ISSUES OF VITAL IMPORTANCE TO ME

ISSUES OF VITAL IMPORTANCE TO ME

How did Donald Trump gain a significant base of supporters and why do they stick with him?

Decades of power and wealth increases for corporations at the expanse of large groups of Americans set the stage for Trump’s success. Here are some examples.

If your religion passionately opposes abortion or gay rights, it has been an uphill fight to be heard in the halls of power. If your manufacturing job has been moved overseas, who in government has come to your rescue? If you have been living a borderline economic existence for years while huge corporations control the government for their own benefit, who has cared about your insecurity? If you or members of your family have, through intense struggle made it to the middle class, who has cared about your resentment against recipients of welfare? If you have taken for granted the benefits of being a white male even without a higher educational degree and if you have been treated as a second class citizen for resenting the increase in status of people of color and immigrants, who understands your sense of loss? If you have been raised in abject poverty and see yourself blocked from a better life, who gives a damn about your condition?

Seeds of anger grow deep roots when people experience their lives as futile. They are angry because a critical promise has never been kept. They were promised a government of the people at every election period by candidates for office. The promise has been forgotten completely except by the voters whose hopes have been raised and then dropped.

And then along came Trump, a billionaire showman, who presented himself as a simple human being just like you. In irreverence, in crudity he violated every convention and seemed to fear no one just as you always wished you could.  He declared himself your hero and despite all evidence to the contrary, you believe him. Hope, after so much despair is hard to give up. Giving up Trump seems like a retreat into irrelevancy. A smiling or angry or demeaning Donald Trump is an expert in promoting himself to his self-declared people.

Why do so many people with jobs support Donald Trump?

It seems to me that the essence of Democracy lies in a set of beliefs and expectations based on those beliefs. Primary among those beliefs is that your government will protect you from harm. In their zeal to defend and promote a military/industrial complex, United States governments have abandoned vast numbers of workers who live from paycheck to paycheck. They live just over the poverty line and far from middle class status. Husband and wife work more than one job, striving to raise their children and always too tired and stressed to parent those children well. They live in shame over their failures to do better.

People just making it into middle class live in fear of slipping back through loss of job or health or something else.

Trump is not the cause of threats to our Democracy. Rather, he is the result of an irresistible cabal that values profits and power over the people whom they use as sources of labor or as pawns to be ignored. Democrats and Republicans are part of that cabal. I believe that hope for change lies in a people’s revolutionary change. Therein is a major problem.

Why are democrats running for the presidency running so hard to gain support from the voting public?

Among the democratic candidates for president there is a split between those who see a need for gradual vs revolutionary change. My question is, Change to what? I doubt that either side can describe a vision of what a new American government should look like. All of the candidates present programs that they believe will attract voters.

Medicare for All is discussed yea or nay in terms of costs. I believe that costs are the least important factor. More important is, how will Medicare for All fit into the total pattern of American life? There is no vision for what a people’s government would look like in its totality. A vision would require delineating how the road to the goals of government would evolve over time if the candidate were to be elected.

Bernie Sanders favors radical change. He roars against the selfish rich and powerful. He assumes that his base will approve of cutting them to size. To win convincingly he must expand his base. He can’t do  much of that as long as he fails to recognize that he offers little  overall explanation for why the rich are a problem for the unrich. Many Americans admire the rich. The rich worked hard for their billions. Don’t they have the right to use their wealth as they please?. The variety of people’s  beliefs may not be ignored by candidates  for office.

All candidates claim that the American people will welcome their proposed changes. That’s nonsense. The term “American people” is a myth. There is no “American people.” Americans have probably never been as divided as they are today. Of the 435 members of the House of Representatives, less than 40 Democrats make them a majority with the power to impeach a President or make other crucial decisions for the entire electorate.

There is nothing democratic in simple majority rule where winner takes all.. There is nothing democratic in a system where a presidential candidate can be elected with a minority of votes cast in a national election. Hilary Clinton had some three million votes more than Donald Trump.

Is the American Constitution the Holy Grail to be defended at all cost?

The Constitution that the founding fathers worked out was a tortured compromise among differing colonial powers. Yet, they could claim a coherent vision of what they wanted in a government. That coherent vision was lost as soon as dramatic changes were made in the beliefs and the perceived needs of a growing population. For centuries American governments have tried to make the Constitution fit dramatic changes that were entirely unknown at its inception. The Constitution is held together by an increasingly politicized Supreme Court. I believe that the Court needs change desperately as does the Constitution.

Perhaps it is time for a constitutional convention to work out a new vision for our Democracy. I am well aware of the dangers of opening up the government to changes while so much power resides in the ruling classes. I don’t really recommend a new convention at this time though I wish, devoutly, for one. In any case, I would like to see recognition of our need to create a new vision for our government.

When we think in terms of goals conditioned by vision, who can deny the benefits of thinking and debating where we want to go and how we can possibly get there?

 

CHANGES IN PUBLIC SCHOOL CURRICULUM

 

CHANGES IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Most Americans are not aware of the profound changes education can make in people’s lives.

