Archive for the 'canary in the coal mine' Category

Mainstreaming “coping mechanisms”

September 14, 2011

There is discussion, if not action, about teaching children about diversity and bullying (to embrace the former and eschew the latter).  After reading this morning in the NY Times about problems with the prescription of Xanax, the role of cognitive behavioral therapy in treatment of anxiety, and how many patients don’t yet have these skills as resources, I started thinking that maybe we should be including these skills in some broader way in people’s lives to begin with (or, at least, making them available), within our education of students, for example, whether it’s casually (through modeling by teachers and administrators) or formally (through curriculum).  That way, if and when people encounter the need for them, they have the tools, or at least are aware of their availability.  I would also think that more emphasis on these skills would improve the general atmosphere of our society.

For all of us to win

August 1, 2011

What would “winning” look like?  Legislation put forward by the Democratic caucus?  Legislation proposed by the Republicans?  Something floated by the White House?  The best thinking of our best pundits?  Even the ideas floating up from the electorate?

I actually think winning would look like interactions with less rancor and more sincere good will towards the other.  Every time we erupt with our own righteous indignation at “what the others have done,” we perpetuate the cycle, I think, regardless of how justified we feel according to some doctrine about the others’ content or process.  Every time we think we’ve won when our own preferred course of action carries the day, we achieve only a Pyrrhic victory if civility and caring for others are casualties of the process — we may win a battle but contribute to losing not just a war but our ability to live in peace.

Because I don’t think the it’s a game in which being right and getting our way is the object of the game — I think the “game” (if that’s another name for needing to build something together, whether it’s an economy, a social program, software, a widget, a school of thought, the Tower of Babel, or anything else we do together) is the means to the end, so to speak, the exercise we go through in order to achieve emotional fitness.   And I think that we’ve so lost our way by mistaking content, and getting it “right,” for the main event.

The main event is how we interact, what intangible products we produce through our emotions toward each other.  I’ve used the analogy of a canary in a coal mine dying for what we should be seeing in what’s been going on in Washington, and I see the gases as emanating from our negative regard for one another.

The ironic thing about this is that it’s actually something very much within our control to work on — how we treat each other.  To treat each other well, we need some inner peace ourselves, some self-awareness, too, to achieve this.

I don’t mean this as a speech against anyone, I mean it as guidance to do something other than pulling the tangle tighter by strenuously fighting back — we don’t have to agree with one another, we can believe in our perception of what’s right to do, but we need to relearn how to get along with each other, how to love each other, how to stop trying to control one another.

I suspect that part of the root of all this dysfunctional behavior is our inability to actually love ourselves — to love the part of ourselves that is our core, not our superficial skills and accomplishments.  We often love a false self, I think, and that misprision makes it difficult to love another.  But the encouraging thing is that we can always work on rediscovering who we are through stripping off all our encrustations, and when we have done that, we find ourselves freer to feel and interact in ways that are pleasant and helpful for both ourselves and the people with whom we interact.