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Group Think or a Polarized Society

The term “polarized” continues to permeate the land and, as I suspected, we would be in a new type of civil war. Many years ago, when I worked for social services I had the insight that soon we would be fighting a new type of civil war. I told my fellow co-workers it would be vastly different from the last one but equally deadly. Here we are, on the heels of the position being filled for the 45th president of the United States. Republicans and Democrats had been at each other’s throat even before then; as we saw in the election for President Bush. At that time, there were claims then that it had been rigged (and liberals would be moving to Canada). Now that we have another Republican who has succeeded, once again the charges of rigging the election have occurred. Only this time it has been taken to a new level. It cannot just be that the person won the election.

The Media has jumped on this bandwagon; of course they always do, and have terrorized the country with their “opinions.” Good journalism is really a testimony to people who actually work on finding the truth and presenting evidence, on both sides, so that people can come to their own opinions. Some newspapers are known for this. Some are known for being sensationalists.

 

“Group Think,” is a psychological phenomenon that is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. I would add to this that even intelligent, educated folks fall prey to this mindset just as easily as uneducated, naïve people. It happens on juries, though people are cautioned to not be persuaded by others, it can be hard not to; at the end of the day.

So many times this has happened in our history and though people have appeared to be in favor of doing the right thing for the majority of the people, someone (often large amounts of people) always gets killed. When they are killed, it will be argued that sometimes this has to happen in order to create change. This happens even though the ones being killed have no weapons. They probably would in defense, if they knew they were about to be killed but they don’t. Thus by the time people are killed and consequently become saints, it is too late to feel some remorse. The victors end up the enemies or the traitors and then over time, during a period of healing and quiet; people realize what they had done wrong.

 

Another unfortunate issue with “group think,” is that when it is over with, many people who conformed to this position will pretend they never did. It takes guts to take responsibility for your mistakes. By this time, there is too much fear that if they admit, they will be tortured or punished in some way. And many times they are.

How do we heal from such trying times? A holistic minded person would not conform but take a step back and view all the angles. They would reach into their history books for research on other such occasions and try to compare and contrast. They would look at the long term consequences of the decisions, (or orders) being expected and think for themselves. They would trust their instincts rather than following their ego.

It is important to have respect for the person in charge, whether you like them or not. Our country is based on a democratic mindset which means that sometimes Republicans will be in power and sometimes Democrats. Many of us would like to see more than two choices but at the moment; we can at least be glad there is more than one. I doubt anyone can say they have liked every single president because the world is not about you and what you want. I have found that for the most part, in our history, we have flip-flopped so obviously that you can always predict who will win the presidential race. This time it was the Republicans turn. Eventually it will be the Democrats turn. Instead of acting like gang leaders and forming red and blue teams, it would behoove the opposite side to focus on what went wrong and begin planning a strategy going forward. Generally this is what was done in the past.

It would also be important to figure out how to work with the person in charge. More happens with sugar than vinegar, as the saying goes. People are so angry right now, one side because they lost and the other side because their power is put into question. People stop being friends with those who don’t think like them, which causes some to conform. This is either out of fear of isolation or fear of being killed (metaphorically or realistically). It is a scary time now and not because of the person in the White House but because of the uprising all around him. It makes our country look very weak and of course vulnerable. When this is the case, it is so easy to take advantage. This is what concerns me right now. We are sitting ducks, due to our polarization. No one seems interested in ending the feud and trying to find balance. Meanwhile, both teams think they have the most power and that people are listening to them. They are blind, deaf and dumb. But they are Right!

Life is a rip off when you expect to get what you want. Life works when you choose what you got. Actually, what you got is what you chose. To move on, choose it. Werner Erhard

 

 

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You must be the change – Easy to Say

I have written quite a few times on the topic of Narcissism in this blogroll. It often seems as if there is no hope with family members whether they are Narcissistic or not. We give up with people in our family because they don’t fit the lifestyle we have created as an adult (as a surviving mechanism), which we feel is much saner. Sometimes we have to hang around family members we don’t like to be around those we do. I have given tips on here, in the past articles about Narcissism, to help cope with this. There is even more to it than that.

