[When I first thought about this article, I wanted an upbeat and encouraging piece that might inspire and motivate people. However, as you’ll read, some important concerns cropped up which I feel urgently need to be brought to everyone’s attention. Our country seems to have not learned some of our ‘basic’ and important principles, yet – sarcastic humor]

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”.

To remind you, this is from the Preamble to our U. S. Constitution. Given our current political environment, perhaps we have inadvertently ‘downsized’ our expectations and options to one of merely ‘survival’ these days??? Did we or anyone vote on this???

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is also a well-known phrase in our United States Declaration of Independence…

I’m hoping these two sets of statements from the days of our country’s founding might spark a number of concerns, ideas and most importantly discussions. I have learned that IF you can get people to ‘talk’, then they will hopefully ‘think’ about what they and others are saying, which will get them in touch with how they ‘feel’. It is from our feelings that we most often and most passionately become ‘motivated to act’ towards changing what we are not happy with… I would also add that it is increasingly important that we also consider what would likely make us ‘happy’ versus what I would suggest is our current ‘fear-based period of mere survival’… Well, at least maybe for most of us who are not in that “1%” population. We are settling for survival while that small segment is seeing this as ‘boom times’ in their lives!?! They’re only looking at Wall Street related ‘facts’… money and employment rates (without the ‘quality’ of that employment or paychecks being included for anyone but themselves, or so it appears).

We’ve, of course, done this in the past during times of ‘war’ (to free up individuals to fight and make valuable materials available). Are we, perhaps at this time, ‘at war’ internally between our American socio-economic and ethnic cultures, and our two polarized political parties?!? Of course, this ‘war’ has not been officially declared by Congress, but perhaps it is our ‘reality’ all the same, and we just haven’t stated the obvious as ‘fact’, yet??? This is not what I was brought up to believe in and expect from what we often still refer to as ‘the greatest nation on earth’ (nor from our elected LEADership)!?! Is anyone ‘leading’ these days??? I see a LOT of manipulation of ‘facts’ as ‘fake news’ and vice versa, and competition, coercion, and all the ‘games’ that have given politics its bad name… only to much higher financial stakes now. No wonder SO many people are SO discouraged about life in America these days…

Perhaps, for discussion’s sake, we might also consider our Constitution’s ‘promoting the general welfare’ as receiving needed assistance from various ‘service providers’ in our present ‘service oriented society’, including our all important ‘managed/mangled health care system’???

As I’ve been writing recently about such basics as ‘satisfying conversation’ and ‘harmony’ in our lives, I’ve been prodded by recent events to look more deeply, and come to observe that perhaps we desperately need to return to even more basic areas of our lives, personally, economically and socially. I often mention to clients about the psychologist Abraham Maslow and his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ (physical, safety, sharing, self-esteem and what he called ‘self-actualization’, which I refer to as creativity or passion and not being bored).

On the physical level I’d suggest we have a very long ways to go. While Congress is now continually ‘debating’ what sort of health care we might expect (or settle for) in America, I hear others and personally experience troubles with our current ‘managed/mangled health care systems’, too. For example, I recently had my third ‘professional consult’ on my enlarged prostrate, where I finally got a friendly doctor that took time, explained things thoroughly, and didn’t put a ‘negative fear-based spin’ on how bad things might/must already be (including why I MUST have their invasive tests, to see what ‘damage’ has already occurred, which was not what I was sent for by my primary care physician in the first place).  What a refreshing change with this ‘second opinion’… whew!

And, notice I am actually talking about a topic that is still too often taboo in America. I can recall TV shows not very long ago where men stated they would rather die than have a simple prostrate exam! And, our culture goes along with what I would call its enabling behaviors of not talking about this (since almost all men will have some prostrate problems if the live long enough!). Talk about ‘fear based’ validation!

This third medical professional also mentioned two additional different medications that might help manage my prostrate with fewer side-effects, since each person can respond differently to various medications. And, this without even needing physically exploratory/invasive testing. I was previously told as a foregone conclusion by the first urologist, they would be starting with a catheter being put in place for a week, then seeing ‘how much damage’ had already been done to my bladder!?!  When I expressed concerns, he simply stated he could also show me how to do this myself, ‘daily and for the rest of my life’! These were the only two ‘choices’ I was given in this consultation. I created the third option of wanting to discuss this further with my doctor, first. My doctor didn’t agree with the recommendation. Then, a simple blood test confirmed no damage has occurred! My primary care physician agrees with these new ‘second opinion’ options… who also believes in a ‘conservative approach’ first. And, by talking about what’s going on in our lives, a client stated he, too, had seen three specialists at this same major hospital clinic and was not pleased with any of them. I referred him to my ‘second opinion’ specialist, at his request… networking in action.