For many, attitudes toward schools are conditioned by one’s own experiences in the process of learning to learn. Those experiences create vast differences in public valuation of education across the country. It is difficult for people with negative views to grasp an overview of the contributions that education level makes to the society as a whole. The vagaries of educational valuation by the public limits possible curricular changes.

Education can change most aspects of life in the United States. The example in this essay centers on politics only because it offers a very clear and research supported part of American society.

According to the Pew Research Center in 2015, the impact of education on political beliefs is clear and dramatic. There is a straight line relationship between the level of education and the liberal/conservative continuum. A majority of people who have education beyond a bachelor’s degree are liberals. The number of conservatives increases with lower levels of education. People with strongly conservative views have the least amount of education.

An educated populace, with abilities steeped in thinking, reasoning, cooperation and emotional maturity is essential for democracy to thrive.  That is true because most major social problems are complex and higher education causes the brain and emotional maturity become more multifaceted.

The changes in educational offerings delineated here encourage the development of enhanced cognitive skills. Since emotional development turns out to be essential and parallel with cognition in importance, both need to be stressed in any educational program. Emotions like anger, trust, love and others are part of human development and they grow seamlessly with cognition.

Nothing in these proposals should be construed as offering a complete resolution of problems with the US educational system. This essay attempts to suggest some additions to school offerings and changes in some procedures. The intention of these changes in is to give students the tools needed to use both intellect and emotions competently.

Education of teachers goes hand in hand with changes of curricular offerings. Teachers must be educated in a far broader range of topics and skills than is currently the case. Highly educated teachers should have more independence in controlling both content and methods in their programs.

I feel free to offer these changes because education from nursery school through college has been part of my career throughout. I am both a school and clinical psychologist with a Master’s and Ph.D. in psychology. I taught for 25 years in a College of Education’s Educational Clinic.

Here are the proposed changes and their expected benefits.

Though there are exceptions, poverty is an enemy of learning and abstract thinking. An underclass will always exist if early life is experientially deprived and economically inadequate. Eliminating poverty is crucial to a nationally effective educational system.

Early grades should be characterized by flexibility. Exploration of feelings such as anger, fear and pleasure should be featured.

Formal teaching of reading should be begun between 6 and 7 years of age centered on an understanding that the words on a page are the same as spoken words, in a different form.

Some children will have learned to read on their own. Learning to read should be an individualized, non-competitive, pleasurable experience.

Writing is an essential partner to reading and should be offered soon after some competence in reading is established.

Understanding of mathematical principles should be begun by third grade. Rote learning fosters concrete thinking and should be avoided.

Music, dance and foreign languages should be studied throughout the years. Philosophy, science and mathematics should be a constant part of the curriculum.

Physical activity, including sports, should be available throughout..

Nursery school, a vital experience, should include both free and formal play with much of it carried on out of doors.

Learning to speak more than one language is best learned early in life. Nursery school or even before is not too early.

Third, fourth and fifth grades should include introduction to independent and group research.

Debate should be featured in the curriculum from the sixth grade on with an emphasis on effective public speaking. Benefits include abilities in doing research, in reasoning, in self-confidence and in the ability to express oneself clearly. Team debating would give practice in cooperation and mutual understanding. Classmates who are not taking part in the debate at the time would be expected to write evaluations of the debate and defend their beliefs. Most of the debates will not be competitive.

Civics should be a part of the elementary school curriculum with emphasis on local government and its functions in the community. Visits to local boards should be included. High School curriculum should focus on various forms of government, their weaknesses and strengths. They should study economic systems and social supports offered by government and volunteer entities with critical discussions of their value.

The second half of the senior year of high school should center on national and international travel.  A bit of tourism can be included but most study should be on cultural and political and social differences, history and geography.

Mature expression of emotion is crucial in personality and cognitive functioning. Both are vital in the creation of a more humane human. Teachers must learn about emotional development and be prepared to guide their students.

Teacher education should be on a par with the best medical schools. Teacher remuneration should allow an upper income life style and should be the same throughout the country.

The school year should be expanded with fewer “breaks.  ”We are no longer a farm economy. Summers off from school are an anachronism and should be replaced by a reasonable vacation, perhaps 2 to 3 weeks.

Readers of this essay have no doubt noticed the lack of detail included herein. These suggestions are guidelines needing fleshing out in the enormous effort required for bring them to reality.

Expensive? You bet!  Once and for all, we can make a reality what has been a hoary myth that children are our future and therefore one of our most important responsibilities. Instead of being the most powerful nation on earth, we can have the most educated and peaceful society on earth.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF

 

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s comment is more relevant today than when he uttered those brilliant words. Today, this nation and much of the world is consumed with unexamined fear. We fear fear and not reality. Is that Muslim family down the block really dangerous? Is that young black boy walking down the street really a menace deserving of hatred and destruction?

This essay is a psychologist’s observations on how fear of fear develops as well as offering a suggestion of a social revolution that would allow examination of fear. The principal ideas of the essay are that knee-jerk reactions to fear are born out of primitive developmental experiences in early life and that those arbitrary responses to fear provide the basis for much of the intolerance seen everywhere in society today.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s comment about fear was indeed brilliant. But he could not have known that learning to avoid fearing fear requires a complex developmental process that begins during gestation and is maturing when a child is about eight years of age. Nor is that process of learning a sure thing. It depends upon a number of crucial factors including dependable security in the home and in the external environment of the child.