It has to come from you though, solely. This isn’t an easy task to take on, especially when you feel exhausted already from trying to “change” them. Gandhi said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” This was easy for him to say because he was a philosopher and was already living this mantra when it came out of his mouth. In this age of “awareness” we see it on many people’s email signatures or people constantly quote it and misquote it about as easily as we used to say “dysfunctional.” It is the new buzz phrase that we want to say to make us sound good and loving and aware.

The Buddhists have an additional phrase “To know and not to use, is to not know.”

So we, as family consciousness builders, need to sit with ourselves in meditation  and listen to our higher conscious to find out what the heck Gandhi’s phrase means in our life.

I will give you some hints in the meantime, while you are in contemplation.

1. Let go of your ego. Let go of needing something from someone. Get your needs met from yourself. If you don’t need something from someone, they can’t take it away from you.

2. Be patient and be silent. As you begin this process of changing the inner self, be quiet and wait. Only talk when you know that you are coming from a loving place. This does not mean “I am only saying this because I love you.” It means waiting till your higher conscious tells you to speak and then you speak from the soul, not the ego. Your inner voice never makes mistakes and it comes when you least expect it. If you hear yourself talking, that is you. The inner voice talks only when you keep quiet.

3. Ask your higher power, God, Goddess, how you can be a better person, not how can they become a better person. LISTEN. The answers will come from places unexpected. The radio, TV, friends, psychotherapists, spiritual leaders and even family. Yes, the people who annoy you the most are giving you answers that we often ignore. They are saying “I love you” in the craziest ways.

4. Set boundaries with people around you. Especially with those that you love. If it means you don’t hear from someone you love for a year or two, then you go on with your life and continue to feel love for them and work on yourself in the meantime. Every time something cruel wants to come out of your mouth – because you just have to get your word in – because you have been patient long enough – just breathe. Saying nothing is more potent than saying something. In the meantime, breathe long slow breaths – Not loud sighs that everyone can hear. Just slow…breaths.

Eventually love, boundaries, patience and being silent find results. The more you focus on being the change, rather than waiting for them to change, the more love that will come into your life. These are just hints though. Listen to your higher consciousness and wait for the answers.

How Do I Know When Therapy Is Done?

I want to say here “What is the meaning of life?” though that question doesn’t completely relate to my topic above. On some measures it does though. Therapy is different for every single person. On a spiritual level, I know that you will know when it is “done” when you feel ready to leave. This does not mean that therapy is “done” as in forever if you are someone who really appreciates self-awareness and continuing to do in-depth work on yourself. If you are only there for a minor concern, such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program, aka short term therapy) type matter, often times people get to a place where I know and they know, that there is really nothing more to say.  When I work with couples, I either know that I can’t really do much more for them or things are going really well and they are feeling great about themselves or a change is made and then the choice to continue becomes individual.

When it comes to a traumatic injury whether it be current or long-term (childhood), it is much more intense. Sometimes therapy is for the first time and then I am working with the client to help them to have a voice. It feels good for people to be able to finally say “This is what that son of a bitch did to me…” and for them to hear “That was terrible, OMG, I can’t believe someone would do that…” It is the first time they are getting validation. The wounded child is being soothed and nurtured. I watch them begin to stand up for themselves over time, in their personal lives, as they continue to be heard and acknowledged and respected in a safe environment. This is extremely rewarding for me as a therapist and obviously a huge break through for them. Then the client will at some point walk away from therapy for a bit – to take a break. Sometimes I know that the process is on hold for a short time until they are ready to return to me, or to someone else.

