Tag Archives: Entitlement

Do you remember when you were young and you used to play the stare game to see who could stare at each other the longest without blinking? Granted, it was a challenge physically, but did you ever recognize, let alone remember, the feelings that came and went while you were doing it? Looking into someone else’s eyes is one of the first steps to becoming intimate with someone. And when you did, did you stop? Did you feel paranoid, self-conscious, or maybe even embarrassed? Or did you enjoy it and even get a rush from it?

There’s a lot more to intimacy than just facing off. Although, if you asked anyone of the younger generations what they thought intimacy was, the number one response you would probably receive would be, “Having sex.” So, what is intimacy? How is it different now than from what we’ve known it to be in the past? Does the younger generation really have a different understanding of what it means to be intimate from previous generations?  I believe so. Our culture has gone through a dramatic shift in how we perceive each other and how much we will let others “see into us.” What’s the difference? How could this come to be? Depending on how old we are and how we were raised, we may, even now, still have no awareness or depth in our understanding of what it means to be intimate with someone. There are many changes in the way we live that have contributed to the change in how we perceive and understand it. Let’s look first at its definition and then the history that brought it into its current generational context.

The word intimate comes from the Latin word intimus (1630s) meaning “inmost, inner most, deepest” and "closely acquainted, very familiar." We can see very easily how most people can assume that this can relate to anything sexual. Since many people are primarily physically oriented to their world, this may be the only way that they understand how to allow another to know them. Being solely oriented to the physical may be simply due to the inexperience of not having learned and accepted life in its depth yet.

Even in light of their having been experienced in intimacy, they may still purposely shut down from exposing their deepest darkest secrets to anyone else as a result of being physically or emotionally wounded.

We can all understand the second concept of being wounded but the first reason, youth, is becoming more the case as our culture socially and technologically “evolves” us into becoming more emotionally isolated. The augmentation of emotional isolation is becoming a very potent cause for many of the growing human atrocities that are taking place. Let’s take a look at how and why we have been “progressing” in this way.

If we turn back the way back machine to about sixty or seventy years ago, we see whole families living together under one roof. Imagine, if you will, that you’re twelve years old and living at home with your family. The house is fairly large. Living together are your parents, brother and sister, a pair of grandparents and an aunt and uncle. The house has four bedrooms and one bathroom. Your parents live in one room, you and your siblings share the second, your uncle and grandfather the third and your grandmother and aunt in the fourth. In one house this will be close quarters, especially with nine people sharing one bathroom. Before the 1960s, this was not uncommon.

With so many people living together, especially scattered through three generations, everyone is privy to many more varied aspects of each other’s lives than we might realize. If we were to “throw back” to living in that type of environment, many of us would feel extremely uncomfortable with the feeling that our privacy is constantly being challenged. Privacy and our luxury of having it involuntarily regulates our potential for intimacy. How? Living apart, as more and more of us do, there are more aspects of our lives that are not exposed to other members of our family. This is precisely the point that has enabled any talent, let alone the need, for intimacy to dwindle into the shallowness that it seems to be growing into.

The fact that living as an extended family together in one house does expose many of its members to each other’s private business is a catalyst enabling the necessity and our opportunity to learn, grow and become intimate with each other. If we live in close quarters with other family members, we are going to see and learn things about them that we wouldn’t have had we lived separately. This “enforced proximity” makes it necessary to learn behaviors and social protocols so everyone can comfortably live together without the threat of what we now perceive as a fear of embarrassment or exposure. Learning to be intimate in this way develops not only depth but comfortability in dealing with close personal matters that family members who live apart might never have the necessity or opportunity to experience with each other. The fear of exposure that I speak of is not only the fear of having someone know intimate details about us but the fear of them being used to manipulate us, almost like blackmail. However, this fear goes much deeper in leaving us feeling out of control with intimacy issues because when so many of us live outside of a close family group we don’t have the opportunity to learn how to handle them. When we live in close proximity of other family members, it teaches us how to deal with intimacy almost to the point where handling it becomes second nature. The younger generations who have moved out at an early age have never been trained or exposed as how to deal with the embarrassment that comes with feeling exposed, embarrassed or out of control.

Another dimension lost by living separately is that children raised in a close proximal family situation have the modeling of the adults in the family to show them how to deal with issues of intimacy. In this they learn that the world won’t end if they feel embarrassed and they witness the responses that they may choose to use to help them feel comfortable with it.