Fear is a powerful emotion that develops early during gestation. Its biological importance cannot be exaggerated. It has one function and one function only. It alerts the organism that danger is present. Yet fear has outsize importance in human behavior because, obviously, fear is frightening. If fear causes avoidance rather than a search to understand its causes, fear leads to all manner of dysfunctional behaviors.

During gestation, fear is mediated by the mother. The developing embryo is the passive recipient of stress hormones generated by the Mother’s fear. A mother with a dangerous life influences the stress reactions of the child after birth. It is the child’s experience with his/her own fear.

The newborn is unprepared to deal with those fears and depends upon the mother or other caretaker to provide relief from them.  In tumultuous conditions for the caretaking household, normal developmental platforms are distorted with major consequences for the bonding between mother and child. The developmental process is changed in some way and to some extent by failures of bonding.

The development that must occur before the child can learn about fear’s function as a danger signal is a matter of developing a measure of abstract thought. Language development must come first. Complete sentences with dependent clauses and an ability to take the point of view of others are necessary. Only when that ability is fairly well advanced is it possible to seek the stimulus for fear.

The reliable attachment (bonding) with the regular caretaker, usually

the parent during the earliest years of life provides the security necessary for development of cognition.

The role that security plays in maintaining equilibrium in a child’s life from conception to at least eight years of age is enormous.  It helps to instill some of the most important traits that make people human, the most important being trust. Research supports that vital assertion.

For example, Harry Harlow at Brooklyn College showed convincingly that baby macaque monkeys explore their environment freely as long it is safe to do so. At the hint of danger, the monkeys scramble back to the mother figure and cling to her. The same can be seen in children. The mother-child bonding establishes mutual trust. Mental health in the future is built on the attachment between caretaker and child. Cuddling and skin to skin contact in the early days contribute greatly to the process while regular safe and loving interaction work their magic in later childhood.  The unconscious lesson learned in these years is that fear can be reduced via trust. Trust serves as the basic mechanism that sustains the child while learning to seek the cause of fear. It is the child’s lifeline. Without a secure lifeline, cognitive development is damaged.

The popular belief that insecurity in childhood toughens the adolescent or the adult is simply not true. There is much recent research that shows a strong relationship between unmodulated fear in childhood and dysfunctional adult behavior. Eric Fromm’s book, Escape from Freedom posits that democracies merge into autocracies under disruptive political circumstances. There is more.

Soldiers in violent combat from stable homes do better emotionally that those who have had a chaotic upbringing.

Studies of PTSD show stressful childhoods as predisposing factors for development of combat caused dysfunction.

In summary, it is the thesis of this paper that failure to develop cognitive strategies for separating fear from the conditions that provoke it subjects people to chronic fear. The most frequent response to unexplained chronic fear is fight or flight. Defensiveness and or aggression are likely. There are various levels of cognitive skills in daily life. Ability to recognize causation of fear is not a matter of black or white. However, many people fall at the extreme of disability and suffer significant anger, prejudice and hatred toward minorities.

It is reasonable to believe that those who fall at the extreme of fearfulness cause much of the world’s violence, terror and power grabs. Autocratic governments always rule by creating fear. ISIS decapitates people in public knowing that the horror will instill controlling fear. Recent research shows that, on average, conservatives are more prone to fear than liberals.

There is a way to solve many of society’s ills directly. There is clear evidence that the power of genetics has a determining effect on behavior. However, beyond that, there is also clear evidence of great plasticity in the genes. Environment has the possibility of changing genetic expressions. Therefore what happens in the pre-birth and early post-birth experience may predispose adult behavior to violence.

That presents humanity with an option. Stop treating child-rearing as a private enterprise. Parents have a responsibility to society to raise their children according to certain basic principles. A safer, more stable, more “moral” social environment will allow the security that children need to thrive. That includes the possibility of developing the full range of  cognition that the child’s genes will allow. That capacity will foster many abilities now denied us including analysis of fear.

Responsive child-rearing practices enhance mother-child bonding and encourage freer, more interactive relationships.  It will take a social revolution to significantly alter child-rearing practices on a large scale.

MY VIEW OF TRUMP AND 2020 ELECTION

 

 

 

MY VIEW OF TRUMP AND 2020 ELECTION

.Donald Trump has pulled off a great trick on his supporters that accounts for their loyalty. Masses of less educated American workers have been side-lined or ignored for many years. Trump has made common cause with them. He has made their enemies, his enemies, he has made their angers, his angers and he has made his image of America’s greatness their chance to be great again. Trump has asked for unity with them in the most simple terms: his refrain in every speech, “Believe me.”

No matter how odious you may find Trump, there are lessons to be learned.

Where most politicians promise what they can do for their voters, Trump has created a sense of us against politics as usual. He has made it OK to openly hate your enemies, i.e., all those government big shots who have made out of style workers’ lives inconsequential.  Trump has demonstrated an outrageous power that thrills his supporters. With skills honed as an entertainer, he has managed to hide the fact that he is not for them at all. Rather, he is promoting himself.