I am happy for a client to choose someone else, if they want to, once they have gone through a breakthrough with me. It is good for a client to get a different voice, a new method and from the place they are at now. Even if they haven’t had a breakthrough but still choose to go to another, it is okay too because this is what they need to do. It is the soul searching process that brings us to enlightenment on some level. The answers are there for you, as you continue to search and when you are ready, it will come.

When I get a client who has been with another therapist, I try to check in with them first, to see what worked and what didn’t work. This is important for me and for them. One, it helps them to have some closure if there was a negative experience and two, it helps them to celebrate the work they have already accomplished. This also builds trust as I am again giving them a voice right up front about being in the psychotherapeutic process.

When I work with someone who have been working on “this issue for years,” I acknowledge that now we are going to work from a different place than where they started. I listen to what they have already learned and accomplished but at the same time I am finding out where it all began (so that I am clear). Sometimes, I hear things or “see” things that maybe someone hadn’t put together before. This is because, when a client tells their story more than once, it changes (with their new voice, new insights they have had since then) so it makes sense that I will or might see things that another therapist did not see (and the same goes for one of my clients seeing a new therapist).

This is why it is important to not be frustrated with yourself when you find yourself needing therapy “once again.” Life impacts us hard and over the years, more things happen to us, we begin to see patterns of our own self-destruction, our mistakes, things we didn’t see at 20, become much more realized at 30, 40, 50, 60, and so on. I could not have told you any of this at 20, nor could I have been the therapist I am now at that age. When I become 70, I will be a much different therapist than I am now. Thank goodness! I hope I will learn something in the next 20 years. The same will happen with the client. We grow and we evolve. What we could expect in 1980, we most certainly cannot expect in 2015. That is sad on so many levels. Yet, this is something that people from the 1890’s would have said in the 1920’s as we see with Violette (Maggie Smith’s character) on Downton Abbey. So this creates depression, frustration, realization, awareness, many mixed emotions that at first can be quite daunting.

Therapy will end when you feel it is time to end. You are in control of your life and making this decision is one that should be made clearly and consciously and of sound mind. It should be made because you are satisfied with the results, though if you are not and find you need a different therapist this of course makes sense too. My only caveat is not to leave because you are confused or frustrated about what your therapist has said. Tell them and if the answer you get doesn’t agree with you intuitively, than you should move on. This has come up for me in the room on a few occasions and I try to deal with it head on. It is important for the therapeutic process, for trust and for the client to determine whether they are going forward with me or someone else. I have so far, only had positive results in these circumstances, except on a very rare occasion. Even then, I knew that it was not meant to be as I was not the right person for the job. I don’t believe in accidents in life. Things happen for a reason.

Finally, it is never wrong to be in therapy. If you are curious, questioning, concerned, unsure, frustrated, grieving, upset, unhappy and what to make a difference in your life…than therapy is a great place to be.

Mindful Driving

Drivers are more and more dangerous on the streets and highways than ever before. The notion of mindfulness has begun to be the buzz word of the day and so I continue to think about this as I am behind the wheel. What would it look like if we all drove mindfully?

When you go to your car, truck, or whatever mode of transportation you might work in (subway, semi, train) it is important to focus on the task at hand. First, thinking consciously about your vehicle when you turn it on. How does it sound? Do you have enough gas? Do you need lights on? What are the road conditions that you are about to embark on? Have you sufficiently prepared your self for the weather of the day with proper clothing? I think about pilots when they are about to fly and all the preparations that go in to getting off the ground. You are the pilot of your vehicle and the same attention must be paid to the safety of your self and others. While you may not have 300 passengers in the rear, you have hundreds to thousands (i.e., LA) of people next to you on the road.

Every time you get behind a wheel, it is important to be conscious of these things as your mindset will affect the lives of so many people. And not just those on the road directly but their families who will indirectly bear the burden of the decisions you make.

