisms that can help people deal with a variety of psychosocial problems.   First, though, it’s important to understand a little bit about what people find funny and why they laugh. 

Humor is a particularly difficult concept to discuss and study for a variety of reasons. First, there are substantial differences with regard to what people find funny.  Many types of jokes (e.g., puns, ethnic jokes, dirty jokes, slapstick) are not appreciated by everyone or even most people.  Second, context matters greatly in that various aspects of the situation (e.g., who told the joke, the location, the circumstances) influence whether or not someone perceives something as funny.  Consequently, something that would be considered hilarious in one situation may not be funny at all in another.  Due to all of this, identifying the important elements of humor has been a challenge. 

Ultimately, one of the best definitions of humor comes, not from a psychologist but from the author, George Orwell.  Orwell wrote in his 1945 essay, Funny, but Not Vulgar, that “a thing is funny when — in some way that is not actually offensive or frightening — it upsets the established order.”  To put this in psychological terms, people find something to be funny when it is surprises them, forces them to think about things in a new way, and when they perceive it as edgy or daring.  However, once something moves past the threshold from edgy to “offensive or frightening”, it is no longer funny. 

What does all this mean for anger?  Well, it means that people can use humor to change their mood and to think about things in a new light.  By no means is this a new idea.  In fact, Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher, one of psychology’s leading anger researchers, wrote of the importance of humor in his 1995 book chapter, Ideal Treatment Package for Adults with Anger Disorders.  In the chapter, published in Anger Disorders: Definition, Diagnosis, and Treatment, Deffenbacher argues that using humor with clients might actually be considered a cognitive intervention, similar to cognitive restructuring where clients evaluate the types of thoughts they have which might be leading them to experience more anger.  He suggests that, as part of cognitive restructuring, clients should try to rethink things in silly or humorous ways.  However, he is quick to point out that anger is not always the answer and, if people use it, they should make sure it is (a) silly rather than hostile or sarcastic and (b) not designed to laugh off problems but “to take a brief cognitive step backward, perhaps laughing at themselves and their cognitions, to reduce their anger and then approach the situation again” (p. 169).

The next question, though, is why does humor work in reducing anger?   There are actually a couple of simple reasons for the psychosocial benefits of humor. 

Incompatible Mood States. Humor seems to decrease anger because, to some degree, the psychological state of finding something funny is incompaible with the psychological state of anger.  In other words, it’s hard to be angry while, simultaneously, finding something funny.  Even if it is just for a brief instant, when someone finds something funny and laughs, their anger has dissipated somewhat.  This is actually very similar to the rationale for why relaxation is so valuable in treating both anger and anxiety.  One cannot be anxious and relaxed at the same time.  It is also why humor has been found to be such an effective coping mechanism for so many negative psychological states (e.g., stress, fear, sadness).  Of course, as described by Deffenbacher, certain types of humor like sarcasm are less valuable because they do not necessarily lead to a different mood state but rather serve as an aggressive means of expressing anger.  

Conflict Management. Humor has long been used as a conflict management strategy.  It serves to lighten the mood, put others at ease, facilitate communication of difficult and angering topics, and even to help in the delivery of bad news.  In fact, people laugh more often at something they say than at something said by someone else.  It is not so much that they find what they are saying to be funny.  It is that laughter can convey the lightheartedness that might be necessary to decrease tension and anger in a particularly challenging interpersonal situation. 

Cognitive Shifting. Finally, as described by both Deffenbacher and Orwell, humor represents a different way of looking at things.  When people get angry, it’s because they perceive the situation as unfair, unjustified, etc. Humor allows people to think about the provocation in a new light and, potentially, one that is less angering.  Likewise, it also allows the angry person to think of themselves and their angering thoughts in a new way.  When highly emotional, people sometimes think unreasonable, unrealistic, and, frankly, silly things.  Taking time to recognize the silliness of your recent thought that the person in the car in front of you is a total idiot or that not being able to find your car keys ruined the entire day can help give you some much needed perspective and help you cope with frustrating situations.

By Ryan C. Martin
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