On a recent local morning TV show, while eating my breakfast, I heard one of the commentators say a new study declared that the economic boom of the ’60’s was a unique period in America’s history and cannot be repeated – period. In later thinking about this short, casual declaration I began to find myself feeling unsettled by it. I went to their website, and searched the Internet trying to find more details and the source of such a strong and potentially impactful statement, but without any success. I found myself feeling as I’ve long suspected recent new generations of youth probably feel when being told they should not expect to do as well as their parents did (and each newly named generation is told to expect less).

Our Baby Boomer generation was expected to go on to do many ‘things of greatness’ (like going to the moon) and we expected that the new economic boom had just begun. We had “Happy Days”, “Laverne and Shirley”, “The Brady Bunch” and many other TV role models showing us just how great it was to be a Middle Class citizen living in America (even though we somehow ‘knew’ these new style ‘sit-coms’ were not exactly how most (if any) Americans we knew actually lived… as most of us certainly didn’t fit their molds (beautiful, upscale people were ‘in’ back then)!?! They included solving any ‘crisis’ in what was then done in about 27 minutes and everyone was left happy (with just a few minutes for sponsors’ commercials, unlike today where shows appear more as ‘excuses’ for advertisers – humor).

Having grown up in a later-to-be-discovered dysfunctional family and community (fortunately simple ‘neglect’ and not various deliberate abuses by my family), I learned the importance of remembering to always start with ‘hope for the best’, before examining and just in case ‘planning for the worse’. I learned this the hard way. If we start with the worse case scenario first, we will often get distracted and probably obsess over it, forgetting it is even possible for things to be better in the future (what I call ‘fear based’). Whatever we experience over time will become our ‘normal’, but is it a ‘HEALTHY normal’? I find this is also VERY important as we look at our current political landscape, and our larger American ‘family’ and our newly elected ‘parents’ !!! What are the role models they portray/demand (humor and some brief relief hoped for here)!?! I think we learned decades ago that ‘Just say NO!” to alcohol and drugs didn’t work, and similarly looking into a national TV camera and saying “Stop it!” to enraged protesters or abusers won’t work either…

Whether our ‘hopes’ (and ‘fears’) ever come true, or even close to what we imagined, it is more important than ever that we have some concepts of potential ‘hopes’ in our minds. Not only so they don’t get lost in our attempting to mange/resolve the 24/7 onslaught of negatives (whether true, ‘false news’ or ‘alternative facts’), but also for that all important ‘MOTIVATION’ that can come from so-called ‘day dreaming’. Otherwise individuals all too often can fall into depression, or into ‘poor quality coping skills’ as in a variety of addictive behaviors. Our ‘medical community’ is all to happy to supply us with a mood-altering substitute (for a price!) and reassure us that we never need to deal with the causes of our reactions/feelings, as long as we keep taking our pills!?! An updated animated YouTube video details what I have also found to be accurate… “Almost Everything We Know About Addiction Is Wrong” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg

As I’ve previously written in detailing dysfunctional family dynamics, IF we spend too much time (and especially if it’s a ‘lifetime’ of experiences) in their negative consequences and outcomes, we will often get to the point of only seeing that perspective as ‘reality’ and not even consider or try for anything different and possibly, hopefully better. This is one of the problems in trying to get victims of domestic or intimate partner violence to leave abusive relationships.

Concerning domestic violence, research shows: Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern. Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs. Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for help. The costs of intimate partner violence in the US alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion (source: http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/ ). And, please recall that such threats and acts of violence happen to men as well, and the rate of domestic violence is the same in Gay/LGBT and Straight relationships.

As I learned from personal experience (and please remember my family was simply ‘neglectful’), I spent SO much time being the co-dependent caretaker of others that I ‘forgot’ what I wanted and even what made me ‘happy’. It took therapy to help me discover this and to sort it out. The ‘seeds’ of happiness were there, but my childhood years didn’t allow for me to help them grow (including with others assistance) so I could mature into an adult with ‘passions’. Some say they ‘lost their childhood’! It had all became “OK” with me, as long as I was ‘going along’ with what I thought was what ‘everyone’ else wanted. I recall saying, as a teenager, “It’s not bad – that’s good!” Now I realize I was in a ‘survival mode’ where if something wasn’t clearly dangerous, I felt I had no choice but to accept, and even ‘embrace’ whatever someone else suggested or required. Healthy negotiation between adults wasn’t a model with which I was familiar, with my father even saying it was not ‘nice’ to be angry!?! I knew it was ‘simmering’ just below the surface but it was never openly dealt with, so no wonder my parents divorced while I was in high school (and this was before ‘no fault’ divorces existed!). So everything was seen as a ‘power struggle’ or ‘test’ as to what might be expected next (now known as ‘tactics’)… and it was usually focusing on the worse case scenario – sadly! However, it was my ‘normal’ for my formative years. In spite of this environment, I literally won awards, and became listed in several biographical books of ‘important people’, all the while being ‘fear based’ and pretty much joyless with my life… As I’ve previously written, “Everyone was impressed with me, but me!”