As you enter the street, from your own driveway, thinking about the world you are about to embark on. Who is coming out of their driveways? What is on the road in front of you? Do you need to keep a watchful eye for animals (deer, squirrels, domestic pets), in your neighborhood? Of course don’t forget children on bicycles or playing on sidewalks – is their ball going to slip out onto the street and then they go running after it? Mindfully taking in all that is around you.

When you get to the end of the street it is important to stay behind the stop sign. If there is no stop sign, you are still mandated to stay at the end of the street, not out into on-coming traffic where people will now have to get over to go around you, thereby making it even slower for you to turn right or left. When you are causing traffic to re-route for your decisions, it causes more stress on everyone around you, including your self. This also causes people to then be mindful of every street corner, expecting people to come racing out and being the cause of constant braking.

Traffic lights are extremely important to focus on. If you are unfamiliar with the neighborhood, don’t race through the yellow light that may only stay that way for a few seconds. Going through a red light puts an entire intersection in danger and it is playing Russian roulette. What good does it do your body if you smash into another driver who had the green light? If there is a storm and the traffic lights are out, there are rules for crossing the street. Each side takes turns as you then become mindful of an imaginary stop sign. It does no one any good if you are in the middle of the street, five cars deep, sitting there so that no one has a chance of crossing. Most states have laws about blocking the streets in traffic (with or without a light that is working).

As you enter the entrance to the freeway/highway/interstate, whatever you code this federal or state boulevard. Mindfully focusing on everyone around you. As we learned in Driver’s Ed, what is happening in front, to the right, to the left, and in behind? Watching all directions and paying attention to what is going on. When you are switching lanes, have you indicated this with your lights? Is there at least a car lengths space between you and the driver in front and back? With more than three lanes, what is the guy to the left doing? Is he also trying to get into the same lane you are going to? For those behind the car trying to switch lanes – giving them the common courtesy of getting over. If you are in a merge lane, this means you have an imaginary yellow light (you take caution when approaching on-coming traffic). People on the freeway are not meant to put on their brakes so merging traffic can come in. It is best when those on the freeway can get over for merging traffic, if that is possible but when you have a merging lane and an exit lane in the exact same place, this is rather difficult for all involved. Again, being mindful of driving carefully and cautiously of all around you.

Traffic for work – we are all going to work, you are no exception. Driving at the pace of others will do the least amount of damage if we are all focused together. Whether you are five minutes late or fifteen minutes late, you are still late. You still run the risk of getting written up by your boss. If you are thinking that you need to race to be a few minutes less late, you are putting others in danger and run the risk of hitting someone. Then you will likely be up to an hour (or more) late for causing traffic damage. Racing to get to work also causes stress on the other drivers around you. Those people who are driving mindfully and were conscious of leaving at the correct time that day, are having to be distracted by your mistakes. People become nervous and when this occurs they make mistakes too. Some people on the road are brand new drivers, going to their first jobs. Dealing with people who are racing to work can cause an inexperienced driver to have an accident at your expense.

Racing to get to work and racing to get home. You are racing to get somewhere that many people don’t want to be at and then you race to get home to complain about this. How much of your life is wasted by racing? How would your day be at work if you were mindfully driving to get there? How would your evening be at home if you were conscious of being in the car on the way home? Your life exists behind the wheel, not just what happens after you get out. The saying “Be Here Now,” means that. There is also another favorite quote “Life Wastes Itself When we are Preparing to Live.” When you arrive out of breath, you have missed out on minutes of your life that you can not get back.

Take care of yourself on the way to work or where ever it is you are headed. Have nice relaxing, calming music playing to help you be mindful of the road. This type of music also helps people to be less stressed. It doesn’t matter what genre the music is in, if you feel happy and want to smile, then this is the music for you. For long trips, use audio books to enjoy the time in a quality way. There are also CD’s to learn a new language. What a wonderful and different way to travel.

Mindful driving would change our world and make us a part of the world around us.  Without mindful driving, we are merely one person against others rather than one person amongst others. Think of this the next time you get behind a wheel. You might just end up saving a life today.