Even though technology and the internet seem to be “keeping people connected,” that connection appears to be a quality devoid of any depth in terms of how people relate to each other now. The connection seems to be one of following each other and aspiring toward independence, self-sufficiency and projected influence over others rather than any expression of anything deeper or internal. In messaging or texting very little of anything personal emerges other than a sense of belonging to a group or party affiliation. This is most evident in the political bashing that occurs on Facebook. What is the least obvious to the average individual are the clues that are lost when we relate to one another in person. That is, expressions, body language and the overall feel that can be picked up from each other in person are completely lost when either messaging or texting. Most of us have seen how easily our meaning and intention can be completely misinterpreted through the generic transcription that messaging and texting provide. What’s both sad and frightening is that our youth not only lives in their phones and cyberspace but perceives this method as being an “expression” of what they perceive as personal emotional depth. Having never been raised in closely enforced proximity to their family and others, how could they ever know that anything’s been lost?

Another contributor to the fading of intimacy is speed. The faster we move, the less time we have to think or assess what we’re feeling, let alone where it’s coming from or why. These days, everything has to be done at top speed. If you’re not fast, you’re accused of being not smart enough, slow on the uptake, have no ambition or even lazy.

It’s sad but many years ago salesmen were trained how to create the “bum’s rush” to push their customers off kilter so they would be inclined to make hasty decisions in the salesman’s favor while not understanding the implications or limits involved in what they were buying. When was the last time you encountered a used car salesman? We all know that when we are in a rush or get pushed into a rush, we often forget or not notice things that might be important. How can we recognize and listen to our feelings when we always feel like we’re being pushed or in a lather trying to get things done at lightning speed? At lightning speed, thoroughness becomes a virtual impossibility. These days most people have no patience with themselves, let alone with anyone else. Hype has become the heart’s enemy.   Intimacy requires patience.

The ability to know and feel intimacy has all but disappeared from our socially learned pantheon of recognized behaviors. Machismo and posturing have taken their place as the primary defense mechanism and as a distraction from the exposure of our perceived embarrassment or exposure. Due to the loss of becoming unable to experience or understand intimacy, almost all measures of humility, compassion and appreciation have rapidly been replaced with feelings of entitlement, outrage, persecution and belittlement. These operate as a distraction from our perceived exposure simply because we’ve never learned to handle the intimacy that allows for their proper integration and development. Most of the younger generations, although they’d never admit it, are now afraid of intimacy since their inability to handle it now signals such a threat for embarrassment through the exposure of their sensed but unrecognized lack of experience in being open with people. Because most of the younger generation hasn’t had the experience of living in the close proximity with an extended family and learning how to deal with intimacy, their perception and scope of it has been reduced to seeing and feeling it almost solely as an expression of sex.

Being intimate with another includes trusting others with our hopes, fears and perceived inadequacies while putting ourselves at the mercy of their potential manipulation and hoping instead that they will express their love by allowing our frailties to go acknowledged and unabused. Perhaps much of the violence perpetrated by so many is a reaction to their feeling of isolation and being exposed to the point of having to trust others by being intimate.

Tremendous attention and outrage has been applied to the act of bullying. Unfortunately, almost all of the energy has been directed toward reacting to the act with punishment for the perpetrator and sympathy and counseling for the victim. Its contemporary handling has been focused primarily on the prevention of the action, yet, almost no attention has been given to the causes that would encourage one to do so,to what the victim broadcasts to attract his perpetrator or what kind of education or training would contribute to its prevention for the perpetrator and the victim.

Nothing happens at random. Because we live and grow in the physical world, we deal with our experience from an action/reaction perspective. For most of us, these understandings and perceptions are understandable and seem even reasonable. But, closing the barn door after the horses have escaped does little to prevent their escape in the first place. In the same light, punishing the perpetrator and counseling the victim from a victim perspective does little to prevent future occurrences. Their predisposition toward bullying or being bullied emanate from a deeply ingrained behavior learned in childhood. For us to be effective in our handling of this type of event something more must be come into play than to simply to punish or console. I’d like to offer some options for understanding but I must warn you ahead of time. Those who have been bullied, have children who have been bullied or have done the bullying themselves may take great offense at what I’m about to say. Please put aside your indignation and allow this to unfold in your understanding before you fold your arms and shut the door on what I’m about to say. It takes two to Tango. It also takes two to bully and to be bullied. Both the perpetrator and victim are implicated in what occurs, whether we or they are aware of it or not.

