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Posts Tagged ‘health’

Obama’s Call to “Win the Future” Requires a New Definition of “Success”

February 10th, 2011
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When President Obama urged Americans to “win the future” in his recent SOTU address, he called upon the innovative, communal spirit that’s enabled us to “do great things.” Ironically, that part of his message exposes a glaring contradiction: How we’ve defined achieving “success” in our lives has become outmoded and maladaptive in our 21st Century world. To meet the challenges of our “Sputnik moment,” we need to revamp our thinking about what success is, as well as what psychological orientation is necessary to achieve it.

Consider this: The old, conventional view of a successful life is mostly defined by financial and self-interested criteria — getting, consuming and possessing for oneself. As Ronald Reagan once said about pursuing the “American dream” everyone “...wants to see an America in which people can get rich.”

But as President Obama pointed out in his address, “That world has changed. And for many, the change has been painful.” The reality of today’s interconnected, highly interdependent world, greed is not good. It’s psychologically unhealthy; it undermines the values, mindset and actions people need to strengthen in order to meet the challenges we face as individuals and as a nation.

That is, our security, success and well-being now require strengthening communal values and behavior; working towards common goals, the common good. Acting on self-interest alone, especially in the pursuit of personal power, steady career advancement and money Read more…

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Midlife Conflict and Renewal, Politics, Psychological health in a post-globalized world, Work & Career "4.0" , , , , , , , , ,

Psychological Health In Today’s World Needs A Redefinition

January 27th, 2011
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This post continues what I wrote about in In my previous post – that we lack a clear, relevant description of what psychological health is, in today’s world; and, how you can build it.  Here, I describe more about what a psychologically health life looks like – what it’s criteria are — in your relationships, your work, and in your role as a “future ancestor.”

To begin with, I want to emphasize that psychological health isn’t the same as the absence of mental or emotional disorders. For example, you can’t say that a happy person is someone who’s not depressed. Many people have consulted me who aren’t depressed by clinical criteria, but they aren’t happy with their work, relationships or their overall lives, either.

Moreover, self-awareness isn’t equivalent to health. It’s a necessary underpinning, but it’s not enough. Therapists often help their patients deepen self-awareness about the roots of their conflicts, only to wonder why they remain the same. Psychiatrist Richard Friedman described that dilemma in a recent New York Times article in which he illustrated the puzzlement practitioners experience when they are confronted with the limitation of awareness, alone.

To the extent there’s a conventional view of psychologically health at all, it’s mostly equated with good life-management and coping skills. That is, managing stress in your work and personal life, and coping with — if not resolving — whatever emotional conflicts you brought with you into adulthood.

A less visible view of psychological health also exists: Successful adaptation to and embracing of the dominant values, behavior and attitudes of the society or milieu you’re a part of. The problem here is that such socially-conditioned norms have also embodied greed, self-absorption, domination, destructiveness, and divisiveness. They’ve been equated with “success” in adult life.

The upshot is that you can be well-adapted to dominant attitudes and behavior that are, themselves, psychologically unhealthy. So you may be “well-adjusted” to an unhealthy life.

We’ve been witnessing the fruits of that form of “health” throughout our society in recent years, in the form of Read more…

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Midlife Conflict and Renewal, Modern Love, Sex & Relationships, Psychological health in a post-globalized world , , , , , ,

What Is Psychological Health In Today’s World?

January 15th, 2011
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The aftermath of the Tucson shootings is likely to spawn new discussion about serious mental illness and its legal implications. Coincidentally, the mental health establishment has been debating what to include or exclude as a mental and emotional disorder, for the forthcoming revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For example, one controversy is whether to remove narcissism as a bonafide disorder.

In contrast to discussion about mental disorders, I think we’ve neglected its flip side: What constitutes psychological health in today’s world? What does it look like? And how can you promote it in your own life, your children and in society?

These questions loom large because the most psychologically healthy people and societies will be best equipped to create and sustain well-being, security and success in the tumultuous road we’re now traveling on.

Take a look: At the start of this second decade of the 21st Century our lives and institutions are reeling, trying to cope with an interconnected, unpredictable world turned upside down by the events of the first decade: terrorism that’s come home to roost; economic meltdown at home and abroad; rapid rise of previously “underdeveloped” nations; and in our social and political spheres, the rise of hatred, bigotry and intolerance, as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupik commented on following the Tucson shootings. This upheaval has fueled what I described in recent posts a “social psychosis” that’s locked in conflict with a societal need to serve the common good.