I have advice for all Democrats seeking the presidency. First, get over yourself. Collaborate with your competitors. Decide together who are the two or three candidates most likely to be able to win. Then support your favorite in the primaries.

Second, stop telling voters what you are uniquely capable of doing for them and then asking for money to help YOU do it. It’s not about YOU. Here is a mantra a la Kennedy.  Tell me not what you can do for me. Rather ask me whether I will help you with your well-defined ideas for the country. Facilitate communities of interest that can be described as ”us”.

To the public:  Note which candidate best meets your self-interests. Be prepared to state your beliefs to them on social media. Become a force for yourself.

IN SEARCH OF HARMONY

IN SEARCH OF HARMONY

Back in the sixties in the midst of the civil rights struggle, I and two friends drove by car to a massive march on Washington. The interstates were packed and the service areas were unbelievable. Joe, his wife, Bea and I elbowed our way to the restrooms. Bea found an endless line outside the women’s room and then joined us outside the men’s room only to find mayhem at the door. Men were screaming, “Come out of there.” “I’m coming in.” Then chanting: “Out, bitches, out.” Women were going in and out. Bea went in. At last, a man walked in and soon came out, smiling. “There’s no one using the urinals.“ he shouted. Another man went in and then another. Still another started in but abruptly turned around and fled. Joe and I went into what used to be the men’s room. We found the women lined up at the booths with their backs to the urinals. We used the urinals, shared the sinks with the women and came out to find a few men still chanting, “Out, bitches, out.” More men risked going in.  We stayed to see how things would turn out. Soon, the shouting stopped. The new procedure became routine. Anxiety dropped, replaced by satisfied grins on men’s faces.

That is a true story. It happened. It was unusual then. It would be even more unusual now, about sixty years later. An emotionally burdened tradition had been abruptly violated.  Men had been inconvenienced. The potential for violence was great even though there was a simple solution at hand.

The story is a simple illustration of a major problem with our civilization. We have learned how to build a better mouse trap but we have done little to build an emotionally mature human. The saber-toothed tigers are gone but men are still in fight or flight mode. Over millennia humans have improved ways of learning information without even exploring ways of learning about their emotions.

Here’s another story, also true, with implications about what ails us. When I was in elementary school learning how George Washington chopped down the cherry tree and how the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, there was a joke going around that nobody understood Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, probably including Einstein himself. Odd, around ninety years later, the Theory of Relativity is no longer a theory and is taught in good undergraduate science programs. High Schools in Norway have begun teaching relativity on an experimental basis. Not easy but doable.

Educational Psychologists have been telling a fundamental truth about learning for years. We can’t learn anything that we don’t already know in part. We need a prepared mind to learn ABSTRACT material..

Learning to multiply can be done two ways: memorizing the Times Table by repetition and learning mathematics by understanding.  Using each method, the neurons in the brain are arranged very differently allowing us to carry on thinking and learning very differently. Learning abstractly allows learning highly complex subjects.

We know all of that and scientists allow learning to take place incrementally. Yet, most elementary school learning and social learning is informational and can be memorized.   It’s a little like eating junk food. It can be called eating but it’s not nutritional. Memorization can be called learning but it’s not thinking.

Most emotional learning is processed in parts of the brain we know least about. Nothing in the brain works in isolation. We cannot have a thought without having it resonate with emotions. Clinicians have known about unconscious thought since Freud’s time. For all the thinking put into psychoanalysis, we know little about consciousness. Neglecting emotional understanding has done us much harm.

Something we do know that is relevant here is that there is emotional intelligence that that has a separate identity from intellectual intelligence. There are people who can “read” another person’s feelings. Women have been better at it than men. When raising a child, you ignore feelings at your peril.

One of the limited things we know for sure about emotions and thought is that intense fear reduces abstract thinking and that chronic intense fear interferes with our ability to think and learn abstractly. Children living in slums, war torn areas, areas subject to forest fires, in migrating families, living with addicted family members and with divorce suffer chronic intense fear and  are at great risk of acquiring defective thinking skills. They aren’t stupid. They have been deprived of their human potential for living at peak.

Back to my true stories. When I was six years old, I told my father that some kid had bullied me and that I was afraid of him. Dad said, “Stand up to him,” and made punching motions. He didn’t offer to teach me how to fight. I learned later that HE had never learned to fight.

I learned nothing about fear or about a range of coping strategies to deal with it. I confirmed what I already knew from my still undiscovered atrocious eyesight i.e, that there was something wrong with me, that I was a coward, a sissy and worst of all, a fag. The story helped me along my already established path of becoming the most shy, secretive and fearful boy in the neighborhood.

I have one more set of comments in the “what else in the world is wrong with our emotional development?” Franklin Delano Roosevelt had it exactly right:

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” His injunction is of utmost importance.

Fear is an ancient and the most widespread emotion among all animal species. It saves our lives by warning us that danger is present. If we have deployed well-known strategies to deal with fear in the past and consider them in the present, we have a chance of coping with the fear. If we allow ourselves to become afraid of fear, we limit our abstract thinking ability just when we need it most.