Flash forward, I now hear about a new ‘con game’ where callers will simply ask if someone can hear them when they answer their phone, and when they answer “yes” they are unaware that word was recorded and will be used against them… Later explaining that since they ‘accepted’ whatever the company later attaches to their word ‘yes’, if they refuse they are threatened with their breach of a verbal contract!?! When I first heard of this I thought it was a new ‘urban legion’ or myth and checked to find many sources on it on the Internet. I think/hope I would remain calm enough to see through their ‘scam’, but I can imagine MANY people (who’ve had years or a lifetime of being forced to comply) to go along with the ‘tactic’ of these perpetrators, not even thinking about the legality of it, let alone what they want (or don’t want in this case). Tragic ‘creativity’ of these aggressive sales people ‘gone wrong’! I’ve often pondered that IF these aggressors used even half the energy they put into creating such painful scams, what positive creative results might emerge…

It can also work in reverse where aggressive or abusive people deny something, and then demand others comply with their ‘reality’. Deciding whether their statement is through ignorance or with malice is an extremely important point, but how do you ‘prove’ one’s intent? We’ve all experienced this with ‘customer service representatives’ who avoid waiting on us or doing their job to our satisfaction, stating “It’s not my job!” or “I’m on my break!” or barely performing their duties so customer satisfaction becomes a joke. A possible political example might be our new President’s statement that the protest rallies and marches occurring across our country and around the world are not real. At first he said he was pleased to see people expressing their ‘passion’ openly on the streets?!? Now he’s declaring they are not protests of the people but are being lead by ‘professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters’ !?! In either case, he is avoiding taking on any responsibility for this ‘dynamic situation’, not offering help/relief to groups of people clearly in distress (e.g. FEMA response times and effectiveness to natural disasters, and man-made ones are said not to be eligible), or perhaps he simply ‘doesn’t get it’??? IF it might be the latter, the question of whether he is ‘fit’ to be President may be appropriate (and I understand there are such investigations being started). Whatever his understanding, misunderstanding or ‘motivations’, many and varied groups of Americans are currently in distress!?! This is not the America I was brought up to expect or believe in, and certainly doesn’t help me to feel our country is ‘coming together’ after our recent and lengthly political campaign!?!

Also, he recently declared that any news story that does not include the name of a source is to be considered ‘fake news’. I recall as a youth hearing these debates being carried out in our national courts, and protection of sources was declared a valid and important right of reporters… And, on the same day this new judgement was declared by the President, his own White House staff were giving out statements, citing unnamed sources!?!

President Trump has declared his government will be ‘transparent’. I recall during the last four years how Trump pushed for President Obama’s birth certificate, and then his ‘long form’ certificate (saying he was hiding ‘facts’ and the new term ‘birther’ was created). Now he’s doing the same thing himself. The White House website has not replaced several of the information pages that were there under the previous administration, including White House visitors’ logs and waivers of ethics regulations (whatever they are?), causing some media to question the new administration’s ‘transparency’. A predictable, consistent, safe social environment would help people to better manage their increasing stress (but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon)!?!

This would help make a huge difference between thriving and passionate living or simply surviving! We see the importance of this in dealing with families in distress! Also, how can transparency occur when the President’s declarations and judgements are continually changing? The media tallied he recently took up141 distinct positions on 23 issues (as compared to his even greater and ever changing prior campaign ‘promises’)??? In another example, White House officials called a three-page document from the Department of Homeland Services’ intelligence and analysis arm an “incomplete document” and said it is based on “open sources” and is not the product of the best available information. Sources said it was not sent to the White House, and is not the threat assessment report that the president requested. Who decides what, IF and when something is a ‘fact’?

The article said the draft DHS document studied Justice Department press releases since the start of Syria’s civil war in March of 2011 to conclude that slightly more than half of the 82 identified in federal terrorism-related cases were native-born U.S. citizens. Those who were foreign-born came from 26 different countries, according to the draft document. The top seven origin countries among foreign-born offenders were Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq and Uzbekistan. Only two of those top countries are affected by Trump’s travel ban order… (source: NBCNews.com 2/25/17). These sound like ‘facts’ to me, and very relevant to important current events (the President’s ban on immigrants from seven countries which two courts have put on hold!). When is news ‘news’ and who’s federal department ‘facts’ are to be believed??? Yet another ‘power and control’ issue???

