In reflecting back over the past 35 years in this field, I am reminded of why an individual, a couple, or a family, actually decide to come in to therapy. Generally speaking, such reflection provokes a question for the reader. When was the last time you took a course, in high school, college, community workshop, anywhere, on “How to Raise Children to be Healthy Adults,” “How to Have a Healthy Marriage,” “How to Be A Mentally Healthy Person.” In which magazines, on which television shows, in which commercials does one derive any cues about healthy functioning? How did you determine that the way you live your life is making you a better, successful, or happier person? I'm guessing there were none offered. In the course of a day, the typical person in our culture has not one moment of exposure to such critical information. In fact, severe behavioral pathology is sensationalized, e.g., Jerry Springer, Mauri Povich, etc. Yet we live in those three areas, attempting to cope with the stresses of daily living and somehow to derive meaning and purpose in life. So, how does one obtain and where does one go to get the information and skills needed to create effective results in critical life areas? Actually, every one of us has somehow answered that question and are consistently, daily, applying our conclusions to our lives.
OUR "SELF-HELP" LIFESTYLE
There is a vast ocean of self-help books available in the bookstores and online, yet typically when a person purchases a self-help book, they are either embarrassed or self-conscious, or feel guilty for being so selfish as to focus attention on “fixing” themselves or get confused and frightened when attempting to apply to themselves what they have learned. The cultural message is a mixed one that seems to say “It’s OK to get help for yourself, but if you do, shame on you!” If this has ever happened to you, how did you resolve that conflict for yourself?
"I JUST WANT TO BE HAPPY"
Happiness is the "Holy Grail" of our lives, the benchmark by which we measure true success. Yet, for so many, it continues to be elusive. So, where would you go if you wanted to experience the "happiest place on earth?" Take a look at this segment of a 60 minutes show (aired on 2.17.08) and see what they uncovered.
A research study from Ball State University (1999), indicated that "flexibility, resiliency and connections protect women against early death, while men are more often wiped out by their own rigidity, aggression and denial of feelings." The life expectancy for men is now 72 years of age while women live in average of 78.8 years. Men smoke more cigarettes and consume more alcohol. They are three times is likely as women to die from accidents and four times more likely to be homicide victims. White men have the higher suicide rates in the country once they get older than age 65. Many of these men have been insulated from the real world due to their positions of power in a corporation. However, once they retire, their entire power-base may be gone (if there really ever was one), and they typically are unable to "boss" their wives around without severe consequences.
The increase for women, according to several studies, was due to women getting into holistic health and balancing their lives while men stayed in the "same old macho" roles. While women do suffer more ailments and depression earlier in life, they are more likely to use such adversity to develop inner strength which they use later in life. Interestingly, but not surprising, women tend to be active in more life pursuits and have a broader range of emotions, where men tend to express only two emotions: either fine or mad.
Author Gail Sheehy also commented about the difficulties of men as they get older. While men chuckle about menopause for women, it appears that men are "much more uncertain about the threat of aging than women. And the basis seems to be the threat of losing their potency in all the areas of their lives."
GOOD v EVIL
The theme dates to the beginning of mankind; who is good and who is evil? One thing can be sure it could never be you or me, right? Dr. Philip Zimbardo, legendary Stanford University psychologist addresses the issue in his most recent book, The Lucifer Effect. Written after consulting with the U.S. Army as an expert witness in the Abu Ghraib trials, Dr. Zimbardo illustrates how easy it is for nice people to go bad. Then he talks about the flip side: how easy it is to be a hero, and how we can rise to the challenge. I have posted the address of his presentation from TED.com. Be warned: there are graphic images, the truth, sometimes comes with a razor's edge reality.
TOP TEN MOVIES OF ALL TIME
Thought it might be fun to share movies which have had a lasting impression on me. The list is fluid with some occasional changes; these movies represent a meaningful experience for me when I walked out of the theatre. I left feeling stunned, tearful, reflectful of my own life or informed about some peripheral area of society I might not have given a second thought. I believe these movies are thought provoking and emotionally cathartic and written in a brilliant and eloquent style that captures a theme which most people can relate to in their own lives. The list is not ordered by priority and I did not provide any summary descriptions. There are some opportunities to leap into the unknown that should be fun.
1. Revolutionary Road
2. The Reader
3. All The King's Men
4. Million Dollar Baby
6. To Kill A Mockingbird
8. Thirteen Days
9. Mystic River
10. Ordinary People