Back to Back and Belly to Belly­: Where Do We Go Now?

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Enemies are people whose story you haven’t heard, or whose face you haven’t seen.

 

~ Irene Butter~

Take a moment to let your imagination loose. If you were tied back to back with someone and both of you looked straight ahead, what could you both see clearly? Nothing! You can’t see what is behind you. If you are tied together facing belly to belly, is it possible to feel neutral toward each other? Not likely! It would probably depend on how well you knew each other. Lately it seems like we are in both situations at the same time. Either way, the arrangement is most likely uncomfortable on both sides.

Getting back to reality, what can you do to manage your discomfort? You might start by introducing yourselves to each other. Most people start with something safe to see what reaction they get. If they receive a positive response they might try something a little more personal. If something uncomfortable arises, they have the option of a conversation, including listening to each other and explaining themselves.

In today’s politically, socially and morally charged climate, it is easy to wonder if those you encounter are potential friends or enemies. Is that what you want them to wonder about you? Most people don’t. I dare say most people want to be understood, taken seriously and respected. If you are determined to get along with other people, don’t wait for them to make the first move. Take the initiative yourself. If you don’t want to take that chance you can always bristle like a porcupine, warning others not to get too close to you.

Why are we at each others’ throats? On the surface it appears to be a matter of anger with political parties engaged in a struggle for power, racial and ethnic divides and a battle between genders as well as conflict over religious, moral and ethical principles. We have always had differences among groups on these as well as other issues. There have been times when we have been able to talk about these differences and to some extent arrive at a modicum of understanding if not agreement. At other times we have ended up in war.

Finding bridges among groups seems more difficult than ever these days. But why? The anger behind our conflict has its chief source in fear. What are we afraid of? Scott Bonn writes in Psychology Today about General Strain Theory. According to this theory, fear “leads to anger which in turn leads to violence. Such strain results from losing something of value or it can result from failing to attain something of value.”  This could involve loss of a job, loss of financial security or a relationship turning sour.

For lack of any constructive alternatives to handle actual or feared losses, some people end up on the road to anger and possibly violence as a way to express their anger and rage. Some people grew up in families where they never saw good ways to handle fear and loss. They are more likely to follow the path I just mentioned.

So what do we do to get along better and avoid the strain? Here are some suggestions:

Action steps  

  •  Start by finding out what is important to others.
  • When they are ready, ask what bothers them.
  • Mention what is important to you.
  • Talk about what bothers you.
  • Find ways to work together toward mutual goals.
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Shame, fear: Survivors explain not reporting sexual assaults

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There are myriad reasons why survivors of sexual assault wait years to come forward — if at all. Indeed, about 7 out of 10 people who experience sexual assault never report it, according to Justice Department statistics.

So survivors responded with fury Friday to President Donald Trump’s remarks challenging the veracity of Christine Blasey Ford, the accuser of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The president said she would surely have reported the assault to police “immediately” if the attack was “as bad as she says.”

On Twitter, the hashtag “WhyIDidn’tReport” was trending, with survivors coming forward with their own reasons.

(Excerpt from Jocelyn Noveck’s article in the Wichita Eagle- Read more)

The Soul of America and the Souls of Its residents

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If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens,

you can never regain their respect and esteem.

~Abraham Lincoln~

Not too long ago, I reviewed John Meachum’s book, The Soul of America. I noted that the soul of which he speaks is a patchwork of all of those who inhabit America and as such is a messy concept to describe and make sense of. Our collective soul is a fabric woven from our individual souls. But what does this mean?

Each of us has a stake in the meaning and makeup of our country. We do have some things in common. I would dare say the majority of us agree that we would like to have the basics to build a satisfying life for ourselves. We would also like to have adequate housing, enough food to eat, good health and the opportunity for our children to make their own way in the world.

Some of us are born with a head start. Support from our parents and relatives, family financial resources and a neighborhood in which we can feel safe give us confidence that we can set and meet goals for our lives. Others in this country barely have a toehold. They may have arrived as refugees from oppressive countries by the skin of their teeth. They may not understand or speak English. They may have valuable skills but not appropriate credentials by which their skills can be recognized or documented.

Some of us had a relatively peaceful upbringing and entered adulthood confident of our ability to make our own way in the world. Others of us have been marginalized and made to feel inferior in comparison with our fellow citizens. We do not all emerge from our childhood and adolescence with the same perspective on the world, our country or ourselves. All of the things I have mentioned go into the makeup of our individual souls.