I am happy to say this medical issue does not contain any concern over prostrate cancer which was ruled out with a simple blood test early on. I’d been on a medication, Flomax, for a couple of years which was adequately helping with the physical symptoms. I brought up this current concern to my doctor, at this time, as I happened to overhear some friends discussing how this medication may have ‘sexual side effects’ (which it turns out my doctor wasn’t aware of, and he uses this same medication!?!). The previous medical professionals (a Physicians Assistant and a Urologist doctor) stated people simply have to live with this ‘side effect’ – end of discussion! Talking with my primary care doctor, lead to these referrals, and his caring approach included a further referral (a ‘second opinion’) until I got information and possible options that were helpful, comfortable and appear productive… not simply ‘solving a medical problem’ my body was having through invasive procedures! Let alone ‘learning to live with sexual side effects’ – LOL. It has been a long four months of specialists and exploration. A ‘plan B’ approach has also been discussed where I can simply stop the medication for a few days prior to some anticipated sexual behavior, too. I’m older but not dead – grin. As a male human being I greatly enjoy my sexuality as a large part of my life (and in a variety of ways, too – grin).

Going through these consultations brought back my past medical history, too. Over my lifetime I’ve had doctors state: 1) I needed to be on a ‘bland diet’ for the rest of my life (since I had one hemorrhoid in my teens that bled once), 2) our long-term family dentist said I needed to have all my teeth removed and replaced, before they fell out, due to an uncommon disease (which a second opinion dentist said he saw no signs of), 3) that I needed a heart cauterization due to a weak heart valve, which turned out to be a ‘false reading’ from several hospital’s large scanning equipment… Fortunately, the heart specialist gave me the ‘option’ of trying medication treatment first… and 3 1/2 years later a new software upgrade to a laptop computer showed I didn’t have any troubles to begin with… Needless to say, I was a ‘bit panicy’ when I went for these urology appointments… ‘flashbacks’ can be upsetting!  And, I suggest that is likely what feelings are supposed to do, remind us of our past so we can either seek out more (if pleasant memories), or put us on guard (if they are negative…‘Danger Will Robinson!’ to quote a favorite early science fiction movie – grin).

A recent ABCNews.com article states, “[Integrative neuroscientist] Dr. Hanna adds that chronic stress may trigger or worsen more serious issues, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, anxiety disorders, depression…” and “…45% of Americans admit to lying awake at night in the past month due to stress, and 75% indicated that they experienced at least one physical or emotional symptom of stress in the last month.”

I do not hear many clients sharing they are getting this potentially critical factor, ‘stress’, included in their medical discussions (and I ask my counseling clients, unlike many/most doctors). Sadly, we are still too often simply treating the symptoms without looking at the possible multiple sources of our medical issues. The World Health Organization ranked the U.S. health system at 37th place this year!!!

Also, to remind you, the talented comedian Robin Williams took his own life, after receiving what we now know was an incorrect diagnosis… tragic (for him and ALL of us he impacted)!!!

Then, for children, there is the federal health program, CHIP, which has enjoyed bipartisan support since its inception in 1997. It is a federal health insurance program that provides inexpensive coverage to nearly 9 million children in low-income families. “This year legislators let the deadline for reauthorizing it pass as they bickered over other health care issues, primarily the latest Republican-led push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. While Americans are split over how to handle Obamacare, three-quarters of the public want CHIP renewed. If Congress doesn’t renew CHIP soon, the consequences could be far-reaching. CHIP is funded by a combination of state and federal dollars. An estimated 11 states will run out of federal CHIP funding by the end of the year, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization, and 21 more states will be depleted by March 2018.”

And, to make things even worse in trying to get help from medical professionals is this startling fact: “Suicide is the most common cause of death among male medical residents.” “A recent survey found that physician burnout jumped from 40% in 2013 to 51% in 2017. Another survey found that 83% of doctors feel that they’re spread thin and unable to spend enough time with their patients, and 75% say they’re not getting enough sleep because of work stress.” And, this is occurring while Congress repeatedly debates the financing of our health care with our tax dollars!!! America is ignoring doctors who are literally killing themselves… and what kind of ‘health care’ are we then receiving from those remaining who are even more burdened with even heavier caseloads?!? Talk about abuse and neglect by our elected LEADers?!? Talk about another symptom of our ‘managed/mangled health care system’ not being addressed… And, I see almost no comparison of ‘facts’ to what other countries are doing… while we’re in 37th place world-wide!?!

Now Congress is attempting to undo our current Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) through the rewriting of our tax code (the first major revision in THIRTY YEARS!!! ). IF they couldn’t come up with a workable health care revision in 8 years (7 years of ‘discussion’ but not planning during the last President’s administration, and one year of unsuccessful ‘repeals’ while they have all this ‘control’) what will be the resulting ‘change’ to our health care IF they are able to attack it through the tax code??? People’s health can’t wait while Congress discovers the unintended loopholes, let alone lobbied ones, and they negotiates new tax laws to fix them… people’s lives and the quality of of their lives will literally be hanging in the balance in the meantime!?! Current estimates are that 13 million Americans will lose their health care under the proposed tax changes!?! These are shear quantity of numbers, and doesn’t look at quality!?! Look how it took the President months to actually sign his declaration that America has an addiction epidemic…

Yes, I’ve written my Congressional Representatives (have you?). In a recent November reply, one of my Senators wrote, “But if he’s [the President] going to support policies that will undermine the progress our country has made on healthcare, education, civil rights, environment, and labor issues, then count me out. I will do everything in my power to speak out and take action in the Senate.” To which I replied, “I am rather stunned you would be still saying this after almost a year of his bizarre and destabilizing actions… where is your ‘everything in my power to speak out and take action’???  Where is your outrage on your constituents behalf??? This reads to me as an encouraging statement IF we were back at his inauguration…  It almost a year into his presidency… with LOTS of real consequences to possibly respond to.”

