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Archive for March, 2010

Your “Life Footprint” And The 4.0 Career

March 30th, 2010
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In a previous post I wrote about the rise of the “4.0” career, and how it contrasts with earlier orientations to work.  In brief, the 4.0 version is an emerging shift towards a broader vision of career “success.”  It includes the desire for new learning, growth and personal meaning from work – increasingly visible themes over the last few decades, and what I’ve called the “3.0” career orientation.

What’s different about the emerging 4.0 career is that it’s an expansion beyond looking for greater meaning and sense of “purpose” through one’s work.  It also includes a desire for impact on something larger than oneself, beyond one’s personal benefit.  It’s becoming visible in the pull men and women report towards wanting to contribute to the common good -  whether it’s through the value and usefulness of a product or service.

The 4.0 career is part of the emerging new business model focused on creating “sustainable” enterprises.  It’s part of what’s known as the new “triple bottom line” — financial, social and environmental measures of success.

In this and in future posts l’ll describe some 4.0 career themes and how men and women illustrate them.  This is important because the transformations now underway in global societies, which became more dramatically apparent following the economic nosedive in September 2008, have tremendous implications for career survival and success.  The unstable, unpredictable new world upon us makes the 4.0 career orientation the path towards both outward success and personal well-being in the years ahead.

As a step towards finding the 4.0 career path, consider this little historical nugget: Read more…

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Thoughts On Political Intolerance and Bigotry In Today’s Culture

March 25th, 2010
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In a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, columnist Bob Herbert wrote that the G.O.P. has become

…the party of trickle down and weapons of mass destruction, the party of birthers and death-panel lunatics. This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry.

Glenn Beck of Fox News has called President Obama a “racist” and asserted that he “has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Mike Huckabee, a former Republican presidential candidate, has said of Mr. Obama’s economic policies: “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.”

The G.O.P. poisons the political atmosphere and then has the gall to complain about an absence of bipartisanship.

And over the weekend, such civil rights leaders as John Lewis were subjected to racial slurs; Congressman Barney Franks was slammed with homophobic labels as he walked to the Capitol.  Much of this occurred with the egging on of Republican House members, shouting and sign-waving from the balcony, as they watched Tea Party members engaging in what Michael Steele described as just “stupid things” being said by “idiots.” But they aren’t.  They are statements of bigotry and racism.

The interesting thing, psychologically, is what propels this in 2010, and how pervasive such intolerance is, in our country.  I think it may be more widespread in appearance than in reality, however, though it certainly looks like the former.  And Herbert is dead-on when he writes,

…it is way past time for decent Americans to rise up against this kind of garbage, to fight it aggressively wherever it appears. And it is time for every American of good will to hold the Republican Party accountable for its role in tolerating, shielding and encouraging foul, mean-spirited and bigoted behavior in its ranks and among its strongest supporters.

I think the real trends across our culture are in opposite directions — towards greater, not lesser tolerance; towards awareness that we’re all interconnected in this globalized world, and that we rise or fall together, as a species. Read more…

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Having An Affair? But Which Kind?

March 23rd, 2010
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The other day Tiger Woods began his �I did bad things� tour of the talk shows, and I recalled a recent moment with George (not his real name), who had consulted me about the dilemma posed by his new affair.� As he told me how it began, visions of Woods, Mark Sanford, and John Edwards began flashing through my head — along with the similar stories of countless patients over the years.

�She was standing off by herself during a conference break, leaning against a wall, sipping coffee,� George said.���As I walked by, our eyes met and I felt a sudden jolt — a rush of energy, real connection.��Suddenly we found ourselves talking, feeling like we had known each other for years.�� The affair �just �happened,� George added.

That�s an explanation I�ve heard many times.��Another is a bit more �strategic.�� For example, Jan, a 41 year-old lawyer, said her affair was a �marriage stabilizer�.safe and discreet, a perfect solution for me.� �She decided it was a rational alternative to the disruption of divorce.

Of course the public always enjoys being titillated with stories of public figures� affairs, especially when hypocrisy is exposed.� But cultural attitudes have clearly shifted towards acceptance of affairs.� They�re seen as a life-style choice; an option for men and women yearning for excitement or intimacy that�s lacking or has dulled during their marriage.� So given that new reality, I decided to write this piece, about the psychology of affairs — their meaning and their consequences.