Finally, one more on the political front, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ‘pushed back’ on protesters at a recent speech in Kentucky, declaring that “winners make policy and losers go home.” Talk about stating it’s all about ‘power and control’!?! I don’t recall seeing this in our U.S. Constitution and will this really bring our country back together, again as our President promised (humor!?!). How is Congress expected to function and get anything done with this type of philosophy… Well, maybe the last few years of our ‘do nothing’ Republican hate-based Congress will remain the status quo (where they openly vowed to prevent President Obama from having any power)?!? And, like parents who can’t get along and cooperate, our American ‘children’/citizens will suffer from this new form of ‘neglect’???

Moving on to the corporate arena, how about the new term and process of ‘claw back’, that of taking back what was given after someone changes their mind?!? I still have clients and see headlines that workers ‘should feel lucky to have a job’, while corporate America continues its golden parachutes for its ever changing CEO’s (whether they succeed or not)!?! In preparing for this article I came across a May 18, 2016 Internet article I saved about how the average pay for a S&P 500 CEO was $12.4 MILLION in 2015, or 335 times the pay of a rank-and-file worker (according the a then new report from the AFL-CIO). It also found that the typical CEO earned more than 819 times what a worker earning minimum wage would take home in a year! Talk about differences between thriving and surviving!?! The report also highlighted the companies with the highest levels of profits keep them overseas (to avoid taxes). This amounted to $2.4 TRILLION! Is this the ‘land of opportunity’ we ALL learned about, and is still touted as to what makes America great?!? Perhaps for the 1% (another relatively new term in America)!?!

I suggest these have all become ‘tactics’ of abusers, oppressors and addictive controllers, and their models come from our ongoing dysfunctional families most of us grew up in… so we’re well schooled, trained and conditioned to accept them without question… and the ‘games’ continue for one more generation, all the while feeling and being touted as ‘normal’?!?

Facts, IF we can get them and believe they’re true, could set some of us free while hanging others… Now the bad guys are attempting to tamper with our sense of ‘reality’, what is real news or ‘fake news’, and what and whom we can even trust – ouch!

Then there is the educational arena where the new Secretary of State has NO professional (or even personal) experience in public schools. She and her children never attended them!?! She is an known advocate of ‘charter schools’ which takes public education tax money and gives it to privately run schools (which now have enough of a track record to show they perform at about the same poor or sometimes even poorer performance levels as the schools they were supposed to replace).

With my professional ethical training, I watch to see what, if anything, is happening to protect our students – all students. We continue to have a lack of effective basic state laws to protect students from bullying! Yes, there are many declared laws in many states, but they do not appear to be effective and student friendly. Unwanted sexual advances and possibly criminal sexual contact also occur without effective overall plans of prevention. I found the following article a compelling example (yet have been told by my state representative that there is little hope of effective legislation due to our state having a Republican/conservative controlled Governor, Senate and House): http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/lawsuit-teenage-girl-expelled-from-warren-school-after-forced-by-athlete-to-perform-oral-sex

Also, entire college athletic departments are in the spotlight, again, for several varied team sports enabling/condoning sexual abuse incidents… Where does this bullying behavior stop, and who’s even leading important discussions that might eventually lead to effective leadership and legislation. I apologize for ALL of this leading back to ‘politics’, but this is where I see SO much of our current cultural conflict directly stemming from – a lack of effective, experienced and accountable elected ‘leadership’, defined goals and follow-up evaluation. Loopholes, just like our supposed ‘campaign finance reform’, are continually being played with, without much consequence or effectiveness for mainstream America…

What does having students attend very differently run schools (‘charter schools’) do to the newly claimed Presidential goal of bringing America back together again (as well as ‘make America great again’)?!? I fear this is more about ‘divide and conquer’ of various segments of America, at worst, or at least may be more about making private, corporate education profits than finding the best option(s) for our children. And, then there is the issue of ‘religion’ in charter schools (which leads to discussions of ‘separation of church and state’)!?! Our new Secretary of Education has a history of advocating for religion…

We are told there isn’t enough money available for basic public services, like schools, roads and infrastructures, but our corporate ‘facts’ seem to offer a VERY different perspective…

When we grow up in ‘abusive’ dysfunctional families, while the negative and/or abusive behaviors are going on, the healthy models/standards are usually missing or neglected (whether out of lack of awareness of importance, or possibly as a ‘tactic’ of oppression to keep people in the dark about their rights and liberties). Also, in ‘neglectful’ dysfunctional families, while there may not be ‘abuse’ occurring, but the neglect of not teaching healthy models/standards leaves the children and others with the same empty or missing potentially positive consequences… powerless to know what options are available and how to go about enforcing them, AND who might be ‘willing, able and wanting’ to help. Perhaps, our very low voter turnout might be an example of this? Again, the concept of ‘want’ is often missing as a personal and social skill set. We’re finally beginning to look as what is considered abusive and its consequences, but I would suggest we are being neglectful of looking at the impact and consequences of this neglect as well (pun intended).