Let’s first start off by examining the old adage “birds of a feather flock together.” The more modern version of this is “like attracts like.” We can certainly see that people who like or do the same things will have an attraction for each other and are often found in the same groupings of people. Artists attract artists. Business people attract business people and so on. But can we also understand that people who are, say, very frugal with their money will also be drawn to people who throw money away? Yes! Why? Because both character types have a learned problematic attitude toward the handling of their money. In this light we can also say that people who are overly compassionate also attract people who are not and users always seem to find people who are easily used. It’s just a fact of life that we also attract our opposites. Why? Because an imbalance in issues draws us together more than which side or polarity of the imbalance we take our perspective from. Included in this perspective is the understanding that extroverts and introverts are opposites and are also attracted to each other in the same way. Both have an opposing tendency in how and how much they will tend to allow or seek contact with the “outside” world. Opposites attract as nature’s way of attempting to rebalance an issue that has become polarized. However, people who are a little more evolved and finely balanced than we will, most likely, not be perceived by us as being extroverted or introverted. For them, attention will be given to the degree to which they do or don’t project according to the appropriateness of the response required, not that they are opposites. We won’t see the polarity because their action will be in line and appropriate for what is needed.

For those of us who might not be quite as evolved, and that’s most of us, people who either advance into or retreat from contact will be perceived by us as being either extroverted or introverted. Let’s take this one step further. Bullies will appear to us as being more extroverted and those who are victims will appear to be more introverted. The issue creating the “difference” between them, outward projection or inward retreat, can be as strongly polarized for us as we compare male to female; active and receptive again reinforcing the fact that opposites attract. Our awareness is triggered by the perception of extremes. To us, the issue appears secondary.

So, now that we can see that like attracts like as much as opposites attract as a function of the issues not because of the sides or extremes we take in or perspective. The sides we take are simply symptoms of an issue that is unbalanced. Let’s move on and fill in some other factors in the dynamic picture that’s forming.

In examining how we handle contact with others we must look at character. We can initially assume that our tendencies toward exhibiting certain types of character may be either innate or hereditary. To some degree, I will agree with this. We most certainly seem to bring some forms of character and tendencies into life with us. But this may not be the only reason for our exhibited behaviors. Our tendency to either project toward or retreat from contact with others can also be trained or encouraged in us by those in our early environment such as parents or siblings. If we project a behavior that displeases someone in our early environment, their negatively perceived reaction may encourage us to refrain from using that same behavior, not only in the family, but in other circumstances outside the family. If we feel is frightened or intimidated by someone in our early environment, this will also intensify our reluctance to express ourselves the same way within and outside the family nucleus. Someone who is not innately introverted may then be shown that introversion may be the best behavior to exhibit within and outside the family to assure their emotional and physical safety. Parents who are extremely authoritarian or exhibit fits of anger when they are not pleased may very easily discourage their children into introversion thereby preventing them from exhibiting their innate behavior for fear that they will elicit unpleasant reactions. The child’s innate emotional strength has a lot to do with their responses. We must also understand that a strong spirited child may act out against discouragement of unwanted behaviors by the parents and not be subdued.

Contrarily, a child who may be innately introverted may feel encouraged by their parents to be more extroverted simply because their parental encouragement may give them enough confidence and courage to step outside their comfort zone, and perhaps even past ethical boundaries, to try new things. This will also be true with abusive parents when the child is taught or modeled that abusive behavior is appropriate to get what they want.

In both cases, hereditarily and environmentally, we’re working with nature verses nurture; also known as genetics verses environment. We all respond to both but in many varying degrees depending on their mix. What is environmentally trained depends on the mix between how we as parents respond to the behaviors we perceive in our children, our own level of emotional maturity and the emotional strength and resiliency of our child. We have the power to create balanced adults, narcissistic monsters (spoiled children feeling entitled) or people pleasers (fear induced submissives) depending on our behavior and what we encourage or discourage in our children’s behavior. Bullying is often a consequence of a pairing between apparent narcissists and people pleasers as opposites. Both the parent and child may be either. A submissive will create a narcissistic monster and a parent behaving narcissistically will create a submissive.