Based on my work over the decades, I find six kinds of affairs that people have today. �I think a non-judgmental description of them (but with a tinge of humor) can help people who have affairs deal with them with greater awareness and responsibility.��Here are the six I�ve diagnosed: Read more…

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Awakening The Common Good In Our Self-Serving Culture

March 18th, 2010

The eminent historian Tony Judt, author of the seminal work Postwar, about the dynamics of Europe since World War II, has written an important new book, in my view, Ill Fares the LandThe New York Times has called it a “…bleak assessment of the selfishness and materialism that have taken root in Western societies (that) will stick to your feet and muddy your floors. But the Times adds that “Ill Fares the Land is also optimistic, raw and patriotic in its sense of what countries like the United States and Britain have meant — and can continue to mean — to their people and to the world.”

In his review, Dwight Garner explains that Judt is describing the “political and intellectual landscape in Britain and the United States since the 1980s, the Reagan-Thatcher era, and he worries about an increasing and ‘uncritical adulation of wealth for its own sake.’ What matters, he writes, ‘is not how affluent a country is but how unequal it is,’ and he sees growing and destabilizing inequality almost everywhere.”

It’s heartening to see at least one “public intellectual” – a vanishing breed – lay out in a direct, forceful argument the accumulating toll of greed and self-centeredness that has dominated our recent political and social landscape.  Judt describes these themes as “elevated to a cult by Know Nothings, States’ Rightists, anti-tax campaigners and — most recently — the radio talk show demagogues of the Republican Right.”

Judt observes, for example, that the notion that taxes might “be a contribution to the provision of collective goods that individuals could never afford in isolation (roads, firemen, policemen, schools, lamp posts, post offices, not to mention soldiers, warships, and weapons) is rarely considered.”  Click here for the full Times review.

I think Judt’s theme about serving the “common good” is growing throughout our culture.  It’s increasingly visible, for example, in the recognition that humans are “wired” for empathy and for serving something larger than their just their own needs — many of which are socially conditioned to begin with and fuel self-centeredness and narcissism.

In that vein I wrote about healing our “empathy deficit disorder” in my previous post, and author Jeremy Rifkin has argued much more broadly and in great depth about the rise of an “empathic civilization” in his major, well-documented new book.

I also see the awakening of interconnectedness and service to the common good increasingly visible in the rise of a new business model – one that combines having impact on the common good as well as achieving financial success.  The green business movement incorporates much of this emergence, as well as related trends towards sustainable investment, social entrepreneurialism and venture philanthropy.  I would add to those the growing recognition of the need for a psychologically healthy management cultures, as well.

Interesting, also, in Judt’s book is his argument that the left and right have switched sides, in a sense.  That is, he explains that today the right pursues radical goals, and has abandoned the “social moderation which served it so well from Disraeli to Heath, Theodore Roosevelt to Nelson Rockefeller.” He argues that it’s now the left that is trying to conserve “the institutions, legislation, services and rights that we have inherited from the great age of 20th-century reform.”  For another interesting take on the “reversal” of the left and right from the 1960s to the present, see economist Ev Ehrlich’s two-part essay on his blog, Ev Ehrlich’s Everyday Economics.

It sounds lame, but true: We’re sure living through some interesting times….

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Healing Our “Empathy Deficit Disorder”

March 16th, 2010
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You may not realize it, but a great number of people suffer from EDD.  And no, I don’t mean ADD or ED. It stands for “Empathy Deficit Disorder.”

I made it up, so you won’t find it listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.   Given that normal variations of mood and temperament are increasingly redefined as “disorders,” I’m hesitant to suggest adding another one. But this one’s real.  It’s based on my decades of experience as a business psychologist, psychotherapist and researcher, from which I’ve concluded that EDD is a pervasive but overlooked condition. And it has profound consequences for the mental health of individuals and of our society.

Our increasingly polarized social and political culture over the past year  has prompted me to post this — an expansion and revision of  an article I wrote for The Washington Post a couple of years ago about our nationwide empathy deficit.  It’s worse than ever, but ignored as a psychological disturbance by most of my colleagues in the mental health professions.