In another bizarre example, even using an ambulance during an emergency is a potential problem now. “This happens to patients frequently, according to one recent study of over half a million ambulance trips taken by patients with private insurance in 2014. The study found that 26 percent of these trips were billed on an out-of-network basis.” And, this includes the tragic, but all too typical, billing the unaware patient for the remainder.

Then we come to Maslow’s second need: ‘safety’. As one example of this, how about airline industry terrorist prevention? “The news of the failure [to detect weapons at airports] comes two years after ABC News reported that secret teams from DHS found that TSA failed 95 percent of the time to stop inspectors from covertly smuggling weapons or explosive materials through screening.” “In November when ABC News asked the source familiar with the report if the [current] failure rate was 80 percent, the response was, “You are in the ballpark.

And, then there is the safety from our earning a living. “A couple of months ago, CareerBuilder released a report claiming as many as 78% of American full time workers are living from paycheck-to-paycheck — three percent more of us than last year. What’s more, 71% of us are in debt — again, three percent more of us than last year.”

“In a landmark address, the United Nation’s first-ever independent expert investigating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity warned that LGBTQ people around the world are facing mounting human rights violations. Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, Vitit Muntarbhorn, whose position was created last June, presented his full report on the global challenges facing LGBTQ populations, including the criminalization of same-sex relations in more than 70 countries.

Perhaps, with the tragic increase in recent American mass shootings, segments of our population who had not previously felt ‘unsafe’ are now experiencing what MANY varied ‘minorities’ have felt their/our entire lives??? This would, stereotypically, most likely include mainly middle-aged, older, upper income White males and their families (but not necessarily… recalling the stories of ‘successful minority people escaping the slums’ describing similar feelings of ‘not safe’ now, too). Perhaps, a ‘hidden opportunity’ within this problem, is for various ‘minority populations’ to begin to realize their ‘issue’ is more a consequence of ‘oppression’ of various identifications, which we refer to as ‘minorities’. IF oppressors and their behaviors could be identified and successfully stopped, then perhaps the concept of ‘minority oppression’ would stop for everyone, too???

Neighboring Germany let in one million asylum-seekers and migrants in 2015, with more than 10,000 people arriving daily at times. NBCNews.com recently wrote, “The issue of integration is a thorny one. Merkel’s government says the goal is neither multiculturalism nor assimilation.” “Integration is successful if immigrants are equal members of our society and can participate equally in social, cultural and political life,” a spokesman for Germany’s interior ministry said. What potential questions might this raise for how America might look at these issues of integration, multiculturalism and assimilation, too??? Again, where is our LEADership???

Then, we have ALL the sexual misconduct allegations that are coming out in Hollywood and Washington. For those who have been impacted, and are finally feeling safe enough to identify as “Me, too!”, this can be a very unsettling as well as promising time. I’ve worked with many people dealing with varying degrees of trauma from past oppression, hate, abuse (and neglect), including sexual. This ‘healing’ work is critically important and everyone deserves the opportunity to work through it (…now, IF their insurance will allow it, and their professional therapists are knowledgable about the work involved, too???). And, the sexual aspect raises strong questions of what to do with ‘due process’ and ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in our sexually-phobic America… Perhaps, we need only look at the Catholic Church to see how difficult an issue this can be, and perhaps for a very long time?

“A national survey released Thursday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded Adverse Childhood Experiences are fairly widespread [at 40% !!!]. These include things such as the death of a parent, living with someone with an addiction or being abused.

In contrast, I find it interesting and encouraging that one segment of our society is working hard to educate its members about healthy sexuality… while mainstream America is stuck in debate over mentioning ‘sexuality’ in public schools at all!?! Interesting, historically, the majority of sexual assaults are by Heterosexual men, yet again Gay men are accused of being the ‘perverted’ ones!?! Another example of ‘fake news’, but who’s the ‘fake’ here, or is it ‘in denial’, or another example of oppression – again humor, and for real!?!

This is a LOT to think about, and the stakes keep getting higher and higher. We have three Federal investigations into whether Russia meddled with our last national elections. In the meantime, I’m fearful our President, and his many allies, is rather effectively ‘destabilizing’ our country before our very eyes?!? Is anyone examining this… as new ‘real’ events emerge on an almost daily basis???

With ALL this being said, I again encourage you to continue to look for happiness. Society seems very distracted, without much appearing to be accomplished, so it falls on us to create some sense of ‘safety’ and ‘happiness’. Perhaps, after a short period of reflection on the issues I attempted to touch on here, we can try to put our feelings of crisis on hold, briefly, while we take time to celebrate what we have with our family (either of ‘origin’ or ‘family of choice’), friends and our ‘communities’. This is another form of stress management.

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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