Men have adopted  protective and leadership roles, perhaps genetically facilitated, that has put them in harm’s way throughout history. It’s been terrifying but they found it necessary to deny the terror.  Their response to fear was to get rid of it as quickly as possible by using  fight or flight. Since manly men must not show fear, they deny its existence as well as other unmanly emotions. Given man’s dominance in guiding human development, I suspect men’s unwitting culpability helped to truncate emotional development.

My conclusions drawn from this essay are many. I look at mankind’s failure to find widespread emotional maturity as the single greatest cause of human conflict over the ages. Life as we have lived it stokes fear. Fear attacks our self-confidence questioning out ability to survive.

Every living thing develops strategies for survival. I believe that our best strategy for survival lies in our ability to discover ways to live in harmony with each other and with Nature.

Harmony is a mild state of tension wherein we experience a sense that all’s right with the world. In a state harmony there is virtually no fear. The remainder of this essay will describe how harmony can be achieved. It will come as no surprise to you that I believe the first goal is to de-claw fear.

Before proceeding, I must say that in our current morass, anyone who isn’t afraid hasn’t been paying attention. Nevertheless, if not places and times like here and now, where and when will we find a new way?

We have emotions in utero. Stress directly impacts the well-being of the unborn. Some noxious assaults have lifetime effects. No new-born could remain alive without regular help. Feeling safe is essential for development of trust. For the first two years of life feeling safe derives from consistent and stable parenting where trust can flourish.

Health care during all of life is not only a human right but a necessity for humanity to thrive. Health care must focus on prevention in all aspects. Mental health is as physical as a broken bone. Emotional damage is better avoided than treated.

Learning strategies for developing emotional maturity will do little good so long as poverty, war, economic inequality, and ancient hatreds persist in our lives.

In my view, addressing human frailty is not sequential. Nothing comes first. Problem resolution must be conceptualized as wholes and then put into practice as wholes.

I believe in possibilities and hope.

MIGRATION

 

MIGRATION CRISIS, FUNCTIONING SOLUTIONS

The International Organization of Migration (IOM) was founded 67 years ago in 1951 in response to the migration crisis after WWII. It has worked for all those years to solve the problems that occur when people choose or are forced to leave their native lands. IOM has been fabulously successful. It works in 172 countries around the world and in collaboration with the UN. IOM has peacefully and cooperatively eased migration issues in Uganda as well as in many other countries.

IOM’s work is characterized by sixty-seven years of study and practice, international conferences and seminars and solutions to vexing emergencies. So why do Europe and the United States not seem to have a clue about what to do in the current crisis? Why have democracies fallen? Why has Britain destabilized the European Union over Brexit? Why is President Trump insisting on a wall to keep migrants out of the US? Why have I or anyone I know never heard of IOM until I stumbled on it on the Internet?

The fundamental question that has driven this essay is this. The “advanced” nations of the West, bastions of Democracy, are mired in the most reactionary solutions to very real migration problems while the International Organization on Migration exists in almost all of them. They seem terrorized by the thousands of desperate people seeking safe havens in their countries. I don’t understand what is driving them. Perhaps writing about IOM will foster understanding.

The IOM mission statement stands in sharp contrast to western action. It states, “to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.”

Those goals, implemented in IOM projects around the world, identify the organizational structures needed in any IOM program. The goals effectively set out how the problem of migration needs to be solved. The word humanitarian in the mission statement reflects a world-view that is essential in planning for peaceful and lasting solutions. It is striking that the word humanitarian never appears in Western texts on migration.

It is important to note how and why IOM succeeds in creating working peaceful plans for migration. The most important aspect of IOM’s work is its recognition that no large social problem can be solved piecemeal. Each part of the eventual plan must be conceived as an integral part of the whole plan The parts to be considered for example may be, in no particular order, to identify the approximate number of migrants that can be absorbed by the receiving society, the attitudes and emotions of receiving populations, identify support available from international sources including national and international agencies, study of migrant characteristics, jobs that are available or can be created, possibility that some of these people can be safely returned to their countries, etc. This list is far from complete but it gives a clear idea of what IOM considers necessary for any program. All of those subjects, taken together, are part of the whole plan. Simply allowing masses of people to enter a country without planning and collaboration is an exercise in futility.

IOM’s strategy is expensive but not as costly as an unsuccessful program especially one that produces political chaos.

An example of a successful IOM program is on-going in Uganda. Every feature of their effort was made possible by hard work and collaboration with all stakeholders involved. Migrants are welcomed into integrated communities in Uganda. Members of those communities voluntarily lend a part of their land to the migrants and work closely with them. Projects are funded as well as possible and are planned to extend for four years, allowing time for adaptations. The United Nations became an active participant early on. IOM helps to helps prepare migrants for productive work as well as orienting them to the language, history and culture of the receiving population.

In contrast, migration into the US has been relatively unplanned. A large part of US’ planning deals with legislation covering rules to be followed. There is little emphasis on collaboration with emigrants or concern that their treatment be humane. Somehow the migrants managed.

Huge migrations into the US have occurred. Most arrivals joined people from their own nations of origin. Their relatives and compatriots served to ease their way into the new society. At the present time the number of foreign born people living legally in this country is 37, 547,789. That’s a little over 12% of the population. Their entry would have been made less painful for everyone, migrants; citizens and government with planning and collaboration.