First, some explanation of what I mean by EDD:  People who suffer from it are unable to step outside themselves and tune in to what other people experience, especially those who feel, think and believe differently from themselves.  That makes it a source of personal conflicts, of communication failure in intimate relationships, and of the adversarial attitudes — including hatred — towards groups of people who differ in their beliefs, traditions or ways of life from one’s own.

Take the man who reported to me that his wife was complaining that Read more…

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“Terrorism” — A Politically Useful Label?

March 11th, 2010
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The distinctions we’re hearing between”terrorism” and “criminal acts” go beyond the issue of whether to try certain defendants in military or civilian courts.  It appears that when it serves the Cheney/Tea Party political purposes, some acts of murder and destructiveness against Americans — attempted or consumated — are called “terrorism,” while  other similar acts –  such as those of Joseph Stack, who flew his plane into the IRS building in Texas, killing someone in a suicide mission; or Amy Bishop, the professor who shot and killed several colleagues when denied tenure — are labeled as simply criminal acts of  individual, emotionally disturbed people.

Aside from understanding the  psychology of people engaging in such acts (an important issue, itself), whether they act as individuals or part of an organized group,  many in the media appear to swallow this portrayal whole – accepting and repeating the same alleged distinction. Even Homeland Security Secretay Napolitano has joined in, recently stating on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, for example, that Joseph Stack’s actions were those of a “lone wolf,” carrying out a “personal agenda.”

Of course, all this gives more cred to part of the right wing’s core agenda – convincing the public that the Obama administration is “soft” on terrorism, despite all the hard evidence to the contrary.  The recent uproar over Cheney The Daughter’s portrayal of some Justice Department lawyers as part of the “al-Qaeda 7″ is another example of this strategy. Unfortunately,  Napolitano, as well as some journalists and politicians, are playing right into this by trying to make a politically safe but dubious distinction between certain “terrorist acts” and “terrorism.”

An interesting distinction, perhaps, except to those who end up dead either way.

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Looking For Your Soul Mate?

March 4th, 2010
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Most men and women long to find a partner who is their soul mate…even if they don’t think that such a person exists outside of the imagination.  Over the years, I’ve heard many of my patients describe their longing for a soul mate, and a few of them believe they were fortunate enough to find one.  But most have concluded that it’s just an elusive dream, fueled by idealized illusions.  And many of them have had to face how their longing for a soul mate drew them into relationships that ended up distorted or dysfunctional, partly because of their idealization of their partners.

Of course, one reason for that is the damaging impact of our adolescent model of adult love that I described in a previous post.  Many people become socially conditioned into a view of love that they equate with an intense yearning for the feeling of being “in love.”  That heightens desire for an idealized lover, especially when he or she is elusive or unavailable.  Longing for the unattainable ideal is more of an enthrallment with your own experience of feeling in love, than a reality-based interest in the real person of your partner.

Beyond that flawed experience that colors most people’s romantic lives, many relationships that begin with a positive charge, emotionally and sexually, crumble under the weight of daily life, with all it’s pressures, conflicting desires, bills to pay, career conflicts, children’s needs, and so on.  Therefore, many assume that boredom with your partner and the corresponding sexual decline is “inevitable.”  And that can reactivate old yearnings or hope for a soul mate who might be out there, after all, beckoning you to a simple, pure, passionate love.  Of course, that’s what leads many people into affairs – a subject I’ll go into in a later post.

But I think there’s another way to envisioning what the soul-mate experience is and how it can grow and develop, as part of a mature adult love relationship; something that’s attainable in reality.  In essence, sustainable adult love blends together erotic desire, friendship, respect and support of each other’s growth and development — as independent, different human beings. Think of the way in which a new substance can arise from the joining of two separate elements, like water emerging from the coming together of hydrogen and oxygen.  Similarly, adult love is the product of two self-sufficient, “non-needy” people.  It’s more of an art that you practice and cultivate, not a set of techniques that you acquire from a how-to book.

So how do you build it?  I think there are three sources of the adult version of a soul  mate: what I call “radical transparency;” “words-into-actions;” and “good vibrations,” sexually-physically. Read more…

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