In my opinion, your soul consists of one’s past experiences and how they have affected your sense of who you are, your feeling of self-worth and outlook on the prospects for a fulfilling life. In addition to thoughts about yourself you also carry feelings which result from these experiences. You might emerge from your upbringing as happy, optimistic and self confident. With different experiences, you might emerge as unhappy, pessimistic and unsure of yourself.

The soul of America is a mixture of all of our individual souls. With our different backgrounds and experiences, it can be very difficult for us to understand and support each other. That is the challenge we face. It may be difficult but that does not make it impossible. Just try to remember that not everyone has had the same experiences you have and may view their life very differently from how you view yours.

Action Steps

  • Take time to understand what lies in your soul.
  • What do you like about what you find and what could you change?
  • When meeting strangers, try to understand what lies in their souls.
  • Think what it would be like to have their history.
  • Try to understand your differences.

When it comes to addressing gun violence, common sense should lead to common ground

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If homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings are all factored in, by the time the calendar flips to 2019, more than 36,000 Americans will have lost their lives to gun violence this year.

That’s too many mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and friends losing their lives to ignore.

At the current pace, there will more than one mass shooting per day in the U.S. this year. Where do these shootings take place? Schools and churches and shopping centers and workplaces—places where we’re supposed to feel safe.

(Excerpt from Steven Hoffman’s article in the Chester County Press- read more)

 

Anger and Its Aftermath

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Are you angry right now? If not, when was the last time you felt angry? How did you get angry? My guess is something happened to which you take exception. Someone or something – God, nature, someone you know, a stranger – did something which made you angry. If you can set aside your anger for a moment and think about it rather than indulging it, you will begin to realize that it is not the result of what happened or who did it. It is the result of what you tell yourself about what happened.

If someone bumps into you, listen to what happens in your mind. You may tell yourself that the person is clumsy, stupid or trying to upset you. Your anger arises when you tell yourself that the person should not have done something and that you have a right to be angry about it. So far there is an incident and what you tell yourself about it. If you tell yourself you have been wronged, you are likely to feel angry as a result.

Sometimes you have been wronged deliberately and you have a good reason to be angry. Sometimes you experience an inconvenience or worse which was not intended to harm you. In this case, you are less likely to feel anger. If you find yourself feeling angry, the next question is what to do about it. You have some choices.

You might try to discover whether you were harmed on purpose. If not, you can forgive the person who harmed you accidentally. If you decide you were harmed on purpose, you have other choices. These range from trying to ignore it to reacting in anger and seeking revenge for what was done to you.

How you react also depends on how you tend to think of others. You might see people as generally well intentioned and as a result do not make much of a fuss. You might also have had life experiences which incline you to view others as hostile making you more likely to feel angry and seek a way to even the score.

You have quite a range of choices of how to respond to anger. At the mild end, you can tell the other person you did not like what he or she did. At the other extreme, you can pull out a gun and shoot the other person. There is obviously a wide range of consequences for you and for the other person depending on how you respond. Yet many people do not stop to think about how to react to their anger or about the consequences of how they respond. Indulging angry impulses can have disastrous consequences for you as well as for the target of your anger.

Some people don’t find a good way to handle their anger and instead pile one grudge upon another until the load becomes too much to bear. Then they explode in anger in a way far more severe that the immediate incident requires. Again, dire consequences await all concerned. You can avoid this by being aware of your angry feelings and how they arose, examining your options and choosing an appropriate response.

Action Steps   

 Try to understand your anger before acting on it.

  • Write about your anger to clarify how you feel and what you can do.
  • Make sure someone is at fault instead of harming you accidentally.
  • Discuss the matter with the other person instead of reacting impulsively.
  • Look for common ground whenever possible.

For more on anger, see my Amazon book, How to Transform Your Anger and Find Peace.

 

Using Anger as a Tool and Not a Weapon: An Interview with Arun Ghandi

Over the weekend I had an unexpected and extraordinary experience as I found myself sitting on a sofa in a suburban Philadelphia historical site next to a man who had lived for two years beginning at the age of 12 with his legendary grandfather. Arun Gandhi is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and he took up the mantle of peacemaker who speaks to groups large and small about the importance of taking personal responsibility for the mark we make on the world. His unassuming nature and approachable manner made it easy to ask for time with him to peer into the window of the world he would like to witness.

(Excerpt from Edie Weinstein’s article in The Good Men Project. Read more