Violent behavior against minority groups has now become frequent over much of the world and has produced millions of terrorized people suddenly seeking asylum. Without planning, they swarm to other lands in droves. The sheer number threatens the security of residents in receiving countries with predictable results.

A further complication in the migration crisis is the looming advance of climate change. As the rising seas flood the world’s shorelines, habitable land will shrink. Massive numbers of people living in low lying areas will be forced to flee. The need for planning and collaboration will increase exponentially. There is little timefor beginning experimentation. IOM provides a working model.

Why are Western powers ignoring IOM’s studies? The answers must be found and quickly. Peace, Democracy and just plain civility are at stake.

 

 

A VISION OF HUMANITY

Every so often I write an essay about this topic. I love words. I love ideas. Each time I address it, I try to find new perspectives leading to greater insights. It’s about my vision of humanity and how people have cheated themselves by getting stuck on a partial view of themselves that is as void as two mirrors locked face to face.

My guess is that that humans were challenged in their origins and   views of self grew out of a perilous evolution. Humans’ ability to survive was difficult at every mutational step. Compounding development, all people are born too soon, well before mature competence has been reached. During that long period of growth two things happen. Skills gradually increase while uncertainty yields feelings of inadequacy.  Humanity’s child-rearing practices increase the negative feelings and start a process where fear is primary and defensiveness an underlying inevitability,  Growing up is not for sissies.

I never said I could prove any of this. A plausible story will have to suffice. I urge you to read on. I think that while parts may seem sort of kinky, the whole might lead to a new view of humanity.

I come back again and again to one point. Life. I can’t imagine a greater miracle.  Every life form is equally miraculous and equally deserving of living its own natural course.  In terms of right to exist,  all lives are equal. If the current chaos that engages human life is the best it can do, then all  philosophies, religions and preoccupations are of no consequence.   I believe that new ways are not only possible but are inevitable.

Each life form has its own techniques for continued existence. None should claim superiority for despite their differences, their existence depends upon the  same or similar elements, using similar processes in their development. Uniqueness grows out of differences.

We are all equally human and thereby are entitled to develop to the full extent of our potentialities. Those potentialities include a virtually limitless ability to learn, great flexibility and great rigidity.         It  seems those are not equally distributed in the general population but no amount of ability variability should impinge on the quality of anyone’s life.

Through the ages, men have dominated human existence.   We will see later the full extent to which that dominance has truncated the scope of human genius.    The damage done is the result of a curious paradox. Dominance requires the application of power. While the drive for power is exciting, it also generates fear and fear requires more power to reduce it. When masculinity requires ever greater power, it is unlikely that men will learn that there is more to life than wealth and power.

Fear is a natural warning that danger is present. If powerful men deny fear, and they do,  they have difficulty in recognizing its presence.            Only an increase in power yields a modicum of safety. That explains the allure of power in so many men.

A consequence of men’s pervasive drive for power is their  attempts to dominate women.  Competition from women frightens them. Men fear women as women.  They fear women’s emotionality. They fear women’s more comfortable relationship with pain. they fear the magic of giving birth. Women are a necessary inconvenience. From  man’s ages-long point of view, women’s best role is as handmaiden to themselves. It is astonishing how many things make powerful men fearful. Men’s denial of fear and other emotions entombs them.

It has been said that, “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.” The utter tragedy and one of the primary causes of the current chaotic state of the planet is that humanity has denied and feared so many of its Venus potentials. Without modulation from women, men are trapped in their all-consuming  Machiavellian schemes.

Essentially then, men strive to increase their power. To do so they emphasize brainpower and minimize the role of emotions. They build a shield around themselves that they believe keeps them safer, more comfortable and establishes  a tripartite lifestyle: home, family and a core of complete power. Happiness is rarely a feature of that life.

Not all men took part in what turned out to be a  focus on control. Vast numbers of men, and women too, participated in a system created by “leaders” who depended upon  coercion and people’s acquiescence.  Nor did all women play handmaiden to men.

In sum, the human potential contains the ability to adapt to changing environments.  Human and physical environments have changed and large elements of behavior have changed accordingly. The arbitrary splitting of male and female roles has prevented the development of a collaborative relationship between the sexes.That relationship may be forming as 2018 draws to a close. Women are entering the halls of power. Unresolved issues still beg for resolution. A new human vitality awaits.

I used to believe that to make significant change in society it would be necessary to change people’s values. Not so much anymore. If one principle can be established by a new government, much improvement in life can be made. The principle is: no law or policy can be implemented  without a litmus test. The law must be oriented to meet the basic needs of the people. What’s good for corporations is no longer a criterion for governance. People must come first. I think that Bernie Sanders presents a model of a new kind of government that might help to create a more humane humanity.

 

 

 

CAUSES OF OPIOID ADDICTION EPIDEMIC

 

CAUSES OF OPIOID ADDICTION EPIDEMIC

I set out on the Internet to explore causes of the opioid addiction epidemic. I found one suggestion that to me, as a psychotherapist, is wildly intriguing. It is supported by my training and lifelong practice in the fields of education and psychology. This essay is the result.