The YouTube internet video series ‘It Gets Better Project’ I believe is a good example of a pro-active education attempting to prevent Gay/LGBT teen suicides: https://www.youtube.com/user/itgetsbetterproject.

A simple idea started by a concerned individual, much like the women’s marches the day after the President’s inauguration was started by a single woman’s idea and became celebrated around the world… that’s passion in action!

As with physical pain management in medicine, where they created the 1 – 10 pain scale, we need to teach such tools on a host of emotionally loaded topics to family and community members/leaders, too. And, it needs to include the concepts of everyone gets their turn and ‘happiness’ as the desired outcome, not simply survival or tolerating physical and/or mental pain! We’re seeing the longer term affects of medication used to cover up pain, and now have a HUGE medication addiction problem because of the ‘quick fix’ offerings of the drug companies (who we now know presented ‘altered facts’ several decades ago….). Huge numbers of people are turning to heroin as a ‘cheap drug’ (when they can no longer afford or receive prescribed medications from their doctors due to new laws)!?!

I would suggest a similar comparison might be made for President Trump’s off-handed comment that he believes he can eliminate 75% or more of all regulations in government. Like in the family, IF we don’t have standards with which to compare and contrast behaviors and consequences, how OFTEN is it possible that people will either ignore any standards, or possibly try to see how far they can ‘push the limits’ (especially when such ‘limits’/standards are being abolished)?!? I’ve previously written about the bankruptcy of the former great city of Detroit, and how its problems were ignored for more than five decades, until finances forced society’s hand… And, they are now re-examining the estimates used in that bankruptcy to see IF there are grounds for new lawsuits against the people who lead the bankruptcy!?!

I’ve focused largely on the ‘negatives’ of our current state of our nation, trying to make sure people are informed, on the same page of understanding and perspective, and attempting to break through any possible denial that probably exists, all these being common processes of dysfunctional families, cultures and our greater society. It is important that we look at the positive side of our emotional balance sheets as well.

Personally, I am relegating more time to ‘down time’, pleasant past time activities, and making sure my ‘passions’ get regularly visited. I’ve even had to take time to ‘re-discover’ what was fun in the past, so I don’t overlook them (being SO distracted by today’s shocking turns of events). Of course, taking care of our ‘selves’ physically is critically important, too (and studies continue to show the negative impact of ‘stress’ on our bodies and our health)! While it takes more time to be pro-active towards a healthy state of mind, body and spirit, I find it well worth the efforts and varied costs. I literally don’t get as much accomplished as I used to (which I used to point to with pride and satisfaction in the past), BUT I find the expenditure of energy and time towards prevention is well worth it!!! I find it even affects how I view the negatives as they occur, and I’m better able to simply sigh and leave them at ‘just more sad’ (rather than get consumed with fear, hurt and especially anger). I use the humorous phrase, “There’s another one!” with increasing frequency these days…

I’ve been doing this now for some time, slowly taking time from a formerly very busy schedule. I find our society keeps hitting new ‘lows’ that I never imagined we’d experience, and so I believe it is important to counteract agains their impacts. And, I don’t believe it must be this way (as the morning TV show shared).

My new semester students in my graduate courses I created and taught for seven years on the issues of Gay/LGBT clients used to always question how did I get anything done with ALL that I was involved in – LOL. It isn’t quite as satisfying (and certainly not nearly as exciting) as it used to be, BUT I do have the energy to direct towards the declining effectiveness of our nation’s commercial and social services. I look for quality, over quantity, these days. I joke that I expect someone to do something 2 – 4 times before they get it right (and what I could have done in one try if I had the opportunity). It now takes more time simply hunting for the products that I used to regularly find in grocery stores (with their ‘just in time’ delivery and farmed out vendors)!?! This is ‘customer service’ in modern America (as we pay more for products that last less and less, and spend more time waiting for operators or service people to arrive and deliver lower levels of performance… but it’s saving money for the companies that ask/lobby for more tax breaks, supposedly for them to simply ‘survive’ – LOL). The facts don’t support their claims, but do facts seem to matter much these days?!?

I see this post-election time as hopefully a unique, short period in America’s history, treating it as even more ‘extreme’ in its level of potential crisis… So ‘an ounce of prevention’ will hopefully help our culture’s problems to be left to the originators of them (our current political, corporate and financial ‘leaders’). I’m actively setting boundaries, just as in any healthy functioning family or social group to help keep out the effects and impacts of their unhealthy processes out of my life as much as I know is possible. This allows me more time for feeling and doing passionate activities. I’ll hope for the best for you to look for ways to thrive in your little corner of our rapidly changing world, too.

Contributed by

Dale Ross

Therapist, Counselor and Educator
As a professional counselor/therapist, public speaker and writer on men’s issues since the early ’80’s, Dale has lived through many of the situations and issues with which …

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