Monthly Archives: July 2010

Racial, Political And Other Assorted Fears

At approximately the same time that the Sherrod incident was in the news last week, a little-noticed milestone occurred: the 50th anniversary of the desegregation of Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC.  Kind of ironic.  But maybe not, when you realize that the progress made over the decades regarding civil rights hasn’t been, nor will be, in a straight line upward.

Moreover, look at today’s context: The election of our first African-American President has spawned a not-unexpected backlash of fear, racism and hostility.  That backlash is clearly an element in the Tea Party movement, and is stoked for political gain by frightened Republicans. Few Republicans will admit that; and few Democrats have the courage to expose it.

Given the larger, world-wide context of change, danger and uncertainty, it’s no surprise that President Obama has become the receptacle for fear and hostility.  For example, the right-wing and its Republican allies are intent on portraying Obama as a commie-leaning, anti-American, dangerous alien — despite that evidence that he’s a pretty centrist, business-supporting, moderate via his actions and policies.  I think the outrage and vitriol expressed about and towards him is fueled by a mounting sense of hopelessness and danger, with no discernible way out.

The fact is, we’re living with a continuing, frightening economic tailspin; unchanging unemployment levels; endless wars with no clear purpose or exist strategy; an obvious need to let the tax breaks for wealthy people expire (and opposition to such from the Republicans); fears among both parties about tackling the mounting dangers of climate change; and a host of other continuing uncertainties and dangers.

In this context, few political leaders offer solutions that can be supported or enacted, given that the Senate now seems to require a filibuster-proof majority for any legislation.  Columnists like Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, Charles Blow and David Brooks of the New York Times are among the few public figures exposing the core dynamics underlying this odd mixture of free-fall and stalemate.  Many feel as Maureen Dowd described recently in the Times, that “…we are in a monstrous maze without the ball of string to find our way out.”

Our times need “out-of-the-box,”  courageous, outlier-type thinking and actions.  Having begun this piece about recent racial issues, I’m reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., that fits: “Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”

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Why Failure And Loss In Your Relationships Can Be Good For You

So often our romantic and sexual relationships end in regret, sadness, and loss. Initial feelings of excitement and connection just seem to slip through our fingers, and often we’re not sure why that happened. Nevertheless, men and women continue to hope for finding that elusive “soul mate,” a relationship of sustained vitality. But so often, partners descend into the “functional relationship,” or become lost in a maize of unfulfilling sexual connections or affairs.

In previous posts I’ve written about the roots of that seemingly inevitable decline and what helps. But there’s another part of relationship failure or loss that can be a basis of new growth. Let me explain. Over the decades I’ve witnessed countless examples of people drawn into new relationships that are simply new versions of previous, failed relationships — old wine in new flasks. And inevitably, disaster is lying in wait, right down the road. I think that often happens when an important part of the foundation for a positive, sustainable romantic and sexual relationship is neglected or overlooked.

That is, mental health practitioners focus a great deal on building better mechanics of listening, mirroring to each other, techniques of communication and compromise, and so on. All good stuff. But what can go missing is Continue reading

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Three Essential Pillars Of Health and Resiliency In Today’s World

Upgrade To Career 4.0; Practice “Harnicissism;” and Become a Good Ancestor

In a previous post I wrote that a key pathway to psychological health and resiliency in today’s world is learning to “forget yourself.” This post describes ways to do that in three important realms of your life – your work, your personal relationships, and your life “footprint.”

In the earlier post I explained that “forgetting yourself” doesn’t mean neglecting your own legitimate needs or concerns. Rather, it means letting go of our human tendency to overly dwell on ourselves – our own concerns, needs, desires, slights, complaints about others, and so on. Psychological health and resiliency in today’s world grows when you can do that and put your energies in the service of something larger than yourself: problems, needs and challenges that lie beyond your own personal, narrow self-interest.

That may sound like a paradox, but it’s based on a new reality: Today’s world is changing more rapidly than you can imagine and is becoming immensely interdependent, interconnected, unpredictable and unstable. In this new environment you can’t create or sustain a positive, healthy life through the old ways of reactive resiliency, of coping and hoping to rebound.

That is, chronic unhappiness, dysfunction and overt emotional disturbance lie in store for those who remain too locked into thinking about themselves and who use old solutions to achieve success in relationships and at work. For example, trying to achieve power and domination over others, and thinking you can hold on to that. Fearing collaboration and avoiding mutuality with people who are different from yourself, or with whom you have differences. Looking for ways to cope with stress and restore equilibrium or “balance” in your life. And overall, being absorbed by your own conflicts, disappointments and the like. The latter are inevitable, and dwelling on them is a breeding ground for resentment, jealousy, and blame. That’s a dead-end. The consequences are visible in people who are unable to handle career downturn, who experience mounting relationship conflicts and who suffer from a range of psychological problems like depression, boredom, stress, anxiety and self-undermining behavior.

In contrast, positive resiliency in today’s environment is the byproduct when you aim towards common goals, purposes or missions larger than just your own narrow self-interests. That keeps you nimble, flexible, and adaptive to change and unpredictable events that are part of our new era. Then, you’re creating true balance, between your “outer” and “inner” life.

Here are three ways you can move through self-interest. Each describes a shift, or evolution from the older, reactive form of resilience to the new, proactive form:

Upgrade your career to the 4.0 version; Practice “Harnicissism;” and Become a Good Ancestor

Yeah, I know — those descriptions sound odd. Continue reading

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Political Pandering Continues To Trump Middle East Peace Advocacy

A major ongoing tragedy of American political culture is fear of the political consequences of even appearing to give equal weight to both Israeli and Palestinian concerns.  Such fear always trumps advocacy of what is needed from both sides to create a lasting peace.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, describing the recent meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, provides a good example.  With a tinge of ironic humor, Milbank writes that

A blue-and-white Israeli flag hung from Blair House. Across Pennsylvania Avenue, the Stars and Stripes was in its usual place atop the White House. But to capture the real significance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit with President Obama, White House officials might have instead flown the white flag of surrender.

Milbank was referring to the Obama administration’s decision four months ago to condemn Israel over a new settlement.

The Israel lobby reared up, Netanyahu denounced the administration’s actions, Republican leaders sided with Netanyahu, and Democrats ran for cover.  So on Tuesday, Obama, routed and humiliated by his Israeli counterpart, invited Netanyahu back to the White House for what might be called the Oil of Olay Summit: It was all about saving face.

He continues:

The president, beaming in the Oval Office with a dour Netanyahu at his side, gushed about the “extraordinary friendship between our two countries.” He performed the Full Monty of pro-Israel pandering: “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable” . . . “I commended Prime Minister Netanyahu” . . . “Our two countries are working cooperatively” . . . “unwavering in our commitment” . . . “our relationship has broadened” . . . “continuing to improve” . . . “We are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what’s required to back that up.”

Milbank then targets the core problem, writing that

Obama came to office with an admirable hope of reviving Middle East peace efforts by appealing to the Arab world and positioning himself as more of an honest broker. But he has now learned the painful lesson that domestic politics won’t allow such a stand.

And that feeds the continuing tragedy – for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and for all of us.  Our political leadership engages in one-sided political pandering, based largely on shoring up political support.  In so doing, it fails to promote peace and reconciliation, which should be the aim.  But doing the latter requires acknowledging that BOTH sides have engaged in destructive actions and atrocities, and that BOTH sides have legitimate, valid interests.

When one attempts to do so, however, one risks Continue reading

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