Since not everyone who takes opioids  becomes addicted. I wondered if there were psychological predispositions to addiction. My answer to that is an emphatic “yes.” The basis for that conclusion follows.

In good mental health, there is a powerful bond between the values one learned in childhood and subsequent behavior. When people have strong social values learned that way, their behavior is guided by those values. Should a person begin to stray from those values, he or she experiences anxiety, commonly called conscience. The deviant behavior is then abandoned. Values provide resistance to stress related behaviors like addiction.

There is one additional factor. The values must be ego syntonic,  that is, embedded in the fabric of the person’s life. The most powerful “glue” holding a personality together in the face of stress is being raised in a household where  love is a consistent experience wherein a child feels safe and loved unconditionally. Loving is a learned phenomenon. Love is learned when a consistent caretaker is a loving person and in his or her behavior provides a model of loving. The child patterns himself on that model. Emotional strength and stability are born.

It is vital to understand that values instruction is far less effective than modelling values. “We don’t steal.” is inferior to exhibiting consistent moral behavior.

In no way am I suggesting that one needs to be perfect. There is a continuum of loving environments from strong to non-existent.  There are families in which love is strong or fairly strong. There are households that are toxic or fairly toxic to child development. The foundations of love are unavailable to the developing child in emotionally toxic environments.  These are breeding grounds for all manner of dysfunction.  Addiction is one of them.

There are people who grow out of awful conditions and achieve fulfilling lives. Some of those find loving people supporting them along the way.  Some are able to take advantage of personal reorganization that may occur during adolescence. There is variability in all kinds of behavior.  Love is a good environment in which to grow self-esteem (not self-adoration).  Ambivalent love, where love alternates with anger and rejection, may be as damaging as outright rejection.

Addiction has been around forever but never at today’s levels, Why now?

Addiction to opioids has never happened to this degree because drugs have never been so available.  Of greater explanatory value is the degree of social disorganization prevalent in everyday life and society-at-large. It is that disorganization that destroys personal integration in fragile personalities.

Pew research in the Trump era indicates that there never has been so much emotional and physical dissention among families and friends. Couples are deciding that political differences represent clashing values that cannot be tolerated. They are separating as a result.  Anxiety in personal relationships is extremely high. Again, fragile personalities, developed in childhood, crack under that pressure. Addiction is an attempt to heal the fissure.

Here is a partial list of some rapid environmental changes that have occurred recently. They breed chronic anxiety,  emotional and physical pain.

In the United States and in many places around the world, economic insecurity is rampant at every level of society.

Inherent in our form of government, when parties switch control after elections, nearly half the population goes from majority to minority, with total change in power distribution. Both parties are destabilized.

The “right” to have an abortion or the “right” to have gay marriage are rights that overthrow established traditions without acceptance by dissenting groups.  Arbitrary changes in tradition tend to be traumatic for those who disagree.

Child-rearing practices caused in part by altered work patterns dramatically distort the essential experience of childhood. Care at home morphs into childcare “arrangements” that are often highly stressful.

Traditional belief patterns have shifted: everyone lies, cheats and steals; optimism is viewed as naivety; political policies have splintered into partisan fragments. The Trump administration fosters rapid change in the traditional. These changes are particularly stressful,

Our convoluted society has made stable, loving families more difficult to maintain in both city and country.

Those changes are not a complete list. They are examples that will help make my point. It is clear that  changes in social and cultural norms are destabilizing and make the normal supports for loving child rearing less likely to occur. They also produce stress for all of us, more than many of us can bear.

The amount of stress in the social structure of our nation is not tolerable. Things are likely to get worse on our current trajectory, On one level, remediation lies in changing social structures to conform with human developmental needs. Before passing any law, lawmakers should examine the proposal for its impact on child development and adult well-being, making accommodations accordingly.

On an individual level, psychotherapy can help people fill the gap left by early instability and adult disorganization, at least partially.

Remediation is essential – now. I believe that the ideas presented here identify behaviors that distort child development and adult  adaptations. Addictions are attempts at self-enhancement. Opioids are false friends.  Addict’s weakened personality structures seek relief from chronic anxiety and find far worse.

POLITICAL CAMPAIGNING MUST CHANGE

What I read most often on my Facebook page is “Send money so I can fight for you.” I object viscerally . To me, “fight” is a code word meaning that people who disagree with me are my enemies. They are not my enemies. They are just people who disagree with me and believe in their version of the truth just as I do mine. The differing views are certainly not equivalent but all people who hold them see those beliefs as in their self-interest. All of us are human and we should be able to communicate with each other no matter what beliefs we hold. Without free communication we are left with naked aggression to resolve disagreements.

“Fight” rhetoric makes me fear and hate “the other.” There is no room for fear and hate in the electoral process. Distortions by power need correction, not hatred. Elections should be based on information, reasoning and understanding of differing opinions.

When I look at the larger picture, it matters little to me if candidates use the word “fight” or some other diversion.  I want an active role in my country’s present and future. I want candidates to stop making themselves the center of political action. A government of the people, by the people and for the people includes all of us.