Children learn by example. They not only react but also emulate what they observe as “effective” behavior. The “effectiveness” will usually be paired with a purpose or intention, whether they are conscious of it or not. If a child sees that kind and tender behavior elicits a loving reaction, they will emulate that behavior to receive that response from others. If they see that an angry or abusive behavior elicits submission to their preferences, they will emulate that too. Whatever behaviors appear to work in getting the desired response from others will be emulated. A child’s emotional patterns are usually set by age three. An important factor in the development of their character is to realize that the young child as yet has no understanding as to whether their behavior might be nurturing or hurtful. At that age appropriateness never even enters the picture. All they know is that what they see projected by an adult or sibling achieves a result they may want.

There is one additional factor I’d like to talk about which may seem totally unrelated but bear with me. I will tie them all up shortly. This is the fact that animals can sense fear in other animals. When they become afraid they emit pheromones and are simultaneously catalyzed into a “fight or flight” response. This pheromone can be sensed by other animals and has a primary influence on whether one animal will choose to attack another. As part animal, humans have the same tendencies to sense and to emit these pheromones relating to fear. But now it is almost always an unconscious “recognition.” But there is an additional factor that humans have that animals are believed to not have. That is the potential to be able to think about possible future outcomes. In additional to instinct, fear can be generated by our minds by the perceived possibility of what can happen. When we as humans feel the fear, we also emit the pheromone. If we now connect this with a child who is about to be bullied, we can see that his release of pheromones and his fear response concerning what could happen can be sensed by a bully whether the bully is conscious of it or not. It is my belief that a bully will only bully those whom he thinks and senses that he can bully. The important factor to understand is that the bully may operate not only from a perspective of entitlement but also from fear. If a bully feels somehow threatened, they will bully or attack someone who appears or feels to be unable or unwilling to defend themselves. This will go a long way to alleviate any feeling of powerlessness or inadequacy on their part.

There are two types of bullies. Those who feel entitled to their safety and preferences and those who feel the potential loss of them.The first group is raised by parents who cater to the child’s every whim and create a feeling of entitlement within their expectations of the outer world. These children almost always exhibit an absence of compassion or consideration for others. These are the narcissistic bullies.

The second group is usually the recipient of authoritarian or abusive parenting. The modeling of their parents has taught them that the only way they can maintain their safety and preferences is to act aggressively toward those who trigger their feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy. As a consequence of the feelings of worthlessness encouraged by their parents or siblings, they will also tend to seek out, mostly unconsciously, those who emit fear pheromones and feel defenseless and those whom they feel that they can bully and believe won’t fight back. Bullying them into submission enables them to cloak and submerge their own feelings of inadequacy and feel the power they believe they lack. However, the feeling is gained only temporarily. The feeling of power quickly evaporates. What is truly ironic is that due to their unwary projection of their own sense of powerlessness and worthlessness they will constantly attract those who will answer their imbalanced perception of themselves with reminders of their own inadequate feelings. (natural entropy – nature’s tendency to neutralize polarities through their attraction to each other or opposites attract).

Both fear induced bullies and the “victims” of bullies need, essentially, the same kind of counseling; encouragement for worthiness and adequacy. However, the trained narcissists will require a different kind of counseling than bullies who operate from a fear induced aggression. The narcissist feels little or no fear relative to others. They’ve been trained into believing that they are entitled to whatever it is that they prefer in spite of what is brought to their attention by others. Counseling for them would consist, first, of awakening some sort of understanding and acceptance that others have and are allowed their own preferences if different from theirs and, second, that their total lack of awareness or attention to the needs of others should somehow be considered a deficit. The first factor would be mildly difficult to correct as it would require the narcissistic bully to relinquish some of their preferences. The second factor will be much harder to induce since it is irrevocably tied up with the ego. The older the bully, the more ingrained and embedded the feeling of their entitlement as being appropriate. With young children, the change is difficult but not impossible but with adults, the change seems only to be a distant hope. Remember, we are emotionally “coalesced” by age three and by the time puberty is added to the emotional mix, our ego boundaries become rigid and almost impenetrable.