The problem is that we know what severe mental illness as well as “garden variety” neurotic conflicts look like in daily life. Those have become more prevalent in the current climate. But what we think of as psychological health is pretty vague. Moreover, it’s a 20th Century view that doesn’t fit in the new world environment.

That is, psychological health has been pretty much defined as successful resolution and management of childhood traumas and conflicts; coping with stress and adapting to the world around you, as an adult. The problem is, that view has assumed a relatively stable and static world. One in which you can anticipate the kinds of changes or events that might occur. And when they do, a healthy, resilient person could bounce back to the previous equilibrium that existed. But today, there’s no longer any equilibrium to return to. Psychological health requires living with disequilibrium. Read more…

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Midlife Conflict and Renewal, Modern Love, Sex & Relationships, Psychological health in a post-globalized world , , , , , ,

Why Do People Volunteer?

November 24th, 2009
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During the holiday season, many people feel the need to volunteer their time to charity organizations.  Feeding the homeless is especially popular at this time of the year, and then often forgotten – duty done.  Such volunteering is often met with eye-rolling by the staff of organizations, who wish that such earnest desire to help would continue at other times of the year as well.

It’s easy to be cynical about holiday volunteering.  But for an increasing number of men and women, young and old, volunteering their time, service, and expertise has become an integral part of their lives; an expression of their core values.  And that raises the question: Why do people volunteer?

Moreover, how does it impact your own life, as well as those whom you help? Over the years I’ve explored these questions with men and women, and tried to help them discover the meaning and impact of their volunteer work upon their own lives, both personally and professionally. I’ve found that volunteer work can impact peoples’ values, perspectives, and even their life goals.  For many, it spurs new growth, spiritually and emotionally.

This makes sense.  Over the years, as I’ve investigated the link between career success and emotional conflict, I’ve found that many highly successful, career-oriented men and women acknowledge feelings of inner emptiness, and absence of meaning in their lives. At the same time, many say that their volunteer work is the only arena that provides a sense of meaning and human connection.  Far greater than their career, and – sadly – often greater than their intimate relationships.

Read more…

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Midlife Conflict and Renewal, Psychological health in a post-globalized world, Work & Career "4.0" , , , ,

Are We Capable Of Tackling Future — Not Just Present — Dangers?

July 9th, 2009
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New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote that evidence from brain research shows “…that the human brain systematically misjudges certain kinds of risks. In effect, evolution has programmed us to be alert for snakes and enemies with clubs, but we aren’t well prepared to respond to dangers that require forethought.”

“If you come across a garter snake, nearly all of your brain will light up with activity as you process the “threat.” Yet if somebody tells you that carbon emissions will eventually destroy Earth as we know it, only the small part of the brain that focuses on the future — a portion of the prefrontal cortex — will glimmer.” http://tinyurl.com/mqkq4c

In other words, we will tend to acknowledge a threat and react to it when we experience it as more immediate.  But if it appears to lie in the distance somewhere, it doesn’t have the same impact.  In effect, our brain circuitry, from early in our evolution, makes us cavalier about future dangers, even if those dangers are horrendous in their consequences if not headed off by action that begins in the present.  And even if the dangers we’re programmed to react to were relevant in an ancient environment, but minimally present in today’s world.

Kristoff points out that “…all is not lost, particularly if we understand and acknowledge our neurological shortcomings — and try to compensate with rational analysis. When we work at it, we are indeed capable of foresight: If we can floss today to prevent tooth decay in later years, then perhaps we can also drive less to save the planet.”

I think there is even more encouraging evidence, beyond applying “rational analysis.”  In additions – and perhaps more importantly – is the capacity to grow consciousness about our impact on the world, through our actions; and deliberately use our empathy – which is also hard-wired, as brain research shows – to initiate actions that support desired outcomes.  Whether for our own lives or future generations.

For example, part of our early ancestry propels us to seek out multiple partners, because of evolutionary need to reproduce. (Of course, some of us continue to do that, repeatedly!)  But acting contrary to that – or any other impulse that may benefit your own self but hurt others – well, that’s a choice you can make, as your consciousness grows. The latter enables you to define what you value, why, and engage in actions based on conscious values that promoting and supporting life, not just your own.

The more our consciousness grows within us as a species, that, in turn, drives continued emotional, mental, and behavioral evolution.  It leads to thinking about what your “life impact” is; or what you want it to be.  I’m reminded of something Samantha Power said in a college commencement address last year, “Become a good ancestor

Now there’s a good principle to live by.

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