A candidate for political office in our current system, will belong to a political party following an agenda devised by members of the party. It is not a people’s agenda. By promoting a “party agenda,” divisiveness is locked into the political system. Instead, why not open political discourse in ways that are fundamentally educational? The public deserves to be presented with reasoned information that clarifies the issues dividing the country. Attack ads and billions of dollars spent on slogans foster the growth of prejudice. They demean democracy.

Too many people are one issue voters. They need to be touched directly, recognizing their concerns and asking about other things that are important to them.

Too many people don’t make up their minds until just before the election. They are prone to impulsive decisions. Can they be helped to clarify their beliefs long before the election?

Too many people vote Democratic or Republican because they have always voted that way. They are prone to switch to the other party arbitrarily when they become disillusioned with their own party. They are “party” voters rather than “values” voters.  A balanced educational approach can help to develop alternate solutions under disappointing conditions.

Too many people don’t vote at all for a variety of reasons. Above all, they need to be treated respectfully. They have a right to opt out of a process that year after year seems to be unresponsive to their needs. Paying attention to their needs is likely to help them to see that their vote counts.

Notice that my concerns are centered on individual people. They can’t be won  over by TV ads..

True grassroots campaigns place the public in the center of the action.    They shift emphasis from the candidate’s “star” appeal to “people appeal.”  Candidates should broaden their campaigns to include surrogates who can fan out over their entire constituencies. The surrogates can be in personal contact with the public. They can conduct town halls and in-home small meetings. The candidate must abandon the “vote for me” mantra in favor of developing  programs that people can see making their lives better. In a truly grassroots campaign, candidates will have to develop new strategies that show his or her leadership abilities.

I challenge all candidates for office to carefully examine their campaign’s design. Think outside of the box. Is it really necessary to race around the country promoting yourselves as saints and saviors of a nation on the brink? If the goal is to win elections, all the madness of current electoral seasons is inevitable. If the goal is to achieve a broadly informed public and if people have a clear view of their best self-interests the political process will be improved and our democracy served.

 

 

 

 

 

AN OVERVIEW OF CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE

 

There is so much interpersonal strife in the US. There is so much bigotry, so much personal isolation, so much anger and divisiveness, so much drug addiction, so much mental illness, so much cutthroat competition, so much governmental dysfunction, so much violence and so much bravado.  Recent research is clarifying those issues. People cause many destructive conditions and behaviors. Who are those people and what causes their attacks against human welfare. It is now clear that harm done by child abuse is long lasting and a major factor in the development of adult anti-social behavior.

Social dysfunction (poverty, prejudice, unfettered competition, warfare, forced migration) is both a cause and a result of child abuse. Social dysfunction abuses children by causing heightened anxiety in their daily lives. High anxiety causes physical and emotional damage to the complex process called development.

Rationalizations like, “He’s just a kid. He’ll grow out of it” are dead wrong. Damage from abuse, e.g. sexual abuse, can continue to escalate over a lifetime.

As a clinical psychologist, I encountered examples of severe child abuse: children with repeated cigarette burns, children who were left in basements tied to heavy chairs sometimes for years, children who were sexually abused and children who were severely beaten for “misbehavior.”  I met the adults those children became in an intensive group psychotherapy program.  Ages ranged from early twenties to early forties.  All of them had been hospitalized, carrying diagnoses covering disorganized personalities. Not one of them was able to hold a job. There were no cures. Some gained the ability to live more organized lives. A few were able to finish high school. Many ended the program substantially unchanged.

When horrendous abuse is revealed, people are most often repulsed by such inhumanity. Soon thereafter, they begin to interpret abusive behavior as inexplicable aberrations, concluding that the only thing to be done is to punish the perpetrators so that they can never do that again.  They are not likely to ask how the abuser got that way.  If they did ask “how,” they might learn something terrifying about themselves. They and all of us, live in a society whose inherent stressors cause us, in crucial part, to behave the way we do.

Children have no civil rights. They are not yet people. Parents often see themselves as “owners” of their children. They expect their children to adhere to their own adult standards and values. (“It’s my child. I’ll raise him as I see fit.”)  Many of those parents feel that the use of physical and psychological  punishment is necessary to control deviant behavior in their children. The fact is that where parents lead their children equitably, guided by the child’s growing capabilities, little or no punishment is ever needed.

Bigots are not born. Amoral behavior is not natural.  Recent research shows that abuse of young children damages brain development in specific ways. Tendencies to hyper-aggression are a regular outcome of child abuse. Brain damage, especially in early childhood, does not go away. It disrupts further development, for life.

Security is one of the most crucial elements in raising physically and emotionally healthy children.  Their interaction with the people who care for them must be a safe haven. If anyone provides stable emotional support, conflict, poverty, even high levels of anxiety lose some of their sting.

Parenting is a teachable skill, in part. Yet, no new parent is ever required to learn basic facts about child development. That leaves first-time parents adrift on a sea of uncertainty. Their children, sensing their parent’s distress, feel frightened. Parents are often offered advice by more experienced peers, “Just love him, you’ll be fine. Everyone is scared with their first child.” That advice is not at all helpful.

Look for further blogs on this topic next week.