We can now understand where the sense of entitlement comes from but where does the pre-emptive strike come in? When the fear induced bully feels triggered by the victim into feeling his unworthiness and inadequacy, the urge to strike is born. This activates the old adage “the best defense is a good offense.” If the bully can induce submission in the victim, the attention is drawn away from the bully’s own feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy and focused on the power they feel over their victim. If this doesn’t subdue these feelings, their actions will be over-emphasized. The stronger their sense of worthlessness and inadequacy is, the more intense becomes the bullying. The more elusive the submersion or cloaking of the bully’s worthlessness and inadequacy becomes, the more violent their bullying.

So now we have a perspective understanding of the two types of bullies and the victim. All three have their issues applicable to the creation of the problem. It takes two to Tango. Yet, consoling the victim and punishing the perpetrator does little more than to push their feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy further underground. In fact, consoling and punishing has the opposite effect. It intensifies the issue because it often ignores and suppresses its causes. It is common knowledge that anything that is emotionally compressed surfaces more violently in other unexpected areas and circumstances.

Bullying can be prevented in our children by making sure there is a balance between Self-Trust and confidence and their consideration and compassion for others. There must be enough Self-Trust to build worthiness and feelings of adequacy but enough humility and consideration for others to keep their interaction with others balanced and congenial. This must be taught if we wish to decrease the incidences of bullying. This may require some adults to receive some form of counseling if they are to prevent passing on this emotionally destructive and debilitating pattern to their children.

Family-ChimpsIn the animal world the natural pattern and structure responsible for the survival of its young is the family. Tangibly perceived we can see that it provides a protected environment for the young to grow and mature safe and nurtured from a brutal environment heavily dependent on using its population as food for the diversity of its hierarchical ladder of differing species. We can plainly see that nature has a structure of predatory species balanced symbiotically with other species subject to being sacrificed insuring the survival of each level of complexity up through the evolutionary chain. Because we humans no longer see ourselves as an integral part of this chain of survival we have grown to become unaware that this dynamic structure is at the root of much more than just our physical survival. It has enabled us to evolve into beings gifted with much more than just a pension for longevity. It has given us an opportunity to use our mind to become self-aware. But it seems like our developing tendency to believe that we are the dominant species, invincible and separate from its laws has allowed the fabric of our initial advantage of having a structure for that nurturance to fall away in the name of a recently discovered quality of our mind; our ego. Other humans in our own elevated predatory chain have sensed this and are accelerating our social subjugation and the disintegration of our most natural and nuclear support system: the family. Whether by design or by recognized and seized opportunity, the disintegrating family structure has put us in a precarious position relative to the other members of our species. To understand this dynamic and its implications we must dig much deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of having a family structure and the qualities inherent in its being so. Let’s begin with examining the benefits of having a family structure.

Family-MonkeyI think the physical advantages of having a family structure and its support are eminently obvious so I will just cover the social dimensions. The first, and I believe the most contemporarily influential, is intimacy. For those of us who are a little older, this will be a little easier to comprehend since we’ve been through both “time zones.” For the younger generation this may feel like a foreign language.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re twelve years old and living at home with your family. The house is fairly large. Living together are your parents, brother and sister, a pair of grandparents and an aunt and uncle. The house has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Your parents live in one room, you and your siblings share the second, your uncle and grandfather the third and your grandmother and aunt in the fourth. In one house this will be close quarters, especially with nine people sharing two bathrooms. In the 1940s and 50s and before, this was not uncommon.

Family-DogWith so many people living together, especially scattered through three generations, everyone would be privy to many more varied aspects of each other’s lives than we now are in our contemporary settings with everyone living in separate homes. If we were to “throw back” to living in that type of environment, most of us would feel extremely uncomfortable with feeling our privacy being challenged. And, there’s a reason for this. Privacy and our luxury of having it involuntarily regulates our potential for intimacy. How? Living apart, there are aspects of our lives that are not exposed to other members of our family. This is precisely the point that has enabled intimacy to change and how it is that we perceive it today.

Family-BearsThe fact that living as an extended family together in one house does expose all its members to each other's private business is the catalyst that enables the necessity and our opportunity to learn, grow and become intimate with each other. If we live in close quarters with other members of our family, we are going to see and learn things about them that we wouldn’t had we lived apart. This “enforced proximity” makes it necessary to develop behaviors so everyone can comfortably live together without the threat of what we now perceive as a fear of exposure. Learning to be intimate in this way develops not only depth but a comfortability in dealing with close personal matters that families who live apart might never have the necessity or opportunity to experience with each other. The fear of exposure that I speak of is not only the fear of having someone know intimate details about us but the fear of them being able to use those details to manipulate us, much like being blackmailed, however, this fear has much deeper roots in leaving us feeling out of control with intimacy issues because we haven’t learned to handle them. Had we lived in close proximity with family other family members when we were growing up it would have taught us how to deal with them almost to the point where handling them would become second nature to us. The younger generations has never been trained to deal with the embarrassment that comes with feeling exposed or out of control.

