Statistically the odds are staggering: In the United States today, one in every five Americans is affected by mental illness. It is estimated that nearly half of the American population will be diagnosed with some psychiatric disorder in the course of their lifetime. According to the World Health Organization, mental illness is the second leading disease that affects people in working market economies around the world.
We are, without a doubt, the craziest culture in world history. At least if you go by the psychiatrists. With the increasing stress and pressures of the twenty-first century, the demands on our fragile human nature continue to increase. And so, the question becomes, as a society are we “mentally ill” or are we simply buckling under the pressures of everyday living?
The answer, according to psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical companies, is that half of us are suffering from chemical imbalances in the brain (that’s according to the classifications in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM-IV). Thus, psychiatric medications – with their debilitating effects – attempt to “fix” the chemical imbalances that result in psychiatric conditions.
Interesting, right? Plausible, not so much.
This is something that qualitative study has taught many people. Here’s a wonderful quote from a Facebook post by Psychologist Irving D. Yalom, (Yes, he has a Facebook page, you’re never too old to have one)
“On being seventy-nine. We dread the limitations and losses of old age. But an encouraging word about the positive aspects of aging: this may sound odd but the last decade has been the best one of my life. Gone are many of the anxieties of my earlier days and I’ve been able to bask in the sheer pleasure of being alive in the company of those I love.”
This lovely sentiment is now backed up by recent research.
Peanut allergies and ego boundaries - what research says parents can give their kids without even knowing it11/03/2010
Peanut allergies in children have tripled over the last three years – some three million Americans are now said to have this allergy, which was unheard of 50 years ago. Millions more children and adults are said to have egg and milk allergies. If these trends continue, such allergies will be a widespread epidemic.
Right now the best explanations, emerging from research at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, suggest a potential link involving a mother’s eating habits and the development of food sensitivities beginning in pre-natal development. The research is proving how a pregnant woman’s eating habits can affect an unborn child’s antibodies and immune system response. It’s possible that a mother can transmit an allergy she doesn’t have to her children.
Yes, it's another election day.
Are you planning on voting? Maybe, maybe not? Feeling like it won't matter?
Well, you're probably not alone. The polls and pundits believe that voter turnout is going to be low today. The diagnosis will be apathy.
130 million people turned out to vote in 2008, estimated to be 64% of the electorate. That's pretty good. This year these numbers are expected to drop.
Do potential voters really just not care or is there more to this?
Apathy is a lack of interest or concern, so voter apathy is a lack of interest or concern for voting…but is it that simple?
Just before election day comedians John Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallied the nation’s attention in Washington, D. C.. Their “Rally to Restore Sanity” brought over 200,000 people to the National Mall. The goal? To use humor and politics to rekindle enthusiasm, turn away from divisive politics, and engender a spirit of working together toward the common purpose of making the world a better place.
Restoring sanity, of course, is a cause psychologists can get behind – but in fact they’ve been ahead of the curve. Humanists, existentialists, and transpersonalists have been proactively leading the way for decades—unequivocally standing in favor of human potential.
These days it’s not as flashy or well publicized as a rally on the national mall, but by taking a closer look at the theoretical tenants of psychologists such as James Bugental, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, Carl Rogers, and Kirk Schneider, one can see the domino effect their work is having in the realms of business, politics and adolescent mental health.
Today there are over 60 hate groups in California alone – including racist skinheads, white nationalists, holocaust deniers, neo-nazis, and Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Surprised?
When President Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address in 1893, equality left out women, African Americans, indigenous Indians, and many other groups on the outskirts of society. In the United States today, a recent survey shows that more than 6 in 10 latinos says discrimination is a “major problem”; a woman is beaten every 18 seconds; African Americans are arrested in significantly higher numbers for marijuana possession even though statistically they use the drug less; affirmative action continues to be necessary, we have yet to have a female president, and over 932 active hate groups exist, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
For all the strides we’ve made, the 21st century has only made baby steps towards a sociocultural revolution that recognizes all people as equal.
What can be done to take us to the next level? What does a humanistic approach to equality in our time look like?
Paulo Freire, a leading expert on multiculturalism, suggests that it starts in school.
It’s not as bad as you think.
I know what the news says: stagnant economy? Check. Millions unemployed? Check. Juvenile election that ignores critical issues? Check. I know – and it’s terrible.
But in the midst of all this there are increasing reports that communities and individuals are coming up with ways to live better lives in the shadow of the crumbling rat race.
There’s something truly amazing that happening right now in this country. Surviving in spite of loss, some are coming together in the spirit of community – and discovering personal growth.
How do we find personal growth in the midst of crisis? There are many ways, but I suggest four steps, which center around a deeper engagement with one’s interiority and a more active engagement in building community:
Score one for Nietzsche: studies show that what does not kill you actually does make you stronger. At least in moderation.
A recent report, “Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability, and Resilience” in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that yes, when bad experiences happen we do suffer from mental, physical, and spiritual pain – but in that suffering many of us develop a greater understanding of hardship and are more prepared for it when (not if) it comes again.
While the concept has been around ever since Nietzsche first put it into words (if not longer), this is a relatively new area for serious psychological research. Past research tended to focus on how we reacted to when things fall apart – but not how we recovered. There are a number studies, stories and blogs that tell us that when hit by adversity we just crumble. Our health collapses, we eat terrible food, don’t exercise, fall into despair and hang on to the pain for far too long. End of story.
But humanistic thinkers and spiritual practitioners have long known there is another chapter.
There are record numbers of unemployed, a shrinking pool of jobs, and an increase in school failure rates. Is now really the time to shift our education system to a nurturing system that focuses on growth?
This economic collapse presents an opportunity to transform not only our economy but how we live within it. Schools are intended to be the incubators for future workers. Maybe that’s the problem. We don’t need more workers as so much as we need more creatives and innovators to lead us out of this busted wreck of an economy. This shift has to start in our schools.
How many times do you apologize per day?
We are a nation of apologists. Do we mean it? Is this just a euphemism to settle tension? Or do we really have that much to be sorry for?
Studies show it depends on if you’re a man or a woman.
Research psychologists in Canada have found that both genders are equally willing to apologize. However, women apologize more often than men; in fact four times as much. The disparity exists in what constitutes a transgression, and therefore requires an apology. Men, the studies suggest, have a higher threshold for insult and insensitivity – and therefore see less need to apologize.
Who we apologize too is just as interesting as how often. We apologies to friends first - 66% of the time; strangers 22% of the time; romantic partners 11% of the time; and family members 7% of the time. Sorry mom and dad: that’s just the way it goes.