Family-GiraffeWe should also note that the development of humility is a quality that comes with being trained to deal with embarrassment and with the loss of intimacy which has all but disappeared from our contemporary and socially learned pantheon of recognized behaviors. Machismo and posturing have taken their place as a defense mechanism and as a distraction from the exposure of our perceived embarrassment and exposure. Due to the loss of becoming unable to experience or understand intimacy, most all measures of humility, compassion and appreciation have rapidly been replaced with feelings of entitlement, outrage, persecution and belittlement simply because we’ve never learned to handle the intimacy that allows for their development. Most of the younger generations are now afraid of intimacy since their inability to handle it now signals such a threat for embarrassment through the exposure of their sensed but unrecognized inadequacy in handling it. Additionally, because the younger generation hasn’t had the experience of living in the close proximity with an extended family and learning how to deal with intimacy, their perception and scope of it has been reduced to seeing and feeling it solely as an expression of sex.

A second dimension that is enhanced by living within a nuclear family structure and having a close interweave with intimacy is effective role modeling. Our family and its structure provide first hand examples. The advantage of having the training within the family structure is that the results of the role model’s behavior can be directly observed within the family structure. There is an immediate validation. We are able to quickly digest and incorporate the pros and cons of adapting any particular role our family members might exhibit.

Family-LionA role model, in itself, is a relatively easy concept to comprehend and integrate into our psyches, especially, when we can see the behaviors immediately play out within our purview. We can then make a clear and confident decision about who we would and wouldn’t like to emulate. What we don’t immediately comprehend in having the example occur so closely is the quality of vulnerability and its importance in establishing a quality of depth in the role we might want to emulate. That is, in having the role model so close we can see the fallibility and vulnerability we will face in taking on the family member’s persona. In contrast, when we view a media role model we almost never see their human or fallible side. We don’t see them in situations other than those that accentuate the particular characteristics we’d want to personally integrate. We never see where they are vulnerable except where their projected excellence is concerned. So with Superman, we learn about kryptonite. With Batman we see his risk of identity exposure. With Bronson we see the murder of his wife as his drive and passion. But we never see their feelings. We never see what they’re afraid of. We never see how they interact in their “ordinary” lives. We don’t see their personal vulnerabilities. For us, their characters are incomplete. We never see what makes them human; what makes them like us when they’re not being the hero. As real people Dirty Harry and Bronson have feelings that we’re never allowed to see. We don’t see the integration of their vulnerabilities in their character. Hence, our emulation is ineffective, incomplete, and cardboard. When we see role models “up close and personal” as in our family, that vulnerability, that humanity, that fallibility is palatable and visible. We get a complete picture of how our emulation will progress. When we lose our family involvement our perception of that vulnerability is lost. Without a family history we must depend on one-sided and incomplete media heroes from which to select who we wish to emulate. We then literally go off “half-cocked.”

Family OscelottA third dimension that becomes advantageous to us when we grow up within a family structure is having an instant reflection for how we choose to interact with the world and other family members. If we adapt the behavior of one family member that other members have a problem with, we receive an immediate response to our “trial” behavior from other family members. We receive “instant karma” if you will. Because we see, imitate and receive an immediate response, we realize instantly how our behavior will be received by others in the outside world. Obviously, close proximity is one of the factors influencing the immediacy of the response we receive. If we don’t have the close proximity of the family to emulate and reflect our trial behaviors, we must look to others in our environment who may choose to escape our influence rather than confront a challenging behavior we might experimentally project at them. This has the effect of leaving us unanswered and without a clean reflection for knowing who we are, who we wish to become and whether our trial behavior will actually be effective in the world for us or not. So, living in close proximity to a family enhances the speed of our developing emotional “maturity.” Without being raised within a family structure we become emotionally slowed, inexperienced and even stunted in handling social issues compared to those who have.

Of course there are other reasons being raised in a family structure might have advantages. One more, which is self-explanatory, is having a family member mentor us in some life endeavor in which we have yet to have experience in. The advantages of them having personal insight and experience are tremendous.

Family-ElephantsThere is another dimension of the disappearing family structure that needs to be realized. We can all understand that our western culture, especially in the United States and other comparably “advanced” nations, foster a shared ideal of becoming independent in our personal growth, success and autonomy. Sociology calls this type of culture High Context. That is, our goals are centered on personal accomplishment and autonomous self-support. The progress we’ve had in technology has contributed tremendously to our becoming so while the media sells to us using our fear of personal dependency and perceived helplessness as a motivation toward buying their tools, products and skills intended to reinforce and heighten our feelings of independence and autonomy. But I think that we have gotten so enamored with our desire for “freedom” and independence and how technology can provide that for us that we have abandoned our only personal support for the, mostly irrational, ideal. We can also see that the media has jumped on board providing us with role models heroes that heighten our desire for autonomy and “lone wolfmanship.” The underlying force there is our growing assumption that strength comes from independence and a lack of our having any obligations to anyone else for our “success.” Our pendulum of the balance between our capacity for others and “need” to unrelated and unbeholding to anyone else has become skewed way far to one side.

Family-PenguinThat stage being set, let’s look at the droves of people immigrating into our country. Mostly Hispanics, their culture is mostly what sociologists call Low Context. That is, their primary focus is that the welfare of the family and their clan is all important and that independent pursuits and personal successes are secondary as compared to the welfare of the family. This approach, at its core, runs totally contrary to the extremes of independence that our media and technology has driven us to. Fear of destitution and loss of control has contributed significantly to our drive into being High Context. Incidentally, if a primary ploy for defeating an army (family) is to divide and conquer, our media, corporations and government are right on target with their strategies. Dissolving the family structure weakens our defenses and support structure for counteracting whatever they would like to sell us or enslave us with. On some level some businesses have also recognized this trend and business policies have become heavily invested in promoting teamwork or, essentially, the establishment of a business family to compensate for the ineffectiveness and anarchy that personal independence inevitably leads to. This feeling of destitution and lack of family support is also what drives many kids to join gangs to find that love and support.

Family dinner-1The dissolving of the family structure, whether planned or unintentional is responsible for creating a more technologically informed, but less mature emotionally, culture. There are way too many factors that contribute and need to be discussed relative to the rapidly expanding extinction of the nuclear family. The tremendous wave of illiterate immigration may set us back technologically on an individual level but perhaps their influence will begin to renew family ties once we begin to realize that it still holds many benefits that we’ve lost and can regain and, like the animal kingdom, are still needed for our survival; physically AND emotionally.

Sysiphus-1Stress has certainly become a buzz word relating to just about anything in life that appears to give us difficulty. For many in our current culture, who find ordinary life issues falling into patterns that either thwart or block their efforts to make life run smoothly and easily, they tend to view their difficulty as being stressful. Then what's the difference between stress & challenge? In this contemporary instant gratification society stress has become the catchall label applied to whatever doesn’t come easily according to our expected preferences.

Granted, our world is moving faster now than a generation ago having intensified personal and social pressures and creating the perspective that life is more difficult now than it used to be. However, we can’t completely blame changing external circumstances for the difficulty we perceive. The slow introduction of expected instant gratification to our culture has cast adrift qualities that were present when things weren’t instantly gratified and while we also accepted the premise that we would have to work toward the things that we wanted. With that earlier perspective also stood the learned qualities of patience, tenacity and the acceptance that some things actually require time and effort to bring to fruition. With the advent of instant gratification all of these qualities appear to have fallen by the wayside, especially when we list what we feel is required of us for our personal accomplishments. What is even more unfortunate is that they appear to have been forgotten by many parents and are no longer taught to the younger generations. With the younger generations, and some adults, instant its-all-about-me-1gratification has regrettably metastasized into entitlement. And as entitlement has gained a foothold, we also find that we are also losing the learning manners and compassion. Granted, they are, or were, also taught but seem to have also been forgotten. So now, as we concurrently focus on what we feel is stressful, we have either forgotten or come to ignore patience, tenacity, manners and the need for compassion as they have been prioritized to the bottom of the list, if considered at all, all in the name of battling stress. At this point I also have to say that stress should not be used a valid excuse to be rude. Before the encroachment of instant gratification and entitlement, patience, tenacity and acceptance were strong component representatives of an important perspective and quality we considered in our approaching life; namely, challenge. So, what has changed that has made such a big difference between what we label as stress and what we label as challenge? Aren’t they the same dynamic but just with a different label? I believe that they are. The difference is in why we approach the issues differently that their label has been applied to. Let me explain.

There is a very strong movement toward spirituality in our current culture. I feel that it is a reaction to our overemphasis on our physical comfort and survival as our perceived outside pressures have led us to focus more on tangible issues than our emotional well-being. Granted that our emotional well-being has a lot to do with how we fare in our physical world but I also believe that it has become a casualty as have our other inner qualities lost through the advent of stress having morphed into entitlement. The point I’d like to make here is that the over-emphasis on tangible issues has over-emphasized the importance of how we allow the external world to influence us. There should be a balance between the inner and outer issues for us to find peace. This emphasis intensifies our belief that the world has much more of an effect on what we can or can’t do or be in our daily lives. As our belief switches to the premise that the world determines our fate, we slowly move into the perception that our efforts are helpless-1controlled by external circumstances. This can create a growing and persistent feeling of helplessness leading to depression. Both are symptomatic of constricting or even halting our energy flow. This brings us to the historical definition of stress dating all the way back to the 1300s. Explaining stress as a verb it’s quoted as “to subject someone to force or compulsion” and “to draw tight” and as a noun it’s quoted as portraying “hardship, adversity, force, pressure, narrowness and oppression.” We can plainly see that all these definitions relate to our reacting to outside forces.

obedience-1There are many factors, most of them aforementioned, that would lead us to assume this perspective, where one, least of which, is not being encouraged to trust our own judgment in our child rearing years. I believe that as the younger generations have been raised to primarily focus on conformity, obedience, restricting their expressiveness and attending to the welfare of others over their own personal well-being that we have, effectively, sabotaged our youth and ourselves through neglecting to apply encouragement at crucial points in their development.

When children receive encouragement, they no longer see what life presents them with as an immutable fate but something that they have the power to work at changing if not completely overcome. If we are not given the opportunity to at least test and confirm our own effectiveness in changing the world and adjusting it to fit our own comfort level we are left only with a confirmed belief that we have no personal power and that the world controls every aspect of our fate in our daily lives. Without encouragement we are beaten before we begin. Challenge is joust 1defined in the 14th century as an “act of laying claim to something,” a “calling to fight” and “one who challenges another in a contest.” If we have no confidence in ourselves, no trust in our abilities stemming from discouraged childhood efforts and no belief that we can change our personal circumstances, what hope do we have of moving past the perception that the world determines our fate? This is the essence of challenge; that we have the ability to contend, that we have the self-confidence built on tested and encouraged childhood efforts and that others in the world are no better or worse, no more deserving or confidence-sumoundeserving, no more capable or incapable than we are. This is the major difference how and why we differentiate between stress and challenge. Stress says we are hopelessly bound by what the external world presents us and challenge says we can change most anything we put our minds to. The first is bred through discouragement and imparting a fatalistic attitude to our children and the other is bred through parental encouragement and the allowance and encouragement of confident self-testing.

Whether we realize it or not we have done ourselves a terrible disservice by giving so much power and permission to the outside world to determine our individual fates and well-being. Is it any wonder that the spirituality movement has taken on such momentum against the self-help booksemotional oppression that we feel under the wheels of the modern machine? There are a plethora of books, programs and videos instructing us on how to overcome overwhelming odds but if we are devoid of the hope that comes from encouragement, we will remain dead in the water despite all the ingenious methods available to us. So, where do we begin? First we begin by encouraging each other of us to follow our dreams and to understand and accept the fact that it takes time and effort to mold our own world into a place where we can find peace and comfort. But the most important place is in the hearts and minds of our children who need to feel that they can and that they are allowed to change their world. confidence-2This can only be accomplished by giving them hope through encouraging them and cheering them on to actively work at changing their world into their vision of peace and prosperity and of not burdening them with our belief that they can do no better than we have. Overprotecting them and buying them off of putting in the effort is the worst thing that we can do. We have to let them scrape their knees and fall down a few times while we still cheer them on and urge them on with the confidence we have in them. If we believe in them, they will come to believe in themselves. Then they will see life as a challenge not as a fated dead end as many of us have allowed